Posted on: January 26, 2012 11:30 am
Edited on: January 26, 2012 11:40 am
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Posted on: January 26, 2012 11:08 am

Alabama needs to take advantage of easy schedule

By Jeff Borzello

Back in late November and early December, everyone was on the Alabama bandwagon. People were talking about the Crimson Tide as a team that could give Kentucky some trouble in the SEC and potentially make a run in March.

Fast forward to late January, and it’s not even clear that Anthony Grant’s group is bound for the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday night’s loss at South Carolina was Alabama’s fourth in a row, dropping the Tide to 2-4 in the SEC and just 13-7 overall. The previous three losses in conference play – Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – were excusable, but the Gamecocks were winless in league play before Alabama came to town. It’s also going to go down as a very bad loss for ‘Bama’s at-large resume, with a sub-150 RPI giving the profile a black eye.

The positives on Alabama’s resume include a win over Wichita State in Puerto Rico, and well, little else. The Tide also knocked off Maryland and Purdue in November, and defeated VCU in late November. That’s pretty much it. The best win since November 27 (VCU) was a home victory over LSU.

Going forward, Alabama has a very easy schedule, which could be a blessing and a curse. If the Tide run off a string of wins – which is very possible with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn and LSU coming up – then we’ll forget this conversation ever happened. But a couple of stumbles along the way, and Alabama could be in need of a marquee win. Where can that come from? The only chances remaining are at home against Florida and home against Mississippi State.

If Alabama is truly an NCAA tournament team, it will go 8-2 or so down the stretch. In that instance, the Crimson Tide will be worried about seeding, not inclusion.

However, if Alabama is truly an NCAA tournament team, it probably wouldn’t have lost to South Carolina.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 25, 2012 5:15 pm

The season so far: not what we'd hoped for

North Carolina isn't leading the charge in the ACC. They trail N.C. State currently. Anyone see that coming? (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander

This is not the superb year of college basketball that we expected.

In some ways I’m getting ahead of myself, because so much of every year is judged by its climax, so without the benefit of knowing what March and the first Monday of April will bring, we can’t say how, as a whole, the 2011-12 season will be perceived. So far it’s been something of a let-down. It’s my fault. It’s the fault of any fan or writer who got romantic over the notion this season could vault itself back to the halcyon ‘80s or mid-‘90s, before the NBA pilfered the premier talent as soon as possible.

We still have most of the same teams at the top of the polls now as were there in November, but the action hasn’t been as good, the sport hasn’t been in the conversation as much as expected — thanks for buckling to the owners’ demands, NBA players — and UNC, Duke, Ohio State, UConn and Baylor have all suffered some swoons. It’s not been a bad season by any stretch, but college basketball, for about the 12th straight year, has failed to create morning-after discussion that enraptures the country. Ironically, or perhaps the very reason why we’re not so enamored with the sport, is the result of most conference races being in flux — more than usual.

Outside of Kentucky in the SEC and maybe Syracuse in the Big East, we lack semblance of what to expect and certainly don't have teams gripping their leagues by the throat. Bad news. The last thing college basketball needs is parity. Tight league races bring great anticipation but just as many questions. Unfortunately, the races aren’t close at the top because so many teams are good; instead, too many squads have proven they know how many ways in which to lose. We’ve got highly ranked teams failing to play bully, so that prevents the mainstream from latching on to a subset of top-level squads who fail transcend the games they play.

Look at the hideous Pac-12, which causes a gag reflex upon any discussion. Cal, Oregon, Washington and Colorado all have two losses. Collectively, it’s among the weakest years for major conferences in the modern era. That’s due in large part to this league. The Pac-12 is on a collision course of playing itself into only one bid, which would be unprecedented and certainly make commissioner Larry Scott consider kicking an Arizona State out of the conference in favor of a group that will actually accomplish something. Perhaps Ron Swanson’s youth team would be willing to make the commitment. Nobody wants to take charge at the kiddie table?

Ohio State should win the Big Ten, but how convinced are you that it will? (US PRESSWIRE)
The Big Ten is the best conference in the country, right? Then why doesn’t it feel elite? It doesn’t ring proudly and dominantly like the Big East has been in recent years. Yet Ohio State, its flagship team this season, is log-jammed with Michigan and Michigan State (all with two losses). Wisconsin and Illinois (a team some believe won’t make the NCAAs) are one game behind in the loss column. Indiana, that great rebirth this season, is just 4-4 in the Big Ten, sharing as many losses as Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue.

The ACC’s got a three-way tie you didn’t expect at all, one that doesn’t include North Carolina, who should ultimately win the league … but who knows. Duke, Florida State and N.C. State are all 4-1 at the moment. Right now, there’s only a two-game difference in the loss column from the top to the 10th team in the standings, 2-3 Boston College.

