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Sully's Court: New England schools looking like NCAA teams

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff  November 25, 2013 09:50 AM

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This is going to be a good year for New England in the NCAA Tournament. OK, I was wrong about Harvard going undefeated as the Crimson went cold in the second half and lost at Colorado. I think they’ll bounce back and win the Great Alaska Shootout.

I wrote that Harvard was the best team in that tournament and its first-round opponent, Denver, was the second best. I’ll take that back. Indiana State, in the other bracket, is the second-best team (made that judgment after seeing both play). The Crimson need to be ready for Denver, but they should prevail.

Meanwhile, UMass firmly established its NCAA credentials already after winning its first six games. That’s not all. It’s not a foregone conclusion, but Boston University could win the Patriot League and Vermont could win America East. It wouldn’t be an huge upset if Northeastern won the CAA. Heck, let’s hope BC plays the rest of the season like it did against Washington Friday night and you never know what could happen.

REVISED: Tenspro2012 is correct, UConn belongs on this list. Just an oversight. The Huskies are off to a great start especially with two victories in New York last week.

Five rising (actually six because I’m going to put UMass in for the second straight week):

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are 5-0 for the first time since 1985 as point guard Jahii Carson is emerging as one of the top point guards in the nation.

Charlotte: The 49ers have been classified as a bottom-half Atlantic 10 team the last few years. The school moved to Conference USA for football reasons. Theoretically, basketball should benefit from the softer competition and that might be the case as the 49ers pulled off a shocker by winning the Puerto Rico Shootout, beating Kansas State, Northeastern and Michigan.

UMass: Two weeks in a row the Minutemen make this list after winning three straight impressive games to win the Charleston Classic. UMass beat Nebraska, New Mexico, and Clemson. This is an NCAA tournament team that should be ranked this week.

Providence: The Friars are 6-0 for the first time since 1990-91 when Rick Barnes was the coach. They’re in the final of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Island Monday night after outstanding victories over Vanderbilt and LaSalle.

Iowa State: The Cyclones are 4-0 and had a big week with a victory over Michigan in Ames and then a surprising road win over BYU in Provo.

Toledo: When the Rockets beat BC I thought it was a bad loss for the Eagles, but after winning at Detroit Saturday and beating Florida Atlantic Sunday, Toledo is now 6-0, its best start since 2003-2004 season.

Five falling:

Georgia: Expectations are low for the Bulldogs and they’ve lived down to that so far. They finished last in the Puerto Rico Shootout, losing to Davidson, Temple and Nebraska.

Maine: The Black Bears are 1*-3 and sinfully lost a home game to NJIT. The other two losses were non-competitive games vs. Rhode Island and George Washington. The win against Fisher, an NAIA school, doesn’t really count.

Miami of Ohio: A once-proud program looks like it has hit rock bottom. The Fightin’ Szczerbiaks are 0-4 and lost to Wilmington 65-63 Saturday. Wilmington, founded by Quakers, has enrollment of 1,435. It’s been ugly when facing legit teams – like a 90-54 loss to Arizona State and a 77-51 loss to Xavier.

Rutgers: Mike Rice is gone but Rutgers still has other problems with possible coaching abuse in football and a new AD under fire for not telling the truth. New basketball coach Eddie Jordan is going to need time. That’s obvious when the Knights lost consecutive home games to Drexel and William & Mary last week.

Virginia Commonwealth: The hype is always high around the Rams, but they were humbled in the Puerto Rico Shootout, getting blown off the court by Florida State in the first round and then losing a second game when Georgetown out-executed them down the stretch.

The week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State.

The week’s Final Four: Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Arizona. Arizona replaces VCU. Michigan State is the only team I'm really confident about with Okie State second. Louisville couldn't handle North Carolina's size and lost to the Heels on Sunday. That's troubling.

This week’s national champion: Michigan State

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