Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:43 AM
Trust us ...By the end of this weekend we'll already be quite tired of hearing about Sochi, and security and these Winter Olympics.
What you really want to do on this February weekend is concentrate on the college kids:
There's a slew of monster games on the weekend docket - in yesterday's Jim Sez we offered up game previews of #10 Michigan at #17 Iowa along with West Virginia at #8 Kansas but keep in mind there's other great games on the Saturday sked including the likes of #7 Cincinnati - fresh off that gallant 63-58 win against Connecticut - at SMU, #4 Wichita State at Northern Iowa and #23 Gonzaga at #24 Memphis.
Who needs to watch hour-after-hour of "downhill slaloms" from Russia when you can feast your orbs on a couple of dozen TV tilts in the world of college hard-court action? We'll get to a couple of Sunday game previews in just a few moments but let's go 'round the College Basketball landscape and touch on some hot topics ...
Shhh, let's keep it quiet but did you know the #13 Saint Louis Billikens entered this weekend with a perfect 8-and-oh mark in Atlantic-10 play?
Saint Louis (21-2) is fresh off its school-record 15th straight win as Jim Crews' club buried St. Joseph's 65-49 this past Wednesday night - now the club heads into Saturday's game at LaSalle knowing it topped the 14-game winning streaks of the 1958-59 and 1993-94 seasons.
And Saint Looie is doing it with "D" - again - and some spirited play from a nine-deep team "starring" F Rob Loe who poured in 17 points against the St. Joe's Hawks.
If you didn't know any better you might think VCU (19-4, 7-1) is leading the charge in the better-than-you-think Atlantic-10 Conference but that's not the case and did you know the last time Saint Louis lost was way back on December 1st - against still-unbeaten Wichita State.
Hey, the moral of our little Jim Sez story here is while folks poke all around to find out what non-power conference teams out there could be making a major run at this year's Final Four, y'all better not look past this Saint Louis squad that ranks 7th nationally in scoring defense (58.6 ppg) - circle the dates as Saint Louis bucks heads with VCU twice in the coming weeks (Feb. 15th in St. Lou and March 1st at VCU). Maybe there will be a Final Four in Saint Louis' very immediate future ...
Want to know what major power conference has been a major disappointment so far this 2013-14 season? The SEC.
Okay, we know that mighty Florida is sittin' pretty ranked #3 in the land but you have to go all the way to Kentucky at #18 to find the next-best SEC squad and that's it in terms of Associated Press Top 25 teams at the current moment.
Fact of the matter is aside from Florida and Kentucky, not quite sure any of the remaining NCAA Tournament-bound - whoever they may be - still be sticking around past the opening round as are you really impressed by Ole Miss (15-7, 6-3) or that logjam of 5-4 teams in SEC play including LSU, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Georgia?
Hmm, didn't think you were!
Now maybe the month of February will be a tell-tale time for a batch of these Southeastern Conference clubs - maybe a Tennessee or a Missouri (16-6, 4-5) will get on a little roll ... we'll see.
All we know is when ranking the top leagues in the land right now we'd be prone to put five or six conferences ahead of the SEC who have a mediocre middle-of-the-pack look right now with a bunch of teams that can't/won't win on the road.
Hey, between you and us right now we'd have only four SEC teams make it to the "Big Dance" as we'd go Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss and whomever comes out best from that aforementioned middle-of-the-pack scrum - but that's it for now! ...
Okay, so we're beginning the second week in February and the following teams are still looking for their first league win of the year:
- George Mason (0-8 in the Atlantic-10) - How the mighty have fallen and note the Patriots have not won a game since January 2nd when they downed Penn ... whoopee! Year One in this new conference has been a major bummer for the team that once-upon-a-time stole America's hearts.
- Southern Utah (0-10 in the Big Sky) - Know this about the 1-and-18 Thunderbirds: They average 56.3 points a game to rank an ungodly 163rd nationally in scoring. 'Nuff said!
- San Jose State (0-10 in the Mountain West) - Things are going from bad to worse for the Spartans who have lost their last four games by 21-or-more points. Maybe Saturday's trip into Fresno State won't be so bad (but don't count on it!).
- Illinois-Chicago (0-10 in the Horizon League) - One thing you ought to know about the 5-and-19 Flames is they rank 114th in scoring and 119th in scoring defense on a national level.
