League action signals run to March Mayhem

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It was like the toggle-switch of excitement flipped from college football to college basketball immediately after Alabama’s BCS Title win Thursday.

Bookies report that betting handle was up on the first day basketball didn’t have any competition and for the first time all season we saw a slew of upsets.

I’d like to believe the kids turned it up a notch due to being in the spotlight, but it’s more likely due to some teams actually having to play tough opponents on the road after easily handling cupcakes at home.

Many of the top teams haven’t had to play much on the road, but that’s all about to change quickly as conference play is in full swing.

Last week six of the top-10 ranked teams lost, including two that were undefeated with No. 1 Kansas falling at Tennessee and No. 4 Purdue losing at Wisconsin. The only remaining undefeated teams are Texas (15-0) and Kentucky (16-0) who will be No. 1 and No. 2 this week in the polls.

In all, 14 of the top-25 teams in the nation lost with No. 14 New Mexico and No. 22 Washington losing two times last week. New Mexico had the misfortune of facing two of the better Mountain West teams, losing at San Diego State and then at home in the Pit to UNLV led by Kendall Wallace’s seven 3-pointers off the bench.

The biggest loss of the week was No. 9 North Carolina losing Monday at College of Charleston in overtime as a 14-point favorite. Kansas showed their flaws on Wednesday night as a 21-point favorite to a very good Cornell team. Cornell had led for much of the game and Kansas barely pulled away with a 5-point win. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks weren’t so fortunate on Sunday night at Tennessee, where a depleted Vols team beat them 76-68, knocking them from the ranks of the unbeaten.

More Pac-10 Bad News

As if the season couldn’t get any worse with their only ranked team getting swept, Oregon State got pounded at home by 51 to Seattle University, who is playing the season as a Division-1 Independent for the first time since 1971. Though they won’t be eligible for post season play, this is the first big news about Seattle basketball since Elgin Baylor played on the team.

As for the Beavers, coached by President Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson, they bounced back nicely with a big Civil War win Sunday at Eugene against the Ducks, who are currently tied for the conference lead.

After Washington laid an egg last week, the entire conference is up for grabs and it looks like any one of them is capable of beating whoever emerges as the upper-echelon on the conference. The best thing the conference has going for it is one of the most exciting players in the country at Washington State in Klay Thompson who is averaging 23 points per game, good for third in the nation. Unfortunately, that won’t help the RPI rankings at the end of the year.

How High Can You Go?

That’s the question posed to the odds-makers after Saint Mary’s (15-2) has gone 12-2 against the spread this season. Their rating has gone higher after each win and the spread has climbed as they keep covering. The best cover team in the nation finally met a spread they couldn’t topple as they were installed as 12½-point road favorite at Santa Clara and only won by 8 points.

The Gaels big game of the year comes up this Thursday night at home against conference foe, and ranked Gonzaga. A win this week would go a long way in giving WCC two teams in the NCAA tournament when the selections come out. It will be televised at 8 pm (PT) on ESPN2.

Games of the Week

Saturday, Jan. 16, 2009

9 am (PT) TV:ESPN

No. 5 Syracuse (15-1) at No. 11 West Virginia (12-2): Mountaineers need a confidence boost and home cooking after being handled on the road by Purdue and Notre Dame the last two weeks. Syracuse looks to build on the two thumpings they put on Memphis and South Florida with a good effort on the road.

Sunday, Jan.17, 2010

9 am (PT)

No. 10 Georgetown (12-2) at No. 3 Villanova (14-1): Because this is a big game, they move it away from campus and into the big arena which doesn’t necessarily help Villanova. Nova has padded their results the last two weeks with two 2-point wins over Marquette and a beat down of DePaul. Georgetown lost by 3 to Marquette last week but took down Connecticut by 3 on Saturday. Look for a tough physical game to go down to last second.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts

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