Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2008

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Last time the America East week had two average weeks, this time the America East went 8-10 overall but UMBC had an amazing upset at Nebraska and Albany and Vermont are starting to separate themselves by winning all of their games the past two weeks.  Chauncey Gilliam, Danny Carter, Anthony Raffa, Jake O’Brien and Gerald McLemore are all freshmen that are getting better every day, and the future is looking bright for the conference.

Standings:

  1. Albany    8-4
  2. Vermont    6-3
  3. Binghamton    5-4
  4. UMBC    6-5
  5. Boston U    5-5
  6. Stony Brook    5-5
  7. Maine    5-7
  8. Hartford    4-8
  9. New Hampshire    3-6

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Stat Nerds of the World, Unite.

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2008

If you know anything about us here at RTC, you know that we love numbers.  We love breaking down game stats and looking for secrets in the offensive and defensive efficiency ratings that will help us better understand why Team X is playing so poorly or why Team Y is much better than their ranking.  We also love statistical oddities – little factoids of generally meaningless but still interesting data that we can bring up at RTC office parties and cocktail functions so that we’ll seem edumacated and wicked smart about the ins and outs of college basketball.  Or at least so that we can impress Dickie V when we next run into him at a spring training Rays game.  Yeah, that.

stat-nerds

So here are a few of the statistical items that we find interesting as we approach conference season – perhaps you will also.  (all stats furnished by basketballstate.com)

  • These guys had better avoid foul trouble. UAB’s Robert Vaden, Texas’ AJ Abrams and Virginia Tech’s AD Vassallo each average over 36 minutes per game for their teams.
  • Get these men the ball! Among players scoring 15+ ppg, St. Joseph’s Ahmad Nivins (74.2%), Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson (71.5%), Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin (67.9%) and Michigan St.’s Raymar Morgan (65.3%) are burning up the nets.
  • Double-Double Trouble. Of the 19 players averaging double-figure rebounds, all of them also average double-figure points.  But only two of them are 20/10 guys – Blake Griffin (23/14) and Notre Dame’s Luke Harongody (23/12).  Patrick Patterson is just a whisker shy of 20/10 (19.6/9.5).
  • Betcha Didn’t Know That…
    • Stephen Curry leads the nation in scoring (30.0), but Tyler Hansbrough puts up the most points per 40 minutes (34.4)
    • North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside, he of the 60-pt explosion two weeks ago, is #2 in the nation in assists (7.6 per game).  Or that Davidson’s Mr. Curry is 12th nationally in dime-dropping.
    • Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks is averaging 24.2 ppg so far this season.  The last Wildcat to average that many points per game was Dan Issel in 1969-70 (33.9).
    • VMI’s brother tandem Travis and Chavis Holmes are 1-2 nationally in pilfering the ball (4.0 and 3.7 spg).
  • Tempo Free Stats.
    • UNC is the most efficient offensive team in the nation (1.19 points per possession), but did you know that Purdue is the most efficient defensive team around (0.79 ppp)?
    • The tops of the ACC and Big East have extremely efficient teams on both ends of the court – UNC, Wake Forest, Duke, UConn, Pittsburgh and Georgetown all have large differentials (approaching or above 0.3 ppp) resulting in an extra point every three or four possessions down the court.
    • The slowest paced “good” team is Wisconsin, with 61.4 possessions per game.  UNC, unsurprisingly, is averaging 79.3 possessions per contest.
    • Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia own the boards, each team getting at or nearly 60% of the available caroms.  It’s difficult to find a “good” team that can’t rebound the ball, but Creighton is the best candidate for this award, only getting its Blue Jay hands on 48.2% of rebounds.
    • Notre Dame only turns the ball over one of every eight possessions (13%), but Kentucky gives it away nearly a quarter of the time (24%) and has still managed to go 10-3 thus far.  Incidentally, the Irish also rarely foul opponents (#1 in the nation with only 11.8 per game).  Tennessee, with all of its reaching and grabbing pressure defense, garners 21.3 fouls per game.
    • Georgetown, Connecticut, Xavier and Oklahoma live at the foul line, each getting a quarter or more of its points from the charity stripe.  Illinois, on the other hand, only gets about 14% of its points from the line.
    • The best offensively efficient performance by one team in a legit game this season so far was UNC  vs. Notre Dame, where the Heels averaged an astonishing 1.53 ppp in that demolition.

Got any others?  Feel free to pass them along in the comments!

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12.29.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on December 28th, 2008

This is the last installment of Fast Breaks for the calendar year, but it’s a loaded one with lots of news before the New Year’s ball drops.

