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Tag:MWC
Posted on: December 27, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:35 pm
 

Conference Reset

As well roll into January that can only mean one thing -- we're about to launch full swing into conference play.

For some teams, non-conference play was a wake-up call. Teams that many thought would easily stroll into the NCAA tournament come March will now have to pick up the pace in league play.

Through Jan. 5, the CBSSports.com college basketball crew will be putting the spotlight on every major league, letting you know what you may have missed and what do you need to watch out for going forward.

  • ACC
    The ACC is going to be great soon with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But is it great right now? Not really. North Carolina remains a national title contender, Duke is Duke (despite Wednesday's loss at Temple) and Virginia is a surprise. But the league's other nine teams are either unproven or proven to be average or bad, and that's not a good look for a conference that prides itself on playing a high level of basketball. Read More >>
  • Atlantic 10
    For a while, it appeared the Atlantic 10 might finish without a conference champ. Xavier got off to a sizzling start with nine straight victories. Then came The Brawl -- followed by the Fall. Xavier suspended Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells after the fight with cross-town rival Cincinnati -- and it all fell apart. Chris Mack's team lost three of its next four, including setbacks to Oral Roberts and Hawaii, which gave hope to everyone else in the league. Now Rick Majerus' Saint Louis team, which has only one loss thus far, may have a shot. Temple has struggled at times, but the Owls could challenge. And Saint Joseph's finally appears back in contention after two brutal campaigns. Read More >>
  • Big 12
    The Big 12 title is up for grabs. Kansas has been king of the league for most of the past decade, but this season the Jayhawks look vulnerable. No one can match the talent and length of Scott Drew's Baylor squad, but the Bears haven't been the most impressive team in the conference thus far -- that honor belongs to Missouri and new coach Frank Haith. But don't count out Kansas State as long as Frank Martin has this group of somewhat anonymous Wildcats buying into his brand of basketball -- which means playing hard. Read More >>
  • Big East
    When compared to last season, the Big East might look down this year. It's not going to be in the mix for 10 or 11 NCAA tournament bids, and the bottom of the league is not very strong. With that said, don't underestimate the conference too much; it has at least three legitimate top 10 teams and six teams who should receive top-four seeds in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Big Ten
    How many teams can enter league play these days and legitimately say they have eight teams in the equation for an NCAA tournament bid? Probably just one, and that's the Big Ten. After Ohio State, there's plenty of depth in this conference, which has established itself as the premiere league in the country this season. Read More >>
  • Conference USA
    Though Memphis is a disappointment, it's still the best team in Conference USA by a wide margin. But don't take my word for it. Take Ken Pomeroy's. His invaluable site (KenPom.com) still has Memphis ranked 31st and projected to be favored in every game it plays the rest of the way. So that 8-5 record is likely to turn into something like 26-8 on Selection Sunday (barring serious injuries or notable suspensions, the latter of which is always a possibility at Memphis). So Memphis will win C-USA. The real question is whether C-USA can put two teams in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Horizon League
    It doesn't seem likely that the Horizon will produce a national finalist for the third year in a row, but that doesn't mean the conference has taken a huge fall. Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee have played well during non-conference play, and the league has had a few marquee clips against BCS-league teams. And what about Butler, the aforementioned two-time national finalist? The Bulldogs are turning things around as we enter conference play. But the rest of the league won't let Brad Stevens' troops waltz to a yet another Horizon title. Read More >>
  • Missouri Valley
    It's been a few years since the Valley was this good, even though the bottom part of this one (like most leagues) has a few bad teams. The race to win the league should be among four teams. For whatever reason, MVC clubs capture the hope of many in the tournament. Creighton, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Southern Illinois are all schools that have had big March moments. Two of the aforementioned can and should get into the Big Dance this year. Read More >>
  • Mountain West
    It's better than the Pac-12, and the case could be made it's the fourth-best collection of teams in college hoops. There isn't one group that's even flirting with .500. For a non-BCS conference, that's pretty unexpected and really good. And its success so far goes much deeper than Vegas' defeat of UNC back in November and Steve Fisher's insistence on looking like he teaches grad-level lit classes. Read More >>
  • Pac-12
    The Pac-12 has become the rebellious teenager that gets in its own way and is hurtling toward a life with no future. Here we are again having the same discussion we’ve been having the past few years. Nothing seems to be changing. This league is putrid yet again, and where’s the hope? Not an overstatement: Three Pac-12 teams making the NCAA tournament will be a genuine achievement. Read More >>
  • SEC
    Some fans take joy in the fact that John Calipari has never won a national title. If you're one of those, you might be in trouble. Kentucky really might do it this year. The Wildcats are big and strong and long and talented. They have shooters. They have shot-blockers. They've got everything you need to win a national championship, and they are, right now, the favorites out in Las Vegas. Read More >>
  • West Coast
    Outside of the six BCS-affiliated conferences, the No. 7 spot in league rankings is up for grabs. Why not the West Coast Conference? With three legitimate threats to win a game in the NCAA tournament, the WCC has as good of an argument as anyone. Moreover, with some of the non-conference wins the bottom half of the league picked up in November, the quality victories are there as well. Read More >>

