- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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ESPN.com's Andy Katz answers a few questions found in his Inbox this week:
"I was having a conversation with my fellow soldiers, a point was made that since the "March Madness" has begun, has there been an all No. 1 seed Final Four? "
Jesse, the NCAA Final Four book charts that question back to 1979 and the answer is "No." There have been some close calls with three, but not four No. 1 seeds.
I noticed that you wrote that BYU would be the fourth-best team in the West by the end of the year. How would you rate:
1) Stew Morrill as a coach in the West and ...
2) Utah State as a team in the West.
Thanks, I usually quite enjoy your articles and insight."
You've got me on this one. BYU isn't playing like the fourth-best team in the West. I'd like to amend that statement. UCLA is now the fourth best. The Bruins fall right in line with Gonzaga, Stanford and Arizona. Utah State is certainly climbing. The Aggies beat BYU and have only one loss on the season. Stew Morrill is one of the most underrated coaches in the business, regardless of region. Morrill is a winner and one of the sharpest basketball minds. He comes from great coaching lineage, since he is a product of the Mike Montgomery coaching tree.
"First, thank you for the great pieces you put together each week. I am writing in regards to the piece you wrote about BYU losing to NC State and that one bad night night doesn't tell the whole story. I agree. However, I have season tickets to Utah State Aggie basketball, and during the game, the Cougars looked frazzled and coaches frustrated as it appeared the team wasn't following the game plan. Granted, playing at USU is one of the toughest venues in college basketball, but USU exposed some weakness. Is USU that good to beat BYU, or did BYU have another bad night? Being a big fan I always hope for the best and I think Stew Morrill is an outstanding coach, but sometimes big fans overrate their team. I'd like to hear from a credible source, how good is USU and how does this year's Aggie team stack up?"
Once again, Clark, I should have qualified my BYU comments. Utah State might be the fourth-best team in the West after the way the Aggies are playing. Not sure if you saw when we wrote about the Aggies, but they do deserve plenty of recognition. The Aggies are coached by one of the least recognized but best basketball minds in the country in Stew Morrill.
"I have a question about your nominees for the annual Wooden Award. I noticed that you left Marques Green from Saint Bonaventure off of your list. Prior to last night's game with UMass, the senior was leading the country in steals with 4.4 per game and he was fourth in the nation in scoring at 24.1 ppg. These are some very lofty stats for a team that does not have much depth at all. My question is ... Do you have to narrow a list that was already generated prior to the season beginning, or can you nominate the players that you think are deserving to be in the top 30? Any clarification you might provide would be helpful. It's obvious that Marques' stats show that he is one of the top 30 players in the country."
Marques is a fair choice. But he's on a struggling team. He also was suspended for one game for insubordination. So, it's hard to honor Green in this category. I like his game, enjoy watching him, but he didn't make my cut.
"I enjoy reading your articles. I know it's impossible to know everything about every team but you really seem to do your homework.
However, some of your preseason picks for the Wooden Award are a little suspect. Raymond Felton? Chris Paul? Ever heard of Julius Hodge? If Hodge had the exact same stats as he does with NC State (he leads the ACC in scoring) with either UNC, Duke, WFU or GaTech, you would have him listed as possible National Player of the Year. But alas nobody likes Herb Sendek. Facts are facts and Herb always take the blame for losses and always credits his players for wins. Unlike Coach K and Roy Williams, who routinely criticize their own players by name after a loss while taking the credit when they win. Shameless. Here is a quote from the UNC loss to WFU from Roy Williams: "Do what I say and we win the game." How self-serving is that? Anyway, I am off my soapbox. I look forward to your reply."
I did my picks before January as instructed and leaving off Hodge was a mistake. Hodge is one of the most all-around players in the country. I will give him strong consideration for any end of the year honors.
"A comment -- 'Rutgers isn't in the same class as No.7 Oklahoma.' At the RAC they are. Ask Syracuse (last year). Ask Providence (last Saturday). Better yet, go to a game there when RU plays a ranked team."
