The Other 26: Week FourPosted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2010
Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor. For an introduction to this series, please click here.
As every week of the college basketball season evaporates right before our eyes—like a double-digit lead is whittled down to a single possession in a matter of minutes—more and more stories subsequently develop. To draw a comparison to mathematics for you brainiacs out there, this is the classic inverse relationship. As “X”—the number of weeks in the season—decreases, “Y”—the amount of stories—increases. Think about it, when are there the most stories surrounding college basketball? At the end of the year during the NCAA Tournament, of course. From the moment Selection Sunday rolls around all the way to that final, depressing buzzer in the NCAA Championship game rings signaling an end to another season, it seems as if college hoops are being discussed 24/7. Just this past week, there were several major developments in the world of the Other 26:
- The top three teams in the Mountain West—SDSU, BYU, and UNLV—are a combined 27-0.
- Butler and Gonzaga have identical, albeit very mediocre, records: 4-4.
- Temple defeated Maryland and Georgetown, and in the process Fran Dunphy picked up his 400th win.
- Cleveland State has the most victories in the country with 11.
- One of the biggest recruits in the nation—Adjehi Baru—signed with the College of Charleston over a couple of ACC schools. Bobby Cremins really has something brewing down there in South Carolina. Could Charleston be the next Davidson? Both schools, after all, hail from the Southern Conference.
- Illinois and Oakland were getting in touch with their feminine side by using a women’s basketball for the first seven minutes of the first half of their game.
The inverse relationship will not fail as the season progresses. I promise.
Tidbits from the Rankings:
- A new number one: With Memphis losing to Kansas, and San Diego State picking up two very good wins against Wichita State and California, the Aztecs have propelled themselves to the top.
- The top three teams in the rankings are all from the Mountain West.
- Biggest jump: Central Florida moved all the way from #15 to #8. It was not so much their play that was so impressive, although they did blow out Southeastern Louisiana, but it was that some of the teams in front of them struggled. Plus, their victory over Florida coupled with a top 20 RPI is hard to ignore.
- I am still not entirely sold on Cleveland State. They have a “show me” game against WVU which will help me gauge just how good they are
- Gonzaga plummets to the bottom five after losing to Illinois and then being thrashed by Washington State.
- Two come and two go: New to the rankings this week are Missouri State and George Mason, while Rhode Island and Massachusetts have departed.
- Breakdown: 4 (MWC), 4 (A10), 3 (CAA) 2 (CUSA), 2 (Horizon), 2 (WCC), 2 (MVC), 1 (WAC)
What team impressed the most?
When writing the Other 26 article, I customarily spend the better part of the week crafting it until the conclusion of the games on Thursday night when I finally complete it. It would be a near impossible task to write an article of this nature following the Thursday games. I closely follow what teams have had big wins, what players have had impressive performances, and what the biggest storylines of the week are, then construct the article in this manner—slowly building it every night. I will not lie to you, after San Diego State’s 20-point victory over the Cal Bears on Wednesday night, I felt confident that they were the most impressive team of the week. I had written up a nice blurb on the success they had this past week, as well as their perfect 9-0 record for the year. After Temple’s victory over Georgetown on Thursday night, however, there was little doubt that the Owls were the most impressive team.
While watching their games against Maryland and Georgetown, I recognized two integral components that make the Temple Owls the team they are. First, they are one of the stingiest and most fundamentally sound defensive teams in the country (KenPom has them ranked #7 for defensive efficiency). They really get after their opponents, which is illustrated by forcing 19 turnovers against the Hoyas and 14 against the Terps. On the other side of the coin, however, I recognized what a treacherous three-point shooting team they are as they went a combined 6-24 from distance. For the year they are hitting only 23% of their shots from the outside. The sports adage “defense wins championships” certainly applies to Temple; they will need their defensive proficiency to continue to win.
What made this such a special week for Temple—more specifically for head coach Fran Dunphy—was how Dunphy picked up his 400th win as a head coach. I am sure coach Dunphy would have not asked for a better time to reach number 400 either as he did it by beating #10-ranked Georgetown on national TV.
Clip of the Week
Andrew Nicholson displaying his heroic, late game performances against Buffalo and St. John’s. The Bonnies are now 5-2 on the season thanks in large part to Nicholson’s clutch shooting.
Quote of the Week
San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher on how Aztec fans are reacting to their 9-0 start: “Our town, they’re a bit unrealistic in terms of what they think. They think we could probably play the Celtics, and if Kevin Garnett didn’t play we’d have a chance.”
