Teams set for conference campaigns

Jan 5, 2010 5:08 PM

College Notebook by Micah Roberts |

League play a prelude to the ‘Big Dance’

Last week’s action saw two top-10 teams lose with No. 5 Syracuse getting handled for the first time all regular season losing to Pittsburgh as Big east play began. No. 5 West Virginia got lucky with a last second shot to beat the tough lucked Marquette 63-62, but couldn’t stay in the gym at West Lafayette where No. 4 Purdue pounded them 77-62 as short 4-point favorites.

Don’t expect short prices on Purdue any more as they are proving to be one of the better teams in the nation and not just feeding off the Big-10 hype machine. They’ll get a small test again Tuesday when they welcome Minnesota and then Saturday for a big road game at Wisconsin.

K-State Moving On Up

No. 12 Kansas State has won 10 in a row but aren’t getting much love because the Big-12 features the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the country with Kansas and Texas. After three conference games against beatable opponents, K-State will get to show the world how good they are when they welcome Texas for a January 18 game in Manhattan, KS.

Both Texas and Kansas are undefeated, but Texas’ wins may be a bit misleading just because they really haven’t played anyone. Their quality wins came against North Carolina in front of 75,000 fans in Dallas and a home win against Michigan State.

Pac-10 Down Year

The Pac-10 conference has had a tough start to the season with several of their traditionally good teams losing to far lesser opponents. UCLA has been the leader of the failures and will really hurt the conference down the road with RPI ratings as the Tournament is selected due to their poor losses.

Oregon had a nice win at the conferences only ranked team in No. 17 Washington, but the major blow came with USC. The Trojans are playing perhaps the best ball in the conference but gave themselves a self-imposed penalty for the past regime’s faults led by former coach Tim Floyd and his dealings with O.J. Mayo. USC will be ineligible for all post season tournaments thanks to a one-year rental of a player who had no intention of taking classes or being a student-athlete.

At some point, the NCAA and the schools are going have to quit acting like these type of occurrences are the exception to the rule and stop hiding behind the massive book of NCAA rules that were created in the 1940’s regarding student-athletes. The universities are making millions off of these players pimping their likeness and jersey’s and selling their talent for Billions of dollars on Network TV, but they still want to still call them student-athletes, as if they are every bit as equal as the women’s lacrosse player.

The NCAA sat by idly as the NBA told kids they couldn’t go straight to the NBA out of high school and kept ringing the cash register knowing they would at least be able to get a little piece of the kid before either being ultimately kicked out for grades or moving to the NBA after one-year.

At the same time, they never imposed any other rule that would ensure that the student-athlete had to maintain some kind of proper grades through mid-terms which allows theses one and out players to just show up for practice and play the games. The NCAA has accepted that they are a minor-league operation for the NBA for a few players, but have accepted what comes with it for the larger picture.

Then when everyone is through with the kid after he leaves the program, the school gets penalized for a bad situation the NCAA created, encouraged and allowed. There is too much money going around from shoe companies and AAU Basketball to keep any top recruit clean from some of the ridiculous rules coming into college.

Until the NCAA does something about it and fixes their mess, there will be many more O.J. Mayo stories down the road. But as long as the big CBS TV contracts keep getting signed, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Game of the Week:

UNLV (12-2) at

No. 17 New Mexico (14-1)

Saturday, 1:00 (PT) TV: Versus

Okay, so this doesn’t quite match the national games of Connecticut at Georgetown or Purdue at Wisconsin, but it will be a very important game to test the resolve of two young teams in the Mountain West conference which many follow in the Las Vegas Valley.

UNLV will be coming off a tough road game at 14-1 BYU Wednesday night. Should they lose that game, playing in "The Pit" will have the Rebels feeling like the entire weight of the season is on their shoulders for the game.

New Mexico’s Steve Alford has won just about every coaching accolade possible for the job he’s done thus far at New Mexico. They experienced their only loss at Oral Roberts which took some strut off their stride but came right back to beat No. 20 Texas Tech in their next game showing a great ability to regroup.

UNLV is 4-0 on the road this season and have played some of the most inspired ball in the heat of an opponent’s den. The lengthy time off after their loss in Hawaii to USC should have them re-focused for their tough challenge ahead this week.

The major obstacle for UNLV this week will be stopping the Lobos Mr Everything Darrington Hobson who averages 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. If UNLV do eswhat they do best and get the easy buckets driving to the basket they just may be able to pull off the upset.