The Week That Was: November 27 – December 3Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2010
David Ely is an RTC Contributor.
LeBron James’ big return to Cleveland on Thursday night got TWTW thinking if something similar could ever happen in the college hoops world. Now obviously it would be tough/impossible to create the exact same circumstances surrounding James’ seven-year tenure in Cleveland, his love affair with the city and their subsequent breakup on national TV this past summer. First we’d have to end the NCAA’s policy that forces transfer players to sit out for a year, as that would let players move freely to and from teams in a manner similar to free agency in the NBA. Then we’d have to find the right player that could possibly inspire the right amount of anger/hatred if he just so happened to “take his talents” to the wrong team.
OK, ready? Imagine if Tyler Hansbrough announced after UNC’s Final Four loss to Kansas in 2008 that he was going to transfer to Duke for his senior season. Kinda the same situation. A ringless player jumps ship in search of a possible championship. Imagine the public outcry. Imagine the reaction in Chapel Hill. Imagine Hansbrough’s first trip to the Dean Dome in a Blue Devils’ jersey. You think Cleveland hates James? Just think about hatred felt by Tar Heel Nation if the reigning player of the year jumped ship to play for its bitter rival. Cleveland fans harbored no ill-will toward the Heat before this year, UNC fans don’t need any reason to wish bad things upon Duke and Coach K.
I don’t know if the environment in our hypothetical Dean Dome would trump the Quicken Loans Area. But it would be a memorable night… one of the most epic evenings of hoops in college basketball history.
Anyway let’s get back to reality with our third installment of TWTW.
What We Learned
- Despite its overtime win at Virginia Tech, I don’t like what I see from Purdue. While discrediting the Boilermakers’ chops as a national player was a popular thing to do in the immediate aftermath of Robbie Hummel’s season-ending ACL tear, there was still a small group that warned people not to overlook Matt Painter’s club. “Hey! We’ve still got E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson!” There’s no debating Moore’s and Johnson’s basketball credentials, but the problem is there’s not much firepower apart from that inside-outside duo. Against Richmond and Virginia Tech, the Boilermakers put up some pretty dreadful offensive numbers. They only made four field goals in the first half against the Spiders en route to a 16-53 shooting night (30.2%). They improved slightly against the Hokies (36.2%), but Johnson and Moore combined for 43 of Purdue’s 58 points Wednesday night. To compete in a Big Ten that’s looking more and more loaded as the season progresses, the Boilermakers are going to have to find some offensive balance.
- Even though it boasts the best team in the country, the ACC stinks. Thank god for Duke (how many times has that sentence been written?). The Blue Devils provide some much-needed respectability to a conference that views itself as the center of the college basketball universe. This year, though, the ACC shares more in common with the Atlantic 10 than the Big East. #1 Duke is the only squad ranked in RTC’s top 25. Let’s take it a step further. If you look at the AP poll, the ACC only boasts two teams outside of Durham, N.C., that received votes. North Carolina checks in at #29 and Virginia Tech at #32. The conference lost the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by a count of 6-5. And for every positive result like Duke’s 84-79 win over Michigan State or Virginia’s upset at Minnesota, there were disasters like Georgia Tech’s 20-point thumping at Northwestern, Clemson’s home loss to Michigan and N.C. State’s 87-43 loss to Wisconsin. Could Duke possibly go 15-1 or 16-0 in conference play this season? TWTW wouldn’t bet against it.
- Maybe all of that talk about Florida’s return to national prominence was a little bit premature. The Gators began the season expecting to battle Kentucky and Tennessee for the SEC East title because they… ummm, they… why did everyone think this team would be great, again? Billy Donovan’s bunch definitely is going through some growing pains. Since its blowout loss at home to Ohio State on November 16, Florida struggled to beat the likes of Morehead State and Florida Atlantic and then got beaten by Central Florida on Wednesday. Like Purdue, the Gators aren’t performing on the offensive end. Florida has only topped 70 points once in the past four games, and its 75.3 points per game rank 94th overall as of Wednesday night. The most troubling stat for Florida is that it ranks 93rd in the nation in assists as only three players on the Gators’ roster (Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton) average more than one dime a game.
- TWTW can’t wait for Kansas vs. Missouri on February 7. The Tigers just might play the most exciting brand of basketball in the country, and if their style can make Georgetown seem like the Showtime Era Lakers then who knows what will happen when the Tigers and Jayhawks square off. Missouri and Georgetown staged what might go down as the game of the year Tuesday night, a 111-102 overtime thriller won by the Hoyas. Some people might look at the shooting numbers from that game (Georgetown went 39-69 from the field, while Missouri hit 36 of its 64 attempts) and say no defense was played. TWTW’s response? Who the heck cares about defense if two teams combine for more than 200 points. If you want to watch defense, order the Big Ten Network and watch Wisconsin-Michigan State on loop. I’d rather sit down and marvel at the Tigers’ fullcourt pressure and their incredible wing play.
- Malcolm Delaney is not someone I want taking a shot with the game on the line… at least not if I have other options. Did you see Delaney casually dribble the ball upcourt during the final seconds of regulation against Purdue? Delaney wasted at least two seconds, and his off-balance fadeaway from the left wing was a product of his lack of urgency. Delaney was just awful against the Boilermakers, shooting 2-18 from the field and 1-6 from beyond the arc. At some point a player needs to realize it’s not his night and look to get his teammates involved. At the very least Delaney should have abandoned his jumper to attack the basket and get to the line. But the Hokie senior only attempted four free throws in a game that went into overtime.
Pour This Man A Coke
TWTC does not condone underage drinking; so we’d recommend Harrison Barnes drown his sorrows with a nice, refreshing Coca Cola Classic. Maybe he could share one with Ol’ Roy (I hear he is quite fond of America’s most popular bubbly beverage). Barnes, thought by many to be the nation’s top incoming freshman and a candidate for the #1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft, hasn’t exactly been the savior Tar Heels fans hoped he would be. Barnes was expected to be North Carolina’s top offensive player this year, but aside from one nice half against Hofstra, Barnes has disappointed. His shooting numbers are poor (33.8% from the field, and 32% from three), and he’s not getting to the free throw line on a consistent basis. Equally troubling is Barnes’ tendency to disappear along the wing for stretches of play to the point that you forget he’s even on the court. It’s not Barnes’ fault that voters made him the first freshman ever to earn a selection on the AP preseason All-America team. But if the Tar Heels are to snap out of their funk, Barnes has to play better. Actually, instead of wasting time drinking coke, TWTC would suggest Barnes watch tape of a certain dynamic freshman who just so happens to play a few miles down the road. Duke’s Kyrie Irving.
KenPom vs. the AP
Here we address one team whose ranking in the KenPom and AP Top 25 polls* just doesn’t match up. Then we try to determine which ranking more accurately reflects where the squad in question should be placed in the nation’s hoops hierarchy. (*disclaimer: The rankings are based off the AP Top 25’s Week 4 poll, while KenPom’s is through games played through Dec. 1).
This week’s team is Illinois. The Illini currently are ranked #20 in the AP but #10 according to KenPom.
- Why Illinois should be #20: The Fighting Illini’s two best victories are against ACC teams (Maryland and North Carolina) and we all know that beating an ACC team not named Duke isn’t something to brag about right now. Illinois has not been tested on the road yet this season, apologies to all my Western Michigan readers, and it’s tough to get a read on a team as young as Bruce Weber’s until it travels to a hostile environment against a top-notch opponent. Also something that should give voters pause when it comes to Illinois is its shaky rebounding numbers. The Illini rank 114th in the nation in rebounding, averaging 37.9 boards a game. That’s not a recipe for success in a post heavy league like the Big Ten.
- Why Illinois should be #10: Illinois is one overtime period against Texas from being undefeated. The Illini have the nation’s 10th best defense according to KenPom’s adjusted ratings, and that could translate to a bounceback season for Weber and a nice seed come March. Plus senior Demetri McCamey is playing out of his mind at the point, averaging 15.3 points and 7.8 assists per game while hitting 51.6% of his shots from downtown.
- Our verdict: Despite KenPom’s faith in Illinois, I’m going to have to side with the voters on this one. The Illini’s weak rebounding numbers concern me and make me think that their lofty defensive ranking might not be indicative of their actual skill on that end of the floor. Illinois ranks 100th in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage (30.3%), but eventually the Illini’s inability to crash the boards will cost them some games.
The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.
- Texas Christian University is joining the Big East. This obviously was a football move for the Horned Frogs in their quest to join a conference with automatic qualifier status to BCS bowls, but there will be some basketball repercussions as well. One thing that Luke Winn points out is that Marquette now has more access to talent-rich Texas, which could make the Golden Eagles a formidable recruiter in a super-competitive conference. But probably the biggest reason to like the move if you’re a fan of a Big East squad is that your team now has at least one easy W on its schedule every year — even DePaul. If the Horned Frogs were a mediocre squad in the Mountain West, who knows how long it could take for TCU to become competitive in the Big East.
