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Posted on: March 21, 2010 11:19 am
 

Hot for Cornell? Be Careful What You Wish For

In all this weekend's Ivy League Eurphoria, it's been hard to find any sound analysis of the Cornell--Wisconsin game--mostly just a pep talk for underdog

But One Blogging Moment Here, before we get teary-eyed about this attractive team that we have all seen play just once. Be careful what you wish for and its effect on this tournament down the road.

Let's put aside Friday's inspiring game and move on to hard facts--

Cornell could very well win today, but to do so they must overcome a Wisconsin team that:

1. Has as many wins over top top 25 schools as any team in the country
2. Is one of only 7 schools to go to the Dance the last 12 years in a row
3. Has the LEAST turnovers in the nation
4. Third best overall defense in the nation
5. Point guard with the best assist-turn-over ratio
6. The Coach with the best winning percentage in Big Ten History
7. Conference Free Throw Champions
8. Have already beaten 7 teams in this tournament
9. Have held most opponents under 50 points of any team in the nation
11. Played one of their worst games of the year Friday and still won--sign of a champion--holding the opponent under 50-again.
10 Have the 18th best scoring differential in the nation, while only being 203rd in offense

In short, in every way, Wisconsin is a more experienced version of the team that beat Kansas last night. While it may not be fair, Cornell would be deer caught in the headlights for Kentucky, The Badgers' shut-down defense and refusal to rattle (they came back from 18 down in the 2nd half this year) could well put a scare into Kentucky's untested freshmen.

Be careful what you wish for--it will have huge ramifications for the Sweet 16. You'd like there to be a Cinderella Story, but in this year of upsets and carnage, The Dance has became a Chess Match. You need to start thinking three steps ahead when you start filling out fresh brackets on Monday
Posted on: February 26, 2010 9:48 am
 

Big Ten Hoops: What Does it All Mean Now?

Week after week we've watched the Big Ten's elite 4 get the job done.  Each has survived injuries; each could make a case for a deep March run.

Hummel's injury is the latest piece in throwing all that out the window. This is unpredictable elite college athletics at their most unpredictable.  Are all 4 teams pretenders?  Wisconsin could't beat Minnesota.   Neither Michigan State nor OSU could beat the Boilermakers on their own floors. And while the Buckeye's 6-man rotation will hurt them in the game-a-day Conference Tournament, it will not in the weekly rounds of March Madness.

Or are all four solid--Hummel only became a force when he regained his shooting eye in recent weeks.  Purdue and the Badgers and the Spartans have gaudy RPI's. They've all survived key injuries. And in a year when the SEC and ACC are down and Big 12 teams like Texas have been all over the place, the Big Ten 4 have been very consistant.  But Thursday, the Big Ten Network said Purdue's trip to the  Final Four had shifted from "coasting" to   "virtually an ïmpossibility."

So is it something in between?  Purdue may now be down for the count; MSU is unpredictably shakey, but the Buckeyes are hanging tough and Thursday night, Wisconsin produced one of the whole league's best performances of the season, with Jon Leuer coming back, in surgically dissecting Indiana.

The Bottom-Line :    Don't call your bookie.  The Big Ten's March peformance could get one of them to the Final Four. Or send all of them home in the 2nd round.   Stay tuned--this year, it's anybody's ball game.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 7:04 am
 

What's the Real Conference of the Year?

The Big 10 is the Rodney Dangerfield of college sports.  Remember Rodney? Never got any respect. 

Every week, college hoops is showing us that nobody is playing like the Big 10--even if the major sports media have left the building on this one.

As a sports writer, I never wore make-up--just concentrated on college athletics. For decades. I've covered all top 6 conferences, am surrounded by ACC and SEC schools and have kept
in touch with Big 10 sportswriters by e-mail for years, to get an objective view from a distance.  I am acutely aware that weather and a limited recruiting pool present a challenge for the Big 10 in almost all sports, almost all the time.


Case in point: Here are excerpts on these issues from my recent letter to Wisconsin Athletic Director, Barry Alvarez:
 

"Most "seasoned observers" miss things like the last week of 2009. It was something special for Wisconsin. An almost flawless bowl game by an underdog and an absolutely flawless basketball game on New Years Eve, with a star role for a UW scientist on a PBS national documentary about Darwin sandwiched in between.   It was really national exposure of UW at its best—the whole package.

