Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 5:51 PM
Hey, is anyone safe from the upset bug that's going on out there in College Basketball land?
In just the past week-plus we've seen the likes of #1 Duke and #5 Louisville (twice!) go down to defeat and you are really/truly beginning to get the sense that without a dominant team(s) out there this upcoming version of "March Madness" could be a wide-open and wild three-week affair ... don't 'ya think?
All the more reason - if you ask us - to consider a lying-in-the-weeds team to win it all like #9 Butler or perhaps #18 N.C. State.
Duke's 90-63 loss at Miami this past Wednesday night could be seen as major trouble on the horizon for a Blue Devils bunch that isn't particularly deep - but than what else is new? - and may be lacking some of the strong mental traits that made up past Duke editions.
Meanwhile, aforementioned Louisville lost its way in recent days with the U of L Cardinals really confounding head coach Rick Pitino following the monstrous upset loss at 11 ½-point home dog Villanova this past Tuesday night - and that came after last weekend's 70-68 home loss against 7-point dog Syracuse.
No doubt that was about as angry as we've seen Pitino as his post-game press conference was dripping with venom - and much of it directed at his veteran team that seemingly didn't do a very good job in running their set plays late.
So, as we head into this final weekend in January - one that's devoid of any "meaningful" football games - we point our attention to the college round-ball kids and wonder what elite teams could be in trouble here ...
Let's zip 'round the land and see what we've got:
#3 SYRACUSE (18-1, 6-0 Big East) - The good news for the Orange is that it has won eight in a row while heading into Saturday's noon time ET tilt at Villanova. The bad news is Jim Boeheim's squad already has lost to one Philadelphia-based school this 2012-13 campaign (see Temple 83, 'Cuse 79 back on December 22nd) and now have to play a back-to-backer in the Keystone State with surging Pittsburgh on deck coming next Saturday.
No doubt the Orange - averaging a Big East-best 77.4 points per game this season - figure to miss suspended shooter James Southerland before too very long and note how each of Syracuse's last two wins came by a mere two points (that's 57-55 over Cincinnati and the 70-68 triumph against Louisville) and so the margin for error is painfully thin for the upstate New York crew at this moment.
P.S., guard Michael Carter-Williams (16 points and 7 assists in that win against Cincy last Monday afternoon) is truly evolving into a prime-time player as his three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:20 remaining was the game's biggest play against the UC Bearcats but can he be counted on for a 20-plus point game here against a 'Nova team that's feeling very good after that "W" against the 'Ville? Do stay tuned!
#7 INDIANA (17-2, 5-1 Big 10) - Once upon a time, the Hoosiers were sittin' pretty with the #1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll but a two-point loss to Butler (December 15th) and a 5-point league loss to Wisconsin (January 15th) have dropped Tom Crean's club down to the seventh slot in this week's poll and Indiana could slide more if it's not careful this Sunday when hosting Michigan State.
In case Indiana thought everything was A-OK following that mid-month loss to the Badgers, along came the 72-49 non-cover win against 24-point pup Penn State this past Wednesday night when - alarmingly - seven-footer Cody Zeller didn't register a single field goal (he was 0-for-4 from the floor) en route to a 2-point/21-minute performance.
Zeller's career-low scoring total distressed Crean who afterwards claimed that, "He (Zeller) didn't really look for that many opportunities to score."
Gotta believe that will change here but Michigan State's get-in-your-grill man-to-man defense will do its very best to bother Zeller who will have some heavy-duty weights on his shoulders here.
If Indiana hopes to avoid its third loss of the season than it will behoove 'em to shoot it better from the charity stripe:
Did you realize that the Hoosiers canned just 21-of-37 free throws (that's less than 57 percent) in that game against Penn State? Yuck!
Here's some other College Basketball News & Notes ...
It's an ultra-important winter weekend inside the Big 12 as co-#3 Kansas (tied with Syracuse at that current AP ranking) hosts rival Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Jayhawks - 17-1 overall and 5-0 in league play - lost the second game it played this 2012-13 season and hasn't dropped one since that 67-64 setback against Michigan State way back on November 13th but should head coach Bill Self these days be expecting more punch from his three-guard offense starring Travis Releford, Ben McLemore and Elijah Johnson?
The trio did shoot a combined 12-of-23 from the floor in this past Tuesday's hang-on-for-dear-life 59-55 win at 3 ½-point underdog Kansas State but Self would like to see this triumvirate get off more shots and be more decisive on the offensive end of the court. You might see Releford/McLemore/Johnson take upwards of 40 field-goal tries in this next Big 12 tilt plus do keep an eye peeled on key Kansas reserve Perry Ellis who registered 8 points and 4 rebounds in 18 important minutes versus K-State ...
Finally, this appears to be a lost year already for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who have started off ACC play at 0-5 following Wednesday's 79-63 loss at 10 ½-point fav North Carolina. The Techsters (10-7 overall) are averaging less than 65 points a game to rank a dismal 119th nationally and against a Tar Heels team that isn't exactly known for their "D" there was GT shooting 27-of-75 from the floor (36 percent). Maybe Georgia Tech can finally taste an ACC win this Saturday against Wake Forest - but better not "count your chickens" just yet with this woeful offense.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be there to bang out the Super Bowl XLVIII Side & Totals winners on game-day morning come Sunday, February 3rd plus get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day too with America's #1 Handicapper scorching-hot on the hard courts these days. So don't get bummed out by the fact we'll soon be putting this 2012 Football Season to bed -- get all the hoop winners this wintertime as the round ball fun is just heatin' up! Check in with us on Game Days either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winners and note the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
SUPER BOWL XLVII NOTEBOOK: TALKIN' KEY POST-SEASON STATS
Folks, we will have our absolute blow-out Jim Sez Super Bowl XLVII preview late next week right here in this column space but for now let's touch on some key playoff stats concerning the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers as they get set to hook up on Sunday, February 3rd at 6:30 p.m. ET ...
BALTIMORE (13-6) vs. SAN FRANCISCO (13-4-1) - Let's get right to some Key Stats this post-season:
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco enters SB 47 with 8 TDs and 0 INTs in this year's terrific post-season run and how about the fact Flacco's been sacked just four times in all in the playoff wins against Indianapolis, Denver and New England?
Plus, consider that Flacco has two pass-catchers who have nabbed double-digit grabs this post-season in glue-fingered WR Anquan Boldin (16 catches and a 17.6 ypc average) and TE Dennis Pitta (10 receptions and a 13.7 ypc average) and there's been 15 completions of 20-or-more yards during this glorious playoff run ...
On the flip side, San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick has been sacked just twice in the playoff wins against Green Bay and Atlanta and he sports a QB Rating of 105.9 this post-season - very good but not quite as good as Flacco (114.0).
Meanwhile, hate to keep beating an old drum but San Fran P Andy Lee has been fantastic during the 49ers' two playoff games with 6 total punts for an average of 47.3 yards and note three of the punts have landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. If the Niners' Pro Bowl punter - who actually has a 62-yarder this post-season - is on his game come Super Sunday, than the Flacco-led Ravens may have to navigate 80-plus yards a couple of possessions ... or else!
NOTE: More Super Bowl 47 coverage plus NCAA and NBA notes/previews too all this week right here in Jim Sez!