We've already only got a month's worth of Pyramid scheming left to do, yet the order within the arrangement still seems prone to shake itself each week. I didn't think there'd be much to sort out, given that last week's games afforded most Pyramid teams good shots at winning. Not the case. We do have one new team in the fold, and two just outside of it could easily make the case they belong.
It's starting to look like this year's Pyramid reps will fare better than the group from last season. Just take a look and see how everything's coming to be.
1. Gonzaga (21-2).
Why it's here: How can it not be? Only one of eight teams with two losses in the nation. There are no teams left with just one loss. Gonzaga has waited, bided its time, and now has earned best billing thanks to an 8-0 WCC start, a 4-0 record vs. Big 12 teams this year and a First Team All-America candidate in Kelly Olynyk.
Something you should know: There is more reason to believe in this team. As of this point in the season, Gonzaga is averaging an adjusted 120 points per 100 possessions, or basically 1.2 points per possession. A fine rate -- the best the team's had under Mark Few. Bulldogs have options, and this group is proving it can score even better than the team from '06 that earned a No. 3 seed.
Up next: Thursday vs. Pepperdine; Saturday vs. Loyola Marymount.
2. Creighton (20-3).
Why it's here: Good karma for the Jays, who had their third straight pink-out over the weekend in the team's 75-58 win over Bradley. Creighton has righted itself, winning three in a row after dropping two straight. Will Wichita State be able to do the same?
Something you should know: It was shared via Doug McDermott on his Instagram account, so I couldn't not pass this along. This is Doug -- and look how little his face has changed; it's like an 18-year-old's mug on a 12-year-old's body -- and his mom, Theresa, who beat breast cancer. I'm guessing this was about eight years ago or so.
|How great is this photo, knowing that mom beat cancer? (via Doug McDermott's Instagram)|
Up next: Wednesday at Indiana State; Saturday vs. Illinois State.
3. New Mexico (19-3).
Why it's here: Give credit to UNM for staying on the good track and mostly dodging the minefield of the Mountain West. Lobos are now 6-1 in the league and making me look good for putting them above all other MWC teams more than a month ago. Steve Alford's team hit 56 percent of its shots, sank 11 3s and had 22 assists -- both season highs -- in its 75-62 home win over Nevada.
Something you should know: For 715 games in a row, New Mexico has made a 3-pointer, dating back to Jan. 3, 1991 at Colorado State.
Up next: Wednesday vs. Air Force; Saturday at UNLV.
A Cut Below
4. Wichita State (19-4).
Why it's here: Did not see this -- WSU losing two straight in Valley play -- coming. First was Indiana State at home, then came Northern Iowa on the road over the weekend. I still think pretty highly of the Shockers, but now their chances at a five seed or better are gone unless they run the table.
Something you should know: WSU has been hampered due to starters Ron Baker (foot) and Evan Wessel (hand) missing time. That is key to remember. But also know Wichita State has one of the deepest benches in the country, so it can absorb these blows and still not need to use the excuse of missing a guy or two. This is a team that looked great when its best player, Carl Hall, missed a month earlier this season.
Up next: Tuesday at Southern Illinois; Saturday vs. Missouri State.
5. Memphis (18-3).
Why it's here: Listen, it hasn't been easy -- and it's been ugly at times -- but Memphis did what I asked it to do: won no matter what. The Tigers haven't lost since Dec. 15; they've earned a top-five spot in the Pyramid. They're now 7-0 in Conference USA, and if they win two tricky road games this week, they'll have slack to drop at least one regular-season game and one in the C-USA tournament and still get into The Dance.
Something you should know: Memphis is now one of the best swatting teams in hoops, sending back 17.3 percent of opponents shots, No. 4 in the country. Tigers trail Syracuse, Kansas and St. John's.
Up next: Wednesday at SMU; Saturday at Southern Miss.
6. Colorado State (18-4).
Why it's here: Man, the Rams keep moving up and up and up. An unlisted Pyramid team a month ago, CSU is now the highest-rated Mountain West team by almost any metric, and the Rams are second to only 6-1 New Mexico in the league standings. (Tied with Air Force at 5-2).
Something you should know: Between Tim Miles coaching the team last season and Larry Eustachy doing it now, CSU has the third-longest home-winning streak in the country (26 games). It hasn't fallen on its floor since November of 2011. And I did the research: through 22 games, this is now the best start to a season in CSU's 109-year history.
Up next: Wednesday at Nevada.
7. UNLV (17-5).
Why it's here: Interested to see that despite Anthony Marshall's career-best 12 assists and 25 points from Anthony Bennett, UNLV couldn't beat Boise State on the road. It's gotten to the point where Vegas is purely just a good team, nothing more. A lot of talent, but it's fair to ask if this squad is something of a letdown given how much ability and how deep the roster is. Confusing. I struggle to believe it can reach the Final Four, whereas UNLV was one of my preseason picks for Atlanta.
