It can be hard sorting through the sports news these days.
What with Hot Stove rumors becoming truth, and in some cases truth becoming rumors, NFL playoff action taking front stage, the now-endless college football bowl season–in case anyone forgot the National Championship game is this Thursday night. Oh yeah, the Fiesta Bowl is tonight, and the GMAC is tomorrow night.
Wait, let me get my schedule set.
The NHL and NBA are now in full swing, and the Bruins have a revival going on.
Did you hear that Bill Simmons? Don’t act like you are not reading this.
You know you want to take a place on ‘The Bench.’
Yeah Mr. Simmons—Boston has a hockey team, and they are playing well! It is okay to write positive material about the NHL.
Amidst all this brouhaha, college hoops has entered conference play the time to see if there are any counterfeit bills amongst the currency—to sort through the truth and the not so true—to distinguish the degrees of truth and decide if there are any lessons to be learned.
Conference play has a way of unveiling a team. It is one thing to knock off a team from another league. Many times the opponent only has video to work with for scouting. Watching a team play is one thing. Actually being on the floor and enduring a team is another thing.
Conference rivals have been on the floor against each other. Upper classmen can share wisdom with the freshman as to intricacies of their familiar opponents.
Ah, how familiarity breeds contempt.
For instance, the lesson pertaining to how much can learned about a team AFTER they win a big game.
Georgetown opened Big East play with a resounding win over then No. 2 ranked UConn. Many talked on and on about the Hoyas and in particular freshman, Greg Monroe.
Georgetown promptly fell at home to Pittsburgh, 70-54.
Pittsburgh is good—don’t get me wrong.
But the Hoyas are young. They’ll be back. Just don’t expect them to string together too many victories in the Big East.
Another lesson: Tennessee cannot defend the three.
This, to me, is a head scratcher. When you look at the Vols lineup, you see tall, long athletic players: 6’9” Wayne Chism, 6’7” Tyler Smith, 6’6” Cameron Tatum. You would think these guys could get on the perimeter and distract opposing shooters.
UT has three losses this year: Gonzaga, Temple, and now Kansas this weekend.
What is the similarity between all three? Their opponents shot 40 percent or better as a team behind the arc.
Actually, the Zags shot 55 percent from long range.
Oh yeah, my apologies to the Zags. Since my article expounding the virtues of Mark Few’s program, the Bulldogs have dropped three. Dare I say it? Mark, don’t let your guys read my stuff until after the season.
Even in victory, Bruce Pearl’s "tenacious" defenders look susceptible from the arc. Belmont also shot 40 percent from the land of trifectas against the Vols.
Another lesson: Don’t pay attention to the media.
Rick Pitino must have a bunch of media hogs in L’ville.
How else can you explain the Cardinals’ play?
Being 9-3 is one thing, but Pitino’s thoroughbreds seem like they are still in the paddock.
When L’ville lost to Western Kentucky by 14, I expected the Cardinals to snap too.
They were ranked No. 3 at the time.
Any lesson learned was fleeting.
After beating Lamar, Austin Peay, Indiana State, and Ohio, the Cardinals fell again—this time to Minnesota. Then, last week, L’ville lost to UNLV by one at home. By the way—the Rebels were without the services of leading scorer, Wink Adams.
You would think this would get the Cardinals' fired up.
Yesterday, they beat Kentucky on a buzzer-beater at home. Normally, this would be a sign of things going the right way, but beating the 11-3 Wildcats this year is nothing to get excited about...unless you are VMI.
The Tar Heels of North Carolina might have also fallen victim to media hype.
The last Division I men’s basketball team to go undefeated was the ’75-’76 Indiana Hoosiers (Trivia: Can you name the other three final four participants that year?).
What has changed since then?
We no longer use regular gasoline. You can change the channel on your TV while remaining in your chair. There are about three nights a year where the major sports do not have a game on TV. This funny little thing called the Internet, which creates a friggin’ frenzy when it comes to anything remotely resembling news.
The chances of a major college basketball team going undefeated have decreased exponentially given the frequency with which these kids have to answer questions about any streak.
I did not get a chance to see BC’s upset, but I did take a gander at the box score and highlights. If I had to guess, BC slowed down the Heels. Hmmmmm...Have we seen this happen before?
It’s no secret. From foul line to foul line ,there is not a point guard in the country better than Ty Lawson. He is more than adept at making decisions on the move and creating advantage situations with his speed. Slow him down—make him play half court and Lawson is back in the pack with the rest of the PGs in the country.
That goes for Danny Green, too. Green is a great athlete who needs to develop his basketball IQ. In the open floor, he is tough to stop. Ask him to break down a half-court defense, and Green can be tamed.
Other lessons: Tejuan Porter is the best point guard that most people won’t even get to know. Porter’s Oregon Ducks squared off with the UCLA Bruins in a PAC-10 matchup that featured two of the best PGs in the conference.
At quick glance, Darren Collison of UCLA has it all, over Porter. But dig deeper. Yeah Collison is knocking down threes at a rate of 50 percent, but guess what—Collison is taking that shot as the third or fourth option in the offense.
Which means after everyone else is defended and he is one-on-one or has an advantage, Collison is putting it up. Porter, on the hand, is the first or second option in Ernie Kent’s offense.
IF—and that is a Kenny Frease size if—the 5’6” Porter gets drafted, he will likely be a role player in the NBA. But don’t be misled. Porter is something special. He is a keen playmaker with who can attack the tin with a vengeance. I love his teardrop.
Speaking of Frease, he and his Xavier Musketeers appear to have learned their lesson. After taking a whipping from the Duke Blue Devils and falling to the Butler Bulldogs, the Muskies went to Charlottesville and put a hurtin’ on the Virginia Cavaliers. Circle Jan. 24 on the calendar. That’s when XU plays at LSU.
One last lesson: Johnny Dawkins is a wise man. After amassing over 2,500 points in an All-American college career and playing nine years in the NBA, Dawkins returned to Durham and where he served as an assistant to Coach K for 11 years. Dawkins finally has his own team, Stanford, and the Cardinal are off to an 11-1 start.
Dawkins is nobody’s fool. He took over a team with a full cupboard, and the Washington DC native, looking for some help with West Coast recruiting, hired former Santa Clara head coach, Dick Davey to smooth the transition.