Tuesday, March 03, 2009

College Hoops Top 25 (3/3): Tar Heels Hit a Home Run!

Kids, it's gettin' down to the nitty gritty.

The regular season is winding down, conference tournaments are set to kick off, and for the first time in what seems like a month, I actually feel like I have a solid grasp on the country's 25 best men's college basketball teams...

So while I know a lot of you are eager to discuss the trade of Matt Cassel, Alyssa Milano's "catcher's mitt", Susan Lucci's cowgirl techniques and the career of Tyler Perry, those are topics that will have to wait until Friday...

For now, it's time to feast on my Top 25. So kick back, relax, give a quick look to see if anyone is looking, and dive in to the guilty pleasure that is the Rooch Nation Top 25. It's like eating a whole half gallon of Cowabunga Crunch. Sure people will tell you it's not good for you, but fuck them. They don't know shit...

Get your grub on, peeps. And don't forget to wipe your mouth...

Rooch Nation College Hoops Top 25

1. North Carolina (25-3) 2

The Tar Heels are truly an interesting animal. As is usually the case, they have a roster full of future pros and a coach that's ultimately destined to wind up in the Hall of Fame. So what else is new?

Well, nothing really. So what has the Heels grabbing the top spot mere weeks before Selection Sunday? Why it's the shady play of both Pittsburgh and UCONN, of course!

Long considered the 3 best teams in the land, Roy Williams and his UNCers would be my choice as National Champs because of their depth, and their ability to attack both Pittsburgh and UCONN in their main areas of weakness...

UCONN? They have Hasheem Thabeet, the shot blocking African that can alter a possession without even touching the ball. UNC? They have Tyler Hansbrough. He might not have the NBA upside of a guy like Thabeet, but he's a cagey veteran big man that probably has the best chance of anyone in the Nation of knocking the Huskie big man off his game, and ultimately, could land him in some early foul trouble...

Pitt? They too have a big man in DeJaun Blair that could easily be compromised by "Psycho-T", but Sam Young is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink. UNC's answer? Virtually everyone on their roster. Not to say that Young could be handled by anyone the Heels would throw at him, but their depth would allow them to play him aggressively and perhaps force him into foul trouble, or simply throw him off his game...

They can shoot from outside, UCONN can't. They can thrive in any style of play, Pittsburgh can't. That's why this week the ACC is king, and the Beast's of the Big East are, for now, relegated to the back seat...

2. Pittsburgh (26-3) 1

3. UCONN (27-2) 3

4. Michigan St. (23-5) 9

5. Oklahoma (26-3) 6

6. UCLA (22-7) 11

This one's a little tough...

On one hand, the Bruins have lost twice this year to Arizona St. On the other, they probably won't ever have the play the Sun Devils in the NCAA tournament...

So, while I usually give the nod to the team that's beaten the other team on their own home court, this is one instance in which I'm going to have to go against my own adage. Should they meet in the tourney, I'd still give the nod to ASU. But seeing as that's not likely to happen, I'll take my chances with Ben Howland and his Bruins against virtually anyone else in the field...

7. Louisville (23-5) 10

The picture says it all. Fear the Cardinal, but Respect the Suit!

And yes, that is what I would imagine Mr. Peanut would wear if he were ever to be inducted as a full fledged member of La Cosa Nostra...

8. Duke (24-5) 8

9. Memphis (26-3) 12

4 votes for #1 in the country, huh? Apparently I'm the only one not getting the channel that plays all those Conference USA games. Last time I checked, this was the same Memphis squad that lost to Syracuse, Georgetown and Xavier before they entered the soft schedule of Conference USA. Granted those losses looked better then than they do now, but it still doesn't explain the sudden influx of support for John Cal's crew, does it?

Win's @ Gonzaga and @ Tennessee in the last month certainly help make their case for the top 15-20, but the fact their receiving any first place votes just speaks to my point that most pollsters simply look at overall records, and nothing else...

Bunch of frauds...

10. Washington (22-7) 18

11. Villanova (24-6) 7

12. Kansas (24-5) 16

Could the Jayhawks really make another run with a completely different batch of players?

Short answer yes with an "IF". Long answer NO, with a "BUT"...

For the sake of time and sanity, I'll just address the short "YES" answer. Sherron Collins returns as the lone major contributor from last years NCAA Championship team, but the crew of youngsters Bill Self has surrounded him with really has the Big XII buzzing. Whether it's sophomore standout, Cole Aldrich on the inside, or the whitest of white names, Brady Morningstar, on the outside, the young guys are the reason the Jayhawks have defied convention, and now find themselves sitting atop the Big XII at 13-1...

They have a well rounded game similar to that of UNC, just without some of the athletes, and definitely without some of the experience. Strange to say when you're talking about the defending champs, but there's nothing normal about the run this team is on to begin with...

13. LSU (25-4) 14

14. Arizona St. (21-7) 5

15. Purdue (22-7) 15

16. Gonzaga (23-5) 17

17. Illinois (21-7) 19

18. Xavier (23-5) 13

19. Wake Forest (22-5) 21

Like I said off the top, for whatever reason, this week I really gained some clarity in regards to my top 25. One team I still can't figure out, though, is the Wake Forest Demon Deacons...

They have tons of athletic ability thanks to guys like Al Aminu, James Johnson and Jeff Teague, but their inconsistency on the road (6-4) has me worried about their chances on the dangerous neutral floor's of March Madness...

Tonight's game against a middle of the road Maryland squad should be a good test to see whether they have the meddle to handle a multi weekend run in March...

20. Butler (25-4) 24

21. Davidson (25-6) NR

22. Marquette (23-6) 4

In the irrepressible words of legendary pimp and Original Gangster, Ice Tea, "There goes the neighborhood!"

