First, it's generally a busy time for government consulting which is my current profession.
Second, I'm processing the bits and pieces that I see from game action mixed with the preseason reviews from the likes of Blue Ribbon, Athlon Sports and others. That said, trends have yet to develop.
Here are 10 takeaway messages thus far.
* Syracuse earned two of their most valuable non-conference wins since 2003. Clement (a loyal 'Cuse fan who I thought was going to break my parents' television in 2003 during a tournament game between the Carmelos and Oklahoma State) and I joked about this but ultimately decided that this was the case. That said, all of this can go to waste if a player gets injured and/or the 'Cuse loses to ... say, Virginia.
* Barring injury, Blake Griffin is the best collegiate player in America. I got that one out of the way pretty quickly.
* Xavier gained at least 2 seed lines with their three wins against Missouri, Virginia Tech and Memphis in Puerto Rico. Though Memphis may be the only shoe-in to make the tournament out of the three wins, the Selection Committee loves to reward teams who play what I call "loseable games". Case in point from last season: Vanderbilt. In their 15 non-conference tilts, only 4 were against RPI sub-200 opponents and 7 were against those in the top 100. Of those 7 teams, exactly ZERO made the NCAA Tournament and Vanderbilt got a controversial #4 seed. The learning: the NCAA rewards teams who do not schedule cupcakes (and take care of business in conference). I'll never understand how USC, who played in a tougher conference with a better marquee win and tougher loseable non-conference games were placed two seed lines beneath Vanderbilt. This is a tidbit that nerdy bracketologists can talk about for hours in a forum. Eight months later, you can tell I'm over it all.
* Mike Davis threw down the gauntlet for his team in non-conference play and it had better get noticed. At Arizona. At Old Dominion. At Oklahoma (tonight). At Cincinnati. At Louisville. At Butler. And that's just through December 30.
* Wink Adams is the best point guard in the nation that you haven't really seen, unless you live out West or have an awkward sleeping schedule. Or both. His shooting will improve, but his assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounds, and steals are up from last season.
* Let's just say Stephen Curry's transition to point guard is going pretty well (7.0 assists to 2.5 turnovers per game). Andrew Lovedale doesn't mind that Curry went scoreless last night. Contrary to what some may think, Loyola (MD) did not lay out a blueprint for other teams to take note. It's called 3 v. 4 basketball and four usually routs three by about 30 points. Please don't insult Bob McKillop like that.
* If teams like Kentucky, San Diego, VCU and Old Dominion are in the at-large bid conversation come March, it's very hard to look past some debilitating losses. Eric Maynor's unconventional double-double (points and turnovers) at Rhode Island on Saturday will not help the draft stock.
* Rivals.com's #1 recruit BJ Mullens has played 29 minutes in two games, contributing nine points, four rebounds and a block. Not the start I envisioned.
* The winner of the Old Spice Classic will move up as many as 4 seed lines. Here are the teams involved: Tennessee (Sweet 16), Michigan State (Sweet 16), Georgetown (Round of 32), Gonzaga (1st Round), Maryland (Gary Williams is guaranteed to sweat through 6 suits + Vasquez is a great point if he can reduce the turnovers), Oklahoma State (team on the rise + new coach), Siena (Round of 32), Wichita State (every tournament needs a weak link).
* Hansbrough v. Harangody will NOT be the story in tonight's clash between North Carolina and Notre Dame. It's no secret that the formula to defeat Carolina is to shoot exceptionally well from the perimeter in the halfcourt set (which presupposes that you have good ballhandlers and ND has 2 playing at all times) and to limit Carolina to one shot. Texas outrebounded the Irish 44 to 35 last night and pulled down 14 offensive boards. Good luck to limiting the Tar Heels on the offensive boards (assuming they miss shots)!