Commentary

The Hype Machine: Believe it or not?

Originally Published: December 1, 2011
By Myron Medcalf | ESPN.com

The hype has gone haywire.

Duke lost because it didn't get enough Z's? Really?

And, Wednesday night, America's best conference stood up. And it wasn't that league.

Plus, a veteran player on a former national title team tweeted his disappointment about playing time -- because that's a great step toward a repeat.

So much hype to discuss …

• Duke lost to Ohio State because of fatigue.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: Mike Krzyzewski's postgame news conference commenced with a comment about his team's apparent fatigue from last week's run to the Maui Invitational title. He mentioned it as a contributing factor in a 22-point loss to the Buckeyes on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeAustin Rivers
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesWhat fatigue? Austin Rivers' Blue Devils were simply overmatched at Ohio State.

In 2007-08, however, he didn't say a word about the Hawaii trip when his Blue Devils beat a nationally ranked Wisconsin team just six days after winning that season's Maui Invitational. That team also managed a 35-point win over Eastern Washington four days after Maui.

Why didn't fatigue stop that squad?

Look, fatigue wasn't a factor in Duke's defensive challenges against the Buckeyes. It didn't cause its matchup problems with Deshaun Thomas. And it didn't put a lid on the rim when Austin Rivers attacked it.

The Blue Devils were simply outplayed by a better squad.

They left Maui nearly a week before Tuesday's game. That might not be enough recovery time for 35-year-olds in a rec league, but it's ample time for 18- to 22-year-olds to bounce back.

The Devils were just swarmed, and they couldn't stop the onslaught.

It was one of those games when a small lead turned into a let's-go-home-now advantage for Ohio State. The Buckeyes maintained their pressure throughout the game and, really, took the fight out of Blue Devils. That, not fatigue, was the key.

•The Big Ten is the best conference in America.

BELIEVE THE HYPE: Who knew what to expect from the Big Ten entering the season? We knew Ohio State had Final Four potential, but what about everyone else? There were so many questions.

The Big Ten's victory in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge offered proof that it's America's top conference.

This is a top-heavy national landscape. The ACC, SEC, Big 12 and the Big East have beef up top, but they lack the Big Ten's depth. Ohio State is arguably the best team in America. And, despite their losses in the Challenge, Wisconsin and Michigan have provided evidence that they're among the nation's best teams, too.

The argument is won, however, in the middle of the conference. Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois and Michigan State all seem to get tougher with each game.

Plus, a Minnesota team playing without two starters, including All-America candidate Trevor Mbakwe, beat Virginia Tech, a squad that was supposedly Seth Greenberg's most talented entering the season.

Big Ten basketball ain't always sexy. But it's getting the job done this season.

• Leadership is UConn's biggest issue.

BELIEVE THE HYPE: Distraught over a lack of playing time in his team's two-point overtime win over Florida State this past Saturday, Alex Oriakhi vented via this Twitter exchange with former teammate Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, who transferred to Hofstra this past summer after an arrest for marijuana possession:

[+] EnlargeAlex Oriakhi
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesAlex Oriakhi needs to step up and be a leader if UConn is to reach its potential.

Coombs-McDaniel (@JCM4MG): Got my guy @aoriakhi34 coming off the bench … sheesh … two year starter where's the loyalty

Oriakhi (@aoriakhi34): @JCM4MG I know sum bs

Coombs-McDaniel (@JCM4MG): @aoriakhi34 Keep hooping … u already kno u bout to turn it up next game

Oriakhi was understandably frustrated. The junior played just 10 minutes as young forwards Tyler Olander and Andre Drummond continue to improve and warrant more playing time.

But his public expression of disappointment points to UConn's biggest challenge this season: leadership. Kemba Walker's game was magnetic. But he also had that Pied Piper leadership quality that just demanded respect and steadied a struggling UConn team before its run to the national title.

This is still a very talented team, but the Huskies need a consistent leader because they have so much youth. Oriakhi has to embrace whatever his new role might be because his teammates need to see a veteran putting the team above the individual. Skill is not this UConn team's issue. It has a ton of it.

If it doesn't get consistent leadership out of Oriakhi and a few other veterans, however, it will never fulfill its potential.

Myron Medcalf covers college basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mmedcalf3030@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MedcalfbyESPN