Getting to experience a little college hoops euphoria so early in the season was wonderful while sitting on the couch on Saturday. To see an upset of biblical proportions (David & Goliath is from the bible you know…) was extremely exciting and has me yearning for conference play and March Madness to arrive. I strongly suggest going to YouTube and watching “One Shining Moment” for any of the last 10+ years… if you are new to college basketball, at the end of every March Madness tournament, the highlights of the tournament are put to a Luther Vandross song. I found myself watching all of the videos back to 1999, and I know the song is corny but its amazing to be reminded of all the great moments and see the NBA players we have been watching the last decade back when they were in college.
Butler (aka David) was able to topple #1 Indiana (aka Goliath), in a nationally televised game that demonstrated everything that is great about college basketball. Student-athletes playing with passion, diving on loose balls, making big shots, and doing anything they could to help their team win. Butlers’ Rotnei Clarke appears to be one of those players that has no range limit and no conscience, kind of in the mold of JJ Redick. In our other game of the week, Arizona squeaked by in a last second lay-up against Florida, winning 65-64.
There are some big tilts at the top of the rankings this year, both of which will have big ramifications come seeding time for March Madness.
Games of the Week
#9 Kansas at #7 Ohio State- Saturday December 22 @ 4pm- CBS- Kansas is a national powerhouse and mainstay in March Madness every year. Coach Bill Self has this team playing well together and they are improving each and every week. This Kansas team may not be as deep as in past years, but as players are stating to understand their role and mesh, Kansas is looking like a very dangerous team. This team is led by seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, and Elijah Johnson… however their leading scorer is freshman phenom Ben McLemore at 16.1 ppg. Kansas is currently on a seven game win streak and 9-1 overall, with their only loss coming to Michigan State early in the season on November 13. This is a vital game for the Jayhawks as it is their only chance to add a signature win to the resume before conference play starts in January, although a win against Temple on January 6th will also be nice.
Ohio State, coached by another legend in Thad Matta, is in the same boat as Kansas. They also have only the one loss, to Duke on November 28, but none of their wins are of the highest quality either. Being in the Big 10 they will have ample opportunity to prove themselves in conference play, but this would be a great feather in their cap come tournament time. This team is led by juniors Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. Deshaun is a dynamic scorer who is averaging over 20 ppg, and while Aaron is only averaging 9.2 ppg, he is one of the best two-way guards in the country. Ohio State is a very good program and a have a good team this year, but I think they are rated a little high at #7 and based on there play and talent level so far I think they should be in the 10-15 range.
Kansas is the slightly better team here, but home court advantage will be huge and Ohio State should take the win in a barn-burner.
#10 Illinois at #12 Missouri- Saturday December 22 @ 6pm ESPN 2- Another battle of top 25 teams, and truthfully they are extremely similar teams, which should make for an interesting game. Let start with the similarities between the two teams.
- They are both very experienced teams. The rotation players (most teams have 7-8 players that play the majority of minutes during the game) for both teams are predominantly upperclassmen (3rd or 4th year players).
- Full of very athletic players, and play the game with aggression and intensity on both ends of the floor.
- Skilled and deep teams with players that can contribute down most of the roster.
There are two big differences. Illinois is one of nations leaders in 3 pointers made per game, and while they score in bunches if they hit a dry spell they will have difficulty scoring. They have not had any such difficulties yet however. The big difference, and the reason that I think Illinois will win this game, is the chemistry of each team. The core guys for Illinois have been playing together for multiple years, they are a cohesive unit and know their roles and what to expect from the other guys on the team. Missouri on the other hand do not yet play as a cohesive unit and are still trying to establish their team play. Missouri is mostly consistent of upperclassmen as mentioned above, however they have 6 transfers that are playing their first year with Missouri, including Jabari Brown who just became eligible and played his first game with Mizzou on December 17. Mizzou will be a tough team to beat come March Madness, but they still have to much chemistry to figure out to beat a team like Illinois this week.
… and thats the last word!