Tag:Ivy
Posted on: February 7, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 2:21 pm
 

Tuesday poll, here we go

By Matt Norlander

You know what to do. Here we are again, voting on the outcomes of games. The results will air on "Courtside with Seth Davis" Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET, as well as "Inside College Basketball," which goes live at 11 p.m. ET later that night. Both shows, of course, are on the CBS Sports Network.



Want more of us? Or more interaction with hoops fans? We suggest you like the Eye On College Basketball Facebook page. And if that's not enough, CBSSports.com has your roundball fix tended to thanks to our daily newsletter.
Posted on: February 6, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 1:43 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 12



By Matt Norlander

The Super Bowl set all of us back a little bit. I got around to Power Pyramid sorting this morning, and here’s what we have: 15 teams that have pretty much separated themselves. Yeah, a few fringers and teams that just missed out are there, but not like the mainstays who’ve been paying rent for well over a month.

We also have a new top-ranked team.

Top Tier

1. Murray State (23-0). A Sentence: I think I’ll make the rule now that, if you get to February undefeated, you take the top spot(s) in the Pyramid. A Statistic:  Including Saint Mary’s, the average KenPom ranking of the teams Murray State has left on its schedule: 173. More and more I begin to doubt this team can get a 3 seed if it runs the table.  The Schedule: vs. Tennessee State, Thursday; vs. Austin Peay, Saturday.

2. Saint Mary’s (22-2). A Sentence: To put it is clearly as can be, I didn’t ever think SMC would reach these kind of heights this season.  A Statistic: The Gaels are not the biggest or tallest team, but they grab 73.7 percent of their defensive-rebound opportunities. I think that’s the biggest aspect to their success. Randy Bennett’s teams have never rebounded like this before. The Schedule: at Gonzaga, Thursday; vs. Santa Clara, Saturday.

3. UNLV (21-4). A Sentence:  When it lost to San Diego State a few weeks ago I didn’t flinch, but another L, this one at Wyoming, forces me to shift the playing pieces. A Statistic: Since the Mountain West is just an eight-team league now, it’s actually got a schedule where the second half mirrors the first. The league just finished the first half of conference play, so now everyone will go through the same eight-game cycle again, only switching home/away teams. The Schedule: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Harvard (20-2). A Sentence: Ivy play comes to a head when the Crimson get a tough road game at Penn Friday, and that’s going to be the game that essentially decides of Harvard cruises to a tournament bid. A Statistic: It’s the defense that’s getting it done. Harvard’s not ranked in the top 25 in any tempo-free category. The Schedule: at Penn, Friday; at Princeton, Saturday.

5. Creighton (21-3). A Sentence: Creighton, like a lot of Pyramid teams lost this week, so it’s not really warranted to shake the cage too much. A Statistic: Creighton’s lack of urgency on defense is what came back to kill it in losing at Northern Iowa. The Panthers only turned the ball over on 3.3 percent of their possessions, and Creighton is ranked 336th in turnover percentage. The Schedule: at Evansville, Tuesday; vs. Wichita State, Saturday.

6. San Diego State (20-3). A Sentence: I feel a little dirty keeping SDSU this high after it barely got out alive playing at home against Boise State. A Statistic: Steve Fisher now has seven straight 20-win seasons at a place that was a miserable basketball school before he got there. What a coaching job. The Schedule: at UNLV, Saturday.

Temple has quietly taken control of an unpredictable Atlantic 10. (AP)

7. Temple (17-5). A Sentence: I’ve never wavered on Temple, who has no excuse not to run away with the Atlantic 10 now. A Statistic: I say that about the Owls because, to me, they’re clearly the class of the conference, yet the top eight teams are separated by two games. The A10 is so hairy it’s ridiculous, and I think unprecedented. The Schedule: vs. George Washington, Wednesday; vs. Xavier Saturday.

8. Wichita State (20-4). A Sentence: There aren’t two other games Saturday I’m looking forward to more than the one Wichita State is playing in. A Statistic: With an average experience of 2.5 years per player, Wichita State is the fifth-oldest team in the nation. The Schedule: vs. Northern Iowa, Wednesday; at Creighton, Saturday.

