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Tag:WCC
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:00 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 5:56 pm
 

Saint Mary's loss gives more hope to Zags Streak

By Jeff Goodman

Gonzaga still has a shot to extend The Streak. 

After last night's shocking loss by Saint Mary's at home against Loyola Marymount, the 'Zags can move within a half-game of the Gaels with a road victory tonight against a Santa Clara team that is winless in WCC play. 

Just a week ago, it seemed far-fetched to think Mark Few could run the program's streak of consecutive WCC regular-season titles to a dozen. Then the Zags took care of Saint Mary's in Spokane -- and the Gaels lost at LMU and also may have lost key starter Stephen Holt, who suffered a knee injury and won't play against Murray State this weekend. 

As I noted last week on my trip out to Spokane, this is a Gonzaga team that has found a way to remain under the radar despite being 20-4 overall (it's the 15th consecutive season the Zags have won at least 20). Maybe it was the losses to Michigan State and Illinois -- or the league setbacks at Saint Mary's and BYU (two difficult places to play). Or maybe it was the fact that the Gaels were dominating the WCC and unbeaten at 11-0 until last week. 

But Gonzaga's freshmen guards -- Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell -- have matured  and the Zags have a couple of experienced guys up front in Robert Sacre and Elias Harris that are capable of playing with just about anyone. Pangos averaged 24 points, 5.5 assists and didn't turn the ball over at all in the last two wins against Saint Mary's and LMU. 

The Zags, with a strong finish in the final five regular-season games, can make it 12 consecutive seasons. 

Just one shy of UCLA's record of 13 straight league crowns back in the glory days from 1967-79. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:41 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 10:48 am
 

San Diego State's Fisher thriving in bridge year

Put Fisher as a top-five Coach of the Year candidate for sure. (Getty Images)

By Jeff Goodman

Steve Fisher was reluctant to use the word "rebuilding" connected with this team after San Diego State's veteran coach lost four starters -- including lottery pick Kawhi Leonard -- following last season. 

"I was a bit nervous," he admitted. 

A bridge year is a more appropriate term. 

Whatever the case, the Aztecs coaching staff privately hoped they could extend their streak of 20-plus win seasons and also get to the NIT. Fisher has already won 20 games with a half-dozen regular-season contests left on the slate -- and the Aztecs were ranked 13th in the nation prior to Saturday's last-second road loss at UNLV. 

"We've got good players," Fisher said after the loss. 

Good players. He's right, but that's usually not enough to be ranked in the Top 25. 

Fisher deserves heavy consideration for National Coach of the Year for what he's done thus far this season. Usually when a program like San Diego State loses guys like Leonard, Malcolm Thomas, D.J. Gay and Billy White, it quickly becomes nationally irrelevant. 

Instead, the Aztecs are 20-4 and are tied with UNLV and New Mexico atop the Mountain West heading into Wednesday's home matchup with the Lobos. 

No one realized that junior guard Chase Tapley (16.2 ppg) would quickly turn into one of the elite guards on the west coast or that athletic sophomore Jamaal Franklin (16 ppg, 7.3 rpg) would emerge as a big-time player after limited playing time last season. 

Fisher has done this with virtually nothing up front. Tim Shelton gets the most out of his ability, but he's had multiple knee injuries that have turned him into an undersized grinder who isn't a threat on the offensive end. Fisher was so thin on the frontline that he wound up taking LSU one-year transfer Garrett Green and has started him 15 games this season. The 6-foot-4 Franklin has been forced to play power forward much of the time due to the lack of quality big men. 

Next year was supposed to be the year that San Diego State was back. 

Tapley and Franklin will be upperclassmen, fellow starters James Rahon and Xavier Thames will also be back. 

Fisher will have transfers Dwayne Polee (St. John's) and J.J. O'Brien (Utah) eligible from the outset and big man James Johnson (Virginia) will be available after the first semester. 

"We'll be more talented, but the key will be the chemistry and playing together," Tapley said. "I honestly think we have the talent next season to go all the way to the Final Four." 

But Tapley and his teammates aren't thinking about next year just yet. 

Posted on: February 13, 2012 9:47 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 11:35 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 13



By Matt Norlander

I love Marchuary. You see those games over the weekend? Lots of shift and results of note. Felt like March. But it’s February. Hence: Marchuary. Sounds terrible, but let’s roll with it. Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, so I had to dress up the graphic nice and romantic for you. I’ll have Valentine’s Day-themed post coming, too. It’s already done, but I’d rather save it for the 14th and all, you know?

