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December 12, 2007
Back and Forth
The Flip-Flop Edition

by John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy

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John: Yo, hoops nation! Ken and John here, interrupting the finals-week doldrums with a little revisionist history. You might remember a few weeks back when we rolled out a preview that covered no fewer than 145 D-I teams. Now here we are, not even halfway through December, and there are already predictions we wish we could take back. Anyway, that's what Ken says. Me, I think my predictions were perfect in every way. Right, K-man?

Ken: We'll get to the self-congratulation soon enough, John. First, I want to say that this is the part of the season where I start to get cranky. There's enough information to make judgments on certain teams, judgments that in some cases conflict with what we thought in October. So let's get the jump on the rest of the college hoops media and tell everyone where we went wrong! I'd love to hear what you think about the SEC. Are you wishing you would've followed through on your devious plan to assign an 8-8 record to everyone? I almost think it could happen based on what we've seen so far.

John: OK, it's soon enough. Let's pat ourselves on the back. In October I took some heat for saying this year the SEC wouldn't produce a team as good as LSU in 2006, much less Florida in either of the last two years. That prediction is looking pretty good so far. All hail me! On everything else I said I take the fifth. Next topic.

Ken: So, John, I take that to mean you're still comfortable with Kentucky finishing seven games ahead of South Carolina in the SEC East?

John: I said next topic! N-E-X-T! What part of "next" don't you understand? All right, you want sackcloth and ashes? Fine. Billy Gillispie's Wildcats have been much uglier than I envisioned. (Duh.) The Gamecocks' Devan Downey is hitting his threes, which I submit to you is an ever bigger surprise than Gardner-Webb winning in Rupp Arena. If Downey has the temerity to make threes against Ole Miss this season, Rebels' coach Andy Kennedy should shout: "Yo, Devan! How come you didn't do that when you were playing for me at Cincinnati in '06?"

Ken: Continuing on with the inquisition: the Big 12. I admired your boldness with regards to predicting Iowa State to play .500 in-conference. You made legions of fans in Ames with that one. It could still happen, but that 35-point loss to Drake last week, even after they got Wesley Johnson back in the lineup, has me a little worried.

John: Thank you so very much for bringing that up, Ken. You left out the part where I picked Drake to finish last in the MVC. Let's see, where to start? The Cyclones' offense has been horrific. Greg McDermott should ban three-point shots by anyone besides Johnson, Bryan Petersen and, maybe, Rahshon Clark. As for Drake, I'm dumbfounded by how good their defense has been so far this season. I don't know where it came from but I'll tell you this: if first-year coach Keno Davis can combine last year's offense--which was actually quite good--with a solid D, he'll be the hottest property coming out of Des Moines in '08, never mind Clinton, Obama or Edwards.

Ken: You know, Drake is a team to watch. Nobody's really bought into that yet. It could be a fun story in the MVC. When was the last time they were state champs? You have to think they have a good chance at Iowa on Friday, given that the Cyclones just beat the Hawkeyes. Anyway, that's enough about your predictions. I'd start talking about the problems with mine, but darned if I can find any.

John: Dude, please. You did have St. Louis finishing ahead of Xavier in the A-10. Last time I checked the Billikens were losing to Sam Houston State at home while the Musketeers were busy schooling Indiana.

Ken: Oh, you saw that, did you? OK, let's tackle the Bills first. I can only imagine that the learning curve under Rick Majerus must be pretty flat. This wasn't the case at Utah, but somehow he's actually made SLU a worse team than last season, at least early on. That's not good in a league where every other team seems to be surging. If you look closely, there's a faint signal of what made his Utah teams good: a very conservative D that rebounds very well, doesn't force as many turnovers as you'd think and doesn't give up many threes. Still, this is a team that will be thankful to finish in the top half of the league, let alone second as I predicted. The X-Men on the other hand are not missing Justin Doellman at all. They're hitting threes and giving them up at rates that will regress to the mean as the season progresses, but if I had to do it all over, I'd make them the heavy favorites to win the conference.

