The John Wall-Evan Turner debate rages on in this week's mailbag. Let's jump right into your letters.
To the Wall
Are you really being serious or are you just picking John Wall as National Player of the Year for argument's sake? I know I'm biased as an Ohio State fan, but how does more points, more rebounds and similar stats in steals, assists and blocks not translate into the choice of Evan Turner? Is it just because he isn't as flashy? You even state that without Wall, Kentucky would have more losses in the column. The same holds true with Turner. Were you being serious?
Why do you think it's so outlandish that I chose the future No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and the leader of a 26-1 team as my player of the year? What more does the guy need to do? He's a leader, he makes plays in the clutch, he's money from the free-throw line, he shows poise – and he wins. And, oh yeah, he's only a freshman. No player entered the season with expectations as high as the ones placed on Wall. If there was anyone who would've had an excuse to crack, it was the 18-year-old from Chapel Hill. Instead he has surpassed the lofty goals that everyone set out for him before his arrival. There is no better player in college basketball. Scouts have even said that if Wall would've entered the NBA draft last season, he would've been selected No. 1 overall ahead of Blake Griffin. That should tell you everything you need to know.
I think it's hilarious you have the gall to talk about Turner and his turnovers but you don't have the guts to talk about the four turnovers per game that Wall averages. Got some news for you: If you want to be taken seriously, then present the facts both ways.
Actually, I did mention Wall's turnovers, Steve. The one knock on Wall is that he turns the ball over way too much. Seriously, that's the first thing you hear from Wall-haters. "He needs to cut down on those turnovers!" Once he's able to take a break from making clutch plays down the stretch to win ballgames, I'm sure Wall will address that issue. In the meantime, I think it's only fair that if you want to knock Wall for turning it over, then you need to knock Turner for it, too. He's as turnover-prone as Wall, which makes that category a wash when comparing the two players. Bottom line: It's not right if people don't vote for Wall because he's turnover-prone, because Turner is, too.
Mizzou playing through
Are you trying to be funny by putting Missouri on the bubble? I think this is a fantasy of yours!
Not trying to be funny at all, Sean. I think there's a slight chance Missouri might not make the NCAA tournament. Yes, the Tigers' record looks glossy now, but will it be that way eight days from now? Missouri is 9-4 in league play, but look at its remaining schedule. Mike Anderson's squad still has a road game at No. 6 Kansas State and a home game against No. 1 Kansas. I think both of those games are losses, so now we're looking at 9-6. The other game is a road contest at Iowa State. It's a game Missouri should win, but remember, the Tigers are just 3-6 outside of Columbia this season. And Iowa State isn't nearly as bad as its record – and Missouri isn't nearly as good as its record. My point: What if Missouri loses its three remaining regular-season games and finishes 9-7? Do the Tigers have a resume that's sparkling enough to make them a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament? No, they don't. The victory over Illinois was nice and so were home wins against Texas and Kansas State. Other than that, name the noteworthy teams that Missouri has defeated. The Tigers lost to Oral Roberts and Richmond and choked against Vanderbilt, one of its marquee non-conference opponents. They also have a bad loss against Oklahoma. If I was a betting man I'd say the chances are strong – very strong – that Missouri makes the tournament. But the possibility of it not happening certainly exists.
Do you really think the Pac-10 is only going to get one team in the NCAA tournament? If Cal doesn't win the Pac-10 tournament, don't you think it could get in as the regular-season conference champs? Even in bad years, the SEC always got at least two teams in the tournament. And do you really think five Atlantic 10 teams are better than the top five Pac-10 schools? Records would say yes, but there's no way that's the case. I'm not lobbying for three or four schools to get in, but to say that only one team gets in is borderline ridiculous. This is a major college conference that is down this year, but not irrelevant.
Cal would be the only team that could still earn a berth without winning the Pac-10 tournament, but the Golden Bears would probably have to at least make it to the final for that to happen. The second best team in the league is USC – and the Trojans have been banned from postseason competition this year. I definitely think the Pac-10 has made strides throughout the season and is hardly the embarrassment it was in November and December. Still, what has the league accomplished? Where are the high-profile non-conference wins? Arizona State and Washington may win 20 games each, but have they defeated any noteworthy teams? In regard to your question about the Atlantic 10, I'd take Xavier, Temple and Richmond over any school in the Pac-10, including Cal. All of those schools were much more impressive in non-conference play than teams from the Pac-10. Temple defeated Villanova, Richmond beat Missouri, Mississippi State and Florida and Xavier played one of the toughest schedules in the country. The good thing about the Pac-10 is that there are some great coaches in that league (Ben Howland, Sean Miller, Kevin O'Neill, Mike Montgomery, etc.). It won't be down for long.
Utah State case
I would like to know why UTEP gets a lot of national attention and respect, but Utah State gets none. They look pretty equivalent on paper, with basically the same record and the same type of conference. I think Utah State has a better strength of schedule. Also, Utah State beat BYU and UTEP lost to BYU. So what's the difference?
I think one thing hurting Utah State is that the WAC isn't nearly as well-respected or visible as Conference USA. As of Thursday five of the nine teams were .500 or below. Nevada is traditionally strong but, other than that, the schools in that league don't measure up to the teams UTEP is beating (Memphis, UAB, Tulsa, Houston, etc.). The other thing that is that, talent-wise, UTEP appears to be the superior team with Arnett Moultrie, Randy Culpepper and Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter. Still, good coach can take a team a long way, and Stew Morrill is one of the best. If Utah State and UTEP played, it'd be a pick 'em.
Chi-town stands out
I read your potential players of the year by conference, and if Sherron Collins wins the award in the Big 12, he'll join fellow Chicagoans Jon Scheyer (ACC) and Evan Turner (Big Ten) as POY's. Pretty impressive, even for a high school hoops hotbed like Chicago.
Great point, Zachary. And don't forget about guys such as Jerome Randle of Cal, Maurice Acker of Marquette, Will Walker of DePaul, Demetri McCamey of Illinois, Mustapha Farrakhan of Virginia and Aaron Johnson of UAB. Scottie Reynolds of Villanova spent part of his childhood in the Windy City. Two of college basketball's biggest stars last season (Wake Forest's Jeff Teague and Marquette's Jerel McNeal) are also Chicago natives.
Taste of the tournament
In preparation for the upcoming NCAA tournament, maybe you could give a rundown of the best places to eat in all of the first-round host cities.
Now that is a good idea. The list is already beginning to formulate. On a side note … in last week's discussion of the $1 hamburgers, I failed to mention the double-cheeseburger at Burger King. When a few friends pointed out that the delicacy was available for four quarters, I found the nearest location and indulged – twice. It's now at the very top of my list.
Props for OSU's Anderson
Everyone knows Oklahoma State's James Anderson is good, but even so, I don't think he's getting the credit he deserves. It's not only the points he's been putting up. Look at how he hustles on defense and out-fights the big men for rebounds. He carries Oklahoma State on his back. As good as John Wall is, can anyone honestly say he's better or has a higher ceiling than Anderson? I'm a Kansas fan saying this guy deserves to be a first-team All-American.
If James Anderson played for Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or Connecticut, he'd be a first-team All-American, and there wouldn't even be a question about it. He's starting to move up NBA draft boards. Oklahoma State will be lucky to get him back for another season.