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Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Power Pyramid, Week 6: No resolutions required



By Matt Norlander

Hope your Holiday season continues to go well — this week in between Christmas and New Year’s is always odd in that so many get the week off, but there’s still plenty goings on going on. We won’t slow here with a lot of basketball ahead. I did this week’s Pyramid today, Dec. 26, at Mom and Dad’s house, gifts still under the tree and dogs tearing apart at opened boxes.

I’m loving that nearly everyone’s got two games awaiting them this week, as the pace of conference season takes hold of the sport. I do still have Xavier ranked, because I think X is one of the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball. The rules of the polls don’t apply here. This is more about a general acknowledgment of a team’s ability with some credence to opponents played and beaten than just a move up/move down if you win or lose. That said, continuing to win almost always helps a cause.

Top Tier

1. Iona (10-2). A Sentence: I’ve been driving the Iona bus for about a month now, and you’re all welcome to take a seat. A Statistic: With 2.42 years of experience, no Pyramid team is older than Iona. The Schedule: at Hofstra Thursday.

2. UNLV (13-2). A Sentence: Enjoying UNLV’s run because now it’s starting to look like this team can realistically snag a 5 or 4 seed. A Statistic: Further testament to why Vegas should be ranked this high, look at the games played. Fifteen is more than anyone in the Pyramid. The Schedule: vs. Central Arkansas Wednesday; at Hawaii Saturday.

3. Harvard (10-1). A Sentence: Well, well … lookie there at that big game coming up this week, meaning there’s potential for serious Pyramid swappage. A Statistic: How often does a bench player get involved in more than 28 percent of a team’s action? Quite rare, but the Crimson’s Jonah Travis, a freshman, is plenty involved when his name gets called. The Schedule: at Boston College Thursday; vs. Saint Joseph’s Saturady.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Creighton (10-1). A Sentence: You’ll see this line in my Valley primer this week: If his name was Jimmer McDermott, a lot more people would be talking about his remarkable season. A Statistic: The past four seasons, the Valley’s only had one tournament team. Creighton will lead the way in getting the MVC at least three bids this year. The Schedule: vs. Missouri State Wednesday; at Wichita State Saturday.

5. Saint Louis (11-1). A Sentence: Now’s the time, the next 16 days, for SLU to definitively make its statement on being a no-questions-asked at-large team. A Statistic: Billikens are beating teams by an average of 70-53 right now. The Schedule: vs. Texas Southern Tuesday; at New Mexico Saturday.

6. San Diego State (9-2). A Sentence: Could/should be punished for playing such terrible teams at this point in the season. A Statistic: With a healthy assist rate of 58.9 percent and 5.4 assists per game, sophomore Xavier Thames is the Mountain West’s best point guard right now. The Schedule: vs. D-III Redlands Friday.

7. Murray State (13-0). A Sentence: Either no Murray State fans are reading the slave labor I put into the Pyramid each week (because I haven’t gotten any complaints about where the MSU placed), or Racers fans are incredibly well-reasoned. A Statistic: The Racers have three players averaging more than 1.2 points per possession. That’s hard-to-find formula for big success. The Schedule: at Eastern Illinois Friday.

8. Gonzaga (9-2). A Sentence: It’s nearly reaching the point where Gonzaga is underrated, but that will soon pass if it beats Xavier this week and beeps loud and clear onto the radar. A Statistic: It’s not often a freshman leads Gonzaga in scoring, but 6-1 Kevin Pangos, at 14.5 PPG, is doing it. The Schedule: vs. Portland Wednesday; at Xavier Saturday.

9. New Mexico (10-2). A Sentence: No ranked team here has a tougher week ahead than New Mexico, which I think I’ll have to slot around fifth if it goes 2-0. A Statistic: The 50th-tallest team has the fourth-best block rate (5 percent). The Schedule: at New Mexico State Wednesday; vs. Saint Louis Saturday.

