Tag:Penn State
Posted on: March 6, 2011 4:27 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:30 am

Poppin' bubbles: Bid thief emerges

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Saturday was enormous for the bubble – of course, by “enormous,” I mean that it made things impossibly crowded at the bottom of the at-large pile. Certain teams played themselves into the picture, while others will inevitably be sweating come Selection Sunday (Seth Greenberg, we mean you). Sunday will be no different; there is no shortage of games with big-time bubble and at-large implications.

Gonzaga 71, San Francisco 67: The Bulldogs did what they needed to do in order to stay in the hunt, even if it wasn’t pretty. Gonzaga has won eight in a row and 10 of its last 11, forging a share of the conference title at 11-3. Can the Zags get into the NCAA Tournament even with a loss Monday in the title game? They have defeated Xavier, Marquette, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the non-conference season, but the RPI is in the 60s and the SOS is in the triple-digits.

Saint Mary’s 73, Santa Clara 64: The Gaels also took care of business in the West Coast semifinals, advancing to the title game. When compared to Gonzaga, they have fewer good wins, with the only top-50 victory coming over St. John’s back in the season opener. Outside of that, the best non-league win was over Long Beach State. On the plus side, they have better computer numbers – but that loss to San Diego is an eyesore.

Florida State 72, North Carolina State 62: If Chris Singleton was playing, the Seminoles would have locked up a bid by now. Without him, though, they needed to prove that they could win without him. Florida State won five of seven to end the season, finishing 11-5 in the ACC. The ‘Noles have a marquee win over Duke, which is carrying their profile right now. Victories over Boston College and Clemson help. They will likely face Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals – can they survive a loss?

Indiana State 60, Missouri State 56: What a devastating loss for Missouri State. The Bears likely needed to win the automatic bid in order to get to the NCAA Tournament; third-seeded Indiana State made sure that didn’t happen. Missouri State simply doesn’t have the profile necessary to get an at-large bid. The Bears don’t have any top-50 wins, with just three coming against the top 100. The best non-league win came over Oral Roberts. It will be a stressful week on the bubble – and I don’t think Missouri State gets in

Kentucky 64, Tennessee 58: Tennessee is probably safely in the field due to its non-conference wins over Pittsburgh and Villanova, but the Volunteers are not doing themselves any favors. They lost six of their final nine games to drop to 8-8 in the SEC. With seven top-50 victories, a win in the SEC Tournament over Arkansas should lock up a bid. If the Vols lose to the Razorbacks, though, this will be an interesting case.

Penn State 66, Minnesota 63: A few weeks ago, this might have been a must-win for Minnesota, not Penn State. However, the Golden Gophers finished the season by losing five in a row and nine of their last 10. On the other hand, Penn State moves to 9-9 in the Big Ten and has a shot heading into the conference tournament. The Nittany Lions have some decent wins over Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State, but a loss in the conference tournament would be their 14th of the season. That could be tough to overcome.

VCU 79, George Mason 63: We have our first potential “bid thief” of Championship Week. With George Mason already locked into a bid, VCU now has a chance to take one of the few remaining at-large bids if it can win the CAA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, the Rams might still hold an outside shot at getting an at-large bid should it lose in the championship game. The win over the Patriots was VCU’s third top-50 win of the season.

Boston College 84, Wake Forest 68: The win didn’t really do anything to enhance the Eagles’ profile, but at least they avoided a bad loss. A defeat here and BC would have likely been out of the field. With the victory, the Eagles get the five seed in the ACC Tournament, meaning a rematch with these Demon Deacons. If Boston College defeats Wake Forest in the opening round, we could be in store for a bubble play-in game between BC and Clemson. The Tigers have already defeated the Eagles once.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 3:37 pm

BracketBusters? How about Bubble Bursters?

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The last week of the regular season means bubble teams are running out of changes to impress the committee. Some teams took advantage of that desperation this past weekend, with Virginia Tech defeating Duke and Colorado beating Texas. Others, like Washington, Colorado State or Alabama, decided it would be the perfect time to add a bad loss to the resume. This season, there are still plenty of bids up for grabs – and no one seems to be dead in the at-large hunt. Coincidentally, several of the top bubble contenders play each other this week - it's like a bubble version of BracketBusters weekend. Which are the biggest bubble battles this week?

