Well, it's now obvious how to fix the Vikings. Simply trade your second round pick over to Chicago for Caleb Hanie, give him the rock, and sit back and watch him destroy the league. The guy's like the second coming of Jonathan Moxon! Of course, if Chicago is smart they're going to demand your first round pick. Is Hanie worth #12 overall? I think it's pretty clear that he is.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Gopher basketball. Ok, awesome might be a bit strong here, but considering that at no point did I expect them to end up winning that game in Ann Arbor and they pulled it out semi-convincingly I can give credit where credit is due - particularly since Al Nolen was out for the entire second half. I'm not even sure which part was most impressive for the Gophers: Blake filling in at point guard and doing a great job (6 assists to 0 turnovers) including a couple of big baskets down the stretch, the absolute pounding they put on the boards (out-reobunded Michigan 37-11), or the quality shots they were getting that led to 63% shooting. Just an all around excellent game. Now let's hope Nolen isn't hurt for an significant period of time.
At this point the Gophers have to be considered a near lock to make the NCAA Tournament. An RPI of 24 with a Strength of Schedule of 41, 3 wins over RPI top 25 teams, and just one bad loss (Virginia, RPI 121). Absolute worst case scenario, will be an 7-11 Big 10 record, and that's if there only wins the rest of the year are home games against Northwestern, Michigan, and Penn State. Obviously in that case they wouldn't get in, but 9-9 should do it so all they need to do is win 2 games out of @ Purdue, @ Indiana, vs. Ohio State, vs. Illinois, @ Iowa, @ Penn State, vs. Michigan State, and @ Northwestern. That shouldn't be an issue, with or without Nolen. I can see an 11 or 12 win season as a definite possibility, in which case the Gophers are set up for a 5 or so seed. Perfectly placed for a first round loss to Old Dominion.
2. Texas Longhorns. Quite the nice little run by the Longhorns, starting the week off with a ho-hum 21-point win over #10 ranked and previously 1-loss Texas A&M, and then followed that up by going into Allen Fieldhouse and beating undefeated and 2nd ranked Kansas by 11, ending the Jayhawks 69-game home winning streak. I don't even think it's possible for a team to have a better week, and if you weren't totally sold on the Longhorns, and I wasn't, I don't think you can deny them any longer. Jordan Hamilton has decided to become a stud, Tristan Thompson is a force, Gary Johnson plays a quality role, and Corey Joseph seems to be figuring it out. They've got an outstanding inside/outside balance and could make a hell of a run in March. Of course, Rick Barnes is still involved, so it wouldn't be shocking in the least to see them lose 10 straight and miss the tournament. We'll see.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide. If you're going to make a run an your first NCAA tournament bid since 2006 you need to win some big games. Which is exactly what Alabama did with their 2-point victory over #12 Kentucky, giving them a much needed resume boost. They are just 11-7 overall, their losses to St. Peter's and Iowa are a bit tough to explain, and they have a pretty crappy strength of schedule so they still have a ton of work to do. That was the last game on their schedule against a currently ranked team and they play in the crappy SEC West so a big run isn't out of the question. They're 3-1 in conference now, so something like 12-4 isn't out of the question. That would be enough to get them in, no doubt. It would actually be pretty sweet to have them matched up against the Gophers, because I'd love to see a Mbakwe/JaMychal Green match-up.
4. Memphis Tigers. There was a lot of preseason talk about whether this was the year Memphis finally lost it's stranglehold on Conference USA (at least on the rare occasions when anybody talked about C-USA) after winning it each year since 2006. There was a lot of talk about Larry Eustacy's Southern Miss taking the crown, or maybe UTEP or UAB would finally take that next step up or perhaps Central Florida and their hot start signaled the changing times. Well you can shut your whore mouth about all that, because Memphis beat both UAB and Southern Miss this week, both on the road, and are now tied with UTEP at the top of the standings. Now, this Memphis team isn't anywhere near the class of Calipari's old teams, but for one week at least they made sure everybody knew they weren't done just yet. That sentence was stupid and something a hack writer for SI.com would write. My apologies. Smelly pirate hooker.
