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Tag:MVC
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 9:18 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:40 am
 

Marshall grateful he didn't leave Wichita State

Marshall has been a head coach since 1997, and only once has he had a team finish under .500. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander

Wichita State is going to the NCAA tournament. Count on that as much you would Syracuse, North Carolina, Kentucky or Ohio State to get to the field of 68. Gregg Marshall has his team performing at the highest of “mid-major” levels once again; his shockers sit at 17-3, on the verge of another 20-win season … yet find themselves an afterthought on the national landscape.

That a team like this isn’t catching eyes and tugging ears isn’t surprising — plenty of three-loss teams from outside the Big Six have yet to get their true do; Murray State will soak up all the non-BCS conference attention so long as that bagel sits on their ledger — but normally such a strong team in the Missouri Valley would command more attention by late January. Perhaps that speaks to first-place Creighton and its First Team All- America-worthy forward, Doug McDermott. We’ve already said, and will continue to say, plenty about the Bluejays.

But for now let’s discuss the Shockers’ not-so-shocking season so far and the man responsible for it.

It’s ironic that Marshall gets so much more attention in the offseason than he does from November to February. Marshall’s become one of the top targets for major-conference jobs. He could have easily not been the subject of this post. He could’ve left Wichita State last spring, after his team won the NIT, or the year before that. He passed on the N.C. State job (with a $1.9 million-per-year contract on the table) and the Texas A&M job and other jobs too. He’s done interview after interview, becoming a guy that’s on many an athletic director’s cherished “list,” should they choose to bail on the current coach in search of the next big one.

“In 13 years as a head coach, every year when you have success — Winthrop or Wichita State — when you have success, something is bantered about,” he said by phone last Friday, one day before his team beat Southern Illinois 85-42 at home. “In nine years at Winthrop, I probably had nine interviews. Maybe two one year and none the other year.”

It’s about timing as much as it is — or, in some instances, isn’t — about money for Marshall. He desperately wanted the Tennessee job that went to Buzz Peterson in 2001. He passed on a particularly tough Big East gig (that was offering more money) in 2007, when he opted to leave Winthrop for Wichita State. Winthrop was willing to name its court after him. But it was only if Marshall agreed to an ironclad 10-year contract, no outs involved.

He couldn’t do it. Loved Winthrop, but didn’t want his options taken away.  

Through four and a half seasons at WSU, Marshall’s 99-58 and once again showing why he’s earned all that coveting by the bigger boys each April. He’s thrilled with where he is now, though. And in talking to him, I think the way this season’s gone so far has only enhanced just how happy he and his wife were to make the decision to not leave Wichita last year. What was once thought to be a gamble turned into a no-brainer.

Because he stayed, Wichita State is one of the best clubs from outside the Big Six. Marshall’s got a team with a load of experience but also just enough young guys to keep it unpredictable. Among non-Big Six teams, his point guard, Joe Ragland, is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons at the 1 in the country. Seven-footer Garrett Stutz — who Marshall laments lacks some of “my nasty” when it comes to how he plays — leads the team, by one decimal, in scoring (12.4 per game to Ragland’s 12.3). Stutz is day-to-day with a back injury.

The team has a great win over UNLV. Not only great, but definitive. The Shockers beat the Runnin’ Rebels by 19 in early December. It’s the win that will vault them to a seed line higher than they would have had without the victory.

The winning’s felt good and reassuring, but these days it’s the loss to Creighton that eats at Marshall. It’s like he can’t wait to punch back. The rematch comes in Omaha on Feb. 11. Marshall maintains the Dec. 31 loss was the only game this season when all five of his seasons played poorly simultaneously. The losses to Alabama and Temple in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off? He can’t avenge those two, the only other scratches from the schedule. Creighton’s another story. Creighton’s when Wichita State can get the chance to become the story of the Valley.

“I don’t know that we’re better than Creighton. I think that if we played 10 times, the series would go 4-6, 5-5,” Marshall said.

When I offer up the fact this team is top-20 in points per possession scored and allowed — something that’s never happened with any of his teams before — Marshall is shocked and please. He took the opportunity to reflect on 52 months spent in Kansas.

“When we got here, it was a little bare,” Marshall said. “Mark Turgeon had done a wonderful job. They were eighth-ranked in the country in Christmas of ’06, and then lost 14 out of 22, and it just fell apart. There were transfers, and when l arrived April 14, 2007, we had seven scholarships to give.”

The first year wasn’t good, but it remains the only time Marshall’s coached a team under .500. Since then, the real mark of his work as a coach is shown in the chart below. Every year since his arrival in Wichita, his teams have noticeably, incrementally gotten better in scoring more points per possession and allowing few points per possession, save the minor dip (103.8 to 102.2) on offense from year one to two. It's incredibly tough to get your team to improve like this year each over the course of five seasons. He’s approaching a ceiling, which is a good thing — there isn’t much room left to climb! Currently the Shockers are 14th overall in both adjusted offense and defense on KenPom.com.

                     

Marshall attributes the ever-rising rankings to his change in strategy. Up until two years ago his teams jogged the ball up the floor after a made basket, always running a methodical set play. Now it’s pushing more frequently, evidenced by the 66. 8 possessions per game, also an all-time high for Marshall at Wichita State. 

                    

“Maybe I’ve just gotten smarter,” Marshall joked. “Maybe I’m playing more to the strengths of my group than I was earlier in my career. And as for our rebounding, we always say the defensive is possession is not over when the shot is taken. It is only over when you have the ball secure and are now on offense.”

If WSU keeps winning like this, and Marshall’s able to get the Shockers to their ninth NCAA tournament (the first under him), the calls will come again once the season ends. Don’t bank on him leaving, unless an incredible deal comes along. Marshall has coming in what he thinks is the best recruiting class he’s ever assembled. He and his wife would like to see their children graduate from high school in Wichita.

Nevertheless, we're approaching a point where Marshall's work will be noticed as much during the season as after it. He's earned it, and his team deserves the same amount of credit as well.
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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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 5, 2012 12:56 am
 

Night Court: Hoyas get another impressive win



By
Jeff Borzello

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

Game of the day: Marquette continues to confound everyone. The Golden Eagles dominated Georgetown for the first 27 minutes of the game, taking a 17-point lead with 13:10 left. They then went seven and a half minutes without a field goal, allowing the Hoyas to get back into the game. Hollis Thompson – who beat Alabama earlier this season on a 3-pointer – finally broke a tie with 24 seconds left as Georgetown won, 73-70. Jason Clark scored 18 points in the second half. Marquette has now lost three of five.

Win to brag about: Temple has now defeated a top-10 team in four consecutive seasons, the latest coming against No. 3 Duke on Wednesday night, 78-73. The Owls were extremely efficient from the field, shooting 56 percent from the field, and also outrebounded the Blue Devils. Khalif Wyatt led the way with 22 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to give Temple a nine-point lead it wouldn’t relinquish. It was Temple’s first win over Duke since 1996.

Loss to hide from: Losing to Illinois isn’t bad in itself, but Northwestern needs to win that kind of game if it hopes to get to the NCAA tournament in March. The Wildcats were up by 10 in the first half, but struggled offensively in the final 20 minutes, falling 57-56. John Shurna had 17 points in the first half for Northwestern, but was held to just three in the second stanza. A Myke Henry free throw with six seconds left won the game for the Illini.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Wichita State avoided a loss at Evansville on Wednesday, carried mostly by 7-foot senior Garrett Stutz. The big man shot 12-for-14 from the floor, finishing with 29 points and 10 rebounds. He also contributed four assists and three blocks. Not surprisingly, he grabbed the game-clinching rebound in the 67-66 victory. On the other side, Colt Ryan went for 31 points.

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: The entire Towson team. The Tigers have struggled this season, but Wednesday’s loss at Drexel might have been the low point. They scored just 27 points against the Dragons, the fewest points ever scored in a CAA game. Towson also tied the NCAA record for consecutive losses, at 34. The Tigers made eight baskets all game, shooting 21.6 percent from the field.

Numbers don’t lie:

  • 43-3. That’s Kansas’ record against Kansas State in their last 46 meetings. The Jayhawks won the latest meeting, destroying Kansas State on the boards en route to a 67-49 victory. Kansas outrebounded K-State, 50-26. Thomas Robinson had 14 points and 15 boards.
  • 2007. That’s the last time Iowa won back-to-back road games in the Big Ten, which the Hawkeyes accomplished Wednesday night by beating Minnesota. They had defeated Wisconsin over the weekend.
  • 15-0. Murray State remained undefeated by beating Eastern Kentucky, 76-67. The Racers are one win away from matching the school’s best start, which was set in 1935-36.
  • 16-0. This is the second year in a row that Syracuse has opened the season with 16 straight wins. The Orange beat Providence, 87-73. 

Three other notable results:

  1. We’re still waiting for Xavier to snap out of its funk. The Musketeers are now 1-5 since the Crosstown brawl, after losing to La Salle, 80-70. On the other side, the Explorers improved to 11-4 with the victory.
  2. Looks like Georgia State is for real. The Panthers went into VCU on Wednesday and knocked off the Rams, 55-53. Georgia State has won 11 in a row.
  3. Dayton led for only about two minutes in regulation, but outscored Saint Louis 15-8 in overtime en route to a 79-72 win.

Notes:

  • Iowa State held off Texas, 77-71. Longhorns’ point guard J’Covan Brown missed most of the second half with an ankle injury.
  • Cincinnati won its seventh in a row, beating Notre Dame 71-55 in Yancy Gates’ first game back.
  • Saint Joseph’s overcame a 16-point second half deficit to beat Duquesne in overtime, 84-82. T.J. McConnell had 28 points and five assists in the loss.
  • Memphis beat Tennessee for the second time this season, 69-51.
  • Rutgers is now 0-2 since beating Florida. West Virginia scored 51 points in the first half en route to a dominant 85-64 victory.
  • The Missouri Valley is going to be fun. Illinois State went into Missouri State and won, while Northern Iowa beat Indiana State by 17.
  • Bet this is the last time Florida State scores 85 points this year. The Seminoles beat Auburn, 85-56.
  • Remember when Tulane was 9-0? The Green Wave have now lost three of their last five, after falling to UCF.
  • Heck of a day for Philadelphia basketball. Drexel, La Salle, Temple, Penn and Saint Joseph’s all picked up victories.
  • Southern Miss improved to 14-2 with a two-point win over East Carolina. Interestingly, the Golden Eagles never trailed.
  • Delaware’s Jamelle Hagins totaled 21 points and 18 boards in a one-point win over Hofstra.

On tap: It’s not as loaded as Wednesday, but there’s plenty of action. The game of the night is in the Big Ten, as Michigan heads to Indiana. Pittsburgh looks to get back on the right track at DePaul, while Arizona trips to UCLA. Stanford also faces Oregon, while California and Oregon State do battle.

Photo: US Presswire

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