Highlights from the ballot … * No changes in the top seven, with Duke on top, followed by Louisville, etc. * No. 8 (last week) Ohio State dropped 10 spots after getting walloped by Illinois: The final was 74-55, but midway through the second half, the Illini were up 25. * Gonzaga moved up three spots, to No. 11, jumping Missouri and Florida in the process. The move was based primarily on the Zags’ win at Oklahoma State — a true road win — on New Year’s Eve. Mark Few’s team looks formidable with a top-tier frontcourt in Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk, one of the most improved players in the country. (If Olynyk isn’t the best big man in the west, he’s close to it … (Actually, he is the best big man in the west. At Oklahoma State, Olynyk scored all 21 of his points in the second half. In the victory at Santa Clara on Saturday, he had 33 and 10.) * Minnesota jumped three spots, to No. 14, after beating Michigan State. I wasn’t all … [Read more...] about My AP basketball top-25 ballot: Duke is No. 1, followed by Louisville and Michigan
Highlights … *** Some changes as the top resulting from the fabulous doubleheader, which is part of a larger early-season disparity: A handful of teams have played elite competition, while the vast majority have faced only creampuffs. Finding the ballot balance is the trick until the strength-of-schedule evens out. Michigan State is the new No. 1 after beating Kentucky, which I grade as the best victory of the season thus far, followed by Kansas. If Duke proves to be better than Kentucky, I’ll re-assess Michigan State’s position on the ballot relative to that of Kansas. I slotted Louisville, my preseason No. 1, just below the Spartans and Jayhawks, followed by Kentucky and then Duke. *** My top four match the top four in the AP rankings for what has to be the first time in eons. We diverge at No. 5: I have the Blue Devils, the AP has Arizona. On my ballot, the Wildcats check in at No. 6. *** Several teams climbed (or entered) the ballot after recording quality wins: … [Read more...] about My AP top-25 basketball ballot: Michigan State is the new No. 1
This will be brief because the focus is now on the Rose Bowl and I’m jammed up with non-Stanford assignments. Result: Won at Arizona State 38-14 Grade: A+ Comment: Dominant road win over a ranked opponent with a title on the line — if that doesn’t deserve an A+, nothing does. Considering the stakes and the opponent, it was the Cardinal’s best showing on the road this season by a factor of 10. As a result, Stanford is making its fourth consecutive BCS appearance, the longest active streak in the country. (Oregon and Alabama are four out of the past five.) * ASU’s Todd Graham was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and deservedly so, but he and his staff were out-coached by David Shaw and his staff. Stanford deftly used the Sun Devils’ ultra-aggressive defensive approach against them with misdirection and play-action. Graham’s tactics reminded me of the strategy used by Washington State and Cal, which loaded up to stop the run and got burned … [Read more...] about Stanford football: Grading the Week (and an early look at Michigan State)
Before we get to the ballot, here’s a USA Today assessment of the Pac-12 that provides some context: The league is precariously to an unprecedented situation on Selection Sunday … *** I moved Missouri to No. 2 after beating Baylor and dropped Syracuse into the 3-hole after judging that Mizzou did more to earn the position. *** Kansas jumped to No. 4 (from 7th) after the Jayhawks beat Baylor in Waco. Duke took over No. 5 — an eight-position bounce — after winning in Chapel Hill. I then slotted Michigan State No. 6 after the Spartans won at Ohio State (by 10). Then came North Carolina and tOSU and Baylor — all three lost at home to ranked opponents — in that order. *** Normally, I would not have dropped the Bears three spots for losing to teams ranked 5 and 7, but the fact is that Duke and Michigan State earned the right to move ahead of Baylor with their stellar road wins. Marquette rounded out one of the most satisfying top 10s of the season … [Read more...] about My Associated Press top-25 basketball ballot: Kentucky remains No. 1, Missouri, Duke, Michigan State climb
Wouldn’t it be fitting if the Michigan loss was, in fact, the beginning of the end of Charlie Weis’ tenure in South Bend? The man whose arrogance has turned off so many Notre Dame fans and administrators … undone by that very same trait against one of Notre Dame’s bitterest rivals. Sure seems like Rich Rod has done a lot more with Michigan than Weis has with Notre Dame — in a much shorter time, I’d add. Of course, of course, of course: He should have run the ball with two-minutes-and-change left and a three-point lead. And yet the Irish threw it, twice … and probably lost because of it. Yes, yes, yes: Michigan needed the timeouts and extra time the incomplete passes provided. The Wolverines scored with 11 seconds left — 11 seconds that wouldn’t have existed if Weis had run the ball. Weis defended his decision, naturally. What would you expect? But Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier said it best, basically calling out Weis … [Read more...] about Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34: The beginning of the end for Weis?