Kentucky- The Wildcats edged out Alabama on Saturday and emerged as the top team in the country after Syracuse’s loss to Notre Dame. Their Saturday date at LSU could be the next threat of a UK loss.
Missouri- Their win at Baylor had the Tigers emerge as the favorites in the Big 12 and the second ranked team in the land. They have a relatively easy week ahead, with Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State as the only minor hurdle.
Kansas- The Jayhawks’ blowout home win over Baylor was followed by a gutty win at Texas to move up in the polls. Watch out for Saturday’s game against a dangerous Iowa State team, who play very well in Ames.
Murray State- With Syracuse loss over the weekend, the Racers have emerged as the lone unbeaten team in the country. All they have to do this week is beat Eastern Illinois, Tony Romo’s Alma Mater.
Florida State- After destroying North Carolina a week ago, the Seminoles went into Cameron Indoor and won at Duke to deservedly emerge in the top 25. All they play this week is a game at Wake Forest.
Stock Also Up- Ohio State, UNLV, San Diego State, Florida, Creighton, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Kansas State, Wisconsin.
Syracuse- The Orange couldn’t get anything on the offensive end in a loss to Notre Dame that ended their run atop the national rankings. The road gets tougher for the Cuse, with a game at Cincinnati tonight followed by a Saturday home game against West Virginia.
Baylor- They faced their two main competitors for the Big 12 title and lost them both, which will set them back for a while. Saturday’s home tilt with Texas will be one to watch.
Duke- Their narrow home loss to Florida State moved them down in the ACC standings and the national title picture for the time being. They play at Maryland on Wednesday, which has never been a friendly venue for the Blue Devils.
Indiana- How can you explain a loss to a team as bad as Nebraska? You can’t. One way to rebound from a defeat like that is a win in Madison against Wisconsin on Tuesday, which is a very important Big 10 game.
UConn- The Huskies dropped a game at Cincinnati, which isn’t terrible but not great, and then dropped a game in Knoxville against a sub-.500 Tennessee team. They have to bounce back on Sunday against a suddenly buzzing Notre Dame team, whom the Huskies blew out earlier this season.
Stock Also Down- Michigan State, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Louisville.
Wins of the Week
1/16- Kansas 92 Baylor 74. Marquette 74 Louisville 63. Syracuse 71 Pittsburgh 63. Missouri 70 Texas A&M 51. Rutgers 65 Notre Dame 58.
1/17- Michigan 60 Michigan State 59. Florida State 84 Maryland 70. Kentucky 86 Arkansas 63. Georgetown 83 DePaul 75. Purdue 75 Iowa 68.
1/18- Cincinnati 70 UConn 67. Nebraska 70 Indiana 69. Ole Miss 75 Mississippi State 68. San Diego State 75 New Mexico 70. UCF 68 Memphis 67.
1/19- Penn State 54 Illinois 52. UNC 82 Virginia Tech 68. Duke 91 Wake Forest 73. California 69 Washington 66. Washington State 81 Stanford 69.
1/20- Iona 91 Rider 71. Youngstown State 68 UW Milwaukee 66.
1/21- Notre Dame 67 Syracuse 58. Florida State 76 Duke 73. Missouri 89 Baylor 88. Tennessee 60 UConn 57. Arkansas 66 Michigan 64. Mississippi State 78 Vanderbilt 77. UNLV 80 New Mexico 63. Dayton 87 Xavier 72.
1/22- Virginia Tech 47 Virginia 45. Wisconsin 67 Illinois 63. NC State 78 Miami 73.
Games To Watch
Monday- Syracuse @ Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ESPN. Texas A&M @ Kansas, 9 p.m. ESPN. Iona @ Siena, 7 p.m.
Tuesday- Michigan @ Purdue, 7 p.m. ESPN. Tennessee @ Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ESPNU. Iowa State @ Texas, 9 p.m. Longhorn Network.
