Paul Klee's college basketball insider

Loren Tate's take on Illinois' NCAA Tournament hopes

Team of the Week

BYU

If you get a chance, watch these guys. Dave Rose's Cougars (14-1) play a fast-paced and entertaining brand of basketball and boast a premier scorer in Jimmer Fredette. BYU should have landed higher in the AP poll on Monday. For some reason – Exposure? The graduation of Lee Cummard? East Coast bias? – the Cougars were only ranked No. 25. The News-Gazette put BYU at No. 16, the highest of the 64 AP voters. But take a look at the Cougars' resume: nine straight wins and double-digit blowouts of Arizona (99-69), Nebraska (88-66) and Arizona State (81-68). Now it's on to the Mountain West Conference, which has been better than expected. "When you have teams with the least wins that have beaten LSU, Michigan and Illinois (all beaten by Utah), you know it's going to be hard to win every time you go out there," Rose said Monday. A 6-foot-2 guard, Fredette might be the best player ESPN's never heard of. He had 49 points against Arizona and is averaging 21.6 points and 5.6 assists. BYU lured the New York native away from recruiting interest from Syracuse, among others, due to his Mormon faith. Much of BYU's scoring comes in transition, and it switches between man-to-man and zone defenses. BYU is coming off three straight NCAA tournament bids and could be dangerous in March.

Games to Watch (Big Ten edition)

1. Minnesota at No. 4 Purdue (6 tonight, ESPN) – One of four Division I teams that remains undefeated, the Boilers (13-0) have won 18 of their last 19 games, dating to last season. Gophers' defense is rounding into form and could give Purdue problems.

2. No. 17 Wisconsin at No. 10 Michigan State (5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Big Ten Network) – Mighty Michigan State will add some more brawn with its 2010 recruiting class, which includes center Adreian Payne (6-10, 215) and forward Alex Gauna (6-9, 230).

3. Michigan at Penn State (6 p.m. Thursday, ESPN2) – The Nittany Lions' disappointing start to the season (8-6 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) isn't the fault of guard Talor Battle, who has six games of 20-plus points and ranks second in the league in scoring.

Conference Call

CONF PREV.

1. Big East 1

2. Big Ten 5

3. Big 12 2

4. ACC 4

5. SEC 3

6. Mountain West 7

7. Pac-10 6

8. Conference USA 8

9. Atlantic 10 9

10. Missouri Valley 10

Wooden Watch

The Wooden Award committee released its midseason watch list Monday:

Cole Aldrich (Kansas), Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Trevor Booker (Clemson), Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga), Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia), Sherron Collins (Kansas), Ed Davis (North Carolina), Jerome Dyson (Connecticut), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Luke Harangody (Notre Dame), Manny Harris (Michigan), Gordon Hayward (Butler), Xavier Henry (Kansas), Darington Hobson (New Mexico), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Damion James (Texas), Wesley Johnson (Syracuse), Jeremy Lin (Harvard), Kalin Lucas (Michigan State), Greg Monroe (Georgetown), Patrick Patterson (Kentucky), Quincy Pondexter (Washington), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's), Jon Scheyer (Duke), Kyle Singler (Duke), Klay Thompson (Washington State), Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State), John Wall (Kentucky), Evan Turner (Ohio State).

The Ex Files (All-Spain edition)

1. James Augustine (right), Gran Canaria – Averaging 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds in second season in Spain.

2. Roger Powell, Murcia – Averaging 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds in first season in Spain.

3. Robert Archibald, Unicaja Malaga – Averaging 5.4 points, 3.0 rebounds in Spain.

Random Thoughts

– Freshman Joseph Bertrand (knee) underwent another MRI on Monday and will sit out the rest of the season, Bruce Weber said Monday. "He's probably not going to be involved this season," Weber said. "Hopefully in the spring he can get back at it." After Illinois lost guard Alex Legion, Bertrand's repetitions in practice had increased. But he suffered another "setback" and had fluid drained from his knee Monday, Weber said. "They've got to figure out what's wrong," he said.

