2008-09 Quarterly Report – Q1Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2008
Believe it or not, we’re already one-quarter of the way through the regular season. Most teams have played seven or eight of their allotted 28 regular season games, and as we head into the next two weeks of semester finals, things will quiet down a bit. Thus, now is a good time to stop, take a look back at the first month of the season, and reflect as to some of the things we think we’ve learned through the “getting to know us” portion of the schedule. Here’s your 2008-09 First Quarter Report. (all stats and records through Sun. Dec. 7th)
Top Storyline. Nothing could be finer than to be from Carolina. Right now, the top storyline is whether anyone can stop the North Carolina Tarheels before April 6th in Detroit. There’s no need to go over all the impressive stats in this space again (check here instead), but suffice it to say that UNC has looked absolutely dominant through its eight games, and the reigning NPOY has only played in half of them. It’s an absolute lock that UNC will hit ACC play undefeated and it’s very difficult to envision a scenario where the Heels drop more than a couple in league play by March Madness. The storyline from here on out will be if any other team(s) develop to the point where they can realistically challenge UNC.
The Impact of the Longer Three. To all those coaches who said they didn’t expect the one-foot-longer three-pointer to have much of an effect on their particular team this season, we offer the following evidence through one month of the longer line. Not only are percentages down across the board to levels not seen in over a decade (from 35.02% to 33.87%), but teams are shooting and making nearly one fewer three per game. As StatSheet.com shows on their superb tracking page, twenty of the twenty-five top three-point shooting teams and sixteen of the top twenty-nine returning shooters from last season are down compared to this season. Nearly 60% of all teams are down from last year as well. Say what you want about the degree of impact that the new line is having, but so far there is no doubt that the 20’9 line is having an impact on shooting. Not to mention the confusion we’ve witnessed in players as they step all over several lines (on many courts) trying to find their way to the proper men’s college line on the floor.
- POY. The player of the year race involves three players (+1) right now. Blake Griffin (25/16 on 67% FG – Oklahoma), Stephen Curry (31/6 assts/3 stls on 50%/41% FG/3FG – Davidson) and James Harden (26/7/4 assts on 58%/50% FG/3FG – Arizona St.) have destroyed everything in their paths so far this year, and it’s really too close to call at this point. Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) has been injured, but we know he’ll be a major factor in the remainder of the season.
- FrOY. This isn’t a season like last year, where players such as Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose were mentioned as POYs in addition to the rookie award. Still, there are some good frosh to keep an eye on – our pick thus far is Steph’s little bro – Seth Curry (21/5 on 44%/41% FG/3FG – Liberty), who appears to be another ‘miss’ for the ACC just like his brother. Honorable mention goes to Samardo Samuels (17/5 on 67% FG – Louisville) and Tyreke Evans (16/6/4 assts/3 stls on 44% FG – Memphis) for leading their teams thus far.
- COY. John Beilein at Michigan is the current choice, for knocking off two top 5 squads (UCLA and Duke) in the span of sixteen days with a team that wasn’t supposed to be ready to compete this year. As of now, Michigan looks like a mid-level NCAA Tournament team. Honorable mention could go to a number of the top 10 (Roy Williams, Jamie Dixon, Mark Few, Jeff Capel, etc.), but how about Jimmy B. at Syracuse? Everyone knew the Orange had talent coming into this season, but lingering questions remained about the last two seasons worth of regular season flameouts. Wins over Kansas and Florida in the CBE Classic re-awakened America to the fact that Cuse isn’t going to be a Big East also-ran again this year.
Early Surprise Teams. We already covered Michigan and Syracuse. How about Gonzaga, who has finally figured out how to stop people, and in so doing, won the Old Spice Classic over Tennessee and appears well-suited for its position in the top five of the rankings. For some others, we go to the Buckeye State, where Thad Matta’s Ohio St. team has two road upset wins (@ Miami (FL) and v. Notre Dame in Indy) to its credit and a new star-on-the-rise in Evan Turner. Dayton is another team off to a hot start, with road wins at Auburn, Akron and Marquette on its early resume.
Early Disappointments. Michigan St. takes the prize here, and not just because they were destroyed by UNC 80 miles from E. Lansing last week. No, because they also were destroyed by Maryland the previous week, and doggone near lost to IPFW prior to that. Tom Izzo isn’t getting consistent production from his wings and this preseason top five team barely looks to be top 25 at this point. Florida is another disappointment thus far (along with the entire SEC). Billy Donovan may have to close the locker rooms again because the Gators aren’t playing any defense (#241 in FG% defense) and Joakim Noah isn’t walking back through that door. (sidenote: does anyone care – Urban Meyer is back in the BCS title game) UCLA has also been a little disappointing, but that’s most likely because too much was expected too early based on Howland’s magic. We’ll check back with them in two months for a fairer comparison.
Biggest Upset. VMI 111, Kentucky 103. Is there any question about this one? Rupp Arena isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still Rupp Arena, and VMI walking into Kentucky’s home barn and dropping 111 on the Cats and stealing a win will probably end up being the biggest upset of the year. Honorable mention goes to Utah’s ridiculous opening loss to D2 Southwest Baptist 80-79.
Big Games (next four weeks).
- Texas v. Villanova (@ New York) - 12.09.08
- Memphis @ Georgetown – 12.13.08
- Marquette v. Tennessee (@ Nashville) – 12.16.08
- Connecticut v. Gonzaga (@ Seattle) – 12.20.08
- Xavier v. Duke (@ E. Rutherford) – 12.20.08
- Syracuse @ Memphis – 12.20.08
- Davidson @ Purdue – 12.20.08
- Texas @ Wisconsin – 12.23.08
- Georgetown @ Connecticut – 12.29.08
- Tennessee @ Kansas - 01.03.09
- Kentucky @ Louisville – 01.04.09
Extremes. There are seventeen unbeaten teams remaining, eleven from the power conferences and all but Butler from the high-mids. Fully a quarter of the nation’s best conference – the Big East – remains undefeated. Conversely, thirteen schools remain winless at the quarter-season mark. The SWAC (4) and Independents (3) with their guaranteed-money games are taking the brunt of the pain here. NJIT in particular is now at a record 40 losses in a row.
- Dayton (A10) – 8-0
- Xavier (A10) – 7-0
- Clemson (ACC) – 9-0
- UNC (ACC) – 8-0
- Wake Forest (ACC) – 8-0
- Oklahoma (B12) – 8-0
- Pittsburgh (Big East) – 9-0
- Connecticut (Big East) – 8-0
- Syracuse (Big East) – 8-0
- Villanova (Big East) – 8-0
- Minnesota (B10) – 8-0
- Ohio St. (B10) – 5-0
- Butler (Horizon) – 7-0
- Illinois St. (MVC) – 8-0
- BYU (Mtn West) – 8-0
- Stanford (Pac-10) – 4-0
- Gonzaga (WCC) – 6-0
- Fordham (A10) – 0-6
- USC Upstate (A-Sun) – 0-6
- North Florida (A-Sun) – 0-7
- NJIT (Ind) – 0-7
- Houston Baptist (Ind) – 0-8
- NC Central (Ind) – 0-9
- Wright St. (Horizon) – 0-6
- Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC) – 0-6
- Southern (SWAC) – 0-6
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff (SWAC) – 0-7
- Texas Southern (SWAC) – 0-8
- Miss. Valley St. (SWAC) – 0-10
- Loyola Marymount (WCC) – 0-8