While Syracuse, Kansas, and Kentucky are battling atop the rankings, some other less talked about teams are quietly moving up and making their case for some national recognition. Teams like New Mexico, Temple, and Maryland are playing their best basketball at the right time and looking forward to making some noise in the NCAA Tournament.
#10 New Mexico (27-3) – The Mountain West leading Lobos cracked the top 10 in the latest poll, moving up two spots from #12. The Lobos have a great resume headlined by their rpi of 7 and schedule strength of 51, but their most impressive aspect of their resume is the Lobos 7-2 record against teams in the rpi top 50. New Mexico has to overcome the critics that say they play in a weak conference and played a weak out of conference schedule, but I am confident that come tournament time the Lobos of New Mexico will silence their critics.
#16 Temple (24-5) - The underappreciated Owls lead the surprise conference of the year, the A-10. Temple has been ranked since week 6 because of their more than credible body of work which consists of a rpi of 19, a strength of schedule of 69, and a 6-3 record against teams in the rpi top 50 including a win against Villanova. The Owls are led by their strong guard play with Brooks and Fernandez having a hand in a majority of the Owls points. The NCAA Tournament is all about the guards and I believe that Temple could stir some things up in March.
#23 Maryland (21-7) - The second place Terps in the ACC are finally back in the top 25 after a lengthy hietus. The Terps are back in the rankings after their double overtime win in Blacksburg in which ACC Player of the Year candidate Greivis Vasquez had 41 points to lead all scorers. The Terps are on a 5 game winning streak and have won 7 0f their last 8 overall, their only loss coming to Duke who they play Wednesday in College Park for the ACC crown. The Terps can definitely polish their resume with a win against 4th ranked Duke, but they have already pretty much locked up their NCAA Tournament bid. Maryland has a rpi of 25, a strength of schedule rank of 29, and 4 wins against the rpi top 50. As far as both the ACC and NCAA tournaments go, Maryland will go as far as Greivis Vasquez will take them.
South Carolina Stymies Ole Miss (SCAR-16, #4 Miss-10)
The “Old Ball Coach” usually beats his opponents using his superior offensive knowledge but not against the Rebels. It was actually the Gamecocks’ defense that held one of the nation’s best offenses to only 10 points and made Jevon Snead look eerily uncomfortable. Mississippi let the pressure of being on prime-time television get to them and South Carolina took advantage of the Rebels lackluster performance.
Hawkeyes Tame the Lions…Again (Iowa-21, #5 PSU-10)
Iowa has now won 7 of their last 8 games against Penn State, who were the #5 team in the country basically by default. The Nittany Lions did not deserve to be ranked #5 and it showed against Iowa. PSU moved into the top 5 because of early upsets within the top 10 and by playing weak teams early on (Akron, Syracuse, Temple). PSU is a top 15 team at best until they can prove themselves against a somewhat worthy opponent.
Oregon Thumps California (Ducks-42, #6 Bears-3)
This wasn’t the usual underdog puts in a great effort and comes away with a close, hard-fought victory kind of upset win. This Oregon win was that of an absolute thrashing of the Golden Bears of California. The Ducks dominated from the start, seamlessly playing like there wasn’t a defense on the other side of the ball. Oregon did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted on both side of the ball. On the other hand, Cal had one of their patented “didn’t show up” games against a very dangerous opponent. This looked like the year that the Golden Bears were finally going to play consistent football throughout the season and challenge the already one loss Trojans for the Pac-10 Title, so much for that.
If you’re looking for my thoughts on #9 Miami losing to #11 Virginia Tech, there aren’t any. I don’t consider VT beating Miami in Blacksburg an upset.
As always your thoughts and comments are welcome and encouraged.