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Posted on: January 25, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 12:11 pm

Introducing: Line 'Em Up, a résumé examination


Posted by Matt Norlander

We’re debuting a new weekly feature today. The title I’m not so nuts about (it won over “Rivaling Résumés”), but the objective should be pretty fun. Call it a twist on bubble watching, only it’s not just that. Every Tuesday I’ll be taking teams and stacking their ledgers against each other. Sometimes it will be to debate and determine at-large inclusion into The Tournament; sometimes it will be about seeding. To start, we’ll take two pairs this Tuesday, looking at two teams firmly on the bubble, and two more you might be surprised are closer in seeding than expected at first glance.

Battle on the bubble: Duquesne vs. Oklahoma State

Duquesne has come out of nowhere, streaking with an eight-game winning streak, to be tied atop the Atlantic 10 with Xavier (both are 5-0). It’s the best start for this program in decades, so why not give them the inaugural treatment with this feature? The Dukes have a 36 ranking in KenPom world and 46 in the Sagarin universe (both objective, beautiful places to live, despite a lack of sand and constantly warm weather). Full disclaimer: I have not seen Duquesne play yet this season. There’s a strong chance you’re in my company.

With that out of the way, let’s look at what the team’s accomplished. The losses are all OK, save for the road one at Robert Morris; that did come in the Dukes’ second game of the season, the first one against a D-I opponent. As we move further and further away from the RMU loss, its meaning does diminish. Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia and George Mason (two OTs) are the others who’ve picked off the Dukes. Not embarrassing whatsoever, considering George Mason is a top-40 KenPom team. Win-wise, home vs. Temple on Jan. 15 is the only thing to hang outside the window for the Dukes.

Okie State is 14-5 and has a 73 KenPom ranking, 58 in Sagarin. Same number of losses, but the opponents are a little worse, collectively, and the teams who did fell OSU are worsening the Pokes’ reputation by the day. Losing to Texas A&M is fine and dandy, and even the Virginia Tech loss on Nov. 26 has improved with age. But Baylor, Colorado and Gonzaga are tailspinning and pulling Oklahoma State into the spiral with them.

Missouri State, who is atop the Missouri Valley, and Kansas State, those are the two wins Travis Ford’s team can be proud about right now. A win against Texas tomorrow would easily catapult Oklahoma State past Duquesne.

The pick: Oklahoma State, but it’s way close. The strength-of-schedule probably is what does it (OSU: 59; Duquesne: 127). The good news for Duquesne is the still-undefeated conference record and the fact it turns teams over at a higher rate than anyone else in the country. Chances are this team won’t be vaporizing its chances any time soon. Plus, if the Dukes finish with two losses, maybe three, in the A10, this won’t be a debate.

Who should be seeded higher: Georgia vs. Marquette

Both teams are safely in the field as of now, by my count. What’s intriguing about this pairing is how familiar you likely are with one team compared to the other. Marquette’s on national television with regularity; Georgia is not. Georgia hasn’t been for some time. Now, the Bulldogs get a game tonight on ESPN against helter-skelter Florida, and if they win, we could be looking at a 7-seed for them. Marquette gets a home game against Connecticut, which, as Andy Glockner notes this week, is now 1-seed-worthy.

So what types of seeds are we looking at for these teams? As of this moment:

Georgia, 9-seed. Wins over Colorado and UAB, two teams that will likely be irrelevant by late February, are paying off right now in bubble-watch ways. (This field is so damn weak.) The Bulldogs have the 89th-toughest schedule, according to Sagarin, which doesn’t matchup to Marquette’s No. 31. However, the Golden Eagles are a benefactor of the Big East. Georgia lost in double-OT to Notre Dame, looking better by proxy after what the Irish did last night. But let’s get right to it: beating Kentucky Jan. 8 is what gives Mark Fox’s team a lift right now. The sweep over the Mississippi schools is another trump card, but UK is the primary scalp on Georgia’s shoulder.

Marquette, 11-seed. The Eagles are below .500 in close games again, with a 2-6 record in tilts decided by five points or less. Does this sort of information get factored into seeding? It should. Marquette is 2-6 against the Sagarin top 50 and did zip outside the conference. Not one good win, unfortunately. That puts them below the dreaded 8/9 game in this year’s field as of now. Beating Notre Dame, since Georgia didn’t, is why I lined these two teams up. Will that win eventually look better than Georgia’s over Kentucky? Will be interesting to see, because the Big East is so deep, and UK will probably stay atop the SEC, per usual, bloating the significant of Georgia’s win. Buzz Williams’ team needs to win close ones, especially on the road, to climb up the seeding ladder.

