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By: Jonathan Editor
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Jonathan's Journal With over half the season gone, this week's Journal takes a look at the nation's most surprising and disappointing teams so far. A preview of this weekend's SEC action is also included....

[ Updated January 22 ]


This week, we take a look at four college basketball teams who have greatly exceeded expectations so far this season and four more who have been nothing like we thought in the preseason. Starting off with the good news, here are four that didn't project all that high in preseason but are now well on their way to not only an NCAA berth, but a good seed in the Tournament.

BEARCATS Preseason Projection:
    National: #24   |   CUSA: 3rd
    13-1 / 4-1   -   Fab 15: #5
Though Cincinnati was finally beaten by Louisville on Wednesday night, it wasn't nearly as bad as the score appeared. Because their schedule was weaker than some others across the country, the Bearcats didn't get much respect at first. But after knocking off in-state rival Dayton in December and following that up with a win at Marquette last week, the 'Cats shot up to number five in the Fab 15. There's no time to rest now either. In the next two weeks, Cincy travels to Southern Miss, hosts Marquette, and visits rival Xavier.

YELLOW JACKETS Preseason Projection:
    National: NR   |   ACC: 8th
    15-2 / 3-1   -   Fab 15: #12
Georgia Tech
With so many great teams overshadowing them in the ACC, no one paid much attention to Georgia Tech in the preseason. But it didn't take long for the Jackets to get on the college hoops map. A 12-0 start to the season was highlighted by an eight-day span that saw GT win at Connecticut, vs Texas Tech, and at Ohio State. Some thought Tech had hit a wall when they lost consecutive games at Georgia and North Carolina, but since then, the Jackets have three straight impressive wins over Virginia, Maryland, and Wake Forest.

RED RAIDERS Preseason Projection:
    National: #40   |   Big XII: 7th
    15-2 / 3-0   -   Fab 15: #15
Texas Tech
Bobby Knight took Texas Tech to the NCAA Tournament his first year but slipped to the NIT last season. Because of that, the Red Raiders were overlooked coming into this season, but that was a big mistake. All-conference star Andre Emmett has led Tech to huge wins over Utah, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma already this season. The Red Raiders are currently on an eleven-game winning streak and leading the Big XII. With Oklahoma struggling and Kansas still a mystery, watch out for Texas Tech in the Big XII race this season.

UTES Preseason Projection:
    National: #33   |   Mountain West: 2nd
    15-3 / 3-0   -   Fab 15: NR
Rick Majerus' team has had very little, if anything, said about them this season. Maybe that's because the Utes haven't had a big win to date, but their only three losses this season have come against tough competition: Texas Tech, Connecticut, and LSU, all on the road. The Utes have also picked up big wins against Minnesota and Colorado. If Utah continues to play well, they shouldn't lose more than a couple games the rest of the season, meaning a Mountain West title and nice NCAA seed could be heading their way.


After seeing a few of the highlight stories so far this season, these four teams may depress you a little. Each of these was highly ranked and had big expectations coming into the season but have not performed up to those expectations. Their hopes for the postseason aren't shot yet, but they better begin to make some noise...and quick!

SUN DEVILS Preseason Projection:
    National: #23   |   PAC 10: 4th
    7-7 / 1-4   -   Fab 15: NR
Arizona State
Rob Evans' Arizona State team had a great season in 2003, winning 20 games, grabbing an NCAA berth, and knocking off Memphis in the first round. With arguably the nation's best freshman from a year ago, Ike Diogu, returning to the post, many expected the Sun Devils to pick up where they left off at the end of last season. But apparently the losses of double-figure scorers Curtis Millage and Tommy Smith have been too much to overcome. ASU has disappointingly already dropped games to Nebraska, Northwestern, Western Michigan, and Cal.

SPARTANS Preseason Projection:
    National: #2   |   Big Ten: 1st
    8-7 / 3-1   -   Fab 15: NR
Michigan State
The Spartans were ranked in the top ten, if not the top five, of many national polls coming into the season. But so far, Michigan State may be the biggest disappointment in 2003 - 2004. MSU began the season 3-4 with losses to Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma, and Kentucky and has since lost to UCLA, Syracuse, and Wisconsin. Though against tough competition, coach Tom Izzo's team expected to win at least half of those games. A quick 3-1 start in Big Ten play has given the Spartans a chance to make a run; four of the next six are on the road though.

TIGERS Preseason Projection:
    National: #5   |   Big XII: 2nd
    7-7 / 2-2   -   Fab 15: NR
If you don't believe that Michigan State is the nation's biggest disappointment, then your vote would probably go to Quin Snyder's Missouri Tigers. In fact, Snyder might vote for MU as well. Following a home loss to Belmont last month, Snyder was quoted as saying, "I feel like we should boo ourselves." And who would argue? Missouri has been as frustrating as they have been bad. Following a road win at Indiana, the Tigers lost four of their next five, three of the losses at home. Wins over Iowa and Oklahoma have been nice, unlike losses to Iowa State, Syracuse, and Texas.

MUSKETEERS Preseason Projection:
    National: #27   |   Atlantic 10: 1st [W]
    10-6 / 2-2   -   Fab 15: NR
The Musketeers lost one of the best inside players in college basketball after last season in forward David West. But he was the only player departing, meaning that three other double-figure scorers and four starters would be returning. Things have not gone as planned for coach Thad Matta, however. The Musketeers are currently tied for last in the Atlantic 10 West and have unexpectedly dropped games to Ball State and Duquesne this year. With the exception of Alabama, XU has lost every game they have played against "quality" compeition this year.


SECFor the second straight Tuesday night, the Kentucky Wildcats were taken right down to the wire on the road, but for the second straight week, UK came out on top by one point. After scoring at the buzzer in Starkville to knock off Mississippi State a week ago, the Wildcats slipped past Tenneessee on overtime to claim their second road win of the SEC season.
South Carolina 3-1 16-2
Kentucky 3-1 12-2
Vanderbilt 2-2 13-2
Florida 2-2 11-4
Tennessee 2-3 10-4
Georgia 1-3 9-6
Mississippi State 4-1 15-1
Alabama 3-1 11-4
LSU 2-2 12-3
Auburn 2-3 11-5
Mississippi 1-3 9-6
Arkansas 1-4 9-7
In Gainesville Wednesday night, Mississippi State pounded the Florida Gators on their way to an eleven-point win. Up by as many as 22 points in the second half, MSU cruised late to move to 4-1 in the conference. Alabama also picked up a big road win of their own over an SEC East opponent. After knocking off Kentucky on the road last Saturday, the Georgia Bulldogs were unable to stay on track and dropped a heart-breaker to 'Bama on Wednesday. Tide PG Antoine Pettway hit a three-pointer with just over a second left to lift Alabama to victory. LSU was beaten for the second straight time out, this one in Oxford against the Rebels. The only other game of the mid-week saw Auburn slip past Arkansas on the Plains in a West vs West showdown.

There's not an especially big game this weekend in SEC play. LSU will travel to South Carolina as the Tigers look to stop a two-game losing streak. So far this season, LSU is 2-2 on the road, and USC has lost just once in Columbia. Vanderbilt will try to keep rolling, but they'll have to do so in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks took care of Mississippi at home last Saturday and will be searching for their second SEC win of the season. Mississippi State hosts Georgia Saturday afternoon in battle of Bulldogs.
Georgia at Mississippi State 12:00 JP
Vanderbilt at Arkansas 2:05 JP
Auburn at Florida 3:00 CBS
Alabama at Mississippi 5:00 FSN/SS
LSU at South Carolina 6:30
Kentucky at Notre Dame 3:00 CBS
Louisville at Tennessee 6:00 ESPN
UGA has been extremely unpredictable this season, while Mississippi State could make a case for the conference's best team. Florida will look to rebound from that loss to MSU on Wednesday when the Gators host Auburn in Gainesville. Both teams are looking for their third SEC win. Alabama will head on the road to Mississippi on Saturday. The Rebels took care of LSU on Wednesday night and are looking for their second conference victory. It appears the Tide will be without starting guard and leading-scorer Earnest Shelton, who sprained his MCL at Georgia Wednesday. On Sunday, two SEC teams go out-of-conference for games. Kentucky will travel to Notre Dame to take on the Irish and star PG Chris Thomas, while Tennessee will host the Louisville Cardinals, who are fresh off of a huge home victory over then-unbeaten Cincinnati on Wednesday.

  • The Mid-Week's Top Player: Lawrence Roberts....The junior forward from Houston, Texas scored 21 points and snatched 14 rebounds in Mississippi State's eleven point win at Florida on Wednesday. Roberts also had three assists and a blocked shot while only turning the ball over twice against the Florida press defense.
  • On the Rise: Mississippi State...The Bulldogs are about 2.5 seconds away from being undefeated in 2003 - 2004. If not for a last-second Kentucky lay-up, MSU would be ranked in the top ten. Rick Stansbury's team rebounded from that home loss to win their next two games on the road at LSU and Florida.
  • On the Slide: LSU...The Tigers have lost two crucial games in the less than a week. In what is expected to a tight SEC West race, the Tigers cannot afford to lose home games but did that against Mississippi State last Saturday. That was followed up on Wednesday by a loss at Mississippi, who had not won an SEC game until then.
  • Top to Bottom: (1) Mississippi State, (2) Kentucky, (3) Vanderbilt, (4) South Carolina, (5) Alabama, (6) Florida, (7) Tennessee, (8) LSU, (9) Georgia, (10) Auburn, (11) Arkansas, (12) Mississippi
  • Weekend Predictions: Mississippi State over Georgia, Vanderbilt over Arkansas, Florida over Auburn, Mississippi over Alabama, South Carolina over LSU, Kentucky over Notre Dame, and Louisville over Tennessee.
      -Last Week's Predictions: 4-2 (.667)   |   SEC Season: 4-2 (.667)

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