Tag:Matt Norlander
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 13, 2012 8:57 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 10:37 am

Wakeup Call: UConn hires an athletic director

Wild Bill went too far this time. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Matt Norlander

In honor of Sir Paul closing out the Grammys last night, photos of The Beatles during their final year together. // Are you one of the 15 million addicted to Instagram? Give this a read. // Really great photography of dogs underwater. // The best read on Whitney Houston from over the weekend will take you six minutes to finish. // Breaking Bad Valentine's cards ...

★ Amid trying to avoid missing the 2013 tournament for academic issues, UConn promptly hires its new AD.

★ Jeremy Lin hit up his little bro's college basketball game.

★ This is quite the story at a smalltime college. Takes two minutes. Read.

★ Brendan Prunty's been writing some good articles lately. This is his latest.

★ College basketball's Wayman Tisdale award was almost named after Jordan.

★ Did you see the new stat unveiled this weekend, the BPI? What is it? Is it all that different from KenPom? Find out more here.

★ Pete Thamel wrote a good gamer on Michigan State's impressive road win at Ohio State Saturday.

★ Imagine coaching for more than two decades -- with your wife as your assistant, literally.

Could they A10 be going to 18 conference games?

★ Digger Phelps scolded fans like he was their father Saturday morning.

★ No closer geographic rivalry in college basketball than this one.

★ Anthony Davis is the second-most disciplined dominant shot-blocker in the modern age. The other guy you'll recognize stole lunch money in the Patriot League.

★ Has Gus Johnson become a less-than-desirable play-by-play guy? Will Leitch made that case.

★ This is a dense read on basketball and TV rights, but it's so well done I have to pass it along.

★ Check the welcome the Big East gave to Memphis in New York City.

★ I really recommend this thorough report on how Memphis got into the Big East in the first place. Some fine digging by Kyle Veazy.

★ I took some time away from getting snarky about the Grammys to go on a podcast that wasn't my own. You can listen to that here.

♬ Because it was the first song of the night, it seems to be forgotten already, but Bruce rocked out at the Grammys. I said on Twitter Springsteen is like mashed potatoes for me. Not my favorite but I'm never let down or turning away from them/him. Here's a deep cut of his and E Street that I particularly love.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 11, 2012 7:49 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 8:02 pm

Terrell Stoglin publicly annoyed after benching

By Matt Norlander

Maryland is a borderline NIT team now, especially since Pe'Shon Howard is out for the year. It's Mark Turgeon's first year and he's building up the program. Gonna take a few years to get Terrapins basketball back to an elite level, and to make that happen faster than expected, he'll need the guys Gary Williams recruited to "buy in."

That means everyone of consequence can't act up. Can't get selfish. In its first game without Howard, how'd the team respond? It lost respectably at Duke, 73-55. The final score wasn't indicative to the fact Maryland actually hung around at Cameron Indoor. It didn't feel like a blowout.

Somebody has a problem, though. Sophomore Terell Stoglin, who takes the third-highest percentage of his team's shots in the nation, doesn't like getting benched. Stoglin eats up a lot of Maryland's possessoins, but in a game where he was taken away from the action, he couldn't handle it. Bad sign. In fact, he had a mini meltdown -- were else -- on Twitter shortly after the game ended.

That tweet is only the start of it. There's a lot of profanity related to the benching in subsequent rants. Those tweets are still up as of the time of this post, but if they get predictably deleted, Searching for Billy Edelin has the R-rated screengrab.

Stoglin's line: 13 points in 30 minutes of 4-of-16 shooting and 0 for 6 from 3. He sat for the stretch run, from about six minutes until 2:17 was left in the game and Maryland trailed by 12. He's a really good player on the court, but really good players all around accept when they're having a bad game and understand a coach's job. Stoglin's not there yet.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 11, 2012 4:55 pm

Anthony Grant suspends 3 more Alabama starters

Grant carries a heavy hammer. (AP)
By Matt Norlander

Something pretty terrible must be happening inside the Alabama program. Days after starter Tony Mitchell was indefinitely suspended from the team, head coach Anthony Grant has now suspended JaMychal Green, Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford, the school announced Saturday afternoon. All three are starters.

What's more, the players were sent home from the team's road trip in Louisiana. Alabama plays against LSU at 7 p.m. ET Saturday night.

The news of the players suspended was first broken by Cecil Hurt of Tuscaloosa News, then confirmed soon thereafter by a school press release.

“We are extremely disappointed in the choices and decisions made by these young men that has led to this suspension,” Grant said in a release. “Talent is a gift, but character is a choice. The consequences of their choices have negatively impacted them as individuals and the people that love and support them. Our hope is that they will be mature enough to accept responsibility for their actions and place a higher value on their character.”

