Tag:Jeff Borzello
Posted on: January 27, 2012 1:42 pm

Middle Tennessee pins at-large hopes on Saturday

By Jeff Borzello

With multiple major conferences suffering down years and a number of mid-majors still unbeaten in conference play, we might see a higher number of non-BCS teams getting at-large bids this season.

One of those teams to keep an eye on could be Middle Tennessee, whose at-large hopes come down to Saturday.

That is when the Blue Raiders head to Vanderbilt in an intriguing non-league contest. Right now, Middle Tennessee sits at 19-2, with 12 consecutive wins heading into the weekend. The only losses were to Belmont – whom they also beat – and UAB.

Does Kermit Davis’ squad hold legitimate at-large potential? The Blue Raiders have top-100 wins over Ole Miss, Akron and Belmont, with road victories over Loyola Marymount and UCLA also on the resume. Assuming they run the table in the Sun Belt – not a guarantee, with road games against North Texas and Denver remaining – and then lose in the Sun Belt tournament, the Blue Raiders do have a chance.

But it comes down to Saturday’s game in Memorial Gym.

A win over Vanderbilt would vault Middle Tennessee’s RPI into the top 50 and it would also give the Blue Raiders a marquee win to hang their hat on come Selection Sunday. Victories over Ole Miss and Akron don’t have the same effect. The win would likely leave Middle Tennessee with at least a 5-1 record against the RPI top 100 heading into the NCAA tournament. That’s tough to pass up.

A loss on Saturday, though, and Middle Tennessee might have to win the Sun Belt’s automatic bid.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: January 26, 2012 1:13 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 1:47 pm

Freshman of the Year: Nash makes his case

Le'Bryan Nash has been up and down, but 27 points in an upset of Missouri cemented his spot in the rankings. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

The top freshmen in the country have been pretty stagnant lately, with the top four staying the same for the most part the past few weeks. Even the back end of the rankings didn’t see much movement this week – and it’s because many newcomers are beginning to hit a bit of a wall in conference play. They’re becoming more inconsistent, as teams key on them and organize defenses to stop them. It seems every time we look to add a player to the rankings, he goes out and struggles immensely. Consistency will be the key going forward. 

The Freshman of the Year rankings are released every Thursday afternoon, shortly after Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish’s Player of the Year rankings.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky (Last Week: 1): 13.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 4.7 bpg, 62.9 FG%
Davis didn’t have his best offensive week the past two games, going just 3-for-12 from the field for 15 total points. He’s still a menace defensively and on the boards.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (Last Week: 2): 13.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg
Kidd-Gilchrist was up to his old tricks against Alabama and Georgia. He had a great first half against Alabama, before fouling out, and had a solid all-around effort against Georgia.

3. Trey Burke, Michigan (Last Week: 3): 14.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.0 apg
Burke’s shooting has fallen off the past two games, going just 9-for-29 from the field. However, his playmaking and passing has been better, averaging 6.0 assists in that span.

4. Cody Zeller, Indiana (Last Week: 4): 15.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 65.9 FG%
His performance against Penn State over the weekend was vintage Cody Zeller: 7-for-8 from the field, 18 points, four blocks – and four rebounds.

5. Moe Harkless, St. John’s (Last Week: 7): 15.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg
Harkless had one of the better freshman weeks in the country. He went for 23 points and 13 boards against West Virginia, following a great all-around game against Villanova.

6. Brad Beal, Florida (Last Week: 6): 14.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg
Beal has been a bit passive the past couple of games, but he’s been efficient. The 3-pointer has returned, too; he’s 7-for-13 in his last three games from behind the arc.

7. Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State (Last Week: 8): 13.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Nash is still too inconsistent, but he bounced back from a four-shot performance against Kansas State with 27 points, four boards and four assists against Missouri. 

8. Tony Wroten, Washington (Last Week: 5): 16.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.3 apg
Wroten has been erratic shooting the ball lately and his turnovers are on the rise again. He’s much better when he’s creating off the dribble. 

9. Austin Rivers, Duke (Last Week: NR): 14.2 ppg
He started the game against Wake Forest on the bench; it clearly woke him up. He’s averaging 16.3 points in his last three games, shooting 5-for-12 from 3-point range. 

10. Tony Mitchell, North Texas (Last Week: NR): 15.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 63.1 FG%
The Mean Green lost on Wednesday night and Mitchell was in foul trouble, but he’s dominating the Sun Belt. Went for 30 points and 17 rebounds over the weekend.


  • Justin Edwards of Maine dropped out from his second turn in the mid-major slot. He’s had subpar offensive performances the mpast three games, shooting just 14-for-34 from the field, with 17 turnovers.
  • Rutgers’ Eli Carter has fallen off a bit, regressing back to his season averages. He’s putting up 10 points per game in his last four. He also dropped out.
  • Based on stats, Georgetown’s Otto Porter wouldn’t be anywhere close to the rankings. But he does the little things – like coming up big down the stretch vs. Rutgers – that make him a candidate every week.
  • Baylor’s Quincy Miller might have been the last one off the list. He averaged 22.3 points in a three-game stretch, but had just five against Oklahoma.
  • Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant averaged 13 points and five assists in wins over Syracuse and Seton Hall. For a guy who didn’t play the point in high school, his vision and playmaking have been exceptional.
  • Michigan State’s Branden Dawson has been extremely efficient the past two games, shooting 13-for-17 from the field and averaging 15.0 points.
  • D’Angelo Harrison of St. John’s is looking to work himself back into the discussion. He’s averaging 23.5 points in his last two, shooting 14-for-30 from the field.
  • Still waiting for Andre Drummond to step up and dominate. He was completely neutralized against Cincinnati and Tennessee.
  • Rough go for Xavier’s Dezmine Wells the past two games. He was shut out against Saint Louis, after managing just five points against Dayton.
  • Juan’ya Green is the Niagara frosh that gets the most attention, but what about Antoine Mason? He’s a redshirt freshman and is averaging 15.1 points this season.
  • Louisiana Tech’s Raheem Appleby has stepped up his game tremendously lately. He’s averaging 19.0 points in his last five games.
  • Freshman leaders – Points: Kyle Vinales  Central Connecticut State (18.6); Rebounds: Anthony Davis, Kentucky (10.3); Assists: Dylan Garrity, Sacramento State (6.1)
Posted on: January 26, 2012 12:56 pm

Today's Specials: A Big Ten battle highlights

By Jeff Borzello

Wednesday was jam-packed with top-five upsets, surprise wins, last-second shots – what will Thursday bring? There’s lots of potential on the docket.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: No. 16 Indiana at No. 25 Wisconsin (9 p.m., ESPN2). We’re starting to see some separation at the top of the Big Ten; can one of these teams join the race to the top? Indiana had lost three in a row before beating Penn State by 19 over the weekend, while Wisconsin looks like it’s starting to come around – the Badgers have won four in a row. It will be a battle between one of the best offenses in the country (Indiana) and one of the best defenses (Wisconsin). The key will be the Hoosiers knocking down 3-pointers and getting to the free-throw line.

Second-best game: North Carolina State at No. 7 North Carolina (7 p.m., ESPN). I’m intrigued by this game for several reasons. It’s North Carolina’s first game since starting guard Dexter Strickland was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL. It’s also a chance for NC State to prove it is for real. The Wolfpack have won nine of their last 10, including four of five in ACC play. However, they are lacking a marquee win. Neither team is great from behind the arc; expect plenty of fast-break action.

Another one to watch: Nevada at New Mexico State (9 p.m., ESPN3). Clearly the two best teams in the WAC, this will be a complete contrast in styles. New Mexico State loves to push the pace, while Nevada prefers to get in a half-court game. Nevada has won 13 in a row since a rough start to the season, and New Mexico State has rattled off nine wins in 11 games – although it did lose at Hawaii over the weekend. Can NMSU defend Nevada’s 3-point heavy roster?