Point guard and Norman "Danny" Aldona impersonator Dominic James is out for the season with a broken foot, and with that, so go my chances of winning any pool riding the Golden Eagles' devastating 3 guard combo. Sure Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal have enough to keep Marquette in the top 25, but without James, this team will now be lucky to sneak into the Sweet 16...

So sad...
23. Tennessee (18-10) NR

I don't like relying on computer numbers (RPI: 21 Strength of Schedule: 2), but Bruce Pearl and the Vols have a lot more to offer than just a great "blind" resume. When push comes to shove, winning in the tournament is all about guard play and defense, and the Vols still have both of those attributes in spades...

24. Syracuse (21-8) NR

25. Creighton (25-6) NR

From the Mid Major Watch to the ass end of the Top 25. Oooooo my littl baby's all growns up!

just missed: Missouri, Texas, West Virginia, Boston College, Florida St., Clemson, St. Mary's, California

dropped: (20) Clemson; (22) Missouri (23) Kentucky; (25) West Virginia

Mid Major Watch

Cornell Big Red (19-9, 9-3)

Consider this your second warning about the upset minded Ivy Leaguers.

They shoot 41% from 3 as a team...that's right, as a team, and they have a legit 7 footer in senior Jeff Foote. Naturally their tournament resume is God awful with losses to St. John's, Indiana and 3 losses in the Ivy League, but that's never stopped a Cinderella before, has it?

If you can shoot from 3, you always have a chance in the NCAA tournament. It's all about guard play. Toss in the fact that no team will have more time off than the Big Red before the Big Dance begins, and I think you'll find yourself a reason to pencil in your first big time upset in this year's tournament...

Oh, and you see that Sideshow Bob lookin' Lopez twin? Yeah that means this team has NCAA tourney experience too. They lost by 24, but still. You gotta figure they're smart enough to figure out a way to squeeze out a win this time around...

Rhode Island Rams (22-8, 11-4)

Could the Atlantic 10 really be a 3 bid league? Well, probably not. But there's gonna be a second team in there along with Xaiver, and lately it's looking less and less like the Dayton Flyers and more and more like the Rhody Rams. Having won their last 6, including an OT home win against the Flyers, Jim Baron and his boys (including his actual "boy", Jimmy) seem primed to make a run towards the A-10 tournament title, or perhaps grab one of the NCAA's 34 at large bids.

Don't think they have the resume? Well chew on this. These are URI's 8 losses on the season, and I beg you to try and find a single L that would serve as reason to keep them out of the field...

@ Duke 79-82
vs Villanova 65-78
@ Providence 65-66
vs Oklahoma St. 82-86
@ St. Joesph's 86-92 OT
vs Xavier 65-67
@ Richmond 75-78
@ Temple 62-68

Granted they might not have the quality wins or standout "win" that would help sway a lot of voters out there, but with not a single bad loss on their resume, I'd have a tough time justifying leaving them out of the field if they continue to rack up wins in their conference tourney...

Whether it's UCONN/Pittsburgh, Duke/UNC or Syracuse/Marquette, this week's stretch run has everything any level of college hoops fan could possibly ask for. Oh, and did I mention it was my birthday this week? Cuz yeah, that's kind of important too...

This Week's Slate

Florida St. @ Duke
Utah @ New Mexico

UNC @ Virginia Tech (ESPN 7 pm)
Marquette @ Pittsburgh (ESPN2 7:30 pm)
Vanderbilt @ LSU
BYU @ Wyoming
Oklahoma @ Missouri
Florida @ Mississippi St.

Providence @ Villanova (ESPN2 7 pm)
St. Joesph's @ Temple (CSTV 7 pm)
Tennessee @ South Carolina (ESPN 7 pm)
Illinois @ Penn St. (ESPN 9 pm)
Dayton @ Xavier (ESPN2 9 pm)
Oregon St. @ UCLA
California @ Arizona

Harvard @ Brown

3/7 (<--My Birthday...SEND MONEY!!!)
Syracuse @ Marquette
UCONN @ Pittsburgh (CBS 12 pm)
Michigan @ Minnesota
Kentucky @ Florida (CBS 2 pm)
Missouri @ Texas A&M (ESPN2 2 pm)
California @ Arizona St. (CBS 2 pm)
Oklahoma St. @ Oklahoma (ABC 3:30 pm)
LSU @ Auburn
Texas @ Kansas (CBS 4 pm)
Washington St. @ Washington (CBS 5:30 pm)
Louisville @ West Virginia (ESPN 9 pm)

Purdue @ Michigan St. (CBS 12 pm)
Virginia Tech @ Florida St.
Duke @ North Carolina (CBS 4 pm)
Clemson @ Wake Forest

Player of the Week

Stephen Curry, Davidson

After his return from injury against Butler left a lot of us wondering if he could ever get healthy again this season, Curry answered his critics with an amazing week. 20 against Greensboro, 36 against Georgia Southern and 26 more against Elon. All on 52% shooting from the field and 50% from 3 (10-20)...

He's arguably the best scoring guard in the country, and with Curry seemingly back at full strength, it once again means that the Davidson Wildcats will be a force to be reckoned with in the field of 65...

That is if they can win the Southern Conference and get the automatic bid. Yeah, apparently losing 3 of 5 during the stretch where Curry was hurt did that much damage to their at-large chances...

Like I said before. Bunch of frauds. The voters that is, not the Wildcats. Although besides Curry, the rest of them probably are frauds....

..And that's the Wildcats this time, not the voters...

And there we have it, boys and girls. I hope you enjoyed this week's poll, and I'll catch you all on Friday for all things Cassel, and all things MLB Spring Training...

And yeah, there will probably be some off color jokes and the mention of a few older ladies I'd like to do Pilates with...

Until then...



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