Friday, January 09, 2009

Arkansas Collects Another Scalp

Arkansas 67, #7 Texas 61
Arkansas now joins Michigan as one of two teams in the nation to inexplicably have two wins over Top Ten teams. Although while Michigan was expected to be a pretty good team this year, nobody expected Arkansas to be any good - and honestly I'm not sure if they are good, or if they collected two fluke wins that are no different from Harvard beating Boston College. Other than the two monumental wins over Texas and Oklahoma, the best team Arkansas has played thus far is probably Missouri State, and they lost that game. Obviously the computers are thinking the same thing that I'm thinking, and while the RPI and Sagarin ELO_CHESS put Arkansas in the Top 50 in the nation, Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR both put the Razorbacks 73rd in the nation. I agree with the computers, because I just don't buy the players on this team. John Pelphrey is a very good coach, but I don't see either Michael Washington or Courtney Fortson being good enough to carry this team. And they only go seven players deep, although if there's anywhere in the BCS universe to be with a lack of depth it's the SEC West. With many questions still remaining about LSU, I will be willing to listen to arguments that Arkansas is the best team in that division. But even winning the SEC West very well might not be enough to get them into the Tournament.

Bradley 56, Illinois State 52
We all knew that Illinois State was going to lose a game at some point, so it's not a huge story that it happened to a pretty good Bradley team. As I discussed after their big win over Creighton, the question isn't whether they'll lose a game. The question is what they do after that loss. Do they let it snowball into a losing streak, or do they bounce right back with a win? Well, the Redbirds play next at Indiana State, tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, most people are not aware of this fact, but Bradley is actually leading the Missouri Valley right now. After a very poor out-of-conference performance (a 6-5 record, a loss to UMKC, and zero victories over the RPI Top 100), the Braves are now 4-0 in the Valley. If they can follow up this win over Illinois State with a win over Creighton tomorrow evening then they'll really put themselves as a formidable contender to take the Missouri Valley.

Penn State 67, #14 Purdue 64
This loss will raise a lot of questions for Purdue, even though it's somewhat unfair. First of all, Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer missed the game with minor injuries (it's not clear to me whether they'll be back for their next game, or if so how long they'll play, but it seems pretty certain that neither player will be out for too long). Second of all, Penn State is a fairly talented team. Talor Battle is starting to get national recognition, but Stanley Pringle is a very good player in his own right. That said, no Purdue fans are happy about the 0-2 start to the Big Ten season, and the tensions will grow if they can't get back on track with a home victory over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon. I do think that this is all part of a sophomore slump, where the huge expectations placed on a team that came out of nowhere last year are really weighing everybody down. But the thing about sophomore slumps is that teams eventually snap out of them, and at some point people will remember just how many good players this Purdue team has (when they're healthy and staying out of foul trouble... something that has been rare so far this season). Even if they lose to Wisconsin and drop to 0-3, I don't think this is the last we'll hear of this Purdue team in the top tier of the Big Ten.

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