All the tanking talk with the Celtics and the superstar anointing of freshman players who are talented but unproved is pretty much driving me nuts.
Remember this: The best player in the college basketball is Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, an unselfish, all-around player who’s a leader. This is the player any NBA team who has the top pick in June should draft. And maybe Doug McDermott won't fit the NBA "model'' of what makes a good player, but he was tremendous Saturday night in a victory at Saint Joseph's. As Bill Raftery would say, he was onions as he hit the game-winner with four seconds left. I'll take him anytime.
The new rules seem to be gradually working; fouling seems to be down. The absolutely BEST PART is that there are far fewer offensive fouls. That’s really improved the game.
Back to business. On Mondays, we’ll tell who’s playing well (five rising), who’s not (five falling) and starting predicting this year’s Final Four and national champion.
Brigham Young: I like the Cougars because they play uptempo basketball, and they’ve been doing it very well in winning their first four games, averaging 96 points per game while beating Weber State, Stanford, Mount St. Mary’s and Colorado Mesa (OK, that’s a game we could do without). The most impressive win was the 112-103 victory at Stanford. Leading scorer Tyler Haws has only played two games but is averaging 29 ppg. BYU’s Anson Winder told reporters this after the win over Mount St. Mary’s: “Coach wants us to score as many points as possible. Whether it’s 100 or 120 or high 80s or whatever it is, he wants us to score as much as we can each game.’’ Isn’t that refreshing?
Loyola Marymount: The Fightin’ Hank Gathers were 11-23 overall and 1-15 in the WCC last season. Today they’re 4-0 including a win on the road at Long Beach.
UMass: The Minutemen look like an NCAA Tournament team after winning their first three including an impressive one at home against LSU. I still think that win against BC was pretty good, too.
Texas: If you think there have been dire predictions for Texas football it’s even worse for basketball but the Longhorns have won their first three. Admittedly, it was three home games but the victories over Mercer, South Alabama and Stephen F. Austin are all decent.
Utah State: Aggies’ coach Stew Morrill has been criticized for playing poor schedules, but this season his team is 3-0 with victories over Southern Cal at home and UC Santa Barbara on the road.
Auburn: It continues to be a struggle for former UMass star Tony Barbee. The Tigers lost at home to Northwestern State of Louisiana 111-92 and gave up 72 -- 72!!!! -- points in the second half.
Duquesne: This could be a really bad season for second-year coach Jim Ferry. A home loss to New Hampshire is pretty much inexcusable. They were competitive against West Virginia Sunday but suffered another loss.
Marquette: The Fighting’ McGuires were a total disaster when faced with a big-time, non-league opponent at home Saturday. They lost to Ohio State, 52-35, and set back basketball 70 years with their offensive stats, 10 of 53 from the field and 1 of 18 on three-pointers.
Temple: This might be a rare off season for the Owls, who lost at home to Kent State then actually played a road game at Towson and lost that one too. It is possible that Kent (MAC) and Towson (CAA) could be NCAA teams.
Washington: The Huskies lost a home game to UC Irvine; then struggled mightily against Eastern Washington Sunday before finally winning. Coach Lorenzo Romar played five guards at time. He’s obviously seeking answers.
This week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers are 4-0 after coming off their Final Four season.
This week’s Final Four: Michigan State, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Virginia Commonwealth. I guarantee this is going to change a lot this season.
This week’s national champion: Michigan State
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell