Tag:central Florida
Posted on: August 17, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 6:15 pm
 

Central Florida now under the NCAA's gun

By Matt Norlander

The state of Florida appears to be rotting due to NCAA allegations and infractions.

With little time to catch our breath after the Miami fiasco, ESPN.com has released a report stating the NCAA should be slipping an official notice of inquiry into the mail any minute now. That envelope will find its way to the campus of Central Florida once the United States Postal Service is through with it.

UPDATE: Here's a PDF of the letter.

The men's basketball program and the football program are embroiled in potential recruiting violations. This information isn't new -- the NCAA's action toward it is. The latest from ESPN.com's Mike Fish and Pat Forde.

In addition, NCAA investigators have already begun interviewing people connected to potential violations. Sources also said that they expect the investigation will lead to the NCAA bringing formal charges against the Conference USA member.

Allegations are believed to center around Ken Caldwell, a 42-year-old Chicago native and former AAU basketball coach, who has been tied to Central Florida's recruitment of several basketball players and at least one football player. Caldwell's son, Rodney, attended Central Florida through last spring and among the alleged violations is that recruits stayed at his apartment during visits to the Orlando school.

Caldwell could not be reached for comment, though in the past he's adamantly denied he has broken any NCAA rules. His son declined comment.

Ken Caldwell has not looked good whatsoever from the start of this. He's the reason why Central Florida's in trouble. At first he was defiant, then he learned how to get tight-lipped in a hurry. Central Florida has been looking into its program and possible violations since late April. Did Caldwell help steer players from the Chicago area, getting them to suit up for Central Florida? That's what plenty are left to interpret right now.

But even if Caldwell won't talk, ESPN.com's story states that Brandon Bender, a former Louisville player in the early aughts, did speak with the NCAA last week. Bender was a right-hand man for Caldwell. Since Caldwell isn't employed by an NCAA institution, he's not mandated to speak with the NCAA.

This case has a long way to go, but the first official offensive from the NCAA looks ready to drop any day now.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 16, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: August 16, 2011 11:41 am
 

Trippin' : Central Florida's Canadian jaunt

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

By Jeff Goodman


Central Florida coach Donnie Jones has six new faces this season.

Jeffrey Jordan (Illinois), Tristan Spurlock (Virginia) and Josh Crittle (Oregon) all sat out last season after transferring into the program.

The Knights added a talented freshman class with Rod Days, Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson.

Last season was a roller-coaster ride for Jones & Co. as the Knights shocked the nation jumping out to a 14-0 start – one which included upsets over Florida and Miami.

Then came the descent, a second-half collapse that put Central Florida in the bottom half of Conference USA.

But Jones is confident this team is more equipped to handle the highs and lows of the college basketball campaign – especially after a trip north of the border:

What Jones learned: We were able to play guys at multiple positions and we wanted to see how it would all work out. Isaiah Sykes played backup point guard for about 20 minutes and he was terrific. He started at small forward and then we also played him at backup point guard.”

What or who impressed him: ``Our two all-conference players – Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan – both played well. Clanton scored inside and outside and Marcus had 25 the first night, but they teams keyed on him and he showed his versatility by passing the ball and just taking what he was given.”

What concerned him: ``We’ve got to get better in the halfcourt. We focused on pressing, but we need to do a better job of guarding in the halfcourt. I wanted our guys to press.”

- Jeff Jordan and freshman Wayne Martin didn’t play on the trip. Jordan, who sat out last season following his transfer from Illinois, still needs to get his academics in order before he becomes eligible in the fall. Martin is recovering from an injury suffered his senior year in high school. ``He looks like he’s ready to play,” Jones said. ``But we didn’t want to take a chance. I think he could use another three weeks.”

- Jones said they went into the trip with the mindset that it was a conference tournament – with one game each day.

- Jones went with a different starting lineup each of the three games. He didn’t start Jordan or Clanton in the final contest of the trip.

- Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock, who sat out last season, injured his ankle in the first game and was held out the remainder of the trip. 

- Late addition C.J. Reed, who transferred to Central Florida following his dad’s firing at Bethune-Cookman, wasn’t able to go on the trip and will sit out this season. Reed averaged 19.1 points per game last season and was the MEAC Player of the Year. He’ll have one season left of eligibility with the Knights.

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips
 

Posted on: June 2, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Solomon Poole continues to make adjustments

INTERESTED TEAMS:



Posted by Jeff Borzello

RALEIGH, N.C. – Because of a flight delay, the Dwight Howard Warriors did not arrive at Ravenscroft School (N.C.) until nearly 10 p.m. last Friday at the Tournament of Champions. Despite the late tip time, there were still plenty of media and scouts in attendance, with many staying to watch Solomon Poole, one of the top-25 players in the class of 2013.

As the game went on, and Poole continued to miss outside shots, people began to question his ranking. With the clock winding down, though, Poole reminded everyone why he is so highly touted.

Down one to the Charlotte Nets, Poole put up a stepback jumper that splashed through the net as time expired. That one play demonstrated his quickness, strength and scoring ability, and how tough he is to stop when it all comes together.

It might have been enough to make people forget his early struggles.

“I just focused,” Poole said of the way he bounced back. “I knew I had to keep going. I knew my teammates would pick me up.”

Poole, a 6-foot-1 combo guard from Terry Parker (Fla.), is the younger brother of Kentucky’s Stacey Poole and the son of former Florida standout Stacey Poole Sr. The basketball bloodlines are hard to miss when gauging Poole’s natural talent. He is a big-time scorer who finishes tremendously well in traffic and controls his body effectively in the lane. Poole can beat his man off the dribble and is strong enough to pull-up in the mid-range against defenders. While inconsistent from 3-point range, Poole does have range behind the arc.

Because of his size, though, Poole might have to play the one at the next level, and he knows it.

“I need to work on my pace,” he said. “I need to work on changing speeds.”

A long list of schools are courting the talented sophomore. Poole and his AAU coach, Antwain Tennell, rattled off offers from local schools Central Florida and South Florida, as well as Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Providence, North Carolina, Arizona, Memphis, Florida and Oklahoma State are all showing interest. 

Decision time is a long way away for Poole, but he knows what he’s looking for in a school.

“First, academics. You can’t get anywhere without that,” Poole said. “And a coach that makes you better. I want him to tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

Based on the way he makes adjustments during the game, though, it seems Poole is getting by just fine on his own.

Posted on: January 15, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2011 11:45 pm
 

Five Takeaways from Saturday's games




Posted by MATT JONES

1.       Top two escape at home:  With Duke losing earlier this week to Florida State, next week’s top two teams will be Ohio State and Kansas. However both squads got quite a test from unlikely opponents at home on Saturday. Ohio State was forced to rely on a clutch performance from the top freshman in America, Jared Sullinger, who produced a key three point play with 13 seconds to go and the score tied, in order to beat surprising Penn State. The Buckeyes trailed at times in the game and looked more vulnerable than at any point in the past few weeks, potentially giving future Big Ten opponents insight into how to beat its multi-pronged attack. As for Kansas, it slept walked through much of the game, falling behind by ten points to Nebraska early in the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks did just enough to survive down the stretch, but its 63-60 win suggests that its previous close calls to Michigan, UCLA and USC aren’t simply aberrations, but are par for the Jayhawks’ course. While both teams will go into next week, Nos. 1 and 2, they also both look quite beatable by virtually any team in their respective conferences

 

2.        No lead is safe:  Vanderbilt had to assume its quick 17 point lead against rival Tennessee would be enough to help it win in Knoxville and slam the door shut on the Vols’ bizarre season. But a late run led by Scotty Hopson helped the Vols to a comeback victory that gives them a slim sliver of life left in the SEC. With Bruce Pearl not yet halfway through his suspension, the win kept Tennessee from opening up conference play 0-3 and showcased that even though its fans were ill-prepared for the rivalry game (only 500 or so people showed up for a College Gameday taping before the game), its players weren’t ready to demolish the season just yet. Even more impressive was the absurd comeback by Louisville, which looked on the verge of NIT land when down 18 to Marquette at home with 5:44 left. But with a late dash of steals, quick scores and four Preston Knowles three-pointers, it made one of the more improbable comebacks in recent college basketball history. For Rick Pitino, the game means his team keeps its head above water in the Big East, while Marquette’s Buzz Williams has to live with one of the worst coaching and team collapses in recent memory.

 

3.       Florida disappoints again:  No team is more impossible to predict this season than the Florida Gators.  The same team that won impressively in road games at Tennessee and Xavier, has fallen at home to Central Florida, Jacksonville and today, South Carolina. The 72-69 loss to the Gamecocks comes right as I was about to take Florida seriously once again. It looked tremendous in its gutsy win over the Vols in Knoxville and the combination of Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker and Kenny Boyton seemed to give the Gators enough multiple scoring threats to make them scary in conference play. But now after the loss, we are left with the same Florida team that has disappointed so often in the last three years. Inconsistency, thy name is Florida.