- UNC-Wilmington (0-9 in the Colonial) - These Seahawks ain't like the football guys who just copped Super Bowl 48 as UNCW has not won a game since December. C;mon man!
- TCU (0-9 in the Big 12) - The Horned Frogs just can't put the ball in the ocean as TCU's 65 ppg average is dead-last in a league where everybody likes to get out and go.
Okay, so we know here at Jim Sez we told you all not to fret "March Madness" till it gets here, right? Well, so call us phony baloneys but we've come up with what we believe - right here and right now - would be #1-thru-#4 seeds in each bracket and go ahead and see what you think. If the season ended today, this is how our top 16 seeds would look like: Here's the brackets:
- Wichita State
- San Diego State
- Iowa State
- Michigan State
- Oklahoma State
Right now on the "outside looking in" at a #1-thru-#4 seed would be Texas, Saint Louis and Virginia. Stay tuned.
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Now, here's a pair of key Sunday games ...
#9 MICHIGAN STATE (20-3, 9-1 Big 10) at WISCONSIN (18-5, 5-5 Big 10) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Hope the Michigan State Spartans have paid up their health care coverage this year! Just when C Adreian Payne made his return to Sparty's lineup in Thursday's 82-67 win/cover against 14-point underdog Penn State, there was no sign of star PG Keith Appling who missed that Big 10 tilt with a wrist injury - and so it goes for Tom Izzo's crew that isn't expected to have Appling on board here.
Hey, the Spartans won't be getting any sympathy cards from the Wisky Badgers who stagger into this game having lost five of their last seven tilts although Bo Ryan's club did get back on the right track with a 75-63 triumph over 4-point home dog Illinois this past Tuesday night.
The Badgers - sparked by 16-point showings from both Sam Dekker and Ben Brust - really thrived from beyond the three-point arc where Wisconsin canned 10-of-23 triple tries and now we'll see whether or not State allows 'em to get spot-up looks at the hoop from deep ... something tells us Wisconsin's gonna have to go inside more for its production and so keep a close eye here on Payne's foul situation for M-State and whether Wisky can get paint points here.
CLEMSON (15-6, 6-3 ACC) at #1 SYRACUSE (22-0, 9-0 ACC) - 6 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Okay, so the "buildup" to this Atlantic Coast Conference game in upstate New York is hardly gonna match the hype from last weekend's major domo showdown when the 'Cuse scored a thrilling 91-89 non-cover win in overtime versus Duke - still, Jim Boeheim's club has plenty to play for here besides the #1 ranking and an undefeated season.
The Orange knows the schedule gets testier in the days/weeks ahead - Syracuse is at #25 Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and don't forget that Duke rematch come Feb. 22nd -- and so the focus must stay on the here-and-now for this team that's only allowing 59.1 points a game to rank eighth nationally in scoring defense - who said that zones are built for "cowards"?
If Syracuse here can get Clemson backed onto the perimeter than it's a win for the Orange - note Clemson's best three-point scorer is K.J. McDaniels and he's made good on only 25-of-79 trifectas or 31.6 percent of his triple tries - yuck!
On the flip side, the Orange may be a team that loves to get up and down the floor but right now fiery G Trevor Cooney is the unmistakable star of this show having drained 68-of-156 treys for a super 43.6 accuracy rate. Cooney often energizes this 'Cuse attack with a bomb from one corner or the other or maybe out on the wing but here look for the likes of lefty C.J. Fair (a team-leading 16.7 ppg to Cooney's 14.1 ppg average) to try and dissect Clemson in the paint where the Tigers like to play muscle ball with many of its foes.
If Fair gets off 15-to-20 FG attempts here and Cooney drops in a half-dozen triples, than the Orange should cruise to yet another twin-figure victory.
In case you hadn't noticed, Syracuse has beaten 14 of its 22 foes by 10-or-more points ... just sayin'.
Are the Orange an unbeatable this year? We won't say that but it looks like most teams will have to play a near-perfect game to beat Boeheim's bunch - something Duke nearly did a week ago in what was and probably will be the "game of the year" in the college hoops world.NOTE: Get all caught up with the weekend wrap-ups plus Monday/Tuesday previews in the very next edition of Jim Sez.