Tag:A-Sun
Posted on: January 16, 2012 9:39 am
Edited on: January 16, 2012 10:08 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 9


By Matt Norlander

It was a long weekend — in a good way. But no time to dilly nor to dally. Let’s get to the tally. A few sentences before the rankings. You’ll notice the teams involved this week are the same from last week. There’s some jiggering in the standings, but that’s it.

For fans of teams not involved in the Pyramid, once more, here goes: the rankings are assembled only according to my chicken brain and involve a combination of 1) how good, in general, I think the team is at the second I post the Pyramid, 2) Has the team proven itself and gone against better teams than others? That plays a factor, as does a lack of good opponents, even if that’s in conference play. I know a lot of teams play in bad conferences, but I’m not going to continue raising their ranking if other teams are playing tougher opponents, losing the occasional game. Thirdly, this is not an AP or Coaches Poll. If you lose you don’t necessarily drop. If you win you don’t necessarily rise.

Finally, when it comes down to a “tiebreaker” of sorts, if all things are equal, I pick the team I think would win this afternoon in an empty gym somewhere in the middle of Vermont. The Peter King-ism of the Pyramid.   

I’m loving, and appreciating, the attention the Pyramid’s been getting, at least enough to make a number of your email/tweet your disagreements. You’ve been civil and I’ve been sad to see that. Let’s get inappropriately angry already.

Top Tier

1. UNLV (16-3). A Sentence:  I do not necessarily punish for losing close, on the road, against a tournament team who also happens to be in your conference. A Statistic: What does this mean to you? UNLV is undefeated at home, but 3-3 on the road. The Schedule: vs. TCU Wednesday; vs. New Mexico Saturday.

2. New Mexico (15-2). A Sentence:  Just take a look at the schedule and you’ll see that top of the Pyramid, or as low as 7 or 8, hangs in the balance this week. A Statistic: Uncommon amongst Pyramid teams — New Mexico last on Thanksgiving. The Schedule: vs. San Diego State Wednesday; at UNLV Saturday.

3. Creighton (16-2). A Sentence: Barring some real stinkers in the MVC, I don’t see how Creighton possibly falls out of the top five the rest of the way. A Statistic: I asked Patrick Marshall, who runs @wildjays, what his favorite stat about this team is. He offered up the fact Doug McDermott hit 1,000 points in 57 games. It took Creighton’s all-time leading scorer, Rodney Buford (’95-’99), 59 to do it. The Schedule: at Missouri State Wednesday; vs. Indiana State Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Saint Mary’s (17-2). A Sentence: To put it simply: I didn’t think the Gaels had a shot to win 18 of their first 20 games, which they’ll do Thursday night. A Statistic: The Gaels are scoring 1.15 points per trip, which is good for No. 9 in the nation. Yes, very good, and so good that they’ve not finished this high in efficiency in the past decade — or more. The Schedule: vs. Pepperdine Thursday; at Santa Clara Saturday.

5. Murray State (18-0). A Sentence: Plenty think I’m anti-Murray State, and that’s simply not the case. A Statistic: The Racers have a 37.4 percent of finishing unbeaten in the regular season, according to KenPom.  My brain calculus says it’s about an even 50/50 of getting into the NCAAs unscathed. And I still don’t think they do it — BUT I WANT THEM TO DO YOU HEAR ME HATERS I AM ROOTING FOR THIS. The Schedule: at Morehead State Wednesday; at SIU Edwardsville Saturday.

6. San Diego State (15-2). A Sentence: After about 40 days of playing garbage competition, the Aztecs pull out a two-point win in Saturday’s most exciting game (against UNLV), officially making Steve Fisher a wizard. A Statistic: Most incredible aspect to SDSU’s win over UNLV was the glaring difference in offensive-rebound rate (40 to 20). UNLV had 19 second-chance opportunities; Aztecs had six — and didn’t even shoot better than 50 percent, effectively, from the field. The Schedule: at New Mexico Wednesday; vs. Air Force Saturday.

7. Harvard (15-2). A Sentence: It’s not that I’m down on Harvard, I’m just higher on the higher teams, who’ve been getting chances to prove more and win more definitively than the Crimson. A Statistic: Some more crowd-sourcing was done here. I asked John Ezekowitz, who helps run the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective blog, what his favorite Crimson stat is. He offered up a few, but this one’s great. The program has set, plus broken. its record for fewest points allowed in a half twice this year. Earlier this season it was just 14 allowed against Florida State, and on Saturday, Harvard held George Washington to 13. The Schedule: at Dartmouth Saturday.

8. Gonzaga (14-3). A Sentence: Gonzaga has notable wins, but look closer and you’ll see they’re not great — merely good. A Statistic: Robert Sacre reaches the foul line 93 percent of the time compared to the field goal attempts he has. That’s an incredible rate—third-best in this fine nation. The Schedule: vs. San Francisco Thursday; vs. San Diego Saturday.

9. Iona (14-4). A Sentence: Gaels did not mess around Sunday night, winning by 11 over Loyola (MD), who was playing with the MAAC conference lead on the line. A Statistic: Iona’s averaging 81.1 points per game, but in its four losses, that number falls to 75. Reduce possessions and reduce your risk — you’ve got a chance. The Schedule: vs. Manhattan Thursday; vs. Loyola (Maryland) Sunday.

10. Dayton (13-5). A Sentence: We do not overreact here and discriminate for one loss. A Statistic: According to BBState.com’s metrics, Dayton has the 10th-toughest schedule. But KenPom has it at 38. Seems too stark. The Schedule: vs. Xavier Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Oral Roberts (16-4). A Sentence: Golden Eagles are already halfway (8-0) to going undefeated in the Summit. A Statistic: Dominique Morrison is in the top 10 percent in minutes played, offensive rating, usage, effective field goals and free-throw rate. Only Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan shares that distinction. The Schedule: vs. IUPU Fort Wayne Thursday; vs. Oakland Saturday.

