Hope your Thanksgiving holiday was fun and festive.
Without getting into too many details, mine was interesting–to say the least.
Around this time of year with the holidays in full swing, I often think of the expression used by veteran ESPN commentator Dick Vitale when he often speaks on the “Mike and Mike in the Morning” show on ESPN Radio the phrase, “Stock Up, Stock Down.”
With all apologies to Dickie V, I wish to do my own “Super, Scintillating, Sensational” entry to this blog space with some thoughts on who I thought made the biggest strides up to this point–and of course, there were a few duds from schools in the Top 25 rankings but did not have a very happy ending.
Arizona–Winning the Preseason NIT title on Friday night over Duke at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” definitely opened up many eyes, including Yours Truly. What an impressive performance– especially by Tournament MOP Nick Johnson, who lit the Blue Devils for 13 of his 15 points in the second half en route to a 72-66 tense victory. Three of their wins are in the Top 55 according to a CBSSports.com poll. Even the AP took notice and put them in #2 behind Michigan State, who broke their own school record by being top dogs for the third consecutive week (not even Earvin “Magic” Johnson can lay claim to that fact.) Bottom line, expect Arizona to go very far and maybe lock up a Number 1 seed come Selection Sunday.
Syracuse–The Orange, by winning their third Maui Invitational–puts themselves in prime position for the Number 1 seed in the East region. Their guard play of C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney may remind some of a over a decade ago, when it was Jerry McNamara running the point and a certain freshman named Carmelo Anthony (remember him?)
Next up for the ‘Cuse, a huge matchup on Tuesday as part of ESPN’s annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge as Tom Crean brings his new look Indiana Hoosiers into the vast Carrier Dome before welcoming in nearby foe Binghamton on Saturday.
Duke–their Twitter page was all over keeping history alive on Monday, when they mentioned the simple fact that they have been in the AP Top 10 for 118 consecutive weeks.
Wonder how long will it be before their Top 25 streak comes to an end? Let me guess, when the Chicago Cubs ever reach the World Series, let alone think about winning it we might see that happen–am I right, new GMA weekday meterologist Ginger Zee?
Right now, their interior defense is getting shredded like there is no tomorrow. I know Coach K can draw up plays in the back of his head, but this is not the same Duke setup like we all recall when they won their prior national championships in 1991, 1992, 2001, and recently in 2010. And with new kids on the ACC block in Pittsburgh, the aforementioned Syracuse, and the always tough and gritty Notre Dame Fighting Irish waiting in the wings, Duke’s days of dominating the ACC could be over sooner than expected.
Which leads me to their most bitter rival on Tobacco Road in my next Stock Down story:
North Carolina–not even His Airness could rescue the Tar Heels. Their shocking 63-59 loss at the hands of UAB (Alabama-Birmingham) on the road Sunday night has many people confused and downright perplexed. To me, UNC is definitely the Jekyll and Hyde team of 2013-2014, similar to Clemson and Cincinnati in the last several years. One night they look like an invincible group, then the next night they throw up nothing but bricks. You tell me which statement is more accurate and I will see to it that the tradition rich powers are no longer as dominant in men’s college basketball.
Creighton–poor Creighton. Currently #74 in the CBSSports.com RPI poll, their two consecutive losses at the Honda Center in Anaheim to Top 50 powers in San Diego State and George Washington have them out of the Top 25 poll and maybe on the outside of one of the Last 4 teams in come Selection Sunday. It does not help when your main scorer gets 30 and the other team just stands there and watches greatness, but to shoot an anemic 33.9 percent against the GW Colonials (19 of 56) while allowing the opposition to go wild when they have to be makes me wonder even more.
Even with Kansas slipping a bit down in Atlantis, parity still rules!
Nonetheless, the upcoming Big Ten/ACC and SEC/Big 12 Challenges should prove to be some exciting games over the next several nights. And Missouri fans have plenty of reason to cheer, not just the simple fact that they will take on Auburn for the SEC football title come Saturday night. The Tigers will also be the lid lifter for CBS’ 33rd season of covering men’s college basketball at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time when they host one of the 20 remaining undefeated teams as Steve Alford brings his UCLA Bruins east to Columbia. Remember 1995 and Tyus Edney, the former Second Round in Boise, Idaho? That immediately comes to my mind.
While most people usually think of attending holiday parties and such, stick around with me and I will take you on a yuletide ride filled with joy and good times in college basketball. And I promise no holiday carol parodies here, not enough time to come up with anything clever or witty.
See you later in the week if any upsets arise.