Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9:35 AM
Today is Thursday, February 9th and this is what Jim Hurley's really thinking about ...
Folks, we just come off an NFL season in which the best team in the course of the regular season - that would be the 15-1 Green Bay Packers - was nowhere to be seen on Super Bowl Sunday but where the hottest side around (despite a rather pedestrian 9-7 regular-season record) won it all as the New York Giants figured out the formula for ultimate success for the second time in the past four years.
Okay, so we've gotten up on our proverbial soap box a couple of times in recent weeks right here in this Jim Sez column space to express out dissatisfaction with how things have gone in major sports these days - whether it's the NFL, Major-League Baseball or the NBA, the fact of the matter is the body of work of one's regular season doesn't seem to matter much come playoff time as evidenced by the Giants rolling through the post-season and let's not forget MLB's St. Louis Cardinals who hardly were the best team last year but got hot-hot-hot at precisely the right time.
Now we're wondering aloud - is that's what is gonna happen in the world of NCAA Basketball this year?
Hey, just about any real hard-core hoops fan would sign up today for a possible Final Four that would somehow match up Kentucky, Syracuse, Ohio State and Missouri in some form or fashion against one another (note they are the number 1-through-4 teams in the land right now according to the current Associated Press Top 25 poll) but we'd bet our last dollar that at least two of these four teams will get "picked off" even before we get to the Final Four in New Orleans?
Sure, the College Basketball world has plenty of top-flight teams out there and so there is a degree of parity (although nothing like the NFL where we are convinced there are some 8-to-10 teams almost dead-even save for the bounce of the ball here or a penalty flag there) but something simply doesn't sit well with us when/if a Kentucky team currently sitting there at 23-1 overall and #1 for a major chunk of the 2011-12 season simply picks the wrong day in the NCAA Tourney to fall flat on its face.
Yes, we all love the NCAA Tournament's one-and-done feature and love the fact there are giant-killers out there every day but did you think last year's Final Four was a blockbuster when it included the head-to-head matchup between Virginia Commonwealth versus Butler (and than Connecticut versus Kentucky)?
Now how are the Dick Vitales and Jay Bilas' of the world gonna convince smart sports fans that an early February tilt is a "must-win game" when we all know better, right?
And now hear this: The Football Season may be over but Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you wall-to-wall College Basketball and NBA Winners each and every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Note that the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays.
Okay, so now that we've opened up Pandora's Box, how about our views on who might be this year's surprise teams to march all the way to "The Big Easy" come March 31st with the national championship game slated for Monday, April 2nd? Here's a trio of teams that are worth watching out for in "March Madness":
MARQUETTE (19-5) - Okay, so this Big East crew hardly fits any Cinderella-type bill here (they are running second in the league at press time) but nobody ever brings up these Golden Eagles despite the fact they currently sit at #18 in this week's AP poll and count us among the folks who believe that fiery head coach Buzz Williams is one of the top 10 game coaches in the land. Maybe Marquette won't even get to the Big East Tournament semifinals this year - that's okay - but this versatile team with lots of interchangeable parts at guard/forward could be in for a big-time run next month and so don't be surprised by a possible long-term presence in the NCAA Tourney.
NEW MEXICO (19-4) - We know, we know. The Mountain West Conference doesn't exactly have a winning rep come NCAA Tourney time but something tells us that these Lobos could be "live" right into Final Four action as long as fifth-year head coach Steve Alford gets his guys to share the ball. New Mexico currently ranks eighth in the nation with 17.1 assists per game and that's the secret to success for Alford and Company here: Move the ball quickly and get as many in-close open shots as possible and maybe Los Lobos can be "this year's" Butler.
DREXEL (19-5) - Could it be that the still-underrated Colonial Athletic Conference has a team not named VCU that could survive-and-advance through four rounds of NCAA Tournament play? Well, don't look now but Bruiser Flint's Dragons could be a major sleeper providing they first get into "The Big Dance" as who in Philly can forget the fact that last year's team won 21 teams and was snubbed from post-season play altogether? Drexel may not be a pretty offensive team - heck, they currently rank 269th nationally while averaging just 63.6 points a game - but it entered last night's game at James Madison having won its last 11 consecutive games and note that included eight games by 8-or-more points and so you could say the Dragons are playing their best ball of the year right now. Now if Drexel can be playing their best ball a month from now, recent sports championships show that's more important than if you're 31-2 or something like that.