Can Kentucky keep rolling and go undefeated in the regular season? Road blocks include this Saturday’s game at Florida – and circle next Tuesday’s trip to LSU. I have a funny feeling about that one – I still think Kentucky remains unbeaten after that one, but it won’t be easy. Remember, you heard it here first.
OK, it’s trivia time. Name the five schools that have never been to the NCAA Tournament since Division I was formed in 1958 and the NCAA Tournament surpassed the NIT as the best postseason tournament. I will give you four: Northwestern, Army, the Citadel and William & Mary. You will have to keep reading for the fifth.
Don’t Mess with Texas… A&M
One team to keep an eye on in the SEC is Texas A&M (15-5), which is on a six-game conference winning streak for the first time since 2009 entering tonight’s game at Ole Miss. The Aggies’ last loss was a double-overtime game to Kentucky, so it is easy to see why they’re alone in second place in the conference at 6-2. After road games at Ole Miss and and Missouri, A&M comes home for three. It already has road wins at LSU and Tennessee and does not play Kentucky again. I think the Aggies make the dance for the first time since 2011 under Billy Kennedy led by point guard Alex Caruso. The Aggies haven’t trailed in the past two games and are 10-1 at home. Right now they are playing well.
Mr. White, in Ruston, with the Bulldogs
When I was at Arizona State my last Athletic Director was Kevin White. I must be getting old, because his son Michael is now one of the best young coaches in the land. White’s Louisiana Tech squad is 17-5 and tied with Western Kentucky at 8-1 for the Conference USA lead as the Bulldogs go to UAB tomorrow night. Louisiana Tech hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1991 and with an RPI in the 90s will need to win the conference tournament, but senior Raheem Appleby and junior Alex Hamilton are both capable of putting up 20 any night. They went 29-8 last year and 27-7 in 2012-13, so these guys are used to winning.
Bucky on a Roll
Wisconsin dropped 92 on Indiana in an easy win last night. Bo Ryan’s Badgers used to have a reputation for low-scoring, grind-it-out affairs but times have changed in Madison. Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes were a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in the first half against the Hoosiers, and finished 14-17 with a combined 39 points. Wisconsin can shoot it (.491, 12th in the country) and plays solid defense (56 points allowed per game, 10th nationally). The Badgers were an Aaron Harrison three from playing for a championship a season ago, so they’ve got experience as well. The possibility of a rematch between an unbeaten Wildcats team and a veteran Wisconsin squad is what makes the NCAA Tournament so great. That and…
In February, it’s always fun to see what small schools have a chance to make the tournament for the first time and Saint Francis of New York out of the Northeast Conference is the answer to the trivia question above. The Terriers have won five of six heading into Thursday’s game at Central Connecticut State. Senior Brent Jones of Brooklyn is averaging 14.9 points. After the CCSU road game they go to Wagner, then host four straight at home. Last year this team won 18 games and got a road win against Miami (Fla.). This year they are picked to win the league and if they do, the conference tournament comes to its home court in Brooklyn Heights.
– 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.