Each week I'll talk about the sport I love, college basketball:
• It is hard to say which Pittsburgh player is the team's most valuable asset. DeJuan Blair put up 22 points and 23 rebounds in the win over then-No.1 Connecticut. Sam Young has been outstanding, while Levance Fields has an incredible assist-to-turnover ratio. Fields does not make mistakes and he hit a pair of key trifectas in the win over the Huskies. Jamie Dixon has a club that is capable of making noise in the big dance, climbing over the hump. Pittsburgh has not gotten past the Sweet 16 under Dixon, or Ben Howland. My friends, this could be the breakthrough season.
• A lot of people questioned the youth of Jeff Capel when he was hired as head basketball coach at Oklahoma. Realize that he is in just his seventh season as a head coach (third with the Sooners) and he has his team in contention for the national title. Capel was on the 1994 Duke team that played for the championship but fell short against Arkansas. He is a rising star in the coaching profession and I am looking forward to seeing his team this weekend against Texas. Blake Griffin is my choice for National Player of the Year.
• Talk about a major turnaround … Arizona was at 11-8 and looking like its streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances was as good as finished at 24. Now the Wildcats are making a serious run at 25 straight trips to the big dance, thanks to a seven-game win streak. A real test comes this weekend against James Harden and Arizona State. Interim coach Russ Pennell may be painting the Arizona athletic administration into a corner with a strong finish. The trio of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise can keep Arizona in a game against just about anybody. The threesome combined for 65 of Arizona's 84 points in a recent win over UCLA.
• I have seen some draft prognosticators saying Ohio State diaper dandy big man B. J. Mullens could be a late lottery selection. Nothing against the young man, but he would be well served to return to Columbus next season. He needs the Buckeyes even more than Ohio State needs him. Mullens is not ready for the NBA and he needs to learn to hold his post position. The experience he can gain every day in practice would make him a better player. If he went to the NBA after just one season, he would be hurt by the lack of real practice time in the pros due to travel and the increased number of games compared to college.
• When I think about underclassmen being drafted in the NBA based on potential, one thing comes to mind. Potential is exactly what gets coaches in the pros fired. That's right, a GM makes a decision to draft an early-entry player based on his future, but the coach loses out because he gets the ziggy before that potential is reached. You hear about young men talking about going into the draft to start their clock on future free agency, but some kids are not really ready and in the long run, they would have been better off gaining more experience with coaching and practice time in college.
• A couple of players served one-game suspensions this week for poor decision-making on the court. Kansas State head coach Frank Martin suspended junior point guard Denis Clemente for the game against North Carolina Central following his actions late in a loss against Kansas. Clemente committed a fighting act as defined by the NCAA Basketball Rules, leading to the suspension. Virginia Tech forward Jeff Allen raised his middle finger to the crowd after fouling out of a contest. The school's athletic director, Jim Weaver, felt a one-game suspension was appropriate.
• Robbie Hummel's presence makes such a big difference for Purdue. He has been bothered by back problems, but you could tell how much better the Boilermakers are with him in the lineup against Michigan State Tuesday night. Here's a guy with a stress fracture in his back and he is still taking charges on defense. With him, Matt Painter's club can be very dangerous come March Madness.
• I have said it before and I will say it again. Defenses often get penalized by the alternate possession rule. You make a great defensive stop, it ends up in a held-ball situation and the offense gets the ball back. The rule is asinine and needs to be changed.
• A number of future ACC stars will be on display as members of the U. S. Junior National Select team playing in the Nike Hoop Summit. Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), Mason Plumlee (Duke) along with Leslie McDonald and John Henson (North Carolina) were named to the squad that will face the World team April 11th in Portland, Oregon. Xavier Henry (Memphis) and Avery Bradley (Texas) were among the others named to the American team.