Posted on: February 11, 2012 7:50 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 7:52 pm
By Gary Parrish
"It was all good just a week ago." -- Kanye West (and, presumably, Greg McDermott)
When we woke up last Saturday Creighton was 21-2 overall, 11-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference and alone atop the league standings. The Bluejays were going H.A.M. They were ranked 13th in the AP poll. Doug McDermott was a National Player of the Year candidate. It was all good.
Now it's remarkably bad.
The Bluejays lost their third straight Saturday.
This loss came by 21 points.
This loss came at home.
So now Creighton is 21-5 overall, 11-4 in the MVC and on its way to a second-place finish behind Wichita State, the school that delivered Saturday's 89-68 beatdown in Omaha. Barring too many stupid voters, the Bluejays will be unranked in both the AP and Coaches polls Monday. If not, you know what'll happen. But I really can't believe this has happened. It's the result of not making shots.
Creighton is statistically one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams.
Or perhaps I should say was.
When we woke up last Saturday the Bluejays were shooting 45.3 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked first nationally. Then they went 5-of-16 from 3-point range in a loss to Northern Iowa, 4-of-22 from 3-point range in a loss to Evansville and 5-of-23 from 3-point range in a loss to Wichita State. Translation: Creighton is 0-3 in its past three outings while shooting 22.9 percent from beyond the arc.
That's the obvious reason for the decline.
It was all good just a week ago.
Now, not so much.
Posted on: February 11, 2012 6:30 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 7:02 pm
By Gary Parrish
The North Carolina Tar Heels cruised Saturday to a 70-52 victory over Virginia that helped put behind them Wednesday's crushing loss to Duke, you know, that loss in which Tyler Zeller missed free throws, scored on his own team and let Austin Rivers bury a jumper at the buzzer.
This win over Virginia was good.
But that loss to Duke was really bad.
It was so bad Roy Williams was asked Saturday how Zeller handled it.
A portion of the coach's answer quickly made its way around Twitter and other social media sites.
"We had a chance to visit and [Zeller] said I was one of the few guys who could make him laugh," Williams said, according to an audio clip provided to CBSSports.com by Inside Carolina's Dijana Kunovac. "I asked him Thursday night when I called him late, I said 'Are you thinking about getting the knives out and slicing your wrist?' He said 'Maybe.' I said, 'Well if you're gonna do that then call me and I'll come do it with you.' I told him my son would want to know it first so he could change the will and get control of everything. He liked that statement, too."
Roy Williams slicing wrist audio
I mean, the man was just joking.
Have we really reached the point where jokes aren't allowed?
All I ever hear are people bemoaning the idea that our sports lack real characters. We say we hate coachspeak then attack those who try not to deliver it, and that seems dumb. So let the record show that I have no issue with Williams' story ... and, yes, I realize suicide is a serious issue.
I've had friends commit suicide.
I've had friends survive suicide attempts.
Guns. Pills. Razors-to-wrists. We all have stories.
Suicide is a very serious and sad thing. I can't imagine what it must be like to reach a point where ending your life seems like a better option than continuing it. But trainwrecks are serious, too. And people have died that way, too. And yet I sat at the KFC Yum! Center last Monday watching Louisville dismantle Connecticut while folks publicly described the Huskies as a "trainwreck," and I don't remember anybody reminding the world that it's not funny to joke about trainwrecks. Because it's just a term we use to make a point. Everybody basically understands this. It's fine.
Raise your hand if you've never joked around and said the words, "Man, I'd rather die than do that."
Raise your hand if you've never shaped your fingers like a gun and pointed them at yourself.
Raise your hand if you've never typed the letters KYS.
My guess is that most reading this have done at least one of those things, and I bet most didn't mean any of it literally. You don't really mean you'd rather die than eat black olives, you wouldn't really put your finger under your chin if it were a loaded gun, and you don't really want a Facebook friend to kill himself. Those are just expressions designed to make points, and that's all Williams was trying to do Saturday. He was just trying to make a point about how devastating that loss to Duke was to he and Zeller and UNC in general, and I thought he made the point rather well.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:09 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 12:14 pm
By Gary Parrish
North Carolina freshman P.J. Hairston will miss Saturday's ACC clash with Virginia because of a sore left foot, the school announced Friday. Consequently, the Tar Heels will be forced to play Tony Bennett's Cavaliers without three guards that at one time projected to be on this roster. The other two are Leslie McDonald (injured in the preseason) and Dexter Strickland (injured during this season).
