Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 9:48 am  |  32 responses

Cub Scouts: The Week That Was

News and Notes from another week of college hoops.

by Cub Buenning

Another action-packed week of college games have come and gone with a bevy of holiday tournaments to wet the palate of any geographically-isolated basketball fan out there. The next month of games historically provides the top-flight teams the opportunity to dine on a few more cupcakes (along with a toughie or two) before the meat of their respective conference schedules begin. With a look back while always keeping our eyes ahead, here’s what this past week has told us…

1. The Big East has proven to be mortal.
Just one week ago, there were almost a dozen undefeated teams in this 16-team mega-conference. Now only a few remain (with one being DePaul) as some of the league’s heavyweights went down to defeat, and for some, a couple really bad defeats. West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Georgetown have nothing to be ashamed of for their respective losses to Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

It was, however, the eggs laid by Louisville and Marquette which cannot be ignored.

A 14-point loss to Western Kentucky—whom granted were a Sweet-16 team of a year ago—is inexcusable for Rick Pitino’s “title-contending” group. They got beat at their own game and for the first time, freshman sensation Semardo Samuels looked human. A similar “dozen-plus-two” loss was strapped on the Golden Eagles by the Dayton Flyers this past weekend. Again, an early winter hiccup is nothing to be majorly concerned about for most teams in the nation, but for Marquette and Louisville, these losses were more like mass vomiting than just the casual bit of gas.

Don’t expect this to be a trend, league-wide; but using what has become a “Cub Scouts adage,” when you put a mid-major up against a national power, the smaller guy generally plays “above his head,” if only for one night.

2. Is the Big 12 better than we thought?
While we were very high on this conference before the start of the season, not even our Is he No. 1?Big 12-tinted glasses could have “foreseen” the league’s collective start. Oklahoma, behind a continually gargantuan effort by Blake Griffin, played beautifully on their way to a preseason NIT title. That they went through the likes of Davidson, UAB, and Purdue on the road to the title gives Sooner fans hope that there might be another possible title run later this spring (and another a bit earlier, thanks to those goofy college football computers.)

Despite dropping a game against Wake Forest on Sunday, the Baylor Bears have been impressive, notching victories over Arizona State and Providence. Texas and Rick Barnes should not drop their heads for dropping a one-point decision to Notre Dame out in Hawai’i while sporting wins over St. Joseph’s and Oregon. Even the scrappy, fast-paced group in Missouri has looked competitive with strong wins over teams from power conferences to go with just a four-point loss to the even more impressive Xavier Musketeers. Even the Huskers from Lincoln have started undefeated with a rare win over state-rival and current “pants-wearer,” Creighton. Oh, and I think that Texas Tech just scored, again. Rest assured that scoring over 90 points a night is not what the General taught his son, but with just a loss to Pittsburgh on the Red Raiders’ record, the old coach should be proud.

One of the week’s biggest games involves Texas when the UCLA Bruins come a-knocking in Austin for a 9 p.m. ET tip on ESPN2 this Thursday.

3. Believe the hype on Gonzaga
Real.I’ll keep this one brief. If you are still one of the million doubters of the Zags (and you have good reason considering their recent tourney failures) I hope that you were able to catch their act down in the Magic Kingdom this past weekend. Three impressive wins on their way to the Old Spice Classic title, culminated by their statement victory over Tennessee in the finals. If you didn’t tune in, just read my feature on the team in the recent issue on newsstands everywhere.

To be honest, though, Gonzaga has started even better than I could have even imagined. The fact that they still have Indiana (I know…) Washington State, Connecticut, Utah, Memphis, and Tennessee again, before their competitive conference schedule begins will prove those aforementioned “legion of millions” either wise beyond their years or just plain ignorant.

4. Are Tennessee and Florida the ONLY quality SEC teams?
Unlike some of the other power conferences, I have not made my beef with the boys from down south. I wrote the above statement all by myself, and to be honest, I truly believe it. Yes, I am down with Vanderbilt even without Shan Foster and South Carolina should be improved, but I just can’t see past these two Orange-clad teams as possibly the only real threats come March. LSU has not yet dropped a game with ex-Stanford boss Trent Johnson on the bench, but my only concern is whether the Bayou Bengals’ most quality win this year is against Centenary or Jackson State.

Tennessee is long, athletic, quick; athletic… did I mention they are long? Bruce Pearl’s team should learn from that second-half schooling they endured on Sunday night by Gonzaga and be a dominant team come conference play. The Volunteers’ newest players have been possibly the most Young and ready.impressive with the likes of Cameron Tatum, Scottie Hopson, Renaldo Woolridge (yes, he is Orlando’s son,) and Bobby Maze (who missed all of last year) making major contributions.

Billy Donavon’s boys down in Gainsville are still young and their schedule is pretty favorable from here on in, but they do have two ACC tilts against the second-tier of that conference in Florida State and North Carolina State. The Gators have not gotten as much out of their ballyhooed freshmen class as expected, but second-year forward Alex Tyus has made huge strides from his quiet freshmen campaign and Nick Calathes is just flat-out, legitimate.

5. Is Duke even close to North Carolina?
Believe it or not, this is one of the best Duke teams to come around in some time. Over the past decade, not much positive has been produced down in Durham. This year’s team, however—despite still lacking that dominate inside punch—is experienced, athletic, and deep. Gerald Henderson, Greg Paulus, Kyle Singler, and Jon Scheyer have become that group that has seemingly been on campus for a dozen years, but this team has two “new” guys that have elevated their play early in the season. Junior forward Lance Thomas has upped his game, which included a big 21 and 6 performance against Duquesne. But quite possibly the biggest reason for renewed optimism in Krzyzewski-ville has been the emergence of our boy, Nolan Smith. The sophomore has been consistently dangerous and steady at the same time, as he has taken major minutes away from the senior, Paulus. If you haven’t seen this yet, his dunk on two Southern Illinois dudes was one of the best I have seen from a guy of his size in many years.

