NCAA Thoughts: Bubble Teams, Real Deal Teams, Overrated Teams

One of the benefits of getting hit with the flu this time of year: There’s a lot of entertaining college basketball on television to take your mind off things. Here’s 10 random thoughts from the last three days of bubbledom:

 1)    It’ll be a crime if California isn’t awarded an NCAA at-large berth. The senior-dominated Pac-10 champs are solid. Don’t know about you, but I thought the Pac-10 championship game was a classic, showcasing a couple of teams that are much better than how they’re perceived nationally. Cal’s a veteran team that’s good enough to get to a regional final. So are the Huskies if they can duplicate Saturday’s winning performance.

 2)    My No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Kentucky, Duke (if it wins Sunday) and West Virginia. Sorry Ohio State. If the Big East is the best conference – and it is – then one of the beasts from the East should be a No. 1. It could have been Syracuse, but losses in two of its last three games gives West Virginia that spot. Because of the ACC’s down year, I might even put West Virginia and Syracuse ahead of Duke.

 3)    You might not like Bob Huggins, but I sure like the way his team (West Virginia) plays. Outside of the Pac-10 championship, the Big East title-game between the Mountaineers and Georgetown Hoyas was the best game of the week. The hard-nosed coach turned into an emotional Huggy Bear after the victory.

 4)    How good is the Big East? Georgetown was eighth in the conference during the regular season and the Hoyas are good enough to get to the Final Four.

 5)    Most overrated conference this year: The Big 12. Outside of Kansas, the top team in the country,  I don’t see anybody that’s scary. When Texas was No. 1 and 17-0, they didn’t seem that good to me. Kansas State isn’t any better than Cal, Washington or Arizona State and the Wildcats are projected to be a No. 3, or even  a No. 2 seed.

 6)    San Diego State played its way into the tournament by winning the Mountain West Conference tournament. That’s a tough conference with New Mexico, BYU and UNLV all getting strong consideration for at-large berths. Do you know who’s coaching at San Diego State? Hint: Fab Five. Yeah, Steve Fisher. Yeah,  sometimes nice guys do finish first.

 7)    Illinois has lost six of its last eight games and is still on the bubble? C’mon, that’s not right. The selection committee needs to wipe ‘em off the board early on Sunday.

8) Wonder where and who the Washington Huskies will play? Don’t know how you can even predict this stuff, but Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com, the bracketology guru, has the Huskies (23-9) facing Michigan State (24-8) in the Midwest sub-regional Spokane. Washington’s a 12 seed; MSU a 5 seed. Lunardi’s got Gonzaga (25-6) in the West, playing Old Dominion (26-8) at Oklahoma City. The Zags are a 7 seed; OD a 10 seed. Remember, this is purely conjecture.

 9)    Washington’s getting a lot of contributions from a lot of players right now – which is why they’re riding a seven-game winning streak – but Justin Holiday really caught my eye this week. The 6-6 junior has always been a superb defender, but he’s going to have a chance to be a special player next season when the Huskies look for somebody to replace Quincy Pondexter. Not saying he’s going to be the next Q-Pon, but don’t be surprised if he averages 14-15 points and close to 10 rebounds.

 10)    Strangest thing I saw was the heated verbal exchange between Kentucky coach John Calipari and freshman Daniel Orton. Evidently, Calipari didn’t think Orton went after a loose ball hard enough at one point during the first half of Saturday’s SEC semifinal against Tennessee, and he yanked the player. Orton never sat down and next thing you know, CBS’ cameras show the player walking off the court toward the lockerroom. Minutes later, he was back, apologizing to Calipari, who slapped his hand and put him back in the game.

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