Hairston had played in each of UNC's first 24 games.
He's averaging 6.6 points per contest.
North Carolina is ranked fifth nationally and coming off a home loss to Duke.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:20 am
Edited on: February 10, 2012 1:29 am
By Gary Parrish
Here’s everything you need to know about Thursday night’s slate of games …
Game of the night: Murray State entered the week with zero losses. Tennessee State had 10. Those two schools played each other Thursday and the Racers had a 90 percent chance to win, according to KenPom.com. So you know what happened, right? No. 9 Murray State squandered a seven-point halftime lead at home and lost 72-68 to a school it had beaten in each of the eight previous meetings. Consequently, there are now zero no-loss teams in this country, and that BracketBusters showdown with Saint Mary's just lost some luster. Speaking of Saint Mary's ...Win to brag about: Gonzaga dealt No. 16 Saint Mary's its first WCC loss and prevented the Gaels from running away with the league title. Sure, SMC is still the WCC favorite because Randy Bennett's team is 11-1 and Mark Few's team is 9-2, and because SMC and GU don't play each other again. But this Gonzaga win at least made the race a little more interesting. Zags freshman Kevin Pangos hit five of the six 3-pointers he attempted and finished with 27 points. He's real interesting, regardless.
Loss to hide from: Washington took its five-game winning streak to Oregon and got worked by the Ducks. The final score was 82-57. And I know winning on the road is tough, but it shouldn't be that tough -- not in the Pac-12, at least. (More on this below.)
Player who deserves improper benefits: Dee Bost is Mississippi State's career leader in assists who happened to set a career high in assists during the 20th-ranked Bulldogs' 70-60 victory over Ole Miss. The senior point guard got 15 points and 13 assists to help MSU split its season series with the Rebels. Meantime, Andy Kennedy's team managed just nine assists as a team.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Chris Hines took 12 3-pointers but made just two in Utah's 57-52 loss at Arizona State. Why would a guy who entered the game shooting 33 percent from 3-point range take 12 3-pointers? Better question: Why would he take any 3-pointers -- especially when he was 0-of-6 from beyond the arc in the Utes' previous game?Numbers don’t lie
Three other notable results
On tap: First-place in the MAAC will be up for grabs Friday night when Iona visits Loyola (Md.). Both schools are 11-2 in the league. Meantime, Harvard's perfect Ivy League record will be at stake when the Crimson visit Penn.
Posted on: February 8, 2012 11:42 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 11:50 pm
By Gary Parrish
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- I had a bunch of words written and ready to post 25 minutes go.
Then North Carolina stopped scoring.
And Duke kept making shots.
And then Austin Rivers, with his Blue Devils somehow down by just two after trailing by double-digits for most of the second half, pulled from 25 feet on the right wing and buried a game-winning jumper at the buzzer that will never be forgotten around these parts. So now the scoreboard reads Duke 85, North Carolina 84, and that's the final. And now this building is quiet. And people are stunned. And I don't believe I've ever seen anything quite like what I just saw here at the Dean Smith Center.
"See y'all," Rivers yelled to the North Carolina students as he jogged off the court.
"[Expletive] you!" one student yelled back.
And, yeah, this Duke-UNC rivalry is as intense as ever.
"I've never seen anything like that," said UNC coach Roy Williams. "But this is North Carolina and Duke."
The game seemed over about an hour ago.
If you watched it, you know that.
Harrison Barnes was rolling, Tyler Zeller was overshadowing both Plumlee brothers, and John Henson looked like he might get 20 rebounds. The fifth-ranked Tar Heels were up 13 on their homecourt. I didn't see any reason to wait around before I started typing. So I started typing. I typed a bunch of words. And then North Carolina stopped scoring. And Duke kept making shots. And then Rivers buried a winning jumper that will never be forgotten around these parts, and I don't believe I've ever seen anything quite like what I just saw.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 3:15 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 7:59 am
By Gary Parrish
News that Memphis is expected to join the Big East is great for the city of Memphis. And the University of Memphis. And the athletic department. And the football program. And the fans. And pretty much everybody ... except Josh Pastner.
This is not a great development for the Memphis basketball coach.
