You may not know this - or you may, I don't really care and it doesn't really matter - but in honor of Martin Head King day ESPN ran a college basketball marathon of sorts, featuring four games (2 Big East, 2 Big Twelve) with some of the top team's in the country: #2 Kansas, #3 Syracuse, #4 Pitt, #7 Villanova, #8 UCONN, #14 Missouri, #24 Kansas State, and Baylor were all in action. Luckily due to my company being awesome and giving us the day off I was able to catch a large chunk of each game. Here are some quick impressions of each team involved. Pay attention to this, it will probably help you win your NCAA pool in March.
#7 Villanova - They have a much better inside/outside balance than they've had the last couple of years, with two legit low-post scorers in Antonio Pena and Mouphtao Yarou (who is a complete beast). I think their big weakness is that lack of a go-to guy. Say what you want about how bad Scottie Reynolds sucked for the first 35 minutes of every game, and he did, but he was reliable down the stretch run, something that's missing a bit this year. Corey Fisher certainly looked the part tonight, scoring the team's last 11 points, but based on what I've seen in other games I"m not sure that's something they can count on. Maybe he'll get to that point where he can put them on his back, but I'm not betting on it and am seeing an early exit for Nova in March. Maybe because I hate them.
#8 UCONN - This is a team that doesn't have to worry about who their go-to guy is since they have Kemba Walker, who once again cemented his reputation by hitting a floater with three seconds left to give the Huskies the big win over Nova. Walker is good enough that he can probably get UCONN into the Sweet 16, but if they're going to go any further someone is going to have to help. Alex Oriakhi has all the physical tools to become that guy, and they have several wing players who could step up, so I'd bet on somebody hitting their stride and UCONN being very dangerous in March. Don't forget, Walker basically won the Maui tournament all by himself, if he gets any help at all on a consistent basis look out.
#14 Missouri - A team that plays that "controlled chaos" style that the Tigers play will always be as good as their guards. No matter how good your interior types are, and Mizzou has some very good ones, the guards are what make that run-and-gun style work. Specifically the guys who handle the ball, and I was really impressed by their point guard Phil Pressey yesterday. Looking at his stats and game log he's very inconsistent this year, which is to be expected out of a freshman point guard, but he looked good against K-State. They're talented, but relying on a freshman to handle the ball in March is a good way to get bounced early.
#24 Kansas State - Well this is a fine mess. The Wildcats were blown out by Missouri, dropping their Big 12 record to 1-4, overall record to 13-6, and record against teams that aren't cupcakes to a very poor 3-6. That loss was basically a microcosm of their season: a talented, athletic team with zero discipline who turns the ball over like it's the goal of the game. They came into the game as one of the worst in the country at taking care of the ball, ranking 256th in the country, and then made things even worse, giving it away a staggering 23 times. Jake Pullen is basically the same player he was last year, but he's getting no help and their interior players are nearly as likely to turn it over as they are to score. Who knew Denis Clemente was that valuable? Second best Clemente in history, in my opinion.
#4 Pitt - Pitt is similar to Villanova for me, in that I hate them, but this Pitt team is built differently - they're actually athletic for once. Ashton Gibbs is looking like he'll break the line of overrated, overhyped, and crappy Pitt point guards (Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser, LeVance Fields) because he can actually score - not just shoot, not just pass, not just drive, but all those things plus scoring. Really like him. A couple other nice guards and some quality size including Kid from Kid N Play, and out of the four Big East teams I saw yesterday this team is most likely to make the Final Four. God it just kills my soul to say that. If the Packers win the Super Bowl and Pitt makes the Final Four in the same year you might be looking at the end of DWG 4-eva.
#3 Syracuse - It's admittedly a little tough to truly evaluate them based on yesterday's action because their leading scorer, Kris Joseph, was out with an injury, but there are a couple of points I can pull out of that game. The first is a positive, and that's that freshman Dion Waiters is going to be an absolute stud in a year or two. The second is not, and that's how vulnerable the 'Cuse 2-3 is to penetrating guards this year. Pitt was able to get into the lane over and over and over again, and that led to some easy baskets. Some unheralded team with solid, athletic guards is going to stretch them to the limit in March. Their a tough team, as shown by their ability to hang with Pitt without their best player, but they're vulnerable.
#2 Kansas - Wow. This is definitely a national title contender. I've seen them before but never really watched closely, and they're loaded. They're basically two deep at every guard position and are incredibly athletic. Their one weakness is that they are a bit undersized in the front court and don't have a real true post presence in the rotation, but the bigs they do have are more athletic that most you're going to find. They could be vulnerable in March because I'm not 100% sold on their point guard play, and also because they're Kansas who loses early a bit too often, but I am likely picking them to make the Final Four.
Baylor - Lace Dunn is one of the best scorers in the country, and he's surround by athletic wing and post types who can score. So what's the issue? There's nobody who can handle the damn ball. When I highlighted Baylor as WHO SUCKED from last weekend, I talked about their high number of turnovers, and now I've seen it in person. Dunn is basically a pure scoring guard being forced to play point, and that's not a recipe for success. This team has no shot in March.
Also I just re-watched Adventureland. Movie rocks. It actually makes me angry that Kristen Stewart is in those Twilight movies, because she's really good as the kind of quirky, goofy chick, but in the Twilight movies (and yes, I've been forced to watch all three) she's completely wasted because they took a character that was undeveloped with no depth (yes, I've read three of the books) and gave her even less of a personality in the movies. Such a waste. I love K-Stew. Top 10. And way hotter than Lisa P.