Posted on: January 18, 2012 8:50 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 9:06 pm
By Gary Parrish
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- I spoke to the Big Orange Tipoff Club this afternoon.
They were nice to invite me.
And they're fired up about their basketball team.
That's the vibe I got from the crowd at Calhoun's on the River, an appropriately named establishment because it is indeed on the river. And it just goes to show how a program-altering signing, a win against a ranked team and a competitive showing against a great team can change the perception of a first-year coach in a matter of weeks.
One month ago, Tenneessee was 3-6 and coming off a loss to Charleston. Consequently, some fans were questioning whether this whole Cuonzo Martin thing was gonna work, others were asking if it might be possible to rehire Bruce Pearl in three years. But then the Vols got a commitment from Jarnell Stokes, a consensus top-20 recruit from Memphis who enrolled at the semester. And then they beat No. 17 Florida in a convincing manner. And then they played No. 2 Kentucky to a one-possession game while Stokes looked surprisingly comfortable.
And now the majority of Tennesseee fans seem on board.
They still love BP, of course. That probably isn't changing. But they've seen their new coach land his first high-profile recruit and record his first high-profile win over the past month, and they've watched a roster of players mostly recruited by the previous staff start to buy-in. So now the fans are starting to buy in, too. Who knows how it'll all end up? It's still too early to tell. But the tone has undeniably changed in Knoxville. That's what I learned this afternoon.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:21 am
Edited on: January 17, 2012 12:28 am
By Gary Parrish
Here’s everything you need to know about Monday’s slate of college basketball games …
Game of the night: Baylor-Kansas was Monday's biggest matchup and still a must-see game even if it wasn't all that close. The seventh-ranked Jayhawks dealt the third-ranked Bears their first loss. The final score was 92-74. Thomas Robinson finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds (and showed why he's leading CBSSports.com's Player of the Year Watch), and now the Jayhawks are -- surprise, surprise -- all alone atop the Big 12 standings.
Player who deserves improper benefits: Fairleigh Dickinson's Melquan Bolding got 38 points in an 87-83 loss to Longwood. The performance would've been better had it A) come in a win, and B) not featured Bolding missing 12 shots. But whatever. When a college player gets 38 that's worth pointing out. Regardless of the circumstances. And especially when he only averages 13 points per game.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Dash Harris took eight shots, missed seven of them and finished with just two points in Texas A&M's 70-51 loss at No. 5 Missouri. To be clear, Harris doesn't have to be a great scorer for A&M to win; he just has to run the team. But it would be nice if he didn't miss 88 percent of the shots he takes.
Numbers don’t lie
Three other notable results
Posted on: January 16, 2012 3:29 pm
By Gary Parrish
We've got a Murray State problem that needs to be addressed.
And this is a good place to address it.
So let's do some Poll Attacks.
Associated Press poll: Louisville is 14-4 with two losses to unranked teams and zero wins over schools that are currently ranked. Take away everything you thought you knew about the Cardinals in the preseason, focus on what I just told you and then I think, you'll understand why we are no longer ranking Rick Pitino's team in the Top 25 (and one). The Cards have bad losses and no great wins to offset those losses. That's the bottom line. So Louisville does not deserve to be in the Top 25 (and one). Or 23rd in this week's AP poll.
And the Cards sure as hell don't deserve to be 10th.
But guess who has them ranked 10th?
Answer: Ron Morris.
Ron actually has Louisville 10th and Florida 11th even though both schools are 14-4 with two losses to unranked teams and zero wins over currently ranked teams. Meantime, he has Indiana 16th even though the Hoosiers are 15-3 with just one loss to an unranked team and three wins over currently ranked teams, specifically No. 2 Kentucky, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 20 Michigan. I genuinely have no idea how anybody could look at what Louisville and Florida have done and conclude it's A) worthy of a top 15 vote, or B) better than what Indiana has done.
But, somehow, Ron does.
I bet he couldn't explain why he does.
But, according to his latest ballot, he absolutely does.
Coaches poll: I don't think Murray State is one of the nation's 10 best teams.
If you do, that's fine.
I don't have an issue provided you really believe it. But what I do have an issue with is how the Racers are moving up the polls based on little more than the fact that they play in the Ohio Valley Conference and every other relevant team does not. They are advancing because they're spending each week playing grossly inferior opponents while a Big Ten team might host Ohio State one night and be at Michigan the next. Put another way, there are lots of weeks when a split should be considered a good week. But splits almost always move teams down in the polls while 2-0 weeks move folks up. And while that's somewhat OK in most cases because the power-conference schedules tend to balance themselves out over time, this simple approach to ranking creates issues when a solid team from a bad league gets involved.
That's what's happening here.
That's why the Racers are ranked 10th.
So my question is simple: When does it stop?
If Kansas loses to Baylor late Monday but then beats Texas this weekend while Murray State handles Morehead State and SIU-Edwardsville, are voters gonna move the No. 7 Jayhawks below Murray State based on the idea that KU went 1-1 while Murray State went 2-0? I hope not. Because weeks, like overall records, need context, and it's silly to continue to advance the Racers without considering the context of what their wins really show and what others' losses really mean.
That's why we've kept the Racers at No. 20.
Because that's about where they belong regardless of how many consecutive OVC schools they beat.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 8:57 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 will look ...
In: Connecticut, Illinois
Posted on: January 14, 2012 8:22 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 8:58 pm
By Gary Parrish
This sort of thing is supposed to happen at Kentucky.
Or North Carolina.
But it's not supposed to happen at San Diego State because San Diego State is not Kentucky. Or Duke. Or Kansas. Or North Carolina. San Diego State is a program that had never been ranked before last season. It is not a national power. It's just a school no different than most non-BCS schools -- the kind that can put together a memorable season with the right mixture of experienced and talented players but will then usually slip back to its normal place in the college basketball world once those experienced and talented players move on. Think Saint Joseph's with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, then after Nelson and West left. That's what San Diego State is supposed to be. That's what most figured would happen this season.
Turns out, most were wrong.
Because the Aztecs are -- in the year after The Year -- sitting at 15-2 following Saturday's 69-67 win over No. 12 UNLV. Never mind that Steve Fisher lost his top four scorers -- including first-round pick Kawhi Leonard -- from last season's Sweet 16 team because it doesn't seem to matter. The 66-year-old coach is using different pieces but winning at the same high level. SDSU now has wins over California, Arizona, Southern California, Long Beach State and UNLV; the only losses are to No. 4 Baylor and No. 23 Creighton. That means the Aztecs have some good wins and no bad losses. That's why they're ranked 22nd this week and will be higher on Monday.
I wasn't sure I'd ever have a reason to go back to Viejas Arena after last season.
Now I'm not sure how to justify staying away.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 5:09 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 5:17 pm
By Gary Parrish
My colleague Jeff Borzello wrote earlier about the difficulty of winning away games because he knew we were about to start a Saturday featuring nine ranked teams playing unranked teams on the road, and we all knew at least one of them (and probably more) would take a loss.
How'd we know, you ask?
Because it happens every weekend.
Ranked teams lose to unranked teams on the road with great regularity. It's as much a part of the sport as recruiting scandals and Dick Vitale. And though I realize everybody knows this and basicaly accepts it as a fact of life, I do wonder if most fans truly understand just how difficult it is to win away games.
The proof is in the details.
Consider that the four Final Four participants (Connecticut, Butler, Kentucky and VCU) combined to go 23-24 in true road games last season, and that the 2010 national champion (Duke) finished 5-5 in true road games. Translation: Even the best often struggle away from home, and only elite power-conference schools (North Carolina in 2009 comes to mind) regularly avoid the upsets most cannot.
