College Basketball Nation: Jerry Jones
December, 21, 2009
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com
It's a new day, with a new blog, and two new bloggers. So, for the sake of alleviating the disjointed nature of beginning anew in the middle of an ongoing season, let's go do Five Big College Basketball Things I've noticed thus far. In no particular order:
- Texas is really, really good. This is not a surprise, nor should it serve as any sort of newsflash. But after the Longhorns' 102-90 demolition of North Carolina at Jerry Jones' wonder palace Saturday, it's officially time to declare the Longhorns legit. I mean, like, national championship-favorite legit. Before the 2009-10 season began, there was some uncertainty on this matter. Would Dexter Pittman dominate down low? (He has.) Would Damion James harness his talent and run roughshod over smaller, less athletic defenders? (He is.) Would Texas' world-beating recruiting class -- not to mention Florida transfer Jai Lucas -- give Texas an immediate boost? (It has.) Texas is so talented, it made North Carolina look downright normal, and nobody but nobody makes North Carolina look normal.
- Also good: John Wall. Am I blowing your mind yet? Is this post the blog equivalent of seeing "Avatar" for the first time? Let me know if you want me to dial back this revolutionary, groundbreaking rhetoric while you recover. So, OK, you're well aware John Wall is good, but even if you'd pored over Wall's voluminous mix-tape library this offseason, you might not have expected him to be this good. But he is. He's better than Derrick Rose was. He's better than Greg Oden. He's better than just about any freshman in recent memory at this stage of the season, and that includes Kevin Durant. (When all is said and done, Durant's season will likely stand up as the better one -- the Texas forward didn't really hit his scary-good stride until conference play began.) But for now, it's fair to call Wall the best player in the country, and if you fully expected that before this year began, you are far wiser than I.
- Meanwhile, in Iowa City ... Any Iowa fans in the building? Ha, just kidding. Of course there aren't. Or, if there were, none would admit it. Because the 2009-10 Hawkeyes are one of the worst teams at any major conference school maybe in the past 10 years. You thought Indiana's six-win reclamation project last season was bad? These Hawkeyes lost to those Hoosiers, and in the offseason, coach Todd Lickliter lost three players and gained basically no one. This is not to pick on Iowa. Losing seasons and talent gaps of this magnitude are no fun for anyone. But it is borderline fascinating to watch the Hawkeyes play. It's grotesque.
- We're still waiting, Renardo. Renardo Sidney is Mississippi State's best recruit in a generation. He's also yet to play a minute of basketball for the Bulldogs. One of the big offseason stories -- and this is the college basketball offseason, when, provided we're not talking about coaches leaving programs with NCAA probation or coaches being extorted by former lovers, things get pretty quiet -- was Sidney's sudden departure from Southern California and his return home to Mississippi State. Sidney was set to play for USC before the school quietly pulled his scholarship. Now Sidney and lawyer Don Jackson are still battling the NCAA over the Sidney family's financial situation. (Jackson wanted to call a congressional hearing on the matter; his counsel has been, shall we say, less than beneficial.) MSU coach Rick Stansbury took a risk on Sidney. That risk has yet to pay off. And as of right now, it's not looking good.
- Sorry, Butler. That was our bad. No, I'm not talking about Saturday's insane, last-second-that-should-or-should-not-have-existed win over Xavier. The Musketeers deserve the apology there. (Uh, sorry, Xavier.) No, Butler -- or at least Butler's fans -- deserve a big ol' "I'm Sorry" from everyone who called them a Final Four team before the season started. Sure, the Bulldogs are good. They're very good. But in the crucial nonconference slate, Butler has been just a teensy bit underwhelming. Its best win is probably the one it got at Hinkle Fieldhouse over Ohio State, but that was an Ohio State team without Evan Turner. A two-point win over UCLA doesn't look all that good, and neither do losses to Clemson and Minnesota, not to mention Saturday's near-loss to a rebuilding Xavier squad. Butler could have locked up a high NCAA tournament seed before conference play ever began. It seems to have squandered that opportunity.
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireDexter Pittman scored 23 points in Saturday's win over North Carolina.
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