The Forgotten 40: Post-Feast Week

There are two people in this world – those who love Feast Week and those who don’t realize just how great Feast Week is.  Quite the array of exempt tournaments, pitting some of the best teams in the country up against each other culminated in an amazing Battle 4 Atlantis tournament with 8 probable tournament teams all duking it out.  Interestingly enough, even in the two weeks since the last Forgotten 40 and quite a few games have been played, we still only saw 7 teams “graduate” out of eligibility by receiving recognition in the AP poll – and they were, expectedly, 6 of the 7 are from power conferences (if you count the A-10, which I do, as a “power conference”).  All the better – it leaves more room for the actual “under-the-radar” teams, which is who these posts are designed to highlight.

The Graduates

  • Colorado (9 – most recent F40 ranking)
  • Illinois (15)
  • Wichita State (18)
  • Oregon (-)
  • California (5)
  • Temple (3)
  • Xavier (17)

Colorado and Illinois have jumped into the actual Top 25, while the other 5 are just among the “others receiving votes.”  In fact, since there has been two polls released since the last F40, there has been time for Xavier to receive votes and then fall back out.  But, they have still graduated.  Three Pac-12 teams gained recognition, as that league continues to exhibit the potential for a renaissance season.

The Forgotten Forty

There has been a ton of change from the last F40 because (a) it’s been two weeks and (b) we didn’t have all that much information last time – in fact, some teams on the list hadn’t even played a game yet.  So, there is quite a different look to this list, but the concept remains the same.

  1. Illinois State (8) – A 3-point overtime loss to Northwestern is the only thing between the Redbirds and an impressive 6-0 start.  They look every bit the team that people thought might challenge Creighton for the Valley title.  Creighton and Wichita get all the press in the Valley, but Illinois State is right there with them.
  2. Ole Miss (10) – They have been in the top 10 of every F40 and all they’ve done is win 5 games by an average of 33 points, including their most recent – a 46-point shellacking of Lipscomb.  Granted, they have all been home games against low-major teams, but they are just destroying people.  It won’t be long until they get noticed, especially if they beat Rutgers and Middle Tennessee in their next two games.
  3. Belmont (4) – I know that the Bruins just lost to Northeastern and that that should knock them down a peg, but they followed that up with a win over Oral Roberts, and we cannot forget that they went into Maples Pavilion and handled a really good Stanford team earlier this month.  This team could be really, really good.
  4. Iowa State (1) – They were number 1 on this list last time, but I guess two losses kept them from getting noticed, nationally.  As for me, I do not consider an 8-point loss to Cincinnati and a 12-point loss at UNLV to be all that damning.  Sprinkle in two more 20- and 29-point TCOB home games, and I don’t think any less of the Cyclones now than I did two weeks ago, it’s just a couple teams shot past them.
  5. Virginia (-) – Early losses to George Mason and Delaware have kept the Cavs off of this list all year, but 4 straight wins, including a very impressive 6-point win on the road at Wisconsin should make people take notice of this year’s Cavs team.
  6. George Mason (-) – Maybe it’s unfair to put the Patriots below UVA, considering they beat them head-to-head to start the season.  And, Mason’s only two losses were a 5-point loss at Bucknell and a devastating 1-point loss to New Mexico on a crazy finish.  If they beat Maryland this weekend, they will either shoot up this list or shoot right off it by gaining national respect.
  7. Boise State (-) – Even a really close loss at Michigan State and a 13-point win at Creighton won’t be enough to get the Broncos noticed – mainly because they play in a top 4 league that no one realizes is a top 4 league.
  8. BYU (2) – The Cougars have been a mainstay on this list, as they were top 3 in each of the first two editions.  And, their only losses were to Florida State and Notre Dame, so the Cougars remain high on this list, but they need a signature win at some point to stay this high.  A trip to Iowa State on Saturday gives them a chance to either move way up or way down on this list.
  9. Virginia Tech (-) – The first notice of the post-Greenberg Era at Va Tech here, as the Hokies are 6-0, including a 16-point win over a solid Iowa team.  They have interesting tests against OK State and West Virginia on the horizon, so we’ll see who they are quickly.
  10. St. John’s (-) – Trivia question – which is the only team in the country, coached by a former championship coach, that returns at least 4 starters from a nationally-ranked team a year ago?  You could have given me two hours, and I wouldn’t have come up with St. John’s.  And, while they did lost all-everything Mo Harkless, D’Angelo Harrison is more than ready to carry the torch for Coach Lavin, who still enjoys one of the youngest teams in the nation.
  11. Middle Tennessee State (14) – This team continues to roll through their non-conference schedule and added a 14-point road win in the Cajun Dome last night to start Sun Belt action.
  12. Oregon State (-) – People ought to take notice now because this ain’t your dad’s Beavers.  They are big, talented, and deep, and, while the loss of Jared Cunningham is huge, they return a ton of experience, as well.  If you want a sleeper in the Pac-12 to challenge the trainwreck at UCLA as the 2nd-best team in the Pac, you might want to look to Corvallis.
  13. Purdue (-) – I have to admit, the 12-point win at Clemson is probably carrying more weight than it should, but that was a really impressive win to me because I think highly of the Tigers.  These Boilermakers are rebuilding, but they might have something left for this year, as well.
  14. Akron (-) – An overtime loss at Coastal Carolina knocked the Zips off this list in Week 2, but since then, they took OK State to overtime and beat UNC-Asheville and Penn State by 19 and 25, respectively.  With a poor man’s Roy Hibbert in the middle (Zeke Marshall) and a solid backcourt (Alex Abreu and Brian Walsh), don’t be surprised if the Zips challenge Ohio for the MAC crown this year.
  15. Clemson (16) – Before the 12-point loss at home to Purdue, the Tigers were looking really good, including maybe their best showing by only losing by 8 to a Top-5 worthy Gonzaga team.  Their next two games are at South Carolina and home against Arizona – check back after those and we will talk.
  16. Oklahoma (27) – A win over a struggling WVU team is really the only impressive win for the Sooners, but, with the exception of a 25-point loss to Gonzaga, they have been taking care of business.  They are hard to judge right now
  17. Vermont (-) – The Catamounts just keep winning and winning on the road.  Wins at Siena, Northeastern, and Harvard are very impressive.  They travel to URI, Quinnipiac, and Niagara to close out their northeastern tour.
  18. Southern Miss (-) – Even without Larry Eustachy this team continues to roll.  Undefeated through six relatively tough games and this team may not miss a beat from last year’s tournament team.
  19. Richmond (13) – The Spiders opened my eyes by winning their first two games by a combined 85 points.  While they did struggle in losses to Minnesota and Ohio, they still have the looker of a potential A-10 sleeper.  They still have a grueling non-conference slate left, so we may know real well just how good this team is.
  20. South Dakota State (7) – You know how much I like this Jackrabbit team, but a loss to Hofstra is almost inexcusable, even if they followed it up with a nice win over Marshall.
  21. Wyoming (-) – Typical Wyoming – they haven’t played anyone, but at least they’re not losing.  The schedule makes it hard to really tout the Cowboys, but they are 7-0 and just recently pounded UCSB by 28 on the road in the Thunderdome.
  22. Charlotte (-) – Talk about coming out of nowhere to potential relevance.  The 49ers are 6-0 and playing really well.  Their next two games (ECU and @Davidson) will be their toughest to date, so let’s talk again next week.
  23. Harvard (-) – The Crimson are only 2-3, but all three losses are to solid teams (UMass, St. Joe’s, and UVM) and one of the wins was a 34-point plastering of a decent Manhattan team (I may or may not have lost money on the Jaspers in that one).
  24. Iowa (12) – The Hawkeyes looked real good out of the gates, but have recently slipped up against two good teams – Wichita and Va Tech – so the jury’s still out.
  25. College of Charleston (-) – It is amazing how high you can climb on this list with a simple 4-point win at Baylor.
  26. Kent State (-) – OT wins over Drexel and Youngstown State, along with a 14-point win over Nebraska and an OT loss to Valpo give the Golden Flashes something to build on going forward.  Being dominated by Temple and barely squeaking by Bethune-Cookman give them something with which to temper expectations.
  27. LSU (22) – 5-0 including a win over Seton Hall have people at least talking about the Tigers again.  An upcoming 3-game road trip to Boise, Irvine, and Marquette may show us what we need to know.
  28. Stephen F. Austin (-) – The Lumberjacks are only 2-0 against D-I teams (2-0 against D-II teams), but both wins were on the road, with the latest a 16-point thumping of Tulsa.  This might still be the class of the Southland even though Oral Roberts has come over this year.
  29. Louisiana Tech (-) – The most surprisingly good team in the most surprisingly good conference in the first month of the season is probably 6-1 La Tech, who is fresh off a 37-point domination of rival SE Louisiana.  The new-look WAC is actually really solid.
  30. Florida Gulf Coast (25) – The Ospreys got on the list by beating Miami (FL) and stay on the list with wins over Toledo and Samford.  Not embarrassing themselves in road games at Duke, VCU, and St. John’s doesn’t hurt either.
  31. Loyola (MD) (36) – The projected class of the MAAC has performed as such in the early going, starting 7-1 with the only loss coming at Washington.  A big game with the FGC team that sits one spot above them on this list is upcoming.
  32. Utah State (-) – Utah State has played every game this year within 10 points, winning 4 of the 5, including an OT win on the road against a decent Santa Clara team.  They travel to Provo for a grudge match with BYU this weekend.
  33. East Carolina (-) – 5-0 so far without a whole lot of meat, but the Pirates look decent doing it, so we’ll give them some ink here before a trip to Charlotte and then one to Chapel Hill.
  34. North Dakota State (40) – After sitting at #40 on each of the first two installments of the F40, the Bison have put together a nice couple of wins and get to climb up a few spots.
  35. Stonybrook (32) – As good as Vermont has looked in the early going, SB has been pretty good as well, including their most recent 23-point win at Cornell.
  36. Indiana State (-) – The Valley gets a lot of press these days (which is great), but not necessarily the Sycamores, who take on New Mexico this weekend in a game that could catapult them near the top of this list if they win it.
  37. TX-Arlington (-) – Yet another WAC team on the list, as newcomer to the conference, UTA, has 3 solid road wins and one 4-point loss to Oklahoma on their resume.
  38. San Francisco (-) – Rex Walters’ crew has won 3 straight by double-digits, including a 20-point win over a decent Columbia team.  They have a really tough 4-game stretch coming up and then close their non-conf with San Diego St., so more is to be learned about this team soon.
  39. Gardner-Webb (-) – A win at DePaul and close road losses to St. John’s and Illinois (1 point) have the wide-open Big South considering GW a real threat.
  40. SMU (-) – And, rounding out this list is a team that is VERY short on talent and yet sits at 7-1.  How are they doing it?  Three words:  Best.  Coach.  Ever.  If aliens came from another planet threatening to destroy Earth if we don’t beat them in basketball, I would hope that we are smart enough to have Larry Brown coach the human team.

