Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:05 pm

Podcast: Todd O'Brien speaks about Phil Martelli

By Matt Norlander

Todd O'Brien's story has created quite a stir, and rightfully so. His SI.com piece had more than ripple effects; it's created waves in the college sports community.

O'Brien wrote eloquently on his situation, but we wanted to hear more, so we were able to get him on today's podcast, his first interview (of what will be many; O'Brien's about ot do a media tour de force) since the piece went live. I ask him about his relationship with Phil Martelli, why he decided to leave, when he decided to leave, the laptop-theft issue from last February, and if that has any connection to the situation he finds himself in now.

And to be clear here: Martelli has, for perhaps the first time in his career, been muzzled on this issue. I'd be eager, willing and anxious to have him on the podcast if he so pleases.

What to hear where:
  • From the beginning: A reset and introduction to O'Brien's situation, for those not fully understanding the rare circumstances he's involved in right now.
  • 2:45: O'Brien explains when and why he approached Martelli about leaving.
  • 6:23: Who is Phil Martelli, and did the relationship between he and O'Brien sour quickly?
  • 10:18: O'Brien details when and why he last spoke to Martelli. And the discussion was much more positive then. "Seemingly a good talk," O'Brien said.
  • 12:40: How O'Brien's involvement (minimal or otherwise) in a laptop-theft incident from February plays into his leaving the school and his fractured relationship with Martelli.
  • 17:51: Why should we believe this isn't about athletics and O'Brien being frustrated over a depletion of playing time? He states his case, and admits the lack of playing time did give him incentive.
  • 20:18: Why UAB? O'Brien is from Pennsylvania, and attended Bucknell and St. Joe's, after all.
  • 23:25: Why won't Martelli let this happen? That's the crux of the issue. What's O'Brien's perspective on this?
  • 26:20: We know O'Brien hopes he'll play again, but does he believe Martelli will actually go back on his word?

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

Get CBSSports.com College Basketball updates on Facebook   

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.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:36 pm

Afternoon Delight: Plenty of daylight drama

By Matt Norlander

On busier Saturdays and Sundays this season, we’re not going to make you wait until the end of the slate of games to catch up with all that’s happened. Afternoon Delight (3-pointers in flight!) recaps the first five hours worth of action, the perfecta appetizer right before dinnertime.

The best we’ve seen so far: Baylor went into Provo and got a win in one of the toughest environments in college basketball, 86-83 over BYU. Brandon Davies was blocked by 5-10 Pierre Jackson as Davies tried to put up the game-tying 3. No Jimmer in the building, but Baylor had plenty of firepower from Brady Heslip, who drained six 3s. By the way, Perry Jones will be a guaranteed top-four draft pick. He had an injury scare in his leg/knee, but not matter: Jones came back in the game. He finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Love the royal blue Santa suit.

Deserving of a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice: It was about as quiet of a top-25 game as you could ask for (and not want). Florida got out early against Texas A&M and coasted 84-64 in what they're calling the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. The worst thing about the Gators were their hideous orange-on-blue uniforms. This was more about A&M not being a top-25 than Florida proving its worth against a ranked team, which UF finally did by way of a victory.

No soup for you: That was a worse loss for Purdue than it was a good win for Butler. Andrew Smith picked up the trash and tipped the game-winner in with one second to give the Bulldogs a 67-65 win, but the Boilers gave away a 15 point led and was on the wrong end of a 21-8 run. Shaky free-throw shooting and not enough interior presence, either.

Afternoon all-stars

  1. Deshaun Thomas 30 points on 13-of-16 shooting and six rebounds as he showed just how good he can be in a spot when Ohio State needs him. Buckeyes won a 74-6 road game against slippery South Carolina.
  2. The two-overtime game you might have missed was a blast. All sorts of bonkers buckets and Miami beat Florida Atlantic 93-90. Reggie Johnson came off the bench, played in his first game back from a knee injury and 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 36 minutes. Damn, son!
  3. Arnett Moultrie (17 points, 13 boards) was huge in Mississippi State’s tough road win at Detroit. Speaking of that:

Other afternoon action

  1. Mississippi State got a clutch block late from Moultrie and won 80-75 against the Titans, who could be a tournament team down the road. Mississippi State will climb into the top 15 of the polls now that it’s 11-1.
  2. Iona keeps gritting out road wins in the midst of its nine-game away-from-home trip. The Gaels won 63-62 at Vermont this afternoon.
  3. We’d give Temple a lot of credit if it went in and beat Texas on the road. It didn’t happen, and so the Longhorns deserve just as much credit for beating the Owls (77-65), who can finish second in the Atlantic 10.

Delightful thoughts

  • It’s a delightful thing when you can rally twice from double digits. That’s what the Big Red of Cornell did, knocking off Albany in overtime, 85-82.
  • As for the Horizon, consider: Detroit at home can't close out against Miss. St. Butler on neutral floor overtakes Purdue. Muscle memory, coaching, etc.
  • You see Cincinnati play teams like Radford, you see why Yancy Gates only got suspended for one Big East game and the remainder of this patsy schedule.
  • We'll see what the night brings, but after such a down week without any games, this start to a Saturday was uplifting and a joy to see. Felt like mid-February, almost.


