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NCAA Basketball Debrief: Finals Week Serves As The College Hoops Trade Deadline

It's finals week for many schools across the country. We're not handing out grades, but we are recollecting on the grind of term papers and multiple choice exams, and acknowledging some welcome additions to major programs with conference play upon us.

Following a month of early season basketball tournaments, we have reached a bit of a reprieve in the college basketball season. It's finals week, baby!

Also known as the opposite of Spring Break, finals week is one of the few times in life the working man can call his son and emphatically yell, "sucks to be you!" into the telephone as he kicks off his shoes and cracks open a crisp PBR to commence a relaxing weeknight. The vicious cycle of sleep, test, eat, study, sleep is certainly grueling, but it's followed by a nice trip home that's full of debauchery with high school friends. Your mom just wants you to leave, your dad just wants his half-empty case of PBR back. It's a wonderful time, one I continue to cherish as I move into adulthood.

Finals week is also the time where all students must face the music. This includes the college basketball player who should not consider himself exempt from penalties as a result of a crappy academic semester. Finals week can mean significant trouble for a basketball team. We remember the 2005-06 Maryland squad, when leading scorer Chris McCray became academically ineligible after the fall semester, spoiling the rest of the Terrapins season. More recently, in 2008, UAB had to boot four players, depleting their roster and nearly blowing up their rotation.

This season, a handful of teams are conversely welcoming the end of the fall semester. With suspensions ending and players are finally cleared to suit up, teams could see benefits that are the college equivalent of a trade-deadline acquisition.

Most notable is Kansas' Josh Selby. Because Jared Sullinger is a back-to-the-basket guy, he lacks flash. And because Kyrie Irving's injury may prevent him from ever playing college basketball again, there's still time for Selby to become the sexy freshman we all gush about. Undefeated and looking fairly sharp at all positions on the court, the addition of Selby could propel the Jayhawks into the national title conversation. After sitting out the first nine games for from Carmelo Anthony's buddy, Selby is ready to go.

In the SEC, Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney is finally all-systems-go to debut Saturday down at the Bahamas' Atlantis Resort against Virginia Tech. Sidney's story is more of a saga, and is serving as a prime case for criticizing the incongruities of NCAA bylaws. While a virtual unknown in the general sports world, Sidney is so well known, yet unknown, in college basketball circles, he just might be someone more famous than good. We've heard a lot about this guy, but he has yet to log a minute of college basketball in the span of 45 games played by the Bulldogs. He's an absolute load, and could really help Rick Stansbury's club by providing scoring and offensive rebounding to help a Mississippi State team that gets only 66 possessions a game.

Other noteworthy additions include Marquette transfer Jeronne Maymon suiting up for Tennessee; 7-foot German import Enosch Wolf (Ivan make basket!) enrolling at UConn; and the well-traveled Alex Legion surfacing at Florida International after stops in Lexington and Champaign, Illinois.

So with finals week in full swing across the country here's hoping your favorite player passed his exams ... or at least found someone to take them for him. And for those teams punching up their rotations, be thankful this is amateur athletics and you don't have to negotiate a contract extension.

Now to an abbreviated week that was, because it's finals week, and I was tied up after procrastinating with my Christmas shopping.

Five Up

  • Groupon - Huh? You ask. Well Groupon apparently has a few funny bones in their system. Check out this write-up one of their copywriters put together as a way to entice people in eastern Massachusetts to a Boston University basketball game. Written tongue-in-cheek, the whole thing is just one big WTF.

