Late last week, Jeff Eisenberg who runs the Yahoo Sports National College Basketball blog, "The Dagger", contacted me about being a part of a new bloggers poll. The Sweet 16 Poll solicits votes on the nation's top sixteen teams from several bloggers throughout the country every week and then tallies them up to create the "Sweet 16 Poll".
The Sweet 16 Poll will appear every Monday on Yahoo's National College Basketball Blog (a link to which is on the left hand side of this site). And the Sweet 16 Poll will have links back to each of the bloggers who contribute to each weekly poll. This will occur every week until the start of the NCAA tournament. I told Jeff that I would be honored to do it. And it is an honor to even be considered for something like this. So below is my Sweet 16 teams for the week of February 1, 2010.
Please Note - By the deadline time I had to send my list to Jeff last night (5 pm Pacific), Mississippi was still playing their makeup game with Arkansas. The Rebels lost at home last night to the Razorbacks.
This is was a difficult first week to do a Sweet 16 poll. Just to note how difficult it was, ten of the top sixteen and fifteen of the top twenty five teams in the ESPN Top 25 poll lost this week. So coming up with sixteen top worthy teams was not easy. As for how I do my poll, I look at several computer rankings, RPI, and from what I have personally seen. And apparently I watch too much basketball. My four year old son even commented to me this week that I need to turn down the TV volume "because the basketball is too loud."
1) Kansas. - They beat a good Missouri team by using a "Jayhawk blue wave" of talent to turn a 19-13 game at the ten minute mark to a 50-30 lead at the half. You could start warming up the Mizzou Bus right there. And they sealed it by beating nationally ranked Kansas State last night in a great overtime game in the "Octagon of Doom". Sharron Collins practically willed himself and his team to victory last night despite bad back spasms. To beat both your archrivals in the span of a week, that's deserving of a #1 ranking.
2) Syracuse - Call the Orange the "Comeback Cuse", because they specialized in big time comebacks this week. First, Syracuse was down 14-0 early to #11 Georgetown before spanking the Hoyas 73-56. Ask Duke how difficult it is to come back on the Hoyas. But it was no problem for the Cuse. Then against DePaul, the Cuse came back from an 18 point first half deficit to win 59-57. Plus that 6-0 road record with a win at West Virginia is real nice. 21-1 is awfully pretty.
3) Villanova - The only undefeated team in the Big East has depth. They have eleven players that average nine minutes or more per game. In a conference that night in and night out is so physical, Villanova's depth will play a big part down the stretch of the season. And they take advantage of physical play. Nova is first in free throw shooting percentage in the Big East at 75.5 percent and they have made 417 free throws, sixty more free throws than the second most team in the Big East, Louisville.
4) Kentucky - President Obama should consider a career in college basketball analysis. Earlier in the week, the President praised Kentucky for their Haiti relief efforts but he then warned them about playing at South Carolina. Sure enough, the Wildcats ran into "The Montez Downey" show and suffered their first loss as Downey put a 30 spot on them. But Kentucky came back and soundly defeated what was the hottest team in the SEC, Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena yesterday. Shooting 12 of 23 from beyond the arc always helps. Wall, Cousins, Patterson and friends are the real deal.
5) Michigan State - They're not flashy. They do not regularly blow teams out (in their last six wins, Michigan State has not won by more than 10 points). They just win, which is the mark of a Tom Izzo team. The Spartans have won ten in a row and fourteen of their last fifteen. And to be 9-0 in the Big ten with a three game lead over three other Top 25 teams is downright impressive.
6) West Virginia - How good is the Big East when my sixth ranked team is only the third best team in the conference? The Mountaineers have bounced back nicely after a tough one-point loss at home vs. Syracuse with four straight wins, two of which came this week. Against Louisville, where their vaunted scoring defense gave up 12 more points than they average, However, DaSean Butler saved the Mountaineer with a season high 27 points as West Virginia rallied from a twelve-point deficit to win 77-74. Goes to show you West Virginia has the offense to match the defense.
7) Purdue - The Boilermakers have got over their three game losing skid by winning their next four games in a row. In their exciting 60-57 win over Wisconsin, Purdue showed why they are one of the best defensive teams in the country by shutting down the Badgers' leading scorer Trevon Hughes. Hughes was held to nine points, seven under his season average on 3 of 11 shooting. They followed that win up with a 66-46 win over Penn State that must have had any Nittany Lions fans at the game wishing for the start of Spring Football.
