Tag:MVC
Posted on: January 2, 2012 9:48 am
Edited on: January 2, 2012 9:50 am
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Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 7


By Matt Norlander

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

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

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

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

Top Tier

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

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

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

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

Ron Swanson Approves

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Base Blocks

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

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

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

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

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

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

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

Posted on: December 27, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:35 pm
 

Conference Reset

As well roll into January that can only mean one thing -- we're about to launch full swing into conference play.

For some teams, non-conference play was a wake-up call. Teams that many thought would easily stroll into the NCAA tournament come March will now have to pick up the pace in league play.

Through Jan. 5, the CBSSports.com college basketball crew will be putting the spotlight on every major league, letting you know what you may have missed and what do you need to watch out for going forward.

  • ACC
    The ACC is going to be great soon with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But is it great right now? Not really. North Carolina remains a national title contender, Duke is Duke (despite Wednesday's loss at Temple) and Virginia is a surprise. But the league's other nine teams are either unproven or proven to be average or bad, and that's not a good look for a conference that prides itself on playing a high level of basketball. Read More >>
  • Atlantic 10
    For a while, it appeared the Atlantic 10 might finish without a conference champ. Xavier got off to a sizzling start with nine straight victories. Then came The Brawl -- followed by the Fall. Xavier suspended Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells after the fight with cross-town rival Cincinnati -- and it all fell apart. Chris Mack's team lost three of its next four, including setbacks to Oral Roberts and Hawaii, which gave hope to everyone else in the league. Now Rick Majerus' Saint Louis team, which has only one loss thus far, may have a shot. Temple has struggled at times, but the Owls could challenge. And Saint Joseph's finally appears back in contention after two brutal campaigns. Read More >>
  • Big 12
    The Big 12 title is up for grabs. Kansas has been king of the league for most of the past decade, but this season the Jayhawks look vulnerable. No one can match the talent and length of Scott Drew's Baylor squad, but the Bears haven't been the most impressive team in the conference thus far -- that honor belongs to Missouri and new coach Frank Haith. But don't count out Kansas State as long as Frank Martin has this group of somewhat anonymous Wildcats buying into his brand of basketball -- which means playing hard. Read More >>
  • Big East
    When compared to last season, the Big East might look down this year. It's not going to be in the mix for 10 or 11 NCAA tournament bids, and the bottom of the league is not very strong. With that said, don't underestimate the conference too much; it has at least three legitimate top 10 teams and six teams who should receive top-four seeds in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Big Ten
    How many teams can enter league play these days and legitimately say they have eight teams in the equation for an NCAA tournament bid? Probably just one, and that's the Big Ten. After Ohio State, there's plenty of depth in this conference, which has established itself as the premiere league in the country this season. Read More >>
  • Conference USA
    Though Memphis is a disappointment, it's still the best team in Conference USA by a wide margin. But don't take my word for it. Take Ken Pomeroy's. His invaluable site (KenPom.com) still has Memphis ranked 31st and projected to be favored in every game it plays the rest of the way. So that 8-5 record is likely to turn into something like 26-8 on Selection Sunday (barring serious injuries or notable suspensions, the latter of which is always a possibility at Memphis). So Memphis will win C-USA. The real question is whether C-USA can put two teams in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Horizon League
    It doesn't seem likely that the Horizon will produce a national finalist for the third year in a row, but that doesn't mean the conference has taken a huge fall. Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee have played well during non-conference play, and the league has had a few marquee clips against BCS-league teams. And what about Butler, the aforementioned two-time national finalist? The Bulldogs are turning things around as we enter conference play. But the rest of the league won't let Brad Stevens' troops waltz to a yet another Horizon title. Read More >>
  • Missouri Valley
    It's been a few years since the Valley was this good, even though the bottom part of this one (like most leagues) has a few bad teams. The race to win the league should be among four teams. For whatever reason, MVC clubs capture the hope of many in the tournament. Creighton, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Southern Illinois are all schools that have had big March moments. Two of the aforementioned can and should get into the Big Dance this year. Read More >>
  • Mountain West
    It's better than the Pac-12, and the case could be made it's the fourth-best collection of teams in college hoops. There isn't one group that's even flirting with .500. For a non-BCS conference, that's pretty unexpected and really good. And its success so far goes much deeper than Vegas' defeat of UNC back in November and Steve Fisher's insistence on looking like he teaches grad-level lit classes. Read More >>
  • Pac-12
    The Pac-12 has become the rebellious teenager that gets in its own way and is hurtling toward a life with no future. Here we are again having the same discussion we’ve been having the past few years. Nothing seems to be changing. This league is putrid yet again, and where’s the hope? Not an overstatement: Three Pac-12 teams making the NCAA tournament will be a genuine achievement. Read More >>
  • SEC
    Some fans take joy in the fact that John Calipari has never won a national title. If you're one of those, you might be in trouble. Kentucky really might do it this year. The Wildcats are big and strong and long and talented. They have shooters. They have shot-blockers. They've got everything you need to win a national championship, and they are, right now, the favorites out in Las Vegas. Read More >>
  • West Coast
    Outside of the six BCS-affiliated conferences, the No. 7 spot in league rankings is up for grabs. Why not the West Coast Conference? With three legitimate threats to win a game in the NCAA tournament, the WCC has as good of an argument as anyone. Moreover, with some of the non-conference wins the bottom half of the league picked up in November, the quality victories are there as well. Read More >>

