In a week that produced as many upsets as unforgettable games, several teams found out if they have what it takes to be above the rest, or if they’re still a work in progress. The Wisconsin Badgers certainly left no doubts that they are legit, with convincing wins against power-houses Winthrop and Marquette. UCLA, meanwhile, convinced the nation that they deserve the #1 ranking for now with a great win at #13 Texas A&M.
Speaking of A&M, the Aggies showed that they still need more time to be a real contender for the Final Four, as they lost two heart-breaking matchups, one to #1 UCLA and the other to #15 LSU. After a terrific start to a season that featured quality wins over #17 Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee, and #12 Gonzaga, Butler finally showed that they aren’t an invincible mid-major like they were thought to be after the Bulldogs were upset by instate rival Indiana State 72-64.
WHO’S HOT - Big Ten Players
There’s no arguing it. The hottest player in the country right now is Alando Tucker. The senior Badger has definitely shown that he deserves the title "All-American" with his gutsy performances in leading his Wisconsin team to victory against Florida State, Winthrop, and Marquette. The 6-6 forward leads the Big Ten in points, averaging over 20 per game. What’s even more unique about Tucker is his ability to shine in the spotlight. He has averaged 24 points in Wisconsin’s three biggest games thus far.
Carl Landry has also lived up to his hype so far, leading his Purdue Boilermakers to wins over Oklahoma, DePaul, Virginia, and Missouri. The senior Forward has Purdue at 8-1 and on the verge of making SCS.com’s Fab 15 poll. Landry is averaging 20 points along with 8 rebounds, a steal, and a block per game too.
WHO’S NOT - Pac-10 Players
Though his Bruins are sitting pretty at the #1 spot with a prefect record of 8-0, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute has not contributed to UCLA’s team as much as he would have liked so far. The 6-8 sophomore is averaging less than 11 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, to go along with a woeful 60% shooting average from the charity line and a 25% shooting average from 3-point range. It’s hard to blame Mbah A Moute for not contributing as much as he is though. When you play on a team made up of great players such as Arron Aflallo, Josh Shipp, and Lorenzo Mata, you can’t exactly expect to be the star.
For a player who was a supposed to be First Team Pac-10 in SCS.com’s Hoops Preview, Malik Hairston has done little to prove that. The Oregon guard is only averaging 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Though his Ducks are 7-0 and have battled their way into the top 25, Hairston will have to do much more for Oregon to have a legitimate shot at a conference championship. Perhaps Hairston’s worst problem is his inability to hit free throws. The junior is shooting just 37.5% from the stripe so far.
WHO’S HOT - Texas Coaches
University of Texas coach Rick Barnes finally has his team on track after an overtime victory over #15 LSU. In his seventh season at Texas, Barnes has his Longhorns at 6-2, with their only losses to perennial power-houses Michigan State and #12 Gonzaga. Barnes is proving that his recruiting skills stand above the rest, as Texas’ starting lineup consists of four freshmen and a sophomore.
Texas A&M head coach Billy Gillespie finally has his Aggies in a place where they are not usually found - in the spotlight. Despite two tough losses back-to-back to #1 UCLA and #15 LSU, Texas A&M is still sitting pretty at #13 with a record of 8-2. Gillespie has done a fantastic job for the Aggies so far in terms of publicity, attendance, and of course winning. The Aggies’ main players are guard Acie Law IV and forward Joseph Jones.
WHO’S NOT - Kentucky Coaches
University of Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has seen his fair share of time in the spotlight. In his tenth season at Kentucky, Smith has coached UK to six Sweet Sixteen births, five SEC titles, and a national championship. However this season has been one to forget so far for the Wildcats, as they are 0-3 versus ranked teams. Tubby Smith will have to get Kentucky back on track if he hopes to get to another NCAA Tournament this year.
University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has coached seven seasons for the Cardinals. Pitino has a history for taking a variety of schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to Final Fours, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening this year for the Cardinals. Louisville is 5-2, with their best win being against either Ohio or Dayton. Pitino will have to do something quick before the Cardinal faithful will start getting impatient, and this weekend would be the perfect time for it since Louisville plays host to in-state rival Kentucky.
TWO GAMES YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO MISS
Purdue (8-1) at Butler (10-1), Saturday
In what looked like just another average game at the beginning of the year, Purdue vs. Butler will be one of the best matchups of the year so far. The Boilers are 8-1 and on the verge of cracking the top 25. Purdue is led by All-American forward Carl Landry who averages 20 points per game. On the other side of the ball, Butler is led by standout junior guards A.J. Graves and Mike Green. They are averaging a combined 32 points and 7 assists so far this year for the Bulldogs. Butler is 10-1 right now, after Indiana State handed them their first loss of the season, and knocked them out of the Fab 15 this past week. Butler should be eager to bounce back after that loss. My Pick: Butler by 13
#2 Pittsburgh (10-0) at #7 Wisconsin (9-1), Saturday
Pittsburgh comes into this contest undefeated and looking to prove people wrong. The Panthers have yet to face a quality opponent, and the media (including myself) is wondering whether they are even that good. The Panthers will get the chance to prove themselves when they face a very good Badger team in Wisconsin. Center Aaron Gray leads Pittsburgh in points and rebounds with 17 and 11 per game. Wisconsin will come in eager to show that they can compete for the Final Four. The Badgers are led by forward Alando Tucker and guard Kammron Taylor. The duo combines for 32 points and 6 rebounds for Wisconsin. I think Tucker and Taylor will be too much for Pitt. My Pick: Wisconsin by 7.
Last Week’s Record: 4-1
MY FAB 15 VOTE
1. UCLA (8-0) Hard to argue the Bruins not being the best.