12. Wichita State (15-3). A Sentence: While the rest of the Missouri Valley cannibalizes itself into a two-bid league, the Shockers have dodged all but a loss to tournament-bound Creighton. A Statistic: WSU’s opponents are only getting 24.1 percent of O-board chances, fourth-best in the country. The Schedule: at Northern Iowa Wednesday; vs. Southern Illinois Saturday.

13. Middle Tennessee State (17-2): A Sentence: Blue Raiders playing themselves into an awesome position, but I’m worried the committee isn’t going to value this team and will stick them with a 14. A Statistic: Blue Raiders have won all but four of their games by double digits. The Schedule: vs. Arkansas State Thursday; at South Alabama Saturday.

14. Temple (11-5). A Sentence: I want the mustache back, Fran Dunphy. A Statistic: Fran Dunphy has gone 102 days without a mustache. The Schedule: vs. La Salle Wednesday; vs. Maryland Saturday.

15. Saint Louis (14-4). A Sentence: I’ve been trending down on SLU and that continues this week; home against Duquesne likely means they’ll be in the 15 spot again next week. A Statistic: Billikens have been cheating KenPom.com’s rankings all season long. They’re currently sitting at 18, which is about 20 spots too high for my ignorant tastes. The Schedule: vs. Duquesne Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: No one. In: No one!
♦ Three-loss non-BCS teams not in the Pyramid: Wyoming, Southern Miss, Wagner, Nevada, Cleveland State, Weber State. My guess is you’ll see three of those in the Pyramid in the next two weeks.
♦ I do not, nor will I ever, account for RPI. I love the emails, but you lovelies gotta stop referencing this unicorn stat. Kthxbai.
♦ And if you’d like to ever send me any worthwhile info or complaints about this, I encourage a follow on Twitter or emailing: matt.norlander@cbsinteractive.com.


More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: January 9, 2012 9:32 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 2:02 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 8



By Matt Norlander

The Pyramid isn’t living in the same world as the rest of college basketball. At least not yet. Did you happen to look at the results from the past four nights or so? The sport’s been filled with unlikely defeats and confusing transgressions all over the map. I don’t know what the Pac-12 is anymore, and the A10 is content to eat itself, it seems.

But over here, the rankings, while shifting, aren’t completely getting jumbled; there’s a sense of propriety here. What I really look forward to is the intra-conference games that are coming up, the tilts that will jilt the order here. We’ve got two newbies to the party this week, both who jumped over a number of teams based on a collective body of work that merited more than a 14 or 15 ranking.

Let’s get to talking.

Top Tier

1. UNLV (15-2). A Sentence:  I do wonder why more people aren’t noticing how good and dangerous this team is. A Statistic: The Rebels are back to running again. UNLV averages a conference-best 70.8 possessions per game. The Schedule: at San Diego State Saturday.

Is Drew Gordon ready to step up in a big way in conference play? The Pyramid sees big things ahead. (AP)

2. New Mexico (14-2). A Sentence:  Goodman and Parrish are down on the Lobos, so be thankful the Power Pyramid is here to give love to western teams who deserve it. A Statistic: It’s not as good as Vegas’ nearly 19 dimes per game, but the 17.3 assists per game UNM’s doling out is still top 10 in the nation. The Schedule: at Wyoming Saturday.

3. Creighton (13-2). A Sentence: McDermott’s going to be getting more pub I believe, but we’re about at the point where an examination of the starting five is worth our words. A Statistic: It’s the double threat that makes Creighton so great. The fact they can pass (20.2 assists per game, second in hoops) and shoot from deep (45.4 3-point percentage is second only to Indiana, who made 16 out of 24 attempts Sunday to overtake the ‘Jays). Alm. The Schedule: vs. Northern Iowa Tuesday; at Illinois State Friday; vs. Southern Illinois Sunday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Harvard (13-2). A Sentence: Let’s try not to overreact if Harvard winds up losing two Ivy games. A Statistic: I actually asked Harvard Yanni Hufnagel, a Crimson assistant, was his favorite stat about this team is. He said the 14.1 to 8.9 free-throws-made-per-game disparity. Said that’s been a small but big thing for this team. The Schedule: at Monmouth Tuesday; vs. George Washington Saturday.

5. Iona (12-3). A Sentence: The Gaels stand a good chance of separating themselves by two or three games in the MAAC in the next two weeks. A Statistic: For such a high-scoring team, Iona doesn’t make the most of getting to the foul line. The Gaels’ free-throw attempts amount to 28.8 percent of their field goal attempts (36.5 is about the average). The Schedule: vs. Manhattan Thursday; vs. Loyola (Maryland) Sunday.

6. Murray State (16-0). A Sentence: That Austin Peay win was a lot tougher than a lot of people realize. A Statistic: You might be wondering what Murray State’s best statistical season in program history is. Surely you can recall that 1935-36 assembly of Racer whippersnappers who went 23-2. The Schedule: vs. Jacksonville State Thursday; vs. Tennessee Tech Saturday.

7. Gonzaga (13-2). A Sentence: I’m ready for Kevin Pangos time. A Statistic: For the past seven years, the Zags have averaged between 67.4 and 68.7 possessions per game. Few is consistent, even if Gonzaga remains unpredictable. I’m liking this team, just not loving it yet. The Schedule: at Saint Mary’s Thursday; at Loyola Marymount Saturday.

8. San Diego State (13-2). A Sentence: Finally, finally, finally, finally we get to see the return of SDSU, who could get some muscle shock Saturday after their patsy run of cupcakes finishes up this week at home against winless Chicago State. A Statistic: According to BBState.com, SDSU has the 126th-ranked schedule. And that doesn’t include all the non-DI opponents.. The Schedule: vs. Chicago State Tuesday; vs. UNLV Saturday.

