Monday, February 23, 2009

Blogpollin', plus roundtablin'

This post is a hoops blogpollery double-feature (try to contain your excitement, Auburn fans) as it contains both this week's JCCW hoops ballot and my official answers to our first-ever hoops BlogPoll roundtable. Enjoy.

1 Pittsburgh 2
2 Connecticut 1
3 North Carolina 1
4 Memphis 1
5 Missouri 3
6 Oklahoma 2
7 Louisville
8 Kansas 1
9 Villanova 4
10 Arizona St. 4
11 Gonzaga 8
12 Clemson 1
13 Duke 1
14 Michigan St. 8
15 Butler 3
16 Xavier 1
17 Louisiana St. 5
18 Marquette 2
19 Wake Forest 9
20 Utah 1
21 Washington 4
22 UCLA 6
23 Siena
24 Creighton
25 West Virginia
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Utah St. (#23), Davidson (#24), Dayton (#25).

I'll keep the poll comments a little briefer than usual before we move on to the roundtable stuff:

1: This has got to be Pitt. They haven't lost to Maryland, they haven't lost to (ah, irony) Pitt at home, haven't lost to Texas, don't play in the C-USA. Pitt, Pitt, Pitt.

2-10: These are the other nine teams I can bring myself to feel comfortable with looking at and saying "Yeah, you belong in the top 10. It's a long, long way down in my view from Arizona St. to No. 11. (One note about Missouri: the Tigers' resume doesn't really come close to justify putting them all the way up at No. 5. But after seeing bits of Louisville and Oklahoma in action, I feel reasonably confident they'd beat either one of those teams, and they've already beaten Kansas. So here they go.)

11-14: Honestly, I don't think that highly of Gonzaga. But despite wearing the same bullseye as always they're undefeated in the WCC, and that's worth something. Also, I just happen to think even less of the power-conference teams that follow them. Michigan St. didn't even bother to show up at overrated Purdue. Bleccch.

15-19: Consider Wake's plummet a correction that should have been made last week. They've now lost four--count 'em, four--straight away games. Xavier's having similar trouble, but their nonconference profile is leagues better.

20-22: UCLA isn't beating anyone these days ... except for Washington. Down they go.

23-25: After decisive home wins over quality competition--as contrasted with Davidson's home beating at Butler's hands and Utah St. trailing wire-to-wire against a Mills-less St. Mary's squad--Siena and Creighton are your best two current mid-majors. It's either them (and Pomeroy darling West Virginia) or the likes of Purdue and Illinois, Syracuse or Cal. Gimme the teams that are playing their best basketball right now, please.

Roundtable! A Sea of Blue is hosting. I'm going to answer the questions from both a major-conference and mid-major perspective, because focusing solely on the big boys just ... it's just not my thing, man.

1. Who really looks like the best team in college basketball this season?

Nationally, after their win up in Storrs, I'll take Pitt and not look back. Seniors, offense, defense, consistency, statistical bona fides ... there's nothing not to love.

As for the best team in mid-major college basketball, the one I've got my highest Sweet 16 hopes for is Creighton. P'Allen Stinnett and Booker Woodfox seem to have things figured out, finally, and for the last month the Bluejays have been laying out the scorched-earth policy for anyone who's dared oppose them, Saturday's BracketBuster win over George Mason--likely the secret best team in the CAA--included.

2. Is Blake Griffin the Player of the Year already, or can somebody catch him?

Presuming Griffin's injury isn't too serious, he's a lock to actually win the thing. No one else in within light-years of his combination of production, name-recognition, and team success. It's too ba,d because I don't think you can be a believer in the tempo-free revolution and not think DeJuan Blair is the best player in the country at the moment.

Amongst the mid-majors, Curry presides over the proceedings in much the same way Griffin does at the power-conference. But I'd quite honestly take a couple of guys over the current "shoot first, ask questions, and calculate my eFG later" version of Curry. Done Ruthless, for one, but if you make me pick one player to build my mid-major team around it's Butler's Matt Howard. No one but no one is more crafty in the post, and not many are Howard's equal as a passer out of the low block. He's only a sophomore, but it's already possible to stick him in the post, stick a couple of fundamentally solid dudes like Gordon Hayward and Sheldon Mack around him, and you'll wind up with ... well, you get Butler.

3. What currently ranked team is the biggest disappointment so far this year?

Gosh, I don't know. Looking over last week's BlogPoll ... UCLA? I think more was expected of them after the last couple of seasons.

Picking from the College Insider Mid-major Top 25, it's probably got to be Illinois St. Laden with experience--the Redbirds can fill out a nine-man rotation entirely with juniors and seniors--and boasting a pair of genuine talents in Chamberlain Oguchi and Osiris Eldridge, ISU's fallen on the road to such Valley non-luminaries as Indiana St. and Wichita St. en route to their current third-place standing. Then last Friday night they traveled to Niagara and got beaten raw for three-quarters of the BB matchup. They're not bad--11-5 in the Valley's hardly a collapse--but after nearly sneaking an at-large berth in 2008 and returning everyone, one gets the nagging feeling they ought to better.

4. Predict the next team to beat Oklahoma.

Whoops. Guess I should have done the roundtable before the weekend. But hey, I'll go out on a bit of a limb and say that with Griffin hobbled, the Sooners lose to Kansas tonight.

Is there a mid-major equivalent to this question? Not really, I don't think. I'll predict that Creighton's next loss will come on the second weekend of the NCAAs, how about that?

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