Okay, so this is going to be a quick and dirty update, because I’m not feeling too well after a long night of “preparing myself” for the impending doom that never came. But, hey, at least we’re all still alive!
Notes from December 20th
The Most Notable Game: (#286) Northern Kentucky, 54 @ (#294) Hampton, 52
This game is certainly not notable for the quality of the participants, but instead, because this marks the first victory in Division I for the Northern Kentucky Norse! Congratulations are in order, to be sure. Hampton put up a good fight, pulling the deficit with a point with only second remaining, but NKU hit their free throws and went home winners for the first time this year. The Pirates got a double-double out of center of Emmanuel Okoroba and Deron Powers added 15 points and 8 assists. Northern Kentucky was led by Jalen Billups, who had a double-double of his own, and Chad Jackson, who dropped in 18 points. Enjoy this one, NKU – you’ve earned it.
A Couple Major Conference Teams with Big Tests Today: (#186) Vanderbilt, (#68) Stanford
Vanderbilt has been playing a little better than they were when the season first started, but they have a big game today against (#63) Middle Tennessee. They will be playing at a neutral site, and although the game is in Nashville, the Blue Raiders are being called the home team. The Commodores can ill afford to keep losing games, even to teams like Middle Tennessee, if they want a shot at an at-large bid this year. The recent win over (#77) Xavier was promising, but the Musketeers are also looking worse and worse with every day.
In a battle of geniuses, Stanford travels to Evanston, Ill., to play (#51) Northwestern today. For the moment, they are ranked 7th in the Pac-12 based on the DPI, and that seems about right for this team, but Dwight Powell is a really solid player and might be able to drag the Cardinal up in the rankings. Stanford’s losses have all been pretty excusable – (#74) Belmont, (#23) Missouri, (#8) Minnesota, and (#21) N.C. State – but at this point in the season they don’t really have a great win to cling to. A win over the Wildcats would give fans in Palo Alto some more to be excited about – including perhaps a top-half finish in the Pac-12.
A Couple Mid-Major Teams Who Could Score Upsets Today: (#58) BYU, (#110) Cal State Northridge
BYU, led by senior forward Brandon Davies, faces (#55) Baylor tonight. The Bears’ struggles have been documented in this blog a few times, and the more I see out of BYU, the more I like. These guys aren’t quite as good as when they had Jimmer Fredette, but they can still play with a lot of teams. Tyler Haws is doing his best Jimmer impression, however, scoring 20 points per game in his sophomore season. He doesn’t quite shoot the lights out, but get this – he’s shooting 95% from the free throw line. That’s the kinda kid you wanna have around late in close games. That’s exactly the scenario I am envisioning for tonight, and I think BYU pulls it off.
Another game involving a team from the Beehive state takes place when Cal State Northridge travels to (#71) Utah. The Matadors are 8-3 behind the solid play of sophomore swingman Stephan Hicks, who is averaging 17.7 PPG and 8.5 RPG. Northridge has lost their last three Division I games (with two non-DI wins thrown in the mix), but all on the road, and to solid west coast opponents – BYU, (#48) UCLA, and (#42) Arizona State. Tonight, I think they have a chance to buck that trend and beat the Utes, as they are a better rebounding team and their scoring average is 8th in the nation. It’s always hard to pull these upsets on the road, but I think the Matadors have the pieces in place to do it.
0:05 – (#129) USC lost to (#166) UC Irvine last night, further cementing themselves in the Pac-12 cellar. (They are the only team in the conference with a losing record, but they’ve played the toughest schedule outside of (#22) Colorado so far.)
0:04 – (#57) Arkansas barely squeaked by (#156) Robert Morris, 79-74. (Just like I predicted they would. Nice to get one right every once in a while.)
0:03 – With NKU’s victory, only (#254) Mississippi Valley State, (#342) St. Francis (PA), (#344) Maryland-Eastern Shore, and (#347) Grambling State remain as winless teams. (MVSU is ranked higher because they’ve played a ridiculous schedule so far.)
0:02 – To give you an idea of how bad the SWAC is, notice that their best team, (#216) Southern University, is 4-6. (And ranked #216. Only team in the Projections in the bottom half of the Index. (#174) Harvard is the exact midpoint of the Index.)
0:01 – (#1) Duke and (#2) Michigan both cruised to easy victories yesterday. (Which was completely expected.)
What to Watch on Friday (37 games total):
(#124) Stony Brook @ (#31) Maryland – Prediction: Maryland by 13
(#68) Stanford @ (#51) Northwestern – Prediction: Northwestern by 4
(#58) BYU @ (#55) Baylor – Prediction: BYU by 6
(#186) Vanderbilt vs. (#63) Middle Tennessee (neutral site) – Prediction: Middle Tennessee by 5
(#110) Cal State Northridge @ (#71) Utah – Prediction: Cal State Northridge by 9
Okay, now go check out the Tournament Projections and Complete Standings of all 347 teams, and be happy you’re alive to do so.