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Bracketology- Never Too Early Edition II

Posted by zhayes9 on December 28th, 2008

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.   He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

Rather than wallow in my own pity after my Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs, it’s my duty here at RTC to provide our readers with another Monday morning bracketology. While the week was somewhat quiet due to the holiday, there were some significant upsets (Portland State!) and big wins (Texas winning in Madison) to shake up the bracket from last week’s edition. Once again, I took a still-developing RPI with a grain of salt and factored in non-conference SOS, but mostly I’m just digging through each team’s schedule to find quality wins/bad losses and comparing them to the other teams in the field for seeding.

As always, I mixed in a few upsets in the bracket for fun.

Some quick notes about the bracket:

  • You might be thinking that Tennessee, Michigan State and UCLA are overseeded. While that may be true, I had to factor in each of those teams winning their respective conference tournaments before Selection Sunday, meaning they’d garner three significant wins and take the conference title.
  • The four 1-seeds remained the same from last week: North Carolina, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma (I added the individual regions to the bracket and seeded these four teams closest to home).
  • Texas received the final 2 seed with their road win over Wisconsin, slightly edging out Notre Dame.
  • Baylor edged Syracuse for the final 4 seed. Baylor has a nice win over Arizona State and hung with Wake Forest while Syracuse’s three big wins- Florida, Kansas, Memphis- are all overrated.
  • Biggest jump goes to Butler (10 to 7) while the biggest drop goes to Xavier (3 to 6). Butler won at Xavier on Monday.
  • Kansas also took a three seed drop from 8 to 11 after their second half collapse at Arizona. Much like Illinois over Missouri, that was a very important game for a Kansas team looking for a signature win.
  • Maryland continues to be boosted by their two wins over Michigan and Michigan State
  • Portland State moves from a 15 seed to 14 seed with their shocking win over Gonzaga, with the Zags dropping to the last 3 seed on the table

rtc-bracketology-122808

Conference Winners: Vermont, Xavier, North Carolina, Belmont, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Portland State, VMI, Michigan State, Cal State Fullerton, VCU, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Miami (OH), Hampton, Creighton, BYU, Quinnipiac, Austin Peay, UCLA, Navy, Tennessee, Davidson, Lamar, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State

Last Four In: California, Boston College, Kansas, Dayton

Last Four Out: Kentucky, Miami (FL), Cincinnati, Louisville

Departures: Murray State, Stetson

Arrivals: Austin Peay, Belmont

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 10 (7), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), MVC (2), WCC (2), Atlantic 10 (2), MWC (2).

Not much change from last week in terms of the teams in the field. Next Sunday it could shake up a bit with all of these key bubble games:

Key Bubble Games for 12/29-1/5:

  • Cincinnati at Memphis, 12/29- This would be a stellar win for Cincinnati, who are currently in the last four out.
  • Seton Hall at Syracuse, 12/30- The Hall probably need wins over Syracuse and West Virginia to climb back into the picture.
  • George Mason at Dayton, 12/30- Big game for Dayton in the bubble picture. If Mason should win this game, I may replace Vermont with the Patriots.
  • Oklahoma at Arkansas, 12/30- Arkansas has a shiny record and zero good wins. This would qualify.
  • Northwestern at Penn State, 12/31- Reaching here a bit, but you never know this early.
  • UNLV at Louisville, 12/31- Louisville needs this game at home for a win over an NCAA team.
  • USC at Oregon, 1/2- If USC wants to start creeping back, winning at Oregon is a good start.
  • South Carolina at Baylor, 1/2- See Arkansas for South Carolina.
  • Arizona at California, 1/2- Huge bubble game for both teams.
  • Missouri at Georgia, 1/3- The Tigers cannot afford to slip up here.
  • Tennessee at Kansas, 1/3- Believe it or not, KU is on the bubble. A win over 2-seed Tennessee would go a long way towards securing a bid down the road.
  • NC State at Florida, 1/3- See Kansas for Florida. They’re lacking quality wins.
  • Charlotte at Maryland, 1/3- If Maryland slips up here, they could be out of the field.
  • West Virginia at Seton Hall, 1/3- Seton Hall needs this one at home.
  • Washington at Washington State, 1/3- Washington State dropped from consideration for this bracket. This is the first step in working their way back.
  • Creighton at Illinois State, 1/3- HUGE game in the Missouri Valley.
  • Cincinnati at Marquette, 1/4- Cincinnati with another chance for a big win here.
  • Kentucky at Louisville, 1/4- Biggest bubble game on the slate this week.
  • Virginia Tech at Duke, 1/4- Virginia Tech can creep back into consideration if they can spring a huge upset at Cameron.
  • Arizona State at California, 1/4- California is barely in. A win over Arizona State gives them more comfort.
  • Arizona at Stanford, 1/4- Another big bubble game for Arizona.
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ATB: Holiday Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

