The Other 26: Week 10

Posted by KDoyle on January 21st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

The week is here, long at last. Going into the season, BYU and San Diego State were projected to be strong, but this strong? Just to give you an idea of where these two juggernauts stood before the season, the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll had San Diego State receiving 73 votes and BYU 55 votes in the top 25 poll. In Zach Hayes’ Bracketology—a bracket that, in my mind, is very accurate for his latest edition—he had SDSU as a six seed and BYU a seven. Clearly, each team has exceeded many of the critics and so called experts expectations. Who would have thought that the teams would combine to have a 38-1 record at this stage of the season? Not even Steve Fisher or Dave Rose would have thought that.

In the grand scheme of things, the tilt in Provo, Utah, next week will not have an impact on whether or not either team will make the NCAA Tournament—it is a foregone conclusion that both are in—but this may be San Diego State’s biggest roadblock between them having an undefeated regular season or not. Can the magic carpet ride that San Diego State has been flying on continue, or will Jimmer Fredette and Co. take the air right out from under them? It will all go down on Wednesday evening in Provo.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

  • Make it six straight weeks that the number one and two teams in the rankings have gone unchanged.
  • Below the top two, there was plenty of movement within the rankings. The biggest loser was, easily, Central Florida. The Knights fell flat on their faces losing to East Carolina and Southern Mississippi—both losses were by double-figures. Conversely, the biggest winner was Old Dominion who ascended five spots with critical wins over Hofstra and James Madison.
  • Utah State continues to rise, and broke into the top five with two more wins.
  • Belmont, who was not in the top 20 two weeks ago, has hit #15. It is a real pleasure to watch them play basketball—do your best to watch them in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
  • New to the rankings this week are Duquesne, UTEP and Colorado State. Falling out are Dayton, UAB, and Princeton. I hate to drop out a team that did not have a game—Princeton—but the fact they have played only one game in 2011 makes it hard to keep them in there.
  • On the outside looking in, in no particular order: Xavier (12-5), Coastal Carolina (16-2), Virginia Commonwealth (14-5), James Madison (15-4), Southern Mississippi (14-4), and Valparaiso (14-5).
  • Breakdown: 4 (MWC), 3 (CUSA), 3 (A10), 2 (WCC), 2 (Horizon), 2 (MVC), 1 (Ivy), 1 (CAA), 1 (WAC), 1 (A-Sun)

What team impressed the most?

Just a couple weeks ago, Duquesne looked like a middle of the road Atlantic 10 team at best, but their high flying offense—maybe the best in the league—has the Dukes sitting pretty at 4-0. On the outset, it would appear that Bill Clark is the catalyst behind Duquesne’s proficient offensive output. While the senior from California is responsible for putting many points up on the scoreboard for Duquesne, it may be the Dukes’ defense that is igniting their offense more than anything. In Atlantic 10 competition, they are averaging 10 steals and 5.5 blocks a game which are both league highs.  In the coming week, Duquesne has two very winnable games against Charlotte and Fordham. If they are able to enter their game at home with Dayton on January 30 with a 6-0 league record, they would be looked upon as a very legitimate contender, if they are already not seen as one right now.

Clip of the Week

Pure athleticism on behalf of Drew Gordon:

Quote of the Week

Marshall head coach Tom Herrion on the victory over West Virginia: “Either you go to West Virginia and you don’t like Marshall or you go to Marshall and you don’t like West Virginia. We did it for the fans. We did it for the school.”

That, in a nutshell, is what college sports are all about. When out on the floor competing, one is playing for so much more than just himself and teammates.

Sharpshooter of the Week

D.J. Gay, San Diego State—The Aztecs and D.J. Gay entered “the Pit” and did something that not many teams are able to do at New Mexico’s arena: Win. Gay had the hottest hand of his career connecting on 7-11 from downtown in a ten point victory. Just days later within the much more friendly confines of Cox Arena, Gay still was feeling it as he went 6-11 from three. For the two games, Gay was 1-5 from inside the arc, but 13-22 from outside.