– Illinois actually would prefer facing a zone defense right now. That would force the Illini to be patient and take better shots on offense. Shot selection is an issue.

– There are about 1,500 tickets remaining for tonight's game against Iowa at the Assembly Hall, according to the ticket office.

– Gonzaga is usually a big team, and Gonzaga's size presented a big problem for Illinois. Pregame warmups looked like a professional team (Gonzaga) vs. a college team (Illinois). The difference in physiques was striking. But it wasn't only Gonzaga's big men that bullied Illinois. It was man-strong guards Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray. On the plus side for Illinois, it probably won't face a more physical team than Gonzaga.

– One UI staffer pointed out that Gonzaga had three go-to guys in crunch time (Bouldin, Gray, Elias Harris), while Illinois has yet to find one. "They taught us a good lesson. They were cool and collected down the stretch," junior Bill Cole said.

– Keep an eye on Illinois State freshman Jackie Carmichael. Coach Tim Jankovich might have a future All-MVC pick in the forward from Kansas. The 6-9, 240-pound rookie showed flashes in a win against SIU at Redbird Arena on Sunday.

– SIU coach Chris Lowery said Monday that senior guard Tony Freeman played with a broken nose against Illinois State. Still, the senior helped limit ISU star Osiris Eldridge, the MVC's best player, to 3-for-9 shooting and 13 points. SIU coaches are hoping that kind of toughness rubs off on the roster's younger players. In the 68-61 loss to Illinois State, Lowery said SIU was "too selfish," which previously wasn't an issue for the Salukis.

What they Said (On the Big Ten's weekly coaches teleconference)

— Illinois' Weber, on facing Central product Verdell Jones on Saturday: "There's times when teams or players play at a high level with that extra motivation."

— Iowa's Todd Lickliter, on their upcoming schedule: "That's a little frightening. Oh-and-2 and Illinois and Michigan State coming up."

— Michigan's John Beilein, on moving forward with plans to renovate Crisler Arena: "We need to give people the best arena possible. And there's no question we're on our way."

n Ohio State coach Thad Matta, on the potential return of star Evan Turner (back): "He's doing a little bit more every day, shootingwise, he's running treadmill and up and down the court a little bit. I don't know exactly when it's going to feel right for him."

