Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 5:09 PM
IS #1 KENTUCKY SIMPLY FEASTING OFF A SUB-PAR SEC? PLUS THURSDAY NITE'S TOP TILTS
AND THERE'S MORE NFL POST-SUPER BOWL NEWS & NOTES
It's hard to ignore all the talk about the Kentucky Wildcats and whether or not John Calipari's club is gonna finish this here-and-now 2014-15 season without a single loss.
Kentucky (22-0, 9-0 in SEC play) notched its latest league win on Tuesday night with a 69-58 non-cover triumph over 18-point road underdog Georgia and - in case you have not been keeping track - the Wildcats now have beaten six fellow SEC teams by twin-figure margins this year including an 86-37 thumping of Missouri back on January 13 and a 70-48 win at Alabama on January 17.
But the question begging to be asked at this stage of the college hoops season is this ...Is Kentucky merely chewing up and spitting out a bunch of teams in what's become a below-average hoops conference?
Consider that Kentucky's current RPI is #2 in the country - the next-highest RPI for a Southeastern Conference team is Arkansas at #23, then there's aforementioned Georgia at #27, Texas A&M at #31 and LSU at #39.
Forgive us for raining on those team's collective parades, but we simply don't see Arkansas or Georgia or Texas A&M or LSU as teams that would make it past the first full weekend of the NCAA Tournament and there's no question that recent SEC powerhouses such as Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Missouri are down, down, down this year whether it's because these clubs are in the midst of a rebuilding project (see frosh-heavy Vandy) or because many of the best basketball players in the land have steered away from the SEC the past couple of years knowing full well that Kentucky has a stranglehold on the league's top spot.
In any event, if Kentucky was to run the table and make it to this year's NCAA Tournament without a loss - that would put the 'Cats at 34-and-oh before the "Big Dance" even got underway - you'd have to applaud that mark but might you also make the argument that Calipari's kids are not exactly getting challenged night-in and night-out as is the case in the mighty ACC where we could nominate six different teams right now to contend for berths in the Final Four (see Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina, Syracuse and Duke - in no particular order).
And wouldn't it be great theatre if Kentucky had to beat two or three of these elite ACC teams along the way to capture this year's national championship? Okay, okay, so we're getting way ahead of ourselves here but - then again - who's really getting excited by watching Kentucky smear a boatload of so-so SEC teams this season?
Hey, one quickie note from Tuesday's win against the Dawgs: Kentucky G Andrew Harrison poured in a career-best 23 points on 8-of-16 FG shooting plus he dished out 7 assists to boot and maybe - just maybe - this Harrison twin is finally heeding Calipari's call to be "more aggressive" and to "attack" at every turn.
P.S., if you're puzzled as to who's #1 in the current RPI above #2 Kentucky ... it's Kansas (19-3, 8-1 Big 12) who was crushed by the 'Cats 72-40 back on November 19th in Indianapolis when the Jayhawks shot 11-of-56 from the floor (that's 19.6 percent).
THURSDAY'S TOP COLLEGE GAMES
Let's check out the two games headlined by ranked teams ...
CINCINNATI (15-6, 6-3 American) at #23 SMU (18-4, 9-1 American) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
The SMU Mustangs roar into this nationally televised tilt on a tied-for-season-best eight-game winning streak ... the last time the Ponies lost? Hmm, that was back on January 3rd - a painful 56-50 setback at Cincinnati when the Bearcats overcame a 22-19 halftime deficit - and that happened to snap the other eight-game win streak by this year's SMU crew.
Larry Brown's club not only has revenge here for this American Athletic Conference battle but he's also hoping to have the whistles go in his team's favor ... did you realize that SMU attempted only nine free throws (and made just five) in that matchup back in Cincy while the 'Cats connected on 12-of-15 charity tosses?
Superb SMU guard Nic Moore - who averages 14.5 points per game - leads four players averaging double-digit scoring amounts on this ranked team but here's two key stats when it comes to Brown's best player: Moore has drained 60-of-68 FTs so far (that's 88.2 percent) and he's connected on 50-of-111 triple tries (that's 45 percent) - wow!
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits all this week/month with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - so go ahead and pound the books today!
#2 GONZAGA (22-1, 10-0 WCC) at SANTA CLARA (11-12, 5-6 WCC) - 11 p.m. ET, espn2
Okay, so if we're gonna take a not-so-veiled shot at #1 Kentucky for playing in an "average league" than what might we have for #2 Gonzaga? After all, Mark Few's team is playing in a wobbly West Coast Conference that may well be a one-bid league this year - but the 'Zags do get high marks for playing "name" out-of-conference clubs such as SMU, Georgia, St. John's, Arizona and UCLA so cut the kids from Spokane some slack, will 'ya?
Gonzaga is looking for the clean regular-season sweep here against Santa Clara after the Bulldogs topped the 24 ½-point underdog Broncos 79-57 back on January 10. Center Przemek Karnowski was a stat-sheet stuffer in that non-cover win against Santa Clara with 18 points and 9 rebounds and no doubt the strategy here will be to force-feed the seven-footer who shows uncanny patience once he gets his hands on the ball - the Broncos are a smallish team that figures to be in a pick-your-poison mode because Gonzaga's 6-foot-10 F Kyle Wiltjer scored 16 points on 6-of-12 FG shooting in that last tilt. And may we remind you that Gonzaga F Domantas Sabonis - the son of former NBAer Arvydis Sabonis - currently leads the nation in FG percent shooting at 71.8 while averaging 10.1 ppg.
NFL NEWS & NOTES
Okay, so he isn't the first and won't be the last person to grab a high-profile job in the NFL right after a career low point but the Atlanta Falcons' head-coaching hire of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn sure was awkward less than 48 hours after his pride-and-joy defense surrendered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives in that now-infamous 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX loss to the New England Patriots.
Quinn - who was signed/sealed/delivered as the newest Falcons' head coach long before SB 49 took place last Sunday - could stand up there and answer all the questions posed by Atlanta-area journalists but how come he couldn't answer as to why his "Legion of Doom" defense couldn't get a handle on Patriots' QB Tom Brady who drove New England 60-plus yards in back-to-back fourth-quarter possessions?
Hey, don't you feel a bit as if Quinn got "off the hook" here because of that ill-fated decision to pass the ball on second-and-goal with 26 seconds left? When you really sort through the rubble of that game, Quinn should've taken a lot more post-game blame but somehow avoided it ... how come? ...
Meanwhile, don't expect anything severe to come from the recent Deflate Gate charges against Brady, Bill Belichick and the whole New England organization - now that the Pats have won their fourth Super Bowl title in the past 14 years, you can expect Commish Roger Goodell to sweep the whole deflated football story under one of his expensive Park Avenue rugs. Hey, it might have been a real bad year for the likes of NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson but nobody had a worse year than Goodell who didn't even have the decency to be interviewed by NBC's Bob Costas on Super Sunday - what a loser!
Is there any truth to the recent rumor that says the Cleveland Browns will look to trade up in May's NFL Draft for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota? What, are the Browns suddenly collecting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks? Okay, so it appears that the short stay of Johnny Manziel could be even shorter than one would imagine - the Browns will indeed do everything in their power to ship the now-rehabbing Manziel out of town and so how about this possibility: Cleveland sends Manziel and its two first-round picks - that's #12 and #19 - to Tampa Bay for the first overall pick and a later-round Bucs' draft choice.
How does that one sound? ...
Finally, as long as we're talking draft here, don't dismiss the very real possibility that the #3 and #4 picks could be dealt to QB-needy teams should either Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston somehow drop from the top two picks. Jacksonville at #3 has QB Blake Bortles and #4 pick Oakland is wed to QB Derek Carr - keep an eye on Philadelphia and Houston to be super-aggressive in attempting to trade up should one of these quarterbacks become available.
If you had to pin us down for an answer right now on who will be the top five draft picks this year, then this is (subject to change, of course) who we see in the top five:
1 - Tampa Bay - Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
2 - Tennessee - Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3 - Jacksonville - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
4 - Oakland - Leonard Williams, DT, USC
5 - Washington - Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
NOTE: Stay in touch with all the College Basketball News/Notes right here in the next Jim Sez.