Monday, January 19, 2009
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Jodie Meeks. I featured Meeks in the section before, right around Christmas time when he dropped 46 and 32 points in back-to-back games, but after this week he gets on here again. He led Kentucky to two huge road wins with 22 points Sunday at Georgia and a Kentucky record 54 in the win at Tennessee, running the Wildcats record in the SEC to 4-0 and showing how you can follow up a huge road win against a big rival by actually winning the next game on the road against a doormat. In the big win over the Vols, Meeks 54 shots came on just 22 attempts, as he hit 15-22 from the field, including 10-15 from three, made all 14 of his free throw attempts, and helped out with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Wow, 54 points on just 22 shots? Are you paying attention Stephen Curry who scored 28 points in Saturday’s win over Georgia Southern but needed 30 attempts to do so?
2. Wake Forest. The Deacons are starting to truly look like a Final Four kind of team, and their pretty much impossible to ignore after winning two ACC road games this week, over Boston College – the team that knocked off UNC – and at #9 Clemson to move to 16-0, 3-0 in the conference. Wake is a really balanced team, with five guys scoring at least 9 points per game and three guys averaging at least seven rebounds per game, but they are really led by sophomore guard Jeff Teague, who is just 6-2 but plays much bigger. He leads the Deacons in scoring at 21.4 per game, assists at 4.1 and steals with 2.1, and chips in with 4.0 rebounds per game as well. He turns the ball over a little too much (3.7 per game), but makes up for it by shooting over 50% from both two and three. If you get a chance to watch this team, take it. They play lockdown defense, and are very athletic with the ability to score from any where and are about to be ranked #1.
3. Larry Fitzgerald. Remember how I always said that Andre Johnson of the Texans was the best receiver in football? I think I’m maybe changing my mind. Fitzgerald has been an absolute beast in the playoffs, going for 9 catches for 152 yards and three scores yesterday in the Cardinals 32-25 win over the Eagles, sending them to the Super Bowl. That followed up his destruction of the Panthers last week, when he tallied 8 catches for 166 yards and a score. These two games, along with his 6 for 101 in the opening round, give him the all-time record for receiving yards in a single postseason, breaking Jerry Rice’s record. Fitz’s hair might look ridiculous, but he’s pretty much uncoverable right now, and had several big receptions on the Cardinals game-winning drive. He’s no Andre Johnson, but he’s right there with him with size and speed. And he’s a young buc too, not an old man like Steve Smith. Lots of years left to watch.
4. Louisville. I could probably have gone with Terrence Williams here, who has been on fire, but the Cardinals had a great week and look to have things figured out. Not only did they notch the big win over then #1 ranked Pitt, earlier in the week they took out #13 Notre Dame, a struggling Notre Dame (more on that below), but still a win over a highly ranked team that looks good on the resume (and consequently, on the Gopher resume as well). Williams led the team with 20 points (on 7-12 shooting) and 4 assists in the 69-63 win over Pitt (and chipped in with 7 rebounds), which followed up an even more dominating performance over Notre Dame where he put up 24 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals. Williams, Clark, and Samuels are a tremendous front court, and as long as the Cardinals' guards play well, they are starting to look like the National Title contender many pegged them as when the season started.
5. Arizona State. Huge, huge win for the Sun Devils this weekend, knocking off #9 UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, a much needed win after dropping a very winnable game at USC on Thursday. No surprise here, but ASU Was led by guard James Harden's 24 points, along with forward Jeff Pendergraph's 18. They are a hell of a tandem, and would make a killer NBA Jam team. Harden, who might have been a lottery pick if he came out last year, is the Pac 10s leading scorer at 22.1 per game, and has already broken 30 points four times. USC managed to hold him down (4 points on 0-8 shooting), but that's a major exception.
1. Gopher basketball. Game thoughts are here and here. If anybody tries to say this week was a success, you should punch them in their stupid face because they are too dumb to live.
2. Notre Dame. You can’t convince me that Notre Dame is a good team, much less that they are the twelfth best team in the nation (which is where they were in the last polls). Everyone is so in love with this team, and you know why? Because they have a big, dopey, hard-working, farm-raised white boy, and there’s nothing Amerikkka likes better than that. Too bad he’s completely overrated. Harangody was destroyed by the Cuse on Saturday, where Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson combined to completely dominate him as the Orange rolled 93-74. Oh, you probably won’t get that from any highlight shows, you will point out to you that he had 25 points and 16 rebounds. The 16 rebounds are great, there’s no doubt, but he had to take 28 shots to get those 25 points (9-28), a number even Stephen Curry would be embarrassed about. Meanwhile Jackson had 14 and 10 and Onuaku went for 19 and 7, and combined they only took 22 shots, making 15. You want to talk overall as a team for the Irish? They are now 3-3 in the Big East, and scanning the schedule they have one good win at home over Georgetown, and one over Texas. That’s it. There isn’t a single other good win anywhere. The next best win on here is over freaking Seton Hall, and don’t forget they lost to Ohio State too. They are a pretty good offensive team (6th in offensive efficiency) but awful on defense (167th before giving up 93 points and 55% shooting to the Cuse). I’m sure they’ll make the tournament, but are looking at getting sent home the first time they play an opponent with a decent front court.
3. Clemson. It seems a bit weird to put a previously undefeated team here after losing to another undefeated team, especially the soon to be #1 in the country Wake Forest, but this was, in a way, a must win for Clemson. I know, that seems weird too, since they were 16-0 and ranked #10 at the time, but if you remember last season, the Tigers shot out of the gate with 10 straight wins, and were as good as 12-1 before going into a free fall, finishing up by going just 10-7 in their last 17, barely squeaking into the NCAA tournament where they were run by Villanova. This year’s team has similar questions, as of those 16 wins, not a single one was over a ranked team, and their win over Illinois is the only one that could be considered a “quality” win. With a chance to make a huge statement with a win over Wake, at home, and favored by 2.5 in the game, the Tigers flopped, shooting just 33% and getting beat handily in their own gym, 78-68. It has national commentators and college basketball fans questioning Clemson’s resume, and I have to guess after last year, a whole lot of Tiger fans and maybe even the team themselves.
4. Kansas State. I haven't really followed K-State this season, and why would I? Beasley and Sky Walker are gone to the pros, and although I like their PG Jake Pullen he doesn't exactly pull me into a game. Unfortunately, he hasn't really improved this year, and K State has suffered. I only noticed them because I saw they lost by more than 20 to Nebraska, and when that happens you know something is wrong. The Wildcats are 0-3 in the Big 12, and 11-6 overall with their best win being over Cleveland State, and there's nothing else even close. Looks like the Huggins experiment worked, but when he jumps ship almost immediately there's nothing else left to draw players to Manhattan, KS, and this program is pretty much back to being at the bottom of the barrel.
5. Alex Kangas (sorry Snake). I don't know much about hockey, but I know that the Jesus on the ice is struggling lately. After getting run by the hated Sioux the previous weekend, giving up six goals in back-to-back games, he looked like he might be back on track against St. Cloud, making 24 saves on Friday night and only giving up one goal on Friday. Then came Saturday night, and he once again was lost, giving up six goals on just 31 shots. Luckily, the St. Cloud goaltenders were even worse, letting the Gophers score 8 times (one an empty netter) to grab a wild 8-6 victory. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure if your goalie doesn't play well you aren't going very far.