I. WKU tops D-II Kentucky State, 87-71.
It was lackluster. It was a sleepwalk by the Tops. It was a coast to the finish line. But, coach Darrin Horn ignited a firestorm of controversy when he publicly berated Saint Anthony Winchester both on the bench and during the post-game radio show. If you have read this blog over the course of the last few months, you know how high the expectations were for this Topper team. They are currently 7-4, which is not terrible, but many feel this team should be 9-2 or even 10-1 at this point. The talent is there, and it looks like Horn is trying to find a way to shake these guys up. They have yet to put it all together for forty minutes in a game. They have had long stretches of brilliant basketball at Arizona, at UAB, and at Eastern Kentucky, but those have been more than offset by interminable stretches of uninspired, turnover-laced lolly-gagging. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Virginia comes to Diddle on Monday night. Tune in then for As the Hill Turns.
II. Memphis and UCLA Are Good. Really good.
The Tigers (10-1) have all of the pieces of a Final Four team. Solid PG: check. Athletic wings that can defend and score: check. Big players who can bang, rebound, and defend: check. Solid coach: check (though a more tentative tally mark). The Tigers always have a lull during the season, though. Last year it was a horrible start that kept them out of the dance. In 2004, they were 20-4 before losing four of their last five games. However, this team has "that" look.
UCLA (11-1) hammered hapless Stanford last night and have non-conference wins against Temple, Michigan (the Wolverines only loss) and Nevada on their resume. It looks like the Bruins will battle Washington and maybe Arizona for supremacy in the Pac-10. This is certainly the best UCLA club in several seasons. They also have a dynamite PG (Farmar), capable wings, and bigs who can defend. Ben Howland is a fine coach as well.
III. We still do not know if #10 Louisville is any good.
They have played ONE game against a team that could be considered anywhere near the top 75 in the land. That game at Kentucky was also their only road game to date and they were manhandled by the Cats. By the end of next week, we will have a much clearer picture of who the Cards are. They play at Miami-FL tomorrow, host Villanova on Thursday, and travel to Providence next Saturday. Oh, and speaking Kentucky, they play Ohio tonight in Cincinnati. That could be an interesting matchup. The Bobcats are 5-1 and looking for a signature non-conference win.
This Weekend's GOI
--Ohio vs Kentucky. This aforementioned contest is a big one for Ohio. They had two "name" opponents on the docket this season and Cincinnati thoroughly embarrassed them earlier. They need this one to stay in the at-large picture.
--Indiana State at Missouri State. Both are coming off road losses at Wichita State and Creighton repsectively. This is one of many important MVC games for conference and postseason positioning.
--Bradley at Wichita State. See last sentence above. The Braves are sort of the unknown among the MVC players, but they may also be the most talented overall.
--George Washington at NC State. Lo, and behold! These two clubs do play games against comparable competition!
--Indiana at Ball State. IU continues their Winter Road Tour of In-State Universities.
--Saint Joseph's at Gonzaga. This would be a huge win for the Hawks' resume. Martelli's Bald Dome vs Morrison Mop. Nice.
--Louisville vs Miami-FL. Both teams have a LOT to prove. The Cards seek to validate their lofty ranking while the Canes look to fulfill their preseason (over)hype.
--LSU at Ohio State. The Tigers badly need a big win. Their resume is sorely lacking at this point.
--Alabama at Oklahoma. A frontcourt-lovers dream; both clubs have not lived up to billing.
--Wisconsin at Pittsburgh. May be the game of the weekend.
--Villanova at Temple. Big Five tilts are always tasty. Temple must dictate tempo to have a shot.
--California at UCLA. Can Cal be included in the convo with the Big Three?
--Arizona at Washington. Winner gets an early leg up in the standings. Great, great matchup.
Happy New Year! The official non-conference bracket will be up on Monday.