Boston College at Virginia Tech (Tuesday): After Virginia Tech’s win over Duke on Saturday, the Hokies took the lead in the race for a fourth bid from the ACC. Boston College overcame a first-half deficit to pick up a must-win game at Virginia. The Eagles have better computer numbers than the Hokies, as well as a head-to-head victory over Tech. But Tech has a two-game lead in the ACC standings, and is playing far better lately. A win here could lock things up for the Hokies.

Cincinnati at Marquette (Wednesday): Both of these teams are still in good shape heading into the week, after each picked up a monster road win last week. Cincinnati went on the road and defeated Georgetown, although it lost to Connecticut at home on Sunday. Marquette knocked off UConn, and then blew out Providence to keep the momentum rolling. Both teams have four top-50 wins, although the Golden Eagles have better computer numbers.

Michigan State at Michigan (Saturday): Back in November, would anyone have thought this intrastate battle could decide the Selection Sunday fates of both teams? After getting big wins over Illinois and at Minnesota, Michigan State lost by 20 at home to Purdue. The Spartans have a home contest with Iowa on Wednesday before heading to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have a week to prepare. They bounced back from a heart-breaking loss to Wisconsin by winning at Minnesota over the weekend. If Michigan wins, it would have a sweep of Michigan State.

Georgia at Alabama (Saturday): Alabama would have been in good shape had it defeated Ole Miss over the weekend – would the committee really turn down a 13-3 SEC co-champion? With the loss, though, the Crimson Tide are in trouble. They now have to head to Florida before hosting Georgia in a bubblicious match-up. The poor computer numbers and lack of good wins mean a split might not even be enough. Georgia, on the other hand, is buoyed by its solid computer profile. The Bulldogs need to beat LSU at home and then at least one in the SEC Tournament if they can’t beat Alabama.

USC at Washington (Saturday): Before last week, this game would not have been included. Since then, USC has entered the discussion with four straight wins. The Trojans have four top-40 wins and are 9-7 in the Pac-10. Washington dropped back into the pack with a blowout home loss to Washington State, killing any shot it had at a Pac-10 title. Moreover, with a fairly barren overall profile, the Huskies should start sweating.

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Saturday): This is only a must-see if Clemson wins at Duke during the week. If the Tigers fall short, they simply won’t have the profile to garner consideration for a bid. Wins over Florida State and Boston College merely balance out two sub-100 losses. They need a sweep of the Blue Devils and the Hokies.

Penn State at Minnesota (Sunday): Both teams are on the outside looking in at this point, with Penn State trending upwards and Minnesota going in the wrong direction. The Nittany Lions have won three of four, including one over Minnesota, to put themselves in the mix. They face Ohio State on Tuesday, which is likely a must-win if it wants serious consideration. Minnesota, losers of six of seven, need to beat Northwestern and Penn State and then do serious work in the conference tournament.  

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: February 25, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 4:30 pm

Why not these bubble teams?

Posted by Jeff Borzello

With just over a week left in the regular-season, I’m feeling extra bubblicious (bubbly?) heading into the weekend. We have already gone ad nauseam over the profiles for most of the teams on the cut line, from Butler and Gonzaga to Alabama and Virginia Tech. With that said, there are still some bubble teams that could sneak in and get some consideration on Selection Sunday if they continue to pick up wins.

The first is Penn State. The Nittany Lions were essentially left for dead on Feb. 10, when they got blown out at Michigan State. At 12-11 and 5-7 in the Big Ten, there was little chance they were going to get back in the hunt. Well, after last night’s 14-point road win at Northwestern, Penn State is .500 in the Big Ten and squarely in the mix heading into the final couple of weeks. The victory gave the Nittany Lions an RPI in the 40s and improved their SOS to No. 5. They still have four top-50 wins, although all are at home and within the Big Ten. The best non-conference win on the docket is a toss-up between Fairfield and Duquesne. As of today, Penn State probably wouldn’t be in the field. It is only 2-8 on the road, and non-conference profile isn’t helping. The Lions lost to fellow bubblers Maryland and Virginia Tech, and also have a terrible defeat at home to Maine. Everything can change next week, though. Penn State does have the weekend off, but it hosts Ohio State and has a road game at Minnesota within a six-day span. Win both, and it will be nearly impossible to keep the Nittany Lions out of the Big Dance.

