Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:38 pm

Tiny Dancers: Loyola Greyhounds

It's already a lovefest on Twitter for the Greyhounds and their coach, Jimmy Patsos. Patsos' story will become something you can recite instantly by the start of the Greyhounds' first tournament game, as the bartender-turned-basketball coach will receive as much love from the media as any other. The reason for that is his team's 48-44 MAAC championship win Monday night over No. 4 Fairfield. Loyola played itself to a No. 2 seed this season, and after Fairfield took care of top-seeded Iona in the semis, Loyola won the rubber match with the Stags.

Patsos won the league's Coach of the Year award this year as well.

It's the second NCAA tournament bid for the Greyhounds in program history. Their other one came 18 years ago, in 1994, when a young Skip Prosser guided the team there in his first and only season in Maryland.

This team is solid at rebounding on the offensive glass, good at getting to the foul line -- and miserable at defending 3-pointers. The team doesn't have the look of a Cinderella, but Patsos and the program's story more than makes up for that. There won't be many, if any, teams and coaches that cherish the first tournament weekend more than this one.

Jimmy Patsos, left, and the Greyhounds will be the loveable underdogs of this year's field. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Erik Etherly. Etherly is considered one of the five best players in the league by opposing coaches. He's extremely versatile, leading the team in scoring (13.6), rebounding (7.6) and second in assists (1.9). At 6-7, he can play inside to out, but he is definitely best in the paint, where he's a reliable shot-maker and one of the best glass hogs in the conference. Chances are the Greyounds will be overmatched at almost every position in their first game except for this one.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-8 overall, 13-5 in MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1994, No. 15 seed, lost 81-55 to Arizona.
  • We’re thinking: 15 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 133
  • Sagarin ranking: 137
  • RPI: 86
  • Best wins: at Bucknell, vs. Iona
  • Worst losses: vs. Niagara, at Marist
  • Notable stat: This is nuts. For six years, from '99 to '05, Loyola was a mess. It won 29 games, total. That's just five more than what the Hounds did this season. 
-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:41 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:42 am

MAAC title game preview: Fairfield vs. Loyola

The Fairfield Stags are why coaches love and hate conference tournaments. Seeded No. 4 in the MAAC, Fairfield underachieved for most of the season. It should have challenged Iona for the league title, but it was clear from about mid-January that Sydney Johnson's team wasn't just playing for second, it would struggle to get third. It wound up getting fourth.

It's a talented team not playing to its advantage in the regular season. Then it finds the switch, flicks it on, and now the NCAAs are a game away. It's a great thing when you're coaching that kind of team, but man do other coaches hate when this happens against them.

The reason the Stags are playing for the league bid to the NCAA tournament is because the team found its groove, relied on its superstar and defeated Iona Sunday afternoon in the MAAC semis. Rakim Sanders, who scored 27 for FU, is now the alpha. There is no question about it, that's why Fairfield's still around. What interesting is the way this happened, how the team came to look to and rely on Sanders. It was an accident. Starting guard Derek Needham was this team's leader in October. But Sanders is the most talented guy on the roster, someone who could be drafted in June. When Needham broke his foot and was ruled out for the season on Feb. 27, rightfully most expected Fairfield to reach the semis of the MAAC, tops, then give way to Iona.

Hasn't happened. Now it looks like the Stags are more focused with one undeniable leader on the floor. They looked like a different team in beating the Gaels the way they did. With this response, they get to face Jimmy Patsos' Loyola Greyhounds, the No. 2 seed. At 13-5, Loyola was one game better than Fairfield in the league. But the team's riding high because it won 20 games this season, and are you ready for this? It was the first time in the more-than-30-year history of Loyola in D-I that the program won 20 games. That's flabbergasting.

Loyola's tough because they're great at offensive rebounds -- and they get to the line a lot. The team doesn't shoot well, but boy do they make up for it. They don't run, and neither does Fairfield. The Stags are a much better defensive team, and it's got the better player. Fairfield should probably win, but Patsos has been brewing magic in Maryland all season long. The teams split the season series. We could get another fantastic MAAC final on ESPN Monday night at 7 ET.

--Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 4, 2012 5:23 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 5:32 pm

A shame, but once again, Iona fails in big moment

Tim Cluess put together a really nice team this year, but there were too many missed opportunities. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

It's one thing to have a top-seeded team fall short of earning the auto bid. It's another when that team is not only the No. 1 seed in its conference, but also has three future pros (NBA or otherwise) and could've been a real nuisance in the bracket that matters most.

For the second straight year, Iona was the team in the MAAC with the most talent and the highest ceiling. For the second straight year, it got chopped from the league tourney, and so it will play in the NIT, not the NCAAs. We, the college basketball-viewing audience, will be cheated because of it, but that's just the breaks. This is a really fun team to watch, one with the ability to knock off a lot of teams in college basketball. But that's all just talk now. Potential never finding its fruition.