Sharpshooter of the Week
Douglas Davis (Princeton)—Davis’ pinpoint shooting has Princeton out to an impressive 6-3 start with two name wins against Rutgers and St. Joseph’s. Since losing to Presbyterian—a game that saw Davis go 6-12 from downtown—the Tigers have won four straight with Davis combining to go 15-28 from 3-point land. In Princeton’s latest win against Monmouth, the Tigers would have probably fallen to the Fighting Scots if Davis did not connect on 6-11 three-pointers.
Clutch Performer of the Week
Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure)—There was not much deliberation for this one. Two game winning shots in consecutive games…that is pretty clutch. Against Buffalo, the sophomore from Ontario hit a shot with 6.7 seconds to beat the Bulls 76-74. Three days later, it was Nicholson to the rescue again. This time, the Bonnies really needed him to drill the shot. If he had missed against Buffalo, they would have gone into overtime, but a miss against St. John’s would have meant a loss. With 5.3 seconds remaining, Nicholson confidently sunk a shot from just inside the three point line to give St. Bonaventure another last-second win.
Freshman of the Week
Ray McCallum (Detroit)—He could have played in any of the Big Six conferences; he may have even earned some time at the point guard position at some of these big time schools. Ray McCallum, however, chose family over the national spotlight by electing to play for his father at Detroit. In last week’s action, McCallum averaged 17.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists over two games.
Best Individual Performances
Michael Glover, Iona—Glover has taken the MAAC by storm this season after spending last year at the College of Eastern Utah. He is the conference’s leading scorer and has led the Gaels to six straight wins. This past week, Glover has been a man among boys as he averaged 32.3 points and 11.7 rebounds in three games; two of those games were against MAAC opponents in Canisius and Niagara. Something happened to Michael Glover and the rest of the Gaels’ squad in between their loss to Bryant and victory against Richmond. Against Bryant, Glover had 12 points and just a single rebound, but when he faced off against a supremely talented Richmond bunch, he went for 21 points and 17 rebounds. Since then, Iona has looked untouchable, thanks in large part to the play of Glover.
Will Clyburn (Utah)—In his first season with the Utes—Clyburn spent two years at community college—Will Clyburn has been the most dependable player for Utah. In last week’s games against Bradley and Pepperdine, Clyburn had the two best games of his young Division 1 career by averaging 21 points, 13.5 rebounds and four steals. In the Pepperdine game, Clyburn was all over the court wreaking havoc on the Waves by stealing the ball seven times, and hauling in 13 rebounds. Playing in the Mountain West Conference with San Diego State, UNLV, and BYU, much of the attention is deterred from Utah, but Clyburn is unquestionably asserting himself as one of the best players in the conference with his impressive performances. More importantly for Clyburn, Utah is now 6-2 on the season after three straight wins.
Justin Rutty (Quinnipiac)—How is this for progression: 2, 12, 21, 24, 27? These are the figures for Rutty’s point progression over the last five games. During this stretch, Quinnipiac is 4-1 with their only loss coming on a buzzer beating shot by Massachusetts’ guard Anthony Gurley. Standing at just 6’7, Rutty plays much bigger than his frame would suggest as he averages 11 rebounds a game to go along with 16.8 points. This past week, Rutty put up 24 points against Mount St. Mary’s and 27 points against Lehigh, both efforts coming in Bobcat victories.
Charles Jenkins (Hofstra)—In a battle between two of the most prolific scorers in the state of New York, Greer Wright of Binghamton and Charles Jenkins of Hofstra, Jenkins had the last laugh after willing the Pride to an overtime victory. Jenkins scored 40 points with 31 of them coming in the second half; he converted on the game-tying layup with six seconds left to send the game into overtime. Jenkins has led Hofstra to four straight wins—after they began the season 1-3—and is shooting a very impressive 57% from the field during the season.
Norris Cole (Cleveland State)—Cole is the player that is behind much of Cleveland State’s success in the first part of the season. While there are some players around the country who had more impressive weeks than Cole (he averaged 19 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals over two games), credit is certainly due for the Vikings star. He rarely has off nights as his lowest point total of the season was 14 in a 23 point blowout of Milwaukee, and is the undisputed leader of the only 11 win team in the country. The knock on Cole and Cleveland State is that they have yet to play a formidable opponent, but they will have a chance to silent the doubters by going into Morgantown and defeating West Virginia on December 18.
Beating the BCS
Temple 64, Maryland 61 & Temple 68, Georgetown 65—How ‘bout them Owls? After returning from the Old Spice Classic with a disappointing 3-2 record for the season, Temple can officially call themselves king of the Baltimore/Washington DC area. In last week’s article I commented that: “Temple will surely find out what kind of team they are following this week.” Well, they discovered that they can compete with anyone in the nation due to their stalwart defense. Make no mistake; the Owls did not win these games by outscoring their opposition. Slowing down the Maryland and Georgetown offenses is no easy task.