Polling place: News-Gazette vs. national polls

Klee's Top 25

TEAM – KLEE'S COMMENT

1. Texas – Eight voters hooked the 'Horns at No. 1 (over KU and UK) on Monday

2. Kansas – And 56 voters had Jayhawks at No. 1; Can't go wrong with either one

3. Kentucky – At 15-0 and in SEC, has best shot of going unbeaten before March

4. Purdue – Earned Big Ten's marquee win with 77-62 thumping of West Virginia

5. Duke – Senior guard Scheyer on short list for Wooden Award frontrunners

6. West Virginia – Big East has three teams in our top 10, most of any conference

7. Syracuse – Smarting from loss to Pittsburgh, the Orange's first defeat of season

8. Villanova – Earned a last-minute win at Marquette to open Big East season

9. North Carolina – Illini went bowling recently; Jeff Jordan had the highest score

10. Michigan State – Still tickets available for Big Ten home opener vs. Wisconsin

11. Mississippi – Voters ranking Ole Miss anywhere from No. 10 to unranked

12. Kansas State – Rival Kansas – and College GameDay – visit on Jan. 30

13. New Mexico – Win against Dayton provided some validation for quick start

14. Dayton – And midseason loss at Albuquerque nothing to be ashamed of

15. Gonzaga – Reloaded Zags capable of adding to 14 NCAA tourney wins since '99

16. BYU – Key starters Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock went on two-year missions

17. Wisconsin – Lofty record (12-2) came vs. solid schedule (nation's 75th-toughest)

18. Cincinnati – Outmuscled UConn to earn win that will look good Selection Sunday

19. Georgetown – Still not sold on Hoyas, who have beaten one ranked team (Temple)

20. Clemson – Sunday's loss to Duke was first since 23-point collapse vs. Illinois

21. Southern Cal – Pac-10 frontrunner can't compete in league tourney due to ban

22. Connecticut – Beat William & Mary, a team that deserves Top 25 consideration

23. Florida State – Seminoles open ACC play with matchup Sunday at Maryland

24. Texas A&M – Could drop from polls after matchups with K-State, Kansas

25. Temple – And this is why we weren't ranking OSU/Northwestern (0-4 Big Ten)

AP Top 25

Record Pts Pvs

1. Kansas (56) 13-0 1,614 1

2. Texas (8) 13-0 1,550 2

3. Kentucky (1) 15-0 1,489 3

4. Purdue 13-0 1,457 4

5. Duke 12-1 1,348 7

6. Villanova 12-1 1,279 8

7. Syracuse 13-1 1,173 5

8. West Virginia 11-1 1,147 6

9. North Carolina 11-3 1,098 9

10. Michigan St. 11-3 1,009 11

11. Kansas St. 13-1 996 12

12. Georgetown 11-1 911 13

13. Connecticut 10-3 760 10

14. Mississippi 11-2 699 16

15. New Mexico 14-1 667 19

16. Tennessee 10-2 649 14

17. Wisconsin 12-2 526 23

18. Florida St. 12-2 446 22

19. Gonzaga 11-3 351 –

20. Georgia Tech 11-2 203 –

21. Temple 11-3 173 18

22. Texas Tech 12-2 166 20

23. Pittsburgh 12-2 156 –

24. Washington 10-3 149 17

25. BYU 14-1 145 –

Others receiving votes: Clemson 139, Texas A&M 86, Cincinnati 76, Florida 75, Baylor 73, Miami 70, Rhode Island 52, Southern Cal 46, Dayton 45, Ohio St. 42, Wake Forest 42, William & Mary 37, N. Iowa 35, UAB 29, Mississippi St. 26, Virginia Tech 20, Oklahoma St. 16, California 15, UNLV 12, Cornell 9, Butler 6, Va. Commonwealth 5, Oregon 4, Minnesota 3, Vanderbilt 1.

USA Today/ESPN Top 25

Record Pts Pvs

1. Kansas (30) 13-0 774 1

2. Texas (1) 13-0 742 2

3. Kentucky 15-0 705 3

4. Purdue 13-0 693 4

5. Duke 12-1 646 7

6. Villanova 12-1 608 8

7. Syracuse 13-1 545 5

8. West Virginia 11-1 543 6

9. North Carolina 11-3 540 9

10. Kansas State 13-1 484 12

11. Michigan State 11-3 472 11

12. Georgetown 11-1 441 13

13. Connecticut 10-3 375 10

14. New Mexico 14-1 323 17

15. Tennessee 10-2 302 14

16. Mississippi 11-2 244 21

17. Georgia Tech 11-2 234 20

18. Gonzaga 11-3 219 22

19. Florida State 12-2 140 25

20. Wisconsin 12-2 133 –

21. Clemson 12-3 113 18

22. Washington 10-3 104 16

23. Brigham Young 14-1 97 –

24. Butler 10-4 81 23

25. Temple 11-3 79 19

Others receiving votes: Pittsburgh 50, Texas Tech 42, Ohio State 41, UNLV 39, Wake Forest 36, Northern Iowa 35, Baylor 26, Florida 24, Cincinnati 19, William & Mary 19, Saint Mary's 16, Cornell 15, California 13, Texas A&M 12, Alabama-Birmingham 9, Rhode Island 9, Virginia Tech 9, Oklahoma State 8, Dayton 7, Southern California 7, Mississippi State 2.

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