 

4.       San Diego State and Texas A&M are legit:  If you saw San Diego State in the pack of unbeatens and determined that they were simply a fluke beneficiary of fortunate scheduling, I hope you took note of today’s 87-77 win at New Mexico.  The Aztecs controlled the game at the Pit, led by D.J. Gay’s 30 points and an impressively diverse set of offensive options that make them a terror to try and defend. While New Mexico isn’t a Top 25 team, it is talented and a win in one of the best home courts in America is proof that Steve Fisher’s group is not to be taken lightly. Similarly, if you were ready to assume that No. 13 Texas A&M was going to fade in Big 12 play, that conclusion also may need to be revisited. The Aggies won a hard fought 91-89 Overtime victory over Missouri that showcased what a talent it has in Sophomore Khris Middleton. His name spelling is similar to the Aggies as a team, surprising and orthodox, but potentially with the win over Missouri, now a contender for best in a suddenly deep Big 12 conference.

 

5.       A-10 and Conference USA Flops: Both the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA leagues consider themselves to be worthy of respect and national attention and often shun the notion that they are “second-tier” leagues in college basketball. When one of the leagues has a dominant team, it is thus good for its image as a potential national power, as showcased by St. Joseph’s and Memphis in recent years. Until today, both teams thought another such team could exist this year, but Temple and Central Florida both laid an egg in humiliating road defeats. Neither Temple’s 78-66 loss to Duquesne nor Central Florida’s 86-69 defeat at Southern Miss was ever close and both defeats exposed the weaknesses of the previously ranked teams. For now at least, both leagues will suffer from diminished attention due to the lack of power at the top of the standings.

 

Posted on: January 8, 2011 11:53 pm
 

Five Takeaways from Saturday's Action

Posted by MATT JONES

Five Lessons from Saturday’s crazy day of college basketball:

1.
     
 Upsets will be plentiful:  Outside of the top three teams in America that seem to have separated themselves (Duke, Ohio State and Kansas), the rest of the country is filled with good teams that will find difficulties when they hit the road.  Today we saw Missouri fall in Boulder to Colorado, Kentucky lose in Athens to Georgia and Central Florida drop its first game of the year in Houston.  In all cases, the teams that beat the three ranked squads were much more talented than the general public realizes, but the bigger issue is with the teams that were defeated.  All are good enough to be able to make noise in March, but none are good enough to roll roughshod over middle-tier teams in their leagues.  Thus Saturdays where they, and other similar conference powers, lose on the road to good teams will be commonplace.

2.
      
Michigan State is in trouble:  While most of the teams that lost today shouldn’t’ panic, Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team may be in a different situation.  Losing on the road in the Big Ten happens, but not on the road at Penn State when you are a team that began the season with national title aspirations.  The Spartans are not playing their usual defense, have trouble scoring in big spots and simply don’t have the look of a Tom Izzo club.  The optimist would say that Michigan State always struggles early in the season and there is nothing stopping them from yet another Final Four appearance.  But one begins to wonder if the actual Spartan squad is not the group that got hot at the end of the season last year and made a run to the Final Four, but instead is the team we saw throughout the year that underachieved and struggled.  If so, making another magic run may be too much to ask.

3.
      
Kemba Walker is the early Player of the Year:  If one looks at UCONN objectively, it is hard to see the Huskies as a team that would deserve national attention.  They have virtually no scoring weapons on the wing and their defense, while athletic, seems to lack toughness when faced with aggression, as in the game early this year versus Pittsburgh.  But Jim Calhoun does have Kemba Walker and when it matters most, that may be enough.  To go on the road today and win in Austin versus Texas, is the type of victory that will give UCONN the chance to get a top seed even if it struggles in the Big East.  As for Kemba, his poise on the last possession, in which it was clear that he wouldn’t be passing the ball, but would get a good shot, was a thing of beauty to watch and solidifies why he has been the best story in college basketball early this season.

4.
      
Tennessee is impossible to define:  No team has had a more bizarre week than the Vols, who looked like an SEC contender in their utter dismantling of Memphis early in the week, but then fell to a member of the embarrassing SEC West today against Arkansas.  With Bruce Pearl beginning his eight game SEC suspension, Tennessee was down the entire game to the Razorbacks and looked decidedly ordinary throughout.  While Arkansas now looks to be the top team in the SEC West, at this point that is as impressive as saying Robert Deniro is the bright spot in “Little Fockers.”  Losing to the Razorbacks starts Tennessee on a slide at the beginning of the Pearl suspension, and if it doesn’t stop, the Vols will find themselves potentially out of the NCAA Tournament conversation before he returns.