The Dropouts

  • Central Florida (6)
  • Northwestern (11)
  • Youngstown State (19)
  • Arkansas (20)
  • Iona (21)
  • UTEP (23)
  • UMass (24)
  • Delaware (26)
  • Wagner (28)
  • USC-Upstate (29)
  • Detroit (30)
  • Manhattan (31)
  • Mercer (33)
  • South Alabama (34)
  • UC-Irvine (35)
  • Western Kentucky (37)
  • Montana (38)
  • Stetson (39)

With two weeks of games, there were quite a few teams that didn’t do enough to stay in the rankings.  I was, admittedly, a bit harsh on Northwestern, but they looked terrible against Maryland the other night.  Arkansas went from #1 on the first list to #20 on the second list to out altogether on this one – and all they did was pound low-major teams and lose close games to major conference teams.  But, that is the danger being a major conference team stuck in the F40 – you won’t get much sympathy from me.

Until next week…

Eagles Therapy

Another week, another loss that was nothing short of embarrassing.  And, now we have to look forward to another prime time debacle, as the Birds are, legitimately, 10.5-point ‘dogs against the Cowboys this Sunday night.  And, yes, I know, I know – the Phillies have a win more recently than the Eagles.  It amazed me when Doogan told me that A MONTH AGO…and it’s still true.

So, clearly we need to “talk.”  I am just gonna ramble on about random topics and hope it makes me forget about 3-8, forget about Chooch’s ADHD or Andrew Bynum’s knees, and forget about the dissolving of the Big East before Temple even plays a single conference game.  Oh, what a month it has been!  So, here are the random Eagles thoughts on this cold November day.

 

It’s Time…Obviously

Hi, I’m Bryan, and I was an Andy Reid Apologist.  I couldn’t help myself.  The guy took us to 5 NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl.  He averaged 10 wins a season for more than a decade.  He went a dozen years without losing a first-round playoff game and a baker’s dozen without ever losing after a bye week.  And, he did it all after inheriting, arguably, the most dysfunctional and flat-out bad football team in franchise history.  We lived through Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, Bobby Hoying, Rodney Peete, and not one, but two Detmers.  And, Andy Reid brought us out of it.  But, even I, a disciple of that sentiment, am ready to move on.  The time has come (and gone), and we need to turn the page.  Period.

The Next Guy Up

So, the question then obviously lends itself to – Who’s Next?  The way I see it there are three species of head coaching candidates out there right now.

