Damn you Turtle Lake. You win this round. At least I'm killing it with BetUS’ college basketball predictions so I don't have to worry about moving into the poor house. At least not yet. Onto your college hoops report:
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Minnesota Gophers. Wow. That was pretty awesome. Not the loss to Illinois of course, which was pretty disappointing, but I was becoming convinced this team was coming apart at the seams and that they were going to lose to Iowa, sounding the death knell on the season. Instead, they went out and beat the Hawkeyes soundly by a final margin of 62-45 in a game that wasn't even that close and was never in doubt. This tells me that the team should be good enough to hang on to their NCAA bid, and hopefully Nolen will come back in March, and then we'll just see what we'll see.
Special shout-outs to Colt Iverson, Rodney Williams, and Maverick Ahanmisi for their play last night. Iverson looked like a 6-11 point guard in his role in the middle of the Gopher offense against the Iowa zone, consistently finding the open man and helping the team get open shots. He only ended up with 1 assists but he definitely was a big reason the Gophers shot well and controlled the game. Williams took over the game for a stretch, showing the actualization of his near limitless potential, even if it was too short-lived. Finally, Ahanmisi played his best 11 minutes as a collegian, scoring 7 points, dishing 2 assists, and most importantly looking like a legitimate Big Ten point guard. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to hand over the keys to him for next season, but I'm sold on him as a backup and he might end up pretty good later in his career.
So, yeah, Iowa is a bad team and this win isn't exactly like beating an NCAA tournament team or even an NIT team, but at least we know they aren't in a death spiral here, and should most likely still end up in the dance. And then hey, who knows, am I right?
2. Xavier Musketeers. Huge week for X, which starting off with them beating an NCAA bubble team in Georgia and ended wit them reasserting their A-10 dominance by knocking off Duquesne, the team they were tied with at the top of the conference standings, and they did it at Duquesne's place - whatever it's called and actually I don't even know where Duquesne is. I'm going to guess Massachusetts. Anyway, Xavier has overcome a rough start and is starting to round into form. Either they just needed some time to adjust at the beginning of the year or they really aren't that good - it's just that the A-10 is down this year. Tread lightly.
3. Wisconsin Badgers. Giving Ohio State their first loss will get you a mention here. And now they're 9-3 in the Big Ten, have basically solidified themselves as the second best team in the conference, and are looking like they're a Sweet 16 team with upside. Great. I still hate them. Seriously, how can they be this good with guys like Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil, and Mike Bruesewitz as integral cogs? Bo Ryan is a freaking wizard. Crap. I think I accidentally realized I respect him. Still hate him though.
4. Pitt Panthers. It's a wide open year with about 15-20 legit final four contenders, and nearly every team has some pretty severe flaws that could end up knocking them out early. The one exception I've found is Pitt, a very balanced team who showed some serious moxie this week, winning on the road at both West Virginia and Villanova, the first loss for Nova at home since 2007. And they did it without leading scorer and point guard Ashton Gibbs. They're a good offensive team, a good defensive team, they score inside, they score outside, and they have great guards - everything you could want for success in March. If I didn't hate the Pitt program so much, I'd be a huge fan. Damn you Carl Krauser.
5. St. Johns Red Storm. I feel like I'm writing about these guys almost every week, but this was another monster week for the resurgent storm, dismantling UCONN at home and then winning a very big bubble implications type of game on the road at Cincinnati. I don't know exactly where they rank on the bubble and a 14-9 overall record isn't pretty, but a 7-5 Big East record with wins now over Georgetown, Notre Dame, UCONN, and Duke tells me that based on talent this is absolutely an NCAA Tournament team, and an RPI of 20 with a strength of schedule ranked #2 says the same. They still have two gimmes in home games versus DePaul and South Florida, so at minimum they should end up at 9-9 in conference play. That's got to be good enough.
1. Northwestern Wildcats. They seem to land here almost every week, don't they? I'm not even sure what else there is to write anymore, but they're just so hard to ignore because jesus. This week they lost to a bad Michigan team by 9 after allowing 52% shooting by the Wolverines, one of the poorer shooting teams in the conference and that wasn't nearly the more embarrassing loss of the two they registered this week. They got smoked by Penn State by 24 in a game where they mustered just 41 points in a brick city effort, shooting just 18-52 and 2-21 from three. Basically they can't shoot or play defense and are 4-9 in the Big Ten, just one game out of the cellar. I'm not even sure they're a NIT team. Maybe CBI. Sorry Loretta8.
2. Syracuse Orange. Another team that seems to find it's way into this section quite a bit lately, the Orange had yet another rough week, this time dropping a home game to Georgetown and then losing on the road at Louisville. That makes them 2-6 now since starting the year at 18-0, and although they aren't really in any danger of missing the NCAA Tournament their seed has slid rapidly, going from a possible #1 to #4 in the latest bracketology. They have two guaranteed wins in their final five games (DePaul and Rutgers at home), but a quick exit from the Big East tournament could get them down to a #5 and a matchup with a dreaded 12. If they end up against a team with quick, penetrating guards they're going to be in trouble. Actually, they're pretty much screwed and I don't see any way they make it out of the first weekend alive.
3. Missouri Valley Conference. Guess which conference basically guaranteed that they won't have an at-large team this year? Assuming you aren't a retard you probably figured out I'm talking about the Missouri Valley. Wichita State, the conference leader and a team that's 20-5, lost a home game to Southern Illinois, a team that you think is good until you remember that it's actually not 2005 anymore, and Northern Iowa, the third best team in the MVC, lost to Wichita as well as Evansville, continuing a losing streak that starting last week with a loss to Drake. UNI is definitely out, while Wichita's win over the Panthers keeps them barely hanging on by a string. They would probably need to win out and then make the MVC Tournament final to have a chance. Missouri State also has a chance, but they too would need to finish very, very strong. Looking more and more like a 1-bid league this year, even with a weak bubble and expanded field.
4. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. The weekend loss to Memphis really puts the Eagles in a bad spot, now a full game back atop the C-USA standings of co-leaders UAB and UTEP, and with only one win this year over an RPI Top 50 team their at large chances are fading. They still have home matches against both leaders and need to win those games and take care of business against the various other conference also-rans, but road games against UCF and Tulsa aren't going to be easy. Larry Eustachy has made USM relevant again within the conference, but will need a strong finish to make them relevant on a national level.
5. Utah State Aggies. So are we just going to have zero mid-major at-larges this year? Butler, Gonzaga, and Memphis were all givens in the past but most likely will all have to win their conference tournament, and now Utah State kicked away their chance at a bid on Wednesday by losing to Idaho. It sucks that they are basically eliminated from at-large consideration since they are 23-3, but it's their own fault. Their best win out of those 23 is probably their win over Long Beach, who ranks 116 in the RPI and 101 at kenpom.com. Yes, that's right, Utah State doesn't have a single win over an RPI top 100 foe, and they've only played two (Georgetown and BYU), leading to a ridiculous strength of schedule rank of 157. They get to play St. Mary's in Bracket Busters coming up here on Saturday which will help, but this loss to Idaho (RPI 156) is extremely damaging. Like crawling through a tunnel covered with razor wire and sharks.
For those who like Twins talk stick around. I'm aiming to get a Twins post up here on Tuesday.