by Ben Collins
Before we get to the Top 10, BabyLinker Matthew brought up one of those perfect midseason, senselessly yell about who is the better big man questions.
Tyler Hansborough or Randolph Morris? This was probably sarcastic. Uncle Jesse sarcastic, even. Morris ate Hansbrough alive last week, putting up 21 and 7. Hansborough put the “baby” in “baby blues” — 7 points on 20% shooting and a whopping three rebounds.
But isn’t that the point of a finesse player? You’re supposed to surround one with talent so, if his touch is off, someone else can pick up his slack. Reyshawn Terry and Brandan Wright each had 16 and, again, they won. When he has some touch to go along with his smarts and hustle in the paint, Hansbrough explodes and everything is right in the world. He manned up against then-#1 Ohio State the game before and put up 21 and 14 (despite the lack of the next-coming-of-Christ Greg Oden).
Ask Elton Brand what it’s like being a player with touch, lots of scrappiness, less strength than he actually thinks and no talent next to you for four years. Hansbrough luckily has the slack.
I’m not saying I’d pick Hansbrough higher than Morris after that, but you see more effective undersized players with hands (Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith) in the NBA than undersized players with a whole lot of strength and balls trying to overpower people (James Lang, anyone on the IR of the Miami Heat).
You’re thoughts below, but first the rankings for the week.
1. UCLA (8-0) – I really wish I had a bookie.
First of all, they come to your house. You don’t have to move and you still have the opportunity of making money. It’s like Internet poker. Or being Kevin Federline. Second of all, I hear they sell appliances out of their trenchcoats. Which is just awesome.
Thirdly, and most importantly, I would’ve been swimming in cash predicting that an Oden-less Ohio State should not have been #1 and UCLA should’ve been at the top in the first SLAM Top 10. UCLA is 8-0 after sliding past #6 Texas A&M.
Again, I’ll say this all season because they’ll be in the top 5 the whole time: when you have three scorers and a distributor along with some serviceable big men, you’re always going to be one of the better teams in the country.
Good. Recruiting. Ben. Howland.
2 – Pittsburgh (10-0) – I’m not a big Aaron Gray guy. I think he gets a lot of credit just for being naturally tall, which reminds me a lot of pickup games in middle school when captains would always pick the 6’2″ genetic freak who hit puberty at the age of nine. Unless you were that kid, you hated that kid under your breath.
This is Aaron Gray to me. And, although they just barely clawed their way out of Buffalo 70-67, who was hosting a ranked team for the first time in school history the other night, they have to be number 2 considering how good this conference is and that they’re undefeated.
They have their first two tests back-to-back this coming week in #7 Wisconsin tomorrow night and #17 Oklahoma St. the next night. So here’s a chance to see if Aaron Gray’s post footwork is as strong as his pituitary gland.
3 – North Carolina (7-1) – There was the aforementioned Ohio State win. Then the Kentucky win where Hansbrough didn’t show up. And, even despite Gonzaga, this team that I called too young in the last poll is looking pretty damn sharp. Brandan Wright is turning from an offensive star to an all-around player and a freshman stud. Reyshawn Terry is showing that he’s a leader. I guess I’m turning into a Hansbrough apologist, too.
Great, now I’m turning into a cliched Duke hater. Shoot me now, please.
4 – Florida (8-2) – Neither the Coaches Poll or the AP has them this high, but I’m a badass non-conformist. I ride a motorcycle. I eat beef jerky. I take dates on horseback.
Anyways, this team, even at 8-2, is a bit too talented to give up on. I refuse to believe that this same National Championship team is tanking it this year. So I’m holding out judgment until the eve of Christmas Eve (12/23) when they play Ohio State. If Greg Oden emasculates Al Horford and makes him look like an infant (which can happen to pretty much anyone), Florida is entering not-Top 10 purgatory.
5 – Ohio State (8-1) – Greg Oden looks horrifyingly, scarily good. I don’t know why I didn’t trust, I don’t know, everyone in the entire world who tried to tell me this, but it’s proven now.
Even scarier, they hung in there with UNC without him. This team probably should be higher. If they prove this against Florida on the 23rd, my bad.
6 – Wichita State (7-0) – How ’bout them Shockers? Somewhat shocking win at Syracuse. They have no one player that will shock and awe you, but they have some shockingly good depth. Wichita State, in a shocker, is now America’s team.
7 – Arizona (7-1) – As promised the other day, Arizona is in the top 10. They have some really athletic and tall talent that’s starting to come together with Ivan Radenovic, Chase Budinger and Marcus “no, not the one on the Nets” Williams. They also have the awesome college combo guard in Mustafa Shakur, which always seems to happen to them.
Seriously, how does this happen? Shakur, Arenas, Bibby, Terry, Stoudamire (Damon or Salim, take your pick), all Arizona alum.
Does this have something to do with it being a dry heat?
8 – Wisconsin (9-1) – Yes, they’re too low. Especially after that Marquette win, on the road even. And Alondo Tucker is almost tops in the nation in scoring.
Okay, so they’re way too low. But they play Pittsburgh in a couple of days. Just in case they need some extra motivation to knock off a #2.
9 – Duke (9-1) – Sorry, conscience.
10 – Connecticut (8-0) – This team is not that good on paper. They’re young, their best draft prospect, 7’3″ Hasheem Thabeet, is rawer than Taco Bell ground beef in New Jersey and they still won’t have a chance to play anybody formidable until the New Year (LSU and Marquette back-to-back). But this is why Jim Calhoun is the Saint of Storrs, so they’ve earned their place in the Top 10.
Barely Missed The Cut: Alabama (lost to Notre Dame? Was Troy Murphy playing?) (8-1), Kansas (8-2), Texas A&M (tough-as-nails schedule) 7-2), Butler (even though they lost to Indiana State. Don’t say a word.) (10-1).
Comments, and we’re taking your rankings and quotes for next week’s Top 10…