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Monday, November 26, 2007
Updated: November 30, 2:50 PM ET
Singler and Butler get the nod as both earn early tourney titles

ESPN.com

AP Photo/Al Grillo

With the Alaska Shootout win, Butler won its second in-season tournament in as many Novembers.

Player of the Week: Kyle Singler, Duke

By Andy Katz

Last week: 15.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 21-for-35 FG shooting (60 percent) in a 4-0 week

Hey, why not another freshman? Few players this week were as critical to a tournament title as Kyle Singler was for the Blue Devils in the Maui Invitational. Singler did have a blip of a game against Illinois, fouling out and scoring only eight points in 25 minutes. But he poured in 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 27 minutes in the first-round win over Princeton, and then he helped eke out a title-game win over Marquette with 25 points, seven boards and 8-for-8 free-throw shooting. The Blue Devils will cause problems for teams defensively that try to choose between defending Gerald Henderson or DeMarcus Nelson. But the mismatch comes when Singler is the primary forward. He can stroke it from 3-point range (3-for-5 against Marquette), and that will cause plenty of problems for a defense.

Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

Andy Katz

Last week: wins over Michigan (79-65), Virginia Tech (84-78) and Texas Tech (81-71)

Better find out where Butler is going to be next Thanksgiving and pencil in the Bulldogs for the Team of the Week honors. A year ago, Butler won the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York, and this season, it was the Great Alaska Shootout. Boyish-looking Brad Stevens beat Michigan's John Beilein in the first game and then Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg. And then he only had to take out college basketball' s all-time winningest coach, Texas Tech's Bob Knight, in the final. Butler, with the return of Mike Green and A.J. Graves, is a legit Sweet 16 contender again and the clear favorite in the Horizon League. No one should be surprised by Butler's title in Alaska, which will keep this team in the national discussion all season long.

3-Point Shots

ESPN.com's Experts

Jay Bilas
Arizona coach Lute Olson took a leave of absence Nov. 4, more than three weeks ago, and we certainly all wish Olson the very best. While it went unnoticed to some, Olson's announcement was not prepared by the school, but by a private firm, which was quite unusual. As of Sunday's battle with Kansas, nobody at Arizona had any real idea when Olson might be back to coach the team. About a week ago, interim coach Kevin O'Neill said Olson told him he'd be back soon. But there is no timetable for Olson's return.

While other coaches have taken leaves of absence before, Olson's situation is a strange one, and I wonder whether Olson needs some time to assess whether he still wants to coach. In other situations in which a coach took a leave of absence, there was certainty. We knew the reasons behind the leave, and when or if the coach would return. In Olson's situation, he has not yet spoken to the team and has not let his coaches or administrators know what is going on. Programs need certainty, and right now there is uncertainty surrounding the Arizona program.

As this situation drags on, expect more and more questions to arise regarding the reasons behind Olson's leave. And the longer this goes, the harder it will be on the players and coaches. There is nothing wrong with Olson taking leave, but it will soon be necessary to determine whether he will come back this season or not. It would not serve the Wildcats program well to have this kind of uncertainty going into December. Fortunately, this is not O'Neill's first rodeo, and he has the experience to handle uncharted territory.

Doug Gottlieb
There is no vemon or vitriol in saying that NC State was given the Old Spice title game by a last-second foul call in Orlando on Sunday. The fact is that in what seemed like a great finish to a well-played game, longtime official Jim Burr was in perfect position to call a foul and he did not. Instead, the official on the baseline anticipated the foul and frankly, he blew it. While it is absolutely fair to say the call was wrong, it is also fair to say that officials need time to round into mid-season form. The more hoops I watch, the more it seems like positioning and anticipating a call lead to bad calls far more than malice.

For the experts' full 3-point takes, click here. Insider

Upset Watch

By Reggie Rankin

Scouts Inc.'s Reggie Rankin takes a look at five upsets that could happen this week:

• Tuesday: Austin Peay over No. 3 Memphis

The Tigers' deep perimeter is led by junior Chris Douglas-Roberts and super-frosh Derrick Rose, and defensive specialist/power forward Joey Dorsey makes the FedEx Forum a jungle for opposing teams. But the Governors return all five starters and are heavy favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference. Forwards Drake Reed and Fernandez Lockett make it happen for Peay. Reed, a 6-foot-5 junior, is the OVC's preseason player of the year and Lockett is coming off a second team All-OVC performance last season. Sophomore guard Wes Channels, a Memphis native, can also manufacture points for the Govs. Are the Tigers looking ahead to the Dec. 4 showdown with USC and O.J. Mayo?

• Wednesday: George Washington over No. 1 UCLA

The Bruins flexed their muscles in beating a very good Michigan State team without preseason All-American point guard Darren Collison, guard Michael Roll and forward James Keefe. All except Keefe may return for the GW game. Could their possible return to the lineup cause a disruption in the rotation? How effective will Collison and Roll be in their first game of the season? Will they need time to get their game legs under them? Colonials coach Karl Hobbs has embraced the up-tempo style and recruited to fit the pressing, in-your-face defense. GW plays with great effort and often the defense can be its best offense by turning steals into easy baskets. Guard Maureece Rice, a 6-1, 224-pound power guard, returns after testing the NBA draft waters in the spring. Forward Rob Diggs and Virginia Tech transfer Wynton Witherspoon will provide the bulk of the scoring and rebounding. Kevin Love is the truth, but could this be a hiccup for the mighty Bruins?