The Conference-USA tandem of UAB and Southern Miss also intrigues me to no end. I simply don’t see any possible way either of these teams gets an at-large bid. That considered, both teams have RPIs in the 30s and are therefore going to be on the board come Selection Sunday. On the negative side, UAB doesn’t have a single top-50 win and the best non-conference victories came against VCU and Kent State. If the Blazers can win their final three games and then make a run to the league title game, they will have a tremendously gaudy record to go with solid computer numbers. Southern Miss is in the same boat – the Golden Eagles need to run the table and make a deep run in the conference tournament to even have a shot. Their best non-conference wins are over California and East Tennessee State, but they did win at UAB earlier this month. It’s a long shot that either of these two teams makes it, but there’s certainly a chance they get in the mix.

Lastly, what about Clemson? If people are still considering Nebraska, Colorado and the like, the Tigers will be in the conversation. They are above-.500 in the ACC and own an impressive win over Florida State, as well as a victory over bubble dweller Boston College. The bad wins aren’t terrible – at South Carolina and at Virginia – and they have opportunities to improve their profile. Clearly, Clemson is badly in need of marquee wins and, lo and behold, it heads to Duke on March 2 and then plays Virginia Tech on March 5. Provided it gets past Wake Forest this weekend, Clemson will need to put forth a tremendous performance at Cameron Indoor and then beat Tech in the finale.

Considering all the talk these days is about bubble teams, RPIs, top-50 wins and bad losses, it’s interesting that the aforementioned four teams are still flying below the radar in the at-large conversation. While none of them would be in the Tournament as of today, they each have a chance to play themselves into the conversation.

For a complete line-by-line analysis of each bubble team’s profile, check out this handy chart I made: Bubble Breakdown.

Photo: US Presswire (Talor Battle)

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 19, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 10:11 am

What we know and don't know: Wed night edition

Posted by MATT JONES

It was a relatively quiet night in college basketball, headlined by blowouts and embarrasing performances. Duke beat N.C. State, West Virginia got clipped by rival Marshall and Ohio State kept rolling by crushing Iowa. As far as the other important games, a review of what we know and what we don't know coming out of each of the most important scores of the night (picture of current St. John's "assistant" Gene Keady's hair included just for my amusement):


What we know: Mark Turgeon’s team is talented enough to get victories against good opponents at home, but tonight showcased that it is nowhere near worthy of its current top-10 ranking. The Aggies were dominated in every facet of the game in Austin and took a beating that should for the time being eliminate them from their status as a March “sleeper." Fortunately for Texas A&M, this was only one of two road games against ranked teams it will play, giving Turgeon’s group a chance to still finish with a gaudy record, before collapsing in March.

What we don’t know:   How good can Texas be? When their freshmen are playing under control and Rick Barnes is able to get big time production from Jordan Hamilton, Texas can look scary. The loss at home to UConn made me skeptical, but maybe we just write that up to the travelling show that Kemba Walker has become. Tonight, Texas was quite impressive and looked like a national contender, setting up a great battle on Saturday versus Kansas for early Big 12 supremacy.

LOUISVILLE   88,   ST. JOHN’S 63 : 

What we know : Louisville coach Rick Pitino has put together one of the better coaching performances of his career, taking arguably the worst set of talent he has had since the early Kentucky days and turning it into a team that will make the NCAA Tournament. This demolition of the team that in the preseason Pitino said could win the Big East, combined with the amazing comeback against Marquette, has the Cardinals sitting pretty as they head to the meat of their Big East schedule.