9. Oral Roberts (20-4). A Sentence: I didn’t expect ORU to win on the road at both of the Dakota States, so they take a little tumble in the Pyramid. A Statistic: For as good as it is on offense, ORU is hampered defensively. Effectively, teams make more than 50 percent of their shots against them, including 36 percent of 3-pointers. The Schedule: vs. IUPUI, Thursday; vs. Western Illinois, Saturday.

10. Gonzaga (18-4). A Sentence: Couldn’t beat BYU on the road last week, and now Saint Mary’s comes to town for what amounts as a reputation-staking game for Gonzaga. A Statistic: Robert Sacre now has a free-throw rate of 94, meaning he takes 94 percent of his field goal attempt total from the foul line. If you played a game and Robert Sacre shot 100 field goals, he’d also have 94 free throws. Easy enough, right? It’s the highest free-throw rate in the nation. The Schedule: vs. Saint Mary’s, Thursday; vs. Loyola Marymount, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. New Mexico (19-4). A Sentence:  UNM has been blowing out teams but it also doesn’t have an impressive win in 2012 yet. A Statistic: This is, far and away, the best defensive team Steve Alford’s had at UNM. The team’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 87.7 points per 100 possessions. The only time Alford had a better team was the top-ranked squad at Iowa in 2005-06, when the 84.4 points per 100 possessions was best in the country. The Schedule: vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

12. Southern Miss (20-3). A Sentence: The Golden Eagles will be back in the NCAA tournament if they merely beat all the teams they’re supposed to beat from here on out. A Statistic: The most surprising factor to USM’s success is, this team shoots 47.1 from the field in effective field-goal percentage. That number is surprisingly low. The Schedule: at UAB, Wednesday; vs. Central Florida, Saturday.

13. Middle Tennessee State (21-4): A Sentence: Didn’t like how MTSU was thoroughly handled on the road against a decent Denver team, but I’m willing to let one loss be a cushion. A Statistic: This team has five games remaining on its schedule, by far the fewest of any Pyramid team. No BracketBusters hurts. The Schedule: vs. Western Kentucky, Thursday; vs. Arkansas Little Rock, Saturday.

14. Cleveland State (20-4). A Sentence: With Nevada losing and Gary Waters’ team continue to roll in the Horizon, it’s time to get the Vikings back in the mix. A Statistic: No Pyramid team is worse in any category than Cleveland State is at getting to the foul line. The team’s free-throw rate is 26.1 percent, third-worst in the country. The Schedule: vs. Valpo, Thursday; vs. Butler, Saturday.

15. Iona (19-5). A Sentence: The Gaels are so tempting because they’ve got guys who can score 30 with ease, dish 14 assists like it’s nothing and run so many teams out of the gym. A Statistic: Iona’s been able to win four games in a row for the first time in more than two months. The Schedule: at Loyola, Friday; vs. Marist, Sunday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Nevada. In: Cleveland State.
♦ At 19-4, Ohio’s still right there.
♦ The 19-4 Wagner Seahawks are also getting closer and closer.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 1:00 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 6:25 pm
 

The pieces seem to be coming together for Harvard

Harvard hoops is on the cusp of creating something special for the long-term. Tommy Amaker can feel it. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The line to get into Payne-Whitney Gymnasium began to form more than an hour before the tip. By the time the ushers were ready to remove the blue-plastic barriers and start checking stubs, it was easily more than 300 people long, crowding out most of the lobby in the famed, historic athletic complex at the center of Yale’s campus.

Harvard-Yale basketball. It had never been this big nor this anticipated nor this good. At least it was that way in the days leading up to the game. Unfortunately, said game didn’t live up to expectation, not even for Harvard players and coaches, who expected something closer and more cosmetically appealing. Two teams playing in one of the biggest January Ivy League games in conference history fell far short of entertaining the home crowd. As for the busload of Harvard students who made their way down from Massachusetts and sat near the top of the rafters of John J. Lee Ampitheater: they were consistently entertained because, last Friday night, the Crimson earned the largest win (30 points) in the history of their 183-game, century-old rivalry with the Bulldogs.