Tim Cluess told reporters after Iona's 85-75 loss to Fairfield Sunday in the MAAC semis that he believes his team is worthy of an at-large bid. Said his team's better than the No. 8 or No. 9 team from the Big East, knowing that it's probable those schools -- Seton Hall, UConn, West Virginia -- are much more likely to get a bid.

But the reason they're much more likely to get a bid is because they've accomplished more. Cluess knows that, too, he's just saying what a coach needs to say after his team bows out too early. And here's my angle on it: Iona did have chances. It lost to Purdue in November and on the road at Marshall in December. If it won both of those games, just those two, I think the Gaels actually get into the field even with this loss. Instead, they fell, and so their best wins are home against Nevada, on the road at decent Denver and over St. Joe's in New Rochelle, N.Y. It's not an anemic resume but it's so below what others have done.

A lot of good (or should I say worthy?) teams lose less games and don't have the chances Iona had this year. Failing to reach the MAAC title game with an overall underwhelming slate doesn't do good for the cause. It's a shame. Scott Machado is possibly going to be a first-round NBA draft pick. He's one of the five best point guards in the game. Iona's one of the best passing teams and most potent offenses in D-I. They would've been a great watch in a 4 vs. 13 game ,and against a team like Georgetown, yeah, they'd have a chance. But we won't get that. We won't get to see Mike Glover match up against a frontcourt that's probably incapable of defending his devastating drop step.

MoMo Jones, the Arizona transfer with the quick trigger, he won't get his big chance at redemption after playing in the Elite Eight last season. Had the team played against Fairfield on Sunday like it had for most of the MAAC season -- as a unit -- then they'd get their chance Monday night on ESPN. But for as well as Fairfield -- a team that knows about not playing up to its skill level -- the loss is on Iona. It was out of sync, taking bad shots and incapable of stopping Fairfield, which saw to-be pro Rakim Sanders score a career-best 27.

It's funny how I was taken to task by Parrish on the podcast last Wednesday for picking Iona over Memphis in the Non-BCS Power Pyramid. The Gaels, I thought, were the more reliable, more dangerous team. But they were a danger only to themselves again. Machado and Glover are seniors, so they're gone. Cluess will build up this program with his guys. Perhaps next year, or the year after, he'll have the cast he needs to get the program to a ninth NCAA tournament. New players can be as vital as the talent they bring with them.

The reason why some small schools are able to regroup and make runs is, you get new blood in, guys who don't tighten up in the postseason because they don't have memories of falling short. Right now, that's the reputation forming around this program.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:49 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:07 am

What-to-know tourney previews: MAAC

The MAAC is back — only this year the tournament is in a faraway place. Springfield, Mass., to be exact. Why the league has chosen to hold its postseason tournament in a state where none of its teams reside is an answer so convoluted perhaps the NCAA has the best and only shot to interpret the meaning behind it.

No matter, the league this year boasts a team that has a lot of talent and potential to win a couple of games in the Big Bracket. That’s right, a couple. Iona, who is the No. 1 seed, is one of the most potent offensive teams in the nation. It averages 1.16 points per possession and 83.4 per game, No. 1 in the nation. With 19.5 assists per game, the Gaels are also the best passing team in basketball. That’s because Scott Machado is one of the five best point guards in the game.

Machado was one of our 30 best point guards prior to the season, but nobody knew he had this sort of impact left in him. Now he’s an NBA prospect. Machado, forward Mike Glover and Arizona transfer MoMo Jones provide a three-headed monster that’s rarely assembled in these ranks. The Gaels are really good, and they’ll only lose this tournament if their weak interior defense completely craters.  

If not the Gaels, who? Loyola (MD) finished 13-5 in the league, two games behind Iona. It did split the season series with the Gaels, and the Greyhounds are having some kind of special year. For the first time in their Division I history, the team got to 20 wins. It’s been D-I for 30 years. Incredible, and if Loyola made the Big Dance, it’d be just as great of a story as any other team out there. Loyola’s a great team on the O boards (39.3 percentage rate) and can swipe the ball (12.4 steal rate), but everything else they’re pretty average at, overall.

Fairfield (12-6) was the team meant to challenge Iona. It’s had a disappointing year. Point/combo guard Derek Needham is now done for the season with a bad wheel, so that’s one less weapon. The Stags are coached by first-year honcho Sydney Johnson, who led Princeton to the NCAAs last year in a dramatic playoff victory against Harvard. Getting to The Dance with this team would shock him just as much, I’d assume. Last year it was fourth-seeded St. Peter's that wound up getting the auto-bid, so Fairfield's got that going for it, which is nice.

