November Madness, anyone?
March isn't going to have much on this week when it comes to college basketball tournament thrills and chills.
Some rocking showdowns in New York City, Kansas City and the city of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui highlight the season's full-tilt week of action.
No. 1 Duke (vs. Drexel) and UCLA vs. Memphis in the 2005 NIT Season Tip-off (OK, we know it better as the "Preseason NIT") . . . Kentucky vs. Iowa and Texas vs. West Virginia in the Guardians Classic in Kansas City . . . Five programs that have won national titles since 1994 participating in the EA Sports/Maui Invitational . . . ah, yes. College basketball is upon us.
Here's a look at some of the week's best match-ups, as well as Scout.com's updated Top 25 and the first Scout.com National Players of the Week:
Check these out . . .
*Guardians Classic: West Virginia vs. Texas; Iowa vs. Kentucky. Each of the four is ranked in Scout.com's Top 25 and each is capable of playing in a more significant "Final Four" come April 1-3. The point guard battle between Iowa's Jeff Horner and Kentucky's Rajon Rondo should be a dandy. The final is Tuesday.
*EA Sports/Maui Invitational: Maryland vs. Gonzaga; Michigan State vs. Chaminade; Connecticut vs. Arkansas; and Arizona vs. Kansas. This is an NBA talent evaluator's dream event. There could in the neighborhood of 10 first-round selections in the next draft on hand, with maybe half of those (including Rudy Gay and Josh Boone of Connecticut; Adam Morrison of Gonzaga; and Ronnie Brewer of Arkansas) having lottery potential. The final is Wednesday.
*Paradise Jam Tournament: Old Dominion vs. Wisconsin (championship game). In another showdown between Scout.com Top 25-ranked teams, this could be as well played a game as there is all week. Both are led by All-America candidates: Alex Loughton (Old Dominion) and Alando Tucker (Wisconsin).
*Bucknell at Syracuse: The Bisons return five starters from the team that stunned Kansas in an NCAA Tournament game. If they knock off the Orange in the Carrier Dome, they'll get serious consideration on the next Scout.com Top 25 update. How's that for motivation, guys?
*Hawaii at UNLV: Is Hawaii as good as its 22-point victory over Michigan State Saturday in Honolulu would lead us to believe? And what did UNLV's 35-point win over Long Beach State in its opener Friday night really mean? We should have a better idea on both fronts by Wednesday morning.
*Pacific at Oregon: A Big West team that has won first-round games in the past two NCAA Tournaments gets a chance to do what a couple of its brethren (UC Irvine, over Stanford, and Cal State Northridge, against USC) did over the weekend: Knock off Pac 10 opponents.
*New Orleans vs. Tulane: The Green Wave opens its season with a "home" game against its cross-town rival in . . . Reed Arena on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. It's just another reminder of the impact that Hurricane Katrina continues to have.
*2005 NIT Season Tip-Off: Duke vs. Drexel and Memphis vs. UCLA. Drexel might tug on the heartstrings but it's going to be up to the Tigers or Bruins to give the No. 1-ranked Blue Devils their first real litmus test of 2005-06 in the Friday night final. The Memphis-UCLA game will have a nice showdown of sophomore guards in the Tigers' Darius Washington, Jr. and (assuming he's recovered from a sprained ankle suffered against Temple last week) Jordan Farmar.
*Florida State at Florida: The Gators are coming off a (mildly) surprising Coaches vs. Cancer championship. The Seminoles are trying to bounce back from a (more than mildly) disappointing 12-19 season.
*Nevada at UNLV: Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the school in Las Vegas had the best program in the state. Reno claims that distinction now.
*Vanderbilt at Georgetown: It's a confrontation between programs that played in the NIT last March but will be in the NCAA Tournament 12 months later.
Players of the Week
(Games of Nov. 13-19)
*Darius Washington, Jr. (6-0, So., Memphis): Helped the Tigers collect the most impressive 2005 NIT Preseason Tip-Off victory, pre-New York, with 23 points and six assists in the 87-76 victory at Alabama.
*Rajon Rondo (6-1, So., Kentucky): He averaged 18.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game as the Wildcats knocked off South Dakota State and Lipscomb in Guardians Classic first- and second-round games.
*Lamarcus Aldridge (6-10, So., Texas): In Guardians' wins over Southern and Samford he had 32 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
*Jon Brockman (6-7, Fr., Washington): He demonstrated why he's a viable National Freshman of the Year candidate while averaging 15.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in three games for the Huskies to earn the Black Coaches Association Classic MVP honors.
Updated Top 25
(with previous rating; records include results thru Nov. 20):
1. (1) Duke (3-0)
Next game: vs. Drexel (Wednesday, NIT Season Tip-Off)
2. (2) Connecticut (1-0)
Next game: vs. Arkansas (Monday, EA Sports/Maui Invitational)
3. (4) Gonzaga (1-0)
Next game: vs. Maryland (Monday, EA Sports/Maui Invitational)
4. (5) Texas (2-0)
Next game: vs. West Virginia (Monday, Guardians Classic)
5. (6) Oklahoma (1-0)
Next game: vs. Binghamton (Wednesday)
6. (7) Iowa (2-0)
Next game: vs. Kentucky
(Monday, Guardians Classic
7. (8) Arizona (0-0)
Next game: vs. Kansas (Monday, EA Sports/Maui Invitational)
8. (9) Louisville (1-0)
Next game: vs. Prairie View A&M (Dec. 3)
9. (11) Boston College (2-0)
Next game: vs. Buffalo (Tuesday)
10. (13) Wisconsin (2-0)
Next game: vs. Old Dominion (Monday, Paradise Jam Tournament)
11. (14) Kentucky (2-0)
Next game: vs. Iowa (Monday, Guardians Classic)
12. (15) Villanova (1-0)
Next game: vs. Lehigh (Nov. 27)
13. (16) North Carolina State (3-0)
Next game: vs. VMI (Wednesday)
14. (17) Ohio State (1-0)
Next game: vs. Butler (Tuesday)
15. (18) West Virginia (2-0)
Next game: vs. Texas (Monday, Guardians Classic)
16. (4) Michigan State (0-1)
Next game: vs. Chaminade (Monday, EA Sports/Maui Invitational)
17. (19) Nevada (1-0)
Next game: at Vermont (Wednesday)
18. (20) Georgetown (1-0)
Next game: at James Madison (Monday)
19. (21) Old Dominion (2-0)
Next game: vs. Wisconsin (Monday, Paradise Jam Tournament)
20. (22) Illinois (2-0)
Next game: vs. Texas Southern (Tuesday)
21. (23) Washington (4-0)
Next game: vs. Idaho (Tuesday)
22. (25) UCLA (3-0)
Next game: vs. Memphis (Wednesday, NIT Season Tip-off)
23. (nr) Memphis (2-0)
Next game: vs. UCLA (Wednesday, NIT Season Tip-off)
24. (nr) Florida (4-0)
Next game: vs. Florida State (Friday)
25. (12) Alabama (2-1)
Next game: vs. Louisiana Tech (Nov. 29)
DROPPED OUT: Stanford (No. 10); Wake Forest (No. 24).
An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com