Grant's actions are perhaps unprecedented. Alabama is a 16-7 (5-4 SEC) team that's not assured of an NCAA tournament berth. It now goes without its four best players. Can you remember a college basketball coach in contention for the NCAAs that had to suspended this many starters? If it's something this drastic, the players involved had to know what was coming. Mitchell was the first signal, and now five days later it's this.

The Tide is a mess, and unless Grant's message is received and obeyed, Alabama could be chancing missing the NCAA tournament despite clearly having talent worthy of playing games that matter in March.
Posted on: February 11, 2012 2:27 am

Harvard a near lock for NCAAs -- but incomplete

Freshman Corbin Miller came off the bench and put in 17 against Penn. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

PHILADELPHIA — Now, it all seems a matter of arithmetic and inevitability.

Harvard got by against what’s considered to be its stiffest test of its Ivy League gantlet this season, playing Penn at the Palestra, with a 56-50 win Friday night. The Crimson are now a 7-0 Ivy team with a chokehold on the conference race and seem destined to represent the eight-team league in the NCAA tournament.

When it officially locks up the crown in a couple of weeks — or sooner; the team’s magic number is 5 — and earn the auto bid, it will be the first time Harvard’s gotten to the NCAA tournament since 1946, when the bracket had an iota of the cache then as it does now. It's a memorable year already in Cambridge, Mass. I'll inject straight opinion right here by stating what everyone in the Ivy knows. Nobody's catching Harvard now.

But there are kinks to this team that prevent it from being the giant-slayer that some thought it was/could be at the start of the season.

Against Penn, Harvard won the way it has so often this season: slow and ugly and through sheer force and unusual reliability of its relentless depth. This team’s doing well, yeah. It’s 21-2 overall and will finish with one of the best records in school history. But it’s not yet reached its potential. It's odd to see the Ivy favorite continue to win but to fail to run inferior foes out of the gym. Senior 6-8 forward Keith Wright, who was the Ivy Player of the Year last season, only managed two points against the Quakers. He’s failed to score in double digits in five of the past six games.

“I think I draw a lot of attention no matter who we play or wherever we go,” Wright said. “I knew that it probably wasn’t going to be my, but the game’s not all about scoring.”

Wright had 13 rebounds and two blocks. He took five shots.

“My head’s not down at all,” he added.

The fact one of the team’s two best players could hit a nadir like this in the stretch of the toughest part of league play and still not hurt the team to the tune of an L is a good sign. Plus, Harvard got a career night out of freshman guard Corbin Miller, who lit it up with 17 points, matching star forward Kyle Casey’s 17, which also happens to be the number Harvard alum Jeremy Lin dons with the Knicks.

It was certainly noteworthy that Harvard got the definitive, toughest win of its conference season on the same night Lin’s reputation exploded at Madison Square Garden. Harvard's win did not bring the attention nor the appeal of Lin's magic up in New York, but the Palestra did have more than 7,500 in attendance to watch the most anticipated game in the Ivy this season, a game that wasn't available to be watched on television anywhere.

Back to what's wrong with Wright. He lacks aggression and nobody can tell me why this is. Fortunately, thanks to the bench, this still isn't an issue that's had to be nakedly addressed. That should change soon. If Harvard wants to be a team that can win in the NCAA tournament, even a game, it needs Wright to be dogmatic. If he’s able to corral control of the team’s post offense again, then it'll  see an uptick in offensive efficiency and respectability. Right now, this group looks good — a 10 seed at worst — but won’t alarm anyone.

“It’s scary to think about because coach Amaker talks about it all the time,” Wright said. “We haven’t put two halves together yet. We’ve gotta finish around the rim, including myself.”

This isn’t Cornell from a few years ago. It doesn’t have the size or consistent deep threats that team embodied. Now that the team's done what was expected and played half its league games without a scratch, addressing cosmetics and needs down low should become top priority. Casey admitted as much outside the locker room after the win.

“I think we have to finish down low and punish teams when we can,” he said. “This is what we came here for. Everyone in this program essentially came here to make history and do what we’re doing right now. We remain hungry and fight each other harder than opponents are going to fight us.”

The Casey-Wright dynamic last year was what made Harvard not only interesting as a budding program but also so damn hard to defend and contain. Some of that's been lost. Casey gets better as his teammate complements him, but he's not concerned.

“We’ve (he and Wright) got a really good relationship on the court and feel for what we can do with each other and play off each other,” Casey said. “We’re going to definitely need him if we’re going to do what we say we want to do.”

What they want goes beyond getting to the first tournament in 68 years. They want at least an NCAA win. They want to be heroes at Harvard and that requires reaching a Saturday or Sunday March game. Ivy schools that snatch a W or two immediately become something of legend in that league and in the eyes of the public who watch the always-endearing smart schools "overachieve" on the big stage. Wright's a senior. Time's running out. Harvard can get by now without his top-level play, but they can't be their best, something the NCAA tournament mandates from almost every underdog.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:27 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 1:14 pm

Coach K's letter of regret to Michael Jordan

By Matt Norlander

Crazy as it may seem, Coach K doesn't always get his way. And when he was a young pup trying to build up a program, he frequently fell short when trying to get blue-chip recruits to Durham. If it weren't for one man, Krzyzewski wouldn't have made it to a fourth year as Duke coach.

