So, I was gonna write about whether or not the three undefeated teams can go undefeated with a look at Syracuse/Arizona/Wichita State's schedules, BUT MY THUNDER GOT STOLE. (We even made a video about Wichita State. And I'm not the only person hyping Chaz Williams on SBN anymore. YO, LET ME HAVE MY SCHTICK.) So let me reverse course, and talk about how DUMB and STUPID the column I was going to write is.
Nobody's going undefeated this year. Arizona will lose a game. Syracuse will lose a game. Wichita State will lose a game. Perhaps they'll even make it to the end of the regular season, or even the end of their conference tournament before it happens. But it will happen.
As humans, we've got an obsession with perfection, a fixation that anthropologists and psychologists have traced back to Snoop Dogg's verse on Dr. Dre's 1992 hit "Nothin' But a G Thang." It's why
doofuses doofi were printing up KENTUCKY 40-0 WOOOOO OOOOOOO BIG BLUE NATION WOOOOO t-shirts before the season started instead of thinking "hey, perhaps our crew of incredibly talented freshmen might lose a single game as they turn from preternaturally gifted basketball larvae into killer basketball insect-monsters."
But there's a reason nobody has gone undefeated since the '70s, when, by the way, the season was about 10 games shorter. It's just too hard to play 40 games, 20 of 'em on the road or at neutral sites, and win all of them.
Wichita State is better than every team in its conference, and oodles better. There's not much drama in the MVC. They're one of the best teams in the country, and after having earned some very quality wins in the non-con -- St. Louis, Tennessee, BYU, Bama -- they've handled their toughest work already. But they gotta go on the road and play a bunch of teams whose seasons are now built around the idea of defeating them. And then, in the NCAA Tournament, they'll have to play, well, other great teams. Don't think I'm downplaying this team by saying they won't be this year's NCAA Champions. Another Final Four berth is possible, although I think they bow out slightly before then.
Syracuse is better than every team in its conference. The ACC's built up a sweet mythos for itself, and then its usual year-in, year-out studs have a down year when a new juggernaut enters the league, and now we have a sweet #narrative about how the ACC is weak! This team is a monster, and nobody in the new league is used to playing against their otherworldly 2-3 zone (Except Pitt, which is probably the second-best team in the league). But there's too much talent in the conference for a loss not to happen by the end of the regular season, if not the ACC Tournament.
Arizona is better than every team in its conference. They're stacked! Aaron Gordon's a damn stud, and he's the least of it. Nick Johnson's the actual star, Brandon Ashley is actually more effective than Gordon right now, T.J. McConnell is your point guard ideal, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a dunk murderer. They've already played the toughest games on their slate, too, at UCLA and at Michigan. Of anybody, the Wildcats are the team that make me wonder if I'll have to pop these words in the microwave and drizzle sriracha on them -- #HotSportsTakes -- and eat them in April.
Arizona will assuredly be the better team on the court every time they play, at least through the latter rounds of the NCAA Tournament. And even then, they have the best argument for being the best team in the country right now.
But they'll lose. I can't tell you when they'll lose or give you a good reason why. But they've won 18 games and would need to win 22 more to go perfect. Even if you reckon they have a 90 percent chance of victory every time they take the court...math says they'll go down.
It's college hoops, and the safest bet is on chaos.
How much basketball has Rodger watched
Team Counter (remember, not entire games, methodology kinda explained here): 152, up 11 from last week
Important new teams:
1. St. Bonaventure. The last time the Bonnies were notable was in 2012, when they rode an absolutely dominant Andrew Nicholson to an A-10 title and a tourney bid, almost knocking off FSU. But they're once again okay! Not relevant enough to dance, barring another conference tournament run, but they're all right. I watched them nearly knock off my favorite team this season, UMass, on an off-day for my favorite player this season, Chaz Williams, before a late comeback. (They appear to be called the Minutemen for their perilous tendency of trailing after 39 minutes and still winning.)
However, let's talk about names here:
A. THEY HAVE STARTERS NAMED CHARLON KLOOF AND ANDELL CUMBERBATCH
YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS
KLOOF AND CUMBER KLOOF AND CUMBER KLOOF AND CUMBER
(We are big Kloof fans. He's averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 assists, is from Suriname, and went to high school at the Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands. #KLOOF #KLOOF #KLOOF)
B. (switching to letters since we used numbers) St. Bonaventure was a 13th century Italian theologian, for whom this Franciscan college is named. I like his name because it reminds me of an Italian version of Six Flags Great Adventure. Normally I'd feel bad being like "haha religious figure let's talk about his name," because faith is never a thing to poke fun at.
