Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Four Corners

What is the best conference this year? I think most people would say the Big East, and with 7 teams in the AP Top 25, a strong argument could be made stating this case. The Big 10, with 5 teams peppered throughout the Top 25 is having a strong year as well. How do we measure success? Is it based the number of teams in the Top 25? It is based on how many teams make the tournament, or the number of teams your conference can send to the final four? I would say it is a combination of all them, with (in my opinion) the biggest emphasis being put on the number of teams in your conference making it to the final four, and ultimately winning a national championship.

The Big 10 has some real quality teams with their defensive pressure leading the way. Teams like Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin will be very tough to beat, especially on their home court. But do they have enough skill to get to the final four? I say no, with the possible exception being Illinois. Michigan state and Illinois made it last year, and the Spartans are returning 4 starters from last year’s team. Yet, they appear to be a different team than last year, having trouble stopping their opponents from scoring. Meanwhile, Illinois, a team most left for dead, so far is doing everything you would expect a final four contender to do. All of this can and will change as the season progresses, but as good as the Big 10 is, all of them will be on the outside of the Final Four looking in, come March.

The Big East has some of the best teams in the country, in Uconn and Villanova. They will have a tough task on their hands making it through this conference healthy and with a strong record. Very few games will be pushovers for these giants. The next tier of teams in the Big East, Louisville, Pitt, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Syracuse, will beat up on each other and could end up with as many as 8-10 losses, starting with Cincinnati (who just lost their power forward Armein Kirkland for the year with a torn ACL). The Big East tournament should be one of the best ever as the quality of play will be tremendous.

The most disappointing conference is an easy choice for me. The Big 12 boasted Texas as a national title contender with Oklahoma and Texas Tech close behind. While Texas has played well of late, and still could contend for the title, it should be noted that no team has ever won the national championship while suffering a 30 point loss during the season, which Texas did at the hands of Duke 97-66. Oklahoma is dropping fast (see below for Money’s trip to the Bank) and Bobby Knight and Texas Tech won’t even make the tournament this year. The next best team after Texas may be Kansas at 9-4

Money’s trip to the Bank:
Missouri +13.5 @ Oklahoma (winner)
Two teams going in opposite direction. I smell an upset tonite with Oklahoma falling out of the top 25 for good.


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