What we don’t know: What type of team is St.John’s? The Red Storm is in the middle of a brutal stretch in which it plays five ranked teams in six games and thus in theory, one dud of a performance isn’t a shock. But to lose by 25 in a winnable road game against a team that potentially could have provided a needed quality win ... well that makes one wonder if the senior-laden team will be worthy of its assistant coach's marvelous hair down the stretch.


What we know:   Purdue got handed a gift by a costly referee error that will sting the 10 people in Nittany Lion country who care about basketball. With Penn State up one and five seconds to go, a ball was clearly deflected off a Purdue player out of bounds, thus giving the Nittany Lions a likely road victory. However the referee standing right in front of the play gave the ball back to the Boilermakers for no discernable reason, giving Purdue one last shot at saving face. The Nittany Lions can only look in the mirror for the poor defense and open look on the ensuing play, but the opportunity should have never occurred.

What we don’t know:   Will Penn State’s run of shocking finishes be enough to get an NCAA Tournament bid? The Nittany Lions are only 3-4 in the Big Ten, but have beaten Michigan State and Illinois and nearly pulled off shocking upsets at Ohio State and Purdue. The schedule still gives Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin at State College, and if the plucky group could win 2 of those 3, they could be the surprise story of the Big Ten.


What we know: Wake Forest is bad. I mean, like, historically bad. In the worst ACC in at least 20 years, Wake Forest has a legitimate chance to go winless, placing it in the discussion for worst team in the history of the conference. Think I am exaggerating? Then you didn't watch this travesty of a performance.

What we don’t know: Will Paul Hewitt save his job? Georgia Tech is now 9-8 overall and 2-2 in the ACC. One of those wins is an impressive victory over North Carolina, but the natives are still restless. The non-conference mediocrity probably puts a NCAA Tournament bid out of reach, thus his future job prospects likely rest on a finish above .500 in the ACC.


What we know:   Notre Dame is a different team when in South Bend than when they travel to non-Irish climates. The Irish are now 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road in the Big East, and every game has been a relatively wide margin of victory or defeat. The Irish are able to beat anyone on their home court, but the chance to get a good seed in March will come down to grabbing road victories in the winnable matchups at Depaul, South Florida and Providence.

What we don’t know:   Will Cincinnati get any win to impress? The Bearcats are an impressive 16-3 overall, but in the Big East, their losses are to Syracuse, Villanova and Notre Dame, while the wins are over Depaul, Seton Hall and South Florida. No team is more difficult to rank nationally, or even in conference, as games against teams of similar strength have been few and far between. One of those however comes this weekend against at St. John’s in the first true test to see if the Bearcats are worthy of our attention.


What we know:   South Carolina’s early conference success means that the six best teams in the SEC likely all reside in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are now 3-1 in conference and have the potential to sneak into the discussion for an NCAA Tournament berth, after a start that included a road win at Florida. Darrin Horn’s team has a huge home game coming against Kentucky on Saturday, which could officially turn them into a conference contender. For Kentucky, coming off a loss to Alabama, the game has become somewhat of a must-win, making Saturday’s game in Columbia a sneaky must-watch.

What we don’t know:   Will any team from the SEC West make the NCAA Tournament? With the return of Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, Mississippi State looks to have the talent of a member of the field of 68, but early losses while the two were ineligible probably keep them out of the field. The only two other teams with legitimate chances to go dancing are Arkansas and Alabama and the loss by the Razorbacks tonight will hurt come Selection Sunday. The SEC West as a division owns college football and is low mid-major in college basketball.

Posted on: January 12, 2011 9:15 am
Edited on: January 12, 2011 4:18 pm

What's gotten into Penn State?

Posted by Matt Norlander

An enigma. A mystery wrapped inside a riddle for sure.

Don't really know who or what Penn State is or has become, but suddenly the Big Ten just lost one of its gimme games. The college basketball world has a tilt to it this morning. The 10-6 Nittany Lions got a last-second bucket from Andrew Jones (pictured at left) last night to knock off No. 16 Illinois, which led to a puny little floor-storm from the program's student-body faithful.

