Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Weekly writer roundtable: Six big questions
By ESPN.com staff
Each week, we'll be asking our writers six big questions that span the country. Let's start off today's roundtable with a look at tonight's biggest event, the Jimmy V doubleheader at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
For which team is Tuesday’s Jimmy V Classic the most important?
Dana O’Neil: You could make a case for Texas or NC State on this one. Both come to New York with more blemished résumés than most would expect. But at least the Longhorns can offer the asterisk of no Myck Kabongo, who is still under NCAA investigation. The Wolfpack don't have such a handy excuse. Instead, the team picked to win the ACC is looking more like a deer trapped in its newfound spotlight. Now 4-2 after a 3-0 start and clinging to a Top-25 ranking, NC State has come up empty in its two higher-profile games, losing to Oklahoma State and Michigan. Playing in the classic that honors their late coach, the Pack can ill-afford a slip up to a Connecticut team that is off to a nice start but is still in rebuilding mode. To beat the Huskies and realize lofty expectations, NC State needs to discover the defensive mojo it rode through March last season.
Who ya got for No. 1: Indiana or Duke?
Robbi Pickeral: Duke. It’s not that the deep, balanced, speedy Hoosiers haven’t done enough to earn the top ranking; it’s that the Blue Devils have done so much. In the span of 16 days, Duke topped No. 3 Kentucky, No. 2 Louisville and No. 4 Ohio State -- a résumé most teams don’t compile in a season, much less than a month. The Devils threw wins against VCU and Minnesota into the mix of their notable November. As I wrote over the weekend, the question of No. 1 is a debate between What One Team Has Accomplished versus What You’re Pretty Sure The Other Team Can Accomplish. The debate may not truly be answered until March.
Which is the most overrated and underrated team in the latest AP poll?
John Groce is off to a hot start as coach of the Illini.
Myron Medcalf: Illinois is off to a surprising 8-0 start under new coach John Groce. The program has faced a lot of turmoil over the past year, so I understand the buzz, but what has the program done to justify a No. 13 ranking: a neutral-site win over Butler in the Maui Invitational? Check the Illini's schedule. Definitely overrated. Are they even top 20? The most underrated team in the AP poll is Virginia Tech. A 7-0 start that includes a double-digit win over then-No. 15 Oklahoma State and the Hokies can't even crack the top 25? C'mon. Wichita State and NC State are in; no disrespect to either program, but you can't include them and leave Virginia Tech out. It doesn't make sense. Erick Green & Co. are legit.
Which team has surprised you the most?
Andy Katz: I'd like to answer with a pair of conference-mates. The rebuilding jobs at Wyoming and Boise State are well ahead of schedule. Wyoming knocked off ranked rival Colorado over the weekend and appears to be a legitimate upper-tier Mountain West team. Boise State had a four-point near-miss at Michigan State and posted a convincing win at Creighton. The problem for the Cowboys and Broncos is that the upper tier in the MWC could stretch all of the way to eighth place. The depth in this conference may be the best it has been during its history. Separating teams will become even more of a chore in March if they beat one another up. But that's why these nonconference wins in November and December have even more value. They will force the committee to take a closer look at multiple MWC teams.
Jason King: When it comes to our preseason conference selections, I'd like a do-over please. I'm sure many of us would when it comes to the ACC, where NC State was the popular pick to win the league crown. Unranked Oklahoma State exposed the Wolfpack in a 20-point victory in Puerto Rico. Michigan took care of business against them as well. Even UNC-Asheville almost got in on the fun before falling 82-80. I still think Mark Gottfried's squad has a chance to be good -- really good, in fact. There's a lot of talent on NC State's roster. Still, with Duke boasting wins against Ohio State, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota and VCU, the identity of the conference's best team isn't debatable. In the ACC, it's Duke and everyone else. Wish I could say I told you so in October. My mistake.
What’s an under-the-radar team/player we should get to know before they take off?
Eamonn Brennan: I've been prattling on about Pittsburgh for most of November, so that would be too easy. I was tempted to pick Alabama -- the Crimson Tide took a good Cincinnati team to the wire on the road Saturday, only no one noticed because the football team was playing -- but I'm assuming everyone knows Bama's defense will make it a factor in the SEC race. How about Iowa State? The Royce White-less Cyclones added Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious to their guard rotation and have been playing some statistically impressive defense, even if it wasn't quite enough to topple Cincinnati in Las Vegas. The Big 12 is Kansas and everyone else; there's no reason Fred Hoiberg can't shock the world for a second straight season. As for a player, Arizona State's Jahii Carson is well-known locally -- a Phoenix product who couldn't get eligible last season and the most talented Sun Devil since James Harden -- and the point guard is living up to expectations. Herb Sendek has decided to play much more up-tempo this season, and Carson is leading the way. He'll engineer an upset or four in the Pac-12.