The Big East is just as clogged from 1 (Syracuse) to 9 (Notre Dame, which ended SU’s undefeated season Saturday), separated by two losses. Below SU in the Big East is a 10-car pileup that won’t be sorted out for weeks. We’re not used to seeing this league be so confused over parity or genuine top-level competition. Thank God the Orange pulled out a nice win at Cincinnati Monday night, lest this column really have a hammer to beat its point into the ground. Even though the Orange is the favorite, there have been questions about how good the team actually is. The fact some don’t think Syracuse looks like a true one seed right now tells you what you need to know about the sport.

Kentucky and Kansas are the only major-conference teams without a blemish at this point. Almost everyone expects Kentucky to win its league. Kansas? Hey, they’ve looked great, but road games at Iowa State, Missouri and Baylor are still upcoming. The Bears, Tigers and Jayhawks are likely to push each other down the track to the final weekend of regular-season play — and then you can expect a different winner from the regular-season champ when the Big 12 tourney finishes. Just feels like one of those years.

The Atlantic 10’s as much of a mess as any league; 12 of the 14 teams are separated by two games. Conference USA is once again a level below, and it’s reinforced by not having Memphis there to prop the league up and offer a team that’s even Sweet 16-worthy. Central Florida, Memphis, Tulsa, Southern Miss and Marshall. Those are five teams who could win C-USA. Another Magic 8-Ball shake of a conference race. This is all exciting to some degree, but when will we see true separation? Without those tiers of teams, upsets in March don’t feel as shocking and the sport in general feels watered down.

When our expectations get altered, and when there are fewer great teams, there is no oomph. College basketball needs four or five really good, really interesting teams to be truly relevant prior to Valentine’s Day. It hasn’t had that so far, and so this year is now beginning to look like most others from the recent past. Get us to March as soon as possible so we can see what this season really has to offer. Just because most conference races are close doesn’t mean they’re interesting, at least not yet.

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: January 25, 2012 11:18 am

Podcast: Happy birthday, Gary Parrish

By Matt Norlander

No primping needed. This is our longest and certainly one of our top-five podcasts yet. My timeline rundown doesn't do it justice.

What's when:
  • From the beginning: Goodman also explains which college coach is close to Bill Belichick. You'll never guess it. This quickly gets into some casual banter about the best and worst coaches when it comes to soundbites.
  • 9:07: Purdue. You know they haven't had a season where they've failed to win five in a row since Matt Painter's first year, '05-'06 season. The Boilers now likely won't do that this year -- will they miss the tournament this year like they did in '06?
  • 14:21: Goodman doubts UNC more without Dexter Strickland. Parrish does not.
  • 17:36: Duke's student section isn't selling out and now everyone is laughing at the Cameron Lazies.
  • 19:40: Why isn't college basketball as interesting this year as we thought it would be?
  • 23:28: Addressing a team I've continually been down on -- Florida.
  • 26:32: The BracketBusters talk is surprisingly really good. Just listen. Goodman goes off on this plan of his that's filled with issues. Hilarious.
  • 30:30: San Diego State is 18-2. They get their due here. I then lose it. Just lose it.
  • 33:29: Tuesday was Gary's birthday. The final 10 minutes are filled with banter, Parrish's birthday philosophies, his need for medication, weekend plans, how I can't make it on the streets, etc.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast--whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 11:01 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 12:22 pm

Nike sterilizes college hoops with platinum unis

None of these people currently play college basketball. (Nike)
By Matt Norlander

Syracuse fans' worst nightmares have come true. The team will wear gray uniforms. That's the color of the enemy, Georgetown.

It's not just Syracuse, though. Many teams will be wearing gray -- oh, sorry, PLATINUM -- at some point this season. Nike teamed up with a bunch of universities, primarily because Nike has lot of employees with a lot of time on their hands and is obsessed with this gray/platinum trend way more than it should be. Because of this, nine teams will don these generic, already-out-of-vogue uniforms.

Other schools duped into the marketing ploy include Arizona, UConnDuke, Florida, Kentucky, both the men's and women's North Carolina teams and the Baylor women's hoops squad. Here's the thing -- they're not even that ugly. It'd be one thing if these threads were Oregon's court reincarnated, but they're just ... boring-looking, nondescript from the past half-decade of altering team jerseys up and down the grayscale.


The relief comes from the fact these things will not affect player performance. Because players don't much care what they wear, or at least they don't let the colors they don alter their game. As long as fans can restrain themselves from vomiting onto the floor, we should all survive this. Look good, feel good; feel good, play good and all that, but these just look like uniforms that take away from the spirit of the team. They're not playing for Syracuse or UNC or Arizona anymore. They're playing for Nike. Aren't we all. Them or Apple.

There is good news. First of all, the uniforms are apparently great for the environment, having been made up of mostly recycled polyester material, as well as most of Jim Boeheim's old, sweaty dress shirts.

Secondarily, the teams won't be wearing them on the regular. Syracuse will place them on their backs for the most meaningless game of their season: the Feb. 22 home game against South Florida. Kentucky, so fa as we know, is only throwing on the throwfronts for the Jan. 31 game against Tennessee. UConn will give these things a go this Sunday, against Notre Dame.