Clutch Performer of the Week

Zac Swansey, Tennessee Tech—There were plenty of last second shots and clutch performances in the past seven days, but as Swansey’s three pointer from the top of the key left his hand and slowly made its way to the bottom of the net, it carried a whole lot of weight that extended further than just Tennessee Tech’s game against Austin Peay. The Governors were all alone in first place in the Ohio Valley Conference, so not only did Swansey’s big shot draw his Golden Eagles closer to AP in the OVC, it also allowed the other top teams to gain ground on them as well. Big, big shot.

Freshman of the Week

Doug McDermott, Creighton—Not only has McDermott been one of the best freshmen in the Missouri Valley, but he is also when of the best overall players regardless of class. In a narrow two point loss against Indiana State and a victory over Bradley, McDermott averaged 17.5 points and 9 rebounds. For the season, McDermott ranks seventh amongst Other 26 freshmen in scoring.

Best Individual Performances

  • Kwame Morgan II, Hampton—Morgan had two huge games in MEAC action as he combined for 56 points on 10-23 shooting from behind the arc to lead Hampton to wins over Norfolk State and North Carolina A&T. Hampton sits at 4-1 in the league, but visits league leader Bethune-Cookman (5-0) on Saturday (Jan. 22). With more performances like this from Morgan, the Pirates may soon find themselves in the driver’s seat for the MEAC crown.
  • Kevin Foster, Santa Clara—After having to sit out for the balance of last season with a foot injury and taking a medical redshirt year as a result, Foster has enjoyed a stellar sophomore season scoring in double figures in all but one game. He had his best game of the year to date on the biggest stage by pouring in 36 points in an upset win over Gonzaga. His strong performances should not be a surprised to many after being honored as a Freshman All-American after the 2008-09 season.
  • Alex Young, IUPUI—Young had a two monster games averaging 29.5 points and 8.5 boards for the Jaguars. The junior netted his 1,000th points at Gonzaga all the way back in November, and has continued to be IUPUI’s go to guy on offense. IUPUI went 1-1 on the week, and currently stands two games behind Oakland in the Summit League.
  • John Holland, Boston University—The senior from the Bronx’s honor in my “Best Individual Performances” section is far overdue. Averaging just south of 20 points for the year, Holland is the America East’s leading scoring and quite possibly best player. In three games, he averaged 26.7 points and six rebounds as BU went 2-1.
  • Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston—Goudelock continues to amaze me as he manages to fill up the stat sheet in every game. Scoring has never been an issue for him, but his ability to distribute the basketball is a part of his game that has greatly developed since his sophomore year. Goudelock averaged 28 points for the week—not all that much higher than his yearly average of 24—but also dished out six assists a game as well.

Noteworthy “W’s”

