— We have arrived at the best part of the season. Only 10 more days until Selection Sunday and between now and then automatic bids will be won and bubbles will be busted.
You never know what to expect. One day BYU is eyeing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The next day, a top BYU player is gone after he violated the school’s honor code. Sad story. Huge impact. And there’s still so much to be decided.
Enjoy the ride. But right now, it’s time to answer your questions.
A: That’s a great question, Ruth. This has been a strange season, lacking those dominant teams that are intimidating come March. With all the turnover at the No. 1 spot in the polls and so many top teams losing recently, the NCAA tournament is going to have a different feel. Other than the first-round matchups between 1 and 16, most teams will be able to look at their opponents and say, “We could beat them.”
I like your two choices. Purdue is playing great basketball right now. JaJuan Johnson is my choice for Big Ten player of the year and he’s a tough matchup for everybody. E’Twaun Moore is smart, savvy and doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body. I’ve really been impressed with Lewis Jackson lately.
Notre Dame just keeps getting better. That can happen with an experienced team such as the Irish. Mike Brey’s team understands the Irish system and the players execute. They trust each other and that’s a big deal when you are trying to win six straight in the tourney. Brey’s “burn” offense does more than control the clock, it tires out defensive players. Those long possessions are difficult to endure. The legs go, then mental breakdowns happen, and teams suffer at the offensive end as well.
Aside from the obvious top teams, Purdue and Notre Dame, you’ve got to watch out for teams that are coming into the tournament hot. For that reason, I’d be worried going against North Carolina right now. Same goes for Kansas State, Louisville and St. John’s. And don’t forget George Mason.
A: Chris Wright has been so important to Georgetown’s success. When he got hurt it was obvious he was in pain and I think a lot of fans — whether they are Georgetown fans or not — shared that pain. You hate to see that happen to a player who has worked so hard. A lot of people are rooting for Wright with the hope he can play in the tournament.
But cheer up. Georgetown will be able to provide the latest medical update to the NCAA tournament committee. Let’s say Wright can’t play in the Big East tournament. The Hoya coaching staff, medical team and administration still will be able to communicate with the committee as it meets in Indianapolis. They can let the committee know if Wright is ready to play in the NCAA games.
Injuries change teams. That’s why seeds change. The best thing the Hoyas can do right now is win some games without Wright. I wouldn’t say the guideline used by the committee is unfair. The fact that the committee looks at the entire season is a plus for Georgetown, I think. It will show the committee how important Wright is to the Hoyas. If they know he is on his way back, Georgetown could grab at least a No. 4 seed — or possibly higher.
A: Wow, I don’t think I can agree with the assessment that the Tigers can’t win. They are 21-9 overall and six of those losses came in Conference USA, where first-place UAB has four losses. The Tigers aren’t ranked and they aren’t having one of those one or two-loss John Calipari seasons — but Calipari is gone.
Memphis is young and talented, but it just hasn’t been a smooth season for coach Josh Pastner. You can point your finger in a couple different directions but it all comes down to chemistry. Suspensions, inconsistency, and poor defense have been the result and that’s why Memphis hasn’t won as many games as people expected them to. In recent losses Memphis has not shot well. Maybe if the Tigers were more dialed in defensively, it would lift their offensive performance.
Give Pastner credit. A lot of young coaches wouldn’t have the courage to sacrifice today for tomorrow. But he has taken a firm stance with problem players such as Jelan Kendrick and Wesley Witherspoon. I respect that and I think it bodes well for the program’s future. Maybe certain immature players had the wrong impression, based on a previous administration. But Pastner is running the ship his way — and that’s a good thing.
A: I think Mizzou coach Mike Anderson would love to know the answer to that question. If he couldn’t figure it out, I certainly can’t. The Tigers aren’t alone. It gets harder to win on the road in college basketball every year. But Missouri took that to the extreme with seven losses in eight Big 12 road games. That said, I do think pressure defense — especially the type Mizzou plays — is more effective at home where the crowd gets into it and adds to the pressure. And the Tigers have one more chance to prove that — Saturday against Kansas.
After Tuesday night’s 69-58 loss at Nebraska, guard Marcus Denmon said he was disappointed with the way Missouri played on the road. But …
“Starting today, no more road games,” he said. “There’s nothing more for us to figure out. It’s either home or neutral.”
He’s right. No reason to think about the road any more. It doesn’t exist.