The game was a nice complement to Wisconsin-Michigan State, which was going on at the same time. Who knew two Big Ten games in the 50s would have us flexing our remote thumbs?

The Penn State win came on the heels of a 66-62 home win against Michigan State over the weekend, if you forgot. It's the first time in 57 years that Penn State's won back-to-back games against ranked teams. Rare air, indeed, and the accomplishment deserves some dap.

After all, we're seeing this kind of behavior from a team that lost at home to Maine last month and wasn't even competitive against Ole Miss or Maryland, a game in which PSU scored a whopping 39 points.


Well, actually, Penn State may be a little better than you think. No, this team's nowhere near the bubble conversation right now, but it is ranked closer to the top in adjusted offensive efficiency. That pattern could and should help Ed DeChellis' team down the road. The Lions don't defend the 3 well, but that is less of an issue in the Big Ten than in other conferences.

Talor Battle (who means more to this team, maybe, than any other player to any other group in the Big Ten) and Jeff Brooks (right) are now giving some dynamic to this squad. If Penn State can get this kind of production going forward, it's should be in nearly every game, even the tough ones on the road against ranked foes.

Consider the fact last night's contest was a typical 60-possession Big Ten game. Playing at that pace with a high offensive efficiency should give PSU a better chance to score one or two more upsets going forward than in years past, when playing in State College wasn't much of a hassle — save for the travel to the campus.

Don't expect this string of upsets to carry on, though; Penn State travels to undefeated Ohio State this weekend, then gets Purdue on the road next Wednesday. The next game to keep an eye on is the Jan. 29 home game against Wisconsin. A win there, and we've got to circle back around on this team and really look at where they stand in the conference and in the bubble picture. A lot can happen in the next 17 days.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2011 3:40 pm

Tom Izzo at a loss to explain recent play

Posted by MATT JONES

Of all the scores that have flashed on my computer screen this season, none may have caught me more off guard than Michigan State’s 66-62 loss to Penn State last weekend.

I had previously assumed that the Spartans’ early season losses were the regular fare for a Tom Izzo team, as ambitious scheduling leads to a less gaudy record, but a team that is more battle-tested come conference plays. However when confronted with a loss to a Nittany Lions team not coached by an octogenarian, it became clear that something else is amiss in Sparty land.

Tom Izzo clearly agreed as he called the game “one of the most disappointing losses of my career” afterwards, a strong statement considering it was simply a random road contest in Big Ten play. Izzo expanded on that comment in his weekly roundtable discussion with reporters on Monday, by noting that part of what makes Saturday’s loss so inexplicable is the thought the team had turned the corner.  After having a week of practice leading up to the game that he deemed “incredible,” Izzo saw a team that inexplicably came out without energy or focus. 

He said, “I can’t lie to you. It’s almost like a fault if you are confused, but I am confused.”

The easiest description of Michigan State’s poor play would seem to be the usual “we overlooked them” angle that seems to be the go-to excuse of fanbases whenever their team falls to a lesser opponent. Considering the overall strength of the Spartans’ schedule and its upcoming game with Wisconsin tonight, one could understand if Penn State simply was not the priority that it should have been.  Interestingly, Izzo said he hopes that is the case.

“I am hoping it is that they didn’t respect their opponent. I am really hoping that, because that’s fixable,” Izzo said.

But what if it is not?  What if Michigan State simply is not as good as we had assumed going into the season and the real Spartans’ team is not the one that made the amazing run to the Final Four, but rather is the group that had a mediocre (by MSU standards) regular season?  If that is the case, chances are Michigan State is in for more troubles as the ultra-tough Big Ten conference schedule rolls on and the Spartans could find themselves totally out of the national picture for the first time in years. 

Izzo, for one, isn’t ready to bet against his team.  After lamenting his frustration, he was quick to add that he “wouldn’t throw us away just yet.” And with his March history, that advice seems wise. At some point however, it has to turn around or play that seems abnormal could become par for the course. Tonight against Wisconsin, we may find out if the confusion caused to Izzo by Michigan State’s recent play may become a permanent headache. 

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
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