  1. The Highly Successful Former Coach Currently in Broadcasting
    We all know the names – Cowher, Gruden, Billick, Dungy, even Mariucci.  This particular species would give the big impact owners want, the legitimacy fans want, and the authority and credibility the players may want.  But, it also comes with the big-dollar price tag, as well as, in most cases, an equally big ego.  My guess is that Jon Gruden and, maybe Brian Billick, are the only two in this group with any chance of succeeding Reid.  And, then there is the wild card that is Sean Payton.  Clearly, Payton would be essentially a DREAM hire, but it is really hard to imagine him leaving New Orleans.  And, if he does, it will probably be only for his hometown of Dallas.
  2. The Highly Successful College Coach – Often with a “System” that will Change the Game
    Until very recently, this almost never worked.  The NFL is littered with the corpses of Lane Kiffin, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, Barry Switzer, and Bobby Petrino.  Even some of the most highly successful college coaches like Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban failed miserably in the pro game.  However, owners in the NFL (and, the NBA, for that matter) are always drawn to the guy with the fancy resume thinking that they are bringing in some mad football genius.  And, now they can even point to the Jim Harbaughs, Pete Carrolls, and Greg Schianos, as to why this will work.  And, who knows, maybe it will.  Those three may all be heading to the playoffs this year; Jimmy Johnson won several Super Bowls in the ’90s; and, people often forget that Tom Coughlin was hired away from Boston College by the expansion Jaguars before winning a pair of Super Bowls in New York.  With the way the NFL is going – and its rules committee – maybe Chip Kelly’s crazy offensive system will revolutionalize the game as we know it.  Or, maybe guys like Bill O’Brien, Brian Kelly, David Shaw or even Bo Pellini would bring a fire and accountability to these pampered NFL millionaires.  One thing is certain – we will find out because someone will hire them – and it might just be the Eagles.  I wouldn’t rule out Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien or even Stanford’s David Shaw from consideration here.
  3. The Hot Young Assistant Coach
    Usually this has been a pretty competent way to find a new coach.  And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a DC or OC.  Andy Reid was an offensive line coach; John Harbaugh was a special teams coordinator; Leslie Frazier was a defensive backs coach.  These names are harder to really know, and probably won’t become apparent until the playoffs play out.  If I had to throw out one name to keep an eye on it would be the 49ers DC, Vic Fangio.  There is no need to go into the job he has done with that Niners defense, but he’s actually a Philly guy.  Fangio hails from the Scranton area, went to East Strousburg, and was actually a coach for the USFL’s Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars in the mid-80’s.  Another name out there that I heard for the first time when BSB’s own, Gross, made his bold prediction is Rob Ryan.  Gross has predicted that Ryan, the current Cowboys DC and son of former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan, will be the next head coach of the Birds.  Honestly, anyone who grew up watching Rob’s dad’s teams here would probably welcome either Rob or his brother back to our city, regardless of the unneccessary pomp and bluster that they both bring with them.
Either of these guys look like Andy Reid's successor?

Should Jeffrey Lurie Speak Up?

Apparently, the city is demanding that Jeffrey Lurie speak to the fans in this trying situation.  The whole fanbase has completely lost faith in the entire organization and is clamoring to hear from the head man, himself.  My opinion:  Lurie is absolutely within his right for doing what he has always done – speak once at the beginning of the season and once again at the end of the season.  I honestly do not understand all the vitriol aimed at an owner who has opened up his checkbook time and time again to try and put the best product on the field, but has done so without meddling in the football operations in ANY way.  It is a combination rarely found in sports owners – particularly in the NFL.  There are countless examples of high-spending, but highly meddlesome (and destructive) owners – the Jerry Jones/Al Davis-type.  And, then there is the opposite type headlined by guys like Mike Brown who don’t even care enough to upgrade the ancient practice facility for his Bengals.  The Robert Krafts, Dan Rooneys, and Wellington Maras of the league are few and far between – and they win.  Jeffrey Lurie is from the same mold as these guys, and we should welcome and encourage that.  Lord knows, I would not want anyone that even resembled Daniel Snyder anywhere near the owner’s box in the Linc.

Where Have You Gone, Joe

I usually don’t mind playing the role of contrarian and disagreeing with the masses.  But, this one if one where I am not all that proud to be on the other side, but here goes:  we will miss Joe Banner – and probably already do.  Ya, I said it.  Banner and his condescending nature were very good for this franchise.  You need someone to play the role of a$$hole.  You just do.  And, he played it as well as it has ever been played in the NFL.  He let guys go when they got old, and he was a hard negotiator with the current and future talent.  Now, depending on the new coach they bring in, they might not need the Banner “style,” but you never know how much you need something until it is gone.

Anyone ever think we'd miss THIS guy?!?

The Jason Babin Situation

18 sacks one year.  Released midseason the next (without injury).  That just doesn’t happen in the NFL.  But, honestly, it is probably a good sign.  Despite what he will tell you, Babin was not having a good season and clearly would not be back next year at that high dollar mark, particularly with the depth at that position.  So, cut him loose, send a message to the locker room, and let the kids play.  I am curious to see what Brandon Graham and Philip Hunt can do.

Oh, and was anyone else secretly – and maliciously – happy when he was claimed by the 2-9 Jaguars after running his mouth about being excited to play for a contender?

The LeSean McCoy Debacle

3-6 on the season, down 25 points, less than 2 minutes left before a 6th consecutive loss, and NOW is when Andy Reid and company decide they want to run the ball?!?  It almost makes poetic sense that Shady McCoy was concussed on that play against the Redskins two weeks ago.  This coaching staff really has to realize that they are NOT in the playoff hunt this year, and we really need to start thinking long-term, even if the guys making these decisions are not going to be here, which leads me to…

In Ray We Trust

The great Ray Didinger stepped out of character recently by speaking strongly and dramatically.  The usually cool, calm, voice-of-reason Hall of Fame writer wrote a brash, provocative piece on Philly.com this week, calling for the immediate firing of Andy Reid IF he wants to play Michael Vick again this season.  Histrionics like this are usually reserved for us overreactionary, sophomoric bloggers, not Hall of Fame writers who have made a name for themselves with their measured rationality, which is all the more reason to take the message seriously.  The season is lost.  Andy Reid will not be back.  If he wants to be given the respect and privilege to finish out the season, he has to do so thinking about a future in which he will not be playing the part of head coach.  Unless convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that playing Nick Foles behind this joke of an offensive line would be clearly detrimental to his development as an NFL quarterback (which is not out of the realm of possibility), Reid MUST play the kid to see what he can do.

Ray Didinger: If Reid wants to play Vick, he should be fired

Unchartered Territory

Obviously a lot of what has gone on this season is flat-out appalling, but the play of the safeties – particularly, Kurt Coleman in the past couple of weeks – has been downright offensive.  I cannot recall ever seeing receivers so unbelievably – laughably – wide open so consistently as I have in the past couple of Eagles games.  And, it’s not like we’re talking 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, where the defense is lined up in goal line formation, and the QB pulls off a nice play fake and the 3rd tight end slips to the end zone – that happens.  We are talking about 60-yard touchdowns without a defender in sight.  This happened on the first two Carolina possessions on Monday night.  What is going on?!?