Wednesday- Duke @ Maryland, 9 p.m. ESPN. BYU @ Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. ESPN3. Missouri @ Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m. ESPN2.
RPI Top 25
Syracuse, Duke, Baylor, Michigan State, Kansas, Kentucky, UNLV, Seton Hall, Ohio State, Missouri, Marquette, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgetown, Southern Miss, Gonzaga, UConn, Temple, Creighton, Indiana, Florida State, Dayton, Colorado State, Kansas State, Wichita State.
Stony Brook, Dayton, Duke, Mercer, Kansas, Syracuse, Weber State, UNC-Ashville, Ohio State, Long Beach State, George Mason, UCF, NJIT, Cleveland State, Harvard, Iona, Ball State, Norfolk State, Creighton, San Diego State, Murray State, LIU Brooklyn, California, Bucknell, Kentucky, Davidson, Texas-Arlington, Mississippi Valley State, Oral Roberts, Middle Tennessee State, Saint Mary’s, Nevada.
On his radio show Sunday afternoon, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said that the Magic have inquired about an Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler trade for Dwight Howard (fast forward to about 1:30 in) trade. Smith said that Orlando has denied this has occurred, but Smith is pretty plugged in when it comes to NBA sources (he said he’d bet his house that Miami would get both LeBron James and Chris Bosh) so this rumor certainly did not come out of nowhere.
Now let’s break down the possibility for both sides. From an Orlando perspective, it would save face by getting back a star in Stoudemire but is this the best deal they could get? If they could pry either Blake Griffin from the Clippers or Andrew Bynum from the Lakers, do you take those players over Stoudemire?
Stoudemire’s knees are uninsured after his major surgeries and durability concerns will follow him for the rest of his career. Do the Magic want to take that risk and send Howard to an Eastern Conference team? It seems like a stretch. After taking just two shots in the second half of the Knicks’ double-overtime loss to Denver on Saturday night, Smith said that Stoudemire “looks demoralized. He doesn’t look into it.”
That’s why this trade makes sense from a New York perspective. While Stoudemire has earned respect by being the first superstar to sign with the Knicks in a very long time, for some reason he’s not the same player he was last year for whatever reason. He’s currently putting up career lows in points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots (not including the 2005-2006 season when he played just three games) and there doesn’t seem to be any viable explanation for why his numbers have sagged so dramatically.
The reason New York acquired Chandler is to improve on the defensive end. While that has worked to some extent, the Knicks’ defense has improved from 29th to 21st in terms of points allowed, the offense has taken a gigantic nosedive. After leading the league at over 107 points per game last season, they’re now at 94.3, which is good for 17th in the league. Something has to be done to this Knick team and a Howard trade would seemingly solve a whole host of issues. Carmelo Anthony would get more space to operate, and Howard would improve defense and rebounding and command the double-teams.
From the Magic perspective, basing your team around a declining injury risk doesn’t seem like the most prudent of decisions. Orlando may just hold on to Howard and hope for at least an Eastern Conference title to try to persuade him into staying. The bottom line is that this trade wouldn’t make much sense for the Magic and that speculation like this will run rampant for the next seven weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
Bruins Outlast Flyers To Stay In Second
After losing in overtime to the Rangers on Saturday, Boston made sure it would not lose in OT to another Eastern Conference contender. Tyler Seguin’s shootout goal gave the Bruins a wild 6-5 win over Philadelphia in a contest filled with twists and turns.
Seguin had a goal and an assist in the first period as Boston got off to a 3-1 lead after the first period. Then Flyers forward Scott Hartnell dominated the second period with a natural hat trick, three uninterrupted goals in a row, to give Philadelphia a 4-3 lead going into the final 20 minutes. Boston then scored twice in the first five minutes of the third period to take a 5-4 lead only to see Philadelphia tie it on a Maxime Talbot power play goal with 9:22 left. After a scoreless OT, it was Seguin’s shootout goal that made the difference.
