On this day of thanks, take a moment to thank whomever you pray to that no Zags are being harmed in the basketball black hole that's formed in Philadelphia. I know this is a college sports blog, but seriously folks, it's ugly over there and can no longer be ignored. Just ask former college stars Nik Stauskas, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor, who are currently plying their trade in sports purgatory, er, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Look at these guys and tell me they wouldn’t rather be living it up on their respective college campuses than contributing to a truly awful record (0-16 this season, and tied for longest losing streak in ALL OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS at 26 straight losses dating back to March 25 of last season).
Next time someone talks about leaving school early for the NBA, tell them the story of the 2015-2016 Philadelphia 76ers.
On to the rankings!
Honorable Mentions: Arizona, Purdue, Vanderbilt
No. 11 – Miami
The Hurricanes are better known for (past) gridiron glory rather than hardwood dominance. But, the basketball program shouldn’t take a backseat any longer. Outside of a truly incredible and completely illegal 8-lateral play to "beat" Duke, the football team has been a thumbs down emoji yet again. Enter, the basketball hurricanes. "The U" wrecked Ben Howland’s Mississippi State, ran roughshod on Utah, and just for good measure knocked off the Butler Bulldogs in San Juan as they dominated the Puerto Rico Tipoff. That’s enough to soar from nowhere near my rankings, into the Top 11 for the week.
Side note: Did anyone else know there was a Puerto Rico Tipoff? When did this happen? How many new tournaments are created each year and snuck in under our noses? I love #FeastWeek as much as the next guy but the holiday tournament bonanza is getting kind of ridiculous.
Second side note: Further research shows that the Puerto Rico Tipoff began in 2007…I stand by what I said above.
No. 10 – Oklahoma
Everybody, I have a very important announcement, I need you to stop what you are doing and listen to me immediately—Oklahoma is hosting SPACE JAM DAY!
SPACE JAM DAY this Sunday vs. Wisconsin! Many other surprises in store for fans. Buy tix >> https://t.co/OyH9LHZN1v pic.twitter.com/gnV6aCTiMp— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) November 26, 2015
What are the other surprises, OU? TELL ME WHAT THE OTHER SURPRISES ARE!!!!
I don’t know what SPACE JAM DAY entails, but I already know it’s going to be incredible. I’m tempted to put the Sooners at #1 just for doing this but it’s too early in the season to put my credibility on the line. That’s more of a Week 4 move. If SPACE JAM DAY is a success (come on, how could it not be?), I’m going to regret not putting them at #1 in the slippery rankings for years to come.
No. 9 – Iowa State
These guys are trading more on the expectation that they’ll be good rather than any displays of truly impressive basketball. We won’t really get a sense of how good they are until conference play begins since they mostly scheduled a bunch of cupcakes for their non-conference slate. But, I’ll let them chill here for awhile since people in Ames need something to be thankful for today.
No. 8 – North Carolina
The Tar Heels tried to do Marcus Paige a solid by scheduling a trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa against UNI as a quasi-homecoming for the senior guard (he’s from nearby Cedar Rapids). No good deed goes unpunished as Paige didn’t play and the Tar Heels came away from God’s Country with their first L of the season.
UNC followed up the loss to Northern Iowa by failing to put their best foot forward in victories against Northwestern and Kansas State. There were times in both those games where I legitimately thought UNC would lose. But, buoyed by some irrational confidence, the Heels shot their way to victory late in both games. They’ll have a few days to work the kinks out before a Top-10 showdown against Maryland on December 1.
No. 7 – Gonzaga
Against their lesser opponents, the Zags were starting to establish a pattern of slow starts followed by a dominating second half. Turnovers remain the biggest concern as Mark Few’s inexperienced backcourt figures out how to guide a team with the best frontcourt in college basketball. And I really do mean this is the best frontcourt in the nation. This isn’t a pick your poison type of deal, either. Opposing teams are just drinking straight poison as the Zags have been successfully pounding the ball inside until they get the poor bastards in the wrong colored jerseys to tap out.
I fully expect the Zags to win the Battle 4 Atlantis, and they handled the first step with aplomb, knocking off that one team from the other side of the state. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of this tournament that’s being played in a ballroom/conference center that looks like its been converted into a cosmic bowling-basketball court.
No. 6 – Duke
The Dukies didn’t look too impressive in the 2K Classic as they narrowly, and I mean narrowly, edged out VCU and Georgetown at Madison Square Garden. But, Ted Cruz look-alike Grayson Allen rebounded from his putrid performance against Kentucky with back-to-back 30-point performances. This team doesn’t feel like it quite has the juice of last year’s national championship squad. But, the talent is certainly there and it’s evident they’re working to put the pieces together after losing so many key contributors from last year’s team.
No. 5 – Maryland
I wasn’t sold on the Terrapins going into the season and my early season eye test just confirms my general feeling of "bleh." The Twerps did look good against Rhode Island last night, for whatever that’s worth, but the biggest takeaway from that game will be the fireworks (not the fun 4th of July kind) that went off in the handshake line after the game was over. No one is talking, and that’s a shame, but it’s fun to think of creative asinine things Dan Hurley may have said to the Maryland players.
No. 4 – Kansas
Free Cheick Diallo! The silly NCAA has finally seen the light and granted eligibility to the highly touted freshman. He’ll make his debut on December 1 and add some premier talent to
pair with old man Perry Ellis the Jayhawks depth. ESPN’s Jay Bilas had gone to war with the NCAA on twitter and on air regarding their handling of Diallo’s case. It’s nice to see someone in his position take a strong stand when a kid’s getting jammed up.
Reid Forgrave on why KU's Cheick Diallo should be cleared now, and NCAA "running amok" in such cases: https://t.co/E52mhtARc0— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 18, 2015
It is beyond crystal clear that NCAA has botched the Diallo case, and has no business in initial eligibility: https://t.co/thaku75UDe Lame.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 22, 2015
NCAA suspension of KU's Diallo reeks: https://t.co/YNFJO4cnFZ All over $165?! Not believable. NCAA "investigation" should be investigated.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 26, 2015
Meanwhile, on the court, Kansas rebounded from their disappointing loss against Michigan State to cruise to the Maui Invitational Championship. Vanderbilt put up a good fight in the final game but the curse of Jay Cutler proved to be too much to overcome.
No. 3 – Villanova
It’s clear that the Wildcats are currently the best team in Philadelphia, professional or "amateur." I’m not kidding, the pro teams have lost all their home games in the month of November, so ‘Nova is having to shoulder the burden of the city’s sports hopes for the time being. These guys have barely broken a sweat so far and look to be in midseason form at a time when most teams look like they’re still playing pick-up ball. However, the problem for them usually isn’t the regular season. Let’s just enjoy them while it lasts…meaning until the start of the tournament.
No. 2 – Michigan State
The basketball team moves to #3 in the AP Poll and the football team knocks off Ohio State at the shoe. This can only mean one thing, dial up the 22-windmill celebration video!
No. 1 – Kentucky
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I hope you each have a wonderful day with family, friends, and too much apple pie.