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CBB Notes (Changes at the Top)

   by Larry Ness - 02/15/2011

The Indiana Hoosiers of 1975-76 hold a similar spot in college basketball history sports history to that held by the 1972 Miami Dolphins in the NFL. Don Shula’s Dolphins finished the 1972 season a perfect 17-0 after capturing Super Bowl and no NFL team has been able to match that achievement since, although the 2007 Pats sure came close. Similarly, Bob Knight’s Hoosiers claimed the national championship in 1976 by completing that year a perfect 32-0 with no team since being able to match that feat. Tark’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels won the 1990 national championship and then completed a perfect regular season in 1990-91, the only team since Knight’s ‘76 team to do so. UNLV advanced to its second straight Final 4 that season, extending its record to 34-0, but lost its semifinal game to Duke. That’s the closest any college basketball team has come to going unbeaten since Knight’s club. As Margaret Mitchell so eloquently wrote a long time ago, “it’s an era that is Gone With the Wind.”

Flash-forward to 2011 and this past Saturday, the nation’s then-No. 1 team and lone unbeaten (Ohio State at 24-0), saw its perfect season end with a 71-67 loss at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes took their biggest lead at 47-32 but then Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor scored 21 points, assisted on four other baskets (three of them three-pointers) plus fed a pass to Mike Bruesewitz that led to a foul and two made free throws. All told, Taylor had a direct hand in 34 of Wisconsin's final 39 points. Also last Saturday, Cleveland State guard Norris Cole played all 40 minutes, scoring 41 points, grabbing 20 rebounds and dishing out nine assists to to join ex-Oklahoma star Blake Griffin as the only college players to eclipse 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game in the last 15 years. However, Cole’s effort came against Youngstown State while Taylor’s came vs Ohio State, so my vote for goes for Taylor’s 27-point, four-rebound and seven-assist effort as being the more impressive performance.

Ohio State's loss stopped the second-longest season-opening win streak in Buckeyes history, falling short of the 1960-61 team which opened 27-0. Wisconsin beat a team ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for just the second time in school history and let’s note that the first time also came vs an Ohio St team as well, back in 1962. One can’t help but note that Wisconsin’s football team also beat a No.1-ranked Ohio St team 31-18 this past October, as the Badgers became just the eighth school in NCAA history to have beaten the No. 1 team in both football and basketball in the same season. The Badgers have won 17 straight (35 of their last 36) at the Kohl Center while improving to 150-11 at home under Bo Ryan.

The new polls came out on Monday and Kansas topped both the AP and coaches’ poll. Ohio State was No. 2 in the AP poll with Texas, despite the most first-place votes of any school with 23 (Kansas had 22 and Ohio St, 14), ranked third. Pittsburgh, which along with Notre Dame (No. 8 AP and No. 7 Coaches’) owns the most wins this season over RPI top-25 teams (six), holds the fourth spot in the AP and last year’s defending champs (Duke) stays at No. 5. Kansas is also No. 1 in the coaches’ poll, but just barely. The Jayhawks got 14 first-place votes and Texas 13, giving Kansas a slim 753-to-746 lead over Texas in overall points. Ohio State (three first-place votes) fell to No. 3 among the coaches with Pittsburgh (one first-place vote) and Duke finishing 4th and 5th.

Now here’s the rub. Does anyone really want the No. 1 ranking heading into the NCAA tourney? Consider this. Kansas was an unanimous No. 1 in the final AP regular season poll last year, heading into last year’s tourney. However, being No. 1 in the final AP poll is not a good indicator of ultimate success in the “Big Dance.” Since Bob Knight’s 1975-76 team entered that year’s tourney as No. 1 and won the title, just five schools have finished No. 1 in the AP’s final regular poll and gone on to win the national championship. The short list includes Kentucky (1978), North Carolina (1982), Duke (1992), UCLA (1995) and Duke (2001). How did Kansas fare last year? The Jayhawks lost 69-67 to Northern Iowa in the second round. Doing the math, that’s just five No. 1 teams entering the tourney, winning the national championship in the last 34 years (14.7 percent).

I guess Kansas’ effort on Monday night answered my above question regarding does anyone really want to be No. 1. The Jayhawks were ‘crowned’ the nation’s new No. 1 team by the writers and coaches Monday afternoon and the Jayhawks promptly went out and got crushed at Kansas St, 84-68. Jacob Pullen scored a career-high 38 points in Kansas St’s wire-to-wire win and his effort was just one point shy of the 39 points that Elvin Hayes scored for Houston against No. 1 UCLA back in 1968 (according to Kansas St research). For you history buffs, that Houston/UCLA game was played on January 28th in the Astrodome and was the first regular season college basketball game to be televised nationally. Houston’s 71-69 win ended a 47-game winning streak by Lew Alcindor’s (remember that name?) Bruins. I guess Pullen’s just thrown ‘his hat in the ring’ with Taylor (Wisconsin) and Cole (Cleveland St), for best single-game performance this season. Getting back to Kansas, it was just the Jayhawks’ third loss in their last 45 games against the Wildcats and just their second loss in 28 visits to Manhattan.

Ohio State’s loss on Saturday also dropped them from the ranks of conference unbeatens, leaving just Coastal Carolina (15-0 in the Big South), Texas (10-0 in the Big 12) and Princeton (7-0 in the Ivy League). Coastal Carolina (24-2) now owns the longest active winning streak with Ohio State’s loss, at 22 in a row. The Chanticleers will host Gardner-Webb (8-18 / 3-11) on Tuesday and it should also be noted that Coastal Carolina is ‘knocking on the door’ of both major polls. Check under the heading of “others receiving votes” and you’ll notice that Coastal Carolina ranks 27th in the coaches’ poll and 28th in the AP poll. I’ll talk more about Princeton in Friday’s notes, as the Tigers won’t play until the weekend. That leaves Texas, which is 10-0 in the Big 12 with nine of those wins coming by double digits and its other win coming by nine points. Can Texas really survive the Big 12 regular season unscathed? Let me insert here that the last school from one of the “power-six” conferences (BCS conferences in ‘football-speak’) to go unbeaten in the regular season was Kentucky, which went 16-0 in the SEC-East back in 2002-03. Texas hosts Oklahoma St on Wednesday and plays at Nebraska on Saturday. Ohio St hosts Michigan St Tuesday night and plays at Purdue on Sunday. Both schools are ‘live’ to be the new No. 1 come next Monday, after Kansas’ loss at Kansas St.

While Ohio State’s loss left the nation without an unbeaten team, the Gentlemen of Centenary fell to 0-27 this season on Saturday with a 71-46 loss at UMKC, making the lone winless team in Division I. Centenary will take a 32-game losing streak into its home game Tuesday with Oral Roberts (13-14 / 10-5). Centenary, 0-15 in the Summit League, is one of five conference teams still winless. The other four (in alphabetical order) are DePaul (0-12 in the Big East), Fordham (0-11 in the A-10), Georgia Southern (0-14 in the Southern Conference) and Towson (0-15 in the CAA). DePaul, 1-47 in Big East play since the 2008-0 season, plays at Providence (14-11 / 3-11) on Thursday. Fordham, 1-42 in the A-10 since the beginning of the 2008-09 season and losers of 37 consecutive league games, doesn’t play until Saturday at Xavier (18-6 / 9-1). Georgia Southern plays Wednesday at Davidson (13-13 / 7-8) and Towson hosts James Madison (18-9 / 8-7) on Tuesday.

I’ll be back with Part 2 of my CBB Notes on Friday.

Good luck...Larry

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