John: OK, then. As long as you're feeling contrite, I seem to remember another little something of yours from October, all about how N.C. State will soon "be a fixture at the top of the conference." Not that I begrudge the Wolfpack getting blown out at Michigan State. It's just that they lost at home to New Orleans and on the road to East Carolina. Wait a minute, let me rephrase that. They lost at home to New Orleans and on the road to East Carolina! What's going on in Raleigh this year?

Ken: The Pack is an interesting case. Freshman J.J. Hickson has been as good, if not better, than advertised. His teammates have not reacted to Hickson very well, though, especially forward Brandon Costner, who's been productive only in the areas of turnovers and bricks. I tried not to go too far overboard with State this season. They should really be a year away from winning NCAA Tournament games, but the early start has me a little more shaky on Sidney Lowe's ability to coach the college game.

John: Well, I'm more than a little shaky about predicting that Wisconsin will finish in a tie for first in the Big Ten. The paradigm-shifting thing about the Badgers' loss to Marquette on Saturday wasn't that it happened in the Kohl Center, where Wisconsin never loses. It was that the Badgers were beaten, and beaten badly, on their defensive glass, where Wisconsin never loses. Also note that against top-25 competition this season (Duke and Marquette), UW has turned the ball over quite frequently. Too few defensive rebounds and too many turnovers from a Bo Ryan team. I can't believe I just formed those words.

Ken: Alright, I think I've had enough ego-bruising for now. Let's talk about some of the things we've done right. Hey, I'll even give you a pass on the Badgers. Calling Marquette and Duke "top-25 competition" is like calling North Carolina an "at-large quality team." I think one thing we both did well was give the Golden Eagles and the Blue Devils a realistic shot to win their conferences. OK, maybe I didn't give Duke that much of a shot to win the ACC, but they seemed like a safe bet for second, and based on the early returns it would be shocking if they did any worse than that. What do you like about that other team from Wisconsin?

John: In my Big East preview I pretty much said there was a lot to like about Marquette, except for their shooting. Now they're shooting well. Look out. Now, as long as we're doling out the Irving Thalberg Awards, I must say that your Pac-10 preview still looks quite good. OK, maybe Washington has been a little more feeble that one could have imagined. Still, if I were Les Miles I might be moved to say that I'm excited about your damn strong Pac-10 preview.

Ken: Why, thank you, John. That's the nicest thing you've said to me in years. I still like Stanford to move past Washington State once opponents start seeing two members of the Lopez family. Oregon is still a mystery, at least to me. It was a reach to pick them to have a losing record in conference, but thus far there's not much reason to think they'll be as good as last season's edition. I still have serious questions about whether the offense is good enough to carry the D the way it did last season. I mean, Maarty Leunen rules, but his eFG is up 10 percent over last season. I don't see that continuing. And Washington...wow. They looked good against Pitt, but can Ryan Appleby really be the difference between a competent middle-of-the-league team and the one the one that looked borderline hideous before his return?

John: No.

Ken: Oh. OK, kudos for brevity. Anyway, I didn't mean to cut off your earlier SEC gloating. In fact, your point that the top of the league would be the weakest of the power conferences is looking good. You were probably one of the more lukewarm supporters of Tennessee and Arkansas in the preseason. I assume you're not backing down on that now.

John: It's tough to be lukewarm about a team you've picked to win the SEC East, but, yeah, that's a good description of my feeling about Tennessee. There's no shame in losing to Texas, goodness knows, but the Volunteers' quality opponents can be expected to score points in abundance when they don't turn the ball over. Speaking of turnovers, Arkansas just commits too many of them, even if everyone is back. I said so in October. Now here it is December and the Hogs are ranked 323rd in the nation in turnover percentage. So there.

Ken: You won't see too many major-conference teams commit 32 turnovers in a regulation game, but that's what Arkansas did against Providence.

John: As I said, our previews were perfect in every way. Now, I have to cut this short so I can go back and change the text on my Drake post. You might want to do the same for N.C. State. Perfection needs a little help now and then, know what I'm saying, bro?

Ken: Like I tell people all the time: I'm perfect except for the mistakes.

John: Me, I'm just perfect. And modest. Ciao, K-meister.

Ken: Later, modest one.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.
Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
The Last of Their Kind (12/12)
<< Previous Column
Back and Forth (12/03)
Next Column >>
Back and Forth (12/18)
Next Article >>
Around the Rim (12/14)

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