By Terrence Mayrose
College Basketball Powerhouses UConn and UNC Struggling
As smoothly as things went for North Carolina and Connecticut last year, they’ve been equally as bumpy this season. UNC coasted through its schedule to a championship, and UConn battled through a tough Big East to reach the Final Four. However, 2010 is giving every indication that a repeat of each performance is a long shot….a real long shot.
The Tar Heels have dropped three straight, and four of their last five in plummeting to #23 in the polls. Things got worse for Roy Williams and company last week when it was reported that seven foot sophomore Tyler Zeller will miss 4-6 weeks with a foot injury. Yes, the same Zeller who missed most of last season. That Zeller may be injury prone has raised huge concern about his future in Chapel Hill.
Things aren’t going too well in Storrs these days, either, although the Huskies did take care of lowly St.John’s on Wednesday night with to end a three game conference skid. Adding to their problems was the news that Head Coach Jim Calhoun is taking an immediate medical leave of absence. UConn officials reported that Calhoun’s absence is not heart or cancer related and is not associated to any conditions he has dealt with in the past (Calhoun is a three time cancer survivor). The Huskies will have an up-hill battle the rest of the season without Calhoun on the sidelines, but the immediate future doesn’t look too bad. After taking on Texas this Saturday, they’ll have winnable games against Providence, Marquette, Louisville, and the conference’s whipping boy, DePaul. A string of four conference wins under interim coach George Blaney could be the key to get back on track for this struggling squad. Look at this stretch as a precursor of UConn’s fate the rest of the way.
Kentucky Basketball Stands Alone
Texas dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, leaving only Kentucky, John “make a mess then quickly flee the scene” Calipari, and John “I will commit to the draft in March so don’t look for me in class the final two months” Wall as the only remaining team with an unblemished record. Isn’t it sweet that the ENTIRE nation can now bond to root for that first loss now?
UTEP Basketball Showing Strong Caracter
Remember this guy ? Once highly touted as a program-changing, college superstar, future-pro coming out of high school, he spent his time at Louisville struggling with his weight and grades. Things got so bad, he actually flirted with the idea of entering the NBA Draft until he realized he’d never get picked. Despite his shortcomings, however, he’s become the best turnaround story of the college basketball season. If you guessed Derrick Caracter, give yourself a gold star.
The big man from Jersey has found himself at UTEP, after two awful years at Louisville finally ran their course. Between weight issues, grades, and finding it nearly impossible to deal with Rick Pitino (the latter is becoming a common occurrence these days, isn’t it?), D.C.’s time at Lousiville was one to forget. Luckily for him, his career has rebounded. In better shape, minus his entourage, and obviously much happier, Caracter is averaging 13.6 ppg and 8.3 rpg for the 12-5 UTEP Miners. Most recently, Caracter was a catalyst in his team’s 72-67 win over Memphis with 14 points and 7 boards.
The Key to Winning Your NCAA Tournament Brackets
Here’s a stat to look at when filling out your March Madness sheets; Efficiency, specifically Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. In a nutshell – Points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions. Why does it matter ? Simply put… it has been one of ,(if not the), leading indicators of NCAA champions.
Ken Pomeroy is a stat guru who spends hours determining these stats each season, and every year the eventual NCAA Champion can be determined by Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings. Need Proof ?
’09 Champ – UNC– Off. Eff (1) Def.Eff (16)
’08 Champ-Kansas– Off. Eff (2) Def.Eff (1)
’07 Champ- Florida– Off. Eff (1) Def.Eff (12)
’06 Champ- Florida– Off.Eff (2) Def.Eff (5)
The fact is, that if you want to cut down the nets you must be as good defensively as you are offensively. Here are 5 teams who rate high in both categories, and offer a big reason to believe in them come March : Kansas– OE (2) DE (3), Duke OE(1) DE(9), Wisconsin OE(16) DE(7), Syracuse OE(4) DE(16), Kansas State OE(14) DE(20). However, be wary of : Villanova– OE(3) DE(80), Kentucky OE(12) DE(37), Gonzaga OE(25) DE(65). The T&2 will revisit as March gets closer, but it’s never too early to start dissecting the brackets.
Groundhog Day for Duke Basketball
Well, just as it was hinted in the last T&2, the Duke Blue Devils are in the historically “hell-ish” part of their schedule. Coach K and the boys fit played to form in losing 88-74 to North Carolina State. An inexcusable loss given their high expectations coming into the season. Here’s a challenge for the boys in Cameron: change yourselves from “good team” to “title contender” over the next weeks.
Tilts @ Clemson, @ Georgetown, Georgia Tech and @UNC are games where Duke can turn their season around. A sweep of these 4 quality teams, along with games against mediocre Florida State and Boston College would put Duke at 21-3 and give them a stranglehold on the ACC. If Duke can do this, they’ll have my faith again…until then, I’m expecting a disastrous stretch over the next month; ultimately leading to a quiet exit in March. It’s unfortunate, but this has become Duke’s trademark over the last few seasons.