Posted on: February 17, 2008 10:15 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2008 8:14 pm

Memphis vs. Tennessee just got a lot bigger

Thank you, Wake Forest.

By beating Duke late Sunday you managed to make next weekend's showdown bigger than it was already going to be, and it was already going to be super huge. Now, it's going to be super duper huge. Because barring some voting irregularities the top two teams in the rankings will meet Saturday at FedExForum.

It should be No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 Tennessee.

It should be two rivals with a combined record of 48-2.

It should be no wonder that the asking price for courtside seats is up to $10,000 each.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 16, 2008 9:54 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2008 6:49 pm

More Butler information (though I'm now at IU)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- I finished at Butler and made the drive south to Assembly Hall, where I'm now soaking up an atmosphere that is awkward by any standards. Yes, Kelvin Sampson was booed during introductions. He looked like a man who knows the end is near, but that's not why I'm writing.

I'll get to Sampson in a column to come later.

What I wanted to tell you now is that while researching my Butler column -- click this link to check it out -- I learned there are only six Top 25 teams that have a higher winning percentage against Top 100 opponents than Butler. I listed the teams in the column, but didn't provide the statistics. So if you're interested, here are the statistics ...

  • 12-0 against the Top 100 (100 percent) with zero losses total.
  • 14-1 against the Top 100 (93.3 percent) with no additional losses.
North Carolina
  • 16-2 against the Top 100 (88.9 percent) with no additional losses.
  • 12-2 against the Top 100 (85.7 percent) with no additional losses.
  • 10-2 against the Top 100 (83.3 percent) with no additional losses.
  • 10-2 against the Top 100 (83.3 percent) with one additional loss.
  • 6-2 against the Top 100 (75.0 percent) with no additional losses.
Late breaking RPI update: Bradley beat Creighton on Saturday and pushed its RPI from 105 to 98. That development means Drake's win over Bradley last month is now a Top 100 win (for the time being), meaning Drake is now 7-2 against the Top 100 (with no additional losses), meaning Drake has now won 77.8 percent of its games against Top 100 opponents, meaning at this moment there are actually seven schools with a higher winning percentage against Top 100 opponents than Butler.

But whatever.

The point remains the same.

And now I'm gonna get back to watching Kelvin Sampson.

Late breaking RPI update (Part II):  Bradley's RPI shot to 103 this morning. So now Drake and Butler are both 6-2 against the Top 100. Meantime, Saint Mary's is now 7-2 against the Top 100 (because Fullerton rose to No. 95 this morning), which means I'm finally gonna have to give in tonight and rank Saint Mary's in the Top 25 (and one). Can't justify believing in Butler based on this statistic if I don't also believe in Saint Mary's, can I?
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Butler
Posted on: February 16, 2008 12:12 am

Levance Fields didn't help much

INDIANAPOLIS -- The return of Levance Fields to Pitt went about like the return of Tito Trinidad to Madison Square Garden.

Or the return of Britney Spears to the MTV Video Music Awards.

Or the return of ... ah, you get the point.

It didn't go well.

Not well at all.

And the byproduct was Friday night's 72-54 loss at Marquette that ruined Fields' first game back since breaking his foot in a Dec. 29 loss at Dayton. The junior point guard had missed 12 contests in between Dayton and Marquette. Pitt went 8-4 in that span, which was respectable if not impressive. But Fields clanked 6-of-7 shots in his return to finish with four points and as many turnovers as assists (two each) in 20 minutes.

Again, not well at all.

And things aren't getting any easier because Pitt's next game is at 20th-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday.

As for me, I'm in the Hoosier State -- a place where lying about phone calls will apparently cost you your job.

First it's Cleveland State at Butler on Saturday afternoon.

Then it's Michigan State at Indiana on Saturday night.

So in a matter of hours I'll see a Top 10 team (Butler) host a game in Hinkle Fieldhouse and a Top 10 program (Indiana) play a game for a coach who is on his way to forced unemployment. Crazy, huh? But either way, it should be a fun Saturday. And by fun, I mean strange.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 15, 2008 6:01 am

What You Need To Know

Arizona State upset Stanford.

Tyrese Rice got 32 against N.C. State.

Here's Friday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Thursday: Arizona State improved to 4-0 in overtime games with a 72-68 upset of seventh-ranked Stanford. The Sun Devils trailed by seven points with 1:49 remaining in regulation but rallied behind freshman star James Harden (23 points, five rebounds and five assists) to earn their third win over a ranked opponent in two years under Herb Sendek. "A lot of guys don't like to play OTs," ASU's Jeff Pendergraph told reporters afterward. "We love it."

Notable performance from Thursday: Tyrese Rice made 12-of-18 shots -- including 3-of-6 3-point attempts -- to finish with 32 points, six assists and four rebounds in Boston College's 82-65 thrashing of North Carolina State. It was the kind of effort that sent the Wolfpack to the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, and at this point the ACC seems like a four-bid league. Meantime, Rice is averaging 30 points and 6.5 assists in his past two outings.

Notable game scheduled for Friday: There's no need to wait until Saturday to get your college basketball fix this weekend considering No. 22 Pittsburgh will visit Marquette on Friday night in a contest expected to mark the return of Pitt point guard Levance Fields. A 5-foot-10 junior, Fields hasn't played since breaking a bone in his left foot during an 80-55 loss at Dayton on Dec. 29. The Panthers managed to go 8-4 in his absence, impressive given the nature of the Big East. And if they can win at Marquette they will clinch their seventh consecutive 20-win season, though it's worth noting Pitt has lost three straight trips to Marquette since a 24-18 win in 1930. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 14, 2008 12:49 am

What You Need To Know

Drake finally took a loss.

Pat Knight finally notched a win.

Here's Thursday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Wednesday: Drake isn't going undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference, not after that 65-62 loss at Southern Illinois that snapped the 14th-ranked Bulldogs' 21-game winning streak. Randal Falker had 13 points and 10 rebounds for SIU, which is now 13-12 overall and 8-6 in the MVC. Meantime, Drake is 22-2 overall, 13-1 in the league and still one victory away from clinching its first conference title in 37 years.

Notable performance from Wednesday: Alan Voskuil hit 9-of-14 shots (including 7-of-9 3-point attempts) to finish with 30 points and six rebounds in Texas Tech's 84-75 victory over 18th-ranked Kansas State. The 6-foot-3 junior has scored at least 14 points in three straight games and his latest effort helped Pat Knight get his first career victory while Bob Knight sat in the crowd and seemed slightly emotional when the final buzzer sounded. Honestly, it was a sweet little moment. And now Pat is merely 901 victories away from tying his father on the all-time wins list.

Notable game scheduled for Thursday: The surprise of the Pac-10 will be on display when Stanford visits Arizona State. The Cardinal is ranked seventh in the nation thanks to a 20-3 overall record that includes a 9-2 mark in the league. Arizona State is 15-7 overall, 5-5 in the Pac-10 and coming off a 59-54 victory at Arizona that snapped a five-game losing streak. Tip-off is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 13, 2008 11:11 am

Kelvin Sampson was lying? You don't say?

The NCAA thinks Kelvin Sampson broke rules and lied when asked for an explanation.

Funny, that's the same thing I thought ... four months ago.

Here's my blog entry from last Oct. 16, the day after it was revealed Sampson acknowledged being on three-way calls with prospects and an assistant but denied he understood he was on three-way calls with prospects and an assistant.
CINCINNATI -- On a Monday drive from Lexington to Cincinnati I spent time talking to multiple basketball coaches. Naturally, Kelvin Sampson was a subject of conversation, and all I can tell you is that -- take this for what it's worth -- I couldn't find a single person in the business who believes it's possible that Sampson could've been on those three-way calls (that are OK by NCAA standards but weren't OK under Sampson's sanctions) with an assistant and recruit without knowing.

Of course, this is what Sampson claimed Sunday.

His phone would ring. He would answer it. A recruit would start talking. His assistant (Rob Senderoff) would stay quiet. And Sampson would just think that the recruit had called him on his own accord, which would've been perfectly legal. But here's the problem with that explanation: Unless Sampson's phone works differently from the way every other phone of every other coach I spoke with works -- and my own phone, it's worth noting -- then when Senderoff called Sampson to initiate the three-way call it would've been Senderoff's phone number that showed up on Sampson's caller ID. So if this was all innocent, wouldn't Sampson have been shocked to hear a recruit's voice after seeing Senderoff's phone number in the caller ID? Wouldn't the first question have been, "Hey recruit. Why are you calling me from Rob's phone?"