Let’s start with some news & notes…

  • Which of the ten (now nine) unbeaten teams are frauds and which are legit?  Not sure we agree about Minnesota, Goodman.
  • On Jan. 7th, ESPN will have its announcers switch roles, using its NBA team of Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Tirico to call the Duke-Davidson game, and its college team of Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale to call the Heat-Nuggets game.  One can only hope that Van Gundy and Jackson will get into an argument over how to best defend Stephen Curry.
  • Just tuning in to college hoops?  Here’s a season recap.  And here’s Jeff Goodman’s Xmas gift column.

Weekend Wrap. The weekend was generally light, with only a few really good matchups.  So we’ll just hit the highlight games in short order tonight.

Saturday Games.

  • LSU 64, Washington St. 52. Is LSU a team to watch in the SEC West?   Well, the Tigers are 10-0 at home and 0-1 on the road against the nation’s 300th toughest schedule.  You tell us.
  • Kentucky 76, Florida Atlantic 69. The Cats struggled in this one as a team, but Patrick Patterson (27/14/3 blks) is entering himself into first-team all-american consideration with his consistently superb numbers.  Consider that PP is averaging 20/10 on 71% shooting and is the second most efficient player in America (behind only Blake Griffin).
  • Louisville 82, UAB 62. Rick Pitino benched Earl Clark and Andre McGee and the Cards responded with the new lineup by pulling away from an overmatched UAB team with little depth.  T-Will nearly had a trip-dub with 21/10/7 assts.
  • West Virginia 76, Ohio St. 48. Unbeaten no more.  WVU put the smack down on the Buckeyes in their house, ending a 14-game winning streak and giving Bob Huggins sweet vindication given his previous snubs by the flagship university of the state of Ohio.   A 27-4 run in the mid to late-second half did the trick.
  • Michigan St. 82, Oakland 66. This game is only notable because Goran Suton started, contributing 16/9 in the process.  A healthy and effective Suton is key to MSU’s season.

Sunday Games.

  • St. Mary’s 87, San Jose St. 78 (Sat.) and St. Mary’s 76, Morgan St. 60.  Don’t look now, but SMC has now won nine in a row against a top 60 schedule.
  • Wagner 68, NJIT 58. That’s 45 Ls in a row now.  The next best chance for a win – try 1/21 against Bryant University.
  • UCLA 78, Lousiana Tech 55. It’s hard to tell whether UCLA is actually improving, but they’ve won their last six by an average of 25+ pts.  Jrue Holiday had 12/10/5 assts/3 stls today.
  • Illinois St. 72, Missouri St. 69 (OT). In a key early-season MVC matchup, ISU stayed unbeaten.  Down 15 in the mid-second half, the Redbirds used a 22-2 run to take the lead and held on in OT.
  • Florida St. 82, W. Kentucky 69. FSU pulled away late against the most schizophrenic team in America behind Toney Douglas’ 27/5/5 assts.
  • USC 66, Oral Roberts 56. Demar DeRozan had his third consecutive solid game (18/5) as the Trojans held off ORU.
  • Virginia 88, Georgia Tech 84 (OT). In an entertaining battle of two teams going nowhere this season, the Wahoos were able to steal a conference road win behind super frosh Sylvan Landesberg’s 26/6/5 assts.  We still can’t figure out why Ga Tech isn’t better than they are with the talent they have on that roster.
  • Lipscomb 74, Indiana 69. This is what we were afraid of with this IU squad.  With 5 minutes to go in the first half, IU led 37-16.  They were outscored 58-32 the rest of the way.  A four-win Big 10 slate should be considered a huge success this year.
  • Florida 74, Winthrop 45. Winthrop (1-10) is an abomination these days.   Halftime score – Florida 53, Winthrop 11.
  • Minnesota 82, High Point 56. Minny is now 12-0, its best start in sixty years.  That Tubby hire looks good right now, doesn’t it?
  • Siena 75, St. Joseph’s 74. Siena rallied from eighteen down to get this win, and in turn, may have saved its season.
  • UNC 97, Rutgers 75. Another methodical blowout win for the Heels.  Hansbrough had 26/10.  Up next for Rutgers…  #3 Pitt, then #2 UConn.
  • Stanford 111, Texas Tech 66.  This was the most shocking score of the weekend.  Certainly right now Johnny Dawkins is looking like a national COY candidate – he’s never lost a game!