They'll come and go until the next uniform trend arrives. And when that happens, let's abide by dominant team colors.

(Via Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
Posted on: January 25, 2012 8:54 am

Wakeup Call: 66 days to the Final Four

The NFL denied Harrison's appeal of his one-game suspension. (via Greg Shaheen's Twitter account)

By Matt Norlander

Mayor says me "might have tacos" for dinner in support of Latinos. // Players' social-media activity is being tracked. // In the history of American economy, no company made more money in one quarter than Apple did in the wake of Steve Jobs' death. // Arresting images of homeless people. // Where morality flows in your brain ...

★ I try to read everything you see in the Wakeup Call before I link it. I've not yet gotten to Pablo Torre's Herb Pope piece, but I know it's going to be good.

★ The details of San Diego State's hellish trip to Laramie, Wyo., are a headache and a half.

★ Loving your Bottom 10, Eamonn.

★ This Gary Williams tribute on the side of the Comcast Center needs to never get turned off during the night.

★ Goodman's Tuesday catch-all column is mandatory weekly reading, folks.

★ I read the entirety of this blog post on the value of "air" with that awful Chris Brown/Jordin Sparks song in my head the whole time. And it's still on repeat. Blast you, Pomeroy.

★ Brutally honest headline from The Onion. It hurts -- but it's true!

★ When you're Kentucky hoops and you're not slaying pawns nightly, people will being to write things like this. The expectations are that high.

★ An upstart blog called Gotham Hoops passed along a post about Javon McCrea, so I'm happy to oblige them with a link this morning. McCrea's maybe the best mid-major player you know nothing about.

★ The quality work keeps coming from Rob Dauster as he and Troy Machir trek the nation on their #BIAHRoadTrip.

★ Missed this Monday -- Jereme Richmond, the Illinois miscreant, got 18 months' probation.

★ Wyoming boy can fly!

★ I did some legwork on my Gregg Marshall feature from yesterday, so allow me to get incest-like with the linkage here.

► Hey, look, it's UConn assistant Kevin Ollie in a local car commercial.

♬ Do you kind of like Coldplay more than you want to admit but wish there was a similar-sounding band out there five times as good? Elbow is that band.

Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:09 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 12:10 am

Night Court: SDSU overcomes travel woes for win

Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Tuesday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: Michigan overcame a subpar performance from star freshman Trey Burke to hold off Purdue on the road, 66-64. The Wolverines were up by as many as 10 in the second half, and held Purdue without a field goal for the final 3:54 of the game. However, the win wasn’t secure until Lewis Jackson missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds. Burke was only 3-for-10 from the field, but Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way with 19 points.

Win to brag about: Everything was going against San Diego State heading into Tuesday’s game against Wyoming. The Aztecs arrived in Laramie only hours before the game due to travel problems and it was the Cowboys’ biggest home contest in years. Of course, San Diego State went out and won its 11th in a row, 52-42, starting the second half on a 16-4 run. Wyoming shot just 31 percent from the field, and San Diego shot 51 percent against one of the better defensive teams in the country.

Loss to hide from: Norfolk State has been rolling through the MEAC, led by Kyle O’Quinn. The Spartans had a chance to show they could beat teams from outside their league on Tuesday night, but stumbled at home against Morehead State, 75-69. They let Morehead shoot 54 percent from the field and 61 percent from 3-point range. 

Player who deserves improper benefits: Baylor’s Perry Jones struggled against the cream of the Big 12 crop last week, but bounced back on the road against Oklahoma. He shot 9-for-15 from the field, going for 21 points and 12 rebounds in the 77-65 victory. Now, if Jones could do that against the top teams in the conference, there will no longer be doubts about his killer instinct.

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: If Tennessee had any chance of knocking off Vanderbilt, the Volunteers needed big performances from Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes. Both struggled in the 65-47 blowout loss to the Commodores. Golden went 2-for-11 from the field, finishing with four points, while Stokes attempted just five shots and finished with six points and seven turnovers. 

Numbers don’t lie:

Three other notable results:

  1. Texas overcame 15 points and 15 rebounds from Iowa State’s Royce White, beating the Cyclones, 62-55.
  2. Kentucky got 19 points off the bench from Darius Miller in its 57-44 win at Georgia.
  3. Marquette dominated South Florida in a battle of 5-2 Big East teams, forcing 20 turnovers and winning 67-47.


Photo: AP

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:06 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 12:05 pm

Tuesday poll time!

By Matt Norlander

We want to know which teams you like this week, and by which sort of margin. Best of all? We're working in concert with Seth Davis and his TV show, so these results will get shared each Wednesday on "Courtside with Seth Davis" on the CBS Sports Network. It airs at 7 p.m. ET.

What are you thinking about these games? ANSWER ME.

Want more of us? Or more interaction with hoops fans? We suggest you like the Eye On College Basketball Facebook page. And if that's not enough, CBSSports.com has your roundball fix tended to thanks to our daily newsletter.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com