Griggs’s Puppet Ramblings: Dec 9th


-I believe that is clear now. We said it all through last season, we said it before the season started this year, and we’ll say it again. The teams that are typically the most overrated in the preseason polls are those that are loaded with young talent, but that lack upperclassmen leadership. Kentucky, both this year and last year, is a prime example of that. Their best win on the season so far is against Providence, who is okay, but as of now does not look like a solid tournament team. They have lost to every tournament caliber team they’ve played, and had to sweat out a home win against Cleveland State, who is not tops in the Horizon League, much less the nation.

The Wildcats have a big test this week against an unbeaten, but largely untested Boise State team. It may not sound impressive, and I’m not going to say it’s the kind of win that would shock the nation, but it would be Kentucky’s best win on the season up to this point. If Boise beats them, I think the Cats are really in trouble. Boise State is a tournament team, they’re probably a top forty team, but they’re not a top 25 team. If Kentucky can’t get that win at home, then it raises the question as to whether or not they’ll be able to get the wins they need to impress the selection committee. They failed to do that last year.



-After projecting that Colorado would be similar to last year’s Miami FL team (IE starting off unranked, but ending up as a major player on the national scene), I quickly jumped off that bandwagon after seeing their season opener against Baylor and then struggling in their first few games after that. As the season has progressed, they’ve gotten better and better and better. Their notable wins now include Harvard, @ Colorado State, and at home against Kansas. I’m impressed with how much better they look now as opposed to the beginning of the season. I do think we’ll see them in the rankings for most of the year, and that they’ll be a first ballot team in the NCAA Tournament, and make quite a bit of noise in what is shaping up to be a very strong Pac Twelve this year.



-UMass has beaten a lot of teams who’s brand names are probably more impressive than how good their actual team is. Still, to beat Boston College, LSU, Nebraska, New Mexico, Clemson and BYU all away from home (although some were closer to home than others), that’s no small feat. And, they’ve looked good doing it. New Mexico and BYU are likely solid tournament teams. LSU may be a fringe tournament team, and Clemson is….well, for now they’re 7-2. They also had a win at Eastern Michigan that they won’t get much credit for, but that was a tougher game to win than what many realized. They’re ranked in the #20s, I think they definitely belong there, and if they can hold serve in the Atlantic Ten they should have a strong profile by the end of the year. If you haven’t seen this team play yet, they are a blast to watch. They are the complete opposite of boring.



-I was wrong about the Atlantic Sun. I thought Mercer, FGCU and USC Upstate would be formidable enough to rack up some quality win and perhaps put the first place team in a position to get an at-large bid, but that’s not happening. All have been underwhelming up to this point.



-This is a team that blew out UNLV on the road in their season opener, took a very good Utah State team to the wall, played very tough in a loss at Colorado, and led UCLA for 35 minutes last week before losing. They also picked up a big win against Cal over the weekend. This is a good team. The problem is their profile won’t reflect it, at least not as much as it should. The win at UNLV seemed big at the time, but with the exception of their last game against Arizona (which they lost), UNLV last looked like an NIT team at best, so the Gauchos won’t get a lot of credit for that win. They also have a win against Cal, who I think is good, but still the win was at home, and as we all know if you want to make the NCAA Tournament, you have to pack a suitcase and win. They do travel to Utah State, but that is a very tall order. Once Big West play starts, they will not have the opportunity to impress the selection committee. The best they can hope for is to not stub their toes in conference play. The only game that they may get any credit at all for winning is their game at Hawaii. So, the question is, is a road game against an NIT team (UNLV) and a home win against Cal going to be good enough if they don’t win the conference tournament??

Of course if they beat Utah State at Utah State, that will make a world of difference.



-Other than Villanova, no one in this league has solidified themselves as a solid NCAA Tournament team. The old Big East was often criticized for loading up on cupcakes out of conference, and using those bloated records to inflate their conference RPI and individual RPIs in conference, which got them more bids. I’m not saying that they didn’t play their share of cupcakes, but the fact of the matter is that they did play showcase games as well, and won them. Of the eight teams that made the dance last year, six of them won out of conference games against tournament teams away from home. Notre Dame did not, but they did beat Baylor and Kentucky, who were at least bubble teams. It’s winning games against tournament teams that results in a high number of bids, not bloated records against cupcakes. I think this year’s Big East is going to come to a rather alarming realization when they don’t get nearly as many teams in as they were expecting.



-I’d like to offer some objective criticism here, but I can’t, so you’re just going to have to settle for criticism that is completely subjective and biased.

Also understand that when a puppet is calling you childish, then WOW!! You must REALLY be chilidish!!

-The annual BB&T Classic, which features teams from the Washington DC area, was held this past weekend. George Washington faced Maryland, and beat them at the buzzer in what was an exciting game. There was one DC area team that was conspicuously absent, and that was Georgetown. They have participated in the event before, but they’ve never played Maryland or George Washington. The reason they don’t play Maryland is because a long time ago before most of the current players were even born, they used to face each other every year and alternate sights. The two faced each other, I believe in this event (I’m not so sure though. It was over twenty years ago), and although Georgetown plays their home games there, it was still technically a neutral floor game with split tickets. Maryland wanted that to count as Georgetown’s home game, and refused to play there the following year. Georgetown felt it was a neutral game, and likewise, refused to play at Maryland. So, the two haven’t played since.

-Two other teams that no longer play are Kansas and Missouri. This was one of the better rivalries in college basketball, and although it wouldn’t have the same appeal as it would if the two were still in the same conference, it would still be a major showcase OOC game for both teams. There was a Big Twelve vs SEC Challenge. It would have been the perfect opportunity to match them up, but instead Missouri played West Virginia and Kansas played Florida. Those are decent games, but neither came close to generating the level of interest and intensity a Mizzou vs Kansas game would have been.  Speaking of Mizzou….



-We all know Missouri can win big games at home. They showed us that last year, and have done so again this year with their big win against UCLA. Where they struggle is in true road games. Until they win one, I’m not all the way on their bandwagon as being a legit top 25 team. The problem is that they won’t play a true road game until December 28th when they travel to NC State. NC State is not worldbeaters by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s kind of the point. Despite it being a road game, it is the kind of game that you would expect a top 25 team to be able to win. If Mizzou can’t get a win in that one, then I won’t be sold on them. Right now I’m still entertaining the possibility that they’re for real, but until they actually win a game after sitting in the visitor’s locker room, I won’t be completely on board with them.


Griggs.  @HoopsHDDavidG

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