Harvard won 65-35. It was ugly. I’d prefer to never watch a game like that again. However, Friday night did offer up new information about the Crimson, who should most certainly win the Ivy and take with it the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. See, 18-2 Harvard dismantled 13-5 Yale with its two best players, Kyle Casey and Keith Wright, totaling 12 points, one offensive rebound and four turnovers. They were largely absent, yet Harvard had no problem completely shutting down Yale, who averages 72.4 points per game.

Bench and balance. It’s the two Bs Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker has been preaching to his team this year. Give him some balance, and then the bench will flourish. Both Bs came to be in New Haven. There’s no other way to explain the beatdown and complete shutdown of Yale, who scored 18 points on 5-of-25 shooting if your remove big man Greg Mangano’s play.  

The win over Yale was the second consecutive game the Crimson held an opponent under 40 points. (Teams are scoring less than 45 points against them in Ivy play.) The next night, Harvard handled Brown on the road, 68-59. This group is healthy and deep and developing weapons — freshman weapons — that lead me to believe Amaker’s in the infant stages of building an Ivy dynasty. Something's growing and catching on in the Harvard program. We're seeing the existence of program, not team, with the Crimson. That's not something commonly found at Ivy schools, who've often had one- or two-year runs and then started piling the bricks again.

Those close to Amaker have said he's not necessarily looking to leave for another big job, either. He had that at Michigan. Now, he's able to control so much of what he wants in Cambridge, Mass. He's getting really good players there, and if short-term, spotlighted success can happen this year and next, who knows, Harvard and Amaker may be able to commit to each other for the long-term, altering the perception and dedication of Harvard basketball going forward.

Nine players saw significant minutes in the Yale game. Afterward, Amaker sat in the tiny press room, smaller than the average common room in a Yale college dorm, and sounded like a man unsurprised with how his team completely dismantled the boys in white and blue despite his best two players failing to play a game worthy of a starter’s role.

“This has been great. … We’ve had a couple of kids injured, (Christian) Webster and (Corbin) Miller, who came back the game before the Yale game,” Amaker said. “Christian’s been a starter. We have six starters in our program. That’s what we’ve been saying.”

When Webster suffered a hip injury earlier in January, sophomore Laurent Rivard stepped in. He’s kept his starting role since. He had a team-high 18 points Friday night. The bright spots for the future can also be found in subtle frosh forward Steve Mondou-Missi, who Amaker calls “a gem” and someone who embraces his dirty-work role; and freshman guard Wesley Saunders, who’s barely tapped his potential. The team is now seeing sold-out Ivy crowds at every game. They've become the target. Freshman are already acclimated and the team is easily the deepest in the league.

“I’m pleased we’re seeing these kind of environments in our conference,” Amaker said. “It’s pretty nice and neat to see great crowds and turnouts, and to see all you [the media] here, in terms of the coverage and exposure. I’m proud of that.”

Harvard's been very good all season long. It defeated Florida State playing Florida State's game. It's an exceedingly good defensive team that will click to a next-level type of squad if it learns how to score in bunches. Only Rivard and senior Oliver McNally are a legitimate deep threats right now. But in that classic dial-it-down Ivy style, Harvard's maintained its identity and is playing its way toward a respectable seed if it can get through the Ivy without a scratch. Bus league play in the Ivy can be tricky, playing back-to-back nights for six straight weekends.

All things considered, this year's gone nearly as well as anyone in the program could have expected. The win over Yale was as obvious a flag-planting moment Amaker could have had. The Ivy is now Harvard's to have, and with only two seniors on this year's team, the Crimson have set themselves up to be something they've never been before: respected and dominant.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 30, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: January 30, 2012 10:03 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 11


By Matt Norlander

We keep hearing about this week bubble we’ve got. In other news, it’s 2003. Or is it 2006? Oh, 2009, you say? The year, it’s irrelevant. Each season the soft, soapy exterior of the bubble is a lament as annual and predictable as the degradation of Tom Izzo’s voice. It’s part of basketball and we need to accept it rather than moan about it.

