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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Game of the year. Maybe.

In Yoni's absence: some guest-blogging from Big Ten Wonk....

Last week's Wake Forest-Illinois game drew an almost Final Four-esque plurality of the national hoops commentariat. When Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery, Mike DeCourcy, Andy Katz, and Luke Winn are all under one roof, something is afoot.

What was not afoot, alas, was a good game. But there's a little get-together tomorrow night that, for my money, has all the promise of last week's game, if not more. I can't wait for Syracuse-Oklahoma State, the nightcap at the Jimmy V. Classic in the Garden.

A non-Big-East type such as your intrepid blogger turns his gaze upon this year's Orangemen and discovers with a start that they still have the same 4 and 5, Hakim Warrick and Craig Forth, that created such match-up problems for an extremely talented Kansas team in a national title game that seems like ten years ago now. Warrick and Forth were to 'Melo what Ortiz is to Ramirez: the talent that surrounds you alters how the opponent plays you. Forth may seem like a 7-foot water heater but he is 7 feet: in the aforementioned national title game he was guarded by the equally tectonic Jeff Graves. Nick Collison drew Warrick, which left a certain 3 for the Orangemen being guarded by Keith Langford, giving up four inches and claiming no advantage in quickness. The Jayhawks, knowing their man needed help, swarmed to Anthony with multiple defenders whenever he touched the ball. So Anthony dished assists and the 'Cuse got big games from Gerry McNamara, Billy Edelin, et. al. With the exception of a certain Denver Nugget, every name in the paragraph is still there. The Orangemen are clearly one of the top six teams in the nation.

So are the Cowboys and, I swear, I felt that way before they beat a major-conference foe by the score of 81-29. The hosannas currently raining down on Illinois--their execution on offense, their patience, their efficiency that outstrips their personnel on paper--have been, or should have been, directed to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for longer than the past ten days. This is a team, after all, that led the nation in field goal percentage last year. And that's just on offense. Having watched his Washington State team score just 29 points against OSU, Cougars coach Dick Bennett (no slouch he when it comes to D) said simply: "I have not run into, in my 40 years, that kind of defensive intensity for as long as they played it."

Should be a great game.