The Dukies have a huge test tonight against Top 10-ranked, Purdue, which airs on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. This is the first of a series of three December road games which should give us a better idea as to the validity of this team. After tonight’s game is a Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET—ESPN) tilt with Michigan on the 6th, followed two weeks later by another weekend daytime meeting with Xavier.

Is North Carolina better? Yes, most definitely. The ‘Heels might be the most superior team in the nation. Luckily, for us basketball fans, there won’t be any computer telling us how to figure that debate out.

Check Cub Buenning’s scouting website for weekly player reports. Many players highlighted in Cub Scouts are thoroughly covered on the site.

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  • German Reignman

    Yikes, the Gonzaga picture looks like an ankle sprain waiting to happen to Bouldin ….

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    Blake Griffin’s numbers look like they’re straight out of the Wilt- Russell era.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    GR, i know, it looks like possibly multiple ankles for Bouldin.
    Bryan, Griffin’s game is not that far removed from that dominate (at least at this level) style of play.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Hi Cub.
    1, The best part of that video is Bobby Knight — the SECOND I heard his voice, I was waiting for him to downplay the dunk. He kept me waiting about 15 seconds longer than expected, but finally, “Everybody likes the dunk.” Translation. “You stupid little morons who don’t know anything about basketball are the reason I occasionally choked my players.”
    2, The IU beat writer for the Bloomington paper is a Penn State grad a couple years younger than me, talked to him a few weeks ago. He’s convinced Crean is every bit the charlatan that Sampson was, but acknowledges that he’s done a much better job convincing the faithful how he’s going to “do things differently.” He’s not saying Crean might not pull it off, just saying.
    Thought you’d appreciate the third-hand insight. Enjoy your crazy Colorado weather.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Professor, thanks for all that info. November is usually the 2nd snowiest month of the year and we have gotten little to no snow, even up on my mountain chalet.
    It’s been beautiful and I may have to go golfing later this week.
    Crean interests me.

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    Yeah I was wondering if its the level or is he really this good. How much of a beast is he going to be in L?

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    North Caroloina would give the Thunder, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves a good run right now. The talent they have is unfair.

  • Alan

    Dayton is not a mid-major and Marquette will not view that game as a bad loss when the year is over. Ask Pittsburgh and Louisville if the Dayton loss last year was viewed as a bad loss by the selection committee. Dayton didnt play over their heads, they played at the exact level they will play with night in and night out. Marquette took them lightly and got pounded.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    F*cking College Football has made it f*cking impossible for me to watch any college basketball at all this f*cking week.F*ck.

  • Diesel

    There’s no way Crean puts together a top-5 recruiting class for next year without using some underhanded practices.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    F*ck that!. That is f*cking incredibly f*cking in-f*cking-credible! F*ck college f*cking football!!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Hi izzo.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    Hi Tad.It’s dead around here lately.I will say that the box scores made good viewing this week though.

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    It is dead around here for real I miss the 700 comment post up days.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I’m playing “Dodge The Pink Slip” this week with my job. It’s a fun game.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    Chase Budinger is putting up some impressive numbers.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Who else does Arizona even have?

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    I’m a big chase fan.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Incidentally, Blake Griffin looks RIPPED in that pic. Dude has to bench close to 400.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Blake Griffin and Ben Wallace. If the Cavs could pull that frontcourt muscle off next season, LeBron will surely stay.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Blake Griffin will not dominate like Wilt/Russell, but he has absolutely the ideal make-up for power forwards coming into the league.

    TAD, dude is ripped and thick. His 6’10″ height is legitimate (no Beasley)and his activity, size, and grasp of the game will make him an NBA All-Star for years to come.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Also, TAD, check my scouting site on two other “studs” from the Arizona roster.


    BTW, the site will be updated with many more names very soon. The scouting is done, the write-ups just need some of my writer/editor skills.

  • http://heavyasheaven.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    Blake Griffin so overrated. Please pay respect to Cuse because they will win the big east. Devedorf, Flynn, Ominaki, and Harris? the big east dealing with some problems on that one.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    KPresto, how so on Blake??? I submit, the opposite point of view.

    If you have read this column consistently you have seen bits and pieces on the Cuse and the Big East. I can’t see them winning the whole thing, but they could get the conf. tourney. Jonny Flynn has made more progress as a player as maybe anyone else in the nation.

  • http://heavyasheaven.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    Oh, I was just being sarcastic on the Blake ordeal, cub. Dude is a monster and he can actually handle the ball a little for his size. He is going to aite in the L. Johnny Flynn is just everything that I thought Devendorf was going to be in those first few years at Cuse. He is still good but anyone can see that Flynn runs that team and gives it so much emotion.

  • http://fjsdklf.com Jukai

    I’m shocked at how well Griffin is doing. I was caught up in that school of thought that, “if this kid is so good, why isn’t he going into the draft his freshmen year?”
    I guess he was just waiting for more time to showcase his abilities. Pretty freaking crazy.


    Greg Palus has been at duke since forever. Fu(k em Fu(k em all, NCSU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://heavyasheaven.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    jukai sighting!

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    Greg Paulus is a scrub and finally someone took his playing time. Nolan, can’t wait to see you in the NBA son.


    Hopefully Purdue will smash Duke like Tommy Lee on Pamela.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    BETCATS,join us.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Looks like Duke more than passed Test #1.