It’s now, officially, less than a month until Selection Sunday, which means we’ve got only three more editions of the Power Pyramid remaining. I’m always taken aback by how fast February moves, as if someone’s TiVo’ing the season and got two arrows boo-booping through out of angst and anticipation for the real show in March. I still maintain the teams here, a good cluster of them, will be heard from and do damage in this year's bracket. Let's see who's in the top 15 this week.

Top Tier

1. UNLV (22-4). A Sentence: A one-week break and UNLV returns to the top, where it’s likely to remain the rest of the regular season. A Statistic: Ask a coach the two things he wants out of his team more than anything — aside from the obvious of making as many baskets as possible. The two things? Don’t let the other team get offensive rebounds and don’t turn the ball over. UNLV is so good because Mike Moser is the third-best d-boarder in the nation (27.9 percent), and starting 1 Justin Hawkins is top-10 in turnover percentage, only coughing it up on 8.2 possessions for every 100. The Schedule: at TCU, Tuesday; at New Mexico, Saturday.

2. Saint Mary’s (23-3). A Sentence: The reason why I’ve enjoyed tracking non-BCS teams so much this year, you can make the argument six or seven teams were the best, and Saint Mary’s is still in the thick of that discussion. A Statistic: Is it Rob Jones, not Matthew Dellavedova, who’s the most valuable Gael? Jones is top-three in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and assists for this team. The Schedule: vs. Loyola Marymount, Wednesday; at Murray State, Saturday.

3. San Diego State (20-4). A Sentence: As far as I’m concerned, barring a real collapse, SDSU locked up an at-large Saturday with how it played against UNLV. A Statistic: Despite this good year, SDSU is not on KenPom.com’s good side. It started out the season as the No. 54 team, it’s never been better than 48, and as of today it’s 56th. The Schedule: vs. New Mexico, Wednesday; at Air Force, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

Temple is looking pretty these days. (US PRESSWIRE)

4. Murray State (24-1). A Sentence: Tennessee State did a great job getting that win Thursday night, but TSU is no world beater, and so Murray has to take a hit this week. A Statistic: Looking ahead, regardless of who reps the Ohio Valley in the NCAAs this year, there’s history on the line. After going 19 years between wins in the Big Dance, the Ohio Valley’s now had a team win a game three years in a row. It’s never happened in four straight seasons. You’d think chances are fairly decent with the year Murray State’s had.  The Schedule: at Southeast Missouri State, Wednesday; vs. Saint Mary’s, Saturday.

5. Temple (19-5). A Sentence: I’m claiming Temple as my own now, considering I never kicked it out of the Pyramid and it’s clear Dunphy’s 8-2 A10 team is just as good as last year’s group. A Statistic: Yes, the Atlantic 10 had been pretty muddied up until this past weekend, but the Owls are now in control, and here’s why they should get a good seed. With an SOS of 21 according to KenPom, I think a five or a six is in store (this is me assuming they lose only one more game before the NCAAs). The Schedule: at St. Bonaventure, Wednesday; vs. Duquesne, Saturday.

6. Wichita State (22-4). A Sentence: Been awesome to watch the Shockers play themselves into the role of trendy mid-major sleeper. A Statistic: Joe Ragland has a true shooting percentage of 69.3, which is the second-best in the country. Yeah, that’s awesome. And he’s only behind Ricardo Ratliffe (73.1). Here’s the kicker: Ratliffe’s a big who bolts himself to the paint. Ragland a 6-foot guard who throws it up from everywhere. Truly remarkable. The Schedule: vs. Missouri State, Wednesday; at Davidson, Saturday.

7. Gonzaga (20-4). A Sentence: The Zags have been building to something very nice all season, but I get the feeling most won’t fall for this team until it reaches the Sweet 16 again. A Statistic: And on that note, only twice in the past 10 years have the Bulldogs made it to the second weekend, never beyond the Sweet 16. They’ve become a March staple but to me it feels like a bit of crying wolf these days whenever anyone really tries to prop up Mark Few's team as a serious March threat. The Schedule: at Santa Clara, Thursday; at San Francisco, Saturday.

We've loved Gonzaga all season long, but can this year be different from others? (US PRESSWIRE)

8. Oral Roberts (23-5). A Sentence: If you can believe it, the first regular-season conference title should be wrapped up this week, when ORU beats IUPU Fort Wayne and wins the Summit. A Statistic: ORU is a top-15 KenPom team in effective field goal percentage, free-throw percentage, two-point percentage and block percentage. No one else is so elite in four offensive categories. This team is no joke whatsoever. The Schedule: at IUPU Fort Wayne, Wednesday; vs. Akron, Saturday.

