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The JW Top 25
by: Jonathan Watters - Director of NCAA Scouting
December 25, 2006
This week's other JW Hoops Articles:

12.24 Pac-10 Catch-Up
12.23 Gators Send a Message
12.22 ACC Catch-Up
12.18 JW Top 25


(Record, Significant results, change from last week)


1. Florida (11-2, win over #2 Ohio State, +3) – The defending national champs are back on top. They now have the most impressive win of the season and the health problems explain away the early-season “struggles”. It was more than the win, however. It was the way they won, absolutely murdering a great team to completely earn this spot. (12/30, UAB)

2. North Carolina (10-1, win @St Louis, -1) – The Tar Heels didn’t do anything wrong here, but Roy Williams’ bunch never really did anything to earn the top spot, either. The Gators have done that now. This team is obviously going to be in the hunt the entire way. (12/28, Rutgers; 12/31, Dayton)

3. UCLA (11-0, win over Michigan, NC) – Have played like the top team in the country so far. Ben Howland is proving once again that his system is as good as an in the country. Somehow, he gets all his players to perform up to their potential. Huge New Year’s Eve tilt when Washington comes to town. (12/28, Washington State; 12/31, Washington)

4. Kansas (10-2, win over Boston College, +1) – Ranked absurdly low in everybody’s poll. The emphatic win over BC proved a lot, and I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed about in losing @ DePaul. Kansas is going to be a 1-seed in the end, just too talented not to be.(12/28, Detroit; 12/30, Rhode Island)

5. Arizona (9-1, win over Memphis, +1) – The Wildcats have put together a string of nice home wins and getting quite a bit of positive press headed into Pac-10 play. There are still signs of that Virginia collapse in nearly every game, but don’t expect another 05-06 debacle. (12/28, Cal; 12/30, Stanford)

6. Ohio State (10-2, loss @Florida -4) – Don’t read into this loss too much, as it is still hard to see anybody else winning the Big Ten. We find out if this team is for real very quickly in Big Ten play, with trips to Illinois and Wisconsin back to back. (12/30, Coppin State)

7. Wisconsin (12-1, no notable games, NC) – This team is a bit overrated in the national polls. Bo Ryan got the two big wins, but both were at home, both were serious battles, and in both the Badgers shot the ball uncharacteristically well. Obviously a great team, but I want to see them beat the Buckeyes first. The visit to Georgia is going to be tough. (12/27, Gardner-Webb; 12/31 @Georgia)

8. Duke (11-1, win over Gonzaga, +3) – The Blue Devils truly earned this spot with their post-Marquette meltdown play. There have been several quality wins, but taking down Gonzaga with much better play from Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus is very significant. (12/31, San Jose State)

9. Texas A&M (10-2, win @Auburn, -1) – The Aggies drop because the number eight spot really was up for grabs last week, and Duke got the big win to take it. Billy Gillispie has yet to knock down a marquee win, but nobody would expect this team to go into UCLA and get a win. I thought they could take down LSU in Baton Rouge, but it is another loss I can understand. The Aggies have looked very impressive in a handful of blowouts over mediocre teams. (12/28, Grambling State)

10. Washington (10-1, win over LSU, +5) – It isn’t just the win over LSU, but the emphatic way in which they won. More specifically, the Huskies looked like a different team on the defensive end. Tough pair of road games in LA to start the conference slate. (12/28, @USC; 12/31 @UCLA)

11. Alabama (11-1, win @NC State, -2) – Once again, this is a team that did nothing wrong over the past week but was simply passed up by a pair of teams that suddenly look a lot more proven than the Crimson Tide. It has been a tumultuous stretch for Mark Gottfried, with Jermareo Davidson losing his brother last week and Ronald Steele desperately trying to get back to full strength. (12/29, Lipscomb)

12. Pittsburgh (11-2, loss @Oklahoma State, win over Dayton, -2) – The Panthers probably never were a Top 5 team, and certainly shouldn’t hang their heads in losing the two games they did. The 7-12 range is where the Panthers should be ranked, and the blowout over Dayton gets this team headed back in the right direction. (12/30, Lipscomb)

13. Connecticut (11-0, no notable games, NC) – The Huskies shouldn’t be penalized for not playing anybody when they will shortly, and the reality of the matter is that this team is pretty stinking good. There could be a rough patch or two, but I fully expect the young Huskies to be in the thick of things at the end of February. The first road test comes this week at West Virginia. (12/27, Coppin State; 12/30 @West Virginia)

14. Oklahoma State (12-1, loss @Tennessee, win over Pittsburgh, +2)Mario Boggan looks like a first team All-American, and the Cowboys certainly shouldn’t be punished for losing to a very good Tennessee team on the road. The game against Pitt was a classic, though the final outcome really could have gone either way. (12/30, Texas-San Antonio)

15. Tennessee (10-2, wins over Oklahoma State and Texas, +8) – Not too sure how the Volunteers remain unranked in the Coaches’ poll after an outstanding stretch of play. Granted, they were at home the entire way. But the Memphis win was of the season-defining variety, while Oklahoma State and Texas aren’t teams to sneeze at no matter where you play them. The youngsters are really starting to pick it up, and Pearl appears to be an emerging fast-paced version of Ben Howland (12/28, Tennessee Tech; 12/30, Tennessee Tech)

16. Notre Dame (10-1, no significant results, +3) – 16 is where it got tricky this week, with a bunch of teams competing for a spot that none probably deserve. The Fighting Irish were the team that hasn’t slipped up thus far, though I’m still not convinced this team is better than Syracuse, Marquette or Villanova (12/28, Rider; 12/30, Stony Brook)

17. Marquette (12-2, no significant results, +5) – The Golden Eagles have looked so-so outside of taking down Duke in a game I’m not sure Coach K even cared about winning, but move up because of several teams ahead of them losing and the fact that I probably had them ranked too low a week ago. It still comes down to the reality that when Dominic James and Jerel McNeal are clicking, Marquette probably isn’t losing. (12/30, Savannah State)

18. Wichita State (19-2, losses to New Mexico and USC, -6) – It was an ugly week for every Mid-Major backer’s golden boy, with PJ Couisnard getting sick and the Shockers going down twice in Vegas to teams that a Top 10 club has no business losing to. Mark Turgeon’s bunch also struggled with Kennesaw State, of all teams. (12/30, UNI)

19. Nevada (10-1, win @Akron, +5) – Winning at Akron is a big deal, even if the Zips are a bit off the national radar. No, the Wolfpack haven’t played particularly well thus far. But Mark Fox has largely weathered Nick Fazekas’ injury bug and Nevada is only going to get better from here. Ramon Sessions is back playing like he was always supposed to, with a trip to Spokane looming. (12/28, Maine; 12/30 @Gonzaga)

20. Syracuse (10-3, loss to Drexel, win over Hofstra, +1) – I apologize if you find this ranking absurd, but I’ve got some serious faith in the Orange this year. They are still playing terrible basketball considering how good this team is going to be, and Syracuse could still be undefeated if a few more bounces had gone their direction. (12/30, St Bonaventure)

21. Missouri State (10-2, loss @St Louis, win @South Florida, +8) – It is time to compare Shockers and Bears. Missouri State has the best win. Their two losses are much more justifiable. Just like Wichita, Missouri State returns pretty much everybody and were probably just as good as the Shockers were last year. I’m having a hard time not switching these two “mid-major powers” around this week. We’ll see what happens @Creighton, who probably aren’t any worse that the two MVC teams on this list. (12/30, @Creighton)

22. Boston College (7-3, loss @Kansas, -5) – Losing at Kansas is nothing to be ashamed of, but the way this team fell apart in the first half probably is. I’ll ride this Al Skinner squad into the ground if I have to, but Saturday’s inability to compete at the Phog is a bit discouraging. (12/28, Duquesne; 12/31, Northeastern)

23. LSU (7-3, win @Oregon State, loss @Washington, -3) – I’ve gotten a chance to really watch the Tigers over the past two weeks and I’m baffled that this 3-loss team continues to get the benefit of the doubt from the pollsters. John Brady’s club isn’t playing good defense, and are really missing Darrell Mitchel and Tyrus Thomas. We’ll see what happens in conference play. (12/27 Louisiana Tech, 12/28 Mississippi Valley State, 12/29 Samford)
24. Oregon (11-0, no significant results, NC) – The Ducks aren’t moving higher until they do something in conference play, which isn’t going to happen if Malik Hairston isn’t healthy. (12/28, Portland; 12/30, @Oregon State)

25. Gonzaga(9-4, loss to Duke, -11) – I’m really high on this Gonzaga team and will remain so, unless they drop both their remaining non-conference tests. This team was in desperate need of a home game, and Nevada visiting The Kennel this week is just what the doctor ordered. If Mark Few’s bunch wins their next two, they are right back in the Top 25, and likely the Top 15 of my ranking. (12/30, Nevada)

Honorable Mention

Drexel (8-2, back to back to back wins @Villanova, @Syracuse, @Temple – The Dragons struggled a bit early in the season, but have bounced back with a very impressive string of road wins. Drexel looks like the class of the Colonial, and as George Mason taught everybody last year, that means something. In the grand scheme of things, this is a team that probably deserves Top 25 status right now, and absolutely if they can knock off those Patriots on Thursday. (12/28, George Mason)

Clemson (12-0, wins @Old Dominion, @Minnesota, @South Carolina, and over Mississippi State) – I’m sorry, but this isn’t a terrible schedule. Winning at South Carolina shouldn’t be scoffed at, and if the Tigers can take down Georgia, I believe they are deserving of Top 25 status. The veteran backcourt duo of Vern Hamilton and Cliff Hammonds is quite formidable, James Mays is one of the most underrated big men in the country, and the freshmen class has provided much-needed depth. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this team make finish in the upper middle of the pack in the ACC and finally head back to the NCAA Tournament.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan.watters@draftexpress.com .

 

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Weight: 240 lbs.
Birthday: 03/01/1987
27 Years Old
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Previous Team: Heat , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #7 in 2007 Draft
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NBA: PF,
Possible: PF/C
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Birthday: 07/04/1986
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Previous Team: Duke , PRO
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NBA: PG,
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Physicals
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Weight: 230 lbs.
Birthday: 11/17/1984
30 Years Old
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Physicals
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Weight: 240 lbs.
Birthday: 09/30/1983
31 Years Old
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Previous Team: Oklahoma State , PRO
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Physicals
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 175 lbs.
Birthday: 10/05/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Richmond
Previous Team: Marquette , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
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Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
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15.4 Pts, 2.5 Rebs, 3.5 Asts


Jerel McNeal
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Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Birthday: 07/01/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Hillcrest
Previous Team: Marquette , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
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Physicals
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Weight: 225 lbs.
Birthday: 06/18/1985
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Weight: 185 lbs.
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Weight: 190 lbs.
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Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 217 lbs.
Birthday: 08/17/1986
28 Years Old
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Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 204 lbs.
Birthday: 02/24/1987
27 Years Old
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Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 227 lbs.
Birthday: 03/08/1986
28 Years Old
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