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Sully's Court: NC State, Northeastern, Butler among many impressive squads

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff  January 14, 2013 10:11 AM

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The Monday college basketball report where I can’t contain myself, feeling good about a lot of teams.

Five (plus five more) rising:

BYU: The Fighin’ Ainges appeared to be in rebuilding mode, but they’ve kicked it into high gear as WCC play started. They’ve won six in a row (four in the WCC), including an impressive 82-64 victory over Santa Clara Saturday.

Butler: The Bulldogs have quickly established themselves in the Atlantic 10, winning their first two conference games on the road at Saint Joseph’s and Dayton, and have won 11 in a row overall. Both games were tough affairs in which Butler proved to be the more mentally tough team. Rotnei Clark, who was injured when he was fouled against Dayton, is looking like player of the year material in the conference. Known as a shooter, he has proved to be quicker than expected, able to score off the dribble and find open teammates.

Evansville: The Purple Aces were projected to be a cut below the best teams in the MVC, but after winning at Northern Iowa and upsetting Wichita State, the Aces are 4-1 in the league with the only loss coming to Creighton.

Miami: The Hurricanes beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill and then held off Maryland 54-47 in Coral Gables to get to 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since they joined the league in 2004-05.

Mississippi: The Rebels have won five in a row and opened SEC play by winning at Tennessee and then upsetting Missouri in Oxford, Miss.

North Carolina State The Wolfpack upset top-ranked Duke Saturday and have now won 10 in a row, the longest winning streak since 1988-89, and are 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since that same season. Many people were calling the Pack overrated and questioned their chemistry and the coaching of Mark Gottfried when they started 3-2, but that seems like a long time ago.

Northeastern: The Huskies had a five-game losing streak (four at home) but are now 4-0 in the CAA with road victories at George Mason, Drexel and Towson.

Southern: Is this the days of Ben Jobe and Bobby Phills? The Jags are 5-0 in the SWAC and have won seven in a row and 10 of 11, including a victory at Texas A&M (which won at Kentucky Saturday).

Southern Mississippi: The Golden Eagles, always flying under the radar, are 13-4 after plastering Houston Saturday. They’ve won five in a row and 21 straight at home.

Stony Brook: The Seawolves are the team to beat in America East after they opened the league season with three easy victories over New Hampshire, Binghamton, and Hartford.

Texas A&M: The Aggies surprised everyone by being competitive in SEC football. But basketball? The Aggies obliterated Arkansas in their first SEC game at home and then won at Kentucky Saturday. Nearly unthinkable. Would it be possible for Coach Cal to bring in new players at this point?

Five falling:

Georgia Tech: It’s beginning to look like a Rambling Wreck again as the Yellow Jackets are now 0-3 in the ACC after blowing an 11-point lead and losing to Virginia Tech at home. It doesn’t get any easier with road games against Duke and North Carolina next.

Illinois: What a disastrous week for the Illini. First they lost at home to Minnesota 84-67, then they were routed on the road against Wisconsin 74-51.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks seemed cursed on the basketball court ever since they left the ACC way back when. They qualify as a Fatal Flaw school. They opened the SEC season with losses to Mississippi State and Auburn (in Columbia, for goodness sakes). Frank Martin may never smile again in 2013.

South Florida: At least the weather’s warm. A year after a surprising NCAA bid, the Bulls have lost their first three Big East games and couldn’t compete with Louisville on Saturday, scoring 15 points in the first half before losing 64-38.

Vanderbilt: What a bad week in Nashville. First the Commodores lost to Kentucky partially because the officials missed a shot clock violation (most likely because the clock is in an unusual position at their strange home court); then they lost at Arkansas 56-33 as a team known for sharp-shooting, made only 25 percent of its field goals and narrowly missed the school record for fewest points in a game (it’s 31).

The week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Vacated (for now). I still really like Murray State, but the Racers lost at home to Eastern Kentucky and struggled to beat Austin Peay on the road. Belmont, also from the OVC, is a candidate.

This week’s Final Four: Indiana, Michigan, Duke, Creighton

This week’s national champion: Indiana. The Hoosiers had a powerful victory over Minnesota at home Saturday.

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