What to Watch For

If you are like me – a sports masochist (and if you’re from Philly, you probably have to be) – you will still be tuned in for the final 5 games of this dreadful season.  So, what do we watch for?  Well, there are a couple things – and they are all focused on the future because that is really what I care about now.

  1. Nick Foles
    Considering quarterback is the most important position in sports, most of the attention for the next 5 games has to be on the play of Nick Foles.  Is he the one or do we have to shop this offseason for another one?  And, if so, where do we go for said “new guy?”  If the jury is still out on Foles, do the Eagles target a guy like Alex Smith or Matt Flynn to come in here, start for a year or two, while Foles learns?  Or do they keep Vick around (under a restructured contract, clearly) and let the two compete?  Or, do they cut bait and use their high draft pick on a Geno Smith or a Matt Barkley?
  2. Nate Allen
    This secondary is a mess.  Nnamdi has appeared to be a disaster (though I think he is much more valuable than people give him credit for) and may go the route of Babin.  DRC is a free agent who will most likely walk.  And, Coleman hasn’t given the Eagles any reason to bring him back next year.  That leaves Nate Allen.  Is Allen a starting safety in this league?  I think he can be, but there are question marks.  Maybe these 5 games will give us some insight either way.
  3. Bryce Brown
    For Bryce Brown, the football player, the good is really, REALLY good, but there are serious and frightening red flags at every turn.  178 rushing in his first NFL start – wow!  Red flag:  it came against an abysmal defense and was accompanied by two crucial fumbles.  He was the #1 ranked high school player in the country when he committed to Tennessee his senior year.  Red flag:  he never started a single collegiate game at two different schools.  So, while we can all dream about how good Bryce Brown could be, I’m very interested to find out just how good he will be.
  4. The Whole Defensive Line
    I still believe that this unit is overflowing with talent, but when will they show it?  It should be interesting to see if Trent Cole ever comes back to the bonafied 1st-team all-NFL defensive end that he has been for the better part of a decade.  And, will Brandan Graham we the guy the Eagles thought he would be when they traded up for him and took him over the “boom-or-bust” JPP – who clearly has boomed?  Same question about Fletcher Cox on the inside?  And, will my favorite current Eagle, Cullen Jenkins, earn himself a spot on the roster in 2013?  All of these will probably be decided over the course of the next 5 games.

Chooch, Babin, and D-Jax…

Just a mundane check on the front page of ESPN.com today offers three more pieces of off-the-field news to the laundry list of sports storylines meant strictly to depress fans of Philadelphia sports.

  • Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for amphetimines.
  • The already lost Eagles season will finish without their best wide receiver, as DeSean Jackson (who was actually having a sneakily decent season this year) was placed on season-ending IR today.
  • And, in maybe the most surprising (and head-scratching) news of the day – Jason Babin, fresh off an 18-sack season a year ago, was flat-out released by the Birds today.

Now, we can just sit in wait for the inevitable “Andrew Bynum to Miss Entire Season” headline which is right around the corner.

Uh…What?!? One Guy = 138 Points?

Some guy named Jack Taylor scored 138 points for D-III Grinnell tonight.

Now, we all know how absurd the Grinnell style of play has become, but wow…

And, honestly, the 138 points is not the most ridiculous part of the dude’s stat line.  He took 71 three-pointers.  That’s right, Taylor jacked up SEVENTY-ONE shot from behind the line.  He made 27 threes and still only shot 38% from behind the arc.  He was 25-for-37 from 2-point land, giving him a grand total of 52 field goals in 108 attempts.  And, to round it out, he was 7-for-10 from the line.  I guess when you’re gunning 71 threes, you don’t really get fouled all that much.

138 points?!?!?!?  Impressive, but that’s not really basketball.

BSB’s MLB Awards – Upcoming

For those awaiting the BSB award votes – we are tabulating the results and should have it all posted by early next week, at the latest.  It should be interesting to see how they compare to the actual voting.

The Forgotten 40: We Have Games!

A regular feature here on BSB is going to be the “Forgotten 40” in college hoops, where we try and rank the 40 best teams that have not received a single vote in the AP Top 25 poll all year.  Obviously, the field of “eligible” teams will shrink as the season goes along, but it should still be interesting to see just how under-the-radar some of these teams can stay.

Teams Receiving their First “Recognition” This Week (previous Forgotten 40 ranking in parentheses)
Alabama (2)
Bucknell (8)
Connecticut (24)
Maryland (-)

UConn’s win over Michigan State catapulted them from not even receiving votes to the Top 25 this week.  Alabama and Bucknell were top 10 teams in the Forgotten 40 last week and are now being recognized nationally.  And, Maryland wasn’t even in the Forgotten 40, but their strong performance against Kentucky got them into the “others receiving votes” section.  In fairness, though, both last week’s AP poll and this poll were published without the knowledge that Dez Wells would be eligible this year.  That being said, it was still a good week for the Turtles.

Now, on to this week’s Forgotten 40 (previous ranking in parentheses):