Guaranteed win: There are a couple of teams that should be able to keep their winning ways going in the smaller conferences. Middle Tennessee is 8-0 in the Sun Belt, and it will welcome in 7-11 Troy (8 p.m., ESPN3). Meanwhile, Oral Roberts – 10-0 in the Summit – will play host to South Dakota, which is just 2-8 in the conference and has really struggled away from home (8:05 p.m., FOX Sports Affiliates).

Potential upset: Loyola Marymount has pulled off a few surprising wins this season – home against Saint Louis, on the road at UCLA and BYU – and the Lions will get another chance on Thursday night when No. 23 Saint Mary’s comes to town (10 p.m.). LMU guards the perimeter very well, which will be key against Matthew Dellavedova, but the Lions will have to take advantage of the Gaels’ mediocre 3-point defense.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. No. 14 Florida will look to win its fourth in a row, heading on the road against Ole Miss (7 p.m., ESPN2). The Rebels are undefeated at home, though.
  2. Looking for the best individual matchup of the night? Check out South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters vs. Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton (7 p.m., FOX Sports Detroit). Two high-level scorers.
  3. Four unbeaten league leaders will try to remain blemish-free. Long Beach State at UC Riverside (10 p.m.); Davidson at Chattanooga (7 p.m.); LIU at Robert Morris (7 p.m., MSG); and Weber State at Sacramento State (10:05 p.m.). 
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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 26, 2012 11:08 am

Alabama needs to take advantage of easy schedule

By Jeff Borzello

Back in late November and early December, everyone was on the Alabama bandwagon. People were talking about the Crimson Tide as a team that could give Kentucky some trouble in the SEC and potentially make a run in March.

Fast forward to late January, and it’s not even clear that Anthony Grant’s group is bound for the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday night’s loss at South Carolina was Alabama’s fourth in a row, dropping the Tide to 2-4 in the SEC and just 13-7 overall. The previous three losses in conference play – Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – were excusable, but the Gamecocks were winless in league play before Alabama came to town. It’s also going to go down as a very bad loss for ‘Bama’s at-large resume, with a sub-150 RPI giving the profile a black eye.

The positives on Alabama’s resume include a win over Wichita State in Puerto Rico, and well, little else. The Tide also knocked off Maryland and Purdue in November, and defeated VCU in late November. That’s pretty much it. The best win since November 27 (VCU) was a home victory over LSU.

Going forward, Alabama has a very easy schedule, which could be a blessing and a curse. If the Tide run off a string of wins – which is very possible with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn and LSU coming up – then we’ll forget this conversation ever happened. But a couple of stumbles along the way, and Alabama could be in need of a marquee win. Where can that come from? The only chances remaining are at home against Florida and home against Mississippi State.

If Alabama is truly an NCAA tournament team, it will go 8-2 or so down the stretch. In that instance, the Crimson Tide will be worried about seeding, not inclusion.

However, if Alabama is truly an NCAA tournament team, it probably wouldn’t have lost to South Carolina.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 25, 2012 4:08 pm

Purdue's NCAA hopes are in trouble

By Jeff Borzello

As one of the better teams over the last five years, we’ve become accustomed to seeing Purdue in the NCAA tournament – and as a team no one really wants to play.

After the Boilermakers’ home loss to Michigan on Tuesday night, though, Matt Painter’s club has its work cut out for them if it wants to return to the Big Dance.

Right now, Purdue sits at 14-7, with a 4-4 conference record. On the surface, that’s not bad. However, the Boilermakers have one marquee win on their docket: a neutral-court win over Temple back in mid-November. The Owls are a solid team, yes, but it’s not going to be the type of win that sets Purdue apart come bubble time. Outside of that, there isn’t a victory over a definite NCAA tournament team. Beating Illinois at home was good, as was knocking off Minnesota and Iona away from home. But Illinois and Iona have begun to lose some games, and Minnesota isn’t in great shape for an NCAA tournament bid.

