Jeremy Fiser: Curt, first, thanks for inviting me to your blog. It’s great to be in the presence of your tens of readers. Let me throw out the first question on our first blog. Rankings aside, who is the best team in college basketball right now? We've seen a lot of movement in and out of the top ten throughout the season, and Syracuse there have been a lot of upsets of teams lodged particularly in the top five. Are voters just not picking the top 10 right or is there that much balance that any given night a top team might get knocked off?
Curt: Well, first off, you’re welcome. Second, the biggest thing to remember is that these are college kids; every team is going to have an off night. These teams in the top ten are all the cream of the crop, but you can't expect them to show up every game. I mean as a coach, you want to expect it, but we all know it won't happen. Obviously I'm not including Murray State in this, but hey, they've earned their ranking. But to answer your question on the best team, right now I would have to go with Syracuse. I say this because they have the whole package. They have a big guy, quick guards, good shooters, the zone that teams have a hard time with, a hall of fame coach, they just don't have a weakness right now. The teams I see right behind them are Ohio State and Missouri. OSU kind of has the same makeup as Syracuse, with having positives in every aspect; they just need to put it all together in each game. And Mizzou has the thing that carries teams every March, great scoring guards. They have three of them and they'll be a tough out come March.
Some big games coming up on Saturday. Let's look at three of them and see who should come out victorious...
#5 Missouri at #3 Baylor
Well I just said above that I thought Mizzou was one of the better teams in the nation. This is true, but Baylor is right there in the conversation too. Baylor is coming off a tough loss at Kansas, I think they come out and take this game at home. Mizzou could steal the game however if they get hot from outside, which they are very capable of doing. In the end though, Perry Jones is too much, he'll take over. But if he is in foul trouble....
Florida State at #4 Duke
Duke is the better team, but they haven't played a great game in about a month. Florida State on the other hand has been on fire. FSU's biggest problem is that they can't play on the road. Duke obviously is unbeatable at home. So this is either an easy pick, or eventually something has to change right? I doubt it, Duke in a route.
Xavier at Dayton
Everyone knew Xavier would be at the top of the A10 but no one thought Dayton would be in second. Ya, it's only been two weeks, but hey, the standing don't lie. Dayton is thin on the bench and doesn't really have a guy that can take over, so this will be a tough game for them to win. However, as we all know rivalry games can go each way. Lyons plays better for Xavier when there is animosity, he thrives on talking with other team, I see him playing big. In the end, it'll probably be Xavier taking this one, but I wouldn't put a wager on it.
What do you think Jeremy?
Jeremy Fiser: If there is one thing I love, it’s when people ask me what I think. I generally agree on Syracuse being the best team. They haven't had the trip up losses that some other teams have had (Duke at Temple, Ohio State at Illinois, etc). They certainly had enough distractions at the beginning of the season for some early losses, but were fortunate to play some easier opponents all at home and built some momentum. That said, there schedule is about to get a lot tougher, and they are about to have to play some games away from home. Good teams are losing on the road this year to unranked teams (see my previous two examples of losses, and add in UNC getting creamed at Florida and Kentucky getting stunned at Indiana). Aside from at Providence, Cuse really hasn’t had a road challenge yet this season. That all changes soon when they play 6 of their last 11 on the road, including at UConn, at Louisville, and at a very dangerous Cincinnati team that is coming off wins at Georgetown and at UConn. Syracuse is about to have to play really hard to keep that number one ranking. I would put Ohio State as probably the second best team. Incredibly talented team that is unusually deep considering how Thad Matta usually likes to play. They still have to play Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin twice this season, and at Northwestern at the end of February will not be easy. With the way the Big Ten is this year, OSU could probably lose 2 games the rest of the way out and still win the conference regular season.
A classic matchup of two top 5 powerhouses. I think this is going to pretty close, but I'm going with Baylor here, even though they just got thumped by a pretty solid Kansas team. Both teams are in the top 15 in the nation in terms of field goal percentage - Mizzou is second best shooting 50%. However in their one loss, at Kansas State, they shot only 30% from the field. If Baylor can use the home court advantage to throw Missouri off a little bit and get them to miss shots, Baylor should be able to capitalize and pull off a big W.
Florida State at #4 Duke
After watching Duke get absolutely pummeled by Ohio State earlier this year, I was certain that they were overrated. Then after watching them get beat at Temple, I was convinced they were overrated. And now Duke is playing this weekend as the fourth ranked team at a Florida State that embarrassed UNC last weekend. I still think Duke is overrated, but I don't think they are losing at home this weekend, where they have won 46 in a row. I don't think Florida State can reproduce what they did last weekend at home against UNC in Cameron. Duke is benefited by the Crazies this weekend and gets the win.
Xavier at Dayton
Andy Katz called this one of the nations most underrated in conference rivalries, and you don't disagree with Andy Katz (aka the man with the best job ever). Xavier's season has been in a tail spin since playing Cincinnati. It looks like they might have finally righted the ship after their free fall, but this will certainly be there biggest test since getting their core team members all back on the court at the same time. I heard someone say recently that this is not your Brian Gregory Flyers, and I would agree. Archie Miller has done a good job so far in his first year and the Flyers have vaulted themselves into the thick of the A-10 race. I’m keeping with my theme of the advantage of the home team and picking Dayton. However, if I’m wrong and Xavier is fully back, they are going to be tough to beat in the A10 and could take some teams by surprise in March.
Curt: One correction. Temple game versus Duke wasn't on their home court. Duke won't play Temple there.
Check back in a day or two for some more banter.