 

"I live in South Florida—you can imagine the drivel I heard all through December—nobody down here could spell John Clay, let alone Wisconsin. The week after was a torrent of abuse for Jacory Harris (how many passes did Unitas complete lying on his back?)—for the locals, Wisconsin had nothing to do with it.   But what I saw was a team better prepared for a specific game than I have ever seen.   
 

"Then I saw near-perfect execution against Ohio State at the Kohl Center.   How does Bo Ryan fail to recruit less  McDonalds All-Americans than Bill Self or Coach K even meet and yet keep pulling this off?

 

"A few decades ago the Big Ten was King and feared by the nation. But recent years seem to have turned all that upside down.   Wisconsin's colossal victory over Duke produced a 5-minute post game report on this stunner --entirely focused on Kyle Singler?  Why? ESPN believes in the ACC and Big East in hoops, the SEC and Big 12 in football—and damn little else.

 

"Reports down here and nationally made the Champ Sports Bowl entirely a Harris-Miami story—the Badgers were just there to make up the numbers. Stunning the Buckeyes by 22 points (twenty-two) was dismissed by Jay Williams and ESPN, post-game: ‘Well they’re always good at home—we won’t know if they’re any good til they’re on the road in conference.” This is right after Steve Lavin showed the nation stats of top coaches, with Bo having the best winning percentage in Big Ten history.

 

Bottom Line, The Conference now gets very little respect and UW gets none. This has become insane.

 

"Maybe because it's now more more about marketing than scheduling or recruiting.  Look at the Heisman—how could Ingram possibly trump Gerhart, Suh, etc—with lesser numbers and smaller impact on their teams’ ranking?  The SEC knows how to spin its conference. So does the Big 12. Learn from them. Forget the 12th team until you and the folks in Chicago have returned the Conference to prominence—and then you can start a profitable championship game that the nation will hunger for, like Florida-Alabama. "

Posted on: February 19, 2010 11:07 am
 

JOHN WALL IS NOT THE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Yes, it's true, Ohio State leans on Turner more than Kentucky leans on Wall, that Turner is more crucial to the success of Ohio State than Wall is to the success of Kentucky. Take Turner away, and OSU is headed for the NIT. Most of these debates are pure speculation. But not in this case. That quote above from CBS' Gary Parrish, is based on what's really happeneed--not idle e-mail gossip.  We got to watch OSU--ranked 15th in the pre-season--get bombed nightly without Turner. The Buckeyes WERE heading for the NIT, if they were lucky.

Then Turner comes back. Of course he couldn't win the first January votes for POY--he wasn't even playing. But once out of the shoot, he flips a 20-point loss at Wisconsin into a home victory  over the Badgers. He then goes head-to-head against Robbie Hummel AT Purdue and pulls off the upset, amost single-handedly.

These debates HAVE to be about impact--on a team and its won-lost record.  "Most Valuable Player" has always meant most valuable to a player's team.  Without Walll, KU's terrific Cousins might have left the Cats with 5 losses by now. Without Turner and NO presence in the paint, OSU would have lost more than 10, based on the real world experiment of a month without Turner.

The stats for Wall and Turner are close, but Turner is at least equal on the numbers and in key stats, he's better. That brings us back to the big issue: impact, Wall does not take over games to any greater extent than Kalin Lucas, Turner, Cole Aldridge & Sherron Collins or Scottie Reynolds.  Wall nearly had a triple double this week--it merely produced an OT win against standard opposition.  The Cats have a killer team on paper, with Wall, but are not dominating games on the floor the way Kansas can.  And of all these teams, only the Buckeyes play just 6 men. That puts much more on Turner's shoulders than on Wall or any one of the stars on teams with benchloads of McDonald's All-Americans.

Bottom Line--by his early-season absence and by his performance thereafter; And by all the criterial above, Evan Turner has demonstrated  in reality he is Player of the Year. 

As to Wall and the No 1 NBA pick--he should grade out pretty much like a recent No, 2 pick--Michael Beasley-- a nice player who can't put an NBA team on his back.  That should be the criterion for No. 1 NBA pick and Wall does not appear to have that very special quality.

So don't believe the hype, believe your eyes. Watch Wall and Turner in March. You be the judge. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com