College hoops

Dec 14, 2010 7:06 AM

Even though we have three college football bowl games this weekend, it feels like the stage now is set to fully embrace basketball, both pro and college.

With only Navy and Army holding our attention to football last Saturday, many sports fans focused theirs more to round ball. The curiosity of many, whether for or against, is the Miami Heat – as the dream team has now put together eight straight wins, taking control of their division and only trailing Boston by 3 games in the conference.

There is still a faction out there rooting for the Heat to fail, but even those folks want to watch it. Those who were somewhat on the fence about LeBron’s move and all the baggage from the "decision" have now moved on after seeing the Cleveland fans get their rage out in his return.

Cleveland really let him have it, but the pain that many felt for those fans has now passed and we can get to what is actually happening on the court. And lately that has been pretty astonishing as it appeared only a few weeks ago that the Heat were unraveling.

The big three of James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are hitting on all cylinders and it has been entertaining to watch down the stretch. They still have some issues to work out which is the scary part. During the eight-game winning streak, Wade has averaged 26 points and shooting an amazing 59 percent from the field.

On the college side of the action, the top two teams (Duke and Ohio State) remain in place. No. 3 Pittsburgh took a fall for the first time in emphatic fashion to then No. 11 Tennessee 83-76 in a game that wasn’t that close.

The Tennessee win was impressive not only because of their coach, Bruce Pearl, coaching with a cloud over his team due to his actions, but because the Vols won at Pittsburgh. The Panthers have rarely lost at home in December over the last four seasons.

It’s also surprising that the Vols are the only undefeated team in the SEC, currently 7-0. Even though the SEC isn’t the power conference as they are in football for basketball, they do have some pretty good teams.

Kansas, Connecticut, Syracuse, Georgetown, Memphis, San Diego and BYU all remained unbeaten last week and should move up thanks to the Pitt and Michigan State losses. For the Spartans, not only did they lose to Syracuse, they almost took one against little Oakland on Saturday, barely winning 77-76.

It’s pretty cool seeing such a competitive balance with so many conferences having great showings, particularly out west with the Mountain West doing well. Another MWC team, UNLV, had a lead at the half against Louisville, but couldn’t hold on in a battle of undefeated teams.

We have only one game all week that pits two ranked teams against each other as No. 4 Kansas State travels to Florida against the No. 22 Gators at a neutral site, or at least neutral on paper. The Gators have two losses this season, one coming to Ohio State and the other coming on the road to Michael Jordon’s son at Central Florida.

Kansas State’s only loss this season came to Duke. The Wildcats feature one of the most dynamic players in the nation in Jacob Pullen. Thus far, Pullen has let his team carry him more so than last year. His points-per-game average is down three points from the 19.3 he averaged last year. Perhaps that’s just a sign of how smart he is. Look for a big game out of Pullen this week and a nine point Wildcats win.

The fans interest in the pro and college basketball action has reflected through the bet windows as well. The NBA has been a daily roller coaster with most books in regards to win, but they have held well in the college baskets, a time of non-conference action that is supposed to be an advantage for the bettors.