10. Wichita State (9-2). A Sentence: I maintain we’ve yet to see the best of this team. A Statistic: You saw the Iona stat above — Witchy State is second-oldest in the Pyramid at 2.38 years of experience. The Schedule: at Bradley Wednesday; vs. Creighton Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. St. Joseph’s (9-3). A Sentence: It’s a pleasure to research and read up on this team in purely a basketball sense. A Statistic: Few teams work players as much as the Hawks use Carl Jones, who takes up 91.6 percent of available minutes. The Schedule: vs. Morgan State Wednesday; at Harvard Saturday.

12. Temple (7-3). A Sentence: With Juan Fernandez not playing up to his skill level, it’s now official: Outside of Temple fans, Ramone Moore is the most undervalued player in the country. A Statistic: The Owls have the second-best 3-point defense in the country, allowing 23.3 percent of bombs to fall. The Schedule: vs. Buffalo Wednesday; at Delaware Friday .

13. Ohio (11-1). A Sentence: Have been waiting for the chance to include Ohio for a while; it’s worthy. A Statistic: The Bobcats are 11-1 for the first time in 70 years. The Schedule: vs. Kennesaw State Friday.

14. Northern Iowa (10-2). A Sentence: Falling 76-59 to the Bobcats last week only means UNI does a tumble and allows Ohio to pop into the picture. A Statistic: Anthony James is taking great care of the ball, only turning it over 8 percent of the time, which is No. 21 in the nation, per KenPom. The Schedule: at Illinois State Thursday; vs. Evansville Sunday.

15. Xavier (9-3): A Sentence: The Pyramid doesn’t run its rules the way the polls do, so it’s simple: Beating Gonzaga Saturday clearly means X should stay, and if it loses, then see ya. A Statistic: The team is no longer shooting well, falling below the 50-percent mark in effective field goal shooting last week. The Schedule: vs. Gonzaga Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Cleveland State. In: Ohio.
♦ Saint Mary’s and BYU are going to have to prove it in conference play. Schedules too weak and both lost to Baylor last week. Can’t get them in.
♦ This will be the last week where you see a lot of consistencies between each week in the Pyramid, I think. Conference play and intra-Pyramid matchups will mandate some shifting and moving a lot going forward.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:41 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 5, Festivus Edition


By Matt Norlander

I just couldn’t help myself. I had to really hideous that thing up, go full-on Clark Griswold with the thing. Festivus is in four days, folks, so get your grievances ready, starting prepping for the feats of strength and if you’d like to say your grievances about anything I’ve done, you know this is the place.

As for the teams below, last week provided another tough gauge, as a lot of teams either didn’t play or went up against garbage. Ranking Xavier was the toughest, because I don’t treat the Pyramid like the polls system. If you win it doesn’t automatically mean you move up and if you lose it doesn’t automatically mean you move down. The rankings are a blend of who you play, who you’ve beat, the general state of your team and what promise it has. It’s subjective in that way, but it’s not a complete prisoner of the moment like the polls. Hey, these are my rankings.

And if you've got a problem with that, the feats of strength CAN START RIGHT NOW.

I still think Xavier’s the best non-BCS team, but without their guards they’re not, so they get docked, but not too harshly. OK, no more blabbing. Let’s get to listing, then Frank Costanza’s gonna kick everyone’s rear.

Frank Costanza’s Favorites

1. Iona (9-2). A Sentence: No possible/probable/surefire tournament team has tested itself away from home as much as the Gaels, who now benefit from Xavier’s horrible loss to Oral Roberts. A Statistic: Nine players on this team have a KenPom offensive rating of greater than 100. That’s just stupid good. Syracuse matches Iona, but Kentucky and UNC? Seven apiece. The Schedule: at William & Mary Wednesday.

2. UNLV (11-2). A Sentence: If you missed UNLV’s win over Illinois at the United Center, it was one of the more impressive takedowns by a Power Pyramid team this season, which is saying something considering the Rebels also beat UNC in November. A Statistic: Despite grabbing 15 percent of his team’s offensive rebound chances, Mike Moser's O rating is just 104.5, which is good, but you’d think it’d be closer to 110 with so much work around the tin. The Schedule: vs. Louisiana Monroe Monday; vs. California Friday.

3. Harvard (9-1). A Sentence: I’d like to see Keith Wright get a little more involved and turn Harvard into an unquestionable top-three team in Ivy history. A Statistic: With 15.9 hacks per game, Harvard’s among the most disciplined teams in the nation when it comes to fouling. The Schedule: vs. Florida Atlantic Thursday.