- The NCAA comes down hard on another foreign player. The NCAA rejected Indiana’s appeal on Tuesday and declared that Guy-Marc Michel would remain ineligible because of the five games he played with a professional French club team in 2007-08. One of the reasons Michel was ruled ineligible was because he enrolled in college in 2006, which created problems with the NCAA’s “five years to play four” rule. So now the Hoosiers will be without the services of the 7’0 center. Who will Tom Crean call upon to check Jared Sullinger now?
- Say what Len Elmore? The ESPN analyst said that Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl should be suspended for two years because he lied to the NCAA during its investigation of recruiting violation’s under Pearl’s watch. Yeesh. Two years is way too tough of a penalty. Here at TWTW, we don’t like the idea of two weeks without Pearl in my life, let alone the eight-game suspension handed out by the SEC. Regardless of what the NCAA determines the proper penalty for Pearl, he’s good for the sport. He’s fun, gregarious and a good coach — even if he broke some rules. Have mercy, NCAA.
Your Seven-Day All-Americans
- Kyrie Irving, guard, Duke — Wow. That’s all you can say about Irving’s performance against Michigan State on Wednesday. Irving dropped 31/6/4 assts on the Spartans, easily outplaying veteran Kalin Lucas. For someone that operates at a blistering pace, Irving sure works with deadly efficiency. He went 8-12 from the floor against the #6 squad in the country, and his shooting numbers for the year are otherworldly: 52.2% overall, 44% from 3 and 88.1% from the line.
- Casey Mitchell, guard, West Virginia — Where did this come from? Mitchell only averaged 3.7 points per game last year, but now he’s transformed himself into the Mountaineers’ top offensive player. Mitchell has scored at least 25 points in his past four games, making him easily the biggest surprise of the season.
- Austin Freeman, guard, Georgetown — You really could make a case for any of Georgetown’s guards here but Freeman gets the edge of Jason Clark and Chris Wright. Freeman hit six three-balls en route to a 31-point night in the Hoyas’ win over Missouri on Tuesday. That performance came just a few days after he buried seven shots from downtown and scored 32 against UNC-Asheville. For the year Freeman is 25-44 from beyond the arc.
- JaJuan Johnson, forward, Purdue — After a less-than-stellar showing against Richmond, Johnson acquitted himself in a big way against the Hokies. Johnson’s 29 points on 11-24 shooting counted for 50% of Purdue’s offense Wednesday. TWTC can excuse the fact that he only pulled down five boards considering how only one other Boilermaker (E’Twaun Moore) showed up to play in Blacksburg, Virginia.
- Rick Jackson, forward, Syracuse — All Jackson does it put up double-doubles — six in seven games to be exact. Jackson is third in the nation in rebounding at 13 per game. This week Jackson posted a 10/12 at Michigan, a 10/14 at Georgia Tech and a 17/13 against Cornell. Jackson’s increased his scoring a full three points per game this year and has scored in double figures in all seven games for the Orange.
- Jared Sullinger, center, Ohio State — We all know by now that Sullinger’s the real deal. All it took was his 26-point, 10-rebound effort at Florida for Sullinger to establish himself as a top-tier big man. But what I want to focus on is his ability to stay on the court. Sullinger has yet to foul out of a game this year and has only been whistled for four fouls one time.
- J.T. Terrell, guard, Wake Forest — There is very little to be excited about if you’re a fan of the Demon Deacons, but Terrell should keep WFU somewhat relevant. Terrell exploded for 32 points in a three-point win over Iowa on Monday, hitting 7-11 shots from three. Terrell might be a bit of a turnover machine (27 TOs through seven games), but his shooting could potentially swing a few games in ACC play.
- Tobias Harris, forward, Tennessee — Maybe it won’t matter that Bruce Pearl has to sit out the Vols’ first eight SEC games. Not if Harris can keep lighting up the scoreboard. Harris’s 15 points and nine rebounds were a big reason Tennessee upset Villanova in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off last Friday. Harris has scored at least 15 points in every game this year but will face his toughest test yet when Tennessee travels to Pittsburgh on Dec. 11.
- Trey Zeigler, guard, Central Michigan — Zeigler was off to a nice start, scoring in double figures in first five games with the Chippewas. But against Temple in his first big test of the season, Zeigler failed. The 6’5 guard went 2-11 from the floor and scored only five points.