Dean's List-Academic Probation is a weekly column that analyzes all of the highlights and lowlights from the previous week's games. The teams, players, conferences, etc. that deserve praise for what they accomplished over the past week make our Dean's List; those deserving ridicule are put on Academic Probation.
Here are this week's honorees:
The nation’s best league thus far couldn’t have dreamed of a better showing in the early-season tournaments. A week after Miami stunned everyone by winning in Puerto Rico, the rest of its conference brethren followed suit: Duke beat Marquette to win its fourth Maui Invitational, NC State upended Villanova to win the Old Spice Classic, and North Carolina downed BYU to win the Las Vegas Invitational. The ACC still has six undefeated teams at this point in the season – two more than any other power conference.
The state of Texas
The Lone Star State single-handedly boosted the reputation of the Big XII this week. Undefeated Texas A&M crushed Ohio State to win the NIT Tip-Off, D.J. Augustin put up 23 points and eight assists to lead Texas to an eye-opening blowout of Tennessee, and 5-0 Baylor (this season’s most pleasant surprise) win the Paradise Jam with victories over Notre Dame and Winthrop. Even inconsistent Texas Tech got in the act with an upset W over Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs turned last season’s NIT Tip-Off win into an eventual Sweet 16 appearance, and after this week, it’s going to be tough to bet against that happening again this season. Led by the most underrated backcourt in the country in A.J. Graves and Mike Green, Butler knocked off Michigan, Virginia Tech, and Texas Tech to win the Great Alaskan Shootout.
Even the WCC has its share of impact freshman this season. Australian rookie Patty Mills dropped a school-record 37 points on Oregon Tuesday as St. Mary's blew out the visiting Ducks 99-87. The win earned St. Mary’s (who has some tough games ahead) a spot in our next bracket, and also earned Gaels fans the early lead in the race for Rush of the Year. Check out the ESPN video footage of the rush here or watch a nice commemorative slide show of it here.
Perhaps no team did more for its resume – or for its league – this week than Xavier, who blew out No. 8 Indiana to win the Chicago Invitational Challenge. The Musketeers’ stifling defense was the difference – Eric Gordon was held to just four field goals and the Hoosiers shot just 38 percent as a team in Xavier’s 80-65 victory.
Also receiving votes: Seton Hall (nice W over Virginia to improve to 5-0), Cornell (good home W over a Siena team fresh off its upset of Stanford), USC (held Southern Illinois to 45 points in Anaheim Classic title game), Brandon Rush (17 points in Kansas’ OT win over Arizona), Kevin Love (21 points, 11 boards in UCLA’s CBE Classic win over Michigan State)
New Mexico State
The Theus-Aggies divorce has proven to be a disaster on both ends. The Sacramento Kings are 4-9 under everyone’s favorite “Hang Time” coach, and New Mexico State – pegged by many, including us, in the preseason as the team to beat in the WAC – already has four losses. The Aggies’ only two wins this season are against UC-Davis and the law firm of Lemoyne-Owen.
The Bulldogs were fixture in everyone’s preseason bracket, but they have already managed to find their way on the bubble. Mississippi State has lost to all three quality opponents it has faced, including defeats this week to Southern Illinois and Miami-Ohio.
Give the Eagles credit for putting together a decent OOC schedule, but it’s about time they start winning some of those games. Losses to Baylor and Missouri State this week won’t look great on a resume, and it means Winthrop certainly won’t duplicate its 11 seed from a year ago.
If any team was in need of deodorant this week, it was the embarrassingly-bad Nittany Lions. Their trip to the Old Spice Classic resulted in losses to South Carolina, Rider, and Central Florida.
Maybe the Wildcats should have softened their OOC slate just a little. With a loss to UNC already in the bag and games with Duke, UCLA and North Carolina State still looming, Davidson ran into a buzzsaw on the road against Western Michigan – and fell 83-76 to the three-point-happy Broncos.
Also receiving votes: Joe Lunardi (up to his old first-place-in-conference tricks again with two Southern Conference teams in his new bracket), DePaul (L to North Carolina A&T, which ended last season with an RPI of 274), Sacred Heart (preseason favorites in the NEC fall to 0-6)