9. Harvard (21-3). A Sentence: I saw this squad in person Friday night, a night before it lost to Princeton, and I’m selling on them for now. A Statistic: I mentioned the loss at Princeton. Harvard snake-bitten at Jadwin, where it hasn’t won since 1989. The Schedule: vs. Brown, Friday; vs. Yale, Saturday.

10. New Mexico (20-4). A Sentence: I still say there’s an MWC Power Three, even if everyone else is giving all the love to San Diego State and UNLV. A Statistic: If the Lobos can’t get widespread respect, it may be due to the team’s turnover ways. UNM gives it away now 21.3 percent of the time, more than any Pyramid team. The Schedule: at San Diego State, Wednesday; vs. UNLV, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Creighton (21-5). A Sentence: I didn’t have any issue with Greg McDermott getting aggressive with his son during Saturday’s loss to Wichita State. A Statistic: Creighton averages 80 points per game, which is top-10 in the nation. But in its five losses? 64.6. The Schedule: at Southern Illinois, Tuesday; vs. Long Beach State, Saturday.

12. Southern Miss (21-4). A Sentence: I’d say Southern Miss needs two more wins this week, and then it’s about as close to a lock as a C-USA can be. A Statistic: Southern Miss is 8-2 through its first 10 Conference USA games. It’s never had a start this good in-league. The Schedule: vs. Tulsa, Wednesday; at Houston, Saturday.

13. Virginia Commonwealth (22-5). A Sentence: Well, well, well, look who just showed up at the party. A Statistic: Since they’re new to the Pyramid, you probably want to know what they do best. The answer: turn teams over. Shaka Smart’s teams gets a TO on 27.3 percent of opponents’ possessions, third-best in the country. The 15.7-percent steal rate is No. 2 in the nation, behind East Tennessee State. The Schedule: at George Mason, Tuesday; vs. Northern Iowa, Friday.

14. Middle Tennessee State (23-4): A Sentence: I know this: Kermit Davis’ team is going to be a formidable 13 or 14 seed. A Statistic: With 15 points and seven rebounds per game, LeRon Dendy (formerly of Iowa State) has been among the best transfer stories this season nobody’s paid attention to. The Schedule: vs. Florida Atlantic, Saturday.

15. Long Beach State (19-6). A Sentence: The 49ers made the inaugural Pyramid on Nov. 21, then promptly fell out … until making their grand return this week. A Statistic: Why’d LBSU get put back into the rankings this week? They’re undefeated in conference play — something no other Pyramid team can lay claim to. The Schedule: at Creighton, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Cleveland State, Iona. In: Virginia Commonwealth, Long Beach State.
♦ It was appropriate last week’s two teams who didn’t feel like they belonged, Cleveland State (14) and Iona (15) promptly got the boot this week.
♦ And Ohio, who has been as close to inclusion as any team, essentially ruined its chances with back-to-back losses.

Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:55 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 1:04 pm
 

Mark Few isn't going anywhere -- ever

By Jeff Goodman

SPOKANE, Wash. - Now I get it. 

Mark Few's name is seemingly always out there circulating in late-March and throughout April. When Arizona was looking for a coach a couple years ago, Few's name was near the top of the list. Same for Indiana and, of course, Oregon. 

Few isn't going anywhere. Ever. 

Trust me on this one. 

I never quite understood it, but after taking my first trip to Spokane for the Zags' win over Saint Mary's last night, I'll no longer question why Few spurns just everyone. 

Life is good for Few in Spokane. 

No, life is great

He's an outdoors man, a family man, one of the few in this industry who seem to walk the walk and truly put the balance of work and family from words into action. 

"He sees things in a different light than most people," said Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti. "And he has the balance to make it work." 

There's multiple fishing spots an hour away in just about every direction. He wakes up, steps outside his log cabin and looks out into a picturesque view of the valley. 

"The worst day of the year for me is the first day of school," Few said to me a few hours prior to Thursday night's win over the Gaels. "And the best day is the last day of school." 

That's because the 48-year-old Few has a chance to spend more time with his four young children (ages 3 to 12). On Wednesday night, just 24 hours or so before the Zags biggest game of the season, he could be found at his oldest son A.J's trumpet recital. He heads to his favorite lunch spot and no one bothers him as he blends in with all the natives. 