If it’s true, if the at-large field proves to be weak once again, then I’m reinforcing my suggestion from last week to a higher degree: the teams listed below here, plenty of them, will be breaking lamps and jumping on couches at the big party in March. Too many good groups here not to have some serious “upset” potential in the big bracket. Because a lot of these teams are going to get matched up against that weak at-large competition.

By the way, you can see some of the hints in the schedules upcoming, but I expect this week to be the last one where real possibility for great shifts and movement in the Pyramid come about.

Top Tier

Dave Rice is proving to be quite a boss. (AP)

1. UNLV (20-3). A Sentence:  If they get a good draw I will not hesitate to put UNLV into the Elite Eight, and I’m sort of hoping they drop a game or two soon so plenty get thrown off the scent. A Statistic: The MWC owns a non-con winning percentage of .772. That’s better than the ACC (.690), Big East (.764) SEC (.734) and of course the Pac-12 (.596), but who’s including them in this, really? The Schedule: vs. Colorado State, Wednesday; at Wyoming, Saturday.

2. Murray State (21-0). A Sentence: I have only one request: give us Saint Mary’s at Murray State, BracketBusters overlords. A Statistic:  Murray State is more than 100 spots better in points per possession and points per possession allowed than every OVC team except Jacksonville State, which is 37 spots behind MSU in PPPD on KenPom.  The Schedule: vs. Southeast Missouri State, Thursday; at Tennessee Martin, Saturday.

3. Creighton (20-2). A Sentence: You think I’m all KenPom cheerleader, think again, because the man uses a special formula that somehow has Doug McDermott ludicrously ranked 10th in his player-of-the-year chase. A Statistic: When it comes to usage—what percent a player is directly involved in a play, whether by scoring or assisting—McDermott is the leader in the Valley at 31.8. The drop-off on the Blue Jays is gargantuan, as Antoine Young’s the next-highest in the Valley is No. 25 overall in usage, per BBState.com. The Schedule: vs. Illinois State, Wednesday; at Northern Iowa, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Saint Mary’s (21-2). A Sentence: It’s this simple: avoid the bad losses and the Gaels will be, at worst, a five seed.  A Statistic: The Gaels always under-schedule in terms of how many games they COULD play if they wanted. I approve of the method, even if Randy Bennett doesn’t challenge his team as much as he obviously could. What I’m getting at is, even counting the BracketBusters bonus game, SMC has completed 77 percent of its schedule already. Season is flying by. The Schedule: vs. San Diego, Thursday.

5. Harvard (18-2). A Sentence: I saw this team Friday night, and all I can say is, they’re going to be very good for years to come. A Statistic: Through four games, Harvard opponents in the Ivy are scoring 44.8 points per game. The Schedule: vs. Cornell, Friday; vs. Columbia, Saturday.

6. San Diego State (18-3). A Sentence: Was Saturday night’s 77-60 loss at Colorado State just an inevitability, or will we see a different SDSU team going forward? A Statistic: I just realized this, but something the team and coaches have to be proud of—SDSU won California this year. They went 7-0 against Eureka State competition and won’t face another Cali team this year, unless the tournament enables it. The Schedule: vs. Boise State, Wednesday; vs. TCU, Saturday.

7. Oral Roberts (20-4). A Sentence: If ORU can manage to sweep the Dakota States this week, in all likelihood they’ll be No. 4 or 5 in next week’s rankings. A Statistic: Scott Sutton’s team has compiled quite the nice 14-game winning streak, and in those games, ORU is winning by an average of 12.1 points per game. Not barely skating by by any means.. The Schedule: at South Dakota, Thursday; at North Dakota State, Saturday.

8. Gonzaga (17-3). A Sentence: Does that Thursday game give you the wary feeling that I’m getting right now? A Statistic: Since November of 2010, Gonzaga is 10-7 on the road. The Schedule: at BYU, Thursday; at Pepperdine, Saturday.