Michael Glover and the Gaels should absolute win. (US PRESSWIRE)

And then there’s Manhattan, technically the three seed who also finished 12-6, who also has a first-year coach in Rick Pitino protégé Steve Masiello. The Jaspers were 6-25 last season; they went 20-11 this year. Incredible turnaround, but it feels like Masiello will need one more year to push through.

John Templon, who runs Big Apple Buckets, simulated the MAAC tournament 10,000 times with his bulky, not-available-in-stores Simulation System 6,000. Almost half the time, Iona won. Ironically, second-place Loyola came up the fourth-most likely team to win it all, with Manhattan, then Fairfield falling far behind the Gaels.

Return of the MAAC. (It is!)
Return of the MAAC (Come on!)
Return of the MAAC (Oh my God!)
Return of the MAAC (Here I am)



Schedule: March 2-5
Title game:
Monday, March 5, ESPN2.


  1. Scott Machado, Iona
  2. Michael Glover, Iona
  3. Rakim Sanders, Fairfield
  4. George Beamon, Manhattan
  5. OD Ansoike, Siena

Conference RPI: 22

KenPom.com rating: 20

Sagarin rating: 20

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Iona (and barely at that)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

  • Canisius Golden Griffins: 1996, 13 seed, lost first-round game to Utah, 72-43.
  • Fairfield Stags: 1997, 16 seed, lost first-round game to North Carolina, 82-74.
  • Iona Gaels: 2006, 13 seed, lost first-round game to LSU, 80-64.
  • Loyola (MD) Greyhounds: 1994, 15 seed, lost first-round game to Arizona, 81-55.
  • Manhattan Jaspers: 2004, 12 seed, won first-round game over Florida, 75-60. Lost second-round game to Wake Forest, 84-80.
  • Marist Red Foxes: 1987, 14 seed, lost first-round game to Pittsburgh, 93-68.
  • Niagara Purple Eagles: 2007, 16 seed, won opening-round game over Florida A&M, 77-69. Lost first-round game to Kansas, 107-67.
  • Rider Broncs: 1994, 15 seed, lost first-round game to Connecticut, 64-46.
  • Siena Saints: 2010, 13 seed, lost first-round game to Purdue, 72-64.
  • St. Peter's Peacocks: 2011, 14 seed, lost first-round game to Purdue, 65-43.

-- Matt Norlander

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 27, 2012 9:41 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 12:52 pm

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Final Edition

By Matt Norlander

This is the final edition of the 2011-12 Non-BCS Power Pyramid. That sentence will come with not one reaction of anguish or woe on your end, I know, but in the interest of our Monday routine at the blog, I figured I'd bring it up. Instead of giving the usual rankings from my subjective viewpoint, I’ve decided to slot the teams today in order of how I think they’ll ultimately be seeded. Every team in the Pyramid I do believe will play its way into the field, so that means two CAA teams should expect bids. (Don’t you go dying on my, VCU and Drexel.)

It's been a fun and time-consuming process to put together this rankings system every Sunday night for the past 16 weeks, but the responses back and email have made it worth it. It will most definitely be returning next season, only you can expect vast improvements. At least in my own mind they will be.

So here's the final tally, the 15 best teams from outside the Big Six -- and how I expect them to get slotted into the greatest sporting event in the world.

Geographically protected

1. Wichita State, 26-4, four seed. A Sentence: I’m curious to see how the public reaction will be to this team once it gets a good seed, because so often when non-Big Six teams get high billing a backlash effect follows. A Statistic: The Shockers went undefeated in February, only lost once in January and once in December. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley tournament! Runs from March 1 to 4.

Wichita won its first MVC regular-season title since '06. The league has had a different champ six straight seasons. (AP)

2. Murray State, 28-1, five seed. A Sentence: The Racers’ seed has become a big curiosity of mine. A Statistic: The impressive afterthought of this team’s accomplishments this season: it was undefeated on the road and in neutral-court play. No other team can say the same. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the Ohio Valley tournament! Runs from Feb. 29 to March 3.

3. Gonzaga, 23-5, five seed. A Sentence: No one’s truly bought into this team, so can this be a second-weekend year for Gonzaga, being that there’s a lack of pressure? A Statistic: Every Gonzaga starter is scoring more than 1.1 points per possession. It’s a very good sign for things to come. The Schedule: vs. Longwood, Monday; No. 2 seed in WCC tournament! Runs from Feb. 29 to March 5.

The rest of the single-digit seeds

4. UNLV, 24-6, six seed. A Sentence: UNLV hasn’t won on the road in a month, and though that will hurt its seeding I don’ think that’s a factor at all in how this team will play in March. A Statistic: An efficient 65.7 percent of UNLV’s baskets come via an assist. That’s the second-highest in the nation. The Schedule: at Colorado State, Wednesday; vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

5. Temple, 22-6, six seed. A Sentence: I’ve got Temple this high because I think it’s going to with the A10 tournament (it already nearly has the A10 regular-season title). A Statistic: Saturday’s loss to St. Joseph’s marked the first time since 2008 Temple didn’t sweep the Hawks. The Schedule: vs. UMass, Wednesday; at Fordham, Saturday.

Matthew Dellavedova and the Gaels could leapfrog Gonzaga in seeding, but they'll have to win the WCC tourney in order to do so. (US PRESSWIRE)

6. Saint Mary’s, 25-5, six seed. A Sentence: . A Statistic: The Gaels shoot 54.6 percent from the field from 2-point range. It’s eight-best in the country, but it’s also as good as SMC’s ever been under Randy Bennett in the tempo-free era. They are big and can score — and can also grab the O boards 36 percent of the time. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament! Runs from Feb. 29 to March 5.

7. San Diego State, 22-6, eight seed. A Sentence: SDSU closes up its season with a TCU road game, which New Mexico and UNLV already fell prey to, so beware. A Statistic: The Aztecs have never cracked the 30s of KenPom.com this year, and only been in the 40s twice. That indicates this team isn’t likely to win when it gets to The Tournament. The Schedule: at Boise State, Wednesday; at TCU, Saturday.

8. Creighton, 25-5, nine seed. A Sentence: I only hope Creighton doesn’t have a similar ending to Drake in 2008. A Statistic: You want to know why Creighton’s fallen off the radar? Yeah, it had that three-game losing streak, but forget that. The past three Bluejays wins have come by a total of four points, one of them needing overtime. The Schedule: No. 2 seed in the Missouri Valley tournament! Runs from March 1 to 4.

9. Virginia Commonwealth, 25-6, nine seed. A Sentence: I feel real good about writing this on the Rams last week. A Statistic: What I’d love for the committee to pay attention to: details beyond the schedule and teams. VCU finishes the season with a 16.1 percent steal rate, the highest in the nation. A team that good indicates it plays very well defensively and certainly is one of the 37 best at-larges. The Schedule: No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament! Runs from March 2 to 5.

Double-digit territory

10. New Mexico, 22-6, 10 seed. A Sentence: The great dichotomy with New Mexico is that it’s a really talented team with an overall underwhelming resume, considering that talent. A Statistic: Lobos allow .87 points per possession, far and away the best of any Pyramid team, and it’s been that way most of the season. The Schedule: vs. Air Force, Wednesday; vs. Boise State, Saturday.

11. Harvard, 24-4, 12 seed. A Sentence: Another Ivy playoff is now a possibility, but I still think the Crimson will make the field and avoid a repeat of 2011’s heartbreak. A Statistic: With 61.4 possessions per game, Harvard is the slowest Pyramid team and one of the slowest in the nation, ranking 328 out of 345. The Schedule: at Columbia, Friday; at Cornell, Saturday.

12. Oral Roberts, 26-5, 12 seed. A Sentence: It’s going to take a heck of a five seed for me not to pick Oral Bobs to win its first game (the same goes for if ORU is sent to the First Four). A Statistic: How many teams have only lost once since Dec. 15? You’ve got Syracuse, ORU and the team listed directly below. The Schedule: No. 1 in the Summit League tournament! Runs from March 3 to 6.

13. Drexel, 25-5, 13 seed. A Sentence:  I only have ’em as a 13 because I think the Dragons get in as an at-large after losing the CAA title game. A Statistic: No Pyramid team has less of a bench than the Dragons, who only get their pine guys into the game 24.4 percent of the time. With mid-majors I often don’t think this is a problem, though. The best guys get adrenaline rushes and need to play as much as possible, and at their best, to stand a chance at winning. The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament! Runs from March 2 to 5.

14. Southern Miss, 22-5, 13 seed. A Sentence: While I’ve always appreciated the Southern Miss story, this is a team I don’t have much belief in. A Statistic: How can you turn your head from the awful 2-point shooting stat? At 43 percent, the Golden Eagles are pulling off one of the greatest capers ever by fighting for bubble position while being one of the worst teams from inside the 3 I can remember. The Schedule: vs. SMU, Wednesday; at Marshall, Saturday.

15. Iona, 24-6, 13 seed. A Sentence: I'll be furious with the Gaels if they squander this talent and miss the NCAA for the second straight year after winning the league. A Statistic: Cannot get over the fact this team went on a 31-0 run against St. Peter's Sunday. The Peacocks are a bad team this year but they're still stubborn defensively. A 31-0 run? How many times has that ever happened in college basketball? The Schedule: No. 1 seed in the MAAC tournament! Runs from March 2 to 5.

Posted on: February 20, 2012 9:51 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 11:06 am

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 14


By Matt Norlander

Color me confused. I didn’t expect this much rotation and shift in the Power Pyramid during its penultimate posting. (The last edition is next Monday, and then it goes in the freezer throughout the conference tournaments, sure to return around Thanksgiving.) But here we are, with multiple top-level teams in the rankings suffering back-to-back losses and generally regressing since the calendar turned to February.

For most of this season we had a lot of talented teams winning a high rates and creating separation between themselves and most teams in their conferences. Now we’re seeing the mean creep in, and few teams are going to get to March with four losses or less. At the mock selection process last week in Indianapolis, a number of these squads weren't viewed in high favor by the committee. That doesn't necessarily have to be the case, so long as Middle Tennessee State, Drexel and Oral Roberts all reach their conference title games.

Top Tier

1. Wichita State (24-4). A Sentence: Go back and check the first Power Pyramid, you’ll see I’ve championed the Shockers from the get-go. A Statistic: At one point this season, Wichita State had 2.56 years of experience on this team, per KenPom. Now it’s at 2.51. The Shockers have actually figured out how to get younger, and I think we all know the answer lies somewhere in Gregg Marshall’s hair. The Schedule: at Illinois State, Wednesday; vs. Drake, Saturday.

2. Murray State (26-1). A Sentence: I’ll contradict my SDSU sentiment and say, despite the 59 KenPom ranking, I think Murray State has Sweet 16 potential in those bones. A Statistic:  All five Racers starters score more than 1.1 points per possession — that’s just sexy.  The Schedule: at Tennessee  State, Thursday; at Tennessee Tech, Saturday.

3. Temple (21-5). A Sentence: It’s actually reached a point where Temple’s being criminally underappreciated, so I’m doing what I can by putting them this high in the Pyramid. A Statistic: When he was snaring 34.6 of defensive-rebound opportunities in early December, Michael Eric was the best on that end of the floor in the country. Now it’s 28 percent and he’s no longer elite, despite the fact he’s still critical to this team’s big-picture legitimacy. The Schedule: at La Salle, Wednesday; at St. Joseph’s, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. New Mexico (22-4). A Sentence: At this point, if you’re detracting from New Mexico then I’m going to go ahead and assume chocolately desserts aren't your bag either. A Statistic: Rankings-wise, UNM is a much better team from 3 (39.5 percent is 16th-best) than 2 (49.7 percent is No. 100 in D-I). The Schedule: at Colorado State, Tuesday; at TCU, Saturday.

5. UNLV (22-6). A Sentence: I’m actually loving the fact UNLV’s tripping a bit here, because now fewer people think this team is capable of reaching the second weekend (suckers!). A Statistic:  UNLV’s first three losses came in a span of 64 days. The next three losses took two weeks. The Schedule: vs. Boise State, Wednesday; vs. Air Force, Saturday.

6. Gonzaga (21-5). A Sentence: Just when you want to believe in Gonzaga, it goes out and reminds you that it’s still plenty fallible (loss at San Francisco, but still, this team's talented). A Statistic: At least the Bulldogs have remained aggressive. They’re 48-percent free-throw rate is top-five in the nation, where Gonzaga’s been sitting all season. The Schedule: vs. BYU, Thursday; at San Diego, Saturday.

7. Harvard (23-3). A Sentence: Don’t let the three losses trick you into thinking this team is better than five-loss 2010 Cornell. A Statistic: Harvard’s deep, and that’s great, but it’s also been healthy. Seven vital players on the team have played in every game so far. The Schedule: vs. Princeton, Friday; vs. Penn, Saturday.

Bruiser Flint's Dragons are closing in on 20 straght Ws. (AP)

8. Saint Mary’s (23-5). A Sentence: Like UNLV, SMC lost back-to-back games this week and has dropped three of four.  A Statistic: I’m looking at where a lot of teams have gotten better or worse in a stat as opposed to two or three months ago. Saint Mary’s used to be the third-best defensive rebounding team in the country. Now it’s 18th (73 percent). The Schedule: at Portland, Thursday; at San Francisco, Saturday.

9. Oral Roberts (25-5). A Sentence: If ORU’s anything worse than a 12, and if it wins the Summit title, then it’s a screw job by the committee. A Statistic: What remains most impressive about ORU is the fact it doesn’t have a player taller than 6-9, yet it’s most efficient at blocking. The Schedule: at Southern Utah, Saturday.

