Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Men's College Basketball [Print without images]

Sunday, January 29, 2012
Medcalf/Brennan: At The Watercooler

ESPN.com

Every Sunday morning, two of our writers will gather at the proverbial watercooler -- in this case, the digital one -- to discuss all the latest happenings in college basketball. Myron Medcalf and Eamonn Brennan kick things off with a discussion on Iowa State's victory over Kansas and its impact on the Cyclones program and the Big 12. …

Eamonn Brennan: Happy Sunday morning, Myron! As our editor Brett Edgerton is fond of saying, the Saturdays we least expect often turn out to offer the best basketball -- or at least the most interesting storylines. That was certainly the case yesterday, and let's start with an upset: Iowa State 72, No. 5 Kansas 64.

ISU Fans
Is Hilton Magic back in Ames? It sure was Saturday.

As a native Iowan who saw his Iowa State alum buddy just last night, let me tell you: Cyclones fans are excited. And why not? That was as big a win for any program as we've seen all season. It was the Cyclones' Indiana-Kentucky. Is Hilton Magic back?

Myron Medcalf: Hey Eamonn! Hilton Magic is back! Wow, what a win for that program. Fred Hoiberg took some big risks, but it's working out. The Cyclones showcased their potential and put the entire Big 12 on alert. Missouri escaped Ames a few weeks ago, but Kansas wasn't so lucky. ISU played out of a deficit and beat a team that's been playing as well as any other squad in the country. What are your thoughts on Hoiberg after this victory?

EB: Well, according to my buddy, my thoughts are, "If you don't give The Mayor some love tomorrow, I'll never read another thing you write." But I would have reserved lots of love for Hoiberg anyway! You're right, Myron: This whole plan was a huge risk. Hoiberg, in some ways, took a shortcut, quickly assembling an Island of Misfit Basketball-Playing Toys rather than wait out a long, comprehensive rebuild. But it's worked, thanks to one man: Royce White. As you well know, after your feature this week, White's head-on confrontation of his anxiety and his transformation into a leader are the biggest key to this team's success. When your best player is also dedicated, it helps iron out the personality issues that can snowball quickly if left unattended. Is that your read?

MM: I agree 100 percent. Hoiberg needed White to buy in immediately. The guy hadn't played real ball in two seasons. But I think this entire crew improved when those guys who sat out last season worked hard to get ready for this campaign. White is known for his versatility. But down the stretch, he showed off his offensive weaponry. He was working against 7-foot Jeff Withey all afternoon but used his power to minimize that disadvantage. So, is it too early to talk about Iowa State getting back to the Big Dance? And will there be a better storyline if Hoiberg leads his alma mater there?

EB: From a bubble perspective, with the possible exception of that loss to Drake, there really aren't too many bad losses on the Cyclones' profile. (I believe there should be added "bad loss" points awarded for losing to a school with the same name as a rapper who released an entire song of him dirty-macking on some other dude's girl. But that's just me.) And our man Joe Lunardi had the Cyclones among his last four in in last week's bracket; you'd imagine that status will improve considerably Monday. It's far from a lock, but if things continue along at this pace, there's no reason this team shouldn't be in the tournament. And if The Mayor is the man guiding it there, well, how great is that? Iowa State fans are loving this, and you can't blame them one bit.

Switching gears. Myron, can you please explain what happened in the West Virginia-Syracuse game? And what's the expected half-life for Bob Huggins' current anger? Six months? Two years? Is he now stuck on "angry" forever?

Huggins and Ref
It's safe to say Bob Huggins was less than pleased with the finish of the WVU-Syracuse game.

MM: Well, my reaction was fear. For everyone within five feet of Huggins. He had every reason to be angry. And yes, probably permanently stuck in angry mode. How do you miss that call? At that point in a critical game?

EB: Based on the replays I've seen? I have no idea.

MM: For about six months, WWF employed two Doink the Clown wrestlers. Doink No. 2 would always sneak into the ring, hit a guy in the back of the head and hide under the ring before the ref could turn around to catch it. But as viewers, we'd all see and be like, "How did you miss that?" Yes, I'm a huge wrestling fan. Also, I'm appalled as a basketball fan. The goaltending call was a lot like that convoluted wrestling scenario I just mentioned.

EB: I think we just came up with a new term for outrageously bad calls: doinks.

MM: Haha. Perfect. That was a major doink.

EB: "TV Teddy totally doinked that one." It already flows off the tongue.

MM: Trademark it.

EB: Done. In any case, our thoughts and prayers go out to anyone in the vicinity of Huggins on the flight home Saturday. Yeesh.

Let's take a brief westward turn: How about those Saint Mary's Gaels? Still unbeaten in league play, still rolling on offense, still leaps ahead of their West Coast Conference rivals -- particularly BYU, which appears unlikely to factor into the title chase now and needs serious help if it wants to get back to the NCAA tournament. Two things here: (1) Saint Mary's is one of the most enjoyable teams in the country to watch, and I encourage everyone to do so, and (2) Remember when moving to the WCC was supposed to be elementary for BYU? Not so much, it turns out.

