PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ALANDO TUCKER
src="http://www.espn.com/photo/2006/1218/ncb_a_tucker_195.jpg" height=262 width=195 alt="Alando Tucker" hspace="0" border="0" vspace="0">
David Stluka/Getty ImagesAlando Tucker repeatedly took it strong to the rim.
By Andy Katz
Tucker becomes the first back-to-back winner this season. His play over the past three games should put him at the top of any discussion for national player of the year honors.
Just like last year, when Adam Morrison came on after Maui as one of the favorites to go against J.J. Redick, Tucker emerged after lighting up Marquette on the road for 28. He followed that up with 20 on UW-Milwaukee and took it up another notch, hitting for 32 points and 10 boards in Wisconsin's 89-75 downing of Pitt.
Tucker, a fifth-year senior, looks untouchable. He's able to score in all facets of the game. Even in the Badgers' only loss, Tucker was hot, scoring 26 points against Missouri State in South Padre Island, Texas. There is no reason why he can't be in position to win the national player of the year award. It doesn't mean he will, but he's right there to contend for the honor.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: WISCONSIN
AP Photo/Andy Manis
Wisconsin swarmed Aaron Gray and Pitt at the Kohl Center.
By Andy Katz
Sorry, it was hard to look elsewhere. The week was light due to finals, but the Badgers' wins were significant.
Wisconsin came off the Marquette win and dismantled Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Even though the Panthers are rebuilding this season, the Badgers easily could have played down to the level of their competition with that game sandwiched in between Marquette and Pitt. Then the Badgers capped the week with the second-half destruction of Pitt.
The Badgers scored on the Panthers at will and clearly established themselves as a legit Final Four contender, especially if Brian Butch can deliver like that (27 and 10) on any type of regular basis. The two Wisconsin-Ohio State games this season are must-see affairs (I know I'm getting my passes now).
The Missouri Valley Conference does not have a single quality win this season. Let me say that again: The Missouri Valley Conference does not have a single quality win this season. That is because conferences do not -- and should not -- get credit for wins; the individual teams should.
Wichita State, Southern Illinois and Missouri State all have quality wins, but those wins should not be attributed to the conference to bolster all teams. Each team should be evaluated individually on its own merit, factoring in that team's play and that team's play only. The same goes for any and all conferences (I just used the MVC to get your attention). The ACC hasn't won a single big game, either. Neither has the Big East or the SEC. Teams in those leagues have had big wins individually, but those wins say absolutely nothing about the rest of the teams in those leagues.
If Wichita State beats LSU and Syracuse, it doesn't make Bradley a better team. By the same token, if Bradley gets drilled at Michigan State, it does not make Missouri State any less of a good team. When Florida State beat Florida, Maryland got no better or worse as a team. It just doesn't work that way, and it never has.
We need to get away from all of the conference talk and conference bragging, and just talk about individual teams. At the end of the year, that is what it is all about -- individual teams -- so we might as well talk about it that way now.
Since we're closing in on "Bob Knight Week" at ESPN, this is a good time to get this off my chest. While I don't think he has always been as disciplined in his behavior as he has wanted his teams to be, I admire one important thing about him: He will break the record without a hint of any NCAA violation in his 41-year career.
Knight hasn't automatically had great talent year in and year out, even at Indiana. Someone could rightly surmise that not every 18-year-old wanted to play for him and put up with the motivational ploys. I also think, though, that he has lost some very good players through the years because he was unwilling to bend his principles and the rules. I know. I coached in the Big Ten back then.
There are coaches in the Hall of Fame that I have always suspected did not run clean basketball programs, yet they are celebrated for their great success. That has bothered me because I have always felt that cheating in college basketball is not a victimless crime. More often than not in this business at the highest level, the guy not cheating was likely to have his brains beaten in on the court.
So, whether you like Bob Knight or not, 878 wins and counting is remarkable because he didn't sell his soul to do it. In a business like college coaching, where the pressure and the money has gotten so enormous and the stakes to win are so high, that's his most remarkable accomplishment.
I remember Dr. Tom Davis' last year at Iowa. He had an expiring contract and the administration at the time announced before the season that it would not be renewed. At the end of that season, Davis appeared to have gotten the last laugh as his Hawkeyes made their ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in his 13 years at the school.
That last laugh actually was the next-to-last laugh.
"Poetic Justice" was on more than one sign inside Drake's Knapp Center Saturday night as the Bulldogs ended a 27-game losing streak to Iowa, pounding the Hawkeyes 75-59. For Davis, who was pushed out of Iowa City despite 11 20-win seasons (a run in which his teams never lost Drake), this result indeed was poetic.
For more of our experts' 3-point shots, click here.
By Andy Katz
St. Bonaventure blasted by Albany: The Bonnies lost by 15 on the road vs. the Great Danes. The Bonnies now have lost five straight and are 3-7 overall. We still can't get over how much one program has been affected by a scandal.
Southeast Louisiana wins at Penn State: Is there a high-major program that has become more irrelevant? Please tell us.
UMass wins at Louisville: Well, Travis Ford finally got one of the marquee nonconference wins that he scheduled. The problem is Louisville is fading fast. He needs to root hard for the Cards to turn their season around for this to mean more than simply a road win.
Kentucky beats Louisville in Freedom Hall: The Wildcats don't look impressive yet but they are still winning games against teams that are definitely not as talented as they are this season. That's a good thing. Now, the trick will be for the Cats to see if they can rise up and beat the teams perceived to be better than them come the SEC.
Mississippi State smacks Miami: For what it's worth, the Bulldogs are playing well right now. They beat Miami on the road by 28 and then took out McNeese State by 27. Jamont Gordon was supposed to be a star for this squad and so far he is for the Bulldogs.
DePaul beats Wake and wins at URI: What does this mean? DePaul is finally beating the teams that it should.
Indiana beats Southern Illinois: Get used to this thinking: This was a much bigger win for Indiana than it was a bad loss for the Salukis. The Hoosiers needed this "quality win" over one of the Valley's best.
Fresno State beats Creighton: The Bulldogs are quietly putting together a possible WAC contender and the Bluejays are clearly not the best team in the Valley, as was projected in the preseason.
Butler beats Purdue: OK, Butler is done beating teams that you're familiar with by name. That means we'll get back to the Bulldogs in March, when they'll be a potential top-five seed.
Arkansas loses to Texas Tech: OK, if Gary Ervin played out of control for Mississippi State, then why did Arkansas take him to be its point guard? Ervin had six turnovers in the loss to the Red Raiders and, as Jimmy Dykes aptly said during the broadcast, Ervin was hurting the Razorbacks' chances.
Arizona smacks Houston: The Wildcats once again looked sharp offensively while the Cougars are the latest proof that Conference USA is still a Memphis-and-everyone-else league.