5.
      
The game of the year was in Birmingham:  If you missed the UTEP-UAB battle in Birmingham today, you could have been forgiven.  No one would have imagined that it would have been anything more than a mildly interesting story for college basketball diehards.  But after the 100-97 3 OT thriller, those that watched were able to say they saw what will likely be the game of the year.  Buzzer beaters were made at the end of regulation and the first overtime, and Cameron Moore’s three with time running down at the end of the third overtime sealed the game for the Blazers.  With Central Florida losing and Memphis down this season, Conference USA is up for grabs and this game showcases that both of these teams are conference contenders.  But more importantly, for one day they put on a show unlike any other and made Bartow Arena the place to be in college basketball..

Posted on: January 6, 2011 12:16 am
Edited on: January 6, 2011 12:17 am
 

George Jones' Night in Review

possum

Posted by MATT JONES

Back in the olden days, when all blogs were local and Seth Davis was simply a "handsome CBS television personality" and not a "handsome CBS television personality with his own shown on the CBS College Sports Network", I used to do a nightly post in which I would attempt to wrap up all the important news in college basketball in one quick roundup.  The point of course, was to make sure that those of you who are too busy to come home, sit by the television with your significant other and scan the cable networks for the latest news from the WAC, would have a way to understand what happened in the world of college basketball in one ridiculous summary.  I have decided to move this concept over to the bright lights and big city atmosphere of CBSSports.com, and thus we have the first edition of the "Night in Review." 

Every evening we will begin the Night in Review by giving a quick tip of the hat to someone in the news who is not focused solely on college basketball.  Tonight we give a big "HOWDY!" to George Jones, aka "the Possum," who apparently had a heart scare in Nashville on Wednesday.  Jones is best known for the country classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today", producing # 1 hits in four different decades and looking damn smooth in a white leisure suit.  Thankfully for his fans, the heart scare turned out to be temporary and he is expected back home on Thursday.  But in the mean time, check out some of the Possum's work if you aren't familiar.  I know some of you sophisticated types with your highfalutin dinner parties, NPR tote bags and New Yorker cartoon book compilations might not be familiar with George's catalogue, so let me give you a few starters: "She Thinks I Still Care", "What a Good Year for the Roses" and "Choices." You folks can thank me later.

To the Wednesday notes worth knowing:

1.  Its Jimmer Time in Vegas --- The Game of the Night in college basketball turned out to be a dud all because of the force of Jimmer.  After falling behind 23-15 early, UNLV fell faster than the political stock of Sharron Angle in the second half as Jimmer Fredette took over, powering BYU to a 89-77 victory.  The man whose name my girlfriend hates with the same passion she had previously reserved for the girl with fangs on "The Bachelor" (I actually like it...both the names and the fangs), Fredette put on an offensive show, scoring 39 points and hitting seven three-pointers to bring out the boo birds in the Thomas & Mack Center.  With the win, BYU strikes the first blow in the battle with San Diego State for Mountain West Conference supremacy, while UNLV proves that the hints of problems suggested by the UC-Santa Barbara and Louisville losses should have been taken seriously.

2.  Bruce Pearl gets a sendoff ---  The only person who may have had a worse December that Bruce Pearl is Brett Favre, likely only because I refuse to open any text pictures I receive from Knoxville.  Wednesday's Memphis game saw Pearl's Tennessee team having lost four of its last five and about to begin an eight-game SEC stretch where the coach would not be allowed on the sideline due to an SEC suspension.  So the Vols responded as any group of kids about to watch Daddy head off to the NCAA gulag would, by absolutely annihilating its in-state rival, Memphis.  The Vols dominated in a 104-84 shellacking that was not as close as the score indicated.  What seemed to be a team reeling, instead found its groove and begin the SEC season with some positive momentum.  

3.  Boston College hates the Ivy League ---  As anyone who has ever had a friend go to Boston College can attest, the school does have a serious case of Ivy League envy.  Every BC student will try to convince you that "I could have gone to an Ivy League school but BC's academics are just as good as those Ivy schools and you know what, I wouldn't want to go to school with all those nerds anyway.  Plus, we have great sports here, so take that you little Harvard/Yale/Dartmouth/Brown dork."  While that self-rationalization is always fun to listen to, now it is even more incorrect than usual as Harvard beat Boston College 78-69 for its third straight win over the Eagles.  Piled on top of the earlier loss to Yale, and it becomes clear that BC should be thankful ACC play is beginning and the nerds are going to go back to beating up on each other.

