I really wish they hadn't got rid of Boof. Why Keppel? Why?
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Herb Pope. You probably don't know who this is, but you should. Pope was an absolute stud in high school, ranked as the #17 prospect in 2007 and Rivals had him as #23, but due to some slight "concerns" he ended up at New Mexico State. Of course, those concerns were that he punched out his coach, got arrested for DUI, and was shot five times at a party. After a good season at NMSU, coach Reggie Theus left to coach in the NBA, and Pope left as well, transferring to Seton Hall to be closer to his new daughter. And what an addition to the Pirates he has been, averaging 15 and 13 without even a hint of trouble. This week was particularly saucy, with Pope putting up 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Hall's win over UMass, and following it up with a 15 and 20 in their 134-107 whooping of VMI, who continues to never, ever play defense. The Pirates are now 8-0, but don't have a signature win and don't really play anyone the rest of the way until we hit the Big East schedule. They'll have to have a good run if they want to be playing in March.
2. Craig Brackins. Well it was pretty much inevitable that he would show up here at some point, so why not now after throwing up a 28 and 8 against Iowa with 3 assists, 4 blocks, and a steal with no turnovers and only one personal foul. Also he shot 9-13 from the field. Usually when a possible lottery pick goes back to school for another year he ends up hurting his draft stock (Hi Sam Bradford), but in this case Brackins has probably boosted it by proving he can play the small forward. His scoring and rebounding are down a bit this year (from 20.2 and 9.5 to 18.2 and 7.6), but his turnovers are way down (from 2.3 to 1.0), his assists are way up (from 1.3 to 2.4) and - consider yourself terrified - he's added a three point shot. Yep, that's right. He's shooting 63% from three this year after a 4-5 performance in that Iowa game. Mark my words, this guy is just biding his time in the pre-conference games and is just waiting to unleash hell all over people's heads. NBADraft.net currently has him projected as the 18th overall pick next year. That my friends is both a crime and a steal of Danny Granger proportions. Remember when the Wolves took Rashad McCants over Danny Granger? I was literally screaming at the TV. Guess what's awesome? I went to McCants's wikipedia page, and he's listed as "an american basketball player who is currently a free-agent" meaning he hasn't hooked on here or Europe or South America or New Zealand or anywhere. Awesome.
3. New Mexico. It's time to start paying attention to the Lobos, who beat Texas A&M in Houston on Saturday to follow-up their win against San Diego earlier this season, pushing their record to 10-0. The A&M win wasn't their only big win this season either. They also beat Cal and won at the Pit at New Mexico State - never an easy rivalry game. I haven't seen the Lobos play, but they have a couple of swingman-types who can light it up - Roman Martinez (averaging 17-6-2) and Darington Hobson (17-8-4) and senior point guard and former Iowa Stater Dairese Gary is having a nice season as well and the whole team lights it up from three (41% as a team). Alford looks to have turned this program around and they have a nice path to an NCAA Tournament bid this year, which would be just their second since 1999. Also this gives me a chance to use the "Nathen Garth" tag again, since Tubby's first ever signee who was then not signed ended up at New Mex and is averaging 6 points and 2 assists in 15 minutes per game for the Lobos. Thrilling.
4. Cincinnati/Xavier. What a game. This one had a little bit of everything, and if you missed the Musketeers' 83-79 double-OT victory over the Bearcats you missed a great one. The benches cleared twice after flagrants, we had a double technical, Lance Stephenson of Cincy and Terrell Holloway of Xavier were both brilliant and both hit career-highs in points in their respective coming out parties. Deonta Vaughn rebounded from a horrible shooting first half to hit a lot of clutch shots down the stretch, Jason Love battled his way to 19 rebounds against a very strong Cincy front-line, Ibrahima Thomas made his Bearcat debut and almost got tossed for trash-talking, and Cincy pissed away the game thanks to 10-22 free-throw shooting and a missed layup by Vaughn. Great game, and even better for being within such an incredible rivalry. Trust me boys, I told you this before and I'm telling you again, Cincinnati is absolutely a national title contender - both their losses are in overtime games and were very winnable. A little more seasoning and this team is going to be a monster. I got them at 200-1 two win the whole thing, and last I saw they were 75-1. Jump on that number now, it's going to be 20-1 or worse by the time the tournament rolls around.
5. Chris Gaston. You probably don't know anything about Fordham basketball and let's ok because hardly anybody does, but I do and pay attention because I'm about to drop some knowledge. The Rams were just 3-25 last season, and 1-15 in conference play, and were every bit as terrible as that sounds. They did, however, have one bright spot in freshman guard Jio Fontan, who averaged 15 points and 5 assists per game last season and made the conference's All-Freshman team. After the season, however, Fontan decided that Fordham wasn't the place for him and he asked for his release - but, in a move I've never of before, Fordham declined to give it, meaning if Fontan transferred he would be ineligible to recieve a scholarship - so he was stuck. So he came back and played in the team's first five games this season, averaging 15 points and 4 assists, but after the 1-4 start the coach was fired and Fontan once again put in his transfer papers - only this time the request was granted and he's on his way out. I tell you this only to let you know just how much of a mess it is at Fordham right now, and so I can point out the ray of hope for the Rams - Chris Gaston.
