Monday, November 30, 2009

11/30 - The BIAH Top 25's

1. Kansas: The Jayhawks have done nothing to make me question their spot atop the poll. Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins have both been less that stellar thus far, but a big reason for that is the competition Kansas has faced. They haven't had to be yet. Xavier Henry and Markieff Morris look like they are for real.

2. Texas: The Varez Ward injury is going to hurt them, but Texas is the team that can with stand it. In fact, it might make to Longhorns more dangerous. Nothing against Ward, because he is a very good basketball player, but he is not an explosive scorer and is basically a smaller Justin Mason. The Longhorns need guys that can shoot and score on their perimeter to keep opponents from collapsing inside. With Ward out, those minutes will go to more offensive-minded players.

3. Villanova: I'm leaving the Wildcats up here because I don't think that an 18 point win is reason enough to drop a team, but I saw a lot that alarmed me against La Salle. Villanova could not get a defensive rebound, and while La Salle is big, their front court pales in comparison to that of the West Virginia's and Duke's of the world. Nova can make up for that a bit with their ability to create points off of turnovers, and they aren't going to shoot 6-25 from three too often, but it is something to keep an eye on.

4. West Virginia: I really liked this team in the preseason, and now that they are at full strength, I like this group even more. The Mountaineers aren't going to be taller than may teams, but they are physical, they are strong, and they are tough defensively, especially along their front line. You know every basket is going to be difficult against them, so if they keep getting easy baskets off of offensive rebounds and, more importantly, they can continue to shoot well from three, this is a team that can go a long way.

5. Duke: The Blue Devils remind me a lot of the good Wisconsin teams. They are getting great (not good, great) play from their back court, they are big across the front line, but most importantly this is a group of kids that understand their role on the team and just know how to play basketball. Getting back Mason Plumlee, who may end up being their most dynamic interior player, doesn't hurt either.

6. Syracuse: The "hype" surrounding the Orange has died down a little bit, but you shouldn't underestimate their 15 point win against a good Cornell team. Their Dec 10th match-up with Florida will be a dandy.

7. Purdue: The Boilermakers had an impressive win against Tennessee, and they look like they will be able to handle the the loss of Lewis Jackson.

8. Kentucky: An OT win against Stanford didn't help answer the question I have regarding this squad: team play and defensive intensity.

9. Florida: Don't underestimate how good Florida was last week in a blowout win of Old Spice champ Florida State and an win over Michigan State.

10. Michigan State: The Spartans have yet to hit their stride early in the season, but isn't that typical with Tom Izzo's teams?

11. Tennessee: The Vols did lose this week, but it was a one point loss to Purdue. Talent isn't the issue, decision making is.

12. Washington: The Huskies were saved by some timely plays down the stretch by Venoy Overton in a win over Montana. U-Dub won't be challenged until Dec. 12th against Georgetown.

13. UNC: Larry Drew looked very good against Nevada. The Heels seem like they may be embracing the fact that they are a team built around their interior.

14. Gonzaga: The Zags won the Maui Invitational, and their victory over Cincinnati is much more impressive than most will believe.

15. UConn: Came away very impressed with UConn against LSU, and unimpressed against Duke. The Huskies will struggle this season against bigger teams. Imagine that.

16. Georgetown
17. Ohio State
18. Minnesota
19. Cincinnati
20. Butler
21. Portland
22. Texas A&M
23. Ole Miss
24. Clemson
25. Miami FL


1. Kansas - No surprise here. The more I watch Kansas the more I realize that this team has all the tools to be the best team in the country for a long time. Tyshawn Taylor is back from his melee-related injury and has already provided a spark. I was concerned with the depth of the Jayhawks front court, but the Morris family has quieted my concerns with nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game between the sophomore brothers. The remaining non-conference games for the Jayhawks are rather interesting. If they are indeed the best team in the country, they should have no problem with LaSalle, UCLA, Cornell, or Cal. But they also have to face Tennessee and Michigan, so a slip up between now and the beginning of Big 12 play isn't completely out of the question. I imagine they will be undefeated heading into conference play.

2. Texas - I watched Dexter Pittman play a lot last year, and I was impressed. But a slightly more slim, more muscular 2009 version have made the Longhorns extra scary. We know Texas has a lot of depth, but that's already been reduced by the injury to guard Varez Ward. Damion James continues to play at an All-American level, and freshman Avery Bradley is maturing at a very fast pace. The week before Christmas will be huge for the Longhorns. Back-to-back games against Michigan State and UNC should determine if the Longhorns are a legit title contenders.

