Happy Thanksgiving to all A Sea of Blue members, and all our brothers and sisters in the Big Blue Nation. May you enjoy this traditional time of gratitude for our blessings, and may the season find you well and among those you love. For our service members, at home and abroad, who must stand watch over our freedom during the holidays and cannot be with their families, we thank you and hold you in our thoughts and prayers.
Now, to a little basketball. After the first five games of the season, Kentucky is the #1 offensive and #1 defensive team in the land according to Ken Pomeroy's statistical measures of adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The adjustment in question is an attempt to adjust for the level of competition which, with the exception of Kansas and Old Dominion, has been pretty poor for UK.
Interestingly, the second-best defensive team in the rankings right now is the loathsome Louisville Cardinals. Their offense, however, is not nearly as sound at 48th best in the country. Wisconsin, Alabama, and Ohio St. round out the top five.
Offensively, UK is best by a narrow margin, followed by Florida, Pittsburgh, Ohio St., and Wisconsin. I must tell you that seeing the Wisconsin Badgers this high even early is a little bit of a surprise, I really thought their personnel losses would sting more -- and maybe they will later -- but right now, they are looking impressive. I suppose nothing Bo Ryan is able to accomplish should surprise me by now.
So, talking a little SEC here, how good is the Alabama Crimson Tide looking? So far, they have played a much tougher slate than Kentucky and have beaten everybody by double digits except for the nationally ranked Purdue Boilermakers, whom they only beat by nine. The Tide have numerous quality tests remaining on their non-conference schedule including the Georgetown Hoyas at home, Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. at neutral sites, and Georgia Tech on the road. Stock advice: Buy -- this team is a winner.
Compare that to the Florida Gators, who has played a typically soft slate so far except for at Ohio St., a game they lost convincingly. The Gators due play Syracuse, Arizona and Texas A&M in the next six games, with Florida St. looming later on. So Florida's schedule may be pathetic at the moment, but by the time we get near Christmas, it will be much tougher than Kentucky's, and Billy Donovan's troops will be well tested. I also expect them to have at least 2 more losses on their record by then. Stock advice: Hold -- This team has issues, but also seems to have potential.
The Vanderbilt Commodores have so far survived a daunting early schedule despite an upset loss to Cleveland St. and continuing to play without one of their best players in Festus Ezeli, and it doesn't get any easier for them in the near term. They get Xavier at home, and road trips to Louisville and Davidson, and Davidson is a dangerous team totally capable of the upset. Stock advice: Sell - Poor point guard play is really hurting them, and they are struggling to score.
Georgia has looked better than expected so far, dropping only 1 game to nationally ranked California, but they dropped it in a big and ugly way. Their remaining non-conference tests are at Xavier, at Colorado, and at home against Georgia Tech and Cincinnati. Stock advice: Hold for now, this team is showing signs.
Mississippi Rebels: This team is on a high-calorie feast-fest, with nothing but cupcakes lined up for miles. They do have an upcoming early test against Miami where they could change my mind, but they were shellacked by Marquette on a neutral floor. After Miami, they won't see a top 100 team until the end of the year at Dayton. Stock advice: Sell.
Tennessee Volunteers: The Volunteers put up a titanic struggle against Duke this past week, and came with in shot of knocking off top ten Memphis. Cuonzo Martin has these Bruce Pearl leftovers playing like a team, and I very much doubt if Pearl himself could have done as well with this bunch if he had been scandal-free. The Vols have only
two there top 100 games remaining in the non-con, hosting Pittsburgh, a rematch with arch-rival Memphis in January, and a very late meeting with UConn in late January. Stock advice: Hold. My reflex is buy, but I want to see a bit more.
Mississippi St. Bulldogs: The Bulldogs took an embarrassing upset versus Akron, but that loss isn't as bad as it looks and certainly wasn't as bad as Vandy's loss to given Vandy's lofty ranking and the ugly margin. MSU has a couple of very good wins over Texas A&M and Arizona, but didn't impress much against Louisiana-Monroe at home the other night. But this team has talent, and if they learn to defend, they'll be dangerous. Stock advice: Buy. I think this may be Stansbury's first team in a while to live up to expectations.
Arkansas Razorbacks: This team is undergoing a culture and generational change, and it shows. They really haven't looked very good all year, but don't count Mike Anderson out. When his teams eventually do buy in to his system, you'll know it, because suddenly the Hawgs will start winning by lopsided margins. Right now, I think that buy-in is a way off. They have a date with UConn in Storrs in a couple of games and Michigan in late January, but the rest of their non-con is cupcake city. Stock advice: Sell.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Despite expectations of improvement this year, so far Darrin Horn's team has definitely left Gamecock fans cold. Losses to two teams ranked around 200, one at home, is not an encouraging sign. But give them credit, they are not feasting on sugary snacks -- they get to face North Carolina at a neutral site next week, a solid Clemson team shortly thereafter, and then Ohio State in Columbia. Stock advice: Sell.
Auburn Tigers: Auburn has played only 2 games so far, both against teams outside the top 200, but have handled them with aplomb. Tony Barbee is a John Calipari disciple and as intense as they come, and how on-target his Tiger rebuilding project is will be tested only a bit in the non-conference schedule. Visits to Seton Hall and Florida St., along with a home game against USF remain the only top 100 tests before conference play. Still, I like what Barbee is doing, and this team might surprise. Stock advice: Hold.
LSU Tigers: I don't hold a lot of hope for this team, or for Trent Johnson's continued employment as LSU coach. The non-con for LSU has some opportunity, but so far they have failed to avail themselves of it, dropping games to Coastal Carolina on the road and Northwestern and South Alabama at home. Johnson's team has talent and potential, and the rest of the schedule is challenging, but not hard with most remaining teams in the mid to low 100 range along with a few cupcakes. Marquette and Virginia represent the remaining meat and potatoes. Stock advice: Sell.
Happy Thanksgiving all Feast on!