• Wednesday: Alabama over No. 15 Texas A&M

Richard Hendrix

Marvin Gentry/US Presswire

Richard Hendrix is a beast down low. There will be some bruises after he meets up with the Aggies' beefy, physical front line.

New coach Mark Turgeon kept all the pieces in place to make another run in the Big 12 after Billy Gillispie left. The Aggies have a balanced inside-out attack with the perimeter scoring from swingman Josh Carter and inside with senior center Joseph Jones and the immediate production of 7-foot freshman DeAndre Jordan. The A&M big boys will with have their hands full with Richard Hendrix, the Tides' walking double-double. A preseason first team All-SEC selection, the 6-8 Hendrix can take over the game with his power and touch around the rim, not to mention the relentless rebounding effort on both ends. Without NBA-caliber point guard Ronald Steele, who is out all season after multiple knee surgeries, the Bama guards will have to handle the heat in College Station to pull off the upset.

• Thursday: Saint Joseph's over No. 14 Gonzaga

The Hawks might have the A-10's most dominate front line in seniors Pat Calathes and Robert Ferguson, to go along with preseason Player of the Year Ahmad Nivins. Calathes and Ferguson can both step to the perimeter to stretch the defense, and Nivins can score on the block at will with his great athletic ability to elevate over defenders. Expect toughness and leadership from Iowa State transfer Tasheed Carr, who has 3-point range. Sophomore guard Darrin Govens is a 3-point shooter who can give Saint Joe's multiple scoring threats. The Zags counter with instant scoring production from 6-10 freshman Austin Daye and the stat-stuffing backcourt of Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin. Larry Gurganious can cause havoc on the defensive end. Hawk Hill will be ready to greet the Zags' Philly style.

• Saturday: Miami (Ohio) over No. 6 Louisville

The Cards are deep and talented. This may be Rick Pitino's most complete team since his arrival in the Ville. But the injury bug has visited early and often, most recently claiming 6-11 center David Padgett, who joins 6-8 senior Juan Palacios on the sideline with knee injuries. Padgett's fractured knee could end his season. But the perimeter talent is excellent, and Pitino will tweak the lineup and make it work. In the meantime, the Cards must play a tough-minded, well-coached Miami (Ohio) team that rarely beats itself. Senior Tim Pollitz is a smart, undersized post who can get his shot off over taller, more athletic players. Michael Bramos is a versatile junior who can hit the long-range jumper and slide inside if needed. Combo guard Kenny Hayes provides scoring and point guard help for last season's starter, Alex Moosmann. Freedom Hall is a tough building to go into and win, but with the Cards forced to make some key personnel adjustments, the RedHawks might hang around long enough to pull it off.

What I'm looking forward to this week

By Andy Katz

How Wisconsin's disciplined squad handles the heated cauldron of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

If NC State's J.J. Hickson can cause enough havoc to steal a win for the Wolfpack against Michigan State in East Lansing on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

If Kosta Koufos can be a factor against North Carolina on Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

If Saint Joe's can pick up a huge win over Gonzaga on Thursday in Philly.

How George Mason will handle a tough CAA game against Drexel on Thursday.

If Oregon can win on the road at Kansas State in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series on Thursday.

How the Trojans will handle the ruggedness of Oklahoma in the same event Thursday in L.A.

If Baylor can knock off Washington State in their Big 12/Pac-10 matchup on Friday in Waco.

If Connecticut can take out Gonzaga in Boston on Saturday.

If Davidson has a shot against Duke on Saturday.

If Kentucky can rise up and win a big-time game against North Carolina on Saturday in Rupp to re-establish itself as an elite team in the SEC this season.

If Miami of Ohio can pull off yet another upset at Louisville on Saturday.

If Butler can beat Ohio State on Saturday in a game in which the Bulldogs may be favored.

If Seton Hall can win in the bandbox at Saint Mary's on Saturday.

How Missouri is able to get out and trap and run against a half-court, slow-down Cal team in Berkeley on Saturday.

If VCU can beat Maryland in Washington, in what might be the Rams' last chance for a high-profile win this season (and come March, the Terps may not be a great win).

How Arizona responds to the Kansas loss when Texas A&M comes calling on Sunday.

If Kansas can handle O.J. Mayo and USC on Sunday in L.A.

How UCLA's guards will defend Texas' tandem of A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin in Westwood on Sunday.

Singler MVP as Duke wins

Résumé building

NC State: The win over Villanova to claim the Old Spice Classic, regardless of your feelings on the late foul call, will be a high mark for the Wolfpack on their tourney résumé.

Miami (Ohio): I'm not sure if there were selection committee members at the Anaheim Classic, but hopefully they saw the RedHawks play. If you did, you saw an NCAA-quality team. Miami beat Mississippi State for third place a week after taking out Xavier at home.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders beat Gonzaga on a neutral court in Alaska. If the Red Raiders can be a factor in the Big 12, that win will have shelf life.

