Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pre-Christmas Watch List

Apologies for the too-long haitus, but my non-TBB life is one of teaching and daddying two under-three-year olds. So, holiday travels, end-of-semester rush, finals week, and winter kid illnesses have made for tough blogging. That said, final grades are on, health has mostly been restored, and the hoops picture is starting to take shape. Enough so that our first Watch List is warranted.

The Watch List is an attempt to get a handle on which teams are laying solid foundation for at-large consideration. It is still too early for the RPI or any bracketology to mean much of anything right now. But, what we can do is identify some teams to, well, watch. I will not include no-brainers (Duke, UNC, Kentucky, etc) that are going to the Dance unless some tragedy occurs. And, I am not ignoring the Mountain West, but their good teams will get little numbers beside them in the newspaper if they play well enough. In fact, I will not include most any Big 6 team that has started well because even casual fans will hear about them at some point soon. I also will not include Butler, Xavier or Gonzaga, as people are already watching them closely. This is more about who we should be watching, not who we are watching.

Half of the A-10
Richmond, Temple, Dayton, Xavier, Charlotte, Rhode Island and George Washington have either ran off gaudy records or stamped quality wins over good teams. In fact, 11/14 A-10 members have winning records (and Saint Joseph’s is not one of them!). This league is laying a foundation for multiple bids.

St. John’s (9-2). Now, to break a rule I just laid forth, the Johnnies are off to a great start and it may get lost in the Big East a bit (if that’s possible). They have a couple of decent wins over Siena and Temple. Their only losses are by 9 to Duke by 5 to Cornell. This is why they may get lost in the shuffle: Cornell is not a bad loss. Now, it hurts a bit that it was at home, but the Big Red are rolling. And, the real reason they are here? I had/have a huge soft spot for Chris Mullin, Walter Berry, and Lou Carnasecca.

Long Beach (4-5). How can a team with a losing record be on this list? Easy. They have played ONE home games against this schedule: Utah State (home), UCLA, Green Bay, Pepperdine (wins); Notre Dame, West Virginia, Clemson, Texas, Loyola Marymount (losses). They may not get that at-large bid, but they scheduled for one and current lead TBB Road Warrior balloting. But, they are taking it easy with their next two games: at Kentucky and at Duke.

William & Mary (6-2). Wins over Wake, Hofstra and VCU. The two losses came in the first two games, so the Tribe have won 6 straight.

VCU (6-2). Also took out Richmond. Losses to two teams on this list, and wins over Mississippi State, Missouri, and Old Dominion.

UAB (10-1). Great record against a weak schedule, but they host Butler tonight, so we will find out something meaningful about the Blazers.

Cornell (7-2). I do not know if they have the scheduling juice for an AL bid, but they took out Alabama and will be fun to track.

Harvard (7-2). Beat BC, William & Mary, and played UConn to six points.

Siena (6-4). The Saints whiffed in their big four marquee games.

Tulsa (8-1). Not a great schedule, but their only loss is to undefeated Missouri State and they handed Oklahoma State their only defeat.

Western Carolina (8-1). That win over Louisville will come in quite handy if they blast through the SoCon Davidson-style. The Catamounts are at Clemson tonight.

Missouri State (10-0). Best win is Tulsa. Bears may lack the schedule for an AL bid unless they run wild in the Valley.

Wichita State (10-1). Only loss is Pitt and they have given Texas Tech their only blemish.

Northern Iowa (8-1). No great wins, but several solid ones.