- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. Good to see the variety on the Bob Cousy point guard of the year finalists list. Five of the 11 finalists are from conferences outside the power six and all are deserving with a legit chance to win the award. The 11 finalists are: Scott Machado (Iona), Phil Pressey (Missouri), Kendall Marshall (North Carolina), Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Casper Ware (Long Beach State), Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Damian Lillard (Weber State), Scoop Jardine (Syracuse), Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary’s) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State). But overall this may be the weakest NBA-ready point guard year we’ve seen in some time.
2. Two of the most prophetic coaches in the preseason were Southern Miss’ Larry Eustachy and La Salle’s John Giannini. Both coaches told me they had teams that could make a run, and possibly their best teams. Yet, both lost key players. The more believable was Southern Miss. Still, the Golden Eagles had to go out and prove it. They have. USM gave Murray State its toughest game of the season in the Great Alaska Shootout and after snapping an 18-game losing streak to Memphis on Wednesday, they are alone atop CUSA at 7-1. Meanwhile, La Salle beat Charlotte to stay a half-game ahead of Temple in the A-10 title chase at 6-2.
3. Once Fab Melo is back with Syracuse (per Syracuse Post-Standard) for Saturday’s game at St. John’s, the top four contenders for the national title will be set. A Big 12 champ will have a strong argument to make, but heading into February it looks like Kentucky, Syracuse, Ohio State and North Carolina are the favorites for the national title. That doesn’t mean all will be in New Orleans or No. 1 seeds (although I find it hard to believe that Kentucky, Syracuse and OSU won’t be No. 1 seeds). And no team probably, outside of UNC, could still be a national title contender after losing two preseason perimeter rotation players to injuries (Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald).