The Other 26: Week One

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.

Introduction

It is finally here. After a 216-day hiatus, crowds are again filing into the 345 arenas throughout the country—ranging from the colossal Carrier Dome (33,000) to the small, but quaint Charleston Southern Field house (790)—coaches are berating their players and the officials, the zebras are whistling while they work, and the student-athletes are providing us, the fans, with numerous drama-filled and gut-wrenching college basketball games. Is there anything better in the world of sports? I think not. I know I got butterflies in my stomach when the ball went up on November 8.

Now that many schools have a few games under their belts, I am pleased to release my Top 20 rankings of the “Other 26;” everyone likes rankings, projections, and predictions. There is a reason why virtually the second after the National Championship has concluded projections for next year’s Tournament are already being drafted up. There are, of course, always the preseason rankings that give people an idea of who the top teams are heading into the coming season. Suffice it to say, I am behind in the game by releasing my top 20 rankings of the “Other 26” after the season has begun. But, without further adieu, here are your top 20 after the first full week of action:

What team impressed the most?

I have placed four teams from the Mountain West conference in the top 10 as this is one of the most underrated conferences in America. BYU, UNLV, New Mexico, and San Diego State were all quite strong last year and all four made it to the NCAA Tournament. It is apparent that the top half of the Mountain West is  stronger than the upper echelon teams in the Pac-10. San Diego State demonstrated how strong of a conference this is by defeating Gonzaga 79-76, and in doing so they had the best week of any of our “Other 26” teams. The two-headed monster of Kawhi Leonard and Billy White up front will pose lots of problems for the opposition. One needs to look no further than how they carved apart Gonzaga’s defense by combining for 48 points, 21 rebounds and four steals. The Aztecs are legitimate and should be taken very seriously by the rest of the Mountain West and the NCAA Selection Committee.

Best Individual Performances

  • Jimmer Fredette (BYU)—Instrumental in leading his Cougars past in-state rival Utah State. Fredette, who scored 16 of BYU’s first 24 points in this one, hit two free throws in the closing seconds to solidify the win against the Aggies. In two games this year, Fredette is averaging an even 25 points a contest, but the more impressive statistic may be his 6.5 assists per game.
  • Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston)—There may not have been a better overall shooter—from both the inside and outside—than Goudelock in the season’s first week. Take a quick peek at these gaudy numbers through three games: 27-46 from the field, 11-19 from distance, and 7-8 from the line. Hitting on close to 60% of his 3-point attempts is unreal, and while he will almost certainly not convert at such a high percentage throughout the season, Goudelock has the ability to torch an opponent for 30 on any given night. He singlehandedly almost took down Maryland by dropping in 27 in the season opener for both teams. Oh, and did I mention that he averages five rebounds and six assists to boot?
  • Joey Rodriguez (Virginia Commonwealth)—It is hard to gauge just how good VCU’s big win over Wake Forest (90-69) was, but it is fairly simple to recognize how good of a point guard Joey Rodriguez will be for the Rams this season. Tabbed a preseason First Team All-CAA member, Rodriguez opened the season against UNC-Greensboro with a ridiculous performance as he dished out 17 assists to go along with 22 points. He has steadily run the Virginia Commonwealth offense by posting an impressive 5:1 assist to turnover ratio, plus he has hit four triples in each of VCU’s three games. In the Rams’ dismantling of Wake Forest, Rodriguez had 18 points, six assists, and only one turnover; his knack for valuing the ball makes him a true catalyst for the offense.

Beating the BCS

  • Princeton 78, Rutgers 73 (OT)—It will take some time for Rutgers to make their splash in the Big East, but first year coach Mike Rice is bringing in the players to do so. Still, this is a solid win for Princeton who figures to be one of the main contenders for the Ivy League title this year.
  • Stetson 89, Wake Forest 79 / VCU 90, Wake Forest 69—What happened to the Demon Deacons? After defeating Texas in one of the most memorable games of the 2010 Tournament, the Deacs appear to have fallen considerably. The loss to Virginia Commonwealth is not as bad as some may perceive (a 21-point loss is a wide margin though) as the Rams will contend for the CAA crown this year, but losing to Stetson is a tough one to swallow. Mind you, Stetson was picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic Sun preseason poll.
  • South Dakota State 79, Iowa 69—The Jackrabbits spoiled Fran McCaffery’s coaching debut with the Hawkeyes by earning a convincing 10-point victory in Des Moines.
  • Kennesaw State 80, Georgia Tech 63—If the leash was not already tight enough for Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech, it just became chokingly so after losing to one of the newer faces in Division I basketball. Forget the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, maybe it should become the ACC/Atlantic Sun Challenge; after all, the A-Sun has already garnered two wins against the ACC this year.
  • Seattle 83, Oregon State 80—The Redhawks, relocating to Division I after a long absence, earned its first win of the season against Oregon State. Seattle was handled easily by their first three opponents (Maryland, San Francisco, and Cal Poly), but used a 20-5 run in the second half to find a way past the Beavers for the second year in a row.
  • Rider 77, USC 57—In recent years, all of the talk coming out of the MAAC has been of the Siena Saints, and deservedly so. Could this be the year, however, that Rider makes some noise atop of the conference? After playing UMass to a close loss, Rider traveled across the country and absolutely dismantled USC. Justin Robinson had a near perfect shooting performance in the win: 9-10 from the field, 5-5 from behind the arc, and 5-5 from the charity stripe.
  • Yale 75, Boston College 67—Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the BC basketball program be. New coach Steve Donahue will spend much of this year experiencing growing pains with his current group. The first pain came at the hands of the Yale Bulldogs. Austin Morgan exploded for six triples and 25 points for Yale.

