- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Ricardo Ratliffe is the most important player in America. Missouri has a national-championship caliber backcourt. The Tigers have so many weapons. And they used all of them to beat Baylor Saturday. Ratliffe was dominant with 27 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Missouri gets by on limited size because of Ratliffe’s efficiency and versatility. With Ratliffe’s prowess, the Tigers have Final Four potential. Without him, they wouldn’t be a top-10 squad. He’s that much of a difference-maker for that team. With Missouri’s limited size, he’s the most crucial player in the country.
2. Wisconsin is quietly climbing the Big Ten standings behind a more confident Jordan Taylor. The Badgers won their fourth in a row with a 67-63 victory at Illinois Sunday. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. But the Badgers have shaken off their rocky start in the Big Ten and surged over the last two weeks. Taylor’s renewed confidence and aggression has been a big factor in Wisconsin’s turnaround in conference play. He’s scored 53 combined points in his team’s last three games. And although he’s still struggling from the three-point line, he’s attacking. His energy has sparked a crucial run for the Badgers. Don’t be surprised if Wisconsin (5-3 in the Big Ten) is fighting for the Big Ten title toward the end of the season.
3. Anthony Davis is the national player of the year right now. Alabama wasn’t bad in its 77-71 loss to Kentucky Saturday. The Tide just couldn’t withstand Davis. The freshman is a force on the defensive end and he’s evolving every night on the offense. He recorded four blocks and four steals against Alabama. He’s a special defender. He alters so many shots and just poses problems for every opposing player who wants to get to the basket. Right now, he’s as much of a contender for national player of the year as Thomas Robinson. And if I had to pick right now, I think I’d go with Davis just based on the way he’s impacting the game on both ends.
4. Syracuse needs Fab Melo. Syracuse knew that it wouldn’t have Melo for Saturday’s matchup at Notre Dame earlier this week, according to Jim Boeheim. But the Orange didn’t look like it was prepared to compete without him. Jack Cooley destroyed Syracuse inside. And Melo’s absence was a significant factor in Cooley’s production. Melo has had 11 blocks in his last three outings for Syracuse. He’s averaging 3.0 per game this season. Syracuse is a deep team. But Melo’s interior defense has been vital this season. Who knows when/if he’ll return. But to fulfill its potential as a Final Four contender, the Orange will need Melo’s defensive tools.
5. Andre Drummond is not playing like a lottery pick. It’s frustrating to watch a guy with Drummond’s skill set refuse to assert himself. He’s scored 10 points (5-for-17) in UConn’s last two games, both losses. I think Ryan Boatright’s absence has affected UConn. But the Huskies have also been impacted by Drummond’s up-and-down aggression. The talent is there but he doesn’t always utilize it because of inconsistent energy.