Monday, February 23, 2009

College Basketball Week In Review: It is going to be a fun stretch run

The end of this season is going to be really exciting as each of the big six conferences and packed at the top. Take a look:

  • ACC: UNC (10-3) has a game and a half lead over three teams in second place (Duke, Florida State, and Clemson at 8-4) with Wake Forest (7-5) just a game behind them. Below that, there are five more teams with a realistic shot at making a run to the NCAA's if they can get hot in the season's final weeks.
  • Big East: There are four teams tied for first in the loss column: UConn (13-2), Pitt (12-2), Louisville (12-2), and Marquette (12-2).
  • Big Ten: Michigan State (11-3) is in first, but both Purdue (10-4) and Illinois (10-5) are within striking distance. There are also five teams within a game and a half battling for the fourth and fifth spots (first round bye in the Big Ten tourney).
  • Big XII: Oklahoma and Kansas (11-1) play tonight to settle the tie atop the league, with Missouri (10-2) sitting just a game behind them.
  • Pac-10: In perhaps the craziest of the four power conferences, Washington (11-4) is, once again, sitting all alone atop the conference at 11-4, but Arizona State (10-4), Cal (9-5), UCLA (9-6), and Arizona (8-6) are all in the mix.
  • SEC: LSU has already clinched the SEC West, but the SEC East is far from decided. Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky (8-4) are all tied atop the division, while Tennessee (7-5) is just a game back.
  • Atlantic 10: Xavier (10-3) has a half game lead over Dayton and Temple (9-3), but Rhode Island (9-4) is in the mix as well. St. Joe's, who was leading the conference a week and a half ago, is now is sixth place (7-5).
  • Mountain West: Utah has taken control of the league (10-2), but San Diego State, New Mexico, and BYU (8-4) all could make a run at the Utes, while UNLV (8-5) is just a half game behind that group.
It is going to be a lot of fun this next month and a half. Right now, most people have UConn, Pitt, Oklahoma, and UNC penciled in as the four #1 seeds, but what if UConn loses another game while Pitt, Louisville, and Marquette win out? Can you really give the Huskies a #1 seed if they finish fourth in their conference?

DeJuan Blair, Pitt
As tough as it was to ignore what was arguably the most dominant performance of the season (Greivis Vazquez going for 35 points, 11 boards, 10 dimes, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in an OT win against UNC), the Terps got blown out on Wednesday against Clemson, which, to me, nullified the amazing performance. But Blair was fantastic all week. On Monday, he dominated UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, going for 22 points and 23 boards while holding him to just 5 points and 4 boards. Thabeet is turning into one of the most fearsome defensive presences in the league, and Blair scored on him pretty much every time he touched the ball. If it wasn't for an elbow that caught Blair on the eye, sending him to the bench for about five minutes, we could be talking about a 25 and 25 game.

Blair followed up that performance with another impressive game against DePaul. In the first half alone, he had 16 points and 16 boards. He finished the game with 20 and 18 (kind of disappointing, no?) with 10 of those boards coming on the offensive end. The craziest stat of all from this week? With the amount of banging Blair did in the post, he only went to the line six times all week.

Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue went 2-0 last week, with their big win coming on Tuesday against Michigan State (by 18!). The Boilermakers were expected to contend for the Big Ten title, but a series of injuries (Robbie Hummmel's back, Chris Kramer's nose/ankle) have kept them from playing at 100% most of the season. But it seems as if both players are back and, while they may not be 100% just yet, are playing at a high enough level for Purdue to win big games. It has always been about defense for the Boilermakers, and they got back to that in recent games, holding their three opponents before Indiana to 54 points or less. Maybe more important than all of that is that E'Twaun Moore seems to have found his jump shot. Moore was 5-6 from three against Indiana after going just 4-23 in his previous six games.

2/23 - Kansas @ Oklahoma: A battle for first in the Big XII, but will Griffin be playing?

2/24 - Florida @ LSU: There is a lot at stake every time two of the five NCAA teams in the SEC play each other.

2/25 - UConn @ Marquette: Believe it or not, this is Marquette's first game against one of the top three in the Big East.

2/26 - Arizona State @ Washington: First place in the Pac-10 will be on the line in this one.

2/28 - Clemson @ Florida State: A important game for ACC tournament seeding. Both teams are in a three-way tie for second, and no one wants to come in fifth place and have to play a first round game.

2/28 - LSU @ Kentucky: We will really find out if LSU is for real this week.

Once again we get a great Sunday line-up of games: Michigan State @ Illinois, Marquette @ Louisville, and Missouri @ Kansas.

1 comment:

uconn09 said...

Actually, there's a decent shot UConn (or Pitt or Marquette) could lose twice, because each team plays the other two in the next two weeks.

Oh, and Marquette also plays Louisville later this week. (Who did Marquette piss off in the Big East office?)