  1. Iowa State (5) – The main reason this team is “forgotten” is because they lost Royce White.  But, that is all they lost, and I believe very strongly in “The Mayor” Freddy Hoiberg as capable of building a sustainable program in Ames.  While the Cyclones have only played a pair of home games against wholly overmatched SWAC teams, they did beat Alabama A&M on Monday 98-40.
  2. BYU (3) – The Cougars have also not left their own gym this year, but they do have a pair of double-digit wins, including one against a decent Tennessee State team.  A date with Florida State awaits, where a win will probably gain them the recognition needed to graduate from this list.
  3. Temple (6) – An unabashed Temple fan, I was still a little apprehensive about this team just because I didn’t know where they would get scoring from other than Khaliff Wyatt.  Well, Scootie Randall dropped 31 at Kent State yesterday, which – at least for one day – was a strong answer to that question.  Needless to say, there is an argument that they could be #1 on this list, based on a tough road win, but it was only one game…and, I am scared of the homerism accusations.
  4. Belmont (15) – I was already very high on the Bruins this year, and that was before they put a licking on their biggest rivals, Lipscomb, by 29.  As good as Murray State is, there is a legitimate chance that the Racers are only the second-best team in the Ohio Valley.
  5. California (7) – The Pac-12 is 18-1 so far this year, and while it has not exactly come against the best competition, with the exception of the dreadful UW loss to Albany, the Pac teams have been convincing in their wins.  Cal is no exception, with double-digit wins over CS-Bakersfield and Pepperdine.  They have a road trip to Denver coming up, which could really tell us a lot about both of those teams.
  6. Central Florida (-) – Ineligible for the postseason (which caused Marcus Jordan to transfer), the Knights looked to be in for a long season, but Keith Clanton stuck around, and they look like they are playing with a chip on their shoulders.  They went on the road and absolutely pounded a USF team that won two NCAA tournament games last year.  They may not play in the postseason, but they sure are playing now.
  7. South Dakota State (9) – The highest team on this list with a loss, the Jackrabbits actually went to Alabama (last week’s #2 on this list before getting AP votes this week) and should have beaten the Tide.  They then came home and took care of a good Tennessee State team.  Nate Wolters is the REAL deal.
  8. Illinois State (14) – The Redbirds looked awfully good in their season-opener against UCSB, beating an always-tough Goucho team by 28.  Not that it should come as any surprise, but, no matter how good Dougie Mac and Creighton are, no one runs away with the Valley.
  9. Colorado (12) – Tad Boyle is a hell of a coach, and, if the first game is any indication, he might have something strong again this year.  The Buffs took care of a solid Wofford team by 15 in a game that wasn’t even that close.
  10. Ole Miss (10) – Two home wins for the Rebels, including an 18-point win over a dangerous Coastal Carolina team keeps Andy Kennedy on track for YET ANOTHER 20-win season.
  11. Northwestern (16) – Ho-hum.  The ‘Cats beat a SWAC team by 30 at home, but at least it was the best SWAC team, Texas-Southern.
  12. Iowa (19) – The Big Ten is absolutely loaded this year, from top to bottom, and the Hawkeyes might be right in the middle of a mad fight for tournament bids.
  13. Richmond (31) – It is a bit of a surprise that the biggest jump of the week came from a team that only won a pair of home games against lower-tier teams from the Big South and CAA.  But, the Spiders did it so convincingly that it is hard not to take notice.  They beat Liberty by 42 and then did that one better by crushing UNC-Wilmington by 43.  Wow!
  14. Middle Tennessee State (17) – The Blue Raiders opened a promising season in style, acting like a big conference team, with a 44-point win over Alabama State.  They then took a trip to the MEAC’s best team, Savannah State, and beat them on their home floor.  With North Texas’s non-showing this weekend, Mid Tenn might be the team to beat in the Sun Belt.
  15. Illinois (-) – New to the rankings this week, the Illini were even overlooked by me last week.  They do have Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson back this year, and their frontcourt has looked really good in their two 20-point wins.
  16. Clemson (-) – Another new team to the rankings, the Clemson Tigers do still have Devin Booker.  They pounded Presbyterian by 33, which caused us to take a little notice.  We shall see if their is a competitive ACC team lurking there or just more frustration for Brad Brownell (who is a really good coach, just maybe not an ACC recruiter).
  17. Xavier (-) – One of the more surprising results of the early season was Xavier beating up on Butler yesterday.  It shouldn’t be surprising because the X should always be able to field a solid team with all those resources, but this was supposed to be a “down” year.
  18. Wichita State (-) – Another team that is supposed to be in a rebuilding year are the Shockers of Wichita State.  But, I know that Shaka Smart will disagree, as Wichita went to VCU and came away with a big early-season win.  The MVC is gonna be great, yet again.
  19. Youngstown State (-) – You would be hard-pressed to find a better start to the season around the country than at YSU.  A road win a GW was one thing, but the Colonials aren’t very good.  They then went on the road and beat Georgia by 12.  This team could push for a top spot in the Horizon.
  20. Arkansas (1) – The Razorbacks take the biggest dive of teams that stayed in the rankings this week, mainly because they didn’t actually lose a game, but they sure did not look all that special in a nail-biting 5-point win at home over Sam Houston State.
  21. Iona (-) – The Gaels opened their season with a tough home game against Denver and came away with a nice win, making a tenative believer out of me.
  22. LSU (-) – Two solid home wins for the Tigers get them onto this list.  It may turn out that the change from Trent Johnson has made a big difference down on the Bayou.
  23. UTEP (-) – A solid 20-point win over Oral Roberts gets the Miners onto the list, as well.  Other than Memphis, the Conference USA is wide open.
  24. UMass (20) – A 3-point home win for the Minutemen against Harvard was uninspiring, but we are willing to give them a bit of a pass because they did beat a crosstown rival that was in the tournament last year.  But, we are keeping our eyes on upcoming games against Providence and @Siena to see if UMass really can compete as an A-10 upper division team this year.
  25. Florida Gulf Coast (-) – Last night FGC pulled off the biggest win in program history, as the Eagles shocked Miami (FL), 63-51.  This team might be a legit A-Sun competitor.
  26. Delaware (-) – After a season-opening loss at LaSalle, the Blue Hens beat Penn by 15 and then upset UVa last night.  If Drexel falters, UDel might be right in line for a CAA title.
  27. Oklahoma (25) – LA-Monroe was no problem for the Sooners, as they drubbed them by 34.  No real reason for them to fall on this list, but I guess that is how it worked out.  Stay tuned, as they have a tough trip to UT-Arlington followed by a home matchup with UTEP and then a neutral court battle with Oral Roberts.  By the next publication, we will know a LOT more about this team.
  28. Wagner (23) – They have not played a game yet, which is good enough to put them in as the potential favorites in the NEC, as it was just a BRUTAL week for the conference, as a while, as LIU, Robert Morris, and Quinnipiac all took some really bad losses.
  29. USC-Upstate (37) – The most anticipated season in Upstate history started with a 17-point loss at Saint Louis, but they took out their frustrations against a D-II opponent on Sunday, winning by 54.  They have a tough road trip to UTSA and Santa Clara coming up, so we will see what they are made of soon enough.
  30. Detroit (26) – Their only D-I game of the year was a loss, but it was only a 3-point loss in the Garden against St. John’s.  The book hasn’t even begun to be written about the 2012-13 Detroit Titans.
  31. Manhattan (33) – The only team on the list with a 28-point loss is also the only team without a win.  But, the Jaspers only game was a road game at Louisville, so we will forgive them.  They go to Harvard next, which should be more telling.
  32. Stony Brook (-) – Stony Brook has a pair of road wins already this year, including an 8-point win over a Rider team that was fresh off of a 25-point shellacking of Robert Morris.  The Brook is the odds-on favorite in the America East.
  33. Mercer (38) – A pair of D-II opponents opened the season for the Mercer Bears, but they did beat them both handily.  They have a really interesting matchup with George Mason coming up next.  That would be a great win.
  34. South Alabama (-) – One of the biggest early season upsets belongs to the Jaguars of USA, as they rolled into Tallahassee and beat the previously-ranked Seminoles.  Picked well below the big two in the Sun Belt (Mid Tenn and N.Texas), the Jaguars might have something to say about that race before it is all said and done.
  35. UC-Irvine (-) – While USA may have pulled off the biggest upset, UC-Irvine had, BY FAR, the biggest “near-miss,” as they lost a 1-point overtime thriller to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.  It is hard to say if this says that the Anteaters are that good or if UCLA was either distracted or flawed, but it was still an impressive performance by a suspected mid-level Big West team.
  36. Loyola (MD) (39) – The Greyhounds beat up on Binghamton, but got put in their place in their trip to Washington.  But, that is a tough place to win (unless, of course, you’re a mid-level America East team from…)
  37. Albany (-) – The Great Danes went into Washington and beat the Huskies last night.  There wasn’t much that pointed to that happening, though their first two games were okay performances (a 3-point home win over Duquesne and a 22-point respectable loss at Ohio State).  This might have been more about UW than Albany, but we are cautiously optimistic for the Danes.
  38. Western Kentucky (-) – The Hilltoppers finished last season on a roll, and it looks as if they might have taken that momentum into this year.  They nearly upset Southern Miss (3-point road loss in OT) and then they beat up on Austin Peay.  The Sun Belt is looking better and better.
  39. Montana (36) – The Grizzlies were barely on the list to begin with, so an 0-1 start threatened to knock them off, but they remain because their loss was only by 7 points on the road against a pretty good Colorado State team.  While they do not have a ton of substance in their November schedule, they do get BYU, San Francisco, and South Dakota State in December, so we may have to table the Montana discussion for a couple of weeks.
  40. North Dakota State (40) – Last week’s #40 moves up a spot based on a 46-point domination of an overmatched D-II team and then a non-terrible showing (26-point loss) on the road against the nation’s #1 team, Indiana.  The Bison get Youngstown State later this week, which could be really interesting.

