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Blog Entry

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

Posted on: January 10, 2012 1:04 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 4:58 pm
 


By Gary Parrish


There are four schools -- Connecticut, Vanderbilt, Memphis and Pittsburgh -- that were ranked in the top 10 of our preseason Top 25 (and one) that are unranked in the latest Top 25 (and one). What went wrong? Can things be fixed? I spent part of this morning addressing those questions and more.

CONNECTICUT

Where were the Huskies ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 3

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with a 13-3 record.

What went wrong? The Huskies relied so heavily on Kemba Walker last season that it was foolish to think they wouldn't struggle on some level to adjust. They were baffled by UCF's zone in November, blew a big lead and lost. Then came last week's back-to-back losses at Seton Hall and Rutgers that dropped them out of the Top 25 (and one) while point guard Shabazz Napier expressed frustration with his teammates. "I try my best to be a leader even though guys don’t give me a chance to be that person," Napier told the New Haven Register. "It shows in the game, I can’t lie. When we have a tipped ball and big guys get the ball and I’m yelling for the ball back out, we’ve got a new shot clock and they go back up … that shows I’m not that much of a leader. When a play starts breaking down and I’m yelling, ‘Bring it out, bring it out,’ and Boat [Ryan Boatright] or Jeremy [Lamb] takes a shot, that just shows that I’m not a leader. It sucks, because we lose games like that."

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Alex Oriakhi is nothing more than a role player this season. He averaged 10 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes per game last season. He's averaging seven points and five rebounds in 19 minutes per game this season.
 
Can things be fixed? Of course. The roster is still loaded and capable of anything considering there are two likely lottery picks (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond) on it. Plus, the Huskies beat West Virginia on Monday while you were watching LSU not move the ball. Long as they win Saturday at Notre Dame, they'll be back in the Top 25 (and one) on Sunday night, 4-2 in the Big East and on their way to a better league record than they recorded last season when they subsequently won the NCAA tournament.

VANDERBILT

Where were the Commodores ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 7

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with an 11-4 record.

What went wrong? Festus Ezeli suffered a knee injury in the preseason. He's only played five games to date and hasn't played more than 22 minutes in any of them, meaning the Commodores have basically played the season without the services of their best rebounder and shotblocker. Three of their four losses have come with Ezeli in street clothes.

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Brad Tinsley's points and assists are slightly down, and his turnovers are slightly up. It's not that he's regressed, exactly, because he hasn't it. But there's not a lot of improvement from last year to this year, either.

Can things be fixed? Yes, I think so, because I believe a core of John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and (a healthy) Festus Ezeli is good enough to finish in the top four of the SEC and make a run in the NCAA tournament. Obviously, the Commodores will have their critics until they can quiet them in March. But they've won five straight games and seem to be playing better.

MEMPHIS

Where were the Tigers ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 9

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with a 10-5 record.

What went wrong? Josh Pastner scheduled aggressively and it backfired. The Tigers have had five opportunities to record a significant victory and fallen short each time. That -- along with inconsistent play at point guard and in the paint -- is why Memphis is no longer in the Top 25 (and one) or even getting votes in the AP or Coaches poll.

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Tarik Black was CBSSports.com's preseason Conference USA Player of the Year, but he wouldn't even make third-team all-conference if teams were selected today. The 6-foot-8 sophomore is merely averaging the same 9.1 points per game he averaged last season, and his rebounding numbers are actually down. He's only got 62 rebounds all season. He has 53 personal fouls.

Can things be fixed? Because of Conference USA, yes. The Tigers would be at risk of missing the NCAA tournament if they were starting a Big Ten or Big East schedule, but C-USA offers so few challenges. They're just going to physically overwhelm most of their opponents from here on out and probably get to 25 or 26 wins by Selection Sunday. Then it'll be up to Will Barton to carry them in the NCAA tournament. He's good enough to do it.

PITTSBURGH

Where were the Panthers ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 8

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with an 11-5 record.

What went wrong? First came the loss to Long Beach State and most of us just kinda thought it was "one of those nights." But it wasn't. It was, rather, a sign of things to come because the Panthers now have five losses to unranked teams. They're surprisingly terrible defensively, and they don't get to the line enough offensively. It has been, simply put, a mess of a season made worse because the best recruit (Khem Birch) transferred out of the program at the semester.

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Ashton Gibbs is averaging the same 17 points per game he averaged last season, but he's shooting the ball way worse. The senior guard shot 47 percent from the field and 49 percent from 3-point range last season. This season he's shooting 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.

Can things be fixed? Honestly, I doubt it. Upcoming road games at Marquette and Syracuse mean the Panthers will probably be 1-5 in the Big East heading into a Jan. 21 game against Louisville, and you just can't recover from that in this league. Barring a huge surprise, Jamie Dixon is headed for his first NIT.

Photos: US Presswire
Comments

Since: Mar 22, 2009
Posted on: January 12, 2012 11:04 am
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

Your TV must be showing old reruns...Spoon is terrible, he is lost on the court and makes freshman mental mistakes, he is out of sync with the rest of the club, not to mention poor leadership qualities. Adonis plays the ghost nicely - visible one game and invisible the next, the juco stud Simpson is a bust. If Will Bafrrton has an off game, who picks up the slack on the points? Crawford doesn't cherish the rock and has way too many turnovers. Ah - for the days of "Clean Gene"



Since: Jan 11, 2012
Posted on: January 12, 2012 10:54 am
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

Rutgers by 20 in the Pete! The 7 freshman playing for the Scarlet Knights were athletes. Pitt has stiff running the handcuff offensive set. Not a shot blocker in the gym!




Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: January 12, 2012 10:30 am
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

I agree the Tiger's record is disappointing, but I won't give up on them.  Black has come to life, Antonio and Will Barton are much improved. Rebounding (was a big problem) has improved with the addition of Hall and Simpson.  Spoon is doing fine in his role off the bench and Jackson is up and down.  I disagree with those who criticize Pastner.  We are 2-0 in conference play--and, I know others will say so what, the conference is weak.  We hear that all the time.  We beat a very good Southern Miss team last night.  Thomas, a freshman, is improving every game.  Guess I am just a optomistic homer, but don't count Memphis out come March.   



Since: Dec 13, 2011
Posted on: January 11, 2012 6:42 pm
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

I like Parrish, but this article would be non-existent if he wasn't overconfident in Vandy and Memphis every single year. I'm assuming he does this because of his previous career in Memphis. I could possibly understand seeing Vandy in the Top 10 during the preseason, but not Memphis. Pastner just is not a good coach.



Since: Mar 1, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 4:11 pm
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

Oh and by the way the trend continues as 8 of the pre-season top 15 are out, 11 of the top 20 and 14 of the top 26. Villanova? Really?



Since: Mar 1, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 4:03 pm
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

With the addition of Louisville your batting .500. too bad this isn't baseball. Si I guess the goal is NOT to be in the top 10 of the Top 25 and one pre-Season. Just ask 2010-11 Michigan State.



Since: Jan 11, 2012
Posted on: January 11, 2012 1:17 pm
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

     If you follow Pitt, you had to see this comming.  Jamie has a great record over the past 8 years.  What would Pitt's record have been If Ben Howland would have stayed?  2 or 3 trips to the final 4 and possibly and national championship.  Jamie has not adapted the program since Ben left.  He is a solid recruiter, runs great drills and practice shcedules, but when was the last time Pitt fooled anyone with strategy?  His late game "deer in the headlights" look is why we can't close out games when less than 5 points up in the last 2 minutes.
     Last year, all you had to do is pick your point guard with your center. Pitt would automatically stay with the mismatch as the pointguard finish ehr game with a basket fo two (ND, UCONN).  The freethrow incident against Butler is almost as crazy.  Why leave Nasir in the lane?  This year he clears our almost everytime there is a second foul shot (he learns the hard way).  The length of the court drive by Villinova had Gilbert Brown guarding the basket and NBA players like Sam Young and Dejuan Blair trying to stop a point guard at mid court. 
     I hope Jamie does not own firearms.  His first instinct would by to pull the trigger with the gun in the holster and shoot himself in the foot.  Pitt has not changed its "hand cuff" offense in 6 years.  When Pitt had Carl Krauser or Brandon Knight, they could break down a defense wiht the dribble late in the shot clock and get a decent look.  Gibbs is the least athletic starting guard in the big east.  Woodall is still a mistake maker in his 3rd year in the program.  Nasir plays hard, but the Pitt tradition of playing 6' 5" and under at power forward (Sam Young & Chevon Troutman)  is not enough any more.  We have been lucky to have centers that were dominant defensive rebounders ( Gary McGhee, Blair, Aaron Gray, Chris Taft, and even Ontario Lett).  This years bigs (Dante Taylor, Talib Zania, and freshman Gilbert) are not rebounders or shot blockers.  Kem was both, but Jamie would not play him more the 15 min a game.  Maybe big boy Adams will save us next year.  Jamie has to play him (his dad and Jamie are great friends).
     Jamie is a substitution jockey.  If he watches so much film, why does he not adapt?  If you are an ACC team, you can prepare for Pitt by watching film from their 2004 - 2005 games.  There will be a bunch of guys that resemble Ronald Ramon, Keith Benjamin, or Antonio Graves.  6 passes and 4 picks before anyone looks toward the basket.  Maybe the shift to the ACC will be a wake up call for Jamie (or not.)





Since: Mar 22, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:10 am
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

Pastner needs to start with tough love, and sit Spoon and or Tarik Black if they don't get energized.
Black was a pre-season C-USA first team and now he is just a dream, they must dump the ball down to the big guys
which will get them more involved. That will open up the lane and play for the guards. Jackson spent the summer
working on his game, he has morphed back into dispear, pushing too hard, Crawford and the Barton bros. are
holding the team together. They are on a four game winning streak but might be heavily challenged tonight
vs. So. Miss at home.



Since: Dec 29, 2011
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:02 am
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

Vandy showed how good they were by dismantling Marquette. They'll be there come March. Other's have said Pitt is doing it with smoke and mirrors. I don't think they know their arse from a hole n the ground. Pitt wins with defense, but come tourney time every team plays great defense or they get knocked off. Pitts problem is not enough scorers actually none other than Gibbs



Since: Dec 29, 2011
Posted on: January 11, 2012 9:57 am
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked

In his and Goodman's 25 and 1 poll, so it doesn't mean anything. But I do believe without Walker teams are keying on Napier, and to be honest he's a far cry from Walker. Kemba drew defenses and kicked to open ppl, napier doesn't have that vision from the games I've seen.


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