By Marc Daley
Observations from the week that was:
- The big reason for Baylor's nightmare trip to Hawaii is simple: selfishness. Top scorer LaceDarius Dunn shot an abysmal three for fifteen from downtown against Washington State (which is having their best season since the days of Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver). Florida State outrebounded the Bears by fourteen in their next loss. True, the Seminoles have the one of the bigger front lines in the country but Baylor isn't exactly Lilliputian with the likes of Perry Jones, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones. If the Bears want to assume the mantle of Big 12 contenders they have to come together as a unit.
- If you took a look at overall records you might think that Cincinnati will be a surprise contender in the Big East this season. The Bearcats are still a tough read, though. Their best win comes against Dayton (68-34) and the only other team they've beaten that has a decent shot at making the Big Dance is IPFW (the only team leading the Summit with an overall leading record). They start the meat of their schedule against DePaul and Seton Hall, who aren't exactly part of the Big East bully pulpit, before their traditional Queen City battle against Xavier. Still, the Bears could learn some lessons from these guys. They're among the nation's leaders in assists and ten players average double figures in minutes, with no one getting more than 25 a contest.
- Butler can't afford a stumble in conference play if they want to make the tournament but their run in Hawaii is an encouraging sign. Before they headed off to Diamond Head the Bulldogs were a mediocre 3-4 against Division I competition but Matt Howard found his groove again to take over as the team's scoring lead at over eighteen a game. Keep in mind that Howard struggled at the start of last season as well. They still need a third scoring option to make some serious noise on the national scene (Andrew Smith? Zach Hahn?) but figure the Bulldogs to return to the Dance now that they've gotten back on track.
- Is the SEC set to become like the Pac-10 last season? I doubt it will get THAT bad but look at some of the losses not including Tennessee's recent skid: UNC-Asheville and Samford(Auburn), Nicholls State, Coastal Carolina and North Texas(LSU), St. Peter's(Alabama), Florida Atlantic(Mississippi State), Jacksonville(Florida), Colorado State(Ole Miss) and Furman (South Carolina).
Predictions for the week that will be:
- Now that you have lifted yourself out of the holiday coma get ready for a wham-bam intra-conference matchup right off the bat on Monday night. Pitt-UConn means one of the top two teams in the Big Beast is getting the bounce right off the bat. The key for the Panthers that most analysts will point to is the ability to stop Kemba Walker but look at the battle between the Huskies' and Panthers bigs.
- Wednesday night has another top Big East battle between Georgetown and Notre Dame but keep an eye on Illinois and Iowa. The Hawkeyes have been one of the worst BCS schools in the past few years but are actually playing better ball while the Illini are on a two-game skid. If the home team can keep it low-scoring in Iowa City there could be a chance for an upset.
- And as we end 2010 with a bang watch this doubleheader before heading out for overpriced champagne and hugs from people you don't even know. Kentucky-Louisville figures to be a high-scoring affair between two rivals that are evenly matched for the first time in several years. Follow that up with Minnesota-Michigan State. Don't be surprised if the Gophers are actually favored in this matchup. There doesn't seem to be an easy explanation for the Spartans' woes but when even Tom Izzo is making stupid mistakes it doesn't bode well for a repeat trip to the rarified air of the Final Four.
The only team that dropped out of the MD Top 25 poll was Tennessee even though they were higher ranked than Baylor, who dropped two this week. The Vols needed Scotty Hopson and his ultra-cool high fade to escape losing four in a row and look completely discombobulated right now. Notre Dame took their place.
- Ohio State
- Kansas State
- San Diego State
- Michigan State
- Texas A&M
- Brigham Young
- Notre Dame