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Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Power Pyramid, Week 6: No resolutions required



By Matt Norlander

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

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

Top Tier

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

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

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

Ron Swanson Approves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Base Blocks

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

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

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

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

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

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

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

Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:31 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 12:32 am
 

Night Court: C.J. Leslie beats the buzzer

By Jeff Borzello

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

Game of the day: Kenpom.com anointed North Carolina State vs. St. Bonaventure as the game of the day prior to Tuesday – and he certainly wasn’t wrong. It was a back and forth game throughout, but it looked like it was heading to overtime once Eric Mosley tied it up at 65 with 3.1 seconds left. Then C.J. Williams launched a full-length pass to C.J. Leslie, who somehow got a shot off to win the game for the Wolfpack. Check the really high-quality video above.

Win to brag about: Northern Iowa was 6-0 on its homecourt heading into Tuesday, but Ohio went into Cedar Falls and came out with a 17-point win. The Bobcats shot 52 percent from the field, 52 percent from 3-point range and stifled Northern Iowa on the defensive end. Ivo Baltic went for 22 points in the win for Ohio, which is now 10-1.

Loss to hide from: There weren’t any truly bad losses on Tuesday, but Stephen F. Austin dropping one to Prairie View A&M tops the list. Prairie View didn’t have a Division-I win all season and had won just two games away from home in the last season and a half. Stephen F. Austin expected to contend in the Southland this season, but going 0-for-8 from 3-point range en route to a 53-50 loss isn’t going to do it.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Richmond’s Darien Brothers scored 38 points to lead the Spiders to a 90-82 overtime win against Old Dominion. Brothers jumpstarted the extra period with a four-point play to give Richmond a lead it would never relinquish. Overall, he had 19 points in the last 11 minutes of regulation and overtime. 

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: Coming off Butler’s win against Purdue over the weekend, we expected the Bulldogs to show better against Gonzaga. Instead, they got behind early and fell, 71-55. Three of Butler’s top four scorers – Andrew Smith, Chase Stigall and Chrishawn Hopkins – combined to shoot 3-for-21 for a grand total of seven points.

Numbers don’t lie:

  • 358: Towson lost to Manhattan on Tuesday night. The Tigers have now gone 358 days without a win.
  • November 16: Prior to its win over UNC-Asheville, Tennessee hadn’t defeated a Division-I team in over a month.
  • 11-1: After its win over St. Francis (Pa.), Pittsburgh has now started 11-1 in 11 of the last 12 seasons. The PA announcer in that game had to call out an update after every basket due to a scoreboard malfunction.

Three other notable results:

  1. Charleston looked poised to pull the upset over Louisville, but a quick 8-0 run in 70 seconds gave the Cardinals a seven-point lead with two minutes left. Louisville held on, 69-62.
  2. Doron Lamb shot 8-for-12 from the field to lead Kentucky to an 82-50 win over Samford.
  3. Syracuse stayed undefeated with an 80-61 victory over Patriot favorite Bucknell.

Notes:

  • Jared Sullinger returned from a foot injury to play 30 minutes against Lamar. He scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 70-50 win.
  • New Mexico’s game against Montana State was delayed 30 minutes by a fire alarm before tipoff. Per the AP, it was the third time in the last two seasons New Mexico has had a game delayed.
  • BYU bounced back from an early deficit to beat Buffalo, 93-78.
  • North Texas freshman Tony Mitchell is averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in his first two games since becoming eligible.
  • Solomon Hill had 23 points and 11 rebounds to help Arizona get an 85-73 win over Oakland.

On tap: There are several good games to check out on Wednesday. The best game of the night should be Texas taking on North Carolina, with Myck Kabongo going head-to-head with Kendall Marshall. Seton Hall also faces Dayton, and Alabama looks to bounce back against Oklahoma State. A couple of teams with gaudy records battle in DePaul and Cal Poly, and Parrish will be at Mississippi vs. Middle Tennessee State.

Photo: US Presswire
Video: YouTube

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

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 5, Festivus Edition


By Matt Norlander

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

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

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

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

Frank Costanza’s Favorites

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

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

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

On Santa’s Good List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom of the Feats of Strengths Pile

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

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

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

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

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

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

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

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

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 3

By Matt Norlander

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

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

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

Top Tier

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

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

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

Ron Swanson Approves

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Base Blocks

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

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

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

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

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

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

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

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:20 am
 

Bradley senior back after last year's heart scare

By Matt Norlander

There is a bittersweet element -– and that may be severely understating it -- to the fact Taylor Brown can confidently and safely play basketball once again.

