Perhaps every team should lose to a D-II school before the season starts. It sure didn't hurt Syracuse.
The Orange (4-0) wrapped up an impressive start to the season by dismantling Cal and North Carolina in Coaches vs. Cancer. "That's about as good as it gets," said coach Jim Boeheim, "and it was against North Carolina and it was here."
|Wesley Johnson shoots against UNC.
With Wesley Johnson as an emerging star and the point guard duo of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, it turns out the Orange are gonna be just fine without Jonny Flynn. To think that just 3 weeks ago that Internet chatter (and SportsCenter lede) centered around their exhibition loss to LeMoyne is a little stunning. Not that Syracuse wasn't capable of a winning plenty of games. But doing this soon was a small surprise – especially on defense.
'Cuse became the first team to hold the Heels to below 1 point per possession (.942) since Kansas did so in the 2008 Final Four. UNC's youth plays a part in that, but give credit to that pesky 2-3 zone that's flummoxed Roy Williams' teams in the past.
Still, it is still November. Nothing at this point of the season should be taken as Gospel. Just ask Boeheim.
"You can't go by what happens early," Boeheim told ESPN. "You can't tell that much from this. You can't tell because it's so early. North Carolina is going to be good. Cal didn't have one of its key guys [Theo Robertson was out with a stress reaction in his right foot]. I think Ohio State is going to be pretty good with Evan Turner, but they don't have a point guard."
Fair enough. With that in mind, here are five things to watch this week.
It's not getting easier for Pac-10 and SEC
No, I didn't forget what Boeheim just said. But the schools that have beaten some Pac-10 and SEC teams this season make a person shake their head.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Loyola-Marymount. Sacramento State. Wofford. Rider. Portland. Oral Roberts. Missouri State. Cal State Fullerton. Some of those were against NCAA-caliber teams (UCLA, Miss State) and some were against rebuilding teams (Stanford, Alabama, Georgia). The Mid-Majority has the best breakdown.
More dangerous mid-major matchups await: Montana-Oregon, Portland-UCLA, Oregon State-George Washington and Morgan State-Arkansas, Princeton-Cal.
If those go according to form, both leagues have showdowns with bigger schools too: Cincy-Vanderbilt, Florida St-Florida, LSU-UConn, Alabama-Baylor, Florida-Michigan St, ASU-Duke, Virginia-Stanford and Arizona-Wisconsin.
Ending the week above. 500 in those games would be a start…
No Big East dropoff?
The Big East, fresh off one of its finest overall season, hasn't missed a beat. The conference didn't lose a game until 12 days into the season. The 36-0 start ended when Providence lost to Alabama on Friday.
But this week should provide more challenges.
Vanderbilt plays host to Cincinnati on Monday. LSU is at UConn on Wednesday, (Kent State faces former coach Stan Heath and UCF the same day), Xavier-Marquette is Thursday, Siena-St. John's is Friday and Saturday has Louisville-UNLV and BC-Providence. If the conference wins four of those, it'll be well on its way to another impressive season.
The early season tournaments are already underway – surely you watched Ole Miss play Villanova in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, not that Eagles-Bears game – but you don't want to wade into Feast Week without a helpful guide.
For that, turn to Ken Davis' preview. He details the key freshmen and champion predictions.
Whither Devin Ebanks?
West Virginia's sophomore star didn't play in the Mountaineers' opener against Loyolya (Md.) for personal issues. And coach Bob Huggins says he doesn't know if Ebanks will play this week, either.
West Virginia faces The Citadel on Tuesday (don't need Ebanks for that one) and plays in the 76 Classic starting Thursday. It should beat Long Beach State, but it'll need Ebanks for likely matchups against Clemson (Friday) and the title game (Butler, Minnesota or UCLA) on Sunday.
Then again, it doesn't sound like Huggins is even considering Ebanks' return anytime soon. He won't confirm where the 6-8 forward is or hint at what the issue might be. Guess we'll have to be patient to see just how good the Mountaineers can be.
Ole Roy just keeps winning
Provided North Carolina doesn't lose at home to Gardner-Webb on Monday, Roy Williams could earn the 600th win of his career on Sunday against Nevada.
As far as milestones go, it's well short of Boeheim's 800th victory earlier this season, but is notable for two reasons: how long it took, and how many more are out there.
Only 2 coaches with at least 600 career victories have better records than Williams, Adolph Rupp and Jerry Tarkanian. Rupp won his 600th in his 704th career game; Tark in No. 720. Sunday will be Williams' 739th career game, which puts him in front of John Wooden (755), Dean Smith (773) and Hank Iba (775).
Williams just turned 59 and isn't even close to retiring. He's won 179 games in six seasons at Chapel Hill. If he coaches until he's 66 (Smith retired at the same age), that's roughly 200 more wins in seven seasons. At that pace, he could very well pass Rupp's mark for fastest to 800 wins. And that would be a remarkable achievement.
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