Louisville will likely have to beat Cincinnati twice to overtake the Bearcats in the AAC standings.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Frost-Bitten Nnnnnotes:
*Are people sleeping on Cincinnati as a legitimate threat to win the American Athletic Conference, including people in Cincinnati?
OK, let me re-phrase that: Especially people in Cincinnati? Do the Bearcats need Richard Sherman -- or Kenyon Martin -- to get everybody's attention?
Cincinnati fans still aren't gaga about the Bearcats, even though Mick Cronin's gritty team is the last remaining unbeaten in AAC play. The Bearcats are averaging fewer than 7,000 fans over 13 home games, only 52.7 percent of capacity at Fifth Third Arena. They have yet to sell out a home game this season. Not one – and the place barely holds 13,000.
Anybody have a good explanation for that? Maybe Cronin needs to throw a Bob Huggins' temper tantrum.
But the Bearcats are a legitimate 6-0 in the league. They have already won on the road three times, including games at Houston and Memphis. They figure to beat Central Florida (home) and Temple (road) before having four days to prepare for their trip Louisville Jan. 30. They should arrive 8-0. Not bad.
Ken Pomeroy's computer model still projects Louisville to win the league by one game – with a 15-3 record. For the Cards to do that, they'll likely to have to beat the Bearcats twice. The rematch is Saturday Feb. 22.
Compared to other AAC teams, the Bearcats are a below-average offensive team. But Pomeroy's numbers say that Cincinnati is the best team in the league, and fourth in the nation, in defensive efficiency.
They're allowing 87.9 points per 100 defensive possessions. Only Saint Louis, Ohio State and Arizona are better. Nobody has scored more than 67 points on the Bearcats this season.
People in Cincinnati don't care, but Louisville basketball fans should understand that Cronin's team is the one the Cards have to beat for the conference title.
*On Wednesday, we'll have a better idea of the frontrunners for national college player of the year. The list of contenders for the Wooden Award will be cut from the pre-season Top 50 to mid-season Top 25. An announcement is scheduled on the noon edition of SportsCenter on ESPN.
I e-mailed my ballot last week – without consulting Deadspin, Sherman or Charles Barkley (still too soon for him to be dialed in to college basketball).
Two local players made my ballot – Russ Smith of Louisville and Julius Randle of Kentucky.
Both have work to do to make it to Los Angeles. Creighton forward Doug McDermott is positioned as the clear favorite. Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State is likely the second choice.
Nick Johnson of Arizona is stirring some love, but many are not convinced Johnson is the best player on his team. They prefer Wildcats' freshman Aaron Gordon. That's not a recommended recipe to win the award.
What about the other glamorous freshmen? Randle, Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas dominated the conversation in November.
You know how it works in current culture. Those names are stale. The two freshmen that the world is hyperventilating about today are Kansas center Joel Embiid and Tyler Ennis, the Syracuse point guard.
*If you love college basketball statistics, I recommend the web site www.bbstate.com. It's a pay site -- $12.49 for the entire season – but you can escape for hours there on snowy days.
Several interesting numbers I found on the site Tuesday:
A. One of their categories is Player Impact – in this case, percentage of a team's points scored by one player. This is how the top freshmen rank:
*I post my ballot for the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll here every week. I keep a record of my votes on an Excel spreadsheet. I enjoy looking back and reminding myself that what seemed so certain in November seems silly today.
A few notes on the AP poll:
1. Despite all the week-to-week turmoil, only 10 of the teams that made the pre-season Top 25 have disappeared from the current poll.
2. The biggest disappointment at this point of the season? North Carolina, which has plunged from No. 12 in November to tied for 12th place in the Atlantic Coast Conference today. The Tar Heels sit at 1-4 in the league and have been outscored by 28 points in ACC play.
North Carolina has won 57 straight home games against Clemson. The Tigers have never won in Chapel Hill. Guess which team visits the Smith Center Sunday?
3. Other teams have taken terrific tumbles: VCU – No. 14 pre-season, unranked today; New Mexico, No. 23 pre-season, tied for 38th today; Virginia, No. 24 to tied for 38th today; Michigan, No. 7 pre-season, 21st today; Kentucky, No. 1 pre-season, No. 14 today.
4. There are plenty of ways to define surprise teams. I'll look at teams that have moved into the poll after being disrespected in November.
San Diego State – the Aztecs have jumped from no pre-season votes to No. 7; Villanova from No. 33 to 4th, not that Creighton was impressed Monday night; Iowa from 30th to 10th; Cincinnati from 31st to 15th. Wake up, Cincinnati.