9. Saint Mary’s (14-2). A Sentence: I kind of put Saint Mary’s top-10 by default, but I will say this three-game week means a lot for the Gaels, who will skyrocket to my respect if they can run the table this week. A Statistic: Clint Steindl, a starter averaging 23 minutes per game, is scoring 1.39 points per possession. That’s the fourth-best efficiency out there. Awesome! The Schedule: vs. San Francisco Monday; vs. Gonzaga Thursday; vs. Portland Saturday.

First-year coach Archie Miller has it going for Dayton..  (US PRESSWIRE)

10. Dayton (12-4). A Sentence: Welcome the Flyers, who have screamed onto the scene after wins against Ole Miss, Saint Louis and Temple. A Statistic: As of now, Dayton doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, save shooting free throws. The Flyers make 76 of their charity shots, No. 20 overall. The Schedule: at St. Bonaventure Wednesday; vs. La Salle Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Temple (10-4). A Sentence: I wanted to believe Temple was there to take the A10, then it followed up that nice Duke W by losing to Archie Miller’s boys. A Statistic: Temple takes on the Billikens this week. It hasn’t lost to SLU in six years. The Schedule: at Saint Louis Wednesday; at Richmond Saturday.

12. Saint Louis (13-3). A Sentence: I deserve to be ripped down the road for this if I’m wrong, because there’s not much evidence to support it, but, I believe Saint Louis’ best basketball this season is behind it. A Statistic: To show some sort of belief in SLU (which I think staggers into the tournament), here — Rick Majerus has lost at least 13 games every year of his tenure at Saint Louis. He’ll be setting a record low this season. The Schedule: vs. Temple Wednesday; at Charlotte Saturday.

13. Oral Roberts (14-4). A Sentence: It’s not breaking any info to say a mid-major team is overlooked, but no mid-major team has been overlooked this season as ORU. A Statistic: Dominique Morrison has an absurd offensive rating in 156 during conference play. The Schedule: at Western Illinois Thursday; at IUPUI Saturday.

14. Wichita State (12-3). A Sentence: Like Saint Mary’s, I’m promising a boost for the Shockers if they can go 3-0 against conference foes this week. A Statistic: The Shockers are currently ranked 24th in efficiency defense (.90 points per possession), which is their best standing during the KenPom.com era (2003-on). The Schedule: vs. Illinois State Tuesday; vs. Bradley Friday; at Indiana State Sunday.

15. Middle Tennessee State (15-2): A Sentence: Six of the next eight games are away from home, including a game at Vanderbilt. A Statistic: Eight of the 12 Sun Belt teams are currently under .500. What’s it mean for Middle Tenn? Only that judging them going forward will be tough in such a bad league. Hard to see this team ever climbing above the 10 spot, even if it gets to say 23-3 in time. The Schedule: at Florida International Thursday; at Florida Atlantic Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Ohio, St. Joseph’s. In: Dayton, Oral Roberts.
♦ I still don’t buy BYU yet.
♦ The same goes for 13-2 Wyoming.
♦ Southern Miss makes the Pyramid next week by beating Memphis on the road and UAB at home. USM has a weak schedule and needs a couple of prove-it wins.
♦ And if you’d like to ever send me any worthwhile info or complaints about this, I encourage a follow on Twitter or emailing: matt.norlander@cbsinteractive.com.


Posted on: January 2, 2012 9:48 am
Edited on: January 2, 2012 9:50 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 7


By Matt Norlander

Well, consider me gobsmacked. I would have never believed we’d reach a point this season that Xavier wasn’t included in that there graphic. But X got X’ed after falling to Gonzaga at home on New Year’s Eve. I’m inclined to let the Muskies back in once they have a couple games rolled together that shows just how good they can be—because Xavier’s ceiling is Final Four-worthy.

Let’s get to other matters, namely, the teams actually involved in this week’s top 15.  I said it last week, and of course since I have control over such matters, it’s coming true — we’re seeing more shifting in the Pyramid now that teams are playing quality, beatable opponents on a regular basis. I’d put some serious distance between No. 1 and No. 2 now, as much as I like the boys in Cambridge, Mass.

What I really like about the Pyramid is all the teams I see listed I can see winning in the NCAAs. Even teams not involved (Xavier, VCU, BYU) have win-a-game potential. Strong crop this year, even if that recognition hasn’t picked up nationally yet.

And if you’d like to ever send me any worthwhile info or complaints about this, I encourage a follow on Twitter or emailing: matt.norlander@cbsinteractive.com.

Top Tier

Anthony Marshall and Vegas are looking better each week. (AP)

1. UNLV (15-2). A Sentence: There is now no doubt: Vegas is the clear-cut No. 1 non-BCS team in hoops. A Statistic: UNLV is in the top half of every significant tempo-free category except one, free throw rate. Scoring 1.13 points per possession negates a need to earn dues at the stripe, though. The Schedule: at Cal State Bakersfield Thursday.

2. Harvard (12-1). A Sentence: I don’t think it dodges the debris the rest of the way, but the talk of Harvard getting to The Tournament with just one loss will ramp up now since the Ivy lacks a proven team. A Statistic: Harvard has 19 (!!) players on its roster. The average Ivy team has 17.6 players with a right to a jersey. This can happen because no players are on scholarship. It’s also ironic that Ivy institutions feel a need to be so inclusive. The Schedule: at Fordham Tuesday; vs. Dartmouth Saturday.

3. New Mexico (12-2). A Sentence: A huge jump for the Lobos this week, up from No. 9, because I like to take shotgun on the bandwagon before the crowd flags down the ride. A Statistic: New Mexico finds itself among the best of the Mountain West, which is an outstanding 85-25 and without any team even flirting with the .500 line. The Schedule: vs. Houston Baptist; vs. North Dakota.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Creighton (11-2). A Sentence: The Birds lose to Missouri State but beat Wichita State — so let’s just leave them be on their branch. A Statistic: Creighton is a better passing team than how its viewed. Bluejays are doling out 19.9 assists per game. Almost the best in the United States. The Schedule: vs. Drake Tuesday; at Bradley Saturday.