Richmond 67, Arizona State 61—Against both of the BCS opponents the Spiders have faced off against this year—Purdue and ASU—they have beaten both of them, but against a team from the MAAC (Iona) and CAA (Old Dominion) they have stumbled. Go figure. A date with Virginia Commonwealth on Dec. 11 highlights a big weekend around the Other 26.
Montana 66, UCLA 57—Montana recorded the first victory in school history over the Bruins by beating them rather handily. The Grizzlies actually led by close to 20 in the second half, but UCLA scored some late buckets to make the score seem more respectable. After losing three straight to some exceptional teams (Villanova, VCU, and Kansas), UCLA may have taken their game against then 3-3 Montana for granted, but shooting 31% from the field and 22% from distance will not beat many teams.
Florida Atlantic 50, South Florida 42—South Florida probably beat themselves while playing Florida Atlantic by shooting 32% from the field and a paltry 1-16 from three, but this is still a great win for the Owls. The Sun Belt Conference appears to be wide open this year, and having a “W” against a Big East team will help with FAU’s confidence if nothing else.
Great recruiter, poor coach. That has always been the knock on Tommy Amaker. It would be impossible for one to make the claim that Amaker does not have a good basketball mind as he played and coached under Coach K at Duke from 1983-97. Krzyzewski is notorious for grooming former players into head coaches at the collegiate level. Take a gander at some of his former assistants who are now heading up programs of their own: Jeff Capel (Oklahoma), Johnny Dawkins (Stanford), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Mike Dement (UNC Greensboro), and, of course, Tommy Amaker (Harvard). Also, Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins—current assistants for Duke—will almost certainly receive a lucrative offer to become a head coach of a D1 school in the coming years. Thus, it seemed inevitable that Amaker would find a good deal of success as a head coach.
Hired at just 31 years of age by Seton Hall—the youngest head coach in the history of the Big East—Amaker took the Pirates to the postseason in each of the four seasons he coached at the New Jersey school. Yet, many critics believed that Seton Hall greatly underachieved considering the wealth of talent he brought into the program. After guiding the Pirates to the Sweet 16 in his third season, Amaker brought in a dynamite recruiting class the following year; it was such a strong class that ESPN had it ranked in their top 25. Eddie Griffin, regarded as the top recruit in the nation by some, highlighted the class alongside shifty guard Andre Barrett. Seton Hall, on paper, would have one of the best frontcourts in the country as the talented Griffin would play next to Samuel Dalembert. The expression “on paper” was a phrase that has unquestionably haunted Amaker throughout his coaching career. “On paper,” his Seton Hall team with Griffin, Barrett, and Dalembert among others would rack up many wins throughout the 2000-01 season, but that never came to fruition. Seton Hall finished with a 16-15 record that year. Not surprisingly, it was Amaker’s last.
How could such a young and talented basketball mind struggle as a coach? Maybe he was hired too young? Maybe Seton Hall simply was not the right fit for him? Maybe there was too much pressure to perform right away? Before investigating potential answers for the preceding questions, let’s briefly look into Amaker’s basketball bio (it is impossible to be brief when analyzing his basketball resume as it is littered with numerous accomplishments and accolades):
1983: Begins his college career at Duke where he still holds several assists and steals records
1987: Drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics, but was quickly cut from the team. He returns to Duke
1988: While at Duke pursuing his masters in Business Administration, coach Krzyzewski hired him as a graduate assistant. Duke advanced to five consecutive Final Fours while he was on the coaching staff.
1997: At just 31 years of age, Seton Hall hired Amaker as their head basketball coach. At Seton Hall, he led them to the NCAA Tournament once and the NIT three times.
2001: Michigan hires Amaker. While in Ann Arbor, Amaker never led the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament, but he did manage to win the NIT in 2004. More importantly, however, Amaker slowly improved the character of the program that had been tarnished due to several NCAA violations.
2007: After being fired by Michigan, Harvard hires Amaker as their head coach. Since coaching the Crimson, Amaker has brought in some of the best recruits that the Ivy League has ever seen.
As a head coach, Amaker has compiled a very respectable record of 224-184, yet he is certainly not regarded as one of the game’s masterminds. One must remain cognizant of the fact, however, that Amaker is only 45 years old; he is still relatively young in the college basketball coaching world. Furthermore, when he was hired at Seton Hall in 1997, he really was just a kid that was given the reigns of a Division 1 basketball program. When comparing his years coaching at Seton Hall, to his current job with Harvard, he is light-years ahead of where he once was as a coach. His basketball mind has continued to mature and develop.