The computer numbers are average, at best: an RPI of 62 and an SOS of 55. The non-conference strength of schedule was only 185. Moreover, a neutral-court loss to Butler and a 20-point road loss at Penn State aren’t doing the resume any favors.

Yes, there is still plenty of time left in the season – but therein lies the biggest problem. The remaining schedule is brutal.

There are five road contests left in Big Ten play: Northwestern, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. Not one of those games is a definite win for Purdue. The Boilermakers will need to steal one or two of those away games if they want an attractive profile on Selection Sunday. Saturday’s game at Northwestern would be a good start, as it might be tough to win at Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.

The home games aren’t a cakewalk, either. Penn State and Nebraska should be wins, but what about Indiana, Northwestern and Michigan State? Just to finish above .500 in the Big Ten, Purdue would have to go undefeated at home – not an easy task – and then steal a road game.

If this were a Purdue team of the last couple of years, that wouldn’t seem too difficult. The Boilers used to be unbeatable at home, but it has now lost two of its last three games at Mackey Arena.

It’s going to be a tough five weeks for Purdue.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 25, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 2:04 pm

Lefty opposes naming court after Gary Williams

Maryland will name its Comcast Center court after legendary head coach Gary Williams tonight against Duke. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

On Wednesday night, Maryland will name the Comcast Center court after former head coach Gary Williams. He is the school’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach and led the Terrapins to their only national championship in basketball.

It should be a great atmosphere and a great moment for everyone associated with the program.

Except former head coach Lefty Driesell, who doesn’t think any one coach should have his name on the court.

“It’s not fair to my players that they would put Gary Williams’ name on the court,” Driesell told The Baltimore Sun. “It’s a disservice to players such as Tom McMillen, John Lucas, Len Elmore, Brad Davis, Greg Manning, Adrian Branch and Steve Sheppard.”

Driesell is second in school history in wins, but resigned after the death of Len Bias in 1986. He went to eight NCAA tournaments in his 17 years with the Terrapins, and also coached the 1974 team that didn’t go to the NCAA tournament but was widely considered one of the best teams that season.

During Williams’ 22 years at the helm, Maryland went to 14 NCAA tournaments – including 11 consecutive from 1994-2004. The Terrapins reached the Final Four twice under Williams, and made the Sweet 16 on seven separate occasions.

Despite its struggles over the past few seasons, Maryland was one of the best basketball programs in the country for much of Williams’ tenure. The Terrapins were a perennial contender, and became a consistent national player under Williams. According to many, the Comcast Center was built because of the attention Williams brought to the program.

Does Driesell deserve recognition of some kind? Likely – and the school is considering honoring him in some way.

But for the Comcast Center basketball court, it’s tough to argue with naming it after Williams.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:46 pm

Today's Specials: Ranked teams take to the road

By Jeff Borzello

After a couple of quiet days, we have a ton of quality games tonight. There aren’t any truly marquee matchups, but there are dozens of games that could matter on a resume.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.

Best game: No. 6 Duke at Maryland (9 p.m., ESPN). In terms of quality, this might not be the top game. However, Maryland has a good enough team to knock Duke off in College Park, and the university is also naming its court after former head coach Gary Williams. It will give it a tremendous atmosphere, which could make it even harder for Duke to come out with a win. Maryland has only lost one game at home this season, while Duke hasn’t been crisp its past two games.

Second-best game: Minnesota at No. 11 Michigan State (8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). Michigan State bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a 25-point beatdown of Purdue over the weekend, while Minnesota has won three in a row since starting Big Ten play with four straight losses. The Golden Gophers are bound for the bubble, while MSU is competing for a conference title. Minnesota needs to keep Michigan State off the glass and also get to the free-throw line.

