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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Early Observations

We've played about four weeks of college basketball thus far and the world is already abuzz about how incredible these freshmen are, that Kentucky's already a disappointment, and that maybe the Big Ten is the best conference again this year. The new rules are being enforced causing several teams to struggle while other have found a way to exploit them.  It's still early but here are a few of my observations as the first holiday tournaments get going.

Five Surprising Teams

  1. UMass - I had no expectations for the Minutemen entering the season and
    Who can stop this guy?
    I considered them an NIT team at best.  They've only played two home games out of six (the other four were on neutral courts) yet have an unblemished record.  Their wins have come over BC, LSU, Youngstown State, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Clemson.  The last two got my attention. Color me impressed.
  2. Pittsburgh - Pitt's best win thus far is a 21 point shellacking over Stanford on a neutral site.  And that's my point; this team is 6-0 and their closest win was 19 points. Things are looking good.
  3. Dayton - They lost to Baylor by one last night but are 5-1 on the season with an impressive win over Gonzaga on Monday.  I thought they might be the second best team in the A-10 prior to the season and now I feel more confident in that pick.  They have a few more challenging games on the docket before the regular season begins. Keep this team in mind in March.
  4. Nebraska - They're just 4-2 so far with losses to Dayton and UAB.  Still, the style of play has been effective and they're forcing opponents to shoot tough shots while defending the rim better than maybe anyone else. Offensively they're not turning the ball over and are hitting 37% of their threes. I'm not sure this can last but the team is better than I expected.
  5. Wichita State - Everyone should know the Shockers by now. I'm not surprised they're MVC favorites but I am surprised at how well they're playing. This team lost three seniors from last year and I'm not aware of any impact freshmen on the roster.  Last night's thirteen point win over BYU was a statement win.  They've also got dates with St. Louis, Tennessee, and Alabama that warrant our attention. Gregg Marshall is one heck of a coach.
Five Disappointing Teams
  1. Georgetown - What. the. #%&*?  Georgetown was many people's pick to win the new Big East. So far they're not inspiring anyone. A loss to Oregon is not a big deal, but Northeastern?  Sure, they beat VCU but are we sure VCU is as good as the pollsters say?  This team fouls too much and until they fix that they'll find themselves letting teams they should be putting away hanging around for far too long.
  2. Kansas State - Okay Illinois fans, maybe you were right.  Year two in the Bruce Weber era is not off to a good start and I'm dubious this ship is going to be righted.  Their best win is over Oral Roberts and have lost to No. Colorado, Charlotte, and Georgetown.  Let's see what happens on December 5th when they face Ole Miss. That might make or break their season.
  3. North Carolina State - How do you lose to North Carolina Central at home? This team also lost by double digits to Cincinnati and doesn't have a quality win so far.  They get Northwestern at home in the Big10/ACC Challenge.  Since we already know Northwestern's a bottom tier Big Ten team, seeing how they fare in that game should be a good measuring stick. 
  4. Virginia Tech - Lost at home to South Carolina Upstate, lost on a neutral site to Michigan State by 19, and lost in a pseudo-road game to Seton Hall.  The defense just hasn't been up to snuff and makes me think the ACC's bottom half is going to drag the entire conference RPI down.
  5. Marquette - How do you only score 35 at home? Granted, Ohio State is a tough defense but 35 at home? Inexcusable.  Losing at Arizona State by two is a tough luck loss and not one to dwell on. This team is talented but that home loss still has me shaking my head.
The five best players so far are...
  1. Jabari Parker - Duke: Parker has been incredible. He's hit over 60% of his threes, is getting to the line, and he's doing this in about 30 minutes a game.  Some say he reminds them of Grant Hill - I'm inclined to think he's more like Antoine Walker - but right now he looks like the first overall pick in the NBA draft.
  2. Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State: Did we all see what he did against Memphis last week? Who can guard him in college? He's 6'4" and built sort of like LeBron.  He's quick enough to get by his man into the lane and he's improved his jump shot enough to where he doesn't have to drive on most plays. This is why he's averaging 21 points a game so far.
  3. Doug McDermott - Creighton: Mr. Efficiency himself. Dougie fresh is hitting 79% on his freebies, 57% on his twos, and 50% of his threes.  The man may never be a great professional player but he reminds me so much of Wally Szczerbiak in that he can literally hit any shot.
  4. Jahii Carson - Arizona State: Carson is 5'10" yet most of his shots are layups.  He's so quick that he can get by anybody.  The sophomore is also hitting 56% of his three pointers and is averaging over 5 assists a game.  He even put up 40 points against UNLV. Wowzah.
  5. Tim Frazier - Penn State: Is it possible Frazier's a better shooter than he was pre-injury? The early returns have me thinking yes.  His per game averages thus far are 16 points, 7 assists, plus four rebounds and two steals.  He's really really good.
And finally, the best five teams to date are:
  1. Oklahoma State - Marcus Smart is really good and he's got some good wingmen. 
  2. Michigan State - I really like this team and think they're the class of the Big Ten but I'm not sure how much better they can get.
  3. Arizona - They haven't played anyone significant yet but I'm impressed with what I've seen.  Don't forget about their super freshman Aaron Gordon either.
  4. Kansas - The win over Duke was impressive but I don't think this team's hit their groove yet. It's going to be quite a battle for the top in the Big 12.
  5. Pitt - I've already talked about these guys.  The new ACC is going to be interesting to say the least.
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