MM: Coming from a guy who picked BYU to win the WCC (although I think that choice fell within ESPN's three-month honeymoon period), I'm amazed by Saint Mary's dominance. So many assumed that Saturday would change things. Put the Gaels on the road and they're a different team, right? Nope. They looked great in Provo. That move to the WCC hasn't gone well for the Cougs. Maybe the folks who persuaded BYU to leave the MWC were the same people who told Lil Wayne to sing. And what of Gonzaga? Is that WCC reign over?

EB: "'How to love … how to looooove.' Hey guys, this sounds good, right?" "Uh, sure, Wayne. That's a banger, man." Somehow I can't imagine that conversation ever taking place. But in any case, the analogy is apt.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the West, the Pac-12 remains interesting, mystifying and, ultimately, mostly just bad. I'll be working on my Pac-12 power rankings later this afternoon. Am I supposed to get excited about Washington after that win at Arizona? Somehow, I just can't seem to do it.

Washington/Arizona
Now 7-2, Washington sits atop the Pac-12 standings after a narrow win in Tucson.

MM: Well, if you're looking for a team to get excited about … it's hard to find one in that league. But Washington held off Zona's late charge and won on the road. That's worth a ton in the Pac-12. The Huskies are on the top of the conference by a hair, but who knows if they'll stay there. Is Zona going to go from top-20 preseason to NIT? Didn't look like a tourney team for most of that game.

EB: Arizona hasn't looked like a tournament team all season, actually. I'm all the way out on the Wildcats at this point. I've been waiting for Washington to do something worth some serious, not-just-a-glimpse excitement. It's getting closer, I guess.

By the way, whoever told Lil Wayne to sing apparently struck again today at the coffeehouse, where some woman is inexplicably singing. I kid you not. We're keeping this in the chat. People need to know what we do for them, Myron. This is remarkable. This is not a network TV talent show, lady. Please quietly enjoy your caffeine like the rest of us.

MM: That's weird and annoying. I blame YouTube. Everybody is a star these days.

EB: Maybe the woman will read it and be all, "My inconsiderate public behavior got me noticed! FINALLY." And we will have been duped. Alas.

Anyway! Anything random that caught you off guard, or caught your eye, from Saturday's games?

MM: Drake-Wichita State was amazing. Caught it late but managed to catch the three overtimes. A lot of folks were saying that Wichita State was one of the country's most underrated teams. That loss to Drake didn't help its cause, but I loved the drama in that one. Also, the Texas-Baylor finish was interesting. The Horns had been horrible in the first half. They had exactly one offensive weapon. Baylor was at home. And again … the Bears found themselves in another "Oh no, not again" kind of game. Shouldn't have been that close. Any surprises for your?

Any surprises for you? I can type. Really.

EB: I can't really call this a surprise, because I mentioned it in our Friday roundtable as a potential upset alert, but Pittsburgh's win over Georgetown has to have Pitt fans at least taking a sigh of relief. The Panthers may not go to the tournament this year, but at the very least, they're showing signs of life. That's especially true on defense, where they held the Hoyas to .88 points per trip. Awful defense been the Panthers' Achilles' heel all year. If they've sorted it out, they can at least finish the season strong, right?

Nate Lubick
Pitt might not be "back," but it sure knocked the 10th-ranked Hoyas off their feet Saturday.

MM: In that league, it's possible. Pitt gave its fans reasons to hope. Georgetown supporters have to be confused about the Hoyas -- again. Do you believe in Georgetown right now?

EB: I'm not off the bandwagon. I may be hanging on a little longer than most, but look, Pitt definitely played better (much, much better) this past week than at any point this season. We say it all the time: Road losses happen in conference play. I still really like this Hoyas team. I think other teams will figure it out a bit the rest of the season -- the Hoyas won't be as confusing or difficult to guard when teams see them a second time, or on film from 20 games this season, or whatever -- and that may lead to a few more head-scratchers down the stretch. But I won't be writing the "Georgetown is collapsing again!" thing unless it gets really bad. We're not there yet.

MM: Well, it was certainly another crazy weekend and a reminder that college basketball is great. Nothing like it. What was the most impressive thing about the weekend's action for your as we get ready to wrap up?

I keep writing your instead of you. #failingattypingrightnow

EB: Don't make me bust out "Mario Teaches Typing" again, Myron.

MM: I need it!

EB: We all do from time to time. Here's something that impressed me: Minnesota holding on for an OT win against Illinois. OK, so beating Illinois isn't in and of itself impressive. The Illini's offense remains terrible. But you know, the Gophers could have gone away after the Trevor Mbakwe injury. By all rights, they should have. But they're having a solid, competitive season all the same. Things haven't gone as planned for Tubby Smith these past three seasons (and it's got to really hurt to see Royce White dominating just four hours south on I-35), but at least the Gophers are still bringing it every time out. That's noteworthy.

MM: I agree. Tubby hasn't had one normal season at Minnesota. This season hasn't been any different. But the young Gophers have exceeded expectations thus far. What if Minnesota finishes with a better Big Ten record than the Hoosiers? Could happen.

For me, it was the Iowa State win. What it means for the program, the Big 12, Hoiberg, White … just everyone involved. I was just down there, so I know those fans are passionate. Saturday might have changed the entire season for Cyclones.

Great chat as always, Mr. Brennan. I'm guessing next weekend will be even better. Until then … peace! (As Lil Wayne's "How to Love" plays in the background)

EB: How to loooooove. How to loooooo--oooove. And with that, we're out. Until next time, Myron.