On Santa’s Good List

4. Xavier (8-1): A Sentence: The loss was so bad, and the team is without its backcourt players right now, that this feels like a good compromise of what/where X really is and how it needed to tumble. A Statistic: Without Tu Holloway, Dezmine Wells and Mark Lyons, Xavier had its worst game points-wise, in 3-point percentage, field goal percentage, field goals made, free throws made, steals and rebounds vs Oral Roberts. The Schedule: vs. Long Beach State Thursday.

5. Creighton (8-1). A Sentence: Doug McDermott stands a chance at becoming a First Team All-America. A Statistic: The Bluejays’ schedule ranks 321 on KenPom right now. Fun team, going to threaten to win the Valley, but the tougher portion of the slate lies ahead. The Schedule: at Tulsa Monday; vs. Northwestern Thursday.

6. Saint Louis (10-1). A Sentence: Rick Majerus seems like a guy who absolutely would lend himself to a feats of strength battle. A Statistic: SLU is beating opponents by a 16.5 points per game average. The Schedule: vs. Arkansas State Thursday.

7. San Diego State (9-2). A Sentence: Aztecs are one of many teams in the Pyramid amid really putrid schedule runs right now. A Statistic: The Aztecs are in the midst of a 38-day stretch between playing respectable/NCAA tournament-team opponents. UNLV on Jan. 14 is the next chance for SDSU to impress. The Schedule: vs. UC Riverside Monday; vs. Elon Thursday.

8. Murray State (12-0). A Sentence:  How about many sentences on a team I like but don’t yet love. A Statistic: You want stats? How about I again direct you to this. The Schedule: vs. Tennessee Martin Wednesday.

9. Gonzaga (7-2). A Sentence: I think Gonzaga will violently bounce around within the walls this year, but doubt it ever falls out (then again, I said that about Belmont). A Statistic: Elias Harris’ (right) 25 and 8 against Arizona deserves another mention two days later. Zags need about 10 of those games from Harris this season to be a universally perceived threat. The Schedule: vs. Butler Tuesday; vs. Air Force Thursday.

10. New Mexico (8-2). A Sentence: Only because I don’t want to punish other teams’ mandatory bad scheduling in finals week—that’s the only reason why the Lobos aren’t higher. A Statistic: UNM is getting an assist on 69.5 percent of its possessions, a great trend and fourth-best in the country. The Schedule: vs. Montana State Tuesday; vs. Missouri-Kansas City Thursday.

Bottom of the Feats of Strengths Pile

11. Northern Iowa (9-1). A Sentence: They Valley presence remains strong, consistent in the Pyramid. A Statistic: Respect what this team’s done, but it’s No. 3 in the RPI as of now. Thus commences your reminder that the RPI is worse than spoiled egg nog. The Schedule: vs. D-III Loras College Monday; vs. Ohio Tuesday.

12. Wichita State (8-2). A Sentence: Taking all my power to resist as many Seinfeld jokes as possible with who the Shockers have tonight. A Statistic: Shockers nabbing punks to the tune of 20 points per game, in victory. The Schedule: vs. D-II Newman University Monday.

13. St. Joseph’s (8-3). A Sentence: There’s something so charming about the Hawks when they’re good, and they appear to finally be good again. A Statistic: C.J. Aiken blocking 14 percent of opponents’ possessions, making St. Joe’s play so much taller than they are. The Schedule: vs. Coppin State Wednesday.

14. Temple (6-3). A Sentence: Stubbornly won’t quit yet, because I believe the Owls are still one of the 15 best non-BCS teams in the country. A Statistic: Temple’s still plenty high inside the Pyramid if it doesn’t allow Texas to grab 45.2 percent of offensive-rebound chances Saturday. The Schedule: at Rice Monday.

15. Cleveland State (10-1). A Sentence: Vikings had a week off to prepare for a BCS team tonight. A Statistic: Nobody’s forcing turnovers more frequently than CSU, swiping it 29.8 percent of the time. Great rate. The Schedule: at South Florida Monday; vs. Sam Houston State Thursday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Belmont. In: St. Joseph’s.
♦ Love what Nate Wolters and South Dakota State did to Washington Sunday, but that team wouldn’t make a top 20 non-BCS list just yet.
♦ Saint Mary’s gets to prove itself this week. Baylor Thursday, Missouri State Friday.
♦ Southern Miss is another team I’m keeping an eye on.
♦ OK, time for the airing of grievances. Let’s have it.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 3

By Matt Norlander

Every Monday, we’re going to be giving you readers and fans and coaches more and more reason to hate us. How can we do this outside of just being our natural, irritating selves? By ranking as many teams in as many ways as possible, of course. And we won’t reserve our judgment for your scorn in big-boy country. No, we’d like to alienate ourselves to the fan bases around the nation, mid-major schools included.