Something you should know: As of last week, Bennett was still Borzello's pick for Freshman of the Year, but look at the list. That top five is getting really good, and Bennett, perhaps for the first time this season, is in jeopardy of losing the award.
Up next: Wednesday at Fresno State; Saturday vs. New Mexico.
Something you should know: Belmont's won 10 straight overall and 17 in a row at home. The Bruins are among the 50 best teams in 10 major national stats categories, and overall, Belmont is 51-3 in its last 54 conference games. The Bruins remain purely awesome -- and a top-15 RPI team as of now (14) to boot. I'm falling in love all over again.
Up Next: Thursday at Murray State; Saturday at Austin Peay.
Why it's here: No. 22 in KenPom, No. 29 in RPI, yet so "low" here. Aztecs are 4-3 in conference and have two at home this week they should/almost must win if they want to have a shot at a good seed going forward. Win the home games.
Something you should know: Easy to forget now, but SDSU has been a bad basketball program for most of its existence. This 16-5 start is the third-best in school history, and it's doing it despite some nagging injury problems to Xavier Thames (missed Air Force loss over the weekend) and Chase Tapley's right wrist is still not fully healed from a sprain.
Up next: Wednesday vs. Boise State; Saturday vs. Fresno State.
10. Louisiana Tech (19-3).
Why it's here: Think I'm overrating the Bulldogs here? They have a 3-1 top-100 record, and if the tournament was seeded this afternoon, I think we're looking at a possible 12 seed here, if Southern Miss keeps getting better (lost to La. Tech). La. Tech is running strong through the WAC and has a decent macro profile.
Something you should know: The Bulldogs get help from their bench in 39.4 percent of available minutes, second in Pyramid teams only to super-deep Wichita State.
Up next: Wednesday vs. Texas-San Antonio; Saturday vs. Texas State.
|BSU's bolstered by Jeff Elloriaga's big O. (US Presswire)|
11. Boise State (15-6).
Why it's here: Lost at Colorado State but followed it up with desperate home win over UNLV. Broncos stay put. BSU never trailed vs. UNLV, and boy did it need that win.
Something you should know: The Broncos could become an interesting petri dish study if they continue to give and take in league play and, say, don't win an MWC tournament game. BSU is in the 60s in RPI, Sagarin and LRMC, and is No. 73 in KenPom. Will low numbers and good league wins (plus beating Creighton) be enough?
Up next: Wednesday at San Diego State; Saturday vs. Wyoming.
12. Bucknell (19-4).
Why it's here: The Bison, of course, are more than just Mike Muscala. Bryson Johnson is a deep threat who adds balance to this team, and he's now also the all-time leading 3-point shooter in program history.
Something you should know: Bucknell's nine road wins are best in college basketball.
Up next: Saturday at Army.
Something you should know: Dellavedova is primed to become first on SMC's games-played list by season's end. He's now tied with former teammate Mickey McConnell for fourth at 124. With nine more games, he ties Omar Samhan's 133. If SMC gets to the WCC title game and wins one in the NCAAs, he'll have it.
Up next: Thursday at Santa Clara; Saturday at San Diego.
|Donnie Tyndall and USM: the most surprising team. (AP)|
Something you should know: The Golden Eagles make their first appearance of the season here. They'll stick around if they win Saturday against Memphis, which is vital to USM's tournament chance because, despite a nice record, this team does not yet have a top-100 RPI win.
Up next: Wednesday at Central Florida; Saturday vs. Memphis.
15. Stephen F. Austin (18-2).
Why it's here: Barely beats out some surging teams from better leagues; it's key to remember that four of the Lumberjacks' wins haven't bee in D-I. That's a lot of bad competition.
Something you should know: No Pyramid team has a great disparity in offensive/defensive ranking on KenPom than SFA, which is No. 3 in D and No. 220 in O.
Up next: Thursday vs. Central Arkansas; Saturday vs. Oral Roberts.
Outside the Pyramid:
-- Wyoming is dropping game after game; the Cowboys had to be removed, and I have my doubts they can ever get back in this season.
-- I'm very much aware of Air Force. The MWC's oldest team is doing damage in its league, but out of conference it did nothing. Let's see how it does in back-to-back road games, and then we can judge for good next week.
-- At 17-4 and riding the nation's longest winning streak, I could very easily have Akron in over Stephen F. Austin. The Zips beat Ohio at home Saturday.
-- Montana is now 16-4 and won 12 straight, all in conference, and has the nation's second-longest streak. Good problems here in the Pyramid.
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