9. New Mexico (17-4). A Sentence: No-doubt-about-it wins last week at home over sneaky Colorado State and TCU is good for business. A Statistic: Drew Gordon, a player I like more than most, is taking 29.2 percent of the defensive-rebound opportunities that are presented to him. Top-10 in the country. Gordon needs to get even more aggressive for UNM to be a difference-maker. The Schedule: at Air Force, Tuesday; at Boise State, Saturday.

10. Temple (15-5). A Sentence: Michael Eric’s long-awaited, critical return is a big thing for Temple and the A10, which now could be the Owls’ league to take. A Statistic: When Eric plays, Temple is 6-1. The Schedule: vs. Fordham, Wednesday; at Rhode Island, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Wichita State (17-3). A Sentence: Triple-OT loss at Drake doesn’t mean Witchy must fall in the Pyramid of Swanson. A Statistic: I teased my Gregg Marshall piece last week, and since it’s run, I want to point you to it, because I’ve got a couple of charts in there worth looking at. The Schedule: at Missouri State, Wednesday; vs. Indiana State, Saturday.

12. Middle Tennessee State (20-3): A Sentence: Didn’t get embarrassed at Vandy, which was good, but now can’t dwell on the loss and have to turn around and win two conference road games this week. A Statistic: At least five of these remain, still, but what a difference a year makes. In terms of road/neutral games, MTSU lost 12 last year. Right now the number’s only two. Now, the bitch about being MTSU—realistically, the team can only afford one more road/neutral loss of any kind, lest it be NIT-bound. The Schedule: at North Texas, Thursday; at Denver, Saturday.

Southern Miss fell to Memphis the first time this season. It needs to avenge the loss this week to stay in the Pyramid. (AP)

13. Southern Miss (19-3). A Sentence: More than any team I’ve omitted this season, I’ve received tweets and haranguing emails from folks about not including USM, so I’ve finally caved. A Statistic: The last time Larry Eustachy had a season this good? You guessed it: ’99-00 with Iowa State, when the ‘Clones got to 22-3 before dropping a fourth game. The Schedule: vs. Memphis, Wednesday.

14. Nevada (18-3). A Sentence: The Wolf Pack (not Wolfpack!) also make their Pyramid debut—can they handle this incredible newfound pressure? A Statistic: If you’d like to know what this team does better than anything else, it’s shoot the 3. Nevada sinks 39.1 percent from behind the arc. Overall, by the way, this team does not stand out on paper, but the one impressive stat on the sheet: it hasn’t lost since the day after Thanksgiving. The Schedule: vs. Utah State, Thursday; vs. Idaho, Saturday.

15. Iona (17-5). A Sentence: The Siena loss, blowing the 18-point lead, was extremely damaging and now puts Iona on weak ice. A Statistic: Point guard Scott Machado has been so big, but it’s Mike Glover’s consistency that I think is keeping Iona going. As of Sunday, Glover was shooting 66.8 percent from the field, fourth-best in the nation in overall field-goal percentage, but more strictly, from two-point range. The Schedule: vs. Canisius, Thursday; at Manhattan, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Dayton, which made me look foolish by losing t St. Joe’s and then Rhode f’ing Island. Saint Louis is also gone, which is deserved for losing to UMass, but also speaks to the Atlantic 10 in general, which has become the ultimate mixing bowl of a conference. In: Southern Miss, Nevada.
♦ Cleveland State is so close. I actually sat and thought and debated between Cleveland State and Iona for five minutes.  
♦ I told Weber State it would be in if it could win at lowly Sacramento State and Idaho State. The latter did not come to be, so who knows if Damian Lillard’s team ever cracks the Pyramid this year.

Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:06 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 12:05 pm
 

Tuesday poll time!

By Matt Norlander

We want to know which teams you like this week, and by which sort of margin. Best of all? We're working in concert with Seth Davis and his TV show, so these results will get shared each Wednesday on "Courtside with Seth Davis" on the CBS Sports Network. It airs at 7 p.m. ET.

What are you thinking about these games? ANSWER ME.



