Thursday, 25 January 2007

NCAA Basketball Surprises and Disappointments

With the conference season in full-swing, I'll give my teams that have been pleasant surprises so far this year and then the teams that have been disappointments.

Virginia Tech (15-5, 5-1) - It wasn't that hard to see that they would have the talent to be a good club this year, but more than a few heads were turned by the quick start the Hokies have gotten off to in the ACC. With early wins over North Carolina and at Duke, they are 5-1 in the conference and tied for the lead. They also have another solid win against Maryland, making their NCAA Tournament chances look pretty good at this point in the season.

Oklahoma St. (17-3, 3-2) - Like Va. Tech, it wasn't hard to imagine that they would be improved this season, but I'm not sure anyone thought they would be this good already. They have lost probably their two biggest tests (Kansas, Texas A&M) but have done everything else right. In the non-conference they beat ranked teams like Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and won at a very good Missouri St. team. With the offensive duo of Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry, and the defensive capabilities of Marcus Dove they are a solid and talented ballclub.

Butler (18-2, 6-1) - The surprise with Butler is that they have one of the best nonconference resumes in the NCAA. They have beaten Tennessee, Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Indiana, and Purdue, 5 good ballclubs who all have a shot at making the NCAA Tourney. They shoot the 3 ball very well and just simply do not turn the ball over very often, and that's a pretty good recipe.

Oregon (18-2, 6-2) - Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another talented team that may have underachieved in the past, so it's not a surprise that they're playing well, just that they're playing this well. They have 5 players scoring in double figures and they look like they will have serious firepower come March.

Vanderbilt (14-6, 4-2) - Their 4 SEC wins: Tennessee, Alabama, @ Kentucky, @ LSU. They are a senior-dominated team that has good balance... although an early-season loss to Furman could be a killer come Tourney Time, you have to like how the Commodores have been playing. This might be their best team since the days of Matt Freije!! (and yes, this might be the only Matt Freije reference ever in Complete Sports, so enjoy it)

Washington St. (17-3, 6-2) - This is not your parents (or at least your older brothers) WaSu squad. They've beaten Gonzaga, Arizona, USC, and lost a very tight game at UCLA. They are very balanced (11 guys play at least 8.9 minutes per game), and they are an excellent defensive team. Do not write these guys off simply because they have not been a good team in past years.

Connecticut (13-6, 2-4) - They're very young and talented, but that combo hasn't exactly produced impressive results thus far. We knew it would be a down year for the Huskies, but it's late January and their 2 best wins are at St. John's and at home against Ole Miss. Meanwhile, they have little offensive flow, and while the talent is evident, it's not turning into results. Their next 3 games are Providence, @ DePaul, and Rutgers. They MUST win at least 2 of 3 if they want to have a shot this year.

San Diego St (13-7, 2-4) - Maybe they're not as big of a disappointment nationally, but I certainly thought they'd be a lot better than this. They have some really, really talented guys in Brandon Heath, Mohamed Abukar, Lorrenzo Wade, and the rest, but it hasn't turned into great results at this point. This was a team I really thought would be able to challenge to get to the Sweet 16, and while there's still a lot of the season to be played, it's been a little disappointing so far.

Washington (12-7, 2-6) - Excellent win against Oregon, but certainly there's still work to do. Honestly, I was a little shocked when I checked their record... I know they lost a lot from last year, but they have Tourney type talent... Justin Dentmon, Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman and the rest are all good enough to get this team to the Tourney. With solid non-conference wins against LSU and Northern Iowa and the strength of the Pac-10, a .500 conference record might be enough to get them in, but there is work to be done. The next two games are against the Pac-10 bottom feeders in Oregon St and Arizona St., making it imperative that Washington wins those games.

Alabama (15-4, 2-3) - Their overall record is nice, and even their conference record is nothing awful, but its just the way that they've lost the 3 conference games. They've gotten annihiliated in the 3 conference losses by an average of 24 points per game. More concerning is the fact that Ronald Steele doesn't appear to be 100% right now... they need him if they're going to make a Tourney run.

Who are your biggest surprises and disappointments so far?