He'll never be confused with Tom Izzo for his unrelenting work ethic, but that doesn't bother him. He's at peace with himself and what he does to keep the program as one of the elite and most consistent in the country. He doesn't have to go out and speak to alumni on a nightly basis like some coaches, but he has helped organize an annual Coaches vs. Cancer event that has raised more than $5 million -- second only to Syracuse. 

Few understands what he has and is more than just content with it. The Zags have one of the elite student sections in the nation, Few is able to take private plans just about everywhere he needs to go out recruiting -- and his team charters just about everywhere as well. 

Few's an icon in these parts, having taken this program to an unparalleled level for a non-BCS outfit. There is the 334-87 overall record. There's been an NCAA appearance every single season he's been at the helm and also that 11-year streak of winning a league title that's in jeopardy with the Zags currently trailing Saint Mary's by one game. 

Those will criticize him for his inability to get to a Final Four, but Few isn't consumed by it. Instead, he beckons back to the consistency for this program, one that has become a fixture in the Top 25 over the past decade or so. 

Few could have gone to Indiana and had an opportunity to play in the Big Ten. He could have gone to Arizona and had a chance to regularly compete for Final Fours. He could have gone back home to Oregon, where he went to school. It's a stone's throw from where his parents reside. 

But he opted to remain in Spokane -- and he's never leaving.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:06 am
Edited on: February 10, 2012 1:17 am
 

Gonzaga keeps The Streak alive

By Jeff Goodman

SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga's streak isn't over yet. 

A year ago, the Zags made a late run after trailing Saint Mary's by three games to claim a share of the WCC title. It was the 11th consecutive season that Mark Few's team had sat at the top of the WCC, just two shy of UCLA's record of 13. 

Few and his team got blasted by 21 at Saint Mary's last month and then dropped one a couple weeks ago in Provo to BYU while the Gaels rolled through the league slate, winning their first 11 games. 

A two-game edge with five to play. 

But the 'Zags kept their hopes alive on Thursday night in front of a sold-out crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center -- and one of the most rabid and entertaining student sections I've ever seen. 

It was freshman point guard Kevin Pangos, who has fallen off the national radar since his nine-trifecta performance against Washington State on Nov. 15, who led the 'Zags to a 73-59 win over Saint Mary's. 

Few was upset that his team didn't play tough against BYU -- and they were manhandled on the road in Moraga. But they came out with plenty of intensity in what was the most important game of the season -- and knocked off a Saint Mary's team that came in with a No. 13 ranking and a 12-game winning streak.

That streak is now history. 

But The Streak remains alive.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 6, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 1:43 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 12



By Matt Norlander

The Super Bowl set all of us back a little bit. I got around to Power Pyramid sorting this morning, and here’s what we have: 15 teams that have pretty much separated themselves. Yeah, a few fringers and teams that just missed out are there, but not like the mainstays who’ve been paying rent for well over a month.

We also have a new top-ranked team.

Top Tier

1. Murray State (23-0). A Sentence: I think I’ll make the rule now that, if you get to February undefeated, you take the top spot(s) in the Pyramid. A Statistic:  Including Saint Mary’s, the average KenPom ranking of the teams Murray State has left on its schedule: 173. More and more I begin to doubt this team can get a 3 seed if it runs the table.  The Schedule: vs. Tennessee State, Thursday; vs. Austin Peay, Saturday.

2. Saint Mary’s (22-2). A Sentence: To put it is clearly as can be, I didn’t ever think SMC would reach these kind of heights this season.  A Statistic: The Gaels are not the biggest or tallest team, but they grab 73.7 percent of their defensive-rebound opportunities. I think that’s the biggest aspect to their success. Randy Bennett’s teams have never rebounded like this before. The Schedule: at Gonzaga, Thursday; vs. Santa Clara, Saturday.

3. UNLV (21-4). A Sentence:  When it lost to San Diego State a few weeks ago I didn’t flinch, but another L, this one at Wyoming, forces me to shift the playing pieces. A Statistic: Since the Mountain West is just an eight-team league now, it’s actually got a schedule where the second half mirrors the first. The league just finished the first half of conference play, so now everyone will go through the same eight-game cycle again, only switching home/away teams. The Schedule: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Harvard (20-2). A Sentence: Ivy play comes to a head when the Crimson get a tough road game at Penn Friday, and that’s going to be the game that essentially decides of Harvard cruises to a tournament bid. A Statistic: It’s the defense that’s getting it done. Harvard’s not ranked in the top 25 in any tempo-free category. The Schedule: at Penn, Friday; at Princeton, Saturday.