But I feel St. Bonaventure's people are well aware of how awesome a name "St. Bonaventure" is. I will demonstrate this point by using two pictures of Charlon Kloof:
(Photo credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE)
Their team name is the Bonnies. You know, like, St. Bonaventure. What is a Bonnie? For a long time, they had a Native American mascot. It is now a wolf called "The Bona Wolf."
(Photo credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
Their jerseys also say "St. Bona," because, St. Bona!
In other other news, their jersey is brown because of Franciscan friars, and Nike/Jordan should make friar's robes.
2. We also watched Youngstown State this week. We'd just like to point out how cute their mascot still is:
Youngstown State is the 32-time winner of college basketball's cutest mascot award pic.twitter.com/kpPSC8wRxh— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) January 14, 2014
OMG PENGUIN! AWWW LOOK AT HOW ANGRY IT IS
AWWWWW DOESN'T IT REALIZE THAT THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION HAVE LED TO PENGUINS BEING EQUIPPED FOR ANTARCTICA'S HARSH CLIMATE WITHOUT WEARING A CUTE LITTLE HAT AND SCARF?!?!?!
Cutest mascot in sports.
The idea was, when I got my new dog, to pick a different trait every week that I noticed about my first ever dog and compare it to a college basketball team. That was the conceit.
Then, I got my new dog -- still the best in the world, BTW -- and, well, I haven't been able to do it. Isolating single things my dog does is impossible, because the entire experience has been an explosion of new concerns, excitement, fawning, and frustration -- both at myself, for the things I don't do anymore and at the adorable thing whose crap I gleefully scoop.
My dog is cute as hell and spectacular in many ways -- friendly around other people and dogs, very excited about the prospect of jumping at me and/or falling asleep on my chest/lap/head/wherever is most easily accessible at any given moment. But taking care of this animal is kind of dominating my life.
I work from home, so I've been around her essentially 24 hours a day since adopting her. When I wake up in the morning and use the bathroom, I can hear her crying in her crate in my room. Going to the grocery store is an ordeal -- I'm too paranoid to tie her on the street after some guy saw me tying her on the street and was like "cute dog! I had my dog stolen once," and no place where I can bring my dog has any sort of reasonable selection of groceries. I've spent so few nights out, and the nights I have spent out have featured many a drunk text to my roommates asking if my dog is okay. (Summary: she's in her crate, but she's crying and Jesus Christ you need to teach this dog how to not cry when you're not in the same room as her.)
So this week's Barketology Team of the Week is North Carolina: the team most likely to do awesome things, but also the team I'm most afraid will start crying, piss on my bed, throw up on my blanket, jump onto my kitchen counter, somehow find something incredibly poisonous to gnaw at, swallow a knife, and hemorrhage to death if they spend a single moment unguarded.
Those wins -- Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky -- those are real, and very interesting. Those losses -- Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest, Miami -- those are depressing. What to make of this team?
(COMPARISON TO DOG ENDS. DOG, IF YOU READ THIS, DO NOT TAKE OFFENSE. ALSO: WHAT THE HELL, IF YOU CAN READ HOW COME YOU STILL PISS IN MY HOUSE SOMETIMES)
In the long run, I think this team is not nearly good enough offensively to make any difference in any meaningful way. Genuinely no shooting presence, and although there are talented bigs who can grab boards, they also miss all of the free-throws. Their defense is fine, but those three wins featured teams beating themselves: Kentucky committed all the turnovers, MSU and Louisville took altogether too many threes and didn't do work on the defensive glass.
Maybe UNC steals some more weird wins, but I'm thinking this team is more of the bad things than the good things. Which is why I apologize to my awesome, awesome dog.
In exchange for reading about her, here is a picture of my dog in a bow tie:
Hey, people who have taken pictures of their dogs in clip-on bowties: go to hell.
Shoddily filmed-buzzer-beater of the week
One of the featured teams in Onions! was Toledo.
"In close games it always starts with your point guard play," (coach Tod) Kowalczyk said. "(Julius) is a very confident individual who's playing at a very high level. Very happy with how he's playing."
