Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Debuts

For the most part the holiday tournaments are taking Saturday off, so I’ll save my updated coverage for tomorrow night. But after yesterday’s feature on the debut performances of the McDonald’s All-American (MAA) freshman, I thought I’d show how the 14 returning MAA sophomores have performed in their debut games this season. This includes the Saturday afternoon games, but not the Saturday night games.

Welcome Back                 PPG  RPG  APG  MPG Opponents
Chase Budinger, Arizona     25.0  6.0  4.0 32.0 Beat N. Arizona
Wayne Ellington, UNC        20.0  3.0  1.0 33.0 Beat Davidson
Jon Scheyer, Duke           17.5  4.0  3.5 25.5 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
D.J. Augustin, Texas        14.5  2.0  7.5 37.0 Beat Texas-SA, UCDavis
Sherron Collins, Kansas     16.0  3.5  5.0 27.5 Beat ULMon, UMKC, Wshb
Darrell Arthur, Kansas      12.7  7.0  1.0 25.7 Beat ULMon, UMKC, Wshb
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova 13.0  1.0  6.0 33.0 Beat Stony Brook
Earl Clark, Louisville      10.0 11.0  3.0 30.0 Beat Hartford
Robin Lopez, Stanford        9.8  6.0  1.0 24.2 L Sna W Hrv,NWSt,CSB,NW
Gerald Henderson, Duke      13.0  2.5  2.0 22.5 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
Lance Thomas, Duke           7.0  3.0  0.5 21.0 Beat NCCen, NewMexSt
Tywon Lawson, UNC            8.0  1.0  1.0 21.0 Beat Davidson
Vernon Macklin, Georgetown   4.0  4.0  0.5 20.0 Beat Michigan, W&M
Tweety Carter, Baylor        6.5  1.0  1.5 20.0 Beat WichSt,JacksonSt

Sample selection may matter here, as the sophomore MAA’s that stayed in school are not quite hitting the same peak performances as the freshman MAA’s listed yesterday. The one exception is Chase Budinger who is really not getting enough press here on the East Coast. He’s an elite player and a good reason my pre-season predictions had Arizona 2nd in the Pac10.

The most important stat in the table listed above may be that only one of the teams with a sophomore MAA has lost yet, while four of the freshman MAAs play on teams that already have “bad” losses.

If you think I’m focusing too much on MAA’s, you’re right. But remember, since the inception of the MAA team, only two teams have won a National Title without a MAA on their roster.

Big Ten Network

I watched four Big Ten Games at once this afternoon thanks to the Big Ten Network (and ESPN) and all four came down to the wire. And just like that the Big Ten season is over. Here are a few thoughts:

-Wisconsin nearly blew the chance at a New Year’s Day Bowl against 1-10 Minnesota. But, in typical Gopher fashion, the Gopher’s muffed a punt late in the game which provided a critical cushion for the Badgers.

Paul Bunyan’s axe is clearly the coolest of all the rivalry trophies. Earlier in the day Illinois won the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk which is basically a tiny axe in a display box. It was passed off on the sidelines between Northwestern and Illinois staff and then casually brought into the tunnel. In other words, the players didn’t even know they won it. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin-Minnesota game always ends with a bunch of football players running across the field with an oversized axe in their hands. Note to future rivalry trophies. Oversized is better.

-Penn St.’s 4th down attempt sailed incomplete in the final minutes and Michigan St. sealed a huge comeback against the Nitany Lions. Penn St. probably wasn’t going to go to the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl two years in a row, but Saturday’s loss virtually assured Penn St. of the #5 slot in the Champs Sports Bowl. Glancing at the top 5:

Conf All Team
7-1 11-1 Ohio St.
6-2 9-3 Illinois
6-2 8-4 Michigan
5-3 9-3 Wisconsin
4-4 8-4 Penn St.

If nothing wacky happens in the BCS, Ohio St. should go to the Rose Bowl as the lone BCS bid. Thanks to their upset of Ohio St. last week, Illinois appears to be the clear choice for the Capital One Bowl. The final New Year’s Day Bow, the Outback Bowl, will have a choice between Michigan and Wisconsin. If Lloyd Carr retires, I could see that being the factor that keeps Michigan ahead of Wisconsin, but it could go either way. The loser should get the Alamo Bowl.

-Indiana meanwhile had a huge 24-3 lead, lost the lead, and needed a little magic to defeat Purdue. (Did that Indiana kicker look nervous or what?) Purdue has now lost 3 games in a row, and may have lost a chance to go to a Big Ten affiliated bowl. Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan St. now have identical records of 7-5 (3-5) and the Insight and Motor City Bowls can only choose two of them. Michigan St. beat both Purdue and Indiana this year and may have the fanbase to take the Insight Bowl. But Indiana’s 14 year bowl drought should be an attractive enough story for the Motor City Bowl to choose the Hoosiers. Purdue will have to hope a bowl slot opens up elsewhere, and the way this season has broken, there is no guarantee that will happen.

-Iowa and Northwestern on the other hand are probably going to be without a bowl. Iowa has the better chance based on a better conference record, but at 6-6 the only way these teams can take an at-large bowl slot is if every single 7-5 team already gets a bowl game. Moreover, other leagues may have more deserving 6-6 teams. When you look inside the numbers, Iowa didn’t have to play Michigan or Ohio St. this year and still only got to 6 wins. More importantly, when you lose at home to a MAC team in your final game of the season, your fanbase probably isn’t going to want to travel.