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Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:02 pm

C-USA wide open after Memphis loss

By Jeff Goodman

Conference USA is wide-open. 

Marshall squeaked by Central Florida this past weekend in Huntington. The Knights then held serve at home last night against Memphis. Southern Miss is also in the equation. 

"There's more parity in the league this year," Central Florida coach Donnie Jones said on Thursday morning. 

Jones said the court-storming at UCF was the first that anyone could remember in the history of the program. It was also the first time that the Knights had come on top against Memphis. 

"We were 0-10 against them going into the game," Jones said. "It's a big win for our program because of the level that they have been at over the years." 

The game-winner was delivered by junior big man Keith Clanton, whose foul in the final seconds against Marshall allowed DeAndre Kane to go to the line and give the Thundering Herd the win. 

"The place went crazy," Jones said. 

Now Central Florida sits a half-game behind Marshall, which is 4-0 in the league, and a half-game in front of both Memphis and Southern Miss. 

Clanton finished with 23 points and eight boards and rebounded from a dismal performance against Marshall with 20 points. Jones also praised the defensive effort of Isaiah Sykes in the second half, holding Memphis star Will Barton in check after a big first half. 

The Tigers were playing their second game without star freshman Adonis Thomas, who may miss the rest of the season following foot surgery. Thus far, Barton has been the only player on Josh Pastner's team that has lived up to expectations. 

Remember, this was a team that many pegged as a Top 10 squad nationally. 

The Tigers missed on virtually every quality opportunity in the non-league slate -- and now find themselves in the middle of a heated league race. 

Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:54 am
Edited on: January 18, 2012 10:45 am

Bizarre: Tom Herrion fakes injury during game

By Matt Norlander

Before you read, watch.

How this video didn't get out until today, I don't know. Regardless of its curious delay to the Intertubes, or the fuzzy video quality, Tom Herrion, you've amazed us all.

The Marshall coach ... well, who knows what he's doing or what he was thinking. Goodman was at this game, and he told me he thought Herrion was genuinely having a heart attack when this happened. Like, frightened he was possibly watching a coach die on the sidelines. After the incident took place, officials took 15 minutes to evaluate the play, ultimately deciding to give a Isaiah Sykes a Flagrant 1.

Marshall went on to win the game, 65-64, against Central Florida. Both teams are in the chase for the C-USA title.

Herrion was asked about the melodrama in the postgame, but he shrugged his geriatrics off, calling it a "non-story." Nopers. This is the most bizarre thing I've seen this season. At the end of that video, a reporter asks if Herrion's ever been fouled before. He responds with a "next question." Another question follows about how badly the foul hurt, and he repeats the phrase.

Herrion's considered one of the grander characters amongst college basketball coaches. This, though, I don't know what this is. Is it bush league by Herrion, or did Sykes really take a shot? We're not afforded a clean angle or video. It looks as if Herrion forgot he was coaching during a critical conference game, and instead opted to entertain his dinner guests. It's not as egregious as throwing a chair, but it's just as ham-handed.
Posted on: January 16, 2012 11:41 am
Edited on: January 16, 2012 12:04 pm

Podcast: Why does UNC's 33-point loss matter?

By Matt Norlander

If a team gets beatdown like UNC did at Florida State Saturday, does it mean they won't win the title? Well, nobody's ever lost by 33 and gone on to cut down nets. In fact, no one's ever lost by more than 27 in a season and gone on to win it all.

CBSSports.com recruiting savant and bro supreme Jeff Borzello calls in from the Hoop Hall Classic to discuss Carolina's chances of bucking that trend, as well as Roy Williams taking his team off the floor before that game was over. Bro-zello and I also get into the Ryan Boatright situation at UConn -- he's sitting out of games again, pending NCAA review of his eligibility -- as well as a look ahead to tonight's huge game: Baylor at Kansas.

Here it is:
  • From the beginning: Borzello's watching the best high school tournament of the season, the Hoop Hall Classic, up in Springfield, Mass. For people that follow this stuff, or want more, he runs down the essentials.
  • 7:13: It's on to UNC. That huge loss. No team's ever loss by more than 27 points has gone on to win a title that season. Why should UNC be any different?
  • 13:40: Roy Williams complied with Leonard Hamilton's suggestion of getting UNC's coaches and guys sitting on the bench off the floor before the storm. But the walk-ons on the court? Left for dead. Williams deflects talk from the loss. Brilliant.
  • 16:24: Ryan Boatright is again ineligible. He sits and waits while his situation is reviewed. Why's this happening right now and what's the crux of the problem?
  • 20:21: The nation's most underrated great player? Arnett Moultrie.
  • 23:24: Advance of Baylor at Kansas, which amounts to a game that could have some more big-picture reaction if Baylor smothers the 'Hawks.
  • 26:42: Some gib-gab to finish up. Insanity workouts, Borzello trying to drop 20 pounds in two months, the NFL playoffs, 30-person birthday parties at german restaurants.

Continued thanks from me to you for keep coming back and listening. Please: spread the word. Hoops season is ramping up, and I'd love more hate mail. Spread this page and the iTunes subscription link to anyone you'd think would like this sort of think. We post three times per week, with the Wednesday show being a low-rent sitcom wannabe of a half hour, thanks to CBSSports.com national writers Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman Skyping in their opinions. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.

Get CBSSports.com College Basketball updates on Facebook   

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 14, 2012 11:05 pm

Marshall becoming the favorites in C-USA?

By Jeff Goodman

HUNTINGTON, West Va. - This Marshall team could be dangerous in the NCAA tournament -- if the Thundering Herd manage to get there. 

Coach Tom Herrion has a strong and fearless wing who can score the ball in DeAndre Kane, one of the nation's top rebounders in Dennis Tinnon, an experienced point guard in Damier Pitts, seemingly endless length and size up front and no shortage of role guys. 

These guys can give Memphis a run for the league title. 

In fact, these guys may just be the favorites in C-USA with Josh Pastner's Tigers struggling as much as they did in the non-conference slate. 

"We've been waiting for four years," Pitts said after Marshall pulled out a 65-64 win over Central Florida on Saturday night. "We've gotten a lot of hype, but people are still talking about Memphis. We feel like we're the ones with the upper hand." 

"I think we can play against a lot of teams in the country," added Thundering Herd coach Tom Herrion. "Obviously, Memphis is really talented and were picked to win the league. But I think we match-up relatively well with them." 

Marshall improved to 4-0 in the league with the win over Central Florida and former Thundering Herd coach Donnie Jones. Next up for Tom Herrion's team is a neutral-site matchup Wednesday in Charleston against West Virginia. The first showdown with Memphis comes on Jan. 28. 

This is a Thundering Herd team that knocked off Cincinnati on the road back in November, pummeled Iona - and played Syracuse tough in the Carrier Dome. It's also a team that has lost to Ohio and Akron -- and split with Belmont. That means Marshall probably needs to either win the C-USA tournament or finish in the top two in the regular-season -- and lost in the league tournament title game. 

"Our margin for error is so thin," Herrion said after the win. "You've got to protect your home court." 

That's exactly what happened on Saturday in front of 8,379 fans that made the Cam Henderson Center one of the better environments I've been to in the last few years. 

"Crazy," was how Kane described the home crowd. "Bananas." 

He's right and Kane may have been too amped up as he struggled early. However, he made up for it down the stretch, culminating with a pair of free throws with 14.5 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner. 

"No pressure," a confident, almost cocky Kane said after the victory. "It was good all along." 

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.

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