This feature serves as a complement to the weekly Top 25 and One, which you can read right here.

No more ado — here’s how we see it, the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball as of Monday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m ET.

Top Tier

1. Xavier (6-0). A Sentence: There’s a considerable difference between X and everyone else, when you take into account the Muskies’ wins over Vandy on the road and the comeback W against Purdue last week. A Statistic: The only major flaw with Chris Mack’s team right now is the free-throw shooting. X is under 60 percent as a team. Will get them eventually. The Schedule: at Butler Wednesday; vs. Cincinnati Saturday.

2. Iona (6-1). A Sentence: Saw this team in person a week ago, and no joke, they look incredibly dangerous for pretty much any team outside of the top five right now. A Statistic: The Gaels are scoring 1.14 points per possession, which is definitely good, but a little less than I expected from the highest-scoring and highest assisting team in the country. The Schedule: at Denver Wednesday; at Marshall Sunday.

3. Harvard (8-0). A Sentence: I’d love for Harvard to justify me putting them this high with a win Thursday, but they merely need to keep it compelling. A Statistic: The Crimson have been helped by a “defensive” stat they have such little control over: free throw defense. Opponents are shooting an NCAA-worst 54 percent from the line against them. The Schedule: at Connecticut Thursday; at Boston University Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. UNLV (8-1): A Sentence: Beating North Carolina, then losing on the road at a Power Pyramid Wichita State team equates to a UNLV team smelling the Pyramid’s ceiling. A Statistic: 52.2 was the percentage from 3-point range the Shockers put up against UNLV over the weekend. It was the first time this season Vegas has had a team shoot better than 50 percent against them from downtown. The Schedule: vs. NAIA Cal State San Marcos Wednesday; at Wisconsin Saturday.

5. Creighton (7-0). A Sentence: Greg McDermott’s team is playing so well because his son is on his way to an Adam Morrison-like year in terms of offense. A Statistic: Remarkably, the Jay’s effective field goal percentage has rise, up to a still-tops-in-the-U.S. 60.9 clip. The Schedule: at St. Joseph’s Saturday.


6. Gonzaga (5-1). A Sentence: I’m not quite sure what Gonzaga will become, but I do know they’ve got plenty of chances, plenty of talent, and believe they’d beat everyone below them here on a neutral floor more times than not (as of today). A Statistic: The game, and loss, to Illinois was the first road game of Gonzaga’s season. Last year, the team was 7-5 on the road, and didn’t get above .500 in that category until the end of the year. More road woes coming this year?. The Schedule: vs. Michigan State Saturday.

7. Saint Louis (7-1). A Sentence: Have been impressed with Saint Louis so far, but for reasons I won’t expound upon here and now, I still remain wary. A Statistic: Saint Louis is in the shorter half of D-I teams, and they’re rebounding like it. The 24.2 offensive rebounding percentage will eventually need to come up, unless the team’s able to keep the eFG% above 58 (which it is now). The Schedule: vs. Vermont Wednesday; vs. D-II Illinois Springfield Saturday.

8. San Diego State (8-2). A Sentence: Interesting about this team right now: the numbers don’t love it, but boy have I and so many others been impressed. A Statistic: Despite the strong start, Aztecs are 58 in KenPom. Where’s the love? BYU is 21! The Schedule: at San Diego Wednesday.

9. Memphis (4-2). A Sentence: Tigers had a couple of patsies last weeks, so they fall slightly be default. A Statistic: Just take notice of the team above and the team right here. One’s played 10 games, the other six. There is a lot of room to flex between groups right now; we’ll have a better sense of the Pyramid’s hierarchy in about three weeks. The Schedule: at Miami Tuesday; vs. Murray State Sunday.

10. Belmont (5-2). A Sentence: I’ll take this moment this week to say: Unless Belmont starts ripping up opponents by 20-plus on the regular, they’re just going to be a really good, nondescript team off most non-Pyramid radars until late February. A Statistic: Last year, Belmont was one of the best teams in the country at turning you over. This year, it’s the opposite. The 14.1 offensive turnover rate is third-best nationally. The Schedulevs. Tennessee State Tuesday.

