Office Hours: Big Men Edition

By David Scott - February 11, 2008

Welcome to the final month of the regular season or, as you're likely to hear it called, "Bubble Time." It's really laughable at how large the imaginary "bubble" becomes at this time of year. The Professor firmly believes that between now and Selection Sunday, the so-called experts will, at one time or another, have no fewer than 100 teams as "locks" for the Field of 65.

We suppose that's part of the magic of March Madness, but it does illustrate the point that it's still too early to proclaim that Team A is "in" or Team B is "out."

There's still a lot of basketball to be played.

That said, on with the weekly grades from the overflowing Professor's grade book - and a look at some teams who are certainly teetering:

A: Big Men
Perhaps it's just coincidence that The Professor had occasion to share some brief moments with Bill Walton this weekend, but the sight of the big fella and coincding play of some of the game's biggest fellas was a sweet reminder that the center position is far from dead in college ball.

Long live Bill Walton!

Combined, the Big Five of Big Men - North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, Georgetown's Roy Hibbert, Memphis's Joey Dorsey and Washington's Jon Brockman - scored 101 points over the weekend, grabbed 63 rebounds and had 11 blocks as their teams went 4-1 on the weekend (Hibbert was the lone loser while Hansbrough was the big winner with 39 points in a double OT win over Clemson on Sunday.)

The beauty is that all the behemoths do things in their own way. Dorsey's the beast who almost pops the ball with each rebound; Thabeet is the emerging offesnive presence with scintillating swat-ability; Hibbert is the skyhook king; Hansbrough is the down-low monster and Brockman is the OTHER double-double machine out West (Kevin Love had a quiet 13 points - his lowest output in eight games - and ten rebounds in the loss).

A: Justin Dentmon, Washington
While Brockman's 12 points and 17 board performance in the Huskies' upset win over No. 5 UCLA was impressive, it was his teammate, Dentmon, who presented the Bruins with their toughest match-up of the day. The junior scored 20 points to notch only his second double-digit game of the past 10 contests and to give the Pac 10 its biggest upset of the year. By the time Ben Howland switched defenders on Dentmon, the damage was done and the Huskies - who were booed off the court three days prior - notched a possible season-saving win. Washington is now 13-11 (4-7), while UCLA falls to 21-3 and 9-2 in league (the same conference mark as Stanford, who the Bruins beat earlier this year).

B: Tim Floyd's Nutty
Would have been an "A," but Floyd's mentor Don Haskins would have gotten more out of the ejection (which came with 4:49 left in the game and the Trojans trailing by 15) and Haskins probably would have comically insulted all three officials equally in the process. Floyd still has a way to go to pull a legit Haskins.

Great move, we should add, by freshman OJ Mayo to come to his coach's rescue and some smart no-commenting by Floyd in the postgame, when he calmly told reporters: "I can't talk about the officiating because I want to coach the next game," Floyd said. "I'm getting too old to get kicked out of games. I don't know what happened tonight. I must have got a good night's sleep."

A: Xavier
Not only do good teams win ugly, they win lucky as well. Xavier notched a fairly ugly win over St. Joseph's on Sunday and grabbed a lucky finish against St. Louis on Thursday with a last second tip-in by Derrick Brown.

The result of both wins is sole possession of first place in the unpredictable A-10 (see below) and the 20th win of the year for Sean Miller's Musketeers (20-4, 8-1).

A: Birthday Presents
After Saturday's comfortable win over UCF, Memphis is now 9-1 in games on or near (within two days) of head coach John Calipari's birthday. Memphis has won eight straight games on or near Calipari's birthday, including two victories around his special day in 2004-05 and 2006-07. Last year, the Tigers defeated UAB 70-56 on Feb. 8 and Tulane 95-51 Feb. 10 (Calipari's actual birthday, born in 1959).

A: Phil Martelli
The King of the Coaching Yuksters, Martelli delivered again after his team's loss at Xavier:

"That God [darn] [Stanley] Burrell. Every God [darn] game he makes a shot against us. When does he graduate? I want to be here to make sure he graduates."