5. Creighton (21-3). A Sentence: Creighton, like a lot of Pyramid teams lost this week, so it’s not really warranted to shake the cage too much. A Statistic: Creighton’s lack of urgency on defense is what came back to kill it in losing at Northern Iowa. The Panthers only turned the ball over on 3.3 percent of their possessions, and Creighton is ranked 336th in turnover percentage. The Schedule: at Evansville, Tuesday; vs. Wichita State, Saturday.

6. San Diego State (20-3). A Sentence: I feel a little dirty keeping SDSU this high after it barely got out alive playing at home against Boise State. A Statistic: Steve Fisher now has seven straight 20-win seasons at a place that was a miserable basketball school before he got there. What a coaching job. The Schedule: at UNLV, Saturday.

Temple has quietly taken control of an unpredictable Atlantic 10. (AP)

7. Temple (17-5). A Sentence: I’ve never wavered on Temple, who has no excuse not to run away with the Atlantic 10 now. A Statistic: I say that about the Owls because, to me, they’re clearly the class of the conference, yet the top eight teams are separated by two games. The A10 is so hairy it’s ridiculous, and I think unprecedented. The Schedule: vs. George Washington, Wednesday; vs. Xavier Saturday.

8. Wichita State (20-4). A Sentence: There aren’t two other games Saturday I’m looking forward to more than the one Wichita State is playing in. A Statistic: With an average experience of 2.5 years per player, Wichita State is the fifth-oldest team in the nation. The Schedule: vs. Northern Iowa, Wednesday; at Creighton, Saturday.

9. Oral Roberts (20-4). A Sentence: I didn’t expect ORU to win on the road at both of the Dakota States, so they take a little tumble in the Pyramid. A Statistic: For as good as it is on offense, ORU is hampered defensively. Effectively, teams make more than 50 percent of their shots against them, including 36 percent of 3-pointers. The Schedule: vs. IUPUI, Thursday; vs. Western Illinois, Saturday.

10. Gonzaga (18-4). A Sentence: Couldn’t beat BYU on the road last week, and now Saint Mary’s comes to town for what amounts as a reputation-staking game for Gonzaga. A Statistic: Robert Sacre now has a free-throw rate of 94, meaning he takes 94 percent of his field goal attempt total from the foul line. If you played a game and Robert Sacre shot 100 field goals, he’d also have 94 free throws. Easy enough, right? It’s the highest free-throw rate in the nation. The Schedule: vs. Saint Mary’s, Thursday; vs. Loyola Marymount, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. New Mexico (19-4). A Sentence:  UNM has been blowing out teams but it also doesn’t have an impressive win in 2012 yet. A Statistic: This is, far and away, the best defensive team Steve Alford’s had at UNM. The team’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 87.7 points per 100 possessions. The only time Alford had a better team was the top-ranked squad at Iowa in 2005-06, when the 84.4 points per 100 possessions was best in the country. The Schedule: vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

12. Southern Miss (20-3). A Sentence: The Golden Eagles will be back in the NCAA tournament if they merely beat all the teams they’re supposed to beat from here on out. A Statistic: The most surprising factor to USM’s success is, this team shoots 47.1 from the field in effective field-goal percentage. That number is surprisingly low. The Schedule: at UAB, Wednesday; vs. Central Florida, Saturday.

13. Middle Tennessee State (21-4): A Sentence: Didn’t like how MTSU was thoroughly handled on the road against a decent Denver team, but I’m willing to let one loss be a cushion. A Statistic: This team has five games remaining on its schedule, by far the fewest of any Pyramid team. No BracketBusters hurts. The Schedule: vs. Western Kentucky, Thursday; vs. Arkansas Little Rock, Saturday.

14. Cleveland State (20-4). A Sentence: With Nevada losing and Gary Waters’ team continue to roll in the Horizon, it’s time to get the Vikings back in the mix. A Statistic: No Pyramid team is worse in any category than Cleveland State is at getting to the foul line. The team’s free-throw rate is 26.1 percent, third-worst in the country. The Schedule: vs. Valpo, Thursday; vs. Butler, Saturday.