  • Marshall 75, West Virginia 71—In a rare game featuring an Other 26 team against the BCS, Marshall defeated their arch rival West Virginia. I thought we would not see a “Beating the BCS” again until the NCAA Tournament, but the Thundering Herd proved that thought wrong. Although Marshall stands at just 1-2 in the CUSA, they might as well be thrown into the discussion of contenders in the league—everyone seems to have a chance in this conference.
  • Loyola Maryland 66, Fairfield 65—The Stags were winners of 11 straight, but could not reach a dozen as they were halted by Loyola and their always entertaining head coach Jimmy Patsos (remember, Patsos was the coach a few years ago that elected to double team Stephen Curry the entire game). Loyola is teetering between a contender in the MAAC or a mere onlooker. Currently, Fairfield and Iona are the two frontrunners, but Loyola is in a mix of several teams that are on the verge of crashing this party.
  • Duquesne 78, Temple 66—Don’t look now, but Duquesne is now 4-0 and atop the Atlantic 10 standings. In their upset against Temple, Bill Clark led the way scoring 22 points on just nine shots, but it was the staunch defensive effort that was truly responsible for the victory; Temple shot just 31% from the field.
  • Old Dominion 75, Hofstra 64—Although it is still relatively early in conference play, this game was nearly a must-win for Old Dominion. A loss would have dropped them to 3-3 in the conference, while Hofstra would be a perfect 6-0; making up three games would be a not be an easy task. Fortunately for the Monarchs, they would not have to worry about that as Kent Bazemore and Frank Hassell combined for 36 points to lead the way.
  • Northern Iowa 72, Southern Illinois 52, UNI 77, Wichita State 74—If it were not for two last second losses to open up league play in the MVC, Northern Iowa would be 7-1 and in the discussion for the top team in the league. Now, the Panthers are digging themselves out of a hole. Defeating Southern Illinois by 20 who previously beat them by two is certainly a start. UNI capitalized on the victory against the Salukis by knocking off Wichita State by three points. Now at 5-3 in the MVC, they are certainly within striking distance of the leaders.
  • Valparaiso 78, Detroit 68—With their win over Detroit, Valpo finds themselves in sole possession of first place in the Horizon League; they have won eight of their last nine games. Brandon Wood, the Crusaders’ top scorer, led the way with 17 points.
  • Wright State 69, Butler 64—Valparaiso will have to thank Wright State for enabling them to have that first place standing. The Raiders, with the win, are now one of four teams in the Horizon to have a 5-2 record or better. N’Gai Evans had the biggest game of his career as he poured in 26 points to go along with four boards and four assists.
  • Chattanooga 91, College of Charleston 88—The Mocs have come out of nowhere to take the Southern Conference by storm in the first half of league play. Their win against C of C is probably their best win of the season as it catapulted them to 7-0 in the SoCon and gave the Cougars their first loss in the league. Omar Wattad—a transfer from Georgetown who became eligible to play this season—had 27 points and shot 6-10 from three in the win.
  • Indiana State 70, Missouri State 69—There probably isn’t a more helpless feeling in basketball. Let me set the stage for you: Indiana State was trailing Missouri State 69-67 and had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds. Jake Kelly drove the lane, was fouled, and hit a layup from a tough angle to knot the score at 69 with .6 seconds remaining. Here comes the helpless part: the Bears had to watch Kelly then calmly step to the line and hit the ensuing free throw to win the game. Big win for the Sycamores as it pushes them to 7-1 in the MVC and ties them with Missouri State atop the conference.
  • Colorado State 78, UNLV 63—Heading into conference play, UNLV and New Mexico appeared to be the two teams directly behind BYU and San Diego State, but not so fast says the Rams from Colorado State. Behind 24 points from Travis Franklin, the Rams defeated UNLV with ease, and in doing so improved to 3-1 in the conference.

Breaking down Lunardi

In his January 10 edition of Bracketology, Joe Lunardi had eight Other 26 teams that he projected to receive at-large bids. Since then, the teams he projects are a little different, but there are still eight O26 squads in the field as an at-large: BYU (2), Temple (6), UNLV (7), Central Florida (9), Gonzaga (9), Old Dominion (11), Butler (11), and Wichita State (11).

Note: These are just the teams that are projected for at-large berths; there are many other teams that are in Lunardi’s field via the automatic berth. Here are some of these notable teams: San Diego State (2), St. Mary’s (7), Missouri State (10), Utah State (11), Xavier (12), Southern Mississippi (12) Belmont (12), James Madison (13), Harvard (13), and Ball State (14).