On tap Monday (all times EST). Big Monday gets a jump before the new year with a blockbuster game – Georgetown at UConn.  The nightcap – Cincy at Memphis – isn’t half-bad either.

  • Connecticut v. Georgetown (ESPN2) – 7pm
  • Villanova v. Temple (ESPNU) – 7pm
  • Baylor v. Portland St. – 8pm
  • Davidson @ Charleston (ESPNU) – 9pm
  • Memphis v. Cincinnati (ESPN2) – 9pm
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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 27th, 2008

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Conference Notes.

  • Stanford is the only team left undefeated in the Pac-10 at 8-0.  First year coach Johnny Dawkins has the Cardinal off to their best start since 2003-04 when they ran off 26 straight.
  • USC finally beat a BCS opponent by trouncing Georgia Tech.  The Trojans are still way too inconsistent though, the game before they barely could handle North Dakota State.
  • Arizona freshman stud Jeff Withey must have seen something about Kansas he liked because Withey declared he is transferring there as of next semester.
  • The Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List has been released and it contains five Pac-10 players, senior forward Jon Brockman of Washington, junior forward Chase Budinger of Arizona, senior guard Darren Collison of UCLA, junior forward Taj Gibson of USC, and sophomore guard James Harden of Arizona State. Harden continues to make a strong case for player of the year with his fourth 30-point game this year.  He stands the best chance for it from the Pac-10, with Collison next.
  • The Pac-10 has their defining win with Arizona’s victory over Gonzaga, but still had a weak out of conference showing.  The only teams that are lock for the tournament right now are UCLA and Arizona State, after that Arizona surprisingly looks to be the next best bet, with an ever improving USC closing in.  If Cal or Stanford can keep rolling through once conference play starts they will have a chance.  Washington State needs to win at LSU to stand any chance.

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Week 4 Blogpoll

Posted by rtmsf on December 26th, 2008

Here we go with Week 4’s Blogpoll…

2008-09-week-4-blogpoll

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Checking in on the… Big 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2008

Josh & Mike of Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

Looking Back

The Big Ten had a big week, taking down two top 10 opponents and several other strong teams.  Minnesota had the most impressive and surprising win so far this season, taking down Louisville 70-64 on a neutral floor.  The Gophers were in control the entire game, with their most important offensive player, Lawrence Westbrook, limited because of foul trouble.  Up to that point so far this season, we didn’t know much about this team because of the inferior competition.  I’m not sure this win defines them (Louisville played 2 days prior almost 2,000 miles away – “the trip from hell” according to Rick Pitino), but it’s a signature win for a team that figures to be on the bubble this season.  If they’re going to make the dance, Minnesota will need forward Damian Johnson to keep up his solid play.  If it weren’t for the poor rebounding, Johnson might be an early-entry candidate after this season.  He makes his shots (59.7 eFG), has a healthy shot diet (22.6 shot percentage), and he’s a fearsome defensive player (11.2 block percentage, 4.7 steal percentage).  Oh, and he creates and handles the ball like a point guard (26.3 assist percentage, 16.8 turnover percentage). also posted a quality win over Texas this past Saturday.

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Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2008

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson from bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

The End of the (Non-Conference) Road. The WAC may have started off slowly in the non-conference schedule but has picked up the pace over the past two weeks. Over a three day span the league went 9-4 against their opponents including victories over two West Coast Conference schools (San Francisco and San Diego) and a pair of Mountain West Conference schools (Utah and TCU). The four losses were to two Pac-10 schools (Cal and Washington State), the Missouri Valley’s Creighton and Conference USA’s UTEP. This upcoming week will see the WAC enter its home stretch of non-conference games before the league begins conference play.

Boise State (8-3).
The Broncos rebounded from back to back losses to improve to 8-3 on the season thanks to a pair of victories on the west coast. Boise State defeated Cal State-Bakersfield 66-62 on Saturday, December 20, and then picked up a solid road victory over the West Coast Conference’s San Diego 75-72 just two nights later.  Boise State is off until after Christmas when they’ll close out their non-conference portion of their schedule when they host Eastern Washington on Monday, December 29.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

With conference play starting next week, four teams have emerged as the favorites to win the league – UConn, Georgetown, Pitt and Syracuse. After that, it is a mess of talented but enigmatic teams. Notre Dame, Marquette, West Virginia, Louisville and Villanova have all shown flashes of dominance, but have also had their flaws exposed on national TV.  By far the biggest disappointment has been Louisville. The Cardinals were a top 5 preseason team on pretty much everyone’s list, but unless Santa leaves a jumpshot under the tree for their each of the perimeter players, it could be a long year for the ‘Ville.