Seton Hall: The Pirates' win over Virginia at the Palestra in Philadelphia is one of the surprises of the season so far. Why? Just look at the scores recently. Virginia won at Arizona, while the Hall beat Navy by four, Robert Morris by four and Monmouth by eight.

USC: Impressive to win a much-better-than-advertised Anaheim Classic with wins over Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois, two teams that can win games in mid-March.

Arizona: So the Wildcats didn't beat Kansas on Sunday night, but they certainly showed they could. It should be only a matter of time before the Wildcats figure out the kinks, even with Lute Olson out on an indefinite leave.

Xavier: The win over Indiana in suburban Chicago will do wonders for the Musketeers' profile. Xavier has responded nicely after losing at Miami (Ohio). And after the RedHawks played well in Anaheim, it's clear a loss at Miami is hardly a negative.

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Mid-major top 10

1. Butler
2. Southern Illinois
3. George Mason
4. BYU
5. Xavier
6. Miami (Ohio)
7. Saint Mary's
8. Saint Joseph's
9. Western Kentucky
10. New Orleans

The mid-major minute

The selection committee will remember

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs picked up only one win in Anaheim and missed out on a golden chance to beat Clemson at home.

Washington: The Huskies went 0-2 in the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York and are losing out on opportunities to win high-profile nonconference games.

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Plowing ahead

UCLA: The injuries keep piling up, but Kevin Love continues to be a solid post presence for the top-rated Bruins. The comeback win over Michigan State to win the CBE Classic in Kansas City is one of the best wins so far this season.

Texas: Couldn't be more impressed with a team so far this season than the Longhorns after they cruised past Tennessee to win the Legends Classic in Newark. Texas guards D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams are two of the best shooters in the country.

Texas A&M: The dismantling of Washington and Ohio State was as complete a performance as any team had in an early-season tournament. The Aggies are top-10 good right now.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels survived a gritty BYU squad without an injured Ty Lawson. Carolina continues to take some shots but keeps on rolling.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn't play well throughout the overtime win over Arizona, but they still won the game. Kansas will only be a tougher out as Brandon Rush continues to heal from an ACL tear and Sherron Collins comes back from a broken foot.

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Separating themselves

Eric Gordon, Indiana: There are so many freshmen to choose from this season, but Gordon's numbers are staggering. He's scoring 27 points a game. Can that continue? He's also shooting a startling 56.3 percent from the field and 55.2 percent on 3s.

Michael Beasley, Kansas State: Beasley is putting up slightly better numbers with 27.2 points and 15.5 rebounds a game. Can this keep up?

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Beasley leads K-State in Orlando

Solid starts

Vanderbilt: The Commodores may just be the best team in the SEC so far. No joke. Vandy is 5-0 after winning the South Padre Island tournament with a win over Bradley. Freshman Andrew Ogilvy is piling on the numbers so far, with 18.4 points a game.

Baylor: Scott Drew has been known for his recruiting, recruiting and recruiting. But the Bears finally are winning games, taking out Wichita State, Notre Dame and Winthrop to win the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and move to 5-0.

New Orleans: What's up with the Lawrence Frank lineage? Joe Pasternack -- who, like Frank, is a former Indiana manager under Bob Knight -- is off to a sensational start with the Privateers. Pasternack followed up the stunning win at NC State with a win at Tulane to claim The Best Team in New Orleans tag.

Sam Houston State: Clearly the win over Texas Tech at home was no fluke. Sam Houston beat Fresno State, too, to move to 4-0. Dare we say the Bearkats could be an upset-alert team in the NCAA first round if they get out of the Southland Conference tournament?

Minnesota: Tubby Smith is off to a solid start at 3-0 with a road win at a struggling Iowa State team (still, a win on the road) and a victory over Central Michigan at home. We'll learn more when the Gophers travel to Florida State later this week.

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Say hello to

Jonathan Tavernari, BYU: The sharpshooter made 11 3s in games against Louisville (a win) and North Carolina (a 10-point loss).

Ryan Anderson, Cal: He's back to being a major producer, averaging 20 points and 8.7 rebounds.

Patrick Mills, Saint Mary's: The Australian had 37 points in the upset win over then-No. 13 Oregon. He scored 37, and it looked like he could have had 50. Keep an eye on Mr. Mills all season long.

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com

What happened?

Penn State: The Nittany Lions whiffed on three games in the Old Spice Classic, losing to South Carolina, Rider and Central Florida after destroying Canisius by 53 points a week earlier.

DePaul: NC A&T beat DePaul. NC A&T beat DePaul. Not good.

Northwestern: Brown beat Northwestern. Brown beat Northwestern. Not good.

Tennessee: Sorry, but the Vols didn't look like a top-10 team against Texas, and Bruce Pearl admitted that the Vols aren't the same team without Dane Bradshaw.

George Washington: Losing to Maryland-Baltimore County (on the road) was a bit more explainable since the Colonials were without lead guard Maureece Rice, who was suspended by coach Karl Hobbs for an unspecified violation.

-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com