5. Iona (10-3). A Sentence: I can’t completely bail on the Gaels, but getting handled at Hofstra was too much to overlook. A Statistic: Friendly Monday reminder that Iona, with 20 dimes per game, is still the most opportunistic passing team in college hoops. The Schedule: vs. Siena Tuesday; vs. Niagara Friday; at Marist Sunday.

6. San Diego State (12-2). A Sentence: Wake me Jan. 14, when UNLV comes to town. A Statistic: How about a troubling lack of a statistic? The Aztecs don’t lead the Mountain West in one major category at the moment. No other Pyramid team inhabits that personality flaw. The Schedule: vs. NAIA San Diego Christian Thursday.

Steve Prohm has coached the Racers to 14 straight wins in his first season. (AP)


7. Murray State (14-0). A Sentence: You Racers, I love what you’ve done, but the schedule gets so easy going forward, I don’t know how good this team actually is. A Statistic: Murray State is undefeated. The Schedule: vs. Eastern Kentucky Wednesday; at Austin Peay Saturday.

8. Gonzaga (11-2). A Sentence: Yes, Gonzaga’s a tournament team again, but does anyone have any grip on what this team is or its ceiling?. A Statistic: You’ve heard about how Florida needs to feed Voltron inside, but Robert Sacre is the one who will take all the touches he can get. The big man’s free throw rate is at 93.3 percent, a country mile ahead of any other big man in that category. The Schedule: vs. Pepperdine Thursday; vs. Santa Clara Saturday.

9. Saint Louis (12-2). A Sentence: Too much to ask SLU to go to New Mexico and get a win, but the Dayton game upcoming smells like more trouble. A Statistic: Brian Conklin, a 66.1 eFG shooter, is the best twine-tickler nobody even thinks of talking about. The Schedule: at Dayton Wednesday; vs. George Washington Saturday.

10. Ohio (12-1). A Sentence: Team is a five-point loss against Louisville — a game Ohio should have won, no question — from being undefeated. A Statistic: Point guard D.J. Cooper is great for how he distributes, but also great for his 2.5 steals per game. The Schedule: vs. Robert Morris Monday; at Bowling Green Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. St. Joseph’s (10-4). A Sentence: I feel the need to prove the Pyramid doesn’t work the same way the polls do; a 10-4 team in this spot does that, I hope. A Statistic: St. Joe’s should have defeated Harvard Saturday. It blew a lead and couldn’t handle Kyle Casey. The Hawks’ Carl Jones remains the A10’s leading scorer, but he will not do it all himself going forward. The Schedule: at Duquesne Wednesday; vs. Charlotte Saturday.

12. Saint Mary’s (13-2). A Sentence: I was skeptical of SMC all season, but they wait it dismantled BYU Thursday convinced me this team is deserving of getting their graphic above. A Statistic: The Gaels can chase after the ball when they don’t have, snaring 76.9 percent of defensive rebound chances—only Ohio State and Tulane are more determined. The Schedule: at San Diego Thursday.

13. Temple (9-3). A Sentence: Huge week for Temple, which likely jumps way high or gets kicked out of the Pyramid due a pair of home game that can really boost the Owls’ profile. A Statistic: Temple has the No. 16-ranked SOS according to KenPom. That’s the toughest of any Pyramid team. The Schedule: vs. Duke Wednesday; vs. Dayton Saturday.

14. Wichita State (10-3). A Sentence: Lost by seven at home against, Creighton, but I’ve got to see another loss in the next two weeks before booting the Shockers. A Statistic: WSU is only Valley team with a top-25 tempo-adjusted offense and defense. The Schedule: at Evansville Wednesday; at Southern Illinois Saturday.

15. Middle Tennessee State (13-2): A Sentence: MTSU’s resume just edges out VCU, who’s the metaphorical No. 16 this week. A Statistic: The Blue Raiders are new to the Pyramid. What sticks out to me about them: they’re the fourth-best team at getting to the free throw line (53.6 percent of their possessions result in a foul shot), yet they’re miserable when they get freebies (62.8 percent). The Schedule: at Troy Thursday; vs. Louisiana Lafayette Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Northern Iowa, Xavier. In: Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee State.
♦ BYU has potential but so much to prove. Team will not win the WCC in its first year that’s for sure.
♦ VCU can make its move in a big way the next two weeks. Shaka’s guys doing more with less.
♦ Southern Miss and Wyoming, I hear you calling my name.

Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Power Pyramid, Week 6: No resolutions required



By Matt Norlander

Hope your Holiday season continues to go well — this week in between Christmas and New Year’s is always odd in that so many get the week off, but there’s still plenty goings on going on. We won’t slow here with a lot of basketball ahead. I did this week’s Pyramid today, Dec. 26, at Mom and Dad’s house, gifts still under the tree and dogs tearing apart at opened boxes.

I’m loving that nearly everyone’s got two games awaiting them this week, as the pace of conference season takes hold of the sport. I do still have Xavier ranked, because I think X is one of the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball. The rules of the polls don’t apply here. This is more about a general acknowledgment of a team’s ability with some credence to opponents played and beaten than just a move up/move down if you win or lose. That said, continuing to win almost always helps a cause.

Top Tier

1. Iona (10-2). A Sentence: I’ve been driving the Iona bus for about a month now, and you’re all welcome to take a seat. A Statistic: With 2.42 years of experience, no Pyramid team is older than Iona. The Schedule: at Hofstra Thursday.

2. UNLV (13-2). A Sentence: Enjoying UNLV’s run because now it’s starting to look like this team can realistically snag a 5 or 4 seed. A Statistic: Further testament to why Vegas should be ranked this high, look at the games played. Fifteen is more than anyone in the Pyramid. The Schedule: vs. Central Arkansas Wednesday; at Hawaii Saturday.

