Well, Duke lost at home and then won on the road, so Coach K is getting closer to 1,000 wins. Arizona reminded us all the Pac-12 is still theirs and that winning in Tucson will remain tough. While most are talking about the big leagues, I want to talk about three teams doing it that might be under your radar.
Off to a Flyer
Archie Miller is at it again. Last year he made an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament with Dayton and this season, despite losing two starters because of an off-the-court incident, the Flyers had won eight straight before getting beat at Davidson last night. Miller’s squad has good wins over Texas A&M and Mississippi and a senior guard in Jordan Sibert out of Cincinnati. Remember that on February 28th Dayton goes to VCU for the only meeting of the year between these two Atlantic-10 standouts. Dayton has tremendous fans and tremendous tradition, but keep this in mind when talking about the job Coach Miller and his staff have done: last year the Flyers went to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in 10 seasons – and then won three NCAA Tournament games. Dayton had gone just 2-6 in six NCAA appearances since 1985. Yes, it is a good job with great fans, but that doesn’t mean you automatically win games. You need a great coach, and Archie Miller is just that.
Hurricane Haith is Golden
Frank Haith knew that Missouri wasn’t a good fit, so he did what he needed to do to protect his family and that was take a step away from a major conference and take a job at a mid-major that’s done well in the past. Tulsa is 5-0 in the American and 12-4 overall heading into a Wednesday game against Memphis. Remember that Tulsa already has wins over Temple and UConn and its non-conference slate included Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Wichita State. Junior guard James Woodard leads the Golden Hurricane in scoring and is averaging close to 35 minutes a game. Danny Manning set the table here pretty well, and now Coach Haith has been good enough to give them a great start as we head towards February. Tulsa’s coaching history is legendary, and Coach Haith could be adding his name to that list very soon.
Wyoming is 14-3 and already has a win at Colorado State and victories against Colorado and Boise State. The Cowboys hit the rankings last week and withstood a three-overtime game against Fresno State. Larry Shyatt’s crew is 5-1 in the Mountain West, and they have three of the next four at home (New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado State) and the road game in that mix is a winnable game at Utah State. It would not shock me if Wyoming isn’t 9-1 in the MWC in early February. Last year the Pokes finished 9-9 in the Mountain West for their first .500 or better record in conference play since going 7-7 in 2004-05, while their nine MW wins were the most for the program since winning the conference with 11 in 2001-02. Because of a very poor computer ranking of its non-conference schedule, Wyoming has an uphill battle to make the NCAA Tournament, something it has done just once (2002) since 1989. Even so, I look forward to watching them do good things with Larry Nance, Jr. leading the way.
The Basketball State
Iowa may be called the Hawkeye State, but right now you could also call it the Basketball State. I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to the Hilton Coliseum in Ames this past weekend. It was a great atmosphere and the sell-out crowd got to witness a win for the home team. But Fred Hoiberg’s #9 Cyclones aren’t the only team in the state that’s rolling. Northern Iowa is ranked 20th and Iowa popped into the AP poll at #25 this week thanks to wins at Minnesota and at home against Ohio State. The Hawkeyes came back to earth on Tuesday night with a blowout loss at Wisconsin, but they are still part of history. This marks the first time the state boasts three ranked teams at the same time.
I can’t wait to watch St. Mary’s at Gonzaga Thursday, and I’m already looking forward to my own trip to Spokane when Memphis visits on January 31st. I have Arizona on upset alert at Stanford on Thursday as well. Oklahoma is at Baylor Saturday and Coach K goes for that 1,000th win on Sunday at St. John’s. Pretty soon this big football game in Arizona will be over and everyone with turn their attention to us. And then it’s just a few short weeks to Championship Week and the Big Dance itself. Should be fun.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’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.