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Monday, November 21, 2011

Early Season Observations: 3 Good & 3 Bad

There's been a lot of games early in the basketball landscape making it hard to digest all that's happened.  It's still way too early to believe everything you see but there have been some telling signs also.  Here are some of the things that have stood out to me thus far.

         The Good
  1.             The Big Ten: In my preseason Power Rankings I listed the Big Ten as the third best conference.  If I were to do an update now I’d say they are number two.  Ohio State still seems like the only team who will contend for a national title but rest of the conference have played better than expected.  The conference has a combined record of 36-5 with the worst loss being to Creighton on a neutral floor (though Penn St. was never in their game vs. Kentucky).
    2.       Kentucky Wildcats: Every year Calipari reloads with a top-10 recruiting class. And every year Calipari’s teams are among the youngest due to players leaving early for the NBA.  Well, this Kentucky team looks good and I expect them to be in the top 5 all year.
    3.       Creighton Blue Jays: Creighton was hyped up as being one of the top mid-major teams this preseason.  ESPN pumped them up so much I was sure they were doomed. Well, so far so good for these Blue Jays.  A nice win over UAB gave me hope they would play Iowa well in Des Moines in what Vegas had pinned as a close game (Creighton -1.5).  The game was never close as Creighton led by 16 at half time and won by 23.  This bodes well for the MVC.


    The Bad

    1.       Colonial Athletic Association: A year after sending George Mason, VCU, and Old Dominion to the NCAA Tournament last year, Drexel was voted as the preseason favorite in the coaches’ poll.  They’re now 1-2 with a loss to Norfolk St. (finished 269 in the RPI last year) and a loss to Virginia in which they only scored 35 points.   Old Dominion is 3-2 but was crushed by Northern Iowa and George Mason is in another rebuilding year.  There won’t be multiple bids in the conference this year.
    2.       Utah Utes: Last year the Mountain West was a pretty formidable conference and, although not good, Utah held their own.  Now in the Pac-12 it looks like it could be a long year.  In their opening game, Utah squeaked by San Diego Christian for a three point win.  They followed that up by getting crushed at Boise St (not a good basketball school) while Saturday they lost at home to Montana State.  Things don’t look to get any better this week when they take on a Harvard squad who returns their entire roster from last year.
    3.       UCLA Bruins: If UCLA were to play Utah right now I’m not sure who would win. UCLA is 0-2 with both losses coming at home, neither of which was to a power conference team (Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee St.). Also, neither was close.  The Bruins now head off to Hawaii where they’ll play Div II Chaminade in the first round of the Maui Invitational. 
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