3. Harvard (10-1). A Sentence: Well, well … lookie there at that big game coming up this week, meaning there’s potential for serious Pyramid swappage. A Statistic: How often does a bench player get involved in more than 28 percent of a team’s action? Quite rare, but the Crimson’s Jonah Travis, a freshman, is plenty involved when his name gets called. The Schedule: at Boston College Thursday; vs. Saint Joseph’s Saturady.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Creighton (10-1). A Sentence: You’ll see this line in my Valley primer this week: If his name was Jimmer McDermott, a lot more people would be talking about his remarkable season. A Statistic: The past four seasons, the Valley’s only had one tournament team. Creighton will lead the way in getting the MVC at least three bids this year. The Schedule: vs. Missouri State Wednesday; at Wichita State Saturday.

5. Saint Louis (11-1). A Sentence: Now’s the time, the next 16 days, for SLU to definitively make its statement on being a no-questions-asked at-large team. A Statistic: Billikens are beating teams by an average of 70-53 right now. The Schedule: vs. Texas Southern Tuesday; at New Mexico Saturday.

6. San Diego State (9-2). A Sentence: Could/should be punished for playing such terrible teams at this point in the season. A Statistic: With a healthy assist rate of 58.9 percent and 5.4 assists per game, sophomore Xavier Thames is the Mountain West’s best point guard right now. The Schedule: vs. D-III Redlands Friday.

7. Murray State (13-0). A Sentence: Either no Murray State fans are reading the slave labor I put into the Pyramid each week (because I haven’t gotten any complaints about where the MSU placed), or Racers fans are incredibly well-reasoned. A Statistic: The Racers have three players averaging more than 1.2 points per possession. That’s hard-to-find formula for big success. The Schedule: at Eastern Illinois Friday.

8. Gonzaga (9-2). A Sentence: It’s nearly reaching the point where Gonzaga is underrated, but that will soon pass if it beats Xavier this week and beeps loud and clear onto the radar. A Statistic: It’s not often a freshman leads Gonzaga in scoring, but 6-1 Kevin Pangos, at 14.5 PPG, is doing it. The Schedule: vs. Portland Wednesday; at Xavier Saturday.

9. New Mexico (10-2). A Sentence: No ranked team here has a tougher week ahead than New Mexico, which I think I’ll have to slot around fifth if it goes 2-0. A Statistic: The 50th-tallest team has the fourth-best block rate (5 percent). The Schedule: at New Mexico State Wednesday; vs. Saint Louis Saturday.

10. Wichita State (9-2). A Sentence: I maintain we’ve yet to see the best of this team. A Statistic: You saw the Iona stat above — Witchy State is second-oldest in the Pyramid at 2.38 years of experience. The Schedule: at Bradley Wednesday; vs. Creighton Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. St. Joseph’s (9-3). A Sentence: It’s a pleasure to research and read up on this team in purely a basketball sense. A Statistic: Few teams work players as much as the Hawks use Carl Jones, who takes up 91.6 percent of available minutes. The Schedule: vs. Morgan State Wednesday; at Harvard Saturday.

12. Temple (7-3). A Sentence: With Juan Fernandez not playing up to his skill level, it’s now official: Outside of Temple fans, Ramone Moore is the most undervalued player in the country. A Statistic: The Owls have the second-best 3-point defense in the country, allowing 23.3 percent of bombs to fall. The Schedule: vs. Buffalo Wednesday; at Delaware Friday .

13. Ohio (11-1). A Sentence: Have been waiting for the chance to include Ohio for a while; it’s worthy. A Statistic: The Bobcats are 11-1 for the first time in 70 years. The Schedule: vs. Kennesaw State Friday.

14. Northern Iowa (10-2). A Sentence: Falling 76-59 to the Bobcats last week only means UNI does a tumble and allows Ohio to pop into the picture. A Statistic: Anthony James is taking great care of the ball, only turning it over 8 percent of the time, which is No. 21 in the nation, per KenPom. The Schedule: at Illinois State Thursday; vs. Evansville Sunday.

15. Xavier (9-3): A Sentence: The Pyramid doesn’t run its rules the way the polls do, so it’s simple: Beating Gonzaga Saturday clearly means X should stay, and if it loses, then see ya. A Statistic: The team is no longer shooting well, falling below the 50-percent mark in effective field goal shooting last week. The Schedule: vs. Gonzaga Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Cleveland State. In: Ohio.
♦ Saint Mary’s and BYU are going to have to prove it in conference play. Schedules too weak and both lost to Baylor last week. Can’t get them in.
♦ This will be the last week where you see a lot of consistencies between each week in the Pyramid, I think. Conference play and intra-Pyramid matchups will mandate some shifting and moving a lot going forward.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:41 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 5, Festivus Edition


By Matt Norlander

I just couldn’t help myself. I had to really hideous that thing up, go full-on Clark Griswold with the thing. Festivus is in four days, folks, so get your grievances ready, starting prepping for the feats of strength and if you’d like to say your grievances about anything I’ve done, you know this is the place.

As for the teams below, last week provided another tough gauge, as a lot of teams either didn’t play or went up against garbage. Ranking Xavier was the toughest, because I don’t treat the Pyramid like the polls system. If you win it doesn’t automatically mean you move up and if you lose it doesn’t automatically mean you move down. The rankings are a blend of who you play, who you’ve beat, the general state of your team and what promise it has. It’s subjective in that way, but it’s not a complete prisoner of the moment like the polls. Hey, these are my rankings.

And if you've got a problem with that, the feats of strength CAN START RIGHT NOW.

I still think Xavier’s the best non-BCS team, but without their guards they’re not, so they get docked, but not too harshly. OK, no more blabbing. Let’s get to listing, then Frank Costanza’s gonna kick everyone’s rear.

