BOZICH | Who's Hot -- And Who's Not -- In College Basketball
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There was nothing sensational on the college basketball marquee Thursday night – especially if you were expecting Central Florida to shock Cincinnati or Alabama to take down visiting Florida.
Louisville and Kentucky needed the help because the Bearcats (American Athletic Conference) and Gators (Southeastern) are the sole remaining unbeatens in their leagues.
But rather than wait for a pair of unlikely upsets, I thought it was a perfect time to discover Who's Hot and Who's Not in college basketball.
HOT – LOUISVILLE. The Cards have won their last four by an average of 24.5 points. Even more impressive, they've made nearly 49 percent of their shots, while their opponents have been wide east, west, north and south. Louisville's defensive field-goal percentage during this stretch has been 34.9 percent – as the Cards have jumped from 13th to 5th in the Pomeroy Ratings. Verdict: Terry Rozier has been good for Louisville's offensive flow and defensive grit.
NOT HOT – OHIO STATE GUARD AARON CRAFT. Many insist Craft is the nation's best defender. He'd better be. His offense has disappeared during the Buckeyes' four-game losing streak. Craft made 9 of 24 shots (37.5 percent) while having as many turnovers (19) as assists. Ouch. Craft rallied Thursday, scoring 11 points with six boards and five assists as OSU beat Illinois.
HOT – MICHIGAN GUARD NIK STAUSKAS. The Wolverines were not supposed to win their first six Big Ten games -- not without Mitch McGary (injured), Trey Burke (NBA) or Tim Hardaway Jr. (NBA). But Stauskas has become more than simply a three-point shooter, scoring 70 points in Michigan's last three games while also averaging five rebounds and five assists. If he's not the player of the year in the Big Ten, he's in the first paragraph.
NOT HOT – GEORGIA FANS. Don't forget your smelling salts when you check the Southeastern Conference standings. After going 6-6 in non-conference play (with losses to Davidson and Georgia Tech), the Bulldogs sit at 4-1 in the SEC, tied for second with Kentucky and Ole Miss. Not that Georgia fans care. The Bulldogs have averaged 6,715 fans for three home league games, last in the SEC.
HOT – ANDREW HARRISON, KENTUCKY. As I wrote after the Tennessee game, this kid is starting to look like the Wildcats' most valuable player. He didn't have a great game against Texas A&M, but he did not turn the ball over against either Vanderbilt or Tennessee while performing like a go-to scorer in the final five minutes.
NOT HOT BY GETTING HOT -- BRANDEN DAWSON, MICHIGAN STATE. Guys will be guys. Dawson showed more intensity in the film room than he did on the court against Indiana Tuesday. While watching clips of his lack of sizzle against the Hoosiers and listening to ESPN's Dan Dakich dwell on it, Dawson slammed his right hand against a table and broke a bone. He'll miss at least four weeks.
NOT HOT – BUTLER. Guess who's not in Kansas any more, Toto? The Bulldogs move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 to the (diminished) Big East has not gone as smoothly as the move that Louisville made from Conference USA to the real Big East eight seasons ago.
Butler sits 1-6 in league play with an RPI of 92. If any other coach had left a program in a fix like this, you'd hear howling. But mum's the word from the national media about the guy who left Butler for the NBA.
HOT – OKLAHOMA STATE GUARD MARCUS SMART. Kansas freshman Joel Embiid is the flavor of the week in the national player of the year race, but don't be stupid and sleep on Smart. In the Cowboys' last four games, Smart has delivered 82 points, 24 assists and 42 rebounds (psssst, he's a guard). If he plays like that in March, look out.
NOT HOT – ARKANSAS. I realize it has become fashionable to bang on Razorbacks' coach Mike Anderson for his inability to win on the road, but check the numbers. In two-plus seasons in Fayetteville, Anderson has won two of 20 SEC road games, both against Auburn. Those do not count. The Hogs are 1-4. That's right. Their sole SEC victory was that overtime buzzer-beater against Kentucky.
NOT HOT – VIRGINIA TECH. The pain in Blacksburg has not been created by the 1-5 start in the ACC. Nobody expected the Hokies to compete. The pain has been created by the play of two former Hokies who transferred into Top 10 programs – Dorian Finney-Smith (Florida) and Montrezl Harrell (Louisville) -- and thinking about what could have been.
Finney-Smith is finally working his way into Billy Donovan's playing rotation, giving the Gators 51 points and 27 rebounds in the last four games. Harrell has also been terrific lately, averaging 13 points and 10.2 rebounds in Louisville's last five games.
NOT HOT – WISCONSIN. Defense has long been the calling card during the Bo Ryan Era, but it's time to check IDs with the Badgers. For the season Wisconsin is allowing only 63.7 points per game, but Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota averaged 77.7 against the Badgers. Loss. Loss. Loss.
HOT – UCONN GUARD SHABAZZ NAPIER. The Huskies look like the classic one-man band, but Napier hits all the right notes. He's averaging 21.2 points and 6.3 assists in American Athletic Conference games. Kemba Walker taught him well.
NOT HOT – JOSH SMITH, GEORGETOWN. The rosters for the 2014 McDonald's all-American game should be out soon. I prefer to look back at the rosters from the game played four seasons ago.
Only six guys from that game – Smith; Patric Young, Florida; Keith Appling, Michigan State; Jelan Kendrick, UNLV; Joe Jackson, Memphis and Jayvaughn Pinkston, Villanova – are still playing college basketball. After transferring from UCLA, Smith has struggled with the Hoyas, missing all but one game this month because of a reported academic matter.
NOT HOT – DUKE FORWARD JABARI PARKER. Yes, he's scored 40 points in the Blue Devils' last two games, but there's a reason the story has started circulating that Parker might return to Durham for his sophomore season. He's made only 26 of 72 shots in ACC play. That's 36.1 percent, not the calling card for the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
HOT – WICHITA STATE. One of three remaining unbeatens, the Shockers have won six of their last seven games by a dozen points or more. This is the team most likely to enter the NCAA Tournament unbeaten.
NOT HOT – THE ZIGGYS. Only four teams from the six BCS power leagues have not won a league game. Time to call the roll: Temple (AAC), TCU (Big 12), Auburn (SEC) and South Carolina (SEC). It's official: You guys stink.
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