3. Villanova - The Wildcats have five players averaging double digits through the first five games of the season. Antonio Pena is averaging 11 rebounds per game, to go along with his 12 ppg. The problem is that Pena is the only Wildcat who has asserted himself down low. This could be a major concern for 'Nova down the stretch. But with a somewhat easy non-conference schedule, they should be able to enter Big East play undefeated.

4. Michigan State - The Spartans drop two spots due to their loss against Florida. It wasn't a bad loss, and Florida is a good team, but MSU still has UNC and Texas before starting Big Ten play, and when they are held to under 75 points, opponents have a chance to knock them off. What I do like about Sparty is the pace of their play and the intangibles. Don't get this team in a hole because they have the players to build momentum and rally from behind. They have size inside and an excellent back court. I predict Izzo's team hanging around the Top 5 for a majority of the season.

5. Duke - I am anything but a Duke fan, but I really like how the Blue Devils have been playing. Forget all the "non-athleticism" talk, because this team is big and intelligent. They are a deep team, and the preseason back court concerns have seem to disappear. Jon Scheyer is emerging as one of the best guards in the ACC. Even when Kyle Singler has a quiet game, the Dukies have the players to contribute and get it done. For the first time in four years, we are seeing the Brain Zoubek that Coach K recruited. The Dukies shared the top position with UNC in preseason ACC polls, but at this point, they look like the best team in the ACC and one of the best teams in the country.

6. Purdue - Strong defense and savvy offense has kept the Boilermakers undefeated thus far. E'Twaun Moore has been playing terrific and along with JaJuan Johnson, have taken a lot of the pressure off of Robby Hummel. Purdue definitely has what it takes to be a top team and compete with MSU for the Big 10 crown. I am very excited to see what they can do against Wake Forest this week.

7. Kentucky - Some people will have Kentucky ranked higher than #7. Don't get me wrong, the Wildcats have played excellent, but when you have to have a freshman, albeit a phenom, bail you out of two late game situations, it raises some concern when thinking about February and March. Back-to-back games against UNC and UConn should determine if this team is for real. The early rt of December is going to be the most important part of the Wildcat's non-conference season.

8. Syracuse - The hype is still here. The question is, how long will it be here? Syracuse deserved the huge jump in rankings last week, and if they can continue to play at the same level, shouldn't be doing a lot of moving in the rankings for a while (well, at least until Big East play). The rest of their non-conference schedule is littered with cupcakes, except for a Dec. 10 match up with a streaking Florida Gator squad.

9. West Virginia - With the status of Den Ebanks hanging in the proverbial rafters, the Mountaineers played steady ball and took home the 76 Classic title. With Ebanks back and focused, Bob Huggins squad looks like the team we expected them to be (a very dangerous one).

10. UNC - The road to recovery does not get any more smooth for the Tar Heels following their CvC championship game loss to Syracuse. They still have battles with teams ranked above them (Kentucky, MSU, Texas), but UNC is big and athletic. They just have to put it all together.

11. Tennessee - Sure, they lost to a very good Purdue team in a very close game, but I don't have a ton of faith in this Volunteer squad. The problem that will plague them throughout the season will be their decision-making skills and team poise in close games. They do know how to score a lot of points, so if they can figure out how to win close games, I might become a believer in Bruce Pearl's team.

12. UConn - Quite possibly the most athletic team in the country, UConn got straight-up outplayed in the Preseason N.I.T final against Duke. Stanley Robinson cannot carry this team by himself, and should not be expected to. If this team can learn how to score in a half-court offense, they will be much much better.

13. Washington - The Huskies have beat up on same descent mid-major teams to start their season. Pondexter and Thomas continue to carry the load for the Huskies, but I want to know what happens when they can't score? The team's first interesting matchup comes against #14 Georgetown on December 12th in the John Wooden Classic. After that its Texas A&M and a red-hot Portalnd team.

14. Georgetown - I might have them ranked a bit too high, but thus far the Hoyas have been playing typical Georgetown basketball. It remains to be seen how typical Georgetown basketball will fare against ranked teams like Washington and Butler. Greg Monroe is averaging nearly a double-double and guard Jason Clark is on course for a super sophomore season.

15. Ohio State - It's only two weeks in, but if I had to vote for PoY, it would be for Evan Turner. Mr. Triple-Double is leading a solid buckeye team who only has a loss to #10 UNC on their resume thus far.

16. Gonzaga
17. Louisville
18. Butler
19. Clemson
20. Michigan
21. Florida
22. Minnesota
23. Notre Dame
24. Cincinnati
25. Arizona State

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