Frank Costanza’s Favorites

1. Iona (9-2). A Sentence: No possible/probable/surefire tournament team has tested itself away from home as much as the Gaels, who now benefit from Xavier’s horrible loss to Oral Roberts. A Statistic: Nine players on this team have a KenPom offensive rating of greater than 100. That’s just stupid good. Syracuse matches Iona, but Kentucky and UNC? Seven apiece. The Schedule: at William & Mary Wednesday.

2. UNLV (11-2). A Sentence: If you missed UNLV’s win over Illinois at the United Center, it was one of the more impressive takedowns by a Power Pyramid team this season, which is saying something considering the Rebels also beat UNC in November. A Statistic: Despite grabbing 15 percent of his team’s offensive rebound chances, Mike Moser's O rating is just 104.5, which is good, but you’d think it’d be closer to 110 with so much work around the tin. The Schedule: vs. Louisiana Monroe Monday; vs. California Friday.

3. Harvard (9-1). A Sentence: I’d like to see Keith Wright get a little more involved and turn Harvard into an unquestionable top-three team in Ivy history. A Statistic: With 15.9 hacks per game, Harvard’s among the most disciplined teams in the nation when it comes to fouling. The Schedule: vs. Florida Atlantic Thursday.

On Santa’s Good List

4. Xavier (8-1): A Sentence: The loss was so bad, and the team is without its backcourt players right now, that this feels like a good compromise of what/where X really is and how it needed to tumble. A Statistic: Without Tu Holloway, Dezmine Wells and Mark Lyons, Xavier had its worst game points-wise, in 3-point percentage, field goal percentage, field goals made, free throws made, steals and rebounds vs Oral Roberts. The Schedule: vs. Long Beach State Thursday.

5. Creighton (8-1). A Sentence: Doug McDermott stands a chance at becoming a First Team All-America. A Statistic: The Bluejays’ schedule ranks 321 on KenPom right now. Fun team, going to threaten to win the Valley, but the tougher portion of the slate lies ahead. The Schedule: at Tulsa Monday; vs. Northwestern Thursday.

6. Saint Louis (10-1). A Sentence: Rick Majerus seems like a guy who absolutely would lend himself to a feats of strength battle. A Statistic: SLU is beating opponents by a 16.5 points per game average. The Schedule: vs. Arkansas State Thursday.

7. San Diego State (9-2). A Sentence: Aztecs are one of many teams in the Pyramid amid really putrid schedule runs right now. A Statistic: The Aztecs are in the midst of a 38-day stretch between playing respectable/NCAA tournament-team opponents. UNLV on Jan. 14 is the next chance for SDSU to impress. The Schedule: vs. UC Riverside Monday; vs. Elon Thursday.

8. Murray State (12-0). A Sentence:  How about many sentences on a team I like but don’t yet love. A Statistic: You want stats? How about I again direct you to this. The Schedule: vs. Tennessee Martin Wednesday.

9. Gonzaga (7-2). A Sentence: I think Gonzaga will violently bounce around within the walls this year, but doubt it ever falls out (then again, I said that about Belmont). A Statistic: Elias Harris’ (right) 25 and 8 against Arizona deserves another mention two days later. Zags need about 10 of those games from Harris this season to be a universally perceived threat. The Schedule: vs. Butler Tuesday; vs. Air Force Thursday.

10. New Mexico (8-2). A Sentence: Only because I don’t want to punish other teams’ mandatory bad scheduling in finals week—that’s the only reason why the Lobos aren’t higher. A Statistic: UNM is getting an assist on 69.5 percent of its possessions, a great trend and fourth-best in the country. The Schedule: vs. Montana State Tuesday; vs. Missouri-Kansas City Thursday.

Bottom of the Feats of Strengths Pile

11. Northern Iowa (9-1). A Sentence: They Valley presence remains strong, consistent in the Pyramid. A Statistic: Respect what this team’s done, but it’s No. 3 in the RPI as of now. Thus commences your reminder that the RPI is worse than spoiled egg nog. The Schedule: vs. D-III Loras College Monday; vs. Ohio Tuesday.

12. Wichita State (8-2). A Sentence: Taking all my power to resist as many Seinfeld jokes as possible with who the Shockers have tonight. A Statistic: Shockers nabbing punks to the tune of 20 points per game, in victory. The Schedule: vs. D-II Newman University Monday.

13. St. Joseph’s (8-3). A Sentence: There’s something so charming about the Hawks when they’re good, and they appear to finally be good again. A Statistic: C.J. Aiken blocking 14 percent of opponents’ possessions, making St. Joe’s play so much taller than they are. The Schedule: vs. Coppin State Wednesday.

14. Temple (6-3). A Sentence: Stubbornly won’t quit yet, because I believe the Owls are still one of the 15 best non-BCS teams in the country. A Statistic: Temple’s still plenty high inside the Pyramid if it doesn’t allow Texas to grab 45.2 percent of offensive-rebound chances Saturday. The Schedule: at Rice Monday.

15. Cleveland State (10-1). A Sentence: Vikings had a week off to prepare for a BCS team tonight. A Statistic: Nobody’s forcing turnovers more frequently than CSU, swiping it 29.8 percent of the time. Great rate. The Schedule: at South Florida Monday; vs. Sam Houston State Thursday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Belmont. In: St. Joseph’s.
♦ Love what Nate Wolters and South Dakota State did to Washington Sunday, but that team wouldn’t make a top 20 non-BCS list just yet.
♦ Saint Mary’s gets to prove itself this week. Baylor Thursday, Missouri State Friday.
♦ Southern Miss is another team I’m keeping an eye on.
♦ OK, time for the airing of grievances. Let’s have it.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 3

By Matt Norlander

Every Monday, we’re going to be giving you readers and fans and coaches more and more reason to hate us. How can we do this outside of just being our natural, irritating selves? By ranking as many teams in as many ways as possible, of course. And we won’t reserve our judgment for your scorn in big-boy country. No, we’d like to alienate ourselves to the fan bases around the nation, mid-major schools included.