"I'm always appreciative of the atmosphere here, of the way the game is played here. I think it's great for the league, I think it's great for Xavier."

"That's a team that's headed for the top 10. I think Sean has done a remarkable job."

"The thing that gets me about this team is, I think, is their defense and their ferocity. They've got a lot of Sean [Miller] in them. He looks Clark Kent-like, but he's going to fight you."

"They're [Xavier] going to be a 2 or 3 seed. They're a top 10 seed."

D: Dayton
At a certain point, the injury-plagued Flyers are going to have to stand and deliver some important stretch-run wins. That point may be now as Dayton is 2-3 in its last five and fell to A-10 bottom feeder George Washington, 57-54, on Saturday. The Flyers next two games are at home and are winnable ones (Duquesne and Temple). With a strong RPI (16) and some quality non-conference wins, the Flyers still project as an NCAA Tournament team but their seed - and stock - is falling.

F: Bob Knight Haters
Whether or not Knight is done coaching is still up for debate, but what is undebatable is the impact and affect that Knight has had on the game. Too many Knight bashers are unable to separate the off-court issues (which, we understand are substantial) with the on-court successes. The man simply knew how to win, how to improve his teams and how to turn boys into men.

The Professor has always been a Knight guy and the fact that he wanted to give his son, Pat, a third of a season to get acclimated to being in charge of the team shouldn't be looked at as the proud papa "quitting on his team." More to the point, he's giving the program its best shot at continuity and cohesion going forward.

There was no need to have a cranky, tired Knight finishing up the year with moans and groans. He did was best for the program and that should never be overlooked.

B: Kentucky
Billy Gillispie's turnaround with the Wildcats has been nothing short of incredible. The 'Cats are now 6-2 in the SEC, 12-9 overall and winners of five straight. An RPI of 88 won't help matters, but a strength of schedule of 28 might as Kentucky is 8-4 in its last 12 and very capable of notching wins in four of its final eight SEC contests, heading into the league tournament (at LSU, home for Georgia and Ole Miss and on the road at South Carolina).

F: Illini Fans
Taunting is one thing. What the classless Illini fans did to Eric Gordon of Indiana is quite another. Apologies are nice, but how about acting like mature young adults and classy older adults?

Inc.: The Pitino White Linen Suit
Suitgate is raging as stories of spilled soda and sweaty britches are swirling around Pitino's half-time wardrobe change during his team's comeback win over Georgetown on Saturday.

Whatever the reason for the suit switch, we have to think Bob Huggins is sending a thank-you note to Pitino for taking his gold number (from the Cincy game) off the season's list as the No. 1 worst outfit of 2008.

Can someone get Joseph Abboud to the Big East's coaches' meetings this summer?

A: NCAA - Mock Selection Days
The Professor and a full array of college basketball movers and shakers were given the chance to play Selection Committee this past week and the takeaway from the 14-hour day was quite simply this: No one knows anything.

This will be important to keep in mind when the bracket is released on Selection Sunday because while everyone becomes an expert on who got snubbed and who got a free-pass, the reality is the Selection Committee does its very best to get things right. In nine cases out of ten, the snubbed teams were snubbed because they didn't do quite enough and not because of some NCAA conspiracy.

Rook Look: Aaron Gray, Chicago .

A weekly check-in with a professional player who was toiling on a college campus last year at this time:

Count this as a half-hearted mea culpa on the ex-Pittsburgh center. In seeing Gray in person several times last year, including at the NBA pre-draft camp, we were thoroughly unimpressed with his ability to make an NBA roster. Well, Gray made the Bulls (who drafted him at No. 49 overall) and he has managed to stick with the lowly (20-30) Bulls. He's not exactly lighting it up, but he is registering regular minutes which was more than we thought possible.

Information and quotes from school/conference releases, official websites and wire stories were used in this notes column.

Posted by David Scott at 12:48 AM on February 11, 2008

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