Base Blocks

11. Northern Iowa (7-1). A Sentence: The Valley is going to be a multi-bid league this year, and UNI will be making the NCAAs — yes, I’m saying that on Dec. 5. A Statistic: The Panthers’ D, giving up .93 points per possession, hasn’t been given enough love so far. Let’s see if this team can become as good on the D end as the 2009-10 group. The Schedule: vs. Iowa Tuesday; vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday.

12. Temple (4-2). A Sentence: Pretty sure Owls are in a tough spot this week; they’ll most definitely need to go 2-0 to remain inside the Pyramid’s walls on Dec. 12. A Statistic: Owls senior Michael Eric is currently taking more of your misses than anyone else. He possess a 34.6 success rate at grabbing defensive boards. The Schedule: at Toledo Wednesday; vs. Villanova Saturday.

13. New Mexico (6-2). A Sentence: Sophomore guard Kendall Williams has turned into a better player than I’d expected and is the reason UNM keeps a logo on this graphic. A Statistic: 23-4. That was the opening run to start Saturday’s game against Missouri State, which was in the Power Pyramid last Monday. The Schedule: at USC Saturday.

14. Wichita State (5-2). A Sentence: Valley swaps one team for another, as the Shockers replace Missouri State this week, keeping three teams in the rankings. A Statistic: In the out-of-nowhere performance to date this season, senior Joe Ragland scored 31 in the 89-70 WSU W over UNLV, thanks to eight 3s. Ragland boosted his PPG average to 11.9. The Schedule: at Tulsa Wednesday; vs. Utah State Saturday.

15. Murray State (9-0). A Sentence: Small surprise of the season: Billy Kennedy’s former team has started out terrifically without him. A Statistic: Three of the nine wins have been against foes outside of D-I, so that’s a big caveat. Wins over So. Miss and Dayton were convincing, though, so I’ve got the heart to put them in, just ahead of Tulane and College of Charleston. The Schedule: at Memphis Sunday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Missouri State, Marshall. In: Murray State, Wichita State.
♦  Marshall gets its chance to get back into the Pyramid if it beats Syracuse this week, and I think Murray State’s visit could be short-lived due to the Memphis matchup forthcoming.
♦  I know you’re unbeaten, Tulane. If you get through next Sunday with wins over Wofford and Jacksonville State — even though those aren’t great wins — I’ll get you in with an 11-0 D-I record.
♦ Brigham Young is the only highly ranked KenPom team not to make the Pyramid. Let’s see what happens Dec. 17 against Baylor and then we’ll assess.
♦ I considered ranking Northwestern until it got mollywhopped by Baylor. (I keed!)

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:47 am
 

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date



By Matt Norlander

With his former coach, Jerry Tarkanian, and the kid he wants to coach, undecided No. 1 2012 prospect Shabazz Muhammad, sitting courtside, first-year UNLV coach Dave Rice led his team to one of the biggest upsets he’ll ever have in his coaching career.

Even if it’s only November, any time you knock off North Carolina and they’ve got a 1 next to their name, it’s a big deal. You know what, the latter need not apply. And Rice may never nip a top-seeded team off again — or he could wind up collecting another half-dozen by the time he retires, decades down the road. The point is, it’s the best possible start to his time in Vegas he could’ve asked for.

And it’s quite a storyline for us, the college basketball-fanatic public, to take in. The Runnin’ Rebels gave the sport its biggest upset of the season so far, decisively taking out the Tar Heels 90-80 Saturday night at the Orleans Arena in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational. This wasn’t a skin-of-the-teeth W. This was a bombs-away affair that Vegas had in the bag with five minutes to go.

(So much for this prediction, huh?)

“We were definitely confident that we could win the game,” UNLV sophomore forward Mike Moser said by phone late Saturday night as he boarded the team bus on the way back to campus. “We were surprised we controlled the game like we did. Other than that, our mentality is to attack, attack — on defense and offense.”

It’s not like North Carolina to play the way it did Saturday night, with a lack of attack. Was it what UNLV did, or what did UNC not do that surprised him most?

“Nothing, really,” Rice said by phone after the game. “I was just proud of the resolve our players showed. We have become a very good second-half team. One of the strength of our team is our depth. We have unbelievable confidence with the five guys who start and four guys who come off our bench.”

UNC’s probably just as good as we expect them to be. This was a bad night for them. But UNLV? Could be a lot better than we expected — and plenty expected this team to be NCAA tournament-worthy. The victory Chace Stanback, Moser, Oscar Bellfield and others got for their team, their program, their city tonight — it’s season-making. It doesn’t get much more motivating or valuable than to beat the top-ranked team in the country on your soil. (It wasn’t a true home game, but it might as well have been.)