This feature serves as a complement to the weekly Top 25 and One, which you can read right here.

No more ado — here’s how we see it, the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball as of Monday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m ET.

Top Tier

1. Xavier (6-0). A Sentence: There’s a considerable difference between X and everyone else, when you take into account the Muskies’ wins over Vandy on the road and the comeback W against Purdue last week. A Statistic: The only major flaw with Chris Mack’s team right now is the free-throw shooting. X is under 60 percent as a team. Will get them eventually. The Schedule: at Butler Wednesday; vs. Cincinnati Saturday.

2. Iona (6-1). A Sentence: Saw this team in person a week ago, and no joke, they look incredibly dangerous for pretty much any team outside of the top five right now. A Statistic: The Gaels are scoring 1.14 points per possession, which is definitely good, but a little less than I expected from the highest-scoring and highest assisting team in the country. The Schedule: at Denver Wednesday; at Marshall Sunday.

3. Harvard (8-0). A Sentence: I’d love for Harvard to justify me putting them this high with a win Thursday, but they merely need to keep it compelling. A Statistic: The Crimson have been helped by a “defensive” stat they have such little control over: free throw defense. Opponents are shooting an NCAA-worst 54 percent from the line against them. The Schedule: at Connecticut Thursday; at Boston University Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. UNLV (8-1): A Sentence: Beating North Carolina, then losing on the road at a Power Pyramid Wichita State team equates to a UNLV team smelling the Pyramid’s ceiling. A Statistic: 52.2 was the percentage from 3-point range the Shockers put up against UNLV over the weekend. It was the first time this season Vegas has had a team shoot better than 50 percent against them from downtown. The Schedule: vs. NAIA Cal State San Marcos Wednesday; at Wisconsin Saturday.

5. Creighton (7-0). A Sentence: Greg McDermott’s team is playing so well because his son is on his way to an Adam Morrison-like year in terms of offense. A Statistic: Remarkably, the Jay’s effective field goal percentage has rise, up to a still-tops-in-the-U.S. 60.9 clip. The Schedule: at St. Joseph’s Saturday.


6. Gonzaga (5-1). A Sentence: I’m not quite sure what Gonzaga will become, but I do know they’ve got plenty of chances, plenty of talent, and believe they’d beat everyone below them here on a neutral floor more times than not (as of today). A Statistic: The game, and loss, to Illinois was the first road game of Gonzaga’s season. Last year, the team was 7-5 on the road, and didn’t get above .500 in that category until the end of the year. More road woes coming this year?. The Schedule: vs. Michigan State Saturday.

7. Saint Louis (7-1). A Sentence: Have been impressed with Saint Louis so far, but for reasons I won’t expound upon here and now, I still remain wary. A Statistic: Saint Louis is in the shorter half of D-I teams, and they’re rebounding like it. The 24.2 offensive rebounding percentage will eventually need to come up, unless the team’s able to keep the eFG% above 58 (which it is now). The Schedule: vs. Vermont Wednesday; vs. D-II Illinois Springfield Saturday.

8. San Diego State (8-2). A Sentence: Interesting about this team right now: the numbers don’t love it, but boy have I and so many others been impressed. A Statistic: Despite the strong start, Aztecs are 58 in KenPom. Where’s the love? BYU is 21! The Schedule: at San Diego Wednesday.

9. Memphis (4-2). A Sentence: Tigers had a couple of patsies last weeks, so they fall slightly be default. A Statistic: Just take notice of the team above and the team right here. One’s played 10 games, the other six. There is a lot of room to flex between groups right now; we’ll have a better sense of the Pyramid’s hierarchy in about three weeks. The Schedule: at Miami Tuesday; vs. Murray State Sunday.

10. Belmont (5-2). A Sentence: I’ll take this moment this week to say: Unless Belmont starts ripping up opponents by 20-plus on the regular, they’re just going to be a really good, nondescript team off most non-Pyramid radars until late February. A Statistic: Last year, Belmont was one of the best teams in the country at turning you over. This year, it’s the opposite. The 14.1 offensive turnover rate is third-best nationally. The Schedulevs. Tennessee State Tuesday.

Base Blocks

11. Northern Iowa (7-1). A Sentence: The Valley is going to be a multi-bid league this year, and UNI will be making the NCAAs — yes, I’m saying that on Dec. 5. A Statistic: The Panthers’ D, giving up .93 points per possession, hasn’t been given enough love so far. Let’s see if this team can become as good on the D end as the 2009-10 group. The Schedule: vs. Iowa Tuesday; vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday.

12. Temple (4-2). A Sentence: Pretty sure Owls are in a tough spot this week; they’ll most definitely need to go 2-0 to remain inside the Pyramid’s walls on Dec. 12. A Statistic: Owls senior Michael Eric is currently taking more of your misses than anyone else. He possess a 34.6 success rate at grabbing defensive boards. The Schedule: at Toledo Wednesday; vs. Villanova Saturday.

13. New Mexico (6-2). A Sentence: Sophomore guard Kendall Williams has turned into a better player than I’d expected and is the reason UNM keeps a logo on this graphic. A Statistic: 23-4. That was the opening run to start Saturday’s game against Missouri State, which was in the Power Pyramid last Monday. The Schedule: at USC Saturday.

14. Wichita State (5-2). A Sentence: Valley swaps one team for another, as the Shockers replace Missouri State this week, keeping three teams in the rankings. A Statistic: In the out-of-nowhere performance to date this season, senior Joe Ragland scored 31 in the 89-70 WSU W over UNLV, thanks to eight 3s. Ragland boosted his PPG average to 11.9. The Schedule: at Tulsa Wednesday; vs. Utah State Saturday.