Philadelphia stayed in third place in the conference right behind Boston and New York, and Bruins F Milan Lucic knows how tough the Flyers are. ”They are a team with a lot of pride,” Lucic said. “We expected them to be tough. The Flyers always bring their best. We are two of the top teams in the league. We’ve played well all season and it’s great to get a win.”
The win was more important because the team will be without D Andrew Ference for three games after being suspended for boarding Rangers D Ryan McDonagh on Saturday. The penalty came in overtime and led to the game winning Rangers goal by Marian Gaborik.
Pittsburgh Stays Hot Without Crosby
Losing a star of Sidney Crosby’s caliber is never easy, but the emergence of Evgeni Malkin as one of the league top offensive players have guided the Penguins through this adverse stretch without Crosby. Malkin had three points and the game winning goal in OT in a 4-3 win over Washington for its sixth straight win.
The winning streak has moved Pittsburgh from ninth to sixth in the Eastern Conference and Malkin has been a huge reason why. He’s been on a tear over the course of this run, with nine goals and 13 points over the last half dozen with a sparkling +11 over that span.
“I have great confidence now, you know?” Malkin said. “You win six games, I think everyone has great confidence now. I just am enjoying the game, you know? And having fun.”
Malkin has scored in every game on this winning streak, matching the record for this current season. He leads the league in points with 58 and is tied with teammate James Neal for third in the league with 26 goals. He’ll be getting a good deal of votes for the Hart (MVP) Trophy and they’d be well deserved.
“I don’t know what to say about Malkin,” said teammate Kris Letang. “He’s just playing unbelievable right now. He’s playing the best hockey I’ve seen of him.”
As long as Malkin plays like this, they may not need Crosby to contend in the Eastern Conference.
Team of the Week- Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin has clearly been huge in the team’s six-game winning streak, but players like James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury and Dustin Jeffrey have also come up big this past week. Jeffrey, the 23-year-old forward from Ontario, scored two goals and added an assist in a 5-4 shootout win over Montreal on Friday.
Forward of the Week- Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
This is beginning to get redundant, but Malkin had goals in all four Pittsburgh wins over the last week including two in Thursday’s 4-1 win over the conference leading Rangers.
Goalie of the Week- Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders
Completing the week of the Evgeni here, Nabokov has been sensational in leading the Isles to a three-game winning streak. In Saturday’s OT win over Carolina, he saved 32 of the 33 shots he faced in the 2-1 win. Thursday against Philadelphia, he registered 40 saves in a 4-1 road win over the Flyers. He then shut out Washington on Tuesday, saving all 17 shots he faced. Carolina’s Cam Ward and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne also had strong weeks.
Top Five Power Poll
1) New York Rangers (1)- The Blueshirts beat Boston on an overtime goal by Marian Gaborik on Saturday to retain the top spot in the rankings.
2) Detroit Red Wings (4)- Detroit has reeled off six straight wins to take the overall NHL points lead, and their 17-game home winning streak is awfully impressive.
3) Boston Bruins (3)- Their loss to the Rangers cost them the top spot in the rankings, but their win over Philadelphia keeps them in third. We’ll see how much Andrew Ference’s suspension hurts.
4) St. Louis Blues (5)- The Blues have won four straight and eight of 10 to get into great position in the Western Conference, but two games in two days against Detroit and Pittsburgh will be huge.
5) Chicago Blackhawks (N/R)- They’ve only won five of their last 10 and their hold on a top five spot is slipping with a whole host of teams emerging in both conferences.
Games To Watch
Monday- Detroit and St. Louis clash on the NBC Sports Network for the Western Conference lead with Ottawa travelling west to Los Angeles in an interesting nonconference battle.
Tuesday- The Blues finish their two night gauntlet at home against Pittsburgh with Boston-Washington, Nashville-Chicago and Philadelphia-Florida highlighting the schedule.