He's a freshman who was actually a former high-school teammate of Fontan, and he started out this season well, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game. When Fontan left, instead of pouting about how the guy who basically convinced him to come to Fordham had quit on him, he put the team on his shoulders and has really stepped up his game, averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds per game, including a 32-15 on Saturday in a loss to St. Johns and 25-11 (and 5 assists) in a win over Stony Brook earlier this week. That's right, a win. I'm not really sure who the bad guy is here - Fontan for quitting twice or Fordham for not letting him go the first time, but I know Gaston is the good guy. They won't be in any kind of postseason tournaments, not even the CBI, but maybe Fordham will somehow manage to be relevant in a year or two.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers. Yikes. The Steelers won the Super Bowl last year right? Hold on, I have to look this up. Yes, they did (also this year's Super Bowl is at Land Shark Stadium which is just awesome). Not awesome would be the Steelers' performance this season and, even more specifically and relevant to the point of this entire post, on Thursday when they lost to the lowly Browns 13-6. Not only did they lose embarrassingly, but they managed just six points against that crappy team despite not turning the ball over. They just couldn't do anything. A total of 216 yards for the game (that's total, passing + rushing). This puts Pittsburgh on a five-game losing streak, and not just your typical five game losing streak - within it are losses to Kansas City and Oakland along with the Browns. So basically the Steelers rolled into the easiest part of their schedule at 6-2, and are coming out 6-7 with little to no playoff hopes despite having basically the same team they had last year when they won the whole thing. It's gotta suck to be a Steeler fan right now. Ouch.
2. Louisville. Good god, what is going on over there? Three weeks ago they lost to UNLV, and you were all like, "whoa that's weird" but no big whoop because they always seem to stumble and lose to an inferior team (like the Gophers last year). Then two weeks ago they lost to Charlotte, and you were all like, "Wow, maybe Charlotte is way better than we thought and Louisville is worse." Now, on Saturday they lost to Western Carolina and you are all like "these guys suck and stuff." Let me repeat: they lost to Western Carolina. At Home. By 8. In a game that wasn't even that close. Just as scary as the loss is the way they lost - a team and program known for playing stifling defense and having strong guard play let WCU shoot 51% and turned the ball over 20 times - 7 of them by Edgar Sosa, the biggest disappointment in terms of living up to his potential since Felipe Lopez. This rebuilding at Louisville is looking like it's going to take longer than I thought.
3. Arizona. I feel like I'm constantly highlighting these guys as being bad, but they constantly deserve it so I guess that's just how it goes. They managed to go 1-2 this week, squeaking a win out against Louisiana Tech in between two embarrassing losses to Oklahoma and San Diego State, both games the Wildcats got blown out in. Do you realize Arizona is now 4-5. Arizona has a losing record this early in the season. Crazy. They have at least played a pretty good schedule, but there's no real point to scheduling tough if you're just going to lose every game. They still have games left against BYU and NC State before they hit the Pac-10 season, and if they want a chance at making the dance for something like the 20th year in a row, they need to win both. They also need their perimeter guys (Wise, Fogg, & Horne) to stop shooting like crap (42%, 39%, 43%). Good news though - they have the entire week off so they can't end up on this list again unless the whole team quits or something. Don't rule that out.
4. Boston College. It's not common that a team from a BCS Conference goes 0-2 in a week when they aren't in some kind of tournament, but the Eagles managed to pull it off this week. And it's not like they had a couple of road games tough opponents, they lost to Harvard and Rhode Island, both at home. Oof. I guess it shouldn't be that surprising considering this team lost to St. Joe's, but still - wow. And they weren't even close games, either. Harvard won by 7 after leading pretty much the entire game, and Rhode Island totally blew the doors off B.C. and ended up winning by eleven. Suddenly Michigan's win over them isn't looking nearly as impressive. Special thumbs up to Joe Trapani for shooting 1-7 from three in the game against Rhody.
5. UNLV. I knew these guys were frauds, and that's why a line of Kansas State +2 was such an easy bet on Saturday. Obviously it paid off or I wouldn't be cocking off here like I was Jimmy the Greek and you were some black dude, but the whole point is that UNLV is terrible. That's probably too strong. Let's say overrated. Seriously, how the hell was UNLV ranked #17? Because they were 7-0? A couple of wins look like "name" wins, but these "name" schools aare awful this year - they beat Louisville and Arizona - who both sound impressive but are awful this season. Their best win was actually over Nevada, who is ranked 74th by Pomeroy, and they don't have another top 100 win in the bunch. Kansas State this weekend (#16) was by far their best opponent, and the Wildcats blew them rigth out of the water 95-80 in Vegas. If, and it's a big if, UNLV does make the tournament thanks to a watered down Mountain West, I'll guarantee their first round exit.
You know what else sucks? Fucking welshers. Let me tell you what I'm talking about. Let's say I'm in a keeper league for fantasy football, and I make a trade offer to a guy in my league. He counters with a slightly different offer. I accept. He backs out and says he's not trading. What the hell is that crap? He should have to spend a weekend in jail for something like that. Insead he's just free to tromp around breaking people's hearts like he was Jennifer Love Hewitt in Heartbreakers. Ain't right.