Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Conference crowns are up in air

This college basketball season, the nation has already seen
a number of upsets. With conference play already underway, however, more
surprises are yet to come. Some teams are expected to win, many are expected to
lose, and as crazy as this past year?s college football season was, perhaps the
basketball season will mirror those same results.

So far, six top 10 teams have lost at least one game ? two
of those to unranked opponents ? but the true powerhouses will rebound from the
losses and show the college basketball world why they deserve the top seeds in
the NCAA Tournament this March. Here are Hoops America?s conference breakdowns
and predictions:

SEC West Champion: Mississippi
SEC East Champion: Vanderbilt
Overall Champion: Vanderbilt

Though a weak conference in comparison to the ACC, Pac 10
and Big 12, the SEC displays some talented rosters that could make some noise
in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee?s core of Chris Lofton and Tyler Smith will
lead this team to at least a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Shan Foster
and Vanderbilt have an explosive offense that can break through Tennessee.
Mississippi will show some strength throughout the season, and even with a
tough loss to Tennessee Jan. 9, it proved that it could compete with some of
the better teams in the nation.

Player to watch: Vanderbilt?s Shan Foster. He averages over
20 points a game and so far has kept Vanderbilt undefeated and in line for a
conference championship.


ACC Champion: North Carolina

The ACC features some of the most talented teams in the
country, and it should come down to the wire with both Duke and North Carolina
boasting spectacular rosters. North Carolina should come out on top, but Duke
will prove to be a formidable opponent. If either team can win the road game
against each other, it should make out an interesting finish for the end of the
season and the rankings. The loser of the season series may be forced to play a
talented Clemson roster that just recently lost by a close margin in overtime
to North Carolina. Regardless, both Duke and UNC could receive No. 1 seeds in
the tournament, so the battle between the two teams is merely for bragging

Player to watch: North Carolina?s Tyler Hansbrough. He
proved his athleticism after dunking over 7-foot-7 UNC-Asheville center Kenny
George. Hansbrough is on his way to the NBA.

Big Ten Champion: Indiana

Even with Michigan State currently holding a higher national
ranking, Indiana, with the help of freshman star Eric Gordon, will win the Big
Ten. However, expect all top teams to lose their fair share of games this
season. Wisconsin could be the sleeper, but without any true go-to guy on the
roster, it faces a tough road in the Big Ten, especially against Indiana.
Gordon and the Hoosiers will have the extra push down the stretch to come out
on top in a tough conference. Wisconsin?s win over Texas did put some life into
the Badgers, but Michigan State?s Drew Neitzel and Indiana?s Gordon will prove
to be too much for the other Big Ten teams to handle.

Player to watch: Indiana?s Eric Gordon. He is possibly the
most talented player in the country and can light up any floor. Expect Gordon
to lead Indiana to a top 10 national ranking and a Big Ten crown.

Pac 10 Champion: UCLA

The Pac 10 is possibly the best conference from top to
bottom in the nation. Like the ACC, the Pac 10 will be a toss-up between two
teams, Washington State and UCLA. With teams like USC, Stanford, Arizona and
Cal all very talented and with rowdy home crowds, chances are that both
Washington State and UCLA will lose some road games. Nevertheless, Darren
Collison and new freshman Kevin Love will lead a hungry UCLA team that is in
perfect position to take the national championship. It will be interesting to
see how the rest of the conference fares in the postseason, but it would be
rather optimistic to expect any other team besides UCLA or Washington State to
make any noise in the NCAA Tournament.

Player to watch: UCLA?s Kevin Love. As a freshman, he?s
already averaging 16.1 points and 10 rebounds per game and is exhibiting a
phenomenal all-around game.

Big 12 Champion: Kansas

The Big 12, like the Pac 10, features talented rosters from
top to bottom. Unlike some other highly ranked teams, however, Kansas is still
undefeated, and all of its starters score in double figures. Even with the
tough conference, Kansas should dominate most of the Big 12 competition but
will be challenged by both Texas and Texas A&M. The Aggies have proved to
be the surprise team in the conference, featuring three starters averaging in
double digits. D.J. Augustin and Texas could make a run and possibly challenge
Kansas down the stretch, but after losing to Wisconsin and Michigan State, it
doesn?t look to be a major opposition to some bigger powerhouses in the long

Player to watch: D.J. Augustin. He averages 20.5 points and
6.1 assists per game and is taking over after the detrimental loss of Kevin
Durant. Augustin must play this well the entire season to maintain Texas? hot

Big East Champion: Georgetown

Going into the season, Pittsburgh looked like the team to
beat in a tough conference, but after losing to unranked Dayton and Villanova,
Pitt hasn?t shown it can compete away from home. That being said, Georgetown,
with Roy Hibbert leading the way, can make a serious run at the national
championship and should win the Big East. However, both Marquette and
Villanova, with Dominic James and Scottie Reynolds, respectively, will make some
noise in the conference and cause many problems for Georgetown. Two of
Pittsburgh?s best players ? Levance Fields and Mike Cook ? are out with
injuries, so any chance of it competing in the conference could be gone,
especially with Georgetown and Marquette playing as strongly as they have been

Player to watch: Syracuse?s Donte Green. Averaging almost 20
points per game, Green is quietly showing America that he is one of the best
college players out there. Look for him to cause problems for all of the Big
East for the rest of the season.

Beyond all of these predictions, one team cannot go
unmentioned. Memphis, playing in Conference USA, may go undefeated this season.
After showing the country its explosive offense and athletic ability in a
difficult nonconference schedule, Memphis will no doubt be a No. 1 seed in the
NCAA Tournament and very well could be this year?s national champion.

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