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  • Tennessee Oakland - Just two days after downing Pittsburgh, Tennessee looked like the SEC favorite. They still might be, but don't tell that to Oakland. The thunder-stealing Grizzlies have a coach that doesn't really look like a coach, and a senior center who is a lock to play in the NBA. Despite being 5-5, Oakland has been knocking on the door of the big six for a few years know, always scheduling a handful of games against teams with a lot more acclaim and cash. This win over the Volunteers (in Knoxville, no less) immediately gives them upset potential come March.
  • Louisville Drexel - Seriously, can we get some consistency in this sport? Just hours after receiving a commitment from Rodney Purvis, one of 2012's top guards, on Saturday Louisville downed undefeated UNLV, thanks to shooting 8-13 from behind the arc in the second half. Then the Cardinals follow that with a Tuesday loss to the Dragons. Rick Pitino's desire to coach the Puerto Rican National team, however, remains a mystery.
  • Jared Sullinger – If Kyrie Irving injury that is keeping him out indefinitely continues to keep him out, well, indefinitely, then it may be a one-horse race for National Freshman of the Year. Watching the Buckeyes play, you forget that Evan Turner was running this show just eight months ago. Sullinger dropped 40 on the hopeless IUPUI last week, and leads a Buckeyes team that's actually better than a year ago. It's how this stuff play itself out.
  • Evan Fjeld – Man crush alert! The Vermont Catamounts forward's 'stache just keeps getting prettier by the TV appearance. If you don't know, here's his back story.
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    Five Down

    • Whatever Spanish League team is paying Angel Garcia to play basketball – Speaking of pretty people, Memphis lost reserve forward Angel Garcia to a Spanish League basketball team willing to pay this kid. While Garcia is about to get paid (and more power to him), Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy is really befuddled by this.
    • The Pac 10 – Remember last season when the Pac 10 was awful, so awful that they sparked one-bid league talk? Nothing has changed, as the league once again has no top 25 representatives, and are ninth in conference RPI rankings, just a tick above the Ivy League.
    • And the ACC too – When people start asking if Boston College is the second best team in the conference, you have bigger problems. Currently removed from the fray is a struggling Virginia Tech, a confused North Carolina, and an inconsistent North Carolina State. Joe Trapani, you’re a nice player, but not the best player on a top-flight team in a basketball-centric conference.
    • Gonzaga – The Zags have not been below .500 this late in the season since 1992. And that was well before Casey Calvary changed the program’s fortunes for the better. On a national level, this is the worst start to a Bulldogs season that we have ever seen.
    • Colgate – The only reason you're not seeing mainstay Alcorn State is because they've been off since Dec. 8, and don't hit the court again until Dec. 21. Must be nice. Making a cameo appearance is the Colgate Raiders. Here's a quick recipe for a 100-43 blowout against Syracuse: Two parts 10-56 shooting from the floor, one part 0.25 assist-to-turnover ratio and one part 20 turnovers.

                         

    It was tweeted

    We wanted to show you just how articulate Syracuse's Scoop Jardine has been lately discussing the trials and tribulations of college girls, but we really can't anymore. Instead, we'll settle for a boring PG-rated assessment of Florida State chicks from Seminoles forward Chris Singleton.

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    This Weekend's Games

    It's a three-day weekend around these parts, and while I will be jet-setting to an undisclosed warm-weather destination with the family for the next 10 days (off the grid, college basketball-less), Saturday is shaping up to be a nice day of games. Other than that it's a pretty bare weekend as schools wrap up the test-taking.

    Thursday

    Friday

    • Unless Arizona State vs. Nevada wets your appetite (it shouldn't) you're relieved of your duties for a second straight night.

    Saturday

    • USC at Kansas (ESPN) Noon --- the debut of freshman Josh Selby
    • South Carolina at Ohio State; or Stanford at Butler (CBS) 2 pm
    • Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (ESPN2) 2 pm
    • Kansas State vs. Florida (FSN) 3:30pm
    • Texas vs. North Carolina (CBS) 4 pm
    • Gonzaga vs. Baylor (ESPN2) 4:30 pm
    • Detroit at Central Michigan (ESPNU) 7 pm
    • Wake Forest at Xavier (CBS College Sports) 8 pm --- Round 2 in the Skip Prosser Classic

    Sunday

    • Go to church, watch football, and call your mother.