1. Why Kansas is the odds-on favorite to win it all
It has been more than a decade since college basketball crowned a champion that did not have an experienced point guard. Every team in the last ten years had one. Ty Lawson, Mario Chalmers, Taurean Green, Raymond Felton, Ben Gordon, Keith Duany, Steve Blake, Jason Williams, Mateen Cleaves.
You can bet on it every year, the last team standing will have a quality veteran point guard leading his team. That’s what separates the Kansas Jayhawks from the rest of the top teams in the country this season.
Sherron Collins has been magnificent in 2009-10, leading the Jayhawks in scoring, assists, and free throw percentage. On a supremely talented team with more depth than anyone else in America, Collins has shined above the rest.
The rest of the favorites to make the Final Four all have talented point guards, but they are all inexperienced. John Wall at Kentucky is at the forefront of this argument, but also Brandon Triche at Syracuse, and Truck Bryant at West Virginia.
Some of the top teams with veteran point guards are Duke (Jon Scheyer) – see previous posts for why they won’t make it all the way – Villanova (Scottie Reynolds/Corey Fisher), and Kansas State (Jacob Pullen).
None of those teams are as talented as the Jayhawks are across the board, which is why I’m starting to lean towards Kansas as my early championship pick.
2. Purdue is royally screwed
When Robbie Hummel went tumbling to the floor in the first half Purdue’s win over Minnesota Wednesday night, so did any hope of a Final Four run for the Boilermakers.
All five of Purdue’s starters average at least 27 minutes per game.
The bench player with the most playing time is Kelsey Barlow with 15.9 minutes per game.
The Boilermakers have no depth whatsoever, and they surely couldn’t afford to lose its best player for the season. Of course, no team wants to lose its star, but when head coach Matt Painter clearly has no solid options to go to off the bench, Purdue is in trouble.
With Hummel in the lineup, the Boilermakers had a good shot at making a run to the Elite Eight, or even the Final Four. Without him, I’ll be shocked if they make it to the Sweet 16.
3. Game to watch Saturday: (8) Villanova at (4) Syracuse
The Orange need a win Saturday and one more to clinch an outright Big East championship. As if they needed any more motivation in a top-ten conference battle at home in prime time on national television.
Syracuse has won two straight games after its surprising loss to Louisville on Valentine’s Day.
Villanova enters the game in a much bigger rut than the Orange. After starting the Big East season 9-0, the Wildcats are 3-3 since, including consecutive losses last week to Connecticut and at Pittsburgh.
If the ‘Cuse pull off this win tomorrow night, it would be their sixth against a team ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game this season.
This is a pivotal game for Villanova, because its final two games are not easy. The Wildcats travel to Cincinnati and host West Virginia next week.
This could also be one final bout for conference player of the year honors. There are several players in the Big East vying for the honor, but the two favorites have to be Wesley Johnson from Syracuse and Scottie Reynolds at ‘Nova. Johnson averages 16 points and nine rebounds this season to lead the Orange, while Reynolds has put an outstanding cap on an illustrious career, scoring 19 points per game for the Wildcats.
If the Orange win, it could go a long way in making their case for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Wildcats win, it will ease the pain of their recent struggles, and give them some momentum heading into the difficult final week of their regular season.