By Terrence Mayrose
Rivalry Week Signals Shift of Focus For Sports Fans
For all you football fanatics out there, make sure you savor the Super Bowl, because as of this morning, it’s time to focus on hoops. Despite the endless analysis, highlights and “breakdown” sessions ESPN may have shoved down your throat last week, you should be beside yourself about the slew of college basketball games coming up over the next seven days. Rivalry Week, as it’s become known, is easily the best single week of the regular season. It’s like the best appetizer on the menu. You make sure you order it. Things start on tonight on ESPN’s Big Monday when Kansas(1) travels to Texas (10) and Villanova (2) travels to West Virginia(6).
The Pick:Rock Chalk Jayhawk
#6 West Virginia vs. #2 ‘Nova– The best way to describe West Virginia is to think of an Adam Sandler movie after 2002. You know he’s always been great in the past, and the trailer for the new flick looks decent, but you know there’s a possibility to be completely let down. (i.e. 50 First Dates, Longest Yard, Funny People). Enter Bob “sweat suits on the sidelines” Huggins and West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 18-3 (7-2), with losses to Big Ten power # 7 Purdue, a hiccup to 16-7 Notre Dame, and a 1 point loss to #4 22-1 Syracuse. WVU also gets the T and 2 love because they rank at 4 and 24 in O and D efficiency respectively. Now while West Virginia has some impressive numbers, the amount of quality wins WVU has is what alarms us. Yes, the Mounties did beat #18 Ohio State, and 16-6 Texas Tech isn’t shabby, but they have just one quality Big East win(Pitt). WVU begins a brutal stretch on Monday vs Nova, and still has a trip to Pitt, Georgetown and a trip to Nova on the schedule. It will be these four games where we find out how legit the Mountaineers really are. An 0-4 skid and you can dismiss them as a Final Four team, a 4-0 mark means we’d better watch. My prediction is 3-1, starting with a win on Monday. Youngster Daryl “Truck” Bryant will have his hands full defensively with Scottie Reynolds, but the eyes of Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones should light up against Nova’s “inferior interior” duo of Antonio Pena and Taylor King. Simple rule for WVU: hold Reynolds to less then 20, feed the post and you’ll likely hear the student section singing “…take me home country roads” when the game is over. I truly believe WVU is the team to exceed all expectations right now, starting Monday…that’s if their fans can stop throwing things on the court.
The pick: WVU
Tuesday continues with #7 Purdue vs #5 Michigan State. – Kalin Lucas missed Saturday’s tilt vs Illinois and is questionable for the showdown with Purdue. With Izzo’s squad missing Lucas’ 15.6 ppg, look for E’Twaun Moore to have a field day and surging Purdue to capitalize. The Boilermakers have won six in a row after dropping three to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Northwestern in mid January. It should be noted that because these teams play in the “put you to sleep it’s such slowly paced” Big Ten, the first team to 50 points might win.
Wednesday is The Game. Duke vs Carolina. As a Duke fan, it’s a holiday for me. Look forward to it all year. This year would make a naïve Duke fan extremely happy given the fact that Carolina is struggling to win anything recently. The Tar Heels have fallen to a dismal 2-5 in the “not as tough as people think really is this year “ ACC, and 13-9 on the year. Things are so bad, Joe Lunardi is predicting Roy Williams is NIT bound. While hearing things like this should make Duke fans giddy, “Crazies” know that Duke is a Jeckyl and Hyde team in February. Thursday’s thrashing of #19 Georgia Tech (pardon me Counting Crowes) “gives reason to believe” that Duke has finally turned a corner. However, this is Duke-Carolina, and anything can happen. A win over a top ten rival is just what UNC needs to boost its resume. I’m hoping that’s not the case. Look for Scheyer and Singler to stroke it early and often.
The Pick : Duke
Saturday #14 Tennessee vs #3 Kentucky– Very simple. This is where the rest of the nation finds out what I already know. Tennessee is not as good as people think. Yes, Bruce Pearl did beat John “no Final Fours” Calipari two years ago when Memphis was undefeated, yes Tennessee took down Kansas this year, and Yes Tennessee has decent talent, but in no way shape or form do I see them winning Saturday night.
The pick: Kentucky in a rout, and inside twelve minutes left the announcers start talking about John Wall’s potential “at the next level”. Are they not allowed to say “NBA”?
Notre Dame’s horrific losses to Rutgers and Loyola Marymount may have been the final straw to end the Irish NCAA hopes this year, but don’t blame Luke Harangody for not trying to work a miracle. The workhorse scored 37 and grabbed 14 boards in a win Thursday vs Cincy. The senior is averaging 24.2 ppg and 9.7 rpg. It may be a good thing that the nation has quietly forgotten about “Gody”, because he seems to be holding a grudge and it’s helping the squad.
Bigger Not Better in NCAA Tournament
Is it just me or is anyone else rooting for Syracuse to land a #1 seed then lose to a #16 because Jim Boehiem keeps advocating a 96 team tournament ?
Big East Basketball Still On Top
Still wondering which conference is the toughest in America? Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology has seven Big East Teams getting bids, and three listed as “first four out”. One conference- 10 of the best 68 teams in the country. Good luck coaches.