Bashing the Pac-10 has been a sport within a sport this season, but I'm here to tell you something that may surprise you: This is going to be the most fascinating race inside any of the big six conferences.
The first reason I say this is that this thing could not be more wide open. It appears that no fewer than six of the league's 10 teams have a legitimate chance to win this thing -- and I'm not even including UCLA, which may have a little life in them yet.
Then there are the intriguing storylines to tickle our fancy. Can USC still contend for a title even though it is not eligible for the postseason? Will Arizona, which is off to a 2-2 start in the league, keep its nation's-best 25-year NCAA tournament streak alive? Inquiring minds want to know.
I realize calling a league race "wide open" is the same as calling it "mediocre," but you have to admit, the early results have been pretty wacky. Based on the first week of action, the only thing you can predict is unpredictability. Struggling UCLA clipped California in Berkeley by one point on
You can't make this stuff up.
But the main reason this league is going to be must-see TV is because everybody knows that NCAA tournament bids are going to be hard to come by. Personally, I think three bids (including the automatic) is the minimum, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Pac-10 only puts two teams into the tournament. That will put a much greater urgency on finishing in the top tier that you won't find in any of the other power conferences. And there's nothing more fun than watching teams play that are desperate.
So keep bashing the Pac-10 all you want. Skip their late-night games and get your sleep. I, for one, plan to drink lots of coffee and set my DVR to catch as much of the action as I can. Who would have guessed that a bunch of games between mediocre west coast teams could be so much fun to watch?
• Here's the YouTube special of the week. I dare say this has never happened in the history of basketball. And if you say I'm wrong, you better have video (hat tip to
• If everyone is saying
• The best thing about Georgia guard
• Three stats from last weekend that will raise your eyebrows: Georgetown guard
• Speaking of the Badgers, it's a great sign that sophomore guard
• All the love being showered on Duke's
• I realize teams need to make their own luck, but my goodness Marquette is snakebit. The Golden Eagles' 78-76 loss at Villanova was their fifth loss by five points or fewer, and their fourth by two points or fewer.
• That was obviously a terrific win by Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets still suffer from their guards' inability to properly feed the post. That's why
• I knew
• You're gonna hear it a hundred times this week, and each time it will be true.
• Tennessee pulled of the big upset over Kansas, but now comes the hard part. Emotion can carry through a game or two, but not over the long term.
• Ole Miss is not blessed with great size, so the Rebels' speedy guards need to do a better job driving to the basket instead of settling for threes. They took just 13 free throws in Saturday's loss to Mississippi State, compared to 33 for the Bulldogs. No way a team should suffer that kind of disparity playing at home.
• Me to Big East head coach: "What is Seton Hall's biggest weakness?" Big East head coach to me: "They give up a lot of points."
• I think it's silly when coaches complain about being forced to begin league play with a tough stretch of road games. These things always balance out. If you have a tough stretch early, you'll get a break later on -- and vice versa.
• I hope Wake Forest coach
• I give Kansas State coach
• Just once -- once! -- I'd love to see a guy block a shot towards a teammate instead of batting it 20 feet out of bonds.
• Illinois' biggest problem is that its players are not defensive-minded enough. That's understandable for the freshmen or the muscle-deficient big men, but there's no excuse for
• Another Illinois-related thought: I feel badly for
• Got a sleeper freshman for ya: Rutgers 6-foot-6 swingman
• Two things I never thought I'd see: 1) The Virginia Tech-Seton Hall game in Cancun was played without time clocks over the baskets. So while the game was being played, the players had no way to tell how much time was left because they couldn't see the overhead scoreboard; 2) When UTEP forward
• How's this for an idea. Hold an exhibition game between two decent teams and let the players make their own calls. Just for fun.
• I was watching a game from the early 1990s on ESPN Classic recently, and I was amazed how much I missed having a scoreboard on the screen at all times. Instead, the network just put up a quick graphic each time the score changed. My recollection is that there was much hand-wringing when networks started putting the scores up all the time, but now you wouldn't want to watch a game (especially a basketball game) without it.
• It is truly a pleasure to watch Cornell run their half-court offense.
• I find it ironic that South Florida junior center
• It's may be a cheesy gimmick, but I have to say I like it when coaches put the names of their school on the back of their jerseys instead of the surnames of their players. Two coaches I've seen do that for this year are UAB's
• It has to gall Michigan fans to see how much success 6-10 junior center
• I just love watching games I've recorded when I don't know who won.
• As a public service, I will now update
• I'm amazed at the way Butler junior center
• Zen Hoop Thought: A good player knows how to play well when he's not playing well. Think about it.
• It's pretty striking the way Saint Mary's coach
1. Texas (2)
My general rule is to try not to overreact to one game, so I couldn't quite push the Vols into the top 10, and I didn't see fit to drop the Jayhawks past No. 3, especially since Purdue, Duke and West Virginia also lost last week. It was a close call deciding how to order Purdue and Villanova. They both have one loss coming on the road, Purdue at Wisconsin and 'Nova at Temple. I went with Villanova because they have more quality wins, though none with the singular quality of the Boilermakers' throttling of West Virginia. These things will work themselves out in due time.
Elsewhere, not surprisingly Georgetown made the biggest jump this week due to its impressive comeback win over UConn. (I'm not counting Wisconsin because I only left them off last week by mistake.) New Mexico suffered the biggest fall, dropping off my ballot completely following losses to San Diego State and UNLV. Given that the Lobos have also lost to Oral Roberts, I have a feeling they are playing more at their true level now after overachieving (to their credit) the first two months.
As you can see, I'm back on the Siena bandwagon. The Saints are off to a 5-0 start in the MAAC, and all of their losses are respectable (at Temple, at St. John's, at Georgia Tech, at Northern Iowa). And they didn't have their best player,
As for the teams that didn't make my ballot, the hardest cut was Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets knocked off a very good Duke team at home, but they also lost at Georgia the previous game and have lost to Florida State at home. And much as I would like to rank Northwestern, I still think they have not put together a top 25-worthy resume. Yes, they won at Michigan on Sunday, but we all know Michigan is not very good, and the Wildcats struggled to beat Texas Pan-American the game before. They have Wisconsin and Purdue at home this week, followed by a road game at Ohio State next week, so they have plenty of opportunities to make their mark.
Finally, I thought about ranking Mississippi State after its win at Ole Miss, but the Bulldogs lost at Western Kentucky in their previous game. I need another quality win from them before I can put a number next to their name.