15. Iona (19-5). A Sentence: The Gaels are so tempting because they’ve got guys who can score 30 with ease, dish 14 assists like it’s nothing and run so many teams out of the gym. A Statistic: Iona’s been able to win four games in a row for the first time in more than two months. The Schedule: at Loyola, Friday; vs. Marist, Sunday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Nevada. In: Cleveland State.
♦ At 19-4, Ohio’s still right there.
♦ The 19-4 Wagner Seahawks are also getting closer and closer.
Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:05 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2012 5:28 pm
 

Afternoon Delight: Daytime games don't disappoint

I can't even bite into pudding after seeing Ronald Nored's chipped Chiclet. Butler fell 65-61 to Detroit. (Mocksession.com)

By Matt Norlander

On busier Saturdays and Sundays this season, we’re not going to make you wait until the end of the slate of games to catch up with all that’s happened. Afternoon Delight (3-pointers in flight!) recaps the first five-or-so hours’ worth of action, the perfecta appetizer right before dinnertime.

The best we’ve seen so far:  The Buckeyes got their first win at Kohl since 2000. Thad Matta won in Madison for the first time. It was close. It was quintessential Big Ten basketball, which means I took fadeaway shots with balled-up socks at my living room garbage can to pass the time and make up for lost entertainment. Jared Sullinger’s performance is addressed below. As for Wisconsin, my adoration’s worn off. I still may pick it to win a game in March, but at this point, I’d be happier getting burned and being wrong if they managed to make the second weekend. Team is limited, Jordan Taylor will never get back the level of play he was at last season and UW is all too frustrating to be invested in anymore.

Deserving of a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice: It was the inter-conference game that had the most intrigue. Xavier at Memphis. X led most of the way, bloating its lead in the second half to 10 with six minutes remaining. It looked good and in control. Then, a Memphis run. The Tigers finished the game on a 21-6 run. Memphis looks good now. It needs to avoid getting stupid in C-USA and it will saunter into the tournament. Xavier gets to ride the carousel in the A10 and hope it plays better than 90 percent of the league. No guarantee.  

No soup for youI’d like to go out and thank Georgetown for exposing South Florida. The Hoyas won at home today over USF, 75-45. Few bought into the Bulls, but losing like this will convince everyone that Stan Heath’s team isn’t, and never was, tournament-worthy.  

Afternoon all-stars

  1. Sully went for 24 and 10 and had three steals to boot. Eagerly awaiting what Thomas Robinson does to respond in the marquee game tonight in Columbia.
  2. Who is Pat Connaughton? Seriously. I have no idea. Somebody whip up a profile piece. This freshman had 23 and 11 in Notre Dame’s big win over Marquette.
  3. Jamelle Hagins, who plays for Borzello’s Delaware Blue Hens, had 18 rebounds in a UD W over James Madison.
  4. Vandy might’ve lost, but Jeff Taylor had 25 points, six boards and four steals. He was on his game today. He plays like that going forward, Vandy’s a Sweet 16 team. I swear!
  5. Props to VMI’s Keith Gabriel who, as of this post, has a day-high 32. VMI beat Winthrop 86-79.
  6. Andre Drummond had seven blocks and a filthy alley-oop which is not yet available on the Web.

Other daytime action worth your attention

  1. Florida State is a 7-1 ACC team after defeating Virginia at home, 58-55. Want to emphasize just how good this is for FSU, which is halfway home in conference play and will remain atop the ACC standings with Duke and North Carolina. Virginia falls further behind the pack. The Cavs and Seminoles traded turnovers with each other, but at least the game kept my attention, which isn’t the case with 90 percent of tilts involving ACC teams this year.  
  2. Anyone who tries to make Notre Dame’s 76-59 defeat of Marquette more about the Golden Eagles isn’t giving the right due to Mike Brey, who I’m fairly certain came thisclose to having to start a Gatorade cooler earlier this season. The Fighting Irish are now a 7-3 Big East team with DePaul, Villanova and Rutgers aligned in three of their next four games. My God, the Irish stand a good chance of cracking the field! Anything to keep mock turtlenecks relevant: I’m for it.
  3. Goodman will have more on Vanderbilt falling 73-65 at Florida. I’m guessing he’ll be writing Florida, so let me say something quickly on Vandy: I’M STILL NOT GIVING UP ON YOU. LOOK AT ME. WE CAN MAKE THIS WORK.
  4. UConn’s 69-46, Calhoun coached-less win at home over Seton Hall came as dominantly as the Huskies and their fans could have asked for. But we can’t overreact. Seton Hall didn’t have Herb Pope. And Seton Hall has white guys who can’t shoot. Road tests ahead for the Huskies, and it’s then we’ll find out if the team’s got gumption or not. Beating hobbling roadkill like SHU isn’t going to capture the committee’s attention.

