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Many NFL betting experts are already comparing the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles to the NBA’s Miami Heat after their flurry of moves during free agency this preseason. That isn’t necessarily a good thing for the Eagles considering the Heat fell short in their quest for the NBA championship this past June. But you can bet Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid and his team would be more than happy to be playing in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on February 5.
The Duke Blue Devils (35-5, 13-3 ACC) are probably the best team in the ACC and they may also be the best in the nation. Last season, the Devils tied for first in the ACC and then went to the Big Dance where they won it all. You wouldn’t say last season that Duke was the best team in the country, but they proved to play the best when everything was on the line. It was a validation of sorts for their coach as in recent years Mike Krzyzewski’s teams had been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the early rounds. People were starting to wonder about the strength of the program. Now they’re wondering if the word “repeat” will be in their vocabulary this season.
Going into the NCAA Tournament last year everything looked good for the Michigan State Spartans (28-9, 14-4 Big Ten). They finished tied for first with Purdue in the Big Ten and in last NCAA Tournament had made it to the national title game. Thus, most folks expected the Spartans to go all the way. But it all came to a screeching halt when Michigan State lost to Butler 52-50 in the Final Four. How good are the Spartans this year? There’s a lot expected of this team that has not missed a bid to the Big Dance since 1997. One thing is just about certain, they won’t miss one this season either.
Are the Kansas State Wildcats (29-8, 11-5 Big 12) better than the Kansas Jayhawks? It depends on who you talk to, which means that debatable question will be answered when the entire season and post season is over. We do know that last year the Wildcats tied for second in the conference, while the Jayhawks won the conference regular season crown and tournament title. We also know that KSU lost to Kansas both times in the regular season and in the Big 12 Tournament. The other thing that we know about last year was that the Wildcats got to the Elite Eight at the Big Dance while the Jayhawks were out after round two. The final thing that’s known is that KSU had its best season ever last year. Things are looking up for the Cats.
The Kentucky Wildcats (35-3, 14-2 SEC) finished first in the SEC East in 2009-2010 and then won their conference tournament, beating Mississippi State in OT 75-74. The Cats then went to the Big Dance where they hammered opponents, beating East Tennessee State 100-71 Wake Forest 90-60 and Cornell 62-45. In the Elite Eight, Kentucky lost to West Virginia 73-66. It was a good but disappointing run for the Wildcats and their new coach John Calipari.
Although some might think that the Memphis Tigers’ (24-10, 13-3 C-USA) second place finish and trip to the NIT translated into disappointing season, it was actually a pretty good accomplishment as the team had to deal with coach John Calipari’s move to Kentucky. Rookie head coach Josh Pastner did a good job of keeping the team on track overall and in recruiting for the next season. Of course, the disappointment came from the fact that Memphis in the four seasons before had made it to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 once, Elite Eight twice and Title Game Once. Plus they had dominated their conference. For those who want to know when the Tigers will get back to the top of C-USA and also appear next at the Big Dance, the answer is this year.
The Baylor Bears (28-8, 11-5 Big 12) made it to the Big Dance last year, a place they’d been only five times before and just once since the dawn of the new millennium. They had a good run in the tournament as the Bears, who had tied for second in the Big 12, beat Sam Houston State 68-59, Old Dominion 76-68 and St. Mary’s 72-49 before losing to Duke 78-71 in the Regional Finals. Baylor had never before been to the Elite Eight or the Sweet 16. It was the best season the Bears had seen under head coach Scott Drew who has been at the helm for seven years. It looks like despite some important loses that Baylor will have the manpower to compete for the Big 12 title and go deep into the NCAA Tournament again.