8) Georgetown - So how do you get over losing a Big East game to Syracuse when you had a 14-0 lead and lose by 17? Easy, rout nationally ranked Duke in front of a national audience and more importantly, in front of the President of the United States. Again, the President offered very good analysis of Georgetown noting at halftime how he impressed he was with the Hoya guards. And they were impressive. Chris Wright had 21 points while Austin Freeman had 20 for the Hoyas. Georgetown shot an absolutely sick 71 percent from the field. The Hoyas scored 27 more points than Duke's scoring defense had allowed on average this season 61.8 points per game.
9) Texas - It was a tale of two teams this week for the former #1 ranked Longhorns. They beat the Red Raiders earlier in the week 95-83. Texas, led by Damion James' 28 points, torched Texas Tech for 55 percent shooting from the field. However, the Longhorns reverted to their losing ways yesterday as Baylor knocked off Texas 80-77. The Bears held the Longhorns to 38 percent shooting from the field. Baylor's Tweety Carter made the Longhorns look like Sylvester the Cat as he had 27 points to lead the Bears to victory.
10) Duke - The week also started off well for the Blue Devils as they knocked off ACC rival Florida State 70-56. One of the top teams in the ACC in turnover margin, the Blue Devils forced 22 Seminole turnovers while only turning over the ball 10 times themselves. However, Duke got crushed by a Georgetown team stoked by playing in front of a sold out Verizon Center that included the President of the United States. Still, with the non-conference loss, Duke is in second place in the ACC, right where they need to be.
11) BYU - The Cougars lost their second game of the season, a tough four-point game at nationally ranked New Mexico 76-72. Jimmer Fredette led BYU with 27 points in the losing cause. But the Cougars would bounce back by defeating Utah at home 82-69. Fredette topped his previous outing's output by torching the Utes for 36 points, shooting 11 of 23 from the field and 10 of 12 from the line. With the win, BYU maintains a one game lead in the loss column on New Mexico and UNLV in a very solid Mountain West conference. Fredette is averaging 21 points per game, shooting a ridiculous 48 percent from beyond the arc (and actually better than his regular FG average of 47 percent) and 90 percent from the line.
12) Kansas State - What a wild week for the Wildcats. First they traveled to Baylor and ended the Bears eleven game home winning streak with a 76-74 win. The Wildcats shot 52 percent from three including Jacob Pullam's six of seven from beyond the arc. Pullam had 25 points on the night. Then of course came the heartbreaking overtime loss at home last night to soon to be #1 Kansas 81-79 in the "Octagon of Doom". It was a close, tense game with 20 lead changes. Pullen had another good night with 22 points and the Wildcats pulled down 20 offensive rebounds against one of the best frontcourts in the country. Kansas State has proved it belongs with the elite.
13) Butler - In a matchup of the top two teams in the Horizon, Matt Howard would score fourteen of his eighteen points in the second half to lead Butler to a convincing 75-57 win over Wisconsin Green Bay. Today, the Bulldogs' Gordon Hayward scored 25 points as he shot 13 of 16 from the line and Butler came back to win another road game at Wisconsin Milwaukee 73-66. With the win, Butler moved to 10-0 in conference with a four game lead over several teams tied for second place. That’s flat out impressive.
14) Mississippi - In their only game so far this week, they had a solid ten-point win at Auburn. The Rebels have four players who average in double figures led by Warren, White and Polynice who combine to average 42 points per game. While all the other teams around Mississippi in the standings have lost at least one game in the past week, the Rebels quietly have won three in a row. It won't be quiet any more when they travel to Kentucky this week.
15) Wisconsin - The Badgers struggled this week but since so many other teams struggled as well, the Badgers have a spot on the Sweet 16 Poll. Wisconsin had to go to overtime on its own home court to defeat Penn State 79-71. Jordan Taylor had the last eight points in regulation, and then ten points in overtime to lead Wisconsin. In the loss to Purdue, Keaton Nankivil had a career high 25 points, 18 over his season average, on 7 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc. Wisconsin is still in second place in the Big ten, three games behind Michigan State. They can get closer if they win at home over the Spartans on Tuesday.
16) Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets were one of the few nationally ranked teams that made it through the week unscathed. First Georgia Tech easily handled Wake Forest at home 79-58 as the Yellow Jackets held the Demon Deacons to 32 percent from the field. Then while Duke played a non-conference game in D.C., Georgia Tech hosted a non conference game vs. Kentucky State. That seems about as equitable as the current federal tax code. The Yellow Jackets won easily 98-50. Kentucky State coach, Clarence Moore, a Yellow Jackets alum, commented about the current Yellow Jackets. " I don't see a leader out there. To me, it looks like guys are trying to find themselves." Well, Clarence, it certainly looks like guys were finding the basket against your team.