Delightful (and not-so delightful) thoughts

  • Difference between home and road. Jan. 14, Baylor plays Okie State at home, wins 106-65. Saturday, Baylor plays Okie State on road, wins 64-60. And if you’ve got a problem with “Okie State,” just know I’ll never stop writing it that way.
  • Fab Melo scored a career-high 14 points after missing three games due to academic troubles. As a people, we cannot let Melo’s haircut to continue, however.
  • Arizona went into Palo Alto and cleaned up the Cardinal, winning 56-43. It basically means nothing, though.
  • I’ll have something on the A10 tonight or tomorrow—depending on how crazy the evening games get—in how it’s a beautiful disaster of sorts. That was reinforced this afternoon once top-ranked La Salle fell to St. Joe’s, 70-66.
  • I’m thrilled to report I’ll continue to not pay attention to Arkansas, as I was alerted to the fact the Hogs fell on the road again today, losing at lousy LSU, 71-65.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: January 30, 2012 10:03 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 11


By Matt Norlander

We keep hearing about this week bubble we’ve got. In other news, it’s 2003. Or is it 2006? Oh, 2009, you say? The year, it’s irrelevant. Each season the soft, soapy exterior of the bubble is a lament as annual and predictable as the degradation of Tom Izzo’s voice. It’s part of basketball and we need to accept it rather than moan about it.

If it’s true, if the at-large field proves to be weak once again, then I’m reinforcing my suggestion from last week to a higher degree: the teams listed below here, plenty of them, will be breaking lamps and jumping on couches at the big party in March. Too many good groups here not to have some serious “upset” potential in the big bracket. Because a lot of these teams are going to get matched up against that weak at-large competition.

By the way, you can see some of the hints in the schedules upcoming, but I expect this week to be the last one where real possibility for great shifts and movement in the Pyramid come about.

Top Tier

Dave Rice is proving to be quite a boss. (AP)

1. UNLV (20-3). A Sentence:  If they get a good draw I will not hesitate to put UNLV into the Elite Eight, and I’m sort of hoping they drop a game or two soon so plenty get thrown off the scent. A Statistic: The MWC owns a non-con winning percentage of .772. That’s better than the ACC (.690), Big East (.764) SEC (.734) and of course the Pac-12 (.596), but who’s including them in this, really? The Schedule: vs. Colorado State, Wednesday; at Wyoming, Saturday.

2. Murray State (21-0). A Sentence: I have only one request: give us Saint Mary’s at Murray State, BracketBusters overlords. A Statistic:  Murray State is more than 100 spots better in points per possession and points per possession allowed than every OVC team except Jacksonville State, which is 37 spots behind MSU in PPPD on KenPom.  The Schedule: vs. Southeast Missouri State, Thursday; at Tennessee Martin, Saturday.

3. Creighton (20-2). A Sentence: You think I’m all KenPom cheerleader, think again, because the man uses a special formula that somehow has Doug McDermott ludicrously ranked 10th in his player-of-the-year chase. A Statistic: When it comes to usage—what percent a player is directly involved in a play, whether by scoring or assisting—McDermott is the leader in the Valley at 31.8. The drop-off on the Blue Jays is gargantuan, as Antoine Young’s the next-highest in the Valley is No. 25 overall in usage, per BBState.com. The Schedule: vs. Illinois State, Wednesday; at Northern Iowa, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Saint Mary’s (21-2). A Sentence: It’s this simple: avoid the bad losses and the Gaels will be, at worst, a five seed.  A Statistic: The Gaels always under-schedule in terms of how many games they COULD play if they wanted. I approve of the method, even if Randy Bennett doesn’t challenge his team as much as he obviously could. What I’m getting at is, even counting the BracketBusters bonus game, SMC has completed 77 percent of its schedule already. Season is flying by. The Schedule: vs. San Diego, Thursday.

5. Harvard (18-2). A Sentence: I saw this team Friday night, and all I can say is, they’re going to be very good for years to come. A Statistic: Through four games, Harvard opponents in the Ivy are scoring 44.8 points per game. The Schedule: vs. Cornell, Friday; vs. Columbia, Saturday.

6. San Diego State (18-3). A Sentence: Was Saturday night’s 77-60 loss at Colorado State just an inevitability, or will we see a different SDSU team going forward? A Statistic: I just realized this, but something the team and coaches have to be proud of—SDSU won California this year. They went 7-0 against Eureka State competition and won’t face another Cali team this year, unless the tournament enables it. The Schedule: vs. Boise State, Wednesday; vs. TCU, Saturday.