Want more of us? Or more interaction with hoops fans? We suggest you like the Eye On College Basketball Facebook page. And if that's not enough, CBSSports.com has your roundball fix tended to thanks to our daily newsletter.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 9:36 am
Edited on: January 23, 2012 11:10 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 10



By Matt Norlander

Each week I’m so impressed by the group of teams below because they’re all so good. You think this is a down year for college basketball? I don’t know — is it? At this level it’s not. All of these teams are good-to-great. All — yes, all — can win two games in March.

The more I examine the tendencies and DNAs of these teams, the more I think the Saturday and Sunday, Round of 32 games in March will have at least a third of the current Pyramid playing. Could easily be more, too. That’s a great sign for the “small guys,” who are anything but that. It was about six weeks ago when I thought there was a significant drop-off between the top three teams and the rest of the rankings. Not anymore. One through eight here is a narrow margin, and teams nine through 15 are just as smooshed together.

Top Tier

1. UNLV (18-3). A Sentence:  Check out this cool, dotted chart on Vegas’ Mike Moser. A Statistic: UNLV is shooting 54.4 percent from two-point range — they’ve never finished so high in the past decade. The Schedule: at Boise State, Wednesday; at Air Force, Saturday.

2. Murray State (20-0). A Sentence: I may think this team will lose a game before the end of February, but I’m not stubborn enough to not vault them after reaching 20 wins, zero losses. A Statistic:  And this is what speaks to how tough it is to go undefeated. The Racers have nine games left. KenPom still has them well under 50 percent (45.3) to finish the regular season without a loss. And that’s only taking into account the rest of the crummy OVC. There’s a worthy, tough, home BracketBusters game still coming, so you’d think the real percentage is somewhere around 40.  The Schedule: vs. Eastern Illinois, Saturday.

The only thing holding the Racers and head coach Steve Prohm back is apparently this tie. (AP)

3. Creighton (18-2). A Sentence: Doug McDermott is firmly at No. 2 in our Player of the Year chase. A Statistic: There’s a correlation to Creighton’s winning I’m seeing. The Bluejays have been at the top of effective field goal percentage all season long (currently leading hoops at 59.1 percent), and they sort of have to shoot that well, because they don’t turn teams over. The 16.9 charity rate is among the bottom five percent. The Schedule: at Drake, Wednesday; vs. Bradley, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Saint Mary’s (19-2). A Sentence: I wonder how many coaching offers Randy Bennett will seek/get after this season.  A Statistic: The Gaels have started 8-0 in conference play. The last time that happened? No, seriously, can anyone tell me? This resource doesn't seem to be available online. UPDATE! A Richard Kilwien has emailed to link me to the SMC record book, which indicates the last time the Gaels started this strong in conference was '58-'59. Yowza! The Schedule: at Loyola Marymount, Thursday; at BYU, Saturday.

5. San Diego State (17-2). A Sentence: Steve Fisher has had one hell of a career, but I bet he’d tell you this is among his most charmed, rewarding seasons. A Statistic: I have to use three. Four players average double figures; five players grab more than four rebounds per game; and only two players commit more than two turnovers per contest. The Schedule: at New Mexico, Wednesday; vs. Air Force, Saturday.

6. Harvard (16-2). A Sentence: Crimson could be just as good as any other two-loss team you see listed here. A Statistic: The Crimson play out to 61.9 possessions per game, which is the slowest of any Pyramid team (beating Saint Louis’ 62.1). The 61.9 is ranked 326th out of 345. The Schedule: at Yale, Friday; at Brown, Saturday.

Dominique Morrison and Oral Roberts are plowing through the Summit League. (AP)

7. Oral Roberts (18-4). A Sentence: Tearing through the Summit, when it was Oakland or South Dakota State, by most, who was expected to win the league. A Statistic: the Golden Eagles’ offense is operating a clip it never has in the KenPom era prior to this season. With an adjusted efficiency of 112.7 points per 100 possessions, ORU has become one of the most potent “mid-major” scoring teams, and it’s led by Dominique Morrison, who scores a scorching 1.26 PPP. Spicy. The Schedule: vs. South Dakota, Thursday; vs. Missouri-Kansas City, Saturday.

8. Gonzaga (16-3). A Sentence: I ask just to have you ask this to yourself. Do you think Mark Few passing on so many jobs in the past five, six years was a good thing for him? A Statistic: You can’t call the Zags soft. Their foul shots make up for almost half of their fields, a rate of 48.3, which is top-10 in the nation. The Schedule: at Portland, Thursday.

9. New Mexico (15-4). A Sentence:  I’m a hopeless romantic in that I won’t just abandon ship entirely because New Mexico couldn’t beat San Diego State and UNLV in their first tries. A Statistic: I remain troubled that New Mexico doesn’t lead its conference in one major statistic right now. The Schedule: vs. Colorado State, Wednesday; vs. Texas Christian, Saturday.

10. Iona (15-4). A Sentence: Once the Pyramid’s top-rated team, Iona needs to prep for what I think is going to be a strenuous three-week stretch in the MAAC. A Statistic: Iona should chase down its third straight 20-win season, making it the first time since 1998 the Gaels have gone through straight years hitting the acclaimed benchmark. The Schedule: at Siena, Monday; at Fairfield, Friday.

Base Blocks

10. Dayton (14-5). A Sentence: The Archie-Miller-looks-so-young jokes are coming, folks. A Statistic: But you want to know why Dayton can win like this? It’s top seven minutes-getters are juniors or seniors. The Schedule: at St. Joseph’s, Wednesday; vs. Rhode Island, Saturday.

12. Wichita State (17-3). A Sentence: I kind of hate myself for refusing to put Wichita State in the Swanson category, but I’m making it up to you by posting a Gregg Marshall feature later today. A Statistic: Marshall has been a head coach since 1997. Only once, his first year at WSU, did he have a team finish under .500. The Schedule: vs. Evansville, Wednesday; at Drake, Saturday.

13. Middle Tennessee State (19-2): A Sentence: This would be a 20-1 team if not for a three-point, double-overtime loss to Belmont in mid-November. A Statistic: You’ll often see effective field goal percentage referenced here. It’s a truer gauge of a team’s shooting than actual field goal percentage, which sometimes can get really off-balanced. Middle Tennessee State is 19-2, primarily, because opponents are shooting 42.4 percent in eFG. That’s fifth-best in the nation. The Schedule: vs. Troy, Thursday; at Vanderbilt, Saturday.

14. Temple (13-5). A Sentence: The Owls remain worthy of inclusion after not letting the outcome enter into a discussion of doubt against Maryland Saturday. A Statistic: Ramone Moore is continually playing too many minutes. He’s in the game 90 percent of the time, up from 83.7 percent last year. As a result, he’s now scoring less than a point per possession (.99; last year it was 1.05) and his effective field goal percentage has dipped from 49.9 last year to 46.1. Moore’s going to need more breathers if Temple’s going to win big in the long-term. The Schedule: at Charlotte, Wednesday; vs. St. Joseph’s, Saturday.

15. Saint Louis (15-4). A Sentence: I’ve got a funny feeling Saint Louis is spending its last week inside the Pyramid here — for the rest of the season. A Statistic: By any credible measuring system — KenPom, Sagarin, Palm, LRMC—the Billikens haven’t beaten a top-100 team since Nov. 27 (Oklahoma). The Schedule: at Xavier, Wednesday; at UMass, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Just like last week, we have no changes. OK, so here’s what I’ll do. I’ll address each fringe three- or four-loss team and what it needs to do to earn inclusion next week or the week after.
♦ Southern Miss. I’m perhaps unreasonably skeptical. The tempo-free numbers don’t look good, plus this team has yet to beat a legit squad. Long way to go.
♦ Nevada. Two road conference game Ws this week are all that stand between standing on the outside and entering the tomb.
♦ Cleveland State. Not even the Horizon’s best team yet. Take control of the league first, which is a one-bid league, too.
♦ Weber State. Fairly certain the Wildcats replace Saint Louis in next week’s Pyramid, so long as they win both of their games this week.
♦ Ohio. Once a Pyramid team, now 3-2 in the mediocre MAC. May not get back if it endures one more loss.
♦ Central Florida. Donnie Jones’ team is the only one of any featured that hasn’t been able to string together a really long win streak. Can it do that going forward? Not seeing it.


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