Granted, it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. But there's a reason John Calipari went from a coach who won just one NCAA tournament game in his first five seasons at Memphis to a coach who went to a Final Four, two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16 in his last four years, and it's not solely because somebody (allegedly) took Derrick Rose's SAT. The rise to prominence coincided with Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette getting the hell out of Conference USA and leaving Memphis as the only school in the league that funded its basketball program like a national power. Suddenly, nobody else in C-USA could recruit like Memphis or travel like Memphis or pay its coach like Memphis, and the Tigers started overwhelming the league in the exact same way -- and for exactly the same reasons -- that Gonzaga had been overwhelming the West Cost Conference.
Those advantages disappear the day Memphis moves to the Big East.
And what's to be gained for the basketball coach?
The Tigers already routinely sell out FedExForum and recruit almost nothing but Top 100 prospects, so the usual bumps that come with an advancement in conference affiliation won't matter much to Pastner. The only thing that'll change is that he'll no longer be able to out-recruit his league because Louisville, Connecticut, Villanova, Marquette and Georgetown (just to name a few) all recruit at the highest levels, too. So now Pastner will find himself fighting with the likes of Rick Pitino, Jay Wright, John Thompson III and Mike Brey to get to the top of the Big East, and he'll be scrapping like crazy in some years to avoid falling into the bottom half. It's much easier to consistently beat UAB, UTEP and Southern Miss than it is to consistently beat at least 10 Big East programs. That's the reality of the situation. The Memphis job just got a lot tougher.
Which is not to suggest this isn't a day for Memphians to celebrate.
Because it is.
A jump to the Big East has been in the works for nearly a decade.
Now it's happening.
It really is happening.
The move will bring more exposure to the school, more money to the athletic department and more compelling games to the fans, and it might just turn that mess of a football program into something relevant, too. Those are all positives. But the move will also undeniably make Josh Pastner's job much more difficult. Twenty-five wins a season won't be practically guaranteed anymore. That's the downside of moving up in the world.
Posted on: February 6, 2012 3:01 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 11:21 pm
By Gary Parrish
This is a good time to pick on Duke if you like picking on Duke. The Blue Devils just lost at home to Miami. That's bad. But Coach K's team still has a pretty good body of work, and I'm about to show you just how good in this week's edition of the Poll Attacks.
Associated Press poll: I haven't played "Blind Résumé" in a while.
Let's do it now ...
----- Team A -----
Wins vs. currently ranked teams: 4 (No. 7 Kansas, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 19 Virginia, No. 22 Michigan)
Losses to currently unranked teams: 2 (Temple, Miami)
CollegeRPI ranking: 3
KenPom ranking: 16
Strength of schedule: 1
----- Team B -----
Wins vs. currently ranked teams: 2 (No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 24 Louisville)
Losses to currently unranked teams: 3 (LSU, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame)
CollegeRPI ranking: 12
KenPom ranking: 22
Strength of schedule: 18
You might have figured out using context clues taught in elementary school that Team A is Duke and Team B is Marquette, and you might've also concluded from the information provided that there's no way to rank Duke below Marquette. Unless you're Jon Wilner -- who has Marquette ninth and Duke 13th on his AP ballot. That's wrong for three reasons:
Duke has just as many wins as Marquette against a tougher schedule, twice as many wins over currently ranked teams, fewer overall losses and fewer losses to currently unranked teams. The Blue Devils are also rated higher by every respected (and disrespected) computer formula. So I really don't know how anybody could put them on a ballot below Marquette. And I love Marquette! But come on, man. That doesn't make sense.Coaches poll: California is pretty good and capable of advancing in March.
But should the Bears really be getting five votes in the coaches poll?
I don't think so.
They just haven't done much this season.
They're 18-6 overall, which looks OK on the surface. But the Bears are 0-3 against currently ranked teams (No. 4 Missouri, No. 14 San Diego State and No. 16 UNLV), and they've got three losses to unranked teams, including a home loss to Arizona last Thursday. They don't own a single win over a single team with a single point in either poll, and it's not like they're playing well lately, because they've dropped two of their past four games in a bad league. So why, exactly, would somebody put California on a ballot?
Answer: I don't know.
The Bears might be the Pac-12's best team.
And they might advance to the Sweet 16, just because.
But their body of work just isn't Top 25-worthy at this moment.
Posted on: February 5, 2012 5:16 pm
By Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman
The Top 25 (and one) will be updated on the college basketball page shortly.
Here's how it wil look ...