Of all the recruits K misfired on, Michael Jordan is the most famous. And after 23 picked UNC just a few days before Halloween in 1980, Krzyzewski sat down and punched out a 65-word letter of regret to the lanky kid who would go on to change the way the world viewed and cared about basketball. By the way, this was K's first season as head coach in Durham.

This is the third artifact related to MJ's recruitment to get some pub on the Internet this week. Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg dedicated a post Thursday to Jordan's signed Letter of Intent and Dean Smith's recruiting letters to Jordan 32 years ago. A hat tip is in order to Sporting News' Chris Littmann, who alerted me to the letter on Twitter after he noticed Josh Benedek of Jordan Brand PR Instagram out the photo. Who knows, maybe the Jordan Brand is preparing to do some promo work or a retrospective on the fertilization of its namesake's career. The letter is currently housed at North Carolina's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Coach K's letter to Jordan starts with a heck of a line, filled with a guilt trip and what I think is a backhanded, minor, insult (maybe it's just standard fare on rejection letters, though), before he goes on to wish the young player luck in Chapel Hill. Cool little piece of history, the discarded decisions along the way to UNC and Duke history.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 10, 2012 11:30 am

Podcast: Rivers, 'Bazz and the weekend ahead

San Diego State could realistically cement itself into a four or five seed if it beats UNLV this weekend. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander

Murray State. Duke. Rivers. The big games this weekend. Substitute teachers. Pickup basketball. The best recruits waiting the longest to commit to schools. It's all on today's podcast.

Oh, and Borzello's my guest. Sorry about that. Had to inject some "flo" back into the proceedings. 
On the docket:
  • From the beginning: Some jibbing and jabbing before the hoops.
  • 2:50: We get right to the Murray State talk. What seed are they now? How many games can this team afford to lose?
  • 9:35: Duke and Carolina and Austin Rivers. Why that amazing ending doesn't change things for Duke and why UNC is now questionable as a one seed.
  • 15:50: Top 10 freshmen are who? At this point in the year it's fair to say who's the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment.
  • 19:48: The games this weekend. Let's chat about the ones that stick out to us. A good dozen games are touched upon. Lots and lots of good hoop Saturday and Sunday. Can't wait to be ensconced in it.
  • 31:52: Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 2012 recruit, recently said he'll wait until at least April to announce where he's going. UCLA and Kentucky are in the lead. I don't think he's good enough to make coaches wait into May, but Borzello brings up a good point why he's bound to.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast--whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 9:01 am

Wakeup Call: The United States of College Fandom

The United States of College Fandom. Pretty cool. This is mainly from a college football perspective, but still cool.

By Matt Norlander

Clarence Clemons' son will toot horn with the E Street Band. Superb. // Purple Squirrel would be a decent jam band name. Take a look at one. // Improve your life. Scroll through Children With Swag ...

★ Somewhat quietly, there is more news on the lawsuit(s) with Jim Boeheim.

★ Great research here on when/how often Anthony Davis is blocking fools into stupidity. He's most effective in the opening minutes of each half.

★ You want a head start on which teams you can't trust come March? Look right here.

★ Nick Fasulo's court-storming rules are fairly solid across the board, but this is like trying to catch a thunderstorm with a coffee cup at this point.

★ The Big East and West Virginia have reportedly agreed to a divorce before it got too messy. I'm just thankful the kids, Rutgers and South Florida, didn't get hurt by this.

★ I knew the Times would latch on to the Iona story soon enough. Machado gets more love.

★ I missed this Wednesday, but David Woods wrote a very nice profile on Chrishawn Hopkins. Quite an upbringing.

That's weak, Vandy fans.

★ An entertaining running diary from Dan Hanner. You gotta give it a quick look.

Which teams are part of the deal, in the non-con, with Memphis moving to the Big East?

★ Harvard is a 99-percent lock to win the Ivy if it takes down Penn on the road tonight.

★ I'm completely ambivalent about these throwback New Mexico uniforms.

★ Like so much of what Jason Lisk does at TBL, but his take on the Big Ten is where I get out of the car.

★ You want tickets to the NCAA tournament?

► Wisconsin got a good road win at Minnesota last night. After the team's practice Wednesday, Bo Ryan had to show the team how to safely save the ball at the barn. Wisconsin Athletics is one of the best and being social-media savvy and aware of good content on the Web.

Oom doo doo dah-dah, Oom doo doo dah-dah. Yeah, I'm not really a huge Boyz II Men fan, but I'm heading to Philadelphia tonight and going to my first game at the Palestra. I still love this song without apology. Fifth grade all over again.

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