There are many teams in the Big East with instant name cache; UConn Georgetown, Syracuse, and Louisville to name a few. West Virginia would be pretty far down that list. However, the Mountaineers have staked their claim as a contender in the best conference in the country.
The Mountaineers are at full strength and are a force to be reckoned with. Alex Ruoff, Da’Sean Butler, and Devin Ebanks are all capable of an offensive explosion. Add in Darryl Bryant and the tough Joe Mazzulla and you have all the ingredients for a solid basketball team.
Ask Ohio St how potent West Virginia is. What the Mountaineers did to the Buckeyes was criminal. They took it to Ohio St from the tip and showed the rest of the country, just how deep the Big East is.
Stock Up: St. Mary’s. After a questionable loss to UTEP in the 76 Classic, the Gaels have reeled off nine wins in a row including five on the road. Patrick Mills is easily one of the best guards in the country and is a matchup problem for anyone. Be clear folks, the West Coast Conference is not just about Gonzaga.
Stock Down: Gonzaga. Portland St. Tell me you did not lose to Portland St at home. Tell me the “Mid-Major that Could” didn’t overlook another Mid-Major. The Bulldogs have road contests at Utah and at Tennessee. Mark Few better tighten his ballclub up in a hurry.
Stock Up: Chris Wright. There was no doubt that Georgetown was going to be a tournament team, but on which weekend it met it’s demise would hinge on it’s point-guard play. Well, early in the season, I think we have our answer. Wright, fully recovered from the foot injury which sidelined him much of last season, has been everything John Thompson III could ask for and more. He’s proving to be one of the best guards in the country.
Stock Down: Mississippi Head Coach Andy Kennedy. I don’t know WHAT happened that night in Cincinnati. What I do know is the coach of a college basketball team should not be out, at a bar, on a roadtrip at 1:00am. I doubt the allegations of assault and racial slurs are true, but what good can come of that.
Stock Up: Minnesota. If there is another coach to be happier for, I can’t find him. Tubby Smith has the program in the Twin Cities turned around halfway through his second season and it’s great to see. The Golden Gopher program had falllen on some hard times with the Clem Haskins’ scandal and Dan Monson’s tenure, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. That light appears to be a NCAA tournament berth.
Stock Down: Mid-American Conference. Generally, the MAC is one of the better Mid-Major conferences in the country. In fact, the MAC used the ring out like the Missouri Valley does now. However, this appears to be a bad year for the conference. With only three teams over .500 and every team in the West Division with a losing record, any hopes of an at-large bid seem to be all but shot.
This week’s Bracket Projections:
1.North Carolina16.Cornell Greensboro, NC
5.Baylor12.Utah St Portland, OR
6.Florida St11.Butler Minneapolis, MN
7.Missouri10.Florida Philadelphia, PA
2.Georgetown15.East Tennessee St
1.Duke16.North Dakota St Greensboro, NC
5.Minnesota12.Creighton Boise, ID
6.Ohio St11.Boston College Miami, FL
7.St. Mary’s10.Davidson Dayton, OH
1.Oklahoma16.Quinnipiac Kansas City, MO
5.Michigan12.Illinois St Minneapolis, MN
6.Villanova11.Texas A&M Miami, FL
7.Stanford10.Wisconsin Philadelphia, PA
1.Pittsburgh16.Morgan St/Ark-Pine Bluff Dayton, OH
5.Clemson12.Northwestern Portland, OR
6.Arizona St11.Maryland Boise, ID
7.Kansas10.UNLV Kansas City, MO