Coaching Profile

ESPN’s College Basketball Marathon kicked off with Memphis entertaining the Miami Hurricanes. This was a game I looked forward to not because I had a particular interest in either team, but simply because college hoops was finally upon us. The Tigers partially fell off the map last year due to the departure of John Calipari and several integral players, but they still managed to have a respectable year by advancing to the NIT. I knew that Memphis was coached by a young and first-time head coach, but knew little about his background and how such a prominent program like the Memphis Tigers could feel comfortable hiring such an inexperienced coach. This week’s coaching profile is on second-year Tiger coach Josh Pastner.

Pastner Appears to Have a Very Bright Future

Looking younger than half of his players and roaming the sidelines at just 33 years of age, one would surmise that Josh Pastner is a graduate assistant rather than the head coach of the Memphis Tigers. His extensive knowledge and experience with the game of basketball, however, parallels many of the veteran coaches he competes against night in and night out. A handful of the coaches in the college game were breaking into the profession while Pastner was still learning how to dribble in his native home of Kingwood, Texas. Despite his youthful exuberance, he has quite the basketball resume; check out Pastner’s basketball timeline:

  • 1990: Published the Josh Pastner Scouting Report
  • 1993: Coached an AAU basketball team called Houston Hoops—coached players such as Emeka Okafor, TJ Ford and Daniel Gibson.
  • 1997: Walked onto the basketball team at the University of Arizona as a freshman—won the National Championship
  • 2000: A graduate assistant at Arizona under Lute Olson
  • 2008: An assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Memphis
  • 2009: Named the head coach of Memphis following John Calipari’s departure to Kentucky

Pastner had the unenviable task of replacing Coach Cal, but has done well thus far compiling an overall record of 27-10. A tireless recruiter and workhorse in the basketball offices, Pastner is one of the most highly motivated young basketball minds out there. At such a young age and with a promising future ahead of him, we may be witnessing the development of one of the great coaches of our generation.

Clip of the Week

(scroll to 1:56 of the video)

Have we not learned anything from the 1993 NCAA Championship game between Michigan and North Carolina where Chris Webber called a timeout in the game’s waning moments when his team had none to be called?

Important Upcoming Games

  • Rhode Island @ Charleston (Nov. 19)—A contest featuring two offenses that can flat-out shoot the ball and put up points. The matchup between Delroy James of URI and Andrew Goudelock will be a dandy. Coaches are always looking at early season games that can help beef up their resume come tournament time, and this is one of those games for both teams.
  • UNLV vs. Wisconsin (Nov. 20)—Both teams breezed through their first two games of the season, essentially using them as a tune-up for this one. Can the stout defense of Bo Ryan fluster the run-and-gun style offense of UNLV? While not a conference game, the Runnin’ Rebels will certainly be looking to build up a strong out of conference record against “name” teams in case they do not win the Mountain West conference. As I already alluded to, the MWC is loaded at the top.
  • Wichita State @ Connecticut (Nov. 22)—There has been a lot of hype heading into the season about Wichita State, and what a better way to live up to this hype than defeating UConn on the road. Gregg Marshall, now in his fourth year with the Shockers, will be looking to take his squad to the NCAA Tournament for the first time (he went seven times with Winthrop). Kemba Walker, who put up a career high 42 points against Vermont on Wednesday, will be a handful for Wichita to handle.
  • Gonzaga @ Kansas State (Nov. 22)—The road does not get any easier for the Zags. Following a tough loss to San Diego State at home, only their fourth loss at the McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga now heads to Kansas City for the CBE Classic where they will meet Kansas State. Through three games, the Gonzaga offense has been Steven Gray and four other guys watching. K-State will certainly be keying on Gray, so it is imperative the Bulldogs find other options on offense such as Robert Sacre on the inside and freshman sharpshooter Mathias Monninghoff on the wing.
  • Butler @ Siena (Nov. 23)—Ah yes, two of the most notable Cinderella teams of recent memory (although Butler has probably officially played their way out of being considered a Cinderella again). Siena had a great three-year run where they made the Dance in all three years and won first round games against Vanderbilt and Ohio State. As for Butler, well, you already know about their magical run last year. On paper, Butler appears to be the better team, but Siena returns two All-Conference players in Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson, and is playing at the ever-tough Times Union Center. The Saints can ill afford to drop to 0-3 on the young season, while Butler is out to prove that their struggles against Louisville were just early season hiccups.

One week is in the books, and there are many more to come. From Wake Forest and Georgia Tech getting taken to school by the Atlantic Sun, to San Diego State’s emergence as a legitimate top 25 team, all the way to Yale and Princeton proving that not only are they two of the country’s elite schools, but that they can play some ball too, this will undoubtedly be an entertaining season of college basketball—just like every season is. Now, if only ESPN had that college basketball marathon every week…

rtmsf (3773 Posts)


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2 Responses to “The Other 26: Week One”

  1. Tony says:

    VCU plays in the Preseason NIT semifinals (Tennessee) and consolation/final (Villanova/UCLA) in NYC next week.

  2. Kevin Doyle says:

    Tony, you are absolutely right. In my haste, I was just looking at the schedule posted on Yahoo! sports, and VCU’s games in the Preseason NIT were not listed.

    In any event, I believe VCU matches up pretty well with Tennessee and may be able to steal one from the Vols. Although they are ranked in the Top 25, Tennessee narrowly beat Belmont and Missouri State.

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