Fallen from the list (previous ranking in parentheses):
Rutgers (4)
Akron (11)
Marshall (13)
South Florida (18)
Robert Morris (21)
Long Island (22)
Long Beach State (27)
Penn State (28)
North Texas (29)
Princeton (30)
Georgia (32)
Tulane (34)
Denver (35)

A lot of these demotions are, admittedly, knee-jerk reactions to single losses (some of which weren’t even bad losses – see Marshall, LBSU, N.Texas, Denver), but there were enough teams that got some big wins to bump them out.  I expect many of these teams to pop back sooner rather than later.  However, that is not the case for Rutgers (home loss to lowly St. Peter’s), South Florida (18-point drubbing at home from crosstown rival, UCF), and Georgia (12-point home loss to Youngstown State after a near-loss to Jacksonville).  Most of all, I am disappointed with the performance of the two big NEC teams – Long Island and Robert Morris – who have been flat-out bad in the early going.  At least Wagner hasn’t played yet, so they had no opportunity to disappoint.

College Hoops Opening Night Viewers Guide

Shot-blocker Nerlens Noel and his flat-top will debut for Kentucky on Friday night

Note:  As promised, we’re hitting college hoops hard right out of the gate.  This post overlaps with Bry’s last post, but puts a focus on some of the games that will be aired on basic cable Friday night.

The majority of D-1 basketball teams will kick off their season on Friday evening.  If you’re smart, you’ll get home from work, park yourself on the couch, and start off your college hoops season with Michigan St. vs. UConn at 5:30.  Here’s your Opening Night Viewers guide:

5:30 PM- Michigan St. vs. UConn (ESPN):  Two strange things about the first game of the 2012-13 season:  Jim Calhoun will not be the UConn coach, and the game is being played on an Air Force base in Germany.  It’s a year of massive transition for the Huskies, with Kevin Ollie taking over as coach and a lot of players gone from last year’s team, partly because the team has been banned from postseason play this year.  For the Spartans, meanwhile, it’s business as usual, with Tom Izzo at the helm and big expectations.  Stud freshman Gary Harris joins a veteran nucleus of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Derrick Nix.

7:00 PM- Marquette vs. Ohio St. (NBC Sports Network):  If the Spartans are beating UConn like the Huskies are Nazis on D-Day (German Air Force Base reference, get it?), be sure to find the new NBC Sports Network on your dial for this matchup of two solid Midwest programs.  The Vs. Channel is now NBC Sports, and I was delighted to discover that a) I get the channel and b) they’ll be showing college hoops.  Marquette’s Buzz Williams is probably one of the underrated coaches in the game, and he’ll have to replace two stars this year, in Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.  Meanwhile, Thad Matta’s Buckeyes are replacing two stars of their own, but they do have 1st-Team All-American Deshaun Thomas and excellent PG Aaron Craft.

During commercials of Marquette/OSUDuke vs. Georgia St. (ESPNU):  We all know there will be more than enough chances to see the Dukies this year (especially for those of us that happen to live a mile from campus), but during timeouts in other games, may as well flip over and see how the trio of Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee start off their senior seasons against a cupcake Georgia St. team.

8:30 PM- Kentucky vs. Maryland (ESPN):  Under John Calipari, it’s always must-see TV when Kentucky kicks off their season and rolls out the new toys for all to see.  I will always remember seeing John Wall and Anthony Davis play their first collegiate games.  Will one of this year’s touted players join them?  I will say that I already saw Nerlens Noel play in a high school game last year, and he’s the leading candidate to have a memorable start in this one.  Year 2 of the Mark Turgeon era at Maryland probably won’t get the pulse rate going much, but he’s a solid coach and will have his team ready to compete.

9:00 PM- Florida vs. Georgetown (NBC Sports):  Florida has hopes of unseating Kentucky for SEC supremacy this year, with an experienced and talented roster led by Kenny Boynton and Patric Young.  Georgetown lost three key players from last year’s solid team, but John Thompson III has the program rolling along pretty well now, and there shouldn’t be too much of a drop-off.  Many are predicting a breakout season from sophomore small forward Otto Porter.

Sleeper game during commercials of above two- South Dakota St. vs. Alabama (ESPNU):  Two teams that appear in the top ten of Bry’s Forgotten 40 list that he posted a few days ago.  Don’t be shocked if the Jackrabbits of SDSU are able to knock off this SEC foe.  They have one of the top guards in the country, Nate Wolters, who is capable of going off for a big scoring day (he dropped 34 at Washington last year) while also filling the stat sheet in other ways.  Bama has big losses from the team that ended their tourney drought last year, but they have a freshman to watch in Devonta Pollard.

Opening Weekend: Games to Watch

Here we are, opening weekend of the college hoops season.  There are some great games all over the country (and the world…).  Here are some highlights of the weekend.

Friday

Opening day of the college hoops season starts with a huge bang, as there are games all over the country (and the world).  There are three games on aircraft carriers, one in an aircraft hangar in Germany, and the college hoops debut in the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.  This is the best opening day in my memory.

