Saturday, December 22, 2007

Breaking Down The Top Five

Before my weekly Basketballforum post, let me quickly comment on the latest Alex Legion news. It appears the former Kentucky guard has selected Illinois over the Irish. Since all signs indicate that the young man will certainly not be wearing a Notre Dame jersey next season, I can be a little more candid about the situation.

I am very happy to see Legion go somewhere else. It's a good situation for him, but more importantly (to me, at least) a better situation for us. I truly believed from the beginning that signing Legion would be a mistake. First of all, this Irish squad has some of the best chemistry of any team in the conference. Anything that could possibly detract from the unified feeling we have now should be avoided.

Secondly, the team is already set for next season. With only one senior this year, four of the starting five will be back and one (Zach Hillesland) looks set to move into the lineup. In addition, players like Peoples, Zeller, and Nash will all earn extended minutes off the ench next year. Legion is not coming here to watch basketball. He wants to go pro and the only way to do that is to get loads of playing time in college. If he came here and sat, nothing good would come of it.

Finally, the system in Illinois suits Legion much better. The Irish have a good offense right now, based around solid inside play with Harangody and good perimeter shooting in K-Mac and Ayers. Illinois has a guard-based offense and only two underclassmen in the backcourt, giving Legion the opportunity to play right away and be the future of the team.

Best of luck to Alex as he continues his career with the Illini. Looking at the current high school junior class, it appears Coach Brey will have some talent to choose from to replace whatever we may have lost in the Legion sweepstakes. No reason to feel any less confident about the future. Time to get back to basketball now.

This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on, can be found at the weekly blog here.

Six weeks in, let's take a look at the national championship picture, specifically the top 5 teams in the AP poll.
  1. North Carolina- 10-0
  2. Memphis 9-0
  3. Kansas- 11-0
  4. Texas- 11-0
  5. Georgetown- 8-0

How accurate are the rankings before Christmas? Three of the five teams made the Final Four last year, with 5th ranked (in December) Florida defeating #3 Ohio State for the National Championship.

Last Season- December 18 (March 12/Tournament Finish)

  1. UCLA- 9-0 (7th/Final Four)
  2. North Carolina- 8-1 (4th/Elite Eight)
  3. Ohio State- 9-1 (1st/Runner-up)
  4. Wisconsin- 11-1 (6th/2nd Round)
  5. Florida- 9-2 (3rd/National Champion)

Fast forward to December 2007. Which of these five teams has the makings of a champion? Who looks to fall early, like Wisconsin of a year ago?

North Carolina- RPI- 14

The Tarheels are 10-0 and projected to finish the season 24-7 by Ken Pomeroy. Two notable wins for UNC include at Ohio State and on a neutral floor against BYU. Still, this team hasn't completely been tested yet, playing only the 135th strongest schedule in the country.

Memphis -RPI- 4

The Tigers have played the 53rd toughest schedule in the country, giving their undefeated record more credence than North Carolina. They play very good defense, the 5th toughest based on raw efficiency. In addition, Memphis likes to play an untempo game, averaging 74 possessions a contest. This has served them well against inferior opponents, but without a tough conference schedule to play through, you have to question whether this team will be ready come tournament time. The next two games against Georgetown and Arizona could boost their chances or highlight some serious problems.

Kansas- RPI- 13

Like North Carolina, Kansas has enjoyed some cupcakes early, playing the 128th ranked schedule so far. Other than an overtime win over Arizona, the Jayhawks have avoided playing any team in the top 40 of the RPI. Still, their efficiency on both sides of the ball has been terrific, 12th on offense and 3rd on defense. With only two really tough opponents down the road (at Texas and Texas A&M), Pomeroy projects the Jayhawks to finish 29-2.

Texas- RPI- 5

What about Texas, then? The Longhorns have prevailed against a 61st ranked schedule so far and face some challenges down the road. On offense, this is the best team in the land, with 123 points scored per 100 possessions. However, the defense is what causes some worry. Giving up 87 to New Mexico State and 81 to Texas State can be overlooked when both resulted in double digit wins. However, as Texas faces a tough schedule down the road with Wisconsin, Michigan State, St. Mary's, Texas A&M (twice), and Kansas, the Longhorns will need to be much improved on defense if they want to stay in the hunt for a one seed.

Georgetown- RPI- 96

As far as strength of schedule goes, the Hoyas are the most overrated team in the top 5. Playing the 327th ranked schedule in the nation, Georgetown has stayed undefeated by playing efficiently on both ends of the ball. 4th on offense and 10th on defense, Georgetown could be the sleeper of these five teams. However, they will need to keep up the good play against difficult opponents. Today's game against Memphis is an important gut-check opportunity.

So where are we? None of the squads have separated themselves from the pack so far. However, with Georgetown's methodical style of play, ability to grind out games against every type of opponent, and anchor in 7'2" Roy Hibbert down low, I have to give the early nod to the Hoyas, followed by Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis, and Texas.

1 comment:

BlackandGreen said...

Never make big predictions when you can be proven wrong an hour later. Georgetown may bounce back from their loss to Memphis today, but I feel like an idiot.

Watch Texas destroy Michigan State tonight to completely make me look like a fool.