As I sit here typing this, the Oprah Winfrey/Lance Armstrong Thing is just wrapping up, but it’s far from over. Manti Te’o is in the media hard for his fake dead girlfriend, ironically much harder than he was in the media for his assumed real dead girlfriend. And two top-ten college basketball teams just battled to continue their journey toward a B1G crown and a high tourney seed. Oh, didn’t know about that last one, did ya?
Well you should, because we’re in full-swing in CBB-land, Baby™! The question of best conference is easy: The B1G has 4 schools in the top-11 in the country and 6 in the AP Top 25 as of Monday’s rankings, and though that will fluctuate a bit, you can still expect at least 4 of those to remain ranked throughout, if not more. SEC/ACC? Take a number. MVC/A10? One day, but not today. Big East? Close, but no cigar.
But we’re not talking about conferences – otherwise, this entire article would have been more of a waste of your time than it already is. We’re talking about teams here, specifically the top three in Monday’s AP poll, each of which got at least 20% of the #1 votes. Obviously SOMEONE thinks these guys are the best, so let’s figure out why – in AP’s order:
#1 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (16-1 [4-0 Big East], #6 RPI, #14 SOS)
Big W: UK, Mizzou, UConn
All L: Just Duke. A close game, but still a L.
Peyton Siva – remember him from last year? Yeah he’s still here, doin’ work. Russ Smith too. They combine for 30.7 PPG, 8.4 APG and 4.8 SPG. Combine that with the inside force that is 6-11 Gorgui Dieng (another holdover from last season, putting up 9.2 pts. and 10.4 boards/game this year), and you have a true contender. Montrezl Harrell is great off the bench, shooting 61% in 18.6 minutes of work. The Big East is a minefield, as always, and a big battle against #6 Syracuse (who also is 16-1 on the season) goes down in 2 days; but I believe L’Ville can come out of the scrum the best for wear after the season, and probably win the coveted Big East title as well. If they stay healthy, the Cardinals have a #1 seed and another Final Four run ahead of them.
#2 INDIANA HOOSIERS (15-2 [3-1 Big Ten], #15 RPI, #18 SOS)
Big W: Minnesota, UNC
All L: Wisconsin
Yeah, they dropped one to Wisconsin, and thus will fall from the #2 spot. So what? Wisconsin is good. That game will go IU’s way 95 times out of 100. I could sit here and write 3 articles about Cody Zeller (for instance: according to Wikipedia, he’s the nephew of former players Al Eberhard and Ricky Titcomb, whose names are an immature article writer’s dream come true), but there’s no need. You already know how good he is. What you don’t know is about the rest of the squad, with 4 besides Zeller averaging over 10 PPG. They spread out the boards (Zeller, along with Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo, all take at least 5.9), 4 of the top 5 scorers are shooting over .500 from the field (including Oladipo whose .669 is good for 5th in the nation), and 3 of those are shooting over .450 from Triple Town (great game BTW). Indiana might have the best 5-man team, definitely has the best big man, and certainly has a great shot at going to NOLA.
#3 DUKE BLUE DEVILS (16-1 [3-1 ACC], #1 RPI, #1 SOS)
Big W: UK, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, OSU
All L: N.C. State
Louisville, OSU and Minnesota are all top-11 teams (although Minnesota may tumble a bit more after losing to That School Up North tonight). Their bad loss wasn’t even that bad – N.C. State, and specifically C.J. Leslie, are legit. But the numbers speak for themselves: #1 RPI, #1 SOS. That’s not an accident – they scheduled 3 of the top 4 teams in the preseason AP poll for their non-conference slate. That’s a tough road to hoe, and all before December, mind you. Much like the Hoosiers, Duke’s top 5 are all averaging over 10 PPG, with Mason Plumlee leading the pack. In fact, Mason shoots a solid 62% from the field, and grabs 11 RPG as well, averaging a dub-dub. Quinn Cook hands out over 6 dishes a game to go with shooting 85% from the line. Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly contribute with Cook beyond the arc, with each shooting over 42%. Not the best Duke team ever, but one that will continue to make noise throughout March.
Oh snap! There it is!! Who is Armando V.’s #1 team, you don’t ask? For my money it’s Duke. They have those pesky intangibles down pat, Cameron Indoor is a nightmare to play in, they have a much softer conf schedule/conf. tourney to slice through, and Krzyzewski > all other basketball coaches all day every day. I’m sure Casey will come in here telling me that I’m wrong and quoting blah-blah stats and yada-yada eye test and Luther Vandross lyrics (RIP Luther) all over the place, but don’t listen to his sauce. Because it is weak.