Congrats to Alabama on beating Texas for the BCS Championship. Now can we move onto a sport where everyone gets a shot at the title?
For those of you who've ignored the other men's college sport until now, there's time to catch up. Here's your primer.
Roughly nine weeks until Selection Sunday, four unbeatens remain: No. 1 Kansas (14-0), No. 2 Texas (14-0), No. 3 Kentucky (15-0) and No. 4 Purdue. Each have had their share of close calls – did you hear about Cornell nearly upending the Jayhawks on Tuesday? – but the upcoming weeks promise to be key with tough road tests.
|John Wall not only plays for one of four unbeaten teams, he's also the game's top freshmen and a player of the year candidate.
Purdue is at Wisconsin on Saturday, KU travels to Tennessee on Sunday (though the Vols won't have some key players, including their best player, Tyler Smith; he was dismissed from the team on Friday), the Wildcats are at Florida on Tuesday and Texas is at Kansas State on Jan. 18. If any of the four emerge unscathed, talk will start to circulate about perfect seasons.
Best of the rest
There are a host of 1-loss teams (11 of 'em). The ones to note are Syracuse, Duke, West Virginia, K-State, BYU, and to a lesser degree Villanova and Northern Iowa.
The first five reside in kenpom.com's Top 12, which means they're beating people more handily than schools like Michigan State, Louisville and Pitt. That's key because by this point, it's an indication all four should play some role in March. As for 'Nova and UNI, they're not as efficient, but they're both balanced, talented teams who figure to be in the hunt for their league titles.
As for the other 1-loss teams (Miami, Virginia Tech, Baylor and Rhode Island), they haven't been truly tested yet. Things may change during conference play.
After that, it's mish-mash. Michigan State, UConn, UNC, Georgetown, New Mexico and Ole Miss are getting love from the polls, while Tennessee, Florida State, Cal and Minnesota are four teams beloved by kenpom.com.
The Big East is a beast, redux
There wasn't enough hyperbole to describe how good the conference was last season, but it also started 2009-10 pretty well. The league features Final Four contenders, 8-14 teams capable of earning NCAA tournament bids and more balance than it had last season.
In short, don't be surprised when much of the March talk revolves around the massive 16-team conference. There's a lot to mention.
(Not that the Big East is necessarily the best conference -- the Big 12 is more top heavy and the ACC is just as deep -- but the one that'll attract a lot of media attention, just like last season.)
As for the Pac-10…
It's bad. Real bad. If you think someone's being overly critical of the league, think again. Because for as much flak as the SEC received last season, the Pac-10 deserves just as much.
Sure, now that conference play has begun, everyone will take turns beating each other and the overall records won't look so bad. But consider some of these non-conference losses: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Loyola-Marymount. Sacramento State. Wofford. Rider. Portland. Oral Roberts. Missouri State. Cal State Fullerton. The latest was Oregon State's 51-point home loss to Seattle U.
Cal could salvage the conference's reputation with a strong showing in the Big Dance (they're the best all-around team), but they'll need to get healthy first.
Then there's John Wall
The lucky SI subscribers will see Kentucky's star freshman on this week's cover. Simply put, the 6-4 point guard is every bit as good as the glowing sentiments written about him this season.
He's an efficient scorer, a great passer, explosive off the dribble and a clutch shooter. If Kentucky reaches its first Final Four since 1998, Wall will be the reason why.
Player of the year?
Wall heads a short list of candidates. Texas senior forward Damion James, Kansas senior guard Sherron Collins (fresh off a 33-point performance vs. Cornell), Syracuse swingman Wesley Johnson and Notre Dame senior Luke Harangody (who has the best stats, but the worst team among the five).
Then again, if Ohio State junior Evan Turner hadn't broken two bones in his lower back on Dec. 5, there may not be a race at all. He'd notched two triple-doubles in eight games. He returned to the court Wednesday, but he's probably out of it by this point.
But give this name some consideration: BYU guard Jimmer Fredette. His Cougars are 15-1, and he's been dynamite, averaging 20.7 ppg, 5.3 apg and hitting 45 percent of his 3-pointers. He's a guy who runs his team, scores efficiently and is the driving force behind his team's strong start? Sounds like Wall.
And six others to know
Fredette made this list of the best players you don't know about from Ballin' Is a Habit, but I wanted to include him in the player of the year chatter. The rest of the guys on this list are good players who you may not see in March.
Those freshmen have grown up
Unlike last season's class which featured few impact freshmen, this season abounds in talented newcomers. Wall's just the start. Others like his Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins, Kansas' Xavier Henry, Duke's Andre Dawkins and Cincy's Lance Stephenson are just the big names.
Still need more? Try following Mike Miller on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.