Stanback led the team with 28 points, Moser hit some huge 3s throughout the game, but Rice said Bellfield was the guy in those critical spots who came up large tonight. And his confidence and presence in the timeout huddles was the continual shot of adrenaline that kept the team on a whir.

“Oscar Bellfield is a tremendous leader,” Rice said. “He’s the guy, along with Anthony Marshall that makes us go. To start the game, the 3-point shots Oscar hit made us a confident team.”

Vegas shot 13-of-32 from 3 and 15-of-18 from the foul line to help keep distance from Roy Williams’ team in the second half. Thirteen offensive boards and 22 assists also helped; amazingly, UNC only committed nine turnovers, yet wasn’t even sniffing a comeback in the second half. The 14-0 run that UNLV started the second half with was clearly the key — UNC couldn’t return the shots, both metaphorically and realistically.

“We try to coach, try to play based on what the defense gives us,” Rice said. “North Carolina is such a good defensive team, they really took away our inside game.”

UNC became the second elite team to lose to an unranked opponent in the past 30 hours. UConn fell to Central Florida Saturday.

Moser said he was 100 percent confident his team was winning with a minute to go, when Chace Stanback was on the line. Not a second before that, though.

“The ultimate confidence in that guy at the end of the game,” Moser said of his teammate.

As for those 3 balls that kept getting tossed into the Vegas air, Moser said that wasn’t in the team’s game plan to start.

“Honestly, the 3s really just came naturally,” he said. “They (UNC) were in the paint so much.”

Ben Howland’s month just got worse, too. The UCLA coach, who doesn’t have a win over a D-I team yet, watched as Moser and Stanback, two guys deemed not good enough for the Bruins, just plotted their team to the front page of every major sports website tonight and into Sunday morning.

“I am really, really happy for our staff,” Rice said. “We’ve got really good assistant who left other opportunities to come to this program. We had 11 scholarship players returning, and they all stayed. When so many guys transfer, I’m so happy for them to get this kind of win after committing themselves to this staff and our program.”

Carolina will get its chances (starting Wednesday against an incredibly tough Wisconsin team, then at Kentucky Saturday) to prove itself over and over. UNLV doesn't have to. It has to keep winning, but it doesn't have to do better than it did tonight. Its season was made thanks to an aggressive game plan and a fearless group that took advantage of a top-ranked team that looked uninspired and irresolute throughout the second half.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 15, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Two supreme dunk videos from Friday night

By Matt Norlander

Both of these come by way of The Dagger, which is doing a great job collecting a number of funny/endearing/notable season-opening moments from around the nation last night. (This Tubby video ... I'm not really sure what's happening, but it's good to see the man practice the Sweet Science.)

Here are two dunk videos that could very well go viral over the weekend. The first, New Mexico's Jamal Fenton gets his back flip on before slamming it down. What I love: the bounce is absolutely perfect. What I love even more: Fenton's just 5-9.



The second video is one for all the moms out there, who dream of the day their sons will one day brush their heads from above with a pair of mesh shorts. Wagner's Josh Thompson made the gym go wild after he threw down over momma. I love the video not so much for the dunk, but for the spirit in the quaint setting. Plenty of tiny schools get a lot of support on nights like this, even without light shows, famous alums and celebrity performances.

Posted on: May 25, 2011 3:12 pm
 

Conference Catch-up: Mountain West

New Mexico looks to rebound in 2011-12.

Posted by Eric Angevine

It may still feel like the Final Four just ended, but for most schools, the offseason is now more than two months old. With that in mind, all of us at the blog are going to take this week to give you what we’re calling “Conference Catch-Ups.” The motive is to recap the biggest storylines in college basketball’s offseason so far, plus keep your appetite whetted in what is the longest offseason in major American sports. In case you missed any of what's happened in the Mountain West, here it is.

The Big Stories

Headline No. 1: Realignment. Brigham Young, fresh off one of the best seasons in school history, is heading off to battle Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the burgeoning West Coast Conference. Utah is now in the Pac-12, and TCU is bringing Horned Frog madness to the Big East a year down the road. On the way in are Boise State (2011) and Fresno State and Nevada (2012). Our own Tony Barnhart questions the worth of the reconstituted league, but he’s talking mostly about football. Basketball-wise, the early returns are not likely to be as strong, either.

