Sleeper title contenders, Florida's unpredictability and more mail
Why is it that most of the best questions come from Las Vegas? Is it the proximity to the sports books? The great golf courses, which provide time to ponder life's great mysteries? The inspiration that can only be gleaned from eating 46 crab claws at the $9.99 all-you-can-eat buffet?
Last month, Vegas resident Shane Hale asked me to
Devin is letting me off easy, so I decided to make it tougher on myself. I went back to last year's AP polls and looked up where Butler was ranked in Week 11. And guess what I found out:
So instead of looking just outside the top 10, I'm going to restrict myself to teams that are not ranked at all in this week's AP poll. Here then, in reverse order, are my top five "sleepers" to make it to this year's championship game. You'll notice this list has an SEC flavor to it. You'll also notice that Butler is not among this hallowed quintet. I think it's safe to say that this year's Butler will not be Butler.
On now to the rest of your questions.
According to NCAA rules, a student is only allowed to make up one core course that he did not complete by the time he finished high school -- and that must happen within one year of when his original high school class would have graduated. (In other words, four years after the start of his freshman season.) Barring some surprise revelation, Mitchell is simply too far behind to make up the courses that he missed. Missouri can always try to declare him learning disabled and try to get him eligible via a different route, but if the school had planned to do that I'm guessing that would have happened by now.
The bottom line here is, Tony Mitchell, who is a very talented basketball player, was ill-served by the adults in his life who advised him to transfer to a shady so-called prep school in Florida that was not properly accredited. Someone tried to tell the kid there was an easy way out, and he naively tried to take it. It looks like he is going to pay a heavy price for that mistake.
At first, I thought John's comparison between McCamey and Williams was ludicrous. But a closer inspection of their numbers shows he's not so far off. Here is how McCamey's stats compare with Williams' junior season in Champaign, after which he became the third pick in the NBA draft:
The two numbers that stand out to me are the free-throw percentages and the three-point percentages. I would have never guessed Williams was that bad of a foul shooter during his final year of college.
The thing that makes these numbers hard to evaluate is that Williams played with a much better supporting cast. He was clearly capable of scoring more than 12.5 points per game, but that team didn't need him to. Then again, because McCamey's teammates aren't as good, he is drawing more consistent attention from defenses, yet his shooting percentages are off the charts. Plus, he is averaging slightly more assists than Williams did, which, in theory, should be harder to do if your teammates aren't as capable of finishing plays off your passes.
Still, statistics never tell the whole story. I doubt anyone would watch Williams play and then watch McCamey play and think that McCamey is as good as Williams was at this same stage. McCamey has done well to get himself into shape and improve his defense, but he is not the explosive athlete that Williams is. McCamey makes a lot of good plays, but very few of them make you smack your forehead the way Williams' did. Most draft experts seem to project McCamey as a late first- or early second-round selection, which to me seems about right. I doubt he'll ever be an All-Star, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him enjoy a long and lucrative NBA career. He has worked extremely hard, and he deserves it.
It is not fair to blame all of North Carolina's problems on Drew, but there is no question that the team runs much better with Marshall at the point. Neither player is adept at running a high-speed offense, and I give Roy Williams credit for slowing down the pace to suit his personnel. But looking at the numbers from UNC's first three ACC games, it's clear that Marshall was more productive than Drew, despite the latter starting every contest:
The good news is, Williams made the switch in the Tar Heels' fourth conference game, a 75-65 win over Clemson on Tuesday night. Marshall entered the starting lineup and logged five points, five assists and three turnovers, while Drew added eight points, four rebounds and four steals off the bench. I won't jump to the conclusion that this switch will immediately turn around North Carolina's season, but it's a start.
I don't think they're difficult to understand at all. They're just not very good. (You do know that consistency is a part of being good, right?) Simply put, Florida is not a good enough defensive team to make up for nights when it isn't shooting the ball well from the perimeter. The Gators are ranked 63rd nationally in defensive efficiency, and they're eighth in the SEC in steals, 10th in the SEC in field-goal percentage defense and 10th in blocks. You'd also have to say that Kenny Boynton is one of the bigger disappointments in college basketball. The 6-foot-2 sophomore came to Gainesville with enormous hype out of high school, yet he is only making 29.5 percent from three-point range. (He made 29.4 percent as a freshman.) Neither Boynton nor Erving Walker do a good job attacking the rim, but they're streaky shooters, so when they're on, Florida can be tough to beat. When they're not on, there's not much by way of Plan B.
I agree that Villanova is a better defensive team than it was last year, and the numbers bear that out. The Wildcats are currently ranked 20th in the nation in defensive efficiency. Last year they were 62nd. I guess my problem with Villanova is that it still is not as good a defensive team as its ability would indicate. Do you know many more teams with as many quick, long and tough perimeter players? Yet Villanova is ranked ninth in the Big East in steals and eighth in blocks. I also believe that the Wildcats are too choosy about when they turn up the defensive heat. As I mentioned, their effort on the defensive end is too tied in to whether their shots are falling.
So yes, they're not bad, and they're better -- but they're not as good as they will need to be if they're going to compete for an NCAA championship.
First of all, I am definitely not buying that the Big East will get 11 teams. It seems like we go through this every year in the Big East. In January it looks like everybody in the league will get in, and then invariably a team or two go on a huge losing streak and the number gets dwindled. Yes, there are three more at-large bids on the board this year, but this league has never gotten more than eight teams in. It is not getting every single spot added by expansion.
As for the Buffs, it did not help their cause by losing at Nebraska on Tuesday night, so they still have some work to do before we can start talking about them as an at-large. Colorado has a huge problem: Its nonconference strength of schedule is ranked 300th in the RPI. To me, that means the Buffaloes have to go at least 10-6 in the conference during the regular season and then acquit themselves well in the Big 12 tournament to have a legit chance.
The best news for Colorado is it only has one bad loss (at San Francisco), so as long as the Buffaloes can avoid stumbling again against the teams in the league ranked below 100 in the RPI (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas Tech), they'll have a good shot. It would help if they could score another win over one of the top four teams in the conference, but I think the pivotal game for CU might be its game at home against Kansas State on Feb. 12. It's always nice to have a sweep over another potential bubble team in your league -- although K-State has some work to do before we can even consider it to be on the bubble.