OK, deep breath.
North Carolina won't win the national championship.
At least that's what the 'Bag's saying in our ninth annual Magic Eight, the eight teams from which we guarantee the national champion will emerge.
Do we feel good about leaving Carolina out? Not at all. Actually, we're about to vomit on our keyboard right now. UNC is the nation's No. 1-ranked team. It's undefeated. It has tremendous depth, a balanced and relentless offensive attack, a Hall of Fame coach and a top contender for national Player of the Year (
But the Magic Eight, which has successfully tabbed the eventual national champion in January every year since 2000 except one (2003: Syracuse), isn't about simply listing the eight best teams in the country. That would be lame and boring.
And so, during a season in which college hoops has been ruled by four teams -- UNC, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA -- the 'Bag decided to eliminate one of them here. While all four are terrific outfits with potent offenses and are easily capable of winning it all, one of these four is not quite like the others.
Carolina just doesn't defend as well as the other three.
Memphis is the nation's top defensive team, allowing 78.9 points per 100 possessions (according to kenpom.com's stats, which are adjusted for schedule strength). Kansas has the second-best defense (79.9), and UCLA is No. 7 (84.7) after a remarkable lockdown of Washington State last Saturday.
North Carolina, however, is No. 26 (88.9), a dangerously low number for a team that hopes to win a national title. And if we're going to let one indicator dictate which of the four to leave out, that'll be the one.
Longtime readers know how much time I've spent around Carolina and
So how about we do this for the Magic Eight guarantee: If UNC ends up winning the national title, I'll let Williams decide what sort of payback I have to make. Run 30 minutes of suicides in the Smith Center? Post a picture of myself wearing a Carolina-blue T-shirt with the slogan DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS? Endure a skin-tingling hour of Texas-Style Ping-Pong with Hansbrough? It's the coach's call.
We know the Hoyas are coming off a loss at Pittsburgh and faltered at Memphis, but Georgetown is still the class of the Big East, and its ability to execute in high-pressure tournament situations (thanks largely to point guard
The 'Bag has dinged
The Jayhawks are just killing teams right now and should be on every college hoops fan's list of DVR musts.
Every year we take a flier on an unranked team in the Magic Eight (not to be confused with the Dayton Flyers, who just missed the cut), and this year's pick is the Cardinals, who've run off three straight decent wins (at Kentucky, West Virginia, at Rutgers) and could snag a major scalp in Marquette at Freedom Hall on Thursday. There's a reason, after all, that the 'Ville was a preseason Top 10 pick, and now that
The Tigers are blessed with skilled depth, even at the post position, and their frenetic pressure at both ends tends to crush the will of opponents.
After tough losses to Arizona State and Tennessee, Xavier has cranked it up again, blowing out Kansas State and Virginia to right the ship before diving into a tougher-than-expected Atlantic 10 schedule. The A-10 could get four (or even five) NCAA bids, which means its teams should be well-prepared for the NCAA tournament. I wavered between Xavier and Dayton in this slot but finally went with the Musketeers who have the slightest edge when it comes to postseason experience. Can't wait to see Xavier-Dayton on Jan. 24 at the Cintas Center.
Ladies and gentlemen, your ninth-annual Magic Eight. Feel free to discuss.
This is an interesting question. I've always thought it can be exceedingly hard for a referee to be clairvoyant and know for certain an athlete's intentions (this is the same problem in soccer when a referee has to divine intent on a handball), so I looked up the current definition of intentional foul. You'll note that nowhere does it discuss "breakaways":
According to the latest NCAA officiating guidelines, "Any personal foul that is not a legitimate attempt to directly play the ball or the player is an intentional personal foul; running into the back of a player who has the ball, wrapping the arm(s) around a player and grabbing a player around the torso or legs are intentional personal fouls; grabbing a player's arm or body while initially attempting to gain control by playing the ball directly is an intentional personal foul; grabbing, holding or pushing a player away from the ball is an intentional personal foul; undue roughness used to stop the game clock is an intentional personal foul and, if severe, should be called a flagrant personal foul; it is an intentional personal foul when, while playing the ball, a player causes excessive contact with an opponent."
But it also adds, "The intentional personal foul must be called within the spirit and intent of the intentional-foul rule." That's the kicker. Is the spirit and intent changing? I prefer not to see the referees make a decision that can have too much of an impact on a close game late. That's why I'm one of the guys who thinks the ref made the right (non-intentional foul) call on
What's your sense, readers? Are intentional fouls being whistled more frequently than before? Should they be?
I couldn't go far enough to put Pitt in the Magic Eight, but I'm awfully impressed by how
I liked what I saw in the virtual road win against West Virginia, and freshman
I thought the Yellow Jackets (7-8) might really turn the corner after nearly picking off Kansas in Atlanta last month, but instead they've struggled, starting 0-2 in the ACC (including a home loss to Florida State) as they head into Wednesday's home game against North Carolina. Georgia Tech has a decent offensive attack, but it turns the ball over a lot, and the defense is brutal (No. 128 in the country in defensive efficiency per kenpom.com). GT sends opponents to the line way too often and doesn't defend or shoot the three-pointer worth a lick.
They should win a few more than five more games, though. Keep in mind, aside from UNC and Duke, the ACC is pretty bad this season.
So what you're saying is it was a diamond-and-one, right? Calipari told me this week that ever since USC used its triangle-and-two on the Tigers, opponents have thrown his team the sort of junk that would make
After last week's classic
According to the
There are all sorts of potential conflicts with the Adidas-backed Pumps being hired by collegiate programs, not least because they could hypothetically steer recruits from Adidas-sponsored AAU teams to schools whose coaches were hired through ChampSearch (which would have a stake in their success). But we'll save that story for another day.
For now we'd like to share a more amusing anecdote, courtesy of Tennessee AD
"We were sitting in a room in Dallas talking about different coaches. I had my short list. [ChampSearch consultant and former NCAA president]
"He says, 'Hey Bruce, this is Pump! I've got the Tennessee search, I'm helping them with it. They're very interested in you, they love you, you just need to keep winning and things look great.' Well, Bruce is having dinner with his AD in Cleveland preparing to play Alabama in the first round, and he got up from the table to take the call. Bruce says, 'Hey Dana, I'm trying to win a game here, but I'd be interested.' And he goes back to the table."
"So Pump gets off the phone and says, 'Pearl's in. Who do we want to call next?' I give him a particular name to test the waters on, and he picks up the phone. 'Hey Coach, this is Pump! I've got the Tennessee search, they've got their eyes on you, you've done a great job at X University.'"
"Then Pump goes stone-cold, gets red-faced and says, 'I'm just kidding.' He hung up the phone and died laughing. He says, 'You're not going to believe this, but I just called Pearl back.' On the other end Pearl had gone back to his table and Pump's number showed up again. He walks out of the room again, says hello and Pump starts into his antics. Bruce decides he's just going to listen and see what's happening here."
"So when Pump got to the part about X University, Pearl says, 'Hey Pump, this is Bruce. You called me back. I will never let you live this down.'"
"True story," says a laughing Pearl, who still busts the Pumps' chops about it.
• We first got intrigued by Mississippi State's
• Longtime 'Bag reader
• Can we get more of
• One more thing to like about
• I want to see more from Vanderbilt freshman
• The continuing benefit of living in Baltimore: seeing actors from
• We're trying to pick up as much Baltimore lingo as possible after moving here, and the last couple weeks have been huge. K-State's
Keep the questions coming in. See you next week.