  • #9 Syracuse vs #20 San Diego St. – One of the few times in the preseason that the ‘Cuse steps out of the Carrier Dome, and it happens to be WAY out of the Carrier Dome, as it is on an aircraft carrier in the San Diego harbor.  This is the only game all weekend that pits two nationally ranked teams.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the event, but I hope the outdoor game doesn’t affect what could be a terrific opportunity to see what Steve Fisher’s got this year at SD State.
  • Georgetown vs. #10 Florida – Another game on another aircraft carrier (again, AWESOME) – this time off the coast of Jacksonville, FL.  The elements may favor the more physical Hoyas, who rely less on perimeter shooting, but the Gators are the more talented team.  Should be a good one.
  • Marquette vs. #4 Ohio St. – The third aircraft carrier game is in Charleston, SC, where the 4th-ranked Buckeyes open their season against the Golden Eagles of Marquette.
  • Connecticut vs. #14 Michigan St. – The dawn of the Kevin Ollie Era in UConn happens in Germany – not on an aircraft carrier, but in an aircraft hangar – where the undersized Huskies will try and deal with the oversized Spartans.  A tough travel schedule for both, particularly the Spartans, who have a quick turnaround before a date with Kansas.
  • #3 Kentucky vs. Maryland – This is neutral site game in Brooklyn, at the new Barclay’s Center.  I don’t expect it to be all that dramatic, as UK is supremely talented, but the first game of the year for Kentucky is always interesting because, well, it’s a whole new team.
  • Miami (OH) at #6 N.C. State – It’s been a long time since there was this much hype surrounding an N.C. State team.  And, I have been calling for their breakout (incorrectly) for two years now.  But, finally, they have put that talent together with a really good coach.  Miami (OH) doesn’t pose all that much of a threat in Raleigh, but it’s nice to see the ‘Pack back in ACC contention again.
  • Indiana State at #13 UCLA – There is a lot of promise in Southern Cal this year, as Ben Howland has the #1 recruiting class in the country, and maybe the most highly-touted class he has ever recruited (and this is a guy who took the Bruins to three straight Final Fours).  Indiana State is a decent team in the great Missouri Valley, but the story here is (a) which of these elite freshmen will actually play, and (b) will they all mesh right away?
  • North Texas at #16 Creighton – The Blue Jays of Creighton enter the season with Sweet 16 (at worst) expectations, led by their incredible superstar, Doug McDermott.  But, get this.  McDermott might not be the best player on the floor on Friday night.  North Texas has a guy named Tony Mitchell, who was projected to be a mid-first round pick in the NBA draft if he had left North Texas last year, after his freshman year.  That’s right, a Sun Belt team has a sophomore who will probably be a lottery pick in the next NBA draft.
     
  • Lehigh at Baylor – If you’re ever read anything on this site, you probably know my love affair with C.J. McCollum since his monstrous freshman year at Lehigh.  Well, he is now a senior, and it’s time to shine.  Picked by some as a preseason 1st-team All-American, McCollum leads his Mountain Hawks into Waco, to take on an interesting Baylor squad.  This might be the most interesting game played on dry American soil all weekend.
  • “The Battle of the Boulevard” – Belmont at Lipscomb – Belmont left the Atlantic Sun this year for the Ohio Valley, but they will never leave one of the most underrated rivalries in any sport.  These two teams – walking distance apart in downtown Nashville – have a heated, heated rivalry.  Previously, they were conference games, so they would happen in the middle of the season – it should be really interesting to see it kick off the season for each team.
  • Virginia at George Mason – Just a quick, early measuring stick to see where each of these programs are this year.  UVa lost a lot off of last year’s team, while George Mason continues to recruit really talented, under-the-radar kids.  And, the Patriot Center has become a pretty tough place for anyone to win these days.
  • South Dakota State at Alabama – The Nate Wolters Legend should continue to grow here in his final collegiate season.  He actually should be the best player on the floor at Alabama when they tipoff on Friday, and he has a supporting cast of Jackrabbits good enough to potentially pull off an upset of a pretty good (albeit overlooked) Alabama team this year.  This should be one of the better under-the-radar games of the weekend.
  • Drexel at Kent State – Drexel is loaded this year, and they are hoping it will finally end with a trip to the Dance.  It all starts with a trip to Kent State, where the Golden Flashes are always tough, with this year being no different.
  • Bucknell at Purdue – Watch out for the Bison this year.  This Bucknell team is a bit overlooked in the Patriot League because of all the hype surrounding Lehigh, but Bucknell returns 4 starters from a 25-win team a year ago (three of who started for a 25-win team two years ago).  Purdue is in a bit of a transition year, so they could be pretty ripe for an upset here if they take the Bison at all lightly.
  • Tulane at Georgia Tech – Tulane was poised to prove all the naysayers wrong last year, until they were hit by a slew of injuries that derailed their surprise season.  This year, the expectations are a little higher, so it should be interesting to see if they can make a splash in their season opener against a down Tech team.
  • Morehead State at Long Island – My 2013 irrational love affair begins in Brooklyn against Morehead State.  I am all-in on the LIU Blackbirds this year, led by an amazing frontcourt of Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasawere and a gritty backcourt of Jason Brickman and C.J. Garner.  Morehead is in a bit of a rebuilding period after losing Kenneth Faried to the NBA two years ago, but they are still no pushovers.
  • Robert Morris at Rider – The one team that might derail the Blackbirds this year in the NEC is the highly-touted Robert Morris team.  It should be interesting to see if LIU can hold serve at home and then to see if RMC can go on the road and beat a decent MAAC team.
  • USC-Upstate at Saint Louis – The best team in the brief D-I history of USC-Upstate is the first opponent for a Frank Martin-led Gamecock squad.  I am interested in both of these teams, as Upstate is a real contender in the A-Sun, and St. Louis is the preseason favorite in the 16-team A-10 this year.  The Billikens have the talent to be one of the better teams nationwide this year.
  • Montana at Colorado State – Tim Miles bolted for Nebraska in the offseason, after doing a simply masterful job at Colorado State.  But, the Rams made a big splash in replacing him by hiring Larry Eustachy away from Southern Miss.  And, Miles left a boatload of talent for the former Iowa State head man, who was named the 2000 AP National Coach of the Year before leaving the Cyclones in personal scandal.  But, Eustachy’s first test is a tough one, as a really good Montana team comes calling with one of the nation’s most underrated backcourts in Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar.
  • Oral Roberts at UTEP – Oral Roberts switched conferences this year, but brings with them a long history of mid-major success.  They open their season against an interesting team at UTEP.  They could be really good or they could do what they did last year and, essentially, go through the motions of mediocrity.
  • Northern Illinois at Nebraska-Omaha – NIU is one of D-I’s worst teams, but the reason I highlighted this game is because it is the D-I debut of Nebraska-Omaha.  And, at home, against a really bad team, they might actually start their D-I career 1-0.

 

Saturday

Because of the craziness of Friday (and still being in the heart of college football season), Saturday is a bit of a light slate, but there are still some games worth paying attention to.

