1. Don’t sleep on the Mountain West
On Saturday, BYU lost a heartbreaker to New Mexico in one of the best games this season. The game pitted nos. 11 and 12 against each other in a display of the Mountain West’s two best teams.
The Lobos’ 83-81 win moved them to 13-2 in conference play and put them in the discussion as a third seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Steve Alford, who did an underwhelming job at Iowa, has won more games in his first three seasons than any coach in Lobo history. New Mexico has won 13 games in a row, and is one of the hottest teams in the country.
BYU, which fell by two points to the Lobos on its senior night, still have a great opportunity to be on the fifth seed line or better. The Cougars’ out of conference schedule is pretty weak, with their best two wins coming at Arizona and at home against Arizona State. Still, at 26-4 they have a case for a respectable seed.
The rest of the conference is nothing to be ashamed of either. UNLV and San Diego State each have at least 20 wins this season. UNLV has beaten Louisville, New Mexico on the road, and BYU at home. The Rebels could play spoiler in the conference tournament; if they run the table and win the tournament championship even they could find themselves on that five or six line.
2. Biggest “What If” Scenario in 2010? Jonny Flynn still at Syracuse
The Orange screamed to the country on Saturday night that the Big East was their territory, and nobody could do a damn thing to prove otherwise. In an inspired second half, Syracuse swallowed Villanova in front of over 35,000 faithful fans in the Carrier Dome.
It was the perfect weekend for the Orange program. Kansas, Kentucky and Purdue all lost, meaning Syracuse will undoubtedly be the top-ranked team when the polls come out this afternoon.
Now, I stand by my case last week that the Jayhawks will ultimately win the national championship (this is a preliminary choice – don’t bitch at me if I change it later), but Syracuse is missing one key component that would make them the unquestionable favorites, and that is Jonny Flynn.
Flynn is the unflappable point guard from last year’s team that delivered a memorable performance against Connecticut in six overtimes during the Big East Tournament. After playing his way to a seven-figure pay day in the NBA, he ineveitably skipped his final two seasons of eligibility to become a lottery pick with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
His departure left Jim Boeheim’s program with no options at point guard. Brandon Triche has surprised everyone with his steady play and ability to distribute the ball to stars Wesley Johnson, Andy Rautins and Rick Jackson.
With all due respect to Triche, if Flynn was still around the Orange may very well be unbeaten. Flynn was the face of the program and had emerged as the best point guard in America by the end of last year. He caused no locker room problems, and would have given Syracuse the most experienced team with so much talent it would not have even been fair.
If it’s and but’s were candy and nuts…
3. If you are anywhere nearby, go to the Big South Tournament
Tuesday night marks the tip-off of the Big South Conference Tournament, and the defending champion Radford Highlanders earned the second seed. The Highlanders face Charleston Southern at 7:00 p.m. at home.
After a mid-season struggle, Radford ended the regular season by winning seven of eight games, with the only loss coming by one point to regular season champion Coastal Carolina.
Radford is a fun team to watch play, mainly because of their star duo in the post of Joey Lynch-Flohr and Art Parakhouski. Parakhouski has a good chance to be taken in June’s NBA draft, with his 6’11, 260-pound frame he is a natural NBA-type center.
Brad Greenberg has done a tremendous job rebuilding the program in three seasons, but with Lynch-Flohr, Parakhouski, Amir Johnson and Philip Martin all graduating, this is as good a chance as Greenberg will have to get back to the NCAA Tournament for a couple of years.
If the Highlanders win on Tuesday, they will travel to Coastal Carolina for the semifinals, where they will face either Winthrop or Liberty on Thursday.
The championship game will be at the site of the highest remaining seed, meaning it will either be at Coastal or Radford if the Highlanders make it that far.
For tickets to tomorrow’s game against Charleston Southern, visit http://www.radfordathletics.com/news/2010/2/24/MBB_0224104605.aspx?ATCLID=204799295&SPSID=25346&SPID=1987&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=4800