"That's why his story isn't believable," said one high-major assistant. "We use three-way calls all the time, and what he's describing just isn't the way it works. The way it works is for me to get a recruit on the phone and then patch Coach in, and when Coach answers I say, 'Hey Coach. I've got so-and-so on the line here for you.' That's why it's hard to believe this is all innocent."

To be clear, all the facts aren't out yet. There could be more we don't know, like that Sampson's caller ID was broken or that Senderoff had a call block on his phone that wouldn't show Sampson who was on the other end of line. But barring such unusual circumstances, the explanation doesn't ring true, and that's why Sampson is taking a beating in the business both publicly from the media and privately from his colleagues.

So am I surprised by Wednesday's news?

In a word, no.

As the above blog shows I never believed Sampson was believable.

And the crazy thing is that though the phone calls would not have cost him his job the subsequent lies just might.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 13, 2008 8:22 am

What You Need To Know

Kentucky got pummeled.

Michigan State got Hummelled.

Here's Wednesday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Tuesday: Vanderbilt dealt Kentucky its worst loss in SEC history, made even worse because Ashley Judd was in the crowd watching it all go down. The final score was 93-52, and the outcome was never in doubt considering Vandy led by double-digits not even five minutes post tip-off and embarrassed the Wildcats on national television while jumping to a 41-11 halftime lead. Your thoughts, Patrick Patterson? "To have them stomp us into the ground like that, it's horrible," said the UK freshman. "They played like men and we played like boys." But not like any boys. Kentucky actually played like boys who have no idea how to shoot, guard or play basketball in general, and that's no way for Kentucky to be playing ... particularly when Ashley is in the crowd.

Notable performance from Tuesday: Robbie Hummel buried 9-of-15 shots (including 4-of-7 3-point attempts) to finish with a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds while leading Purdue to a 60-54 victory over Michigan State. The Boilermakers are now two games up in the win column of the Big Ten standings, and Hummel is averaging 20.7 points in his past three outings.

Notable game scheduled for Wednesday: A pair of top four seeds in my latest Projecting the Field (it'll be up in a few hours) will battle when Notre Dame visits Connecticut in a contest featuring two of the hottest schools in the Big East. Notre Dame (18-4 overall, 8-2 in the Big East) has won five consecutive games while UConn (18-5 overall, 7-3 in the Big East) has won seven straight. Both are ranked in the Top 20 of the AP poll, and the fact that the Irish's Luke Harangody and the Huskies' Hasheem Thabeet will be in the paint together makes this worth watching. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 12, 2008 2:32 pm

Texas is the best underdog ever

DALLAS, Texas -- Naturally, my connection is delayed here at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

I'm not sure why I assumed it wouldn't be.

But the extra time has given me a few minutes to get a few things accomplished -- like return some emails, review some notes and spend $5 sitting in one of those First Class Seats massage chairs here in the airport. Seemed like a good idea when I walked passed it, to just plop down, do some reading and get a massage in a massage chair. I thought it would relax me. But it was one of the most unnecessary and painful experiences of my life, just two hard round things beating the crap out of my back until I tapped out and turned the machine off.

It didn't feel great.

It just hurt.

It's a terrible invention.

I hate massage chairs.

So now I'm back reviewing notes, and an interesting one from last night's Texas-Kansas game is that the Longhorns now have wins against three of the top six teams in the country. They've beaten No. 3 Kansas (at home), No. 4 Tennessee (on a neutral site) and No. 6 UCLA (on the road), and just wait and see how angry John Calipari will be on Selection Sunday if his Memphis Tigers get a No. 1 seed in the South Region and end up having to play what would essentially be a road game against Texas in Houston for the right to go to the Final Four.

Imagine being undefeated and the No. 1 overall seed and having to play a state school inside its state, and then realizing Texas has already beaten three other elite teams. My guess is that would be what officially sends Calipari over the edge. But either way, it would make for an entertaining press conference with lots of good conspiracy theories, and I love entertaining press conferences with lots of goods conspiracy theories.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Texas
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