Posted on: December 12, 2011 1:05 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 1:14 pm

All that's wrong with the Cincy/X fight/fallout

By Matt Norlander

There was a national writer at the Cincinnati-Xavier brawl Saturday, and we've brought him on the podcast to discuss every angle of this story. Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News lives in the Cincinnati area and knows the two programs as well as anyone.

Did he see this coming? Why were star players on the court in the closing seconds a blowout? DeCourcy and I disagree on the severity of the suspensions. I think they're too soft on both sides, while DeCourcy doesn't really care what sportswriters think about suspension lengths. (I also disagree with him in principle here -- it's writers' job to comment and react to these things, even if DeCourcy isn't particularly interested in what his fellow scribes think).

One quick note: The call was a computer-to-phone connection, which means it makes me sound like I have a lisp. This is not the case, but you'll be amused all the same.

The discussion breaks down like this:
  • From the beginning: DeCourcy was right there. Did he see the fight coming?
  • 7:40: Why were Tu Holloway, Yancy Gates, Mark Lyons and other players of note on the floor with less than a minute to go in the blowout?
  • 9:55: The suspensions discussion. I'll simply tease it and say I don't agree with where Mike is coming from here.
  • 13:40: DeCourcy's case for why so many of us misinterpreted Cronin's words from his press conference, and more of his case for why Gates shouldn't necessarily be off the team or serving a longer suspension.
  • 20:53: It clear the coaches weren't the ones calling the shots with the player suspensions, right?
  • 23:03: We also squeeze in room for the biggest basketball only-related topic from the weekend: Indiana's buzzer-beating win against Kentucky. This doesn't mean Indiana's all the way back, but the Hoosiers still provided a top-10 moment for this season with that W. And Calipari, in some ways, will take this loss because he can use it for a good humbling with his team.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

Get CBSSports.com College Basketball updates on Facebook   

Posted on: December 12, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 10:53 am

Further punishment could await X/Cincy brawlers

By Matt Norlander

There could be further fallout from the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl, because now the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office is going to review the tape.

Yancy Gates, be nervous. Gates is the Cincinnati senior center who coldcocked Xavier center Kenny Frease during the fracas in the closing seconds of Saturday afternoon's Xavier 76-53 win over the Bearcats. Multiple players from each team have been suspended, none more than Gates, who received a six-game punishment for throwing the most vicious, obvious punches in the battle.

WLWT reported the possible charges that could come for players on both teams. These kind of punishments, if any charges are levied, go beyond anything either program/coach/university did Sunday.
Joe Deters issued a release Monday saying, “My office will review this matter to determine whether any criminal charges are appropriate. We will have no further comment until a decision is reached.”
This kind of review is certainly warranted; if Gates did what he did at an on-campus bar instead of in the middle of a game, he'd likely already have charges pressed against him.

"We want to deal with this in a prompt and direct manner, and send the message that we will not tolerate this from those who have the privilege of representing the University of Cincinnati." Those are the words of Cincy AD Whit Babcock.

No tolerance is preached, yet plenty have maligned both universities for going too soft in their punishments. Tu Holloway did not throw a punch, but he is considered the instigator of the melee, and he spoke proudly of the events afterward on Saturday, giving himself, his team and his sport a horrible look. Plenty believe Gates shouldn't even be allowed to play basketball the rest of the season. Cincy coach Mick Cronin debated aloud whether he'd kick anyone off the team following the horrible PR display for the sport Saturday. Turns out, only one Big East game will be missed.

Cincinnati's suspended players will partake in a Monday press conference at 2 p.m. ET. Xavier's coaches and players spoke and addressed the issue during a Sunday press conference.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 11:46 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:39 pm

Cincy guard disses, dismisses Tu Holloway

By Matt Norlander

Sean Kilpatrick is probably about to get his lunch handed to him.

The Cincinnati sophomore guard went on the radio Thursday and said Xavier point guard Tu Holloway isn't as good as him -- and that the preseason top-five player wouldn't garner a start spot on Cincinnati's roster. The exchange between Kilpatrick, Cincinnati's leading scorer, and Real Talk 1160 WQRT host Andy Furman.
Furman: “Are you better than Tu Holloway?”
Kilpatrick: “I’ll let the fans decide…”
Furman: “I need to know. No one’s listening. Just between you and me.”
Kilpatrick: “Yes I am.”
Furman: “Would Tu Holloway start for UC?”
Kilpatrick: “Would he, with the players we have now? I would say no.”
I don't blame Kilpatrick for having pride and claiming he's better than Holloway, even though everyone not associated with Cincinnati knows that not to be true. The category where Kilpatrick is clearly better: effective field goal percentage. Kilpatrick is clearing 58 percent to Holloway's 45.