Headline No. 2: Lon Kruger is back in the Big 12. UNLV head coach Lon Kruger seemed like a guy who had been around and might actually be happy to finish out his career in Vegas. Not so. The former K-State, Florida, Illinois and NBA head man went back to the Big 12 to take over the Oklahoma squad that was left floundering by a legacy of talent without discipline built by Jeff Capel. Kruger is a relatively youthful 58, and may be just what the Sooners need to get back on track. In the meantime, it falls to Steve Fisher at SDSU and Steve Alford at New Mexico to provide a little continuity atop the league.

Headline No. 3: Rams bet on Miles. Colorado State didn’t make it to the Big Dance last season, but they could still hear the music well into March, which is something the school hasn’t experienced for some time. That was enough for AD Paul Kowalczyk, who gave head coach Tim Miles (right) a three-year extension with a reported $330,000 raise. Things are looking up in Fort Collins.

The Great Unknown

Can the momentum be maintained? Last season was a real thriller for Mountain West fans, as they watched San Diego State and BYU become top-ten programs behind dynamic players like Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard. UNLV was in and out of the national polls as well. Now both superstar players are headed for the NBA, Lon Kruger has departed, and the Cougars are no longer in the league. Will this evolving version of the conference retain any of the magic wrought in 2010-11? If there isn’t at least a slight dip in the league’s profile, it will come as a surprise.

NBA Draft report

Kawhi Leonard is rather wisely leaving SDSU while his stock is red-hot. He’s a bit undersized for a pro-level inside banger, but that’s never stopped him from yanking balls out of the sky or jamming them in the opposite hoop yet. Other than that, the biggest loss was The Jimmer, but that senior moment was unavoidable.

Transference

Coming
— Colton Iverson (Minnesota) to Colorado State.

Going
— Zach Bohannon (Air Force).
— Nikola Cerina (TCU).
— Derrell Conner (Nevada).
— Marko Kukic (Nevada).
— Daylen Harrison (Wyoming).
— Sam Hicks (Boise State).
— Desmar Jackson (Wyoming) to Southern Illinois.
— Amath M’Baye (Wyoming) to Oklahoma.
— Maurice Wiltz (Colorado State).

Team commentary in 20 words or Less

Boise State hopes a change of scenery is a good thing.Air Force: Leading scorers Fow and Lyons come back to a middle-of the pack team that may still struggle to match up to the big boys.

Boise State: Former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice oversaw a 20-win season for the Broncos in his first season. MWC will be a new challenge.

Colorado State: Tim Miles has the Rams on the right course. With BYU gone, there might be room at the top.

New Mexico: Dairese Gary is gone from a team that went 8-8 in the league last season. UCLA transfer Drew Gordon must make hay in his senior year.

San Diego State: The tourney-ready roster from last season has been dismantled by graduation and early entry. Expect a rebuilding season.

TCU: Annually one of the worst basketball teams in the MWC. Thanks to football prowess, will soon be Big East’s burden.

UNLV: By all accounts, the Rebs made a good move in hiring BYU assistant Dave Rice. Could be a contender next season.

Wyoming: Larry Shyatt comes back to a team that floundered badly in league play last season. Maybe he learned something new at Florida.

Photos: US Presswire

Posted on: March 12, 2011 2:55 pm
 

BYU and SDSU for a 3rd time: perfect



The first two meetings were highly anticipated and lived up to the hype. Exceeded it, even.

And now Brigham Young vs. San Diego State is happening on the heels of Jimmer Fredette going for 52. Two teams that are a combined 61-5 facing off for the MWC title.

Can they possibly meet expectations again? Certainly!

Plenty on the line in this one, even if there are not earth-shattering consequences. Besides, can't we just have some fun with fantastic games between highly skilled teams? It's a nice tune-up for the big boy games that start next week. Now, some believe BYU has a chance at a one seed, depending on what Duke does in the ACC tournament. San Diego State, unfortunately, does not stand a chance; if it beats BYU, then it does it with a Brandon Davies-less Cougars team. It's a victim of circumstance, but a two seed is the ceiling for the Aztecs.

More than anything, this game should be good, clean fun. D.J. Gay had a terrific semifinal as well, by the way. Let's not forget what he did, even though Jimmer outshines nearly everyone and everything around him. Gay's game winner came Saturday night with 4.9 seconds to go against UNLV on UNLV's home floor, as the MWC tournament is played in Vegas.

Watch Kawhi Leonard tonight, and see if he can control the paint and steal the show. He's probably due for a really huge game or two before his sophomore season ends. Some seed lines near the top could be shifted, but more than anything, we're all just eager to see Jimmer one last time against the Aztecs, right? Game gets under way at 7 p.m., ET.

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP


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Category: NCAAB
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