Thursday, March 3, 2011

Random NCAA Basketball Musings

The sound you hear is hundreds of facts about bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites rushing out of my brain (though in seriousness most of it was pretty cool).  After perhaps the most intimidating test of med school I finally have a chance to get back on here and write about college basketball.  I was going to write a UNC-Duke column, but I haven't finalized the angle I am going to take, so expect that sometime tomorrow.  In the past couple months the posts I have managed to find time to write have all been focused on either ACC basketball or Carolina basketball.  Since we are 11 days from selection Sunday, now is as good a time as ever for a survey of the college basketball landscape.

BYU does not approve of the Lonely Island's recent single
The Role of BYU will be played by Jessica Alba
Perhaps the biggest story this week was BYU big Brandon Davies being kicked off the team for an honor code violation.  The violation?  He admitted to having premarital sex with his girlfriend.  I completely respect that BYU has their honor code and that students who go there agree to abide by that honor code.  However, from a basketball perspective, BYU went from a potential #1 seed following their sweep of SDSU this weekend to possibly a 3 seed.  The Cougars sans Davies got waxed last night by New Mexico.  They still have the Jimmer, but going into the tournament now fall more into the Davidson '08 category as opposed to having a shot to make the finals like Butler did last year.  It personally just amazes me an athlete would be kicked off a team for something that a large handful of college basketball players are probably doing as I write this.  The whole fiasco already has sparked a lot of jokes (Bill Simmons wrote on twitter that "Breaking the BYU honor code" is his new favorite euphemism for sex), but as I said before BYU has the right to create and uphold their own honor code regardless of whether I, or anyone else on the outside agree with it.  Still it would have been fun to see how far a full-strength BYU team could have gone in the tournament.

Finding Goliath
No one team seems to stand above the rest.  Ever since OSU suffered their first loss to Wisconsin, no team has taken a hold of the top spot in the polls for more than a week.  There doesn't appear to be a single team in the nation without vulnerabilities.  Duke has a great frontcourt and a mediocre backcourt.  Pittsburgh is tough and defends well but isn't explosive offensively.  Kansas can get inconsistent play from their backcourt.  Texas looks dangerously close to another march meltdown under Rick Barnes.  Ohio State is probably the closest thing to a dominant team with their only losses coming on the road at Purdue and Wisconsin.  Still they are a far cry from the dominant team that was the 2009 Tar Heels, 2007 Gators, or any of the top seeds in 2008.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple #1 seeds fall early in this tournament.

At least one of the following red-hot teams are going to make the Final Four: Purdue, Louisville, St. Johns, Wisconsin, North Carolina
With the aforementioned lack of a dominant team, the field is wide open for a team ranked in the 6-15 range to make a national title run.  In their past 5 games the combined record of these teams is 23-2 with one of the losses coming when Wisconsin played Purdue.  Purdue is exceeding all expectations sans Robbie Hummel.  St. Johns has made a living out of beating top teams in the Garden over the past two months.  Wisconsin has a great pair of players in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor and the Badgers slow paced style allows them to hang with any team.  Since Kendall Marshall was inserted in the lineup at UNC, their sole loss came by 6 at Cameron Indoor after holding a 14 point lead at the half (more on UNC later).  Louisville is probably the weakest of the bunch, but they are playing well and Rick Pitino remains one of the best coaches in the sport.

If Barnes, Henson, and Zeller return for UNC next season college basketball may have another dominant team
Harrison Barnes Tigerblood > Charlie Sheen Tigerblood
Zeller has had a breakout year this season and leads the Tar Heels in scoring.  Barnes got off to a slow start and still can be inconsistent shooting, but he has really broken out in the second half of the season.  The Black Falcon (as he is sometimes called) hit an absolutely cold blooded three to beat FSU last night, and his late game heroics and recent trend of ferocious dunks have inspired my new favorite website on the internet.  As much as Barnes has improved, John Henson, who many labeled a bust after last season, has elevated his play even more.  Henson has become a terror in the paint with his ability to block shots and rebound and he has added a pretty nice arsenal of post moves to his game on the offensive end.  Even his much-maligned free throw shooting has been significantly better as of late, which could come up big in the tournament.  Furthermore, Rasheed Wallace, who has been practicing with the team lately, seems to have rubbed off on Henson.  In a recent interview Henson listed 'Sheed as his favorite past Tar Heel and Henson is playing with a 'Sheed-esque swagger as of late (in true 'Sheed fashion he even was whistled for a technical last night). 

While Zeller will probably be back next year, Henson and Barnes are projected to be lottery picks.  Both seem to enjoy Carolina and neither come from backgrounds where there is a pressing need to make money as quickly as possible.  I think both could use one more year to really elevate their games, but it is always hard to turn down the opportunity to be a lottery pick.  If they do return though, mark down the Tar Heels as the odds-on favorite for 2012.  Anyways, this wraps up my college basketball thoughts, check back tomorrow for a UNC-Duke post.

Oh and Virginia Tech is on the bubble, what else is new?

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