So fans of No. 18 Kansas State can be upset with that loss at unranked Oklahoma. And fans of No. 13 Michigan can be upset with that loss at unranked Iowa. And fans of No. 7 Michigan State can be upset with that loss at unranked Northwestern. And fans of No. 3 North Carolina can be upset with that loss at unranked Florida State (especially since it was so lopsided). They're all losses and fans hate to lose. So I understand. But the reality is that these types of losses, in this sport, just kinda happen. Sometimes, sure, they represent a sign that a team might be as overrated as the cliched chant suggests. But in most cases, honestly, it's just the price you pay for going on the road.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:54 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 12:00 am
Here’s everything you need to know about Wednesday night’s slate of games …
Game of the night: Michigan led by three in the final seconds of overtime when Northwestern's Alex Marcotullio launched a 3-pointer and was fouled by Tim Hardaway Jr. "I was probably too eager," Hardaway said. And he was right. But luckily for the NBA legend's son, Marcotullio didn't make all three free throws with 0.3 seconds remaining in OT. So the 13th-ranked Wolverines won 66-64. They're now 14-3 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten.
Loss to hide from: Oh, Pittsburgh. I don't even know what to write about you anymore. I genuinely didn't think you were ever going to be at risk of enduring a season like this under Jamie Dixon, but just look at you. You're a mess. You're 11-6 and on a five-game losing streak after this 62-39 loss to Rutgers, and how the hell did you lose by 23 points at home to Rutgers while shooting 21 percent from the field? (I think my answer is in that question.) It's like I don't even know you anymore. Get it together, please. I can't stand to see you like this.
Player who deserves improper benefits: Andrew Nicholson balled out for St. Bonaventure. The senior forward got 30 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the Bonnies' 81-73 win over Dayton, and now every Atlantic 10 school already has a league loss ... except La Salle.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Rob Chubb gets the nod here, but not because of anything he did in Auburn's 68-53 loss to No. 2 Kentucky. Chubb got 14 points and eight rebounds in the game. He was fine. The problem is that afterward he blamed Auburn's recent road losses at Florida State and Vanderbilt on the idea that the Tigers were "flaccid." Yes, he really said that. (Note to Rob: You cannot describe yourself as "flaccid." You are in college. Nobody likes flaccid.)
Numbers don’t lie
Three other notable results
Posted on: January 11, 2012 12:46 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 12:54 pm
By Gary Parrish
Steve Forbes is one of the Tennessee assistants who lost his job last year.
It was a low point.
A bad time.
But Forbes didn't cave under the weight of the show-cause penalties placed upon he and his colleagues by the NCAA. He didn't disappear from the world of basketball. He instead accepted the head coaching position at Northwest Florida State, hired fellow former Tennessee assistants Jason Shay and Brooks Savage, and now they have a team that's undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association poll.
"We're having a lot of fun," Forbes told CBSSports.com on Tuesday, one day after his team improved to 17-0 with a 69-56 win at No. 4 Chipola. "Jason, Brooks and I spent a lot of time together at Tennessee, and now we're having a lot of fun coaching together down here."
The Tennessee connection doesn't stop there.
Northwest Florida State's leading scorer is Chris Jones -- a Memphis product whom Forbes initially recruited to Tennessee. Jones signed with the Vols out of high school but did not qualify academically and committed to Northwest Florida State within days of Forbes accepting the job. The 5-foot-9 point guard is now averaging 17 points per game. He's on his way to becoming the National Junior College Player of the Year as a freshman.
"Chris Jones, in my opinion, is the best player in junior college," Forbes said. "UConn, Louisville and Seton Hall are the most recent calls I've received about him, so he'll have good schools to pick from. In my mind, he can play anywhere."
Northwest Florida State's next game is Saturday at Pensacola State.
A win there and the Raiders will be 18-0 and one step closer to an undefeated season.
Yes, Forbes said, that's among the stated goals for this team.
They've talked about it openly and honestly.
"I think it's something you have to address because it's the white elephant in the room," Forbes said. "If you don't talk about it they won't know how to handle it, so we talked about it yesterday when the new poll came out and we were ranked No. 1. I told them to be proud of the ranking and the record, and to embrace it. But I also told them to understand that we're now gonna take everybody's best shot."