10. San Diego State (20-6). A Sentence: I should’ve sold on SDSU last week, because now it’s lost three straight and the frontcourt issues become more glaring as the games go by. A Statistic: The average KenPom rating for SDSU on the year. What do you think it is? I’ll give you a second here. … OK, it’s actually 57. Right now, the Aztecs are 61. Always been too low for my taste, but I wonder if this is a sign that SDSU will be hard-pressed to reach the second weekend. The Schedule: vs. Wyoming, Wednesday; vs. Colorado State, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Creighton (23-5). A Sentence: That win over Long Beach State, I think, was about as great of a way to stop the bleeding as the ’Jays could have asked for.  A Statistic: One of my favorite stats to track this season was Creighton’s shooting. They’ve remained, all year, long, the best eFG team in the country. At 58.7, they cling to the lead by .4 over Denver. The Schedule: vs. Evansville, Tuesday; at Indiana State, Saturday.

12. Virginia Commonwealth (23-6). A Sentence: It might be tough to believe, but I don’t see VCU with a chance at an at-large (I know, where have you heard this before?) unless it reaches the CAA title game. A Statistic: This is fodder for a post I’m doing later this week (so none of you bloggers reading this can take it), but VCU of 2011 is the opposite of VCU of 2012. Last year’s offense and defensive adjusted rankings: 32 and 86, respectively. This year: 91 and 28. The Schedule: at UNC Wilmington, Wednesday; vs. George Mason, Saturday.

13. Middle Tennessee State (24-4): A Sentence: All one-loss conference teams that are above .500 in non-con play deserve the courtesy of a look; MTSU will be 17-1 if it wins two more. A Statistic: The Blue Raiders are so good because they’re weak league allows eight player to shoot better than 50 percent in eFG%. The Schedule: at Louisiana Monroe, Thursday; at Western Kentucky, Saturday.

14. Drexel (23-5). A Sentence: New to the Pyramid, can the Dragons get in without a CAA title? A Statistic: The Dragons get in during the second-to-last go-around of the Pyramid because they’re the best Pyramid team at defending shots, allowing 42.9 percent effective field goal percentage from opponents. The Schedule: vs. James Madison, Wednesday; at Old Dominion, Saturday.

15. Southern Miss (22-5). A Sentence: I’m doing my best not to overreact to a two-point loss at Houston. A Statistic: And yet, I know if Southern Miss makes the tournament there’s now no chance I’m taking them to win a game. They’re 43.6 percent from the field from 2-point range. That’s putrid — and USM isn’t a top-100 defense as is. Smoke and mirrors, I’m afraid. The Schedule: at UTEP, Wednesday; vs. Rice, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out: Long Beach State. In: Drexel.
♦ With one more week to go, chance for tossing teams in and out is slim-to-none. Would take some bad losses on Drexel, MTSU, VCU and Southern Miss’ behalf to get expelled.

Posted on: February 13, 2012 9:47 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 11:35 am

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 13

By Matt Norlander

I love Marchuary. You see those games over the weekend? Lots of shift and results of note. Felt like March. But it’s February. Hence: Marchuary. Sounds terrible, but let’s roll with it. Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, so I had to dress up the graphic nice and romantic for you. I’ll have Valentine’s Day-themed post coming, too. It’s already done, but I’d rather save it for the 14th and all, you know?

It’s now, officially, less than a month until Selection Sunday, which means we’ve got only three more editions of the Power Pyramid remaining. I’m always taken aback by how fast February moves, as if someone’s TiVo’ing the season and got two arrows boo-booping through out of angst and anticipation for the real show in March. I still maintain the teams here, a good cluster of them, will be heard from and do damage in this year's bracket. Let's see who's in the top 15 this week.

Top Tier

1. UNLV (22-4). A Sentence: A one-week break and UNLV returns to the top, where it’s likely to remain the rest of the regular season. A Statistic: Ask a coach the two things he wants out of his team more than anything — aside from the obvious of making as many baskets as possible. The two things? Don’t let the other team get offensive rebounds and don’t turn the ball over. UNLV is so good because Mike Moser is the third-best d-boarder in the nation (27.9 percent), and starting 1 Justin Hawkins is top-10 in turnover percentage, only coughing it up on 8.2 possessions for every 100. The Schedule: at TCU, Tuesday; at New Mexico, Saturday.

2. Saint Mary’s (23-3). A Sentence: The reason why I’ve enjoyed tracking non-BCS teams so much this year, you can make the argument six or seven teams were the best, and Saint Mary’s is still in the thick of that discussion. A Statistic: Is it Rob Jones, not Matthew Dellavedova, who’s the most valuable Gael? Jones is top-three in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and assists for this team. The Schedule: vs. Loyola Marymount, Wednesday; at Murray State, Saturday.

