Who’s No. 1? Good question. It depends on the day, and if you listen to Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim, the region or even state.
The interest in college basketball will increase steadily for the next several weeks now that football has taken a siesta a for a few weeks.
Boeheim, speaking on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning (the best sports talk show on radio, television or the internet) said that he felt the game has never been better, more competitive.
He said that teams from any one region could claim they had a national championship contender and that almost every state could make some sort of claim.
Giving Boeheim–also one of our favorites–a little room for some exaggeration, we came up with 24 of the 50 states with basketball teams that could at least make the discussion of a Final Four and that each of six–Northwest, West, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and Southeast–could nominate serious contenders.
The bottom line to all of this is that Boeheim, who took a team to the Final Four last season and has the No. 1 ranked team and one of two unbeaten (Wichita State is the other) is right.
Despite an increasing and disturbing trend of “”one and done”" players, who come to college for a few semesters of college basketball and then head to the NBA, and without one dominant dynastic type of team, college basketball looks as healthy as it has ever been in terms of a competitive structure.
Boeheim thinks that there are one or two (Syracuse is one of them) good, bordering on great teams and then a whole bunch of very good teams who could easily put together a 6-game winning streak at the end of March and early April and win a national championship.
If this weekend was Selection Sunday, three teams would have pretty solid grips on No 1 seeds. Arizona in the West, Syracuse in the East, Florida in the South.
The biggest question involves Wichita, which is unbeaten, but has only one real quality win (Saint Louis) and doesn’t measure up against teams such as Kansas, Duke, Michigan State and Villanova.
Compelling arguments could be made for Duke, Michigan State and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in the Midwest. Another 8 to 10 teams who have shown signs of dominance at various stages of the season.
That’s a Sweet 16 field of top tier teams that should make this one of the craziest and most competitive NCAA tournaments in years. And that doesn’t factor in the Cinderella aspect of a LaSalle or Florida Gulf Coast (last year’s sleepers) coming from deep in the field to win a few games.
Parity in college basketball?
Let the Countdown to March Madness begin.
Duke beat Boston College 89-68 on Saturday night. No big surprise. Duke has a Final Four potential and BC keeps heading south, despite good intentions.
Duke’s freshman Player of The Year candidate Jabari Parker also did not surprise. By scoring 29 points, pulling down 16 rebounds, handing out assists, playing defense and a few other things short of stopping at courtside and asking Celtics chief Danny Ainge where a good place to live in Boston next year would be, Parker played like this year’s No. 1 NBA lottery pick…If there was any doubt, BC’s loss to Duke was their 17th of the season, which means they officially will finish below .500. Barring a stunning run to the title (and automatic NCAA bid), the Eagles season will be over by mid-March.
Harvard fans shouldn’t fret too much over Harvard’s first Ivy League loss of the season on Saturday night to Yale. The Crimson still control their own destiny in the Ivy, but now must deal with back to back weekends of Ivy road Trips.
The Crimson must take on Columbia and Cornell and then Penn and Princeton on the road trips. Harvard is better than anyone in the Ivy, but as Crimson coach Tommy Amaker has said many times the toughest thing about the Ivy is Friday and Saturday night, meaning the back to back grind of road games.
Harvard must overcome a psychological block of winning a game at Princeton, which hasn’ happened since 1989. And if they overcome that, they might have to win a game at Yale in the final regular season weekend of the Ivy League schedule.
Former Boston College coach Al Skinner is having a good time serving as an assistant coach to Tim O’Shea at Bryant. O’Shea, a former Skinner assistant, has turned Bryant from a new Division 1 program into a force in the Northeast Conference. Skinner is provided value assistance and experience on the bench. He is also proving that he has still has lots of “game” left and should be on the list of any AD that will be looking for a new coach in the next few months.
Skinner’s coaching “tree” also is impressive.
Consider this list of schools and former Skinner assistants:
Bryant–O’Shea. Bryant is currently is 16-9 and second in the NEC
Providence–Ed Cooley. The Friars are 16-8.
Northeastern–Billy Coen. Northeastern is having a rough season, but has been plagued by injury and won the CAA last season.
UMass-Lowell–First year coach Pat Duquette has taken over another new Division 1 school and after a 1-11 start, UMass-Lowell is 7-4 in its last 11 games and has become competitive in almost every Patriot League game.
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart is facing severe discipline from the Big 12 after pushing a fan in Saturday night’s loss at Texas Tech. There are several versions of what happened, but there is no doubt that the fan was being loud and abusive and that Smart, who has had temper issued in the past, was pushed past his level of tolerance.
But going after the fans–no matter how obnoxious–can not be tolerated and Smart needs to sit for a game or two.
There are also reports that racial slurs were made by the fan to Smart. That should not be tolerated either. If that can be verified, Texas Tech needs to take away the fan’s privileges of attending Tech games as well.
There are no winners in this incident.