15. Murray State (9-0). A Sentence: Small surprise of the season: Billy Kennedy’s former team has started out terrifically without him. A Statistic: Three of the nine wins have been against foes outside of D-I, so that’s a big caveat. Wins over So. Miss and Dayton were convincing, though, so I’ve got the heart to put them in, just ahead of Tulane and College of Charleston. The Schedule: at Memphis Sunday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Missouri State, Marshall. In: Murray State, Wichita State.
♦  Marshall gets its chance to get back into the Pyramid if it beats Syracuse this week, and I think Murray State’s visit could be short-lived due to the Memphis matchup forthcoming.
♦  I know you’re unbeaten, Tulane. If you get through next Sunday with wins over Wofford and Jacksonville State — even though those aren’t great wins — I’ll get you in with an 11-0 D-I record.
♦ Brigham Young is the only highly ranked KenPom team not to make the Pyramid. Let’s see what happens Dec. 17 against Baylor and then we’ll assess.
♦ I considered ranking Northwestern until it got mollywhopped by Baylor. (I keed!)

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: September 9, 2011 4:10 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 4:14 pm
 

Trippin': Belmont looks to continue success



In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Only nine teams won at least 30 games last season.

Easily the most surprising of that group was Belmont, which rolled through the Atlantic Sun at a 19-1 clip en route to a 30-5 overall record. With four starters back, the Bruins could be even better.

To some, though, a potential worry could be the team becomes complacent and no longer has the same motivation. On the Bruins’ trip to Italy in August, head coach Rick Byrd was pleased with what he saw.

“Our biggest concern is we can’t lose the edge that we had and held throughout last season,” Byrd said. “There was not a game that our guys weren’t ready to play and weren’t excited about playing. There wasn’t a drop-off. The things that made us good a year ago were still there, in terms of attitude and unselfishness. We saw those same characteristics.”

That should be scary to the rest of the conference – and country.

What Byrd learned: “We need to play with more discipline on both ends of the floor. We played with almost too much emotion; we needed to back off and be a little more solid. We were trying to make things happen, and some of that, offensively, is the 24-second shot clock. It doesn’t give us time to run a motion offense and make things happen. You’ve got to make adjustments, just like you do during the season.”

What impressed him: Motivation – “I was really pleased from the first practice on about the enthusiasm, energy and work ethic. That was the most positive thing our staff saw – there was no drop off.”

What concerned him: Conditioning – “It’s no different than playing games one week into practice. I think conditioning accounts for a lot of the mistakes that you make. It’s just very hard to get into game condition in a short period of time. We found that when we were tired, we made mistakes. We have to fight through fatigue better. We can talk about the Italy trip all year long: how loose we played in Italy when we played tired, now we have get in better shape and fight through it.”

- J.J. Mann, who was a member of the all-freshman team last season, impressed Byrd on the trip. “He stood out here in practice and in the games over there,” Byrd said. Mann came off the bench a year ago, averaging 6.0 points.

- What separates Belmont from most mid-major teams is its inside duo of Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders. Both players earned second-team all-conference honors last season, and Byrd pointed to them as two players who continued their stellar play.

- If Byrd could have planned when he took a trip, he likely would have taken it with a younger team. This year’s group has three seniors and five juniors, including seven players with starting experience. “We only had one guy on the trip that was an incoming freshman,” Byrd said.

- The team had quite the voyage around Italy, going to Florence, Rome, Milan, Pisa, Lake Como, Lucca, Siena, Bellagio and other cities. Byrd planned it that way, wanting to play only three games while there. “It was much less about basketball than about the whole the trip,” he said.

- The whole team took guided tours of the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basillica and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 28, 2011 2:46 pm
 

Snow day delays A-Sun seeding process

These two teams will play Wednesday, but may swap partners sometime this evening

Posted by Eric Angevine

We know the Atlantic Sun conference tournament starts on Wednesday. We know that the Belmont Bruins, one of the most dominant regular-season champions in any conference in America, will be the No. 1 seed. We also know that East Tennessee State will be the No. 2 seed. Both will play on the first day of the tourney.

What we don't know yet, even at this late date, is who they will be playing.

The A-Sun only lets the top eight regular-season finishers into the postseason, and the current standings look like this:

1. Belmont (19-1)
2. ETSU (16-4)
3. Jacksonville (13-7)
4. Lipscomb (12-8)
5. Mercer (11-9)
6. North Florida (10-10)
7. Florida Gulf Coast (6-13)
8. Campbell (6-14)
9. Kennesaw State (6-14)
10. Stetson (6-14)
11. USC Upstate (4-15)

Looking at that, you'd think it would be Florida Gulf Coast vs. ETSU, and some sort of tie-breaker to decide which 6-14 dog gets another chance to be eaten by a bear. But it's not that easy. Sherri Booker, the A-Sun's Senior Associate Commissioner for Championships, explained the situation to me via email this morning:

We had a men’s and women’s contest (FGCU at USC Upstate doubleheader) that was postponed in January due to the Upstate campus being closed due to over 8” of snow. The games are being played today (women-5:00 ET; men-7:30 ET). Based on the outcome of the men’s contest, we will be able to finalize the men’s #7 and #8 seed later tonight and will post it on the A-Sun website. The women’s seeding have been finalized.
 
With an FGCU win, Campbell will secure the No. 7 seed and Kennesaw State will secure the No. 8 seed. With a USC Upstate win, Kennesaw State will secure the No. 7 seed and Campbell will secure the No. 8 seed.
There's actually a little more to this byzantine situation. FGC would have been the No. 7 team, except that the Eagles are ineligible for postseason play due to their fairly recent ascension to D-I status. The same is true of Upstate. It's like a play-in game by proxy.

So, with the league tourney just two days away, two ineligible teams playing a makeup game will determine the first-round matchups. Even more ironcially, a conference named for its preponderance of southern sunshine has been put in this unusual situation by a completely atypical dumping of snow.

Yet another reason to enjoy every minute of conference tournament time.

Photo: US Presswire
 
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Category: NCAAB
Tags: A-Sun, Belmont, ETSU
 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com