  • SIU-Edwardsville at #15 Missouri – The Tigers lost a ton from last year’s incredible team, but they also added a TON of experienced talent back to join the great Flip Pressey.  It should be interesting to see how they all gel together on this team.  Nothing should really be learned in this game, as they should roll a bad OVC team, but it’s worth taking a note of the rotations employed by Frank Haith and the effectiveness of guys like Alex Oriakhi (UConn transfer) and Lawrence Bowers (coming off an ACL tear).
  • Evansville at #22 Notre Dame – There is a lot of hype coming out of South Bend these days, and it’s only mostly because of the football team’s renaissance.  The basketball team should be really good, too.  However, if Mike Brey and company aren’t careful, they could get nipped in their first game, as the Purple Aces of Evansville are not to be overlooked.  In fact, they have a dynamic superstar guard named Colt Ryan, who might be the best player on the floor in this game.
  • Central Florida at South Florida – How can USF follow-up an amazing season which saw them win two NCAA tournament games?  I guess a Sweet 16 is the only way to top it (or maybe a Big East title?).  They open their season with a mitigated excitement about this team.  They expected to have 4 of their 5 starters back, but they thought that they would have Marcus Jordan and not Keith Clanton.  Instead, Jordan gave up his final year on the team, while Clanton returned.  While Clanton doesn’t have the “Jordan” name, I think they are better off this way, though there will always be the thoughts of “what could have been.”
  • Princeton at Buffalo – Princeton is supposed to take back the Ivy League this year, mostly on the strength (actually, size) of their frontline.  They have four guys at 6’10” or bigger, including a pair of 7-footers.  They open with a Buffalo team that really believes this might be their year to break through in the MAC, despite the immense talent at schools like Ohio and Akron.

 

Sunday

Sunday is a little more interesting than Saturday, with a couple of the nation’s best tipping off against some solid mid-majors.

  • Manhattan at #2 Louisville – It is the ole “teacher vs. student” battle here in Louisville to open the season for each of these teams.  Manhattan, who saw a very quick rejuvenation thanks to Pitino-disciple, Steve Masiello, last year has all 5 starters back and should make a serious run at the MAAC title.  Louisville is obviously on the short list of national title favorites, so a home game against the Jaspers shouldn’t bother them, but they’d better be careful because this team can play.
  • Florida-Atlantic at #11 North Carolina – The exodus of talent from last year’s UNC roster was devastating, but they do have a load of talent still there and more coming in.  Two freshman, Marcus Paige and Joel James, are slated to start at PG and C, respectively, for the Tar Heels, so they will open their careers here at the Dean Dome against an FAU team that is decent, for Sun Belt standards, but shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Heels, no matter how quickly the freshmen develop.
  • Charleston-Southern at #12 Arizona – Another team with a massive influx of talent this year is the Arizona Wildcats.  They added senior point guard Mark Lyons (Xavier transfer) and a stable of monster freshmen bigs, led by Kaleb Tarczewski, the 7’0″ center, who was ranked as the #4 recruit in the country.  Charleston-Southern has one of the best teams in their program’s history, so they shouldn’t be overlooked, but on the road at UA might be too tall of a test, despite the ‘Cats massive turnover.
  • Marshall at Villanova – We could find out really quickly just how good (or bad) Jay Wright’s Wildcats are going to be this year.  I still can’t understand why Malik Wayns and, especially, Dominic Cheek decided to forgo their senior seasons for pro ball, but it certainly transitions this ‘Nova team from the typical Villanova style of reliance on the backcourt to more of a frontcourt-dominated team.  I really like Mouphtaou Yarou (and not because I spent two years just miles outside of the African village in which he hails) and James Bell, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaugh Pinkston are all decent frontcourt players.  This team will be interested and will be tested right off the bat by a very talented Marshall team that is trying to erase the underachievement of last year.
  • Milwaukee at South Carolina – The Frank Martin Era begins here against UW-Milwaukee.  He brings in a rather slender roster, by SEC standards, but we all know that the guy can flat-out coach.  Milwaukee is decent – as we have come to expect from this solid Horizon League program – and should at least show us a little of what Martin has to work with in Columbia.
  • Loyola (MD) at Washington – UW rarely loses at home, particularly to non-conference teams.  And, they almost never lose to mid-major non-conference opponents that have to travel 3,000 miles to get there.  But, if it is going to happen, it might happen here because the Greyhounds of Loyola are the favorites to repeat as MAAC champions, as they return their top three scorers, and are not the type to be intimidated.  This should be the classic constrast in styles, as UW likes to get out and run, while Loyola loves a slow, plodding pace.

Happy Tuesday…

Here’s a stat for you with your morning coffee:

The Eagles had 4 first downs inside the Saints 10-yard line last night.  Just in those four trips, they were OUTSCORED by the Saints, 7-6.  That’s right, 4 times with the ball, inside the 10, and they GAVE UP more points than they scored.

Good morning!

The Forgotten 40: The Country’s Best College Basketball Teams that No One is Talking About

One of the regular features that we plan to run on BSB throughout this year’s college hoops season is a ranking of the best teams that no one is talking about.  We want to highlight some of the “other” teams in college basketball’s wide landscape.  So, we are going to try and rank the best teams in the country that have yet to receive a single vote in the AP Top 25 (aka…”not being talked about”).  We are going to start the season with a list of 40 teams, though as the season goes on and more polls come out, obviously fewer and fewer teams will be “eligible,” so we will probably cut it down as we move along, but, for now, we are debuting our list as a “Forgotten Forty.”

  1. Arkansas – The Razorbacks probably aren’t long for this list because I expect them to start getting noticed rather quickly.  Coach Anderson’s “40 Minutes of Hell, Jr.” style will be bolstered by the return of possible 1st-team All-SEC forward Marshon Powell, who missed all last year with an ACL tear.
  2. Alabama – Another overlooked SEC team is led by the outstanding coaching of Anthony Grant.  But, Grant’s got some players, too, as they return 4 starters and add 5-star recruit Devonta Pollard, who could be a standout freshman even in a conference that includes a team of Calipari recruits.
  3. BYU – With their level of program and coach, the Cougars will always be good. Noah Hartsock is gone, but do-it-all forward (get it?) Brandon Davies is back, as is UCLA transfer Matt Carlino.  They also add Tyler Haws, who averaged 11 ppg as a freshman starter in 2009-10, and is now back from his two-year Mormon mission for his sophomore season.
  4. Rutgers – Most of the Big East is ineligible for this list because, well, they get a decent amount of exposure.  But, this Rutgers team could be an actual sleeper in Big East.  I really like Mike Rice’s coaching style, and he returns 4 starters from a team that started to play pretty well down the stretch last year.
  5. Iowa State – I suspect that this team will be off this list rather soon, but it could go either way as to why.  Either it all comes together – like it did last year – and they are very, very good.  Or, it all fizzles, and they are lurking near the basement of the Big XII.  They lost 3 of their 5 starters, including first-round NBA pick, Royce White, but they added a couple potentially crucial pieces in Michigan State transfer Corey Lucious and Will Clyburn, a guard who averaged 17 points and 8 boards at Utah two years ago. Continue reading “The Forgotten 40: The Country’s Best College Basketball Teams that No One is Talking About”