Thursday, January 12, 2006


It is too early to write anybody off at this point in the season. But, there is still quite a bit of intrigue in the upcoming Pac 10 games, especially tonite. Here are the standings as of today;

Pacific 10 Conf Overall
UCLA (11) (3-1) (13-2)
Arizona (24) (3-1) (10-4)
California (3-1) (9-4)
Washington St. (2-1) (9-3)
USC (2-2) (11-4)
Stanford (2-2) (6-6)
Washington (13) (1-2) (12-2)
Oregon St. (1-2) (8-6)
Oregon (1-2) (7-8)
Arizona St. (0-4) (6-7)

The top 8 teams will be in action over the next 24 hours (including Cal at Stanford on Friday). So what’s the deal with this conference? Are any final four contenders? Is this just another mediocre conference? At this point, we don’t know, but some answers will come from these games.

A few weeks ago, Washington was undefeated, off to their best start in 30 years, ranked #7 in the country, and held the nation’s longest home court winning streak. Since then, they have suffered two home losses to Arizona and Washington state and are now on the road down south playing USC and UCLA. Sweep these teams and they put themselves right back on the map and could find themselves, again, as a final four contender. Lose them both, and kiss any kind of post season success goodbye. Split the road games, and we pick this conversation up next week when they host the Oregon schools. My gut tells me they are prepared for the game tonite against USC and win, but they lose to UCLA on Saturday. I would be more surprised with a victorious road sweep, than if they were to lose both. The chance they overlook USC tonite is a possibility, as the Trojans should not be taken lightly. As good as Washington can be, they won’t sweep these two games.

Meanwhile, Washington state travels to Pauley Pavilion tonite to take on the Bruins. The two teams have completely different styles of play, but both teams play their own games and are doing it well now. Washington state is the team I would not want to play right now as they will frustrate you on defense and take you out of your offense, a trend I pick to continue tonite. Look for the upset tonite (see below for my trip to the Bank) as Washington state defeats UCLA.

Arizona intrigues me. They are a different wildcat team than we have seen from years past. They usually can shoot real well and like to run teams off the court. This year, they are not great shooters, and are getting it done with defense. I think this team is gearing up for a nice run at an easy Pac 10 title with dreams of heavier trophies. They should have no problem with Oregon state tonite.

Cal comes into the farm with a little swagger, compliments of their junior point guard Ayinde Ubaka. He seems to have gained a lot of confidence in his game and feels comfortable running the show now for the Bears. I expect him and Powe to get the best of the Cardinal this time at the farm on Friday night.

Injuries always play a part in any season, but they seem to be hitting UCLA and to a lesser degree, Washington state and Stanford, at this particular time. UCLA will be without Josh Shipp for the remainder of the year. Jordan Farmar and Aaron Affalo are banged up, but expected to play. Stanford has dealt with the slow recovery of Dan Grunfeld and an ankle injury to Matt Haryasz, while Washington state will be without Derrick Lowe for about six weeks with a fractured foot. Can these teams overcome these obstacles? Good teams figure a way out. Are these good teams in the Pac 10? Aside from Arizona, I say no. But don’t take my word for it, watch the games and prove me wrong.

Money’s trip to the Bank:
WASHINTON STATE +7 @ ucla (winner)
WSU is a bit banged up, but so is Ucla. This is the last team that UCLA, or any team for that matter wants to play right now.

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.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Four Corners

Money’s Trip to the Bank:

CINCINATTI +8 @ Uconn (loser)
I love UConn and expect them to contend for the national title. Apparently the line makers feel the same way. These are two evenly matched teams where Uconn should be getting about 4 points for home court advantage, not 8. Take the points and back the Bearcats.

TEXAS -5 @ Iowa State (winner)
Texas has really pulled themselves together after getting embarrassed by Duke a month ago. The key to their turnaround has been their defense. While the Longhorns have not played well recently at ISU, they are flying a little under the radar right now, so take advantage of the line value and take Texas -5.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Four Corners

I witnessed an interesting day of college basketball on Saturday. I saw a couple of undefeated teams, Illinois and Ohio St, suffer their first loss, as well as seeing some good teams struggle, such as UConn and Gonzaga, while coming out with a win.

What else did I see? I noticed that both Oklahoma and Kentucky are not very good teams, and are in big trouble. While, like I said from my Cinderella team, Iowa and Cincinnati (and even Ohio St in a loss at Indiana) are better than expected.

I also predicted that after sweeping the LA schools, Cal would lose its next two games at home versus the Oregon schools. I was half-right (as opposed to half wrong). They beat Oregon, but lost to the easier team, Oregon State.

Two teams to keep an eye on; Washington state who beat Washington in Seattle, and Texas A&M.

Money’s trip to the Bank

Winthrop +14.5 at Memphis (winner)
I really like Memphis, but I like Winthrop as well. This is just the type of team that Memphis would take lightly.