I still stand by my statement, even though Oklahoma is struggling. I would take Oklahoma over Rutgers, although the Sooners would struggle like everyone else in the RAC.
"Heard your interview of Gerry McNamara on ESPN today -- why are you so down on SU ? I thought the tenor of your comments about SU were very negative. Thank you for your time."
I disagree Tim. Asking McNamara who else can make 3s on his team isn't being negative. It is a fact. And you should check out the credit we're giving Hakim Warrick and Louie McCroskey. So, lighten up. There is no conspiracy.
"Listen, BC is proving everyone wrong one win at a time. I hear this all the time from people: 'BC hasn't played anyone good, and the two decent teams that they have played (Clemson and St. Joe's) were the two games that they lost.' They tell me that BC will falter once Big East play starts. Can you tell these people that they're wrong? BC is not a great team, they may not even be good. But, they've won their games so far, including a comeback win over Georgetown, in where Craig Smith dominated in the final five minutes. BC has one of the most underrated frontcourts in the nation (along with Hayes and Daniels, as you accurately pointed out), and they have a REALLY underrated freshman class -- Steve Hailey (doing a great job spelling Hinnant), Jared 'Trail Mix' Dudley (because he does it all -- and don't you go stealing that term, that's an original) and Sean Marshall (giving us a perimeter threat). I think with the Big East being really top-heavy, and then worsening after the Big Four -- BC could easily win 8-10 conference games, and that would put them in great shape for the tourney.
And just a side note, Andy -- I still haven't forgotten when you put Johnnie Jackson as a "sleeper freshman" in one issue of ESPN the Magazine a year ago. J.J hasn't been playing much at all the past two years. What's the deal with that?"
OK, so I was wrong about Jackson. Bad info from the BC folks on that one. The win the Eagles had over N.C. State should keep them in the discussion for a bid if the Eagles can take care of business in the Big East. BC's loss to Villanova didn't help its cause, but beating Seton Hall will do wonders for this team in trying to finish in the top five. Placing fifth in this league will put them in the conversation for a bid. The Eagles' RPI shouldn't fall too far. Al Skinner is doing a tremendous job with a rebuilding team. The freshmen guards are playing better than expected. This team is starting to grow on me.
"Seeing the way Rice has hung with two top five clubs this year -- losing by just four to Stanford and by nine to UConn -- do you see them possibly working their way up to nabbing one of the marquee matchups for the Bracket Buster event in February? Seeing how Tulsa and Fresno State have struggled in non-conference play, one would have to think that Rice and Nevada are more prepared to take on the Gonzagas, Creightons and Charlestons of the event. What are your thoughts on this?"
Rice and Hawaii are the two teams that could nab the top Bracket Buster spots. Fresno State might still get one based on name recognition, but my gut says Rice and Hawaii will be contention for a TV game.
"Why are you the only commentator to give love to Mississippi State?"
Lindley, I don't understand why others won't jump on the bandwagon. I saw this team in person and have seen them on television. They are as good as any of the teams from the top 10-20. Mississippi State has the balance inside and out, and plays tough defense when it wants to in order to win at home or on the road. Look out for the Bulldogs in the NCAAs. They could be a Sweet 16 team.
I already smell it coming, see it in the polls, and am getting that kinda sick feeling in my stomach -- the Zags have lost to Stanford and St. Joe's, and cleared the rest in a brutal non-conference schedule, and can't do a thing to move up in the polls. They even dropped out of the Power 16 this week, and the pollsters have always treated them better than the committee, are my worries well-founded?"
Twin Falls Idaho
Don't get too upset yet. The Zags are still looking good for their best seed ever. The two losses you mentioned should help them if they continue to stay undefeated.
"When do the pairings for the Bracket Buster games come out? I know the games aren't scheduled until late February and I assume that ESPN wants the best matchups. Doesn't Western Michigan at Creighton sound like an early candidate?"
Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Bracket Buster pairings will be announced on Feb. 1. Western Michigan and Creighton is an early favorite for the marquee game.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
ESPN.com's Andy Katz answers users' questions each week.