3. San Diego State (20-4). A Sentence: As far as I’m concerned, barring a real collapse, SDSU locked up an at-large Saturday with how it played against UNLV. A Statistic: Despite this good year, SDSU is not on KenPom.com’s good side. It started out the season as the No. 54 team, it’s never been better than 48, and as of today it’s 56th. The Schedule: vs. New Mexico, Wednesday; at Air Force, Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

Temple is looking pretty these days. (US PRESSWIRE)

4. Murray State (24-1). A Sentence: Tennessee State did a great job getting that win Thursday night, but TSU is no world beater, and so Murray has to take a hit this week. A Statistic: Looking ahead, regardless of who reps the Ohio Valley in the NCAAs this year, there’s history on the line. After going 19 years between wins in the Big Dance, the Ohio Valley’s now had a team win a game three years in a row. It’s never happened in four straight seasons. You’d think chances are fairly decent with the year Murray State’s had.  The Schedule: at Southeast Missouri State, Wednesday; vs. Saint Mary’s, Saturday.

5. Temple (19-5). A Sentence: I’m claiming Temple as my own now, considering I never kicked it out of the Pyramid and it’s clear Dunphy’s 8-2 A10 team is just as good as last year’s group. A Statistic: Yes, the Atlantic 10 had been pretty muddied up until this past weekend, but the Owls are now in control, and here’s why they should get a good seed. With an SOS of 21 according to KenPom, I think a five or a six is in store (this is me assuming they lose only one more game before the NCAAs). The Schedule: at St. Bonaventure, Wednesday; vs. Duquesne, Saturday.

6. Wichita State (22-4). A Sentence: Been awesome to watch the Shockers play themselves into the role of trendy mid-major sleeper. A Statistic: Joe Ragland has a true shooting percentage of 69.3, which is the second-best in the country. Yeah, that’s awesome. And he’s only behind Ricardo Ratliffe (73.1). Here’s the kicker: Ratliffe’s a big who bolts himself to the paint. Ragland a 6-foot guard who throws it up from everywhere. Truly remarkable. The Schedule: vs. Missouri State, Wednesday; at Davidson, Saturday.

7. Gonzaga (20-4). A Sentence: The Zags have been building to something very nice all season, but I get the feeling most won’t fall for this team until it reaches the Sweet 16 again. A Statistic: And on that note, only twice in the past 10 years have the Bulldogs made it to the second weekend, never beyond the Sweet 16. They’ve become a March staple but to me it feels like a bit of crying wolf these days whenever anyone really tries to prop up Mark Few's team as a serious March threat. The Schedule: at Santa Clara, Thursday; at San Francisco, Saturday.

We've loved Gonzaga all season long, but can this year be different from others? (US PRESSWIRE)

8. Oral Roberts (23-5). A Sentence: If you can believe it, the first regular-season conference title should be wrapped up this week, when ORU beats IUPU Fort Wayne and wins the Summit. A Statistic: ORU is a top-15 KenPom team in effective field goal percentage, free-throw percentage, two-point percentage and block percentage. No one else is so elite in four offensive categories. This team is no joke whatsoever. The Schedule: at IUPU Fort Wayne, Wednesday; vs. Akron, Saturday.

9. Harvard (21-3). A Sentence: I saw this squad in person Friday night, a night before it lost to Princeton, and I’m selling on them for now. A Statistic: I mentioned the loss at Princeton. Harvard snake-bitten at Jadwin, where it hasn’t won since 1989. The Schedule: vs. Brown, Friday; vs. Yale, Saturday.

10. New Mexico (20-4). A Sentence: I still say there’s an MWC Power Three, even if everyone else is giving all the love to San Diego State and UNLV. A Statistic: If the Lobos can’t get widespread respect, it may be due to the team’s turnover ways. UNM gives it away now 21.3 percent of the time, more than any Pyramid team. The Schedule: at San Diego State, Wednesday; vs. UNLV, Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. Creighton (21-5). A Sentence: I didn’t have any issue with Greg McDermott getting aggressive with his son during Saturday’s loss to Wichita State. A Statistic: Creighton averages 80 points per game, which is top-10 in the nation. But in its five losses? 64.6. The Schedule: at Southern Illinois, Tuesday; vs. Long Beach State, Saturday.

12. Southern Miss (21-4). A Sentence: I’d say Southern Miss needs two more wins this week, and then it’s about as close to a lock as a C-USA can be. A Statistic: Southern Miss is 8-2 through its first 10 Conference USA games. It’s never had a start this good in-league. The Schedule: vs. Tulsa, Wednesday; at Houston, Saturday.

13. Virginia Commonwealth (22-5). A Sentence: Well, well, well, look who just showed up at the party. A Statistic: Since they’re new to the Pyramid, you probably want to know what they do best. The answer: turn teams over. Shaka Smart’s teams gets a TO on 27.3 percent of opponents’ possessions, third-best in the country. The 15.7-percent steal rate is No. 2 in the nation, behind East Tennessee State. The Schedule: at George Mason, Tuesday; vs. Northern Iowa, Friday.

14. Middle Tennessee State (23-4): A Sentence: I know this: Kermit Davis’ team is going to be a formidable 13 or 14 seed. A Statistic: With 15 points and seven rebounds per game, LeRon Dendy (formerly of Iowa State) has been among the best transfer stories this season nobody’s paid attention to. The Schedule: vs. Florida Atlantic, Saturday.

15. Long Beach State (19-6). A Sentence: The 49ers made the inaugural Pyramid on Nov. 21, then promptly fell out … until making their grand return this week. A Statistic: Why’d LBSU get put back into the rankings this week? They’re undefeated in conference play — something no other Pyramid team can lay claim to. The Schedule: at Creighton, Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Cleveland State, Iona. In: Virginia Commonwealth, Long Beach State.
♦ It was appropriate last week’s two teams who didn’t feel like they belonged, Cleveland State (14) and Iona (15) promptly got the boot this week.
♦ And Ohio, who has been as close to inclusion as any team, essentially ruined its chances with back-to-back losses.

Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:40 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 8:47 pm

Night Court: Seton Hall, Purdue get bubble wins

Meyers Leonard struggled mightily on the offensive end against Michigan, as Illinois lost by nine. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: In a game with major implications for the bubble, Seton Hall went on an 18-5 run to finish the game en route to a 73-66 win over Pittsburgh. Even more impressively, the Pirates played the final six minutes without Fuquan Edwin, who fouled out after making a jumper to cut the lead to four. Brandon Mobley came up with an important steal, while Herb Pope made four free throws in the final 11 seconds, to clinch the victory for Seton Hall. Pitt probably needs to win the Big East tournament to get to the Big Dance now.

Win to brag about: Stony Brook came into Sunday at 12-1 in the America East and on top of the standings. Second-place Vermont simply went out and hammered the Seawolves by 19, holding them without a 3-pointer despite 15 attempts from behind the arc. Four McGlynn had 24 points off the bench for the Catamounts, who can now win a share of the regular-season title – and potential homecourt advantage in the conference tournament.

Loss to hide from: Only two days after beating Iona to take sole possession of first place in the MAAC, Loyola (Md.) was throttled at home by Fairfield, 68-51. The loss ended the Greyhounds’ seven-game winning streak, as they shot just 17.4 percent from the field in the second half. A 12-0 run midway through the second stanza broke things open for the Stags.

Player who deserves improper benefits: In the “Battle for Brooklyn,” LIU-Brooklyn senior Jamal Olasewere shot 11-for-11 from the field, finishing with 32 points and seven rebounds in an 81-78 win over St. Francis (N.Y.). The win keeps the Blackbirds atop the Northeast, and completes a two-game sweep of the city rival Terriers.

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: Michigan is most vulnerable on the inside, so most expected Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard to have a monster game on the interior. However, he struggled with foul trouble and only finished with five points on five shots as Michigan came out with a 70-61 win. Leonard did grab 12 rebounds, but Bruce Weber needed more offensive production from his big man. 

Numbers don’t lie:

  • 0: Binghamton is still winless after losing a 62-60 game to Hartford. The Bearcats have five regular-season games left to get a victory.
  • 6: The Northeast has a “Rivalry Week” where each team plays their rival twice in a matter of days. All six matchups featured 2-0 sweeps.
  • 26: Kyle Weems became the 26th played in Missouri Valley history to reach 1800 points, as Missouri State beat Bradley by 11.
  • 10: St. John’s became the first team in the country to lost 10 games to top 25 teams this season.

Three other notable results:

  1. Georgetown hit three 3-pointers during a key three-minute stretch late in the second half to hold off St. John’s, 71-61.
  2. The Big Ten featured a monster bubble battle on Sunday, with Purdue getting the big victory over Northwestern, 87-77. John Shurna had 30 points in the loss.
  3. Washington’s Terrence Ross had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead Washington to a 75-72 victory at Oregon State. The game was a must-win for the Huskies, in order to keep pace with California at the top of the Pac-12.


  • Connecticut announced that Warde Manuel will be the new director of athletics for the university. Manuel has been the AD at Buffalo for the past six years.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith tipped in a missed 3 with 1.8 seconds left to give Virginia Tech a 66-65 win over Boston College.
  • Scott Machado racked up a triple-double in Iona's tougher-than-expected win over Marist. He had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
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