7. Oral Roberts (20-4). A Sentence: If ORU can manage to sweep the Dakota States this week, in all likelihood they’ll be No. 4 or 5 in next week’s rankings. A Statistic: Scott Sutton’s team has compiled quite the nice 14-game winning streak, and in those games, ORU is winning by an average of 12.1 points per game. Not barely skating by by any means.. The Schedule: at South Dakota, Thursday; at North Dakota State, Saturday.

8. Gonzaga (17-3). A Sentence: Does that Thursday game give you the wary feeling that I’m getting right now? A Statistic: Since November of 2010, Gonzaga is 10-7 on the road. The Schedule: at BYU, Thursday; at Pepperdine, Saturday.

9. New Mexico (17-4). A Sentence: No-doubt-about-it wins last week at home over sneaky Colorado State and TCU is good for business. A Statistic: Drew Gordon, a player I like more than most, is taking 29.2 percent of the defensive-rebound opportunities that are presented to him. Top-10 in the country. Gordon needs to get even more aggressive for UNM to be a difference-maker. The Schedule: at Air Force, Tuesday; at Boise State, Saturday.

10. Temple (15-5). A Sentence: Michael Eric’s long-awaited, critical return is a big thing for Temple and the A10, which now could be the Owls’ league to take. A Statistic: When Eric plays, Temple is 6-1. The Schedule: vs. Fordham, Wednesday; at Rhode Island, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Wichita State (17-3). A Sentence: Triple-OT loss at Drake doesn’t mean Witchy must fall in the Pyramid of Swanson. A Statistic: I teased my Gregg Marshall piece last week, and since it’s run, I want to point you to it, because I’ve got a couple of charts in there worth looking at. The Schedule: at Missouri State, Wednesday; vs. Indiana State, Saturday.

12. Middle Tennessee State (20-3): A Sentence: Didn’t get embarrassed at Vandy, which was good, but now can’t dwell on the loss and have to turn around and win two conference road games this week. A Statistic: At least five of these remain, still, but what a difference a year makes. In terms of road/neutral games, MTSU lost 12 last year. Right now the number’s only two. Now, the bitch about being MTSU—realistically, the team can only afford one more road/neutral loss of any kind, lest it be NIT-bound. The Schedule: at North Texas, Thursday; at Denver, Saturday.

Southern Miss fell to Memphis the first time this season. It needs to avenge the loss this week to stay in the Pyramid. (AP)

13. Southern Miss (19-3). A Sentence: More than any team I’ve omitted this season, I’ve received tweets and haranguing emails from folks about not including USM, so I’ve finally caved. A Statistic: The last time Larry Eustachy had a season this good? You guessed it: ’99-00 with Iowa State, when the ‘Clones got to 22-3 before dropping a fourth game. The Schedule: vs. Memphis, Wednesday.

14. Nevada (18-3). A Sentence: The Wolf Pack (not Wolfpack!) also make their Pyramid debut—can they handle this incredible newfound pressure? A Statistic: If you’d like to know what this team does better than anything else, it’s shoot the 3. Nevada sinks 39.1 percent from behind the arc. Overall, by the way, this team does not stand out on paper, but the one impressive stat on the sheet: it hasn’t lost since the day after Thanksgiving. The Schedule: vs. Utah State, Thursday; vs. Idaho, Saturday.

15. Iona (17-5). A Sentence: The Siena loss, blowing the 18-point lead, was extremely damaging and now puts Iona on weak ice. A Statistic: Point guard Scott Machado has been so big, but it’s Mike Glover’s consistency that I think is keeping Iona going. As of Sunday, Glover was shooting 66.8 percent from the field, fourth-best in the nation in overall field-goal percentage, but more strictly, from two-point range. The Schedule: vs. Canisius, Thursday; at Manhattan, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Dayton, which made me look foolish by losing t St. Joe’s and then Rhode f’ing Island. Saint Louis is also gone, which is deserved for losing to UMass, but also speaks to the Atlantic 10 in general, which has become the ultimate mixing bowl of a conference. In: Southern Miss, Nevada.
♦ Cleveland State is so close. I actually sat and thought and debated between Cleveland State and Iona for five minutes.  
♦ I told Weber State it would be in if it could win at lowly Sacramento State and Idaho State. The latter did not come to be, so who knows if Damian Lillard’s team ever cracks the Pyramid this year.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com