Can’t Trust It

Can’t Trust It
Jan 26, 2006, 01:31 am
My head is spinning. The college basketball season is half way over, and I have no idea what to think. Usually, by the end of January I’ve got my Final Four picks taken care of. The cream has risen, and while conference play yields plenty of parody, my opinions on the real noise makers rarely change. Last year, for instance, UNC was playing with a roster full of soon to be Charlotte Bobcats, and Illinois looked downright invincible. This year the odds on favorite mauled #2 Texas in Austin and then fell apart at unranked Georgetown. With no one to trust, I’ve turned my attention to more confident speculation: who not to trust. Here are five baskets not to put your eggs in as we move deeper into conference play and beyond.

Florida – All the talk about how much better Florida is without Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson is nonsense. It’s true, Taurean Green looked like a young Gary Payton against Morgan State earlier this year, but Morgan State is now 0-16. Everybody plays cupcakes before the conference schedule kicks in, but Florida’s problem is that their conference is just as soft. After coming up short against Tennessee, Billy D has some questions to answer, namely, who takes shots in the clutch when Florida’s balance and unselfishness become waywardness and timidity? Sure, Roberson shot too many 3s, and Walsh wore a headband with his number on it, but you didn’t have to beg them to take over when it mattered. If I were Teddy Dupay, I’d invest my money elsewhere come tournament time.

Michigan – Tommy “deer in headlights” Amaker. Young, likeable, well-schooled, he has recruited plenty of talent and assembled a roster with a seemingly ideal combination of role players and stars. Students in Ann Arbor are more excited about basketball than they’ve been in years, and it’ll only take one or two big wins to get that Sweet 16 chatter going. But here’s the problem: this team has no identity. Michigan has talented players on offense, with a bunch of quick guards and athletic forwards, but they don’t run consistently. Every half court set seems to end up with the ball in Horton’s hands 40 feet from the basket, going one on one as the shot clock winds down. This would be fine if they were a grind it out defensive team, like Pittsburgh, but other than Graham Brown nobody plays D for a full 40 minutes. The maize and blue might knock of Wisconsin or Iowa at home, but big dogs Indiana and Michigan State will bite and bark louder than the Wolverines when it matters. U of M is already on the bubble, and Amaker should be too.

Louisville – Taquan Dean is going to come back strong, make a bunch of timely 3s, and carry the Cardinals to some tough wins late in the Big East season. They’ll pull off an upset against either Villanova or West Virginia, and everyone will be jocking them going into the season finale against UConn. By that time, Calhoun will have figured out that when he ignores Rudy Gay and filters all instructions through the supremely coachable and poised Marcus Williams, his team runs smooth as a Huskie through the New England snow. Louisville will get beat by 20 at Storrs and fail to recover in time for the Big East Tournament, resulting in a #6 seed and a first round date in the West regional bracket with a hungry team like Cal. Game, set, match.

Boston College – The ACC isn’t as tough as the Eagles are making it seem, and everyone’s quick to cite the switch in conferences as the reason for their struggles. But while going to Duke is no picnic, it’s not like B.C. isn’t used to the competition, coming from the Big East. Boston College has a simple problem with no solution: guard play. Freshman Tyrese Rice can really score, but his shot selection mirrors that of the cops from the Amadou Diallo trial. Senior Louis Hinnant can pass, but doesn’t really have the quickness to deal with ball pressure or guard the other team’s point. Unless Al Skinner figures out a way to put Hinnant’s head on Rice’s body, B.C. is at a decided disadvantage during close, pressure-filled games. Smith, Dudley, and Marshall will scrap with anyone, and the coach is no slouch, so this team will be a factor in the ACC tournament. But I wouldn’t ride with them to the dance.

UCLA – I like the Bruins, but they’re a year away. They’ll coast through the PAC-10 schedule with the disintegration of Arizona and get a favorable seed come March. But their performance against West Virginia has early NCAA Tournament exit written all over it. Affalo and Farmar are two of the country’s best, but they just don’t play together well enough. Either of them can get a shot when ever they want, and it seems like Farmar is still more confident in his than Affalo’s. I’m not chalking this up to a simple chemistry problem; I think it’s a real coach’s dilemma. If Howland is going to trust Farmar all game, as he should, he can’t then demand that he play second fiddle to the shooting guard come crunch time. If, however, Affalo doesn’t get the ball enough, he starts getting frustrated, predictable, and irresponsible on both ends. They’ll learn their lesson the hard way and bow out in the round of 32 this year. Hopefully, both guards will be back next year, and their growth combined with the cementation of Howland’s no-nonsense defensive philosophy will payoff in 06-07.

Recent articles

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop