Observations from the week that was:
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski won his 879th game when the Blue Devils beat Elon. He has a shot to pass Bob Knight for the all-time lead this season. He needs 23 more and could do it some time in the postseason. What Coach K has done at Duke is simply amazing. You have to remember that while this program had tradition it wasn't on a high when he arrived. He has created the standard in the sport and the program is now a machine that is at the top of the sport. Once K sets the record it's hard to see anyone catching him, especially in a profession that is eating its own due to the high stress.
The Big 12 is looking like it's going to have quite a race. Kansas is the favorite now with the addition of Josh Selby. Winning at Cal in an ugly game was yet another example of the Jayhawks finding ways to win. Texas has two of the better wins in the league, winning in Greensboro over North Carolina and then at Michigan State. Kansas State is struggling but once Jacob Pullen is back, expect that the Wildcats will still be a tough out and a contender. Missouri is the most entertaining team and has a shot to compete for the title, as well. And Texas A&M and Oklahoma State appear to be in contention for bids as well. Baylor was on this list but is lacking quality wins. Still, the Bears have high-level talent and if they play up to their potential they'll be in bid contention. Nebraska is playing better and Colorado has two potential pros. None of those teams will be an easy out.
Mississippi State’s scheduling scheme backfired. Coach Rick Stansbury had a plan to beat the suspensions of Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost by jamming as many games as possible prior to the opening of SEC play. That meant playing four games in four days as well as a ridiculous trip from the Bahamas to Honolulu to Las Vegas. The Bulldogs have won one of the first four road games -- over San Diego -- with Saint Mary’s still pending. Bost is eligible for the Jan. 8 SEC opener against Alabama. But by that time it might be too late. The Bulldogs lack quality wins and are in a deep hole. Having a fight breakout in the stands between Sidney and Elgin Bailey was a national embarrassment and only made the Bulldogs' mess worse.
The gap has closed between power-six conference teams and lower-level teams. The elite teams such as Duke, Ohio State and Kansas still take care of business, regardless of competition. But it’s hard to argue that the gap hasn’t closed for average to mediocre teams that are struggling. Furman, Jacksonville, Seattle, Siena, Maine, Presbyterian and North Texas all won against power six teams this past week.
The selection committee may face the toughest choices yet on who will play in Dayton. So many teams are emerging with quality wins to put themselves in bid contention. This past week was a strong indicator that a number of teams -- Southern Miss, Colorado State, Baylor, St. John’s, Northwestern, UAB, Oklahoma State, Washington State, Northern Iowa, New Mexico, Florida State -- could be vying for the final spots. Some lost, some played well, some may already be in the field come March.