Amaker, in his short time with the Crimson, has brought the school some of its greatest success they have ever witnessed on the hardwood. Leading Harvard to their most wins in school history with 21 last year, defeating 17th ranked Boston College—Harvard’s first win over a ranked team ever—and garnering a recruiting class that ESPN ranked in the top 25 are just a few of his accomplishments with Harvard. Clearly, Amaker can still recruit with the best of them, and now he is becoming a better “X’s and O’s” coach as well. Harvard is one of the favorites to win the Ivy League this year, and if Amaker can lead them to the NCAA Tournament it will be the Crimson’s first appearance in the Dance since 1946.
Who Will be Dancing?
Back in April, when the NCAA made the bold decision of expanding the Tournament field from 65 teams to 68, practically every discussion regarding the NCAA Tournament has centered around how the expansion will affect the selection process. The ultimate question now becomes: What kind of teams will garner those last three bids? Will they go to borderline teams from BCS conferences that are barely staying afloat with a record teetering around .500, or do they go to schools from the Other 26 conferences that have had exceptional years, but lack the big time name? At this juncture of the season, I believe it is too early to begin analyzing teams resumes and bodies of work, but as the season continues to progress I will continue to chart what Other 26 teams have legitimate shots to attain at-large bids to the Dance. Stay tuned in coming weeks for that analysis.
Important Upcoming Games
BYU vs. Arizona (Dec. 11)—The Cougars will face their biggest test of the season as they host Arizona. Not only will Arizona be a formidable test, but their stud sophomore forward Derrick Williams will be the best player BYU has gone up against so far this season. Good thing BYU has a pretty good player of their own in Jimmer Fredette who put up 49 points on the Cats last year. Defeating the Wildcats would do wonder for BYU’s resume as Arizona looks to be a potential Tournament team with a top-50 RPI.
UNLV @ Louisville (Dec. 11)—Just like BYU has their biggest test of the young season thus far on Saturday against Arizona, UNLV travels to Louisville for their biggest test. This Cardinals team is a bit of an enigma, however, as I am not really sure how good they are. While they will enter the game ranked 24th in the nation, Rick Pitino has constructed an extremely weak non-conference schedule. To date, Louisville has played Butler in their first game of the year, but after that the best team they played has been a 6-2 Marshall squad. Beating Louisville on national TV will bring some well-deserved notoriety to the MWC.
Gonzaga @ Notre Dame (Dec. 11)—If there was ever a must win game this early in the season, Gonzaga has one as the travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame. After being embarrassed by Washington State losing 81-59, the Bulldogs are 4-4 on the season and are at risk of moving below .500 for the first time since 2003 when they lost their season-opener against St. Joseph’s. In the 2003-04 season, however, the ‘Zags finished with a 28-3 record. Gonzaga has played a very difficult schedule—three of their losses have come against top 16 teams—but this is clearly not the same dominant Gonzaga team of prior years.
Richmond vs. VCU (Dec. 11)—Although this matchup does not have the allure of a game between two big time basketball teams, this is still one of the most enticing games of the weekend. Even if the Other 26 brand of basketball is not your cup of tea, following this game for the sheer matchup between two of the better point guards in the East—Kevin Anderson for Richmond and Joey Rodriguez for VCU—will be a great one to watch. Both teams enter the game with two losses, and both have legitimate aspirations to garner an at-large berth come Tournament time with the 68 team field this year.
Old Dominion @ Dayton (Dec. 11)—Another big clash between the A10 and CAA. Traditionally, the A10 is the stronger conference of the two, but the top of the CAA can more than hold its own against the A10. Old Dominion will have a chance to avenge a bad loss they had to Delaware a week ago, while Dayton is in need of a victory against a quality opponent. Pay close attention to the matchup between Frank Hassel for ODU and Chris Wright for Dayton as they will butt heads throughout the entire game.
Missouri State @ Oklahoma State (Dec. 11)—Much of the talk coming out of the Missouri Valley has been about Wichita State. Northern Iowa was the Cinderella last year, and it seems that the Shockers are being touted as the Valley’s big team this year. Missouri State, however, is out to prove they should be in the same discussions. The Bears enter the game against Ok. State with a 6-2 record, and have won their last four games. Their first loss of the year was by just four points against Tennessee in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Missouri State is led by Kyle Weems (14.8 points and 7.1 rebounds), but they have great balance on the offensive end as six players average nine points or better.