The he-wouldn't-start-for-us line is where things get personal, and will no doubt serve to further motivate a team that's already of Final Four caliber. As if Holloway wasn't already motivated enough playing against the hated Bearcats, plus he had arguably his worst game of the season against Cincy last year, shooting 15 percent from the floor and scoring five points ... now he gets this.

Holloway's been a opposing team's dream-killer this season, playing fantastically in the clutch and late in games. I can't wait to see how X reacts and rallies around Holloway, who will most likely have another good-to-great showing.

In a grander scheme, what Kilpatrick's comments do is put the spotlight on what's truly one of the meanest, if not the meanest, college basketball rivalries. Xavier-Cincy will never be the biggest, but the Crosstown Shootout has spread the venom for decades. It gets pockets of recognition for how seething it can get -- perhaps this hyperbole from Kilpatrick will give the matchup even more recognition. We need rivalries with some true disgust and contempt between players.

Speaking out against the other team's star player is never smart for the team involved, but as fans of game, we always benefit. Bring on the trash talk and let the game begin.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 8, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:52 am

With Temple, we see what the A10 is/can be

By Matt Norlander

The talent in the Atlantic 10, the number of quality, tournament-worthy teams, hasn’t been much of a talking topic so far this year. It normally isn’t for that league until mid-January comes around. But I was thinking: How good is Temple? Like Syracuse with the Big East or Kansas with the Big 12, we often equate the A10’s stature each year by how strong Temple is. That’s not a fair barometer, but it is a comfortable one.

Plus, in years when the Owls are good, the league usually follows suit — at least at the top, when there are two or three clubs with the capability to steal some games in March. Temple makes the league want to be better when it is better. Xavier's been the better program for the past decade, but Temple still rules the roost. It's still older brother.

And maybe that’s why people haven’t talked that much about the league this year. Xavier's awesome but isn't being discussed as the Final Four contender is clearly is. Saint Louis still has its quiet critics. Richmond's down. Was that Dayton win over Alabama Wednesday night a fluke? A quiet Temple makes for a quiet Atlantic 10. They do seem to go hand in hand, don't you agree?

So, is this Temple team better than last year’s? Cop-out: I’m not sure. And neither are you. And, if you forced him to tell the truth, Owls coach Fran Dunphy would own up to not knowing yet either. Last year’s team went 26-8 and was a 7 seed, losing to San Diego State in its third-round (but really second-round) game. Unfortunately, the Owls no longer have Lavoy Allen, a player Dunphy says is one of the best defensive forces he’s ever coached. The Owls are 5-2, just pasted Toledo on the road Wednesday night, and now the next two games are against Villanova and Texas. They’re fairly critical. Outside of going 14-2 in the conference (hey, it did that last year!), if Temple drops both of these games, an at-large actually seems unlikely down the road. (Though they do get Duke at home in January, and what an opportunity that is.)

“We’re a little banged up right now,” Dunphy said, referring to losing Michael Eric for about six weeks due to a patella injury in his right knee. Eric is averaging 10.5 points and 11.3 rebounds. He’s 6-11. But without him, the team’s still “not sure how to play with him,” Dunphy said.

It lost Bowling Green in its first game following Eric’s injury. But the team’s rebounded since, even if it’s defensively not what it was last year. Losing Allen will do that to you. The Owls, who haven’t been ranked in either poll so far this year, are cruising along the radar, except in the Non-BCS Power Pyramid, where the faith is still being kept. What we've seen from Temple so far is a good team that's not yet hatched. The overtime win over Wichita State will be one that ages well.

They are enigmatic, though.

“We resemble that remark sometimes,” Dunphy said. “More than we should be. Part of that is we don’t have Mike.”

The team’s also had to rely heavily on Ramone Moore, who could be the conference’s second-best player — and the guy who plays more minutes than anyone in the nation this season. Moore is currently playing 95.2 percent of his team’s minutes, seventh-most in the nation. He's scoring 16.4 points per game and shooting almost 40 percent from 3. Critical play, for sure.

“I would rather that he not play as many minutes as he had, but we’ve had so many close games, we haven’t had a chance to sit him out,” Dunphy said.

Moore, Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt are a triumvirate who mean more on offense than defense for Dunphy. The team is scoring better than 1.1 points per possession; it hasn't finished above that clip since 2007-08. It's been the necessary bonus for the Owls this year, since it's dipped in defensive efficiency.

“I think it’s always the same for us,” Dunphy said. “The defensive end takes precedent. Any time we can keep anyone below 40 percent shooting, that’s big for us. We also want no empty possessions. Empty possessions can lead to scoring on the other end.”

Moore and Fernandez should continue to be all league-level players. Once Eric comes back healthy in January, Temple should again be among the top six or seven non-BCS teams in the country. But they won't have him for 'Nova or Texas and probably not the Jan. 4 Duke game. If all of those are losses, it diminishes Temple's reputation, and in turn the A10's as well.

Category: NCAAB
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!)

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