4.  Fear Missouri ---  Yeah I know Missouri's 98-58 victory tonight was only over North Alabama and no, I am not Gary Parrish so I couldn't tell you (a) what conference North Alabama is in or (b) if it is an actual university or just a set in a DJ Qualls movie.  However, I am impressed with a team that has seven scorers in double figures against any team and goes into Big 12 play with just one loss and having played as well as anyone outside of the top five in the non-conference season.  Plus Mike Anderson just seems like a guy you would want to hang out with...and his hair is not nearly as creepy as Quinn Snyder's.  They have my attention.

5.  Duke's Schedule is Putrid ---  Have you noticed that for the #1 team in America, you don't hear a lot about Duke?  Want to know why? Because Coach K somehow lost his manliness on the way to Bobby Knight's record and has stopped scheduling anyone of note in the non-conference.  This year's slate saw only two Top 25 teams, one of which was mandated by the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, multiple games against bottom feeders and only one true road game...and it was at UNC-Greensboro of all places.  Tonight they beat Mike Davis and UAB, which is sweet, but when will Duke go play games that matter?  You are Duke!  You matter in college basketball.  Act like it.

6.  Wake Forest won ---  With fellow "worst teams in the BCS", Auburn and Oregon State, getting big wins this week over Florida State and Oregon State, Wake Forest had to do something to keep up.  Beating High Point 79-63 might not seem like much, but lets remember that this is a school that got beat by Presbyterian and went into a road game at Richmond as a 16 point underdog...and DIDN'T COVER.  So yeah it is High Point...but it is also Wake Forest.

7.  Central Florida Keeps Rolling ---  If you were on CBSSports.com today, you read about fifteen stories on Central Florida and so you know that they are a Conference USA team ready to make a national splash.  Tonight they beat Marshall 65-58 and Marcus Jordan had his team come fly with him for 26 points.  If you haven't paid attention yet to Central Florida, you really should, because if I am reading George O'Leary's resume correctly, his ability to coach both the football and basketball teams to such good seasons at the same time is quite impressive.

8.  Rick Pitino Likes Kevin Willard --- The Louisville Cardinals got back on track tonight, beginning Big East play with a 73-54 victory over Seton Hall.  The Hall has been part of what I like to call the "forgotten neighbors" of the Big East, often forgotten by commentators who trumpet the power at the top but ignore the train wrecks at the bottom of the 16 team league.  After the game, Rick Pitino said that Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard would turn the program around and that he would be the "next Billy Donovan" in college basketball.  High praise indeed, although to be fair, Rick's track record of prediction has never been the best, including comparing former Kentucky Wildcat Jared Prickett to Larry Bird and calling current Cardinal Mike Marra "the greatest high school shooter I have ever seen."   
So there you have it, your night in review.  Tomorrow is highlighted by the Xavier-Cincy battle, a decision by 2011 five-star recruit Deandre Daniels as to his college destination and more decimation of whatever comedy soul is left in "The Office."  Stay tuned....
Posted on: January 4, 2011 9:27 am
Edited on: January 4, 2011 9:45 am
 

UCF: Just what C-USA's been waiting for



Posted by Matt Norlander


If you can't give respect to a team that makes it to the new year without a loss, then perhaps it's time you stop yelling at those kids on your lawn and start paying attention to college basketball.

The particular attention I'm alluding to is for Central Florida, which is 13-0 and ranked No. 19 in the country.

Some surprises this year, no doubt, but nobody had this one. Not a one. Nobody had this team with only one or two losses, either.

Depending on two outcomes tomorrow night — UCF's game against Marshall and Memphis' game against Tennessee — we could have a definitive best team in Conference USA.

And it won't be the Tigers who, with a loss, will drop to a plenty-respectable 11-3.

What a nice thing for Conference USA this can be. You may recall last season, when UTEP only had one loss in conference and finally gave C-USA a different look after the Tigers had demanded everyone else's rent since five teams jettisoned for the Big East in 2005.

