Dick Jerardi: No answers found in opening NCAA tournaments

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Villanova's Antonio Pena had 17 points and 16 rebounds against Mississippi in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. (Ricardo Arduengo/AP)

TRYING TO KEEP all of these early season tournaments straight is a prescription for dizziness. What we know for sure is Villanova finished first in its tournament, Saint Joseph's fourth and La Salle fifth.

What does it all mean? Well, we already knew Villanova is really good. The Hawks still have more questions than answers. And the Explorers have a senior core that really should get them into a postseason tournament for the first time since 1992.

Which team did better? St. Joe's finished fourth in the Virgin Islands, but went 1-2. La Salle finished fifth in Charleston, S.C., but went 2-1. I would say La Salle. Nobody remembers where anybody finished in these tournaments (unless you won the championship). The records linger.

The Wildcats are the Noah's Ark of the Big 5. They have two of everything. And all those who thought Antonio Pena would be the MVP of the Puerto Rico Tip-off, please raise your hands.

Pena had 17 points and 16 rebounds in the championship game against Mississippi. He looked and played like a different player than in previous seasons. Just what Jay Wright needs - another weapon for a team that is unbeaten but should be far better in February than it is now.

La Salle's visit to Villanova on Saturday is intriguing. The Wildcats should win, but nobody is playing better in the city than La Salle senior Rodney Green.

Green has an old man's game in an amazingly athletic body. In an era where just about everybody rushes his game, Green's game is relaxed, understated and very effective. He really does let the game come to him unless the situation demands he take over.

Depending on how many games La Salle plays, Green could finish with 2,000 points. But his season will be judged by La Salle's record. With three eventual 1,000-point scorers (Kimmani Barrett, Ruben Guillandeaux, Yves Mekongo) and freshman big man Aaric Murray alongside, Green really is in position to have a crescendo of a finish.

 

Speaking of tournaments

 

Don't you love these predetermined matchups? Even though Duquesne went to Iowa and won in the CBE Classic, Iowa went to Kansas City on Monday for the privilege of getting crushed by Texas, 85-60.

The next time somebody tells you college basketball has an even playing field, please cite this example of how the BCS conferences control basketball. Even when they lose, they win.

 

Good guy gets chance

 

I'm always happy when assistants who have paid their dues get a chance to run a program. So it was nice to see Cardinal O'Hara High grad Sean Kearney at Hawk Hill last Tuesday with his Holy Cross team.

The longtime assistant at Notre Dame and Delaware, among other places, is still looking for his first win. But it is very early.

"I think as we get a better feeling of what I'm trying to do with them, I think we'll improve each night," Kearney said after the St. Joe's game. "I want them rewarded. It just may not come a lot in November and December. Ideally, what I have to remind myself is that we're in the Patriot League and we've got to be prepared to play there."

 

Watch out for CAA

 

When Virginia Commonwealth, the Colonial's flagship program, lost Eric Maynor, the league figured to take a step back. Look again.

VCU crushed Oklahoma, 82-69. Wonder if OU coach Jeff Capel would like to reconsider the homecoming.

William & Mary and Hofstra both gave Connecticut good games, and W&M beat a very good Richmond team.

And then there is George Mason, which did everything but beat Villanova; GMU then beat Indiana.

By the way, IU finished last in Puerto Rico, which suggests the Tom Crean rebuild is far from finished. In the second round, the Hoosiers lost to Patrick Chambers' Boston University team.

 

Don't sleep on Memphis

 

Another popular assumption is that Memphis will ease back into semi-oblivion now that John Calipari has crossed state lines into Kentucky. Well, the Tigers nearly beat Kansas last week. And young coach Josh Pastner, who may be the hardest working guy in the business, assembled a recruiting class ranked No. 1 by many experts in such things.

 

It's very early, but ...

 

Going into the season, I thought Ohio State junior guard Evan Turner might be the country's best player. Now, I am really starting to think it.

Turner had a double-double in each of his first four games and one triple-double.

ESPN's Jay Bilas wrote that Turner reminded him of Washington's Brandon Roy. I think that's fair. And since Roy is one of my favorite players of this young century, you know what I think of Turner.

Last season, Turner led the Big Ten in scoring, was third in rebounding, fourth in steals, eighth in assists, ninth in field goal percentage and 10th in free throw percentage. Other than that, he didn't do much.

 

Spartans in Atlantic City

 

Michigan State's national runners-up will be at Boardwalk Hall this weekend in the Legends Classic. The Spartans play Florida on Friday after Rutgers plays Massachusetts in the first game.

 

This and that

 

* Syracuse really did start the second half against UNC with a 22-1 run in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic at MSG. How good was MVP Wesley Johnson? Move the 'Cuse right near the top in the Big East.

* The Big East started the season 35-0.

* The Big East had the most players on opening-day NBA rosters with 55, followed by the ACC (53) and Pac-10 (50). A closer look at the numbers demonstrates that the Pac-10, with just 10 teams, has more per-team representation, followed by the ACC (12 teams) and Big East (16 teams).

* Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon's 163 wins are the most ever by a coach after six seasons. The Panthers have made the Sweet 16 5 of the last 8 years. Only Duke and Kansas (six each) have done better.

* Nine schools have won 25 or more games each of the last 3 years - Xavier, Butler, BYU, Davidson, Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and UCLA.

* Remember Xavier's Jordan Crawford? He was the Indiana transfer who dunked on LeBron this summer. The tape was suppressed briefly. Well, Crawford can do more than dunk. He can ball a little. In his first three games for X, he averaged 21.3 points, shot 57.8 percent overall and 53.6 percent from the arc.

* Xavier, under new coach Chris Mack, is outscoring teams by 36.7 points per game and outrebounding them by 16.0. They are averaging 96.3 points. They play Marquette tomorrow in the Old Spice Tournament in Orlando.

* Bizarre stat of the early season - Tulane senior point guard Kevin Sims has scored 1,000 points. He missed his first 22 shots of the season before hitting his last two against Penn State, including a game-clinching three. Then, he hit his first two shots (both threes) against La Salle on Sunday before missing his last five.