Another one to watch: Saint Louis at Xavier (7 p.m., FOX Sports Affiliates). Both teams are certainly not what they were earlier in the season, but each team is also still in contention for an at-large bid. It will be interesting to see how SLU defends the perimeter duo of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons; the Billikens force turnovers and protect penetration effectively. On the other side, Xavier needs to take care of the ball and get out in transition.

Guaranteed win: Let’s see – perhaps the best team in the CAA going up against a team that hasn’t won in over a year. VCU has won five in a row and sits one game back of George Mason in the league standings, while Towson is still looking to snap its NCAA-record losing streak. It likely won’t happen tonight (7 p.m.).

Potential upset: Five top-25 teams are heading on the road tonight against unranked opponents, and the team most at risk might be Creighton (8:05 p.m, ESPN3). The Bluejays have been very good on the road, but Drake has won four of its last five and sit at a surprising 5-4 in the Missouri Valley. The Bulldogs have already beaten Iowa State at home; can they pull off another upset?

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. BYU and Virginia Tech (7 p.m., ESPN3) could be a potentially huge game for the bubble come Selection Sunday. Both teams are sliding a bit and can’t afford another loss.
  2. Notre Dame and Seton Hall are both 4-3 in the Big East, and the Irish are coming off their huge upset win over Syracuse. The Pirates have lost two in a row (8 p.m., ESPN3).
  3. There are a couple of teams who need to handle prosperity tonight. Missouri plays its first game, against Oklahoma State (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) since moving up to No. 2 in the rankings; No. 23 Florida State heads to Wake Forest following wins over UNC and Duke in an eight-day span (7 p.m., ESPN3); and Dayton travels to Saint Joseph’s after taking over top spot in the Atlantic-10 (7 p.m., Comcast Philly).
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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:09 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 12:10 am

Night Court: SDSU overcomes travel woes for win

Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Tuesday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: Michigan overcame a subpar performance from star freshman Trey Burke to hold off Purdue on the road, 66-64. The Wolverines were up by as many as 10 in the second half, and held Purdue without a field goal for the final 3:54 of the game. However, the win wasn’t secure until Lewis Jackson missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds. Burke was only 3-for-10 from the field, but Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way with 19 points.

Win to brag about: Everything was going against San Diego State heading into Tuesday’s game against Wyoming. The Aztecs arrived in Laramie only hours before the game due to travel problems and it was the Cowboys’ biggest home contest in years. Of course, San Diego State went out and won its 11th in a row, 52-42, starting the second half on a 16-4 run. Wyoming shot just 31 percent from the field, and San Diego shot 51 percent against one of the better defensive teams in the country.

Loss to hide from: Norfolk State has been rolling through the MEAC, led by Kyle O’Quinn. The Spartans had a chance to show they could beat teams from outside their league on Tuesday night, but stumbled at home against Morehead State, 75-69. They let Morehead shoot 54 percent from the field and 61 percent from 3-point range. 

Player who deserves improper benefits: Baylor’s Perry Jones struggled against the cream of the Big 12 crop last week, but bounced back on the road against Oklahoma. He shot 9-for-15 from the field, going for 21 points and 12 rebounds in the 77-65 victory. Now, if Jones could do that against the top teams in the conference, there will no longer be doubts about his killer instinct.

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: If Tennessee had any chance of knocking off Vanderbilt, the Volunteers needed big performances from Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes. Both struggled in the 65-47 blowout loss to the Commodores. Golden went 2-for-11 from the field, finishing with four points, while Stokes attempted just five shots and finished with six points and seven turnovers. 

Numbers don’t lie:

Three other notable results:

  1. Texas overcame 15 points and 15 rebounds from Iowa State’s Royce White, beating the Cyclones, 62-55.
  2. Kentucky got 19 points off the bench from Darius Miller in its 57-44 win at Georgia.
  3. Marquette dominated South Florida in a battle of 5-2 Big East teams, forcing 20 turnovers and winning 67-47.


Photo: AP

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