Top 10 Topics
1. Villanova's 21-point comeback in the last nine minutes against Louisiana State on Thursday was the wildest by a Big Five team ...
Maybe since Marvin O'Connor of St. Joseph's scored 18 points in the final 59.8 seconds against La Salle in 2001. The Hawks had trailed by 10 with a minute left, but the Explorers held on to win by a point.
2. When was the last time any school recruited two freshman point guards ...
As talented as Corey Fisher and Malcolm Grant? Locally, you could go to Jameer Nelson and Tyrone Barley at St. Joseph's, except Barley never scored more than seven points in a game as a freshman and really turned into a defensive specialist for the Hawks. We're not comparing either Fisher or Grant to Nelson, but each of the Villanova players has scored at least 18 points in a game, and each has been the best player on the floor late in different games.
3. ESPN's Bill Raftery showed why he is the top college hoops analyst.
A lot of announcers would have given up on Thursday's 'Nova game and started talking about anything but the action. As LSU's lead increased, Raftery kept pointing out how Villanova was penetrating too far, resulting in those 14 blocked shots. But as soon as LSU's Anthony Randolph fouled out, Raftery noted that Villanova now could draw the other big man, Chris Johnson, away from the basket, start getting inside, and running better offense. Raftery didn't predict the comeback, but he told viewers in advance how it would happen.
4. Which ranked team has improved the most since last season?
It may be Duke. The Blue Devils were nothing special in 2006-07, but they are much more dangerous this year, with six players averaging at least nine points a game, including two freshman forwards, Kyle Singler and Taylor King. So far, Singler leads the team with 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds. Sophomore Gerald Henderson, from Episcopal Academy, is fully healthy and averaging 13.8 points in 22.3 minutes. The Blue Devils are better with the more explosive Henderson starting and sharpshooter Jon Sheyer coming off the bench, a reversal from last season.
5. Smart public-relations move by the Atlantic Ten.
Through Dec. 5, the A-10 had the fifth-best conference Rating Percentage Index, and the league quickly got that message out to the world. The top four - Atlantic Coast Conference, Pacific Ten, Big Twelve and Big East - are way ahead of the pack, while the next four - A-10, Big Ten, Missouri Valley and Southeastern - are tightly bunched in another pack, and subject to change based on the results of a game or two.
Just to show how early all this is - as of Dec. 3, according to collegerpi.com, Sam Houston was fourth in the country based on wins over Texas Tech, Fresno State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with its four other victories over non-Division I teams. Also, Texas-Arlington was 22d and Maryland-Baltimore County 25th. North Carolina was 11th, 3-4 Temple 50th, and 5-1 Villanova 68th.
6. Expatriate of the week.
Franklin Learning Center graduate Mike Green, a senior point guard for 13th-ranked Butler, had 15 points and eight assists in a 65-46 victory last weekend over Ohio State. Green is averaging 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the best mid-major team in the country. He scored 23 points in each of Butler's victories at Texas Tech and Virginia Tech.
7. Where in the world is...?
Penn graduate Ibby Jaaber has been an instant-impact player in Greece's top division, one of the best pro leagues in Europe. Playing for fifth-place Egaleo in a suburb of Athens, Jaaber was voted the league's MVP the last two weeks. He is averaging 23 points a game and is second in the league in assists (five a game) and steals (2.2).
8. Lute Olson rivals John McCain ...
As an icon in Arizona, and probably has a higher approval rating, which explains how Olson could announce he is taking a leave of absence for this season but plans to return next year. Olson again cited "personal issues within my family that need to be addressed." Olson filed a divorce petition on Thursday. It remains to be seen whether he will return or whether interim coach Kevin O'Neill will take over full time, but Arizona apparently is letting Olson call that shot.
9. Who's No. 1?
This week, we're switching from Memphis to North Carolina. Not because the Tar Heels have looked overwhelmingly dominant. We're still not sold that UNC will get through the NCAA tournament without stumbling. But John Calipari's club hasn't proved it is ahead of the pack, either, and doesn't deserve to stay on top just because we started them there in the preseason. The Tigers hung on to beat Southern Cal on Tuesday night in overtime at Madison Square Garden, but will need to show their stuff later this month against Georgetown and Arizona.
10. The real top 10.
1, North Carolina. 2, Memphis. 3, Texas. 4. Kansas. 5, UCLA. 6. Georgetown. 7, Duke. 8, Washington State. 9, Michigan State. 10, Tennessee.