Bill Frieder on overreactions, Arizona, the Lobos and an ever-expanding bubble

02/25/2014

Boxed Out by Bill FriederIt’s important not to overreact to losses during the regular season because they are going to happen. First of all, the season is the longest it’s ever been, this year starting way back on November 4th. Secondly, it’s impossible to stay focused, mentally sharp and injury free for that long. Enter Syracuse – they still have a good shot with that big front line led by C.J. Fair. Don’t let back-to-back losses change your mind on them. Speaking of the Big Orange, I was interested in ACC commissioner John Swofford’s comment that 50% will call it one way and 50% will call it the other way, referring to the disputed call in Saturday’s game at Duke. I’m happy to send him a list of the 30 people I talked to, because they were 80-20 that Tony Greene blew the call.

Hats off to North Carolina, who have won nine straight and how about the fact that they have beaten the AP preseason top four? That’s Kentucky, Duke, Louisville and Michigan State. That’s never been done before. It also shows that a team isn’t as bad as indicated by one glaring loss (45 points scored at Syracuse on January 11th).

Cats Out of the Bag

What an impressive performance by Arizona this past weekend, when it went into Utah and won in overtime and then dismantled Colorado on Saturday night. Those two teams were 31-2 at home entering the weekend. One thing about the Wildcats is the big stage won’t scare them. They play in front of 14,000 fans every game at home and when they hit the road being the “big game” isn’t something they shy away from. T.J. McConnell had 16 assists and zero turnovers in 71 minutes on the road trip, while Aaron Gordon had a season-high 23 points. Now think about this…Arizona, which is known for its defense, made 22-of-26 shots in the second half in Boulder. That is amazing.

Wolves on the Move

Congratulations to first-year head coach Craig Neal at New Mexico for making the Mountain West Conference a two-horse race. I will never forget when I got my first head coaching job how overwhelming it can be, but “Noodles” looks comfortable in the head chair. His squad is 21-5, but what is really impressive is the 7-1 road record. Everyone knows the Lobos are good at home, but if they are good on the road look out. Once March hits, remember the name Cameron Bairstow, who had 26 points in the win over San Diego State Saturday. He has 16 20-point games after having none in his career entering this season. How good was New Mexico Saturday? It led SDSU 50-26 at one point.

Cowboys on the Up

Now with all the extracurricular stuff in the rear-view mirror, last night’s win over TCU sets up Oklahoma State to make a run at the NCAAs. Oklahoma State (18-10/6-9/SOS 24/RPI 49) has mediocre league wins over TCU (twice), Texas Tech, West Virginia (twice) and Texas. I think OSU probably needs to win two of its final three against Kansas, Kansas State and at Iowa State. That won’t be easy, but it can happen as it gets both KU and KSU in Stillwater. Marcus Smart is by no means a bad kid, he just made a bad mistake that night he went into the stands. Now let’s hope everyone can put it behind them and move on. Remember the Cowboys have Memphis and Colorado wins on their resume.

Tiny Bubbles

In a year where there seem to be about 50 teams on the bubble, there are a lot of anxious teams that need a little more than just good play down the stretch to make the field this year. Let’s take a look at how things could play out in Conference USA, where even though eleven teams have 12 losses or more there is going to be some drama in El Paso for the conference tourney. Middle Tennessee leads the pack with an 11-2 conference record. Chasing the Blue Raiders at 10-3 are Southern Miss, UTEP, Tulsa and Louisiana Tech. Now, because of how weak CUSA is, there is a very good chance that only one team is going to get in no matter who wins the conference tourney. It’s no wonder there is a mock bracket out there with UTEP getting in, another showing Middle Tennessee and yet another with Louisiana Tech. Anything can happen during a conference tourney, so be sure to keep an eye out to see who comes out of this mess standing and ready for the NCAAs.

– Bill Frieder

Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for WestwoodOne’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.

 

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