Now it's Central Florida that's upstaging Memphis, which is in Year No. 2 of the post-John Calipari era. Why have the Knights been so good so far? It's more than a weak schedule; credit UCF for beating then-ranked Florida, Miami and UMass away from home, even if the rest of the slate is cupcake-sweet. The primary reason UCF hasn't lost yet is because it's done something you can't fake — halt teams' shooting ability from all over the floor. No team is better at effective field goal percentage defense than the Knights, which allow opponents to make just 39.1 percent of their shots.

Barring a barrage of turnovers and miserable shooting on your end, you're beating everyone lined up before you if you prevent them from eclipsing 40 percent in effective field goal percentage.

Other reasons, ones you may know, like Marcus Jordan, the one who has legitimate talent and gotten a lot of the attention, has been helped tremendously by Keith Clanton, who is giving opposing teams more headaches than Baby Jordan. This young team also stays fresh by having one of the deeper benches in basketball.

Conference USA isn't that deep (again), but it could have three Tournament-worthy teams in UCF, Memphis and Southern Miss. So far, no one's looked as fluid or tough as the Knights, who seem to still have a tough opponent to overcome in the next few weeks: the doubters.

Photo: AP

Posted on: December 31, 2010 10:45 am
Edited on: December 31, 2010 9:24 pm
 

Mid-Major spotlight: Ten defensive powers

Posted by Eric Angevine

When we think about mid-major teams that have made an impact on the NCAA tournament, we often remember amazing, last minute shots from deep. Dramatic shots give us the skewed perception that offense leads to upsets, but no small school ever hung in a tournament game without playing some tough defense.

With a lot of help from kenpom.com, we can prove it.

Looking at the final adjusted defensive ratings from 2010 , Duke and Butler come out with nearly identical numbers. The Blue Devils were fourth nationally with a rating of 85.9, and the Bulldogs ended up fifth, coming in at 86.2. Operating from that baseline, the teams were competitive right up until the final buzzer.

The 2006 Final Four team from George Mason didn't crack the top ten in the overall defensive stats, but the Patriots were in the top 20 (alongside an impressive number of other mids in that eye-opening year), and balanced their defensive prowess with an efficient offense.

The Southern Illinois dynasty of the early part of the decade featured a black-and-blue defense that made opposing teams feel as if they'd fallen into a wood chipper.

If we assume that no mid can make it to the second weekend of the tournament without a comprehensive defensive effort, it stands to reason that this year's stoppers have tipped their hands after a non-conference schedule full of guarantee games against the Big Six teams.* I'll list each with kenpom's Adjusted Defensive rating in parentheses. For reference purposes, Ohio State leads the category with a stunning 81.0 mark.

1. UNLV (87.4)
2. Temple (87.5)
3. Central Florida (89.0)
4. Stephen F. Austin (89.1)
5. Brigham Young (89.4)
6. UTEP (90.4)
7. San Diego State (90.7)
8. Memphis (91.1)
9. Richmond (91.1)
10. Fairfield (91.6)

For the record, that's three Mountain West teams, three C-USA squads, two A-10 reps, one Southland and one MAAC apiece.

The Rebs top the list in spite of a rather undersized frontcourt, because the backcourt is so adept at creating chaos for ballhandlers. The team is third nationally in defensive turnover percentage and ranks in the top 20 for steal rate as well.

Casual observers will focus ad nauseum on the fact that Michael Jordan's son is an offensive star for the undefeated UCF Knights, but it's blocked shots and team defense that keeps them in the national top 25.

Now, on to the surprises. Stephen F. Austin is actually the nation's top team at creating turnovers and they've been elite-level at defending the perimeter as well. The caveat would be that they've scheduled four non-DI opponents this season, but kenpom's numbers are supposed to take account of schedule strength through some kind of mathemagical formula that I accept on faith.

Now, Fairfield. The Stags might make the Big Dance based on these defensive numbers, which might be good enough to win the MAAC's auto-bid, but it doesn't seem likely. The offense is as bad as the defense is good, in this case. Still, it's an intriguing number.

Two teams that fell just outside the arbitrary number of ten are worth keeping an eye on as well. Drexel (upsetters of Louisville) and Butler (you may have heard of them) are both sitting at 91.8, and those numbers are virtually guaranteed to go down into elite territory once Bruiser Flint and Brad Stevens unleash hell upon the CAA and Horizon League, respectively.

*There are plenty of people who will argue the definition of a mid-major with me, but until leagues like the Mountain West, A-10 and West Coast draw obsessive national attention even in a down year (like last season's Pac-10 did) they're not playing on the same field as the Big Six, so I'm including them here.


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