Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Emery Board: Featuring Chane Benhanan

This weekly column is in honor of BYU's Jackson Emery, who, for two straight seasons, claimed his squad would go undefeated and win the National Championship. Unfortunate for Jackson, his statements never really panned out. In 2009-2010, BYU went 30-6 and lost to Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In 2010-2011, they finished 32-5, and lost to Florida in the Sweet-16. So, in those two years, BYU lost 11 games compared to Emery's projected total of zero, won zero National Championships, and in fact, didn't even win the the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

We were going to put the Emery Board to sleep this season. But thanks to Louisville freshman Chane Behanhan, this post has been giving new life.

If you remember correctly, about a week ago, the freshman forward stated that the Cardinals would not lose a single game this season, and that his team is the best in the country.

College basketball has not seen a team go undefeated since Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers went 32-0 in 1975-1976. The closest we have seen since then was a Jameer Nelson-led St. Joseph's team that went 27-0 in the 2003-2004 season before losing to Xavier in the Atlantic-10 tournament. Every season a team flirts with the notion of an undefeated season, but every season that notion slowly fades as January turns to February and February turns to March.

The Emery Board: 5th Edition
Marquette dropped off the Emery Board thanks to a shaky performance at LSU. Louisville barely made it through the week undefeated, as they were given stern tests from Charleston and Western Kentucky. As conference play heats up, the Emery Board will get smaller and smaller. This week is loaded with a couple of very important games featuring undefeated teams. Will any of them suffer from the post-Holiday hangover?

No.1 Syracuse (13-0)
Next game: 12/28 vs. Seton Hall (11-1)
First realistic loss: 12/28 vs. Seton Hall (11-1)

Syracuse continues to play steady ball, easily handling Bucknell and Tulane this past week. Their game against Seton Hall should be a dandy. The Pirates have played much better than anybody expected, and have been flying way below the radar. The match-up between Herb Pope and whoever the Orange throw at him will be very interesting. I can see Fab Melo, James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas all taking shots at Pope, but I'm not sure which of the group will be able to shut him down. That being said, the Pirates don't have nearly as many weapons as the Orange, so conventional wisdom suggests that the 'Cuse should win. But this is a Big East game, so you never know what may happen.

No.4 Louisville (10-0)
Next game: 12/28 vs. No.12 Georgetown (10-1)
First realistic loss: 12/28 vs. No.12 Georgetown (10-1)

If anybody on Louisville going to make a bonehead statement, it makes sense that it was the freshman Benhanan. After all, he has yet to play a single Big East conference game. And wouldn't you know, the Cardinals get a top-15 opponent in their first conference game of the year. See Chane, this is what the Big East is like, and if your team struggled with Charleston and Western Kentucky, Georgetown might be the team to make you eat your words. But lets say Louisville does beat Georgetown, which they more then capable of doing, they get No.3 Kentucky on New Year's Ever in the only rivalry game in the country as tumultuous as the Crosstown Shootout. With what we saw from Louisville last week, I just can't put a lot of faith in them to enter the New Year with a "goose egg" in the loss column.

No.6 Baylor (12-0)
Next game: 12/28 vs. No.14 Mississippi State (12-1)
First realistic loss: 12/28 vs. No.14 Mississippi State (12-1)

The Bears are in the toughest portion of their non-conference schedule. They haven't looked uber-dominant, but they were able to beat a game BYU team in Provo, and beat Saint Mary's and West Virginia on a neutral court. Now comes their toughest test of the season: No.14 Mississippi State. The Bulldogs feature a front-court with enough size to give the bears some struggles, and back-court play could be the difference-maker in this game. If Pierre Jackson can come up large, as he did against BYU (game-clinching block) and WVU (game-winning shot), the Bears should squeak by with a victory.

No.8 Missouri (12-0)
Next game: 12/30 at Old Dominion (6-6)
First realistic loss: 12/30 at Old Dominion (6-6)

Realistically, Missouri should run through Old Dominion on New Year's Eve. But Blaine Taylor's squad is seasoned and tested. The Monarchs aren't nearly as good as they were two years ago, but this setting has all the makings of a trap game. The Tigers just defeated their "Border War" rivals Illinois last week, they had the holiday weekend off, and they start Big-XII play next week. If there was ever a time to catch Mizzou sleeping, it would be now. But let's say Missouri wins, which I expect them to do. It's possible that the Tigers are the last undefeated team standing. They start Big-XII play against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas. While that's not exactly an easy start, it's not a murder's row either. This team has showed very few weaknesses thus far, and I could totally see the Tigers being undefeated heading in to their 12/21 showdown with Baylor in Waco.

No.13 Indiana (12-0)
Next game: 12/28 at No.17 Michigan State (11-2)
First realistic loss: 12/28 at No.17 Michigan State (11-2)

The Hoosier's had cupcakes for Christmas, as they faced Howard (4-9) and UMBC (1-10). Indiana waxed the east coast teams by a combined score of 196-97. But the non-conference schedule is over, and the Hoosiers begin Big-Ten play with a murder's row: at No.17 Michigan State, No.2 Ohio State on New Year's Eve, and No.16 Michigan. The Hoosiers have been a pleasant surprise thus far, but I'm 100% confident that they will lose one of their next three games.

No.22 Murray State (13-0)
Next game: 12/30 at Eastern Illinois (6-5)
First realistic loss: 12/30 at Eastern Illinois (6-5)

So here we are. Murray State has finished their non-conference schedule and still has not been defeated, they are clearly the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference and will be the favorites in every game they play. But, like I said last week, they will be getting the best shot from every team they play. They will get more TV coverage, more publicity, more everything. I think Murray State will lose a game this year. In fact, I'm nearly sure of it. But I have exactly no idea which game it will be.

Bottom of the Barrel

Run The Floor did a good job breaking down the teams that have yet to notch a victory this year. I suggest you give their site a good-read, but not before you read our stuff first.

Binghamton (0-10)
Next game: 12/28 at Canisius (2-9)
First real chance to win: 12/28 at Canisius (2-9)

Chicago State (0-13)
Next game: 12/31 at Ball State (6-4)
First real chance to win: 1/15 vs. St. Francis (Ill) (Non-DI)

Grambling State (0-9)
Next game: 12/29 at LSU (9-3)
First real chance to win: 1/3 vs. Alabama State (2-9)

Hartford (0-11)
Next game: 12/31 at LaSalle (8-4)
First real chance to win: 1/15 at Binghamton (0-10)

Northern Illinois (0-11)
Next game: 1/2 vs. Roosevelt (Non-DI)
First real chance to win: 1/2 vs. Roosevelt (Non-DI)

Towson (0-12)
Next game: 12/30 vs. No.24 Virginia (10-1)
First real chance to win: 1/2 vs. Northeastern (3-7)

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