5. Jimmer Fredette. I've avoided talking about him so far this year, mainly because everybody else is and whenever people like something I automatically hate it (see: Brett Favre, Nickelback, or Olive Garden) but I can't ignore the elephant in the room any longer - he's really good and really mormon. He scored 42 points on Saturday on the road at a pesky Colorado State team, giving him two 40+ games in his last three times out and is currently leading the country in scoring at 26.7 points per game. He's also efficient, and his 48% shooting, including 41% from three, along with his 90% accuracy from the free throw stripe is a good reason why BYU is the 6th best team in the nation by offensive efficiency. Are they an actually good team? I'd say yes, probably, but let's wait to see what happens Wednesday against San Diego State. I know the Jimmer is bad ass though. Seriously, just watch this:
1. Colorado Buffaloes. Waah wah! The DWG curse strikes again, and all the momentum and positivity and sleeper talk Colorado built up with their 3-0 start in Big 12 play has now come to a screeching halt after an epic crash and burn this week, losing both to Oklahoma and Nebraska, two of the worst teams in the Big 12 and both losses are resume killers. The conference is strong enough where they'll have plenty of opportunities to get marquee wins and build their profile back up, but this is a pretty massive setback. It would be like the Gophers losing to Michigan and Indiana, only if they didn't have those good wins from Puerto Rico. My bad Colorado fans, you can blame this one on me.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs. Another team who absolutely god awful week and made huge strides in tanking their at-large chances. Gonzaga, whose overall record is now just 13-7, lost twice this week, to San Francisco and Santa Clara, both contenders in the West Coast Conference, but not the same kind of contender St. Mary's has been the last few years. In short, the kind of teams that the Gonzagas of the past would just roll right over, but clearly this year's Zags aren't quite the same type of team. Which is weird, because a nucleus of Steven Gray, Robert Sacre, and Elias Harris should be enough to carry them to a WCC title. Clearly, all those other dorks I've never heard of must really, really suck. Now, their strength of schedule was ridiculous and do have wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Xavier so they'll still almost certainly get a bid, but this isn't he same kind of dangerous Gonzaga team, more like out in round 1.
3. Kenny Boynton. It didn't take long for me to find my most-hated player after Scottie Reynolds' graduation, so congratulations Kenny Boynton, a chucker of such epic proportions that he makes Chris Kingsbury cringe at his shot selection, Reynolds' himself chuckle at the volume of shots he puts up, and Al Nolen chuckle at his accuracy. Boynton has shot the rock 121 times this year from beyond the arc, and has hit a whopping 30.6% (and that's after going 4-7 on Saturday), after shooting 29% last year. This year is 81st in three-point attempts in the country, and out of those 81 players, only four have a worst shooting percentage than Boynton. Not dissimilar to last year, when he was 28th in the country in 3-point attempts, and had the worst shooting percentage out of the top 100 attempters. Seriously, you should watch this guy. He's completely insane.
4. Northwestern Wildcats. Did you freaking see that score yesterday? I guess we can cross off "Can Northwestern make it's first NCAA Tournament" from the list of storylines for 2011. You just can't lose at home by 32, especially to a good but not great Wisconsin team. As it stands Northwestern's record is now 13-6, and although none of those losses classify as "bad" (margin of loss not a factor), their RPI is a dismal 69, their strength of schedule is horrendous at #122, and their best win right now is over Michigan - their only win over a top 100 RPI team. It's just ugly, and it's exactly what they deserve for scheduling such a terrible non-conference slate in a year where they knew they were trying to make a run for an NCAA bid. Terrible. Just terrible.
5. Central Florida Knights. Hey, remember when UCF started out all hot and were 14-0 and beat Florida and Miami and everyone was "OMG Michael Jordan's kid is single-handedly making UCF into an awesome team" and nobody would ever shut up about it and it was just like John Madden/Brett Favre love-fest and everybody was giving out handjobs? Remember that? Well suck it, liberal media, because UCF sucks and Jordan's kid sucks, and you suck. They're now 1-4 in C-USA after losing to East Carolina and Rice, two of the absolute worst teams in the conference, this week and your boyfriend Marcus Jordan was a combined 3-14 shooting in the two games and probably got his ass beat by his dad because of his losing. So maybe we shouldn't all be so desperate to turn something into a cute little story when nothing has even happened yet. And speaking of cute, there are lots of good pictures of UCF fans out there: