Beyond the Top 25 - A College Hoops Weekly
by Taylor Jordan - Strike Point Sports - 1/10/2012
We’re in mid-January, a week or so into conference play, and all is well with college basketball. And I must say, it’s hard not to poke your head around the corner toward March and start thinking about the ‘Madness’ and all great things associated with the Big Dance.
But we shall not dig too far and forget about the superb basketball that has yet to be played this month and all of February. How could you not be gushing for the second week or so of February and Bracket Buster Saturday? Or perhaps wondering if one of the three remaining undefeated teams (Syracuse, Baylor or Murray State) can continue their excellence and take a shot at running the table?
Syracuse is still the consensus No. 1 in the polls. The Top Ten conference breakdown looks like such: One Big East team, one SEC team, two from the ACC and three each from the Big Ten and Big 12.
But you know all about the top-tier. Here is a deeper look at the teams on the outside looking in for this week:
Wisconsin, 12-5 Straight Up (9-5 Against The Spread)
The Badgers got the national rankings door slammed in their face after a poor week in league play. Wisky has now lost three straight Big Ten games and now sits ninth in the standings before their Thursday road game at Purdue. This is another tough test against a team struggling to score at the moment. Wisconsin has scored 70 points or more just once in their last eight games. Maybe that’s not a cause for concern in past years, but this season it hurts because their defense has not been as crisp as usual.
St. Mary’s 14-2 (7-3 ATS)
Winners of nine of their last 10 overall, things are going smoothly for the Gaels ahead of their big contest with now-ranked Gonzaga on Thursday. A win will definitely put the WCC school inside the Top 25, but even a close loss and a few more wins down the road should do the trick. This talented team is playing well and should be rewarded for its consistency.
Seton Hall, 14-2 (9-3 ATS)
I bet you couldn’t see a 14-2 start for the Hall this year, let alone an impressive 9-3 mark against the number. Credit is due for the Pirates. They’ve covered three in a row after getting pounded at Syracuse after Christmas, including wins over West Virginia and Connecticut. Their schedule is manageable over the next fortnight, with just Louisville as the only ranked Big East team in their last five games.
Vanderbilt, 11-4 (6-5 ATS)
Vandy may be disappointed with their season thus far, having started the year in the Top 25. But this role suits them better. They have the talent, that’s for sure, so what’s in a number? This way they can perhaps sneak up on the rest of the SEC while everyone who has written them off can focus on Kentucky and Florida as the big dogs in the East. Don’t be surprised if the Commodores, however, get back into the rankings with a good performance over the next couple of weeks.
Dayton, 12-4 (8-6 ATS)
The Flyers put together one of the more impressive victories over the weekend, winning at Temple by double digits, as it was the Owls who had all the headlines with their home win over Duke in their previous game. Dayton now has wins in their last two over St. Louis and Temple, and you might have to install the Flyers as the favorites in the Atlantic 10 after these two statement victories. More tough games are on way with home dates against LaSalle and Xavier, further proving how well rounded the conference is this season.
Iowa State, 12-3 (6-5 ATS)
This entry is a bit on the ambitious side. But still, we should throw some love to Ames and the Cyclones for their strong start to the season under rookie Head Coach Fred Hoiberg. Beating Texas at home to begin their Big 12 schedule is one thing. To follow that up with a 24-point mauling at Texas A&M is even more of a shocker. But Iowa State has to travel next to Missouri with the Tigers coming off their first loss of the season. It's a real test indeed for ISU.
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