Of the eight at-large teams, here is a brief overview of each:

(Note: the statistics presented are following the completion of games on January 19)

Team Record Last Week’s Seed RPI SoS vs. top 100 vs. 101-200 vs. sub 200
BYU 18-1 4 5 18 6-1 7-0 4-0
ODU 14-4 11 22 41 6-3 5-1 3-0
Butler 13-6 10 24 13 5-3 5-3 2-0
UNLV 14-5 6 34 29 3-4 6-1 5-0
Temple 13-4 7 37 63 4-3 4-1 5-0
UCF 14-3 7 38 87 5-1 5-2 3-0
Gonzaga 13-6 9 45 32 5-5 5-0 2-1
Wichita St 15-4 11 54 85 0-4 7-0 7-0

Data Source: basketballstate.com

Thoughts:

  • Prior to getting into the nitty gritty, one must remain cognizant of Mr. Lunardi’s method: The auto-bids are selected based on the current conference leader, not who he believes will win the conference. This is why Old Dominion is currently in as an at-large; James Madison was awarded the auto-bid. That is the case for Temple as well; Xavier currently is slotted in as the auto-bid.
  • There are two numbers that stick out: BYU’s RPI, and Wichita State’s record against top 100 teams. Let’s just say, and I am get FAR ahead of myself right now, that BYU and San Diego State only had losses to each other for the rest of the season, could they both receive a two seed or better? Probably not, but it is something to think about. As for the Shockers, they may have to win their conference tournament in order to get an invitation to the Dance as their RPI and SoS is not all that impressive.
  • No Memphis in the field, I guess their loss to Southern Methodist did them in. They may sneak into the field in Lunardi’s next bracket, however, considering they went 2-0 on the week and defeated Southern Mississippi. This leads me to my next point…
  • Central Florida is slowly playing their way out of the Tournament.
  • Butler’s three losses to teams in the 101-200 column does not bode well for them, but their RPI and SoS still is impressive. One would assume though that their RPI may dip after going through their Horizon League schedule.
  • Gonzaga is the only team of the eight to have a loss against a sub-200 RPI team after losing to Santa Clara. I still think, however, that as long as they perform well in the WCC and make it to the conference title game they will be safe.

A Closer Look

We are all well aware of how good Jimmer Fredette is. San Diego State’s 20-0 record is common knowledge at this point. Gonzaga’s early struggles but solid play of late is known by many (minus the loss to Santa Clara). But, what about the lesser known minute details of Other 26 teams vying for a bid to the NCAA Tournament? In this section each week from here on out until March Madness, I will take a closer look at few teams from around the nation that have the ability to do some damage in the Dance.

(Note: All statistics are taken from Kenpom and are through games played on January 19th. Only D1 games are included.)

San Diego State

  • Impressive Statistic: 54.9 two-point% (8th in the nation)
  • Offense: Will always look to pound the ball inside first as three of their four leading scorers are forwards. They are a mediocre shooting team from the outside hitting roughly 1/3 of their shots, but D.J. Gay is more than capable of knocking down a three when needed.
  • Defense: In an article released about a week and a half ago, Mark Zeigler wrote that the success SDSU has had on defense can be attributed to their: “length, not strength.” Kawhi Leonard is one of the most athletic and agile big men in the nation, and his NBA draft stock has been rising throughout the year as a result.
  • Weakness: If San Diego State has one weakness, it is their inability to get to the free throw line on a regular basis. Only 16.3% of their points come from the charity stripe (329th in the nation).
  • Top Player: Kawhi Leonard (15.4/10.4/2.7): Leonard is only a sophomore, but he has been a fixture in the Aztecs rotation since day one.
  • Why? This is a special team having a magical season that only come around once in so many years. Many forget that this San Diego State team had a successful year last season as they advanced to the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Tennessee as an 11 seed. They have some unfinished business.

BYU

  • Impressive Statistic: 118.4 in Offense efficiency (10th in the nation)
  • Offense: This is an obvious one, right? The Cougars’ entire offense, more or less, runs directly through #32. Although, Fredette does frequently receive considerable help from his partner in crime Jackson Emery.
  • Defense: Dave Rose likes to play a tight defense whether he has his guys in a zone or man-to-man; there is constant pressure. When they played against Arizona—an 87-65 victory for BYU—they played a lot of zone in order to negate Derrick Williams who scored a mere 13 points. Jackson Emery is one of the tops in the country in steals averaging 2.7 a game.
  • Weakness: They have not been challenged yet as they have not played that one team that is considered a true juggernaut