The Bradley senior was cleared to return, full-time, to the team this month after nearly a year away from the game. The reason he was forced to sit to begin with? The death of Phil Kaiser.

Kaiser died last October. He was 21 years old and a member of Bradley’s baseball team. He suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that gives the heart an irregular rhythm and thickens muscle tissue surrounding -– and essentially suffocating --the organ. 

In the wake of Kaiser’s death, Bradley’s doctors and trainers immediately called for heart check-ups of every player at the school. Turns out Brown had a heart murmur spotted during his sophomore year. From the get-go, he didn’t stand a chance to play. Brown still remembers the dates last year when his heart’s stability came into question.

“The tests were on Oct. 19 and 20,” he said. Two weeks later, he was given the news: cardiomyopathy may be an eventual diagnosis. Given the high level of sensitivity at the school, Brown was immediately put on the shelf. He didn’t want to believe it, of course. So he spent many nights performing amateur research projects in his dorm room. He eventually flew up to the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for more tests and opinions.

“I found out the Wednesday before the first game on the Thursday,” Brown said. Doctors weren’t certain he had cardiomyopathy, but the only way for them to find out was to sit him completely for a three-month time period. Forget playing in games; Brown couldn’t so much as break a sweat in his down time. The extent of his interaction with his teammates was shooting free throws in practice.

Through the first six weeks of his wait, Brown said he tried to learn a new appreciation for the game and team workouts, and he did do that, but there was still hope he’d come back for the second half of the season. His mind wandered to the future often, with images of him back on the court distracting him from his situation as it stood. And as you’ll see in the video below -– which is essentially a trailer for a documentary that’s being made on Taylor’s journey -– the news wasn’t good. 

The news got good early in 2011. At the end of the team’s 12-20 season, Brown traveled to the Minneapolis Heart Institute to get an updated prognosis on his condition. He was told his heart was healthy. The muscle mass surrounding the heart had decreased, and he was cleared to begin light workouts in June.

But while the good news for him came, there were two other faraway notices that kept his happiness and check and further emphasized to him how delicate his situation could be.

“When I was in St. Louis for the MVC tournament, that’s when the story about the young guy (Fenville High’s Wes Leonard) passed away in Detroit,” Brown said. “His cousin’s in our conference, at Missouri State (Adam Leonard), and it made me think about it a lot. Me and my father was also talking about a girl that was running track and suddenly died. It was surreal going through that, and even though there wasn’t anything wrong with me, I felt a connection to those people.”

Brown said he was about 60 to 70 percent back by May. It was then when the treadmill power walks and ball-handling drills initiated his return to hoops. In June, he and trainers were really breaking sweats and breaking back into the drills.

Despite the precaution and the scare, Brown said he’s not hesitant about playing now and doesn’t worry about suffering a heart-related issue on the court. He was never scared that something might be wrong. 

“Maybe throughout the time I was sitting I was thinking more [negatively] then, but since I have been back and playing, that’s been the last thing on my mind,” he said. “The whole time I was sitting, being with my family, we knew nothing was wrong with me and the athletic heart was going to shrink. When I’m out there now, I really don’t think of my heart this and my heart that.”

Now the challenge is getting in peak physical shape for his final go-round. Brown is 205 pounds again –- the weight he was during his sophomore year –- but it’s a softer 205, since he ballooned up 25 pounds during his time away from the game. The 6-6 forward has a 7.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game average in his career.

Photo: Bob Hunt, courtesy of Bradley Athletics
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Drake suspends two players after shoplift charge

By Matt Norlander

Respect the Drake.

The program indefinitely suspended point guard Rayvonte Rice (right) and senior Kurt Alexander Friday after both were arrested Wednesday night for shoplifting, according to the Des Moines Register.

Rice and Alexander were caught attempting to break the law at Scheels Sporting Goods in West Des Moines.

School athletic director Sandy Hatfield told the Register in a statement, "We are aware that two members of our men’s basketball team face allegations of petty shoplifting. The decision made by these young men is not reflective of the expectations of character and responsibility to which we hold all student-athletes. The student-athletes have been suspended immediately from all team activities. We will allow for the continuation of the legal process before making further comment or determining the length of suspension, and any further action on the matter. Discipline and consequences will be determined consistent with the Drake University Student Code of Conduct and expectations."
Rice, a sophomore, averaged a team-best 13.8 points per game last season and led the team is steals and blocks. Last week, we wrote about Rice's superb freshman year that led to him being courted by a number of BCS schools. He shrugged those suitors off, however, and remained loyal to coach Mark Phelps.

Soon we'll find out how tough Phelps will be toward his young star, who will likely be vital to Drake's success in the Missouri Valley this season.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Category: NCAAB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com