Photos: AP
Posted on: January 18, 2011 11:43 pm

Brian Williams wins it at the buzzer for the Vols

Posted by Matt Norlander

Quite the dramatic night in the SEC, huh? None more than this game-winner for Tennessee, which came courtesy of center Brian Williams, who was fortunate enough to not get called for an over-the-back penalty in the Vols' road game at Georgia.

The Volunteers got to 2-2 in the SEC thanks to Williams' crazy shot. Georgia fell to the same conference mark.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 27, 2010 7:22 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 7:05 pm

The SEC is hurting my soul

Posted by Matt Jones

It has not been a stellar year for the SEC on the basketball court.  While their football brethren are basking in the glow of a potential fifth straight national champion from the conference, the basketball teams have taken a decidedly different direction in the start of their 2010-2011 campaigns.  In fact, to say that SEC basketball has performed “poorly” thus far this season is an understatement as large as saying that the NCAA is “inconsistent” in the way it hands out punishments for rules violations.  The SEC has been downright pathetic and an embarrassment to the good names of Wimp Sanderson, Sonny Smith, Hugh Durham, Dale Brown and even Don Devoe.  Take a look at a partial list of teams that have notched a victory over an SEC opponent thus far this season:

UNC Asheville
St. Peter
Nicholls State
Coastal Carolina
North Texas
Florida Atlantic
East Tennessee State

That is a list of teams so bad that ESPN wouldn’t even package them together, stick them on a random Caribbean island and try to sell them as a viable “holiday tournament.”  It is a group so poor that only one has even been invited to participate in "Bracket Buster" weekend.  Yet they all were invited into an SEC team's home arena and came away with a victory.  As bad as the losses have been however, the wins have not been much better.  As of now, the conference as a whole only has three wins against teams that are currently ranked in the Top 25, and the two biggest marquee victories (Tennessee’s upsets of Villanova and Pittsburgh) are muted a bit by later losses to Oakland and Charlotte.

The SEC East has been awful, with the Vols losing three of their last four, Florida falling at home to an Artis Gilmore-less Jacksonville squad and South Carolina taking a 16 point stoning at home to Furman that caused South Carolina fans to yearn for the return of Devan Downey.  But the SEC East has looked like the 1985 Big East in comparison to the SEC West, which may have the most miserable collection of BCS teams in a division in the history of major college basketball.  The best team in the division is likely Arkansas, whose most distinguishing quality is that they are the only team in the division not to have lost to a team outside the RPI Top 100.  While at the bottom, Auburn has celebrated the christening of its new arena by insulting the good name of Chris Porter and taking the early lead over Oregon State and Depaul for worst BCS program in the land.

How did it get this bad?  In theory, the SEC should have some real potential.  One could make the argument that it has its best assortment of coaches in the last 15 years, with three of the top 15 in the game (Calipari, Pearl and Donovan), four rising up and comers that were coveted by a number of programs (Anthony Grant, John Pelphrey, Darrin Horn and Andy Kennedy) and four solid X and O guys who have had sustained success in the past (Kevin Stallings, Mark Fox, Rick Stansbury and Trent Johnson).    Over the last few years, many of these programs have kept good Southern talent in-state and the rise in national exposure that has come with Florida’s national championships, Bruce Pearl’s emergence as a media darling and John Calipari’s explosion of talent at Kentucky would seem to have benefited the conference to such a degree that it should be contending for top spot in all of America.  Instead, the conference is at best eighth in the country and an argument can be made that if the NCAA Tournament were held today, only three teams (Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) would be a lock to be a part of the festivities.

To be fair, it isn’t all bad.  Kentucky will be one of the ten best teams in the nation come NCAA Tournament time.  Vanderbilt and Georgia have played a bit above their preseason rankings and could make some noise in conference play.  And one has to assume that Tennessee and Florida will get out of their December funks to create a solid SEC East.  But with the Western Division giving the conference more dead weight than “Blades of Glory” in a Will Ferrell movie marathon, the prognosis for the SEC does not look bright.  We all know that with the exception of Kentucky and occasionally Vandy, none of these schools care one bit about basketball and would rather obsess over the inseam measurement of a Defensive Line prospect out of Alabama than celebrate the talent of Trey Thompkins or Chris Warren.  But for those of us who do care about basketball in the SEC (meaning Kentucky fans and random old men in stuffy gyms watching high school games throughout the South), couldn’t they fake it just a little bit better?

Photo: AP
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