I’m at a cross roads right now. Is the Big East really not as good as they were made out to be, or were expectations for this conference so high that they could not have possibly lived up to them?  Clearly, Louisville is not who anyone expected them to be. Notre Dame has struggled, but they are still a top 15 team. Marquette, Villanova, and West Virginia were all borderline top 25 teams in the preseason, and not much has changed six weeks into the season.  I guess what I’m saying is that while the conference has hit a few bumps in the road, it is still as good as any conference I can remember. One thing is for sure – any Big East team that reaches the dance is going to be battle-tested.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: AJ Price, UConn

AJ Price was the reason that UConn rose from a middle of the pack Big East team to a conference title contender and a top 15 team last season. But coming off of off-season ACL surgery, Price has not been himself. Going into the Gonzaga game, he had no confidence in the strength of his knee, which is why he was not penetrating like he did last year. He was playing so poorly that Jim Calhoun was actually considering benching him (the same guy that was a top 5 point guard in the country in the last three months of the ’07-’08 season) for freshman Kemba Walker. Against Gonzaga, he returned to the Price of old. He finished with 24 points and 10 assists, getting to the line eight times (three less than he had the rest of the season combined) and hitting big shot after big shot. He hit six threes, including four in the last 11 minutes of the game. UConn’s biggest knock is their lack of perimeter shooting, which combined with their quick guards and finishers inside means that a lot of teams are going to go zone against the Huskies. Having an AJ Price that can penetrate and create against a zone makes them a much more balanced team.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Syracuse

The Orange proved a lot to me with their win over Memphis on Saturday. I’ve been up and down on the ‘Cuse team this season, mainly because of their inability to start a game strong. It happened again versus Memphis, as Syracuse found themselves down 19-9 early on before coming back to win. What was most impressive about the come back is how they did it. Eric Devendorf missed the game (but had his season long suspension reduced, maybe to as short as two games) which meant that Jonny Flynn was their only ball handler against a tough Memphis defense. Flynn, despite finishing with 24 and 6 dimes, had an up and down game where he took some ill-advised shots and made some bad passes. Neither Arinze Onuaku or Andy Rautins played all that well. Kristoff Ongenaet played just a few seconds in the first half after being benched for Rick Jackson. Outside of Jackson, no one (except maybe Paul Harris) played their best game. And Syracuse still beat a pretty good Memphis team. One more note, if Rick Jackson can emerge as another scoring threat in the post, it makes Syracuse so much tougher. Onuaku is one of the best big men in the Big East, but he has a tendency to fade during games. It almost seems as if he is pouting because of a lack of touches on the inside. Jackson has averaged 12.7 ppg and 7 rpg in the last three.

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Checking in on the… Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2008

College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

cct_logoThis Week in the A-10

By CCT Staff | December 22, 2008

CO-PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

Kevin Anderson (So.), Richmond
.  Anderson set the pace for the Spiders once again last week, keeping Richmond within striking distance of No. 10 Wake Forest before he and his teammates fell just short by a score of 86-79.  Anderson’s 21 points came on an impressive 8-of-11 shooting.  It marked the second 20-point game of the season for the sophomore point-man and the fifth of his career.  It also marked the 19th straight game in which Anderson registered in double digits.  In addition to his scoring, Anderson added four rebounds and a season-high four steals to his stat line.  On the year, Anderson is averaging 17.1 points per game on 48% shooting from the field.

Tommie Liddell III (Sr.), Saint Louis.  The Billikens registered two wins this week, thanks in large part to the play of Liddell.  Against USC-Upstate, Liddell contributed a double-double, with 12 points and 11 boards.  He also added three steals and five assists to help the cause.  Versus Liberty, Liddell once again recorded a double-double, this time with 15 points and 11 rebounds.  In addition, his blocked shot at the buzzer helped prevent Liberty from tying the game with a three.  One month into his senior campaign, Liddell boasts averages of 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Ray Blackburn (Jr.), St. Bonaventure; Kimmani Barrett (Jr.), La Salle

(Note: College Chalktalk’s week runs from the previous Monday through Sunday, given the release of ‘This Week in the A-10′ each Monday morning.)

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ATB: Lumps of Coal for Xavier and Gonzaga

Posted by rtmsf on December 24th, 2008

afterbuzzer1Bad Santas. Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings.  AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America.   The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings.  PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts.  Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game.  Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga.  GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight.  Would that have happened to UNC?  Pitt?  Duke?  UCLA?  Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally.  Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year?  Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior.  So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games?  Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise.  Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March.  Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line.  The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch.  If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.

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