Who Won the Week? Not the ACC…Posted by Kenny Ocker on November 16th, 2012
Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.
WINNER: Kevin Ollie
The debutante coach of the UConn Huskies still has a huge task in front of himself this season in trying to motivate a team ineligible for the postseason because of terrible academic performance. But he couldn’t have started his tenure off better. Beating a talented Michigan State team on Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany was one of the first night’s biggest surprises, and then coming back home to blow out Vermont in what could have been a letdown game was an accomplishment in itself. Ollie and the Huskies should cruise through the next two weeks before a December 4 match-up with North Carolina State in the Jimmy V Classic.
(Related winners: The UConn program, Jim Calhoun. Related losers: Michigan State.)
LOSER: The ACC
The Atlantic Coast Conference could have a big problem — depth. The league’s lower half has taken four losses from mid-major schools in the first week (two more than any other BCS conference): Virginia falling to George Mason and Delaware, Florida State losing to South Alabama, and Miami losing by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast. The separation between Duke/North Carolina/N.C. State and the rest of the conference could be vast this year, and that may hurt a lot of middle-of-the-road ACC teams come Selection Sunday.
(Related winners: The Colonial Athletic Association as a whole, South Alabama, bubble teams from other conferences. Related losers: The teams that lost to mid-majors, the other teams in the middle of the ACC.)
Last week, the Gators were in the related losers column for starting point guard Scotty Wilbekin being suspended for violating team rules. Then their game against Georgetown was canceled because of dew on the court — that’s what happens when you play on a ship on the East Coast during prime time — which they followed up with a 49-point win over SWAC bodybag Alabama State and then never trailed Wisconsin in an 18-point win after forward Erik Murphy went off, going 10-for-10 from the field and 2-for-2 from three-point range, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds. And all of this was without their starting point guard.
(Related losers: Poor Alabama State, Wisconsin.)
Take a private university in southern Texas, add a Jewish coach and stars from Iran and Egypt and you get a promising multicultural basketball team. But that coach is Ben Braun, best known for running California’s program into the ground in the early 2000s, so something was inevitably bungled. The players, Arsalan Kazemi and Omar Oraby respectively, were among five to leave the Owls’ program in the offseason, and the two were granted immediate waivers to play at Oregon and USC. Reports have come out that racism was why the players left Houston, which the school has denied, but no matter: The on-court results this season have been dismal, with a season-opening loss to an NAIA school, St. Thomas.
(Related losers: Ben Braun, who is almost certainly done at Rice. Related winners: Arsalan Kazemi and Oregon; Omar Oraby and USC; the other transfers; St. Thomas.)
The Great Danes went into a dogfight earlier this week against the Washington Huskies and came away with a win over the reigning Pac-12 regular-season champions in Seattle. The America East squad also has a win over Atlantic 10 team Duquesne this year, and looks like it could be competitive in its conference. Albany’s last-second drive and score to top a reloading UW squad was impressive, especially given that it ended well after midnight in the Eastern Time Zone. Give it up for the big dogs.
(Related winners: The America East champion, regardless of who it is, because this win could help get them off the 16-line come March. Related losers: Washington, the Pac-12.)
LOSER: The NCAA (again) WINNER: UCLA (updated) After finally ruling UCLA forward and top recruit Shabazz Muhammad ineligible once and for all (pending an appeal and an inevitable finite suspension at some point), the Los Angeles Times reports that an NCAA lawyer intimated that his eligibility was ruled out a month and a half before Muhammad’s family sent documents to the NCAA and two months before the NCAA interviewed his parents. Gotta love “amateurism.” Even if this isn’t true, which I doubt given the preponderance of evidence, the NCAA is losing yet another public relations battle, which can’t be good for its health or the health of college basketball. (Related winners: The rest of the Pac-12. Related losers: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA.)
Update: As of late Friday afternoon, the NCAA has ruled Shabazz Muhammad eligible after all, issuing a retroactively served three-game suspension.
Big winners: Muhammad, UCLA. Big losers: Indiana freshmen sitting out three times as long for booster stickers bought before they were born by their legal guardians; the NCAA for looking like it caved under public pressure and its eligibility guidelines looking shambolic.