If you have been casually following college basketball to this point, we have shocking new that will stun you. As of this morning, the second best conference in college basketball is……The Mountain West, according to the respected Sagarin Ratings. No, today is not April 1, it is true, this conference ranks ahead of the Big East, ACC, Big 12 and the SEC in college basketball.
How can this be you ask, let’s examine the facts. The Mountain West might only have one team in the AP Top 25 (New Mexico at No.15), but that is because voters watch too much ESPN and don’t see the whole picture with many of the MWC games broadcast on the NBC Sports Network.
The top 6 teams in the Mountain West standings are a combined 91-20 overall, which is the best in college basketball (based on current league records). If you look thru the rosters of all the top teams, you will find players that started their college playing careers in other locations from bigger conferences, but couldn’t find the floor. They instead transferred and have blossomed into starters in far away locations, which has strengthened the conference.
Another important factor is the quality of coaching in this league. Here we find names like Steve Fisher (San Diego State), Steve Alford (New Mexico), Larry Eustachy (Colorado State) and Larry Shyatt (Wyoming); all who coached at bigger time programs and know how to win. And do not sell short coaches you might not have heard, yet are well-respected in the fraternity like Dave Rice (UNLV) and Leon Rice (Boise State), who have reinvigorated their programs.
One last area to consider is matching knowledgeable coaches with the right type of players. Transfers who want to play are going to be more accommodating since there is no place else to turn to, unless you drop down a division. Also, many of the players recruited to these schools were “not quite good enough” in somebody else’s eyes and for the most part their work ethic is going to be better.
We are not suggesting the MWC will have two teams in the Final Four, but do not be surprised on Selection Sunday when this league could have five bids.
Dicky V left almost speechless by Duke’s performance
When the words ‘Duke’ and ‘thrashed’ are used in the same sentence, it almost always means the Blue Devils have blown their opponent out and covered the spread. Last night was one for the ages, as No.1 Duke was thrashed by Miami of Florida (for a day, the basketball program can go with “The U”) 90-63.
If you watched Duke basketball over the years under Coach K, there has been games like this, as rare as they are, where his team plays with little or no emotion for the first half and were being pummeled. However, I cannot recall seeing a team of his come out of the locker at halftime and play even worse to start the second half, forcing him to bench three starters after 90 seconds.
Give the Hurricanes all the credit, they took the Devils will and took everything Duke was willing to give. Miami has a veteran team which has a great deal of talent like F Kenny Kadji, guards Durand Scott and Shane Larkin, who destroyed the Blue Devils all night with dribble penetration.
If you use the USA Today Coaches poll, it was not a good night to be a ranked team. Overall this contingent was 5-4 and a bankroll-draining 2-6-1 ATS.
Butler, Creighton and Minnesota all lost outright along with Duke, but oddsmakers were right in thinking the Bulldogs might have a letdown and they closed at +2 or +2.5 to cover. The Bluejays and Golden Gophers lost to teams that perfectly matched their strengths against the opposing team’s weaknesses.
Oregon and Wichita State failed to cover against conference foes they should have beaten handily and Indiana just didn’t distance themselves enough over Penn State, winning 72-49 as a 24-point chalk.
Besides Butler covering, Florida also turned out to be a winner, just in much different fashion. The Gators were supplying Georgia 14.5 points and trailed by three at halftime. The Bulldogs are good right? Florida comes out and gorges Georgia 40-20 in the second half to win 64-47 and cover the number.
Here is one final item. If you shopped early, Marshall was available for +11 against Southern Mississippi on the road. Despite a 2-10-1 ATS mark, the betting public thought the Thundering Herd would be competitive and moved them down to +9.5. Marshall started right, making a three-pointer to take a very early 3-0 lead. Southern Miss would go on to score 47 of the games next 51 points and led Marshall 47-7. Gulp! So much for taking the early points!