By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
This time of year when ESPN spends much of its "SportsCenter" air showing tournament resumes of NCAA bubble teams, at least one thing is misleading.
Not that I'm complaining, because March is definitely the best month of the year and if ESPN or anyone else wants to devote entire shows to college basketball, I will watch.
But the category called "Key Wins" can many times portray a picture much different from reality.
Take, for example, the Cincinnati resume. Three weeks ago the Bearcats were a bubble team. Expert Joe Lunardi's "First Four Out" notwithstanding, I thought UC had no chance once mid-February rolled around because its two signature triumphs were three months earlier. Wins over Vanderbilt and Maryland would seem hot now, but I'm pretty sure the Bearcats, even at familiar Fifth Third Cemetery, would have no chance against either of those teams.
North Carolina is another example of how early season results aren't a great gauge of a team's current capabilities. Way back when, the defending champion Tar Heels beat Ohio State (currently ranked No. 6) and Michigan State (No. 11) and lost at Kentucky (No. 3) by just two points.
I don't have the perfect solution; quality wins are obviously key in determining at least a small part of a team's candidacy for the NCAA Tournament. But maybe less weight should be placed on what a team did around Thanksgiving, and greater consideration should be given to a team's last 10 games before its conference tournament.
WHY NOT HARANGODY? With apologies to Syracuse's Wesley Johnson and Villanova's Scottie Reynolds, and maybe even Marquette's Lazar Hayward, but I'm curious why Luke Harangody isn't really getting any mentions at all for Big East Player of the Year.
His 24.1 points per game are nearly three full points ahead of the league's No. 2 scorer, and his 10 rebounds per game are second only to Seton Hall's Herb Pope. He's scored 29 points or more in seven games this year for Notre Dame.
In their last two games without the injured senior, the Irish have earned two nice wins over Pittsburgh and Georgetown, but if Harangody was out the entire season, Notre Dame would barely make the second round of the Indiana high school tournament. Outside of the score sheet, he's that team's entire heart and soul.
PRETTY NICE LITTLE SATURDAY: Get your Bed, Bath & Beyond run out of the way early Saturday, because for the second straight week, there's a great reason to be on your couch for at least six straight hours.
+ West Virginia at Villanova, CBS
+ Syracuse at Louisville, ESPN
+ Kansas at Missouri, CBS
+ Texas at Baylor, ESPN
And even though the annual season-ender between Duke and North Carolina won't have an ACC title on the line, the Blue Devils are playing for a No. 1 tournament seed. And the visiting Heels, with no pressure on them whatsoever, would love nothing more than to ruin Senior Night in Durham. These hated rivals meet at 9 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).
FINAL FOUR PICKS: Everyone seems to agree on three of the four top seeds, but that last slot is up for grabs. No one's talking about Duke; do the Devils deserve it? How about Kansas State? Can Purdue slide in without Robbie Hummel? Here are my projected top seeds, with predicted region champions in parentheses.
MIDWEST: Kansas (Kansas)
SOUTH: Syracuse (Syracuse)
EAST: Kentucky (Kentucky)
WEST: Kansas State (Duke)
WILD CARD: Ohio State has no bench, but if it can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, Evan Turner, the nation's finest player, will carry the Buckeyes to Indianapolis.
SLEEPER: The West will be the weakest of the four regions, so this could finally be the year for Gonzaga to break through and get to a Final Four.