That's Brown -- Juice, is the nickname -- scoring off a banger of an end-of-game play to get the Rockets a win against Buffalo. The pass isn't as perfect as Laettner, but the action looks like it's going to lead to a shorter inbounds pass -- the type that would've led to a rushed 50-footer -- and instead leads to a screen for Brown to catch big man Nathan Boothe's pass and drill an off-balance 18-footer with a hand in his face. (We often drill off-balance 18-footers with hands in our face. It's tough.) Brown is still sitting at fourth in the assists-per-game battle with 7.2, but his 20 points kinda helped get the win here. The MAC's auto-bid is gonna go to either Toledo or Akron most likely, but Onions! has made its allegiance known.
Games of the Days of the Week
Friday, January 17: Green Bay at Wright State (7 p.m., ESPNU)
♫♫♫ THIS IS HOW WE DO IT/IT'S FRIDAY NIGHT/HORIZON'S HERE ON THE MIDWEST SIDE ♫♫♫
If you're drinking a 40 and you have a designated driver, that probably means it's a Horizon League type of night for you. Sans Butler, this league has lost some luster and ain't no way two teams are making the tourney, so you gotta let them shine on Fridays. It's called the Horizon League because you're gonna party with the H-League until the sun comes up. (Actually, we have no idea why it's called the Horizon League.) Wright State earned their spot by raiding the balls out of Valpo in a 62-45 blowout after we featured them in last week's Onions!, but Green Bay is ranked top 50 on Kenpom WAIT GREEN BAY IS RANKED TOP 50 ON KENPOM?
There are only four games on tonight, and although I was torn between this and Canisius-Iona, that game starts at 9 p.m. and I'm being courteous to those of you who actually want to do non-Horizon League things tonight. I love Canisius' Billy Baron, but I got the dilemma out of the way by talking about him anyway.
Saturday, January 18: Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse (4 p.m., ESPN)
Ugh, just monstrous gluttony all day Saturday, the first without college football or the NFL playoffs of the college hoops season. Cancel plans. Although we discussed this up /\ /\ /\ /\ /\, I actually see 'Cuse rolling in this one, because Carrier on, wayward ACC sons..
Sunday, January 19: Minnesota vs. Iowa (1 p.m., BTN)
The only game with a ranked team Sunday, and Iowa's taking on a Minnesota team that just pushed MSU to overtime and beat Ohio State. (Look, Ohio State's still good. They're just vengeful at me hyping them up last week, and decided to lose three straight games, or something.) Plus you can watch the footballs.
Monday, January 20: Creighton vs. Villanova (7 p.m., FS1)
/AIRHORN /AIRHORN /AIRHORN
KENPOM TOP 10 MATCHUP Y'ALL
Go on, New Big East. We wrote a damn ode to you.
And here's your moment: a feature spot between Dougie McBuckets and the nation's No. 1 offense and Villanova's No. 8 defense. A team whose only lose is to 'Cuse and a team whose only losses were in some weird neutral site thing in Anaheim.
Y'all got your flaws -- Butler ain't the type to make a near-title run, and, yanno, DePaul, and the ad for your college hoops coverage features a rocket-propelled childbirth -- but y'all got your shot to make awesome happen here. (Picked over Baylor-Kansas for several reasons, but in part because dear goodness Baylor just got beat down in the BUTT game.)
Tuesday, January 21: Boise State vs. New Mexico (9:15 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Boise State's a fun-ish squad that's a home loss to Wyoming away from being able to say they'd only lost to great teams. New Mexico's got the Pit, which has looked decidedly pregnable with New Mexico State and UNLV grabbing W's. Second-best in the Mountain West is probably up for grabs here.
Wednesday, Jan. 22: Iowa vs. Michigan (7 p.m., BTN)
LOOK, THE B1G IS HYPE THIS YEAR. It was either this or Wisky-Minnesota, which is part of a preposterous double-header on BTN.
This is Iowa's third showing in this spot in two weeks, because, hell yeah, go Iowa awesome. You can make B1G molasses jokes all you want, but the No. 4 offense in the country and No. 13 tempo mean buckets.
And Michigan is a fun example of early season rankings bias. The unranked teams they've lost to are Charlotte (yeah, this is welp-y) and Duke, but since they were ranked high early and lost those games, we've got to think of them as passe. Michigan's actually got the No. 5 Kenpom offense, although significantly more deliberate, and they've found good balance after seeming ALL STAUSKAS EVERYTHING early on.
The B1G's a grinder, and they're gonna keep giving us these.
Thursday, January 23: Stanford vs. UCLA (11 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
No obvious feature matchup tonight -- Colorado vs. Arizona will just make us sad that Colorado looked really good with Spencer Dinwiddie -- so let's turn to a pair of up-tempo squads in Westwood after dark.