Tuesday, January 12, 2010

College football's over, which means ... it's college basketball season!

With all 1,478 college football bowl games in the books, it's time to turn a bit of attention to the hardwood. A few things I'll be watching for over the next few months:

1) A wild Big Ten season

A talented but very young Illinois team (their only seniors are Dominique Keller and some dude named Bubba Chisholm) will likely be a maddeningly inconsistent team in the middle of the pack. They are, however, off to a 3-0 start in conference play, but those wins were all against teams that are expected to be bottom-feeders (Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana).

I thought Purdue might walk away with the conference title this year, but they stumbled for the first time with a loss at Wisconsin on Saturday. Wisconsin also beat Ohio State, but lost to Michigan State. Ohio State has fallen out of the rankings after losses to Michigan and Minnesota as well. Michigan State, ranked 11th in the nation, is off to the best start, having beaten Northwestern and Iowa by double digits and Wisconsin by seven.

1a) Northwestern struggling after the obligatory raising of their fans' hopes that this will finally be the year

Every year, we hear, "Wow! Northwestern looks like they can really play this year. They've been getting better and better every year, and I think they're finally going to make the tournament!"

This season, the hope stemmed from a 10-1 start and a spot in the AP poll for the first time since 1969. To celebrate the accomplishment, they lost to Illinois and then got pasted at home by Michigan State. Not yet satisfied with the amount of air they had taken out of their fans' balloon, they eked out a home victory against the Texas-Pan American Broncs (not Broncos, Broncs) in a game they trailed at halftime. Eking out a victory against a school called Texas-Pan American sounds bad, but it's even worse than it sounds. The Broncs were 1-15 heading into that game, and here are the scores of some of their losses:


So ... they're not good. Oh, Northwestern, how you do tease the Wildcat faithful.

2) Undefeated teams

Texas has looked unstoppable--their 15 wins include a 16-point win over Pitt, a 13-point win over North Carolina, and an 11-point victory over Michigan State. And Kentucky, with potential first overall draft pick John Wall, is 16-0.

3) More Big East dominance

Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown and Connecticut are all ranked in the top 13, and Pittsburgh sneaked into the 23 spot as well. Additionally, Notre Dame beat West Virginia this weekend and Marquette is a team with tons of talent that will get their share of wins as well. DePaul, of course, is 0-3 in conference play (their head coach was fired Monday as the team has now lost 22 consecutive regular season Big East games).

4) The unexpected

What do the following teams have in common?

Kansas State, Mississippi, Florida State, Temple, Baylor, Brigham Young

They're all ranked. College basketball provides more surprises than most other sports, and it's always fun to see the underdogs triumph.

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