UConn, even after the loss to Pittsburgh, is still one of the very best teams in the country. Having said that, I think it's going to be tough without Dyson in the lineup because of his experience, toughness and leadership. I'm not going to put anything past coach Jim Calhoun, but keep in mind this was only their second game without Dyson and the Huskies struggled offensively in both. There is still time left in the season to get better, but, much like last year when they lost A.J. Price, a player of that caliber is hard to replace. I thought UConn had a great chance to win it all before the injury. Now there is some doubt.
Muzzou turns it around
From Earnie Mowry in Eldon, Mo.: As a longtime Missouri basketball fan, I'm interested to find out your thoughts on the job Mike Anderson has done with the mess that was left by Quin Snyder. What are your overalls thoughts/feelings about the Tigers?
Coach Anderson has done a wonderful job, and people all over the country are starting to take notice. The Tigers have been consistent all year and continue to get better. Offensively they have been tremendous, but what separates them is their unselfishness. They play for one another and trust each other. That speaks of a coach who has done a wonderful job of teaching his kids how to win. Defensively I think is where they want to continue to get better, but this is a dangerous team come tourney time. I cannot wait for the showdown against Oklahoma on March 4.
Profile of a champion
From Dave Korner in Mt. View, Calif.: As we grow closer to the season-ending tournaments and the Big Dance, what statistics would you look heavily at in trying to pick an overall winner? I think teams that have a high free-throw percentage, play tough man-to-man defense and have a good field-goal percentage. Is there anything else you can add from a numbers point of view?
Those are vital to a team's success. Just go back to last year and the poor free throw shooting of Memphis finally caught up to the Tigers. The game also comes down to possessions, so teams that don't turn it over are much better off in the tournament. Rebound margin is also critical. As the competition gets better, these are areas that will give you more possessions and a chance to win close games.
Big East seeding issues
From Michael J. in Louisville, Ky.: With the Big East being the best conference, maybe ever, how do you think the committee will seed these teams? For example, a Big East team with an 8-8 record in conference is probably better than an SEC team that goes 12-4. Do you think the committee would give the Big East team the higher seed?
Seeding will be interesting from this standpoint. Yes, you can make a great argument for a Big East team with a .500 record, but keep in mind that the unbalanced schedule that's played in some conferences can also work against you. Case in point, Marquette only plays the other top four teams in the conference – UConn, Louisville, Villanova and Pitt – a total of five times out of a potential eight meetings. That has an impact on your seeding as well.
That's a great question. I had the opportunity last week to participate in a mock selection process put together by the NCAA. It was really unbelievable, and I got a much better perspective of what the committee looks for and how it all plays out. So off the top of my head I'd say that Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor, USC, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Kentucky, Siena, BYU, San Diego State, St. Mary's (because of Patrick Mills' injury) and San Diego State still have more work to do than the others. From your list, that means I would put Cal, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Utah State in the field right now. Remember, depending on conference tournaments, some of these teams – even the ones I think may be in – aren't locks yet.