More than a team, more than a coach, more than a theme, more than any team Sal Selvaggio and I rank as the surprise in our weekly Sweat Barometer, this college hoops season has been about Jimmer Fredette. How far is his range? How deep can he take BYU in the tourney? What kind of NBA prospect is he? What does his girlfriend look like ? LaVell Edwards and Shawn Bradley are pretending to play guitar in really bad remakes of Bon Jovi songs, all in the name of Jimmer worship.
Naturally, if you check out the odds at The Greek to win the Wooden Award as college basketball's best player, Jimmer is at -250; next best is Jared Sullinger from Ohio State at +250 (who wasn't even on the preseason list of finalists), followed by Duke's Nolan Smith at +500. It's worth noting -- so the point I eventually make will seem that much more brilliant -- that on the preseason list Smith was overshadowed by Kyle Singler. And, if Kyrie Irving doesn't hurt his toe, he's probably giving Fredette a run for his money, not Smith. Bringing up the rear, other than the field at +1000, is Kemba Walker, at +2500.
BYU is No. 7 in the country. Chances are good the Cougars will end up as a 2-seed, no worse than a No. 3 seed if they don't tank the rest of the season. For a little history lesson, of the past 10 Wooden Award winners, only two have come from teams that were lower than No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament: Andrew Bogut of sixth-seeded Utah in 2005 and Kevin Durant of fourth-seeded Texas in 2007.
"It's a no brainer he's going to win," says the Las Vegas Hilton's Ed Salmons. "There's no value in anyone else. ESPN is like Jimmer TV, that's all you see. Can you imagine if this guy played at UConn? Or for the UConn women's team? He'd be on even more."
Ed Salmons, ladies and gentlemen, providing expert odds breakdowns and media analysis.
Fredette fever is only natural among fans, bloggeratti and the television machine. A 6-foot-2 white gunner averaging 27.3 ppg? Come on! Nearly every sportswriter in America is thinking they could actually be Jimmer if just maybe they had gotten a little more encouragement in high school.
But all this Jimmer-time got me thinking: He's filling a void for something that goes beyond keyboard jockey lamenting what could have been. We're talking about Jimmer because, well, there's no great team to talk about (see the e-mail address for your notes, Buckeyes fans). Seriously, would anyone stack Ohio State up with dominant undefeated teams of years past? A one-point win over Northwestern? Three-point wins over Minnesota and Penn State? Blowing a 15-point lead to Wisconsin? I wouldn't. This Duke team had a chance to be something special before Irving was injured. The Blue Devils are still good -- a true threat to repeat -- but with Irving they were truly dynamic.
"It's not like seasons past where there is a dominant team," says Sal. "I think Duke from last year could crush all these top-five teams. Kansas could crush all these teams. Kentucky from last season could, too. I would still favor Duke from last year over Ohio State. If Syracuse had ended the season healthy I would have favored them, too."
Sal has a good point. At least according to margins by which teams cover the spread, which is one way to show how dominant a squad can be, last season's hoopsters were better. At this time last year, there were eight AP Top 25 teams in the Sweat Barometer Top 25, as opposed to six this season. But there were also four in the top five (only one this year) and four top 10 teams (only two this year).
No wonder we can't stop talking about Jimmer. He's the most dominant force in college hoops right now.
The Streak Report
Each week Jason Gilbert from Streak for the Cash will break down how college hoops has treated Streakers lately:
While this week was pretty rough on us at Streak Headquarters, with public favorites winning a majority of their games, we were saved by the always reliable Big East Conference.
Both Seton Hall and St. John's came through for us. The Pirates bested Rutgers on the road as three-point dogs and Steve Lavin's Johnnies had a huge win over Connecticut at Madison Square Garden, also as three-point home 'dogs. Both teams took down over 91 percent of Streakers.
That proves one thing: The StreakMaster always bounces back!
Records and RPI are through Tuesday's games.