Mid-Week Madness Returns With Miami No. 1 And Gonzaga Making Noise

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At this point, you pretty much have to throw your hands in the air with trying to make sense of this college basketball season.

Oh sure, we got Indiana atop the AP poll once again … less than a week after it lost as the No. 1 team on a last-second shot at Big Ten middling Illinois. That kinda stopped the craziness in voting circles, for awhile at least.

But it hasn’t stopped elsewhere in 2012-13.

Consider …

–Miami leads the ACC by two full games over Duke, plastered the Blue Devils by 27 points recently, and still can’t climb above them in either the writers’ or coaches’ polls.

–The Hurricanes actually lost to Indiana State by two points in overtime back in December.

–The Sycamores, making like they haven’t since the Larry Bird days of three decades ago, also beat MVC rivals Wichita State and Creighton while the two were ranked. Then they lost to 8-18 Missouri State.

–Illinois won its first 12 games, demolishing Butler and Gonzaga in the process. It later waxed No. 8 Ohio State by 19 before losing six of its next seven. The Fighting Illini, of course, broke that skid last Thursday by beating Indiana on Tyler Griffey’s all-alone lay-up off an inbounds pass. For an encore, they traveled to Minnesota, a team which beat them by 17 in Champaign, Ill., a month ago, on Sunday and promptly topped the Gophers by four.

–Villanova, in the midst of a disappointing season, entertained No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse in a stretch of four January days and beat both, and rode that high right into back-to-back losses, including the second of its season to Providence.

–Syracuse has gone 1-3 against teams from the state of Pennsylvania, losing to Pittsburgh, Temple and splitting with Villanova, and 19-0 against the rest of the country.

–Kansas, after having climbed to No. 2 in the country, lost three straight games to kick off February.

–Kentucky, the reigning NCAA champ, left the polls in Week 5 and returned in Week 15 only to be rudely greeted by No. 7 Florida Tuesday night.

But at least Indiana remains No. 1 … for now in the AP poll, just not here.

GOLIATHs

1-Miami, 20-3. Hurricanes are the best squad the eyes behind this piece have seen all season. They have dominated the ACC thus far, embarrassing both Duke and North Carolina on national TV, and currently are riding an 11-game win streak heading into tonight’s contest at Florida State. Sophomore G Shane Larkin (13.0 ppg, 4.3 apg) sparks Jim Larranaga’s cat-quick squad.

2-Indiana, 21-3. Kudos to AP pollsters for sticking with their No. 1 despite its last-second loss at Illinois. The Hoosiers certainly are worthy of significant acclaim and rebounded in style against Ohio State. They’re just not as good as Miami from what has been witnessed here. Victor Oladipo is revered for his defense, but the dude shoots 64.5 percent from the field, too.

3-Duke, 21-2. Blue Devils avenged one of their losses with a convincing win against N.C. State. They get a crack at returning the favor to Miami on March 2. But first they face an old friend tonight – North Carolina. Kinda odd how little fanfare is being made of the matchup, isn’t it?

4-Gonzaga, 23-2. Mid-major haters officially can start sweating now. Take away a last-second loss at Butler that came about only by a poorly inbounded ball by the Bulldogs and we’d be talking about a team without a single blemish in two months and our likely No. 1. Breathe in … breathe out.

5-Florida, 20-3. Gators have four guys averaging in double figures and fifth checking in at 9.3 ppg. This may not be Billy Donovan’s most star-studded squad, but it is deep and it pulls no punches, as evidenced by the 69-52 trouncing of previously resurgent Kentucky.

Teams to watch: Michigan State 21-4, Michigan 21-4, Syracuse 20-3.

DAVIDs

1-Gonzaga, 23-2. Kelly Olynyk may not be the most imposing figure out there, nor possess the best hops while struggling to get to the rim, but the guy is a talented 7-footer who legitimately deserves All-America consideration while averaging 17.7 ppg and 6.8 rpg and shooting 65.2 percent from the floor.

2-Butler, 20-4. The Bulldogs face an A-10 meatgrinder to close out their initial season in the conference, beginning with tonight’s game against underrated Charlotte. They get rematches against Saint Louis and Xavier in the coming weeks, both of which previously embarrassed Brad Stevens’ squad.

3-St. Mary’s, 21-4. Pretty amazing that the pollsters don’t seem to recognize the quality in a program that just continues to rack up 20-win seasons and serve as one half of arguably the nation’s best rivalry in the past 5-6 years. It renews tomorrow night in Moraga, Calif., when Gonzaga visits.

4-Memphis, 20-3. So-so schedule or not, it’s hard to ignore 14 straight wins. The Tigers only losses have come against teams that were ranked this season at some point: Virginia Commonwealth, Minnesota and current No. 12 Louisville.

5-Virginia Commonwealth, 19-5. Pardon the extra A-10 love, but the conference’s 1-2 punch with Butler and VCU rivals that of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the WCC. By season’s end, it may surpass it … if Treveon Graham and Co. have something to say about that.

Teams to watch: Creighton 20-5, New Mexico 20-4, Colorado State 19-4.

BMOCs

1-Doug McDermott, Creighton, junior F. He’s hanging on by a thread, kinda like the Bluejays in top-25 talk. Being a returning first-team All-American helps. Numbers: 23.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, .482 3s, .552 FGs.

2-Mason Plumlee, Duke, senior F. Big games against ACC rivals N.C. State (30 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks) and BC move the big fella right back up the chart here. Numbers: 18.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg, .610 FGs.

3-Khalif Wyatt, Temple, senior G. Owls would be a far cry from contending for an NCAA berth without this old-school shot-maker. He saved them again at Dayton. Numbers: 18.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.6 spg.

4-Trey Burke, Michigan, sophomore G. Tough week for the Wolverines, but their floor general continues to perform at a high level. Numbers: 18.2 ppg, 7.1 apg, 3.2 rpg.

5-Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s, senior G. He’s essentially the West Coast version of Wyatt. Has a special basketball sense and steps up at right time. Numbers: 15.9 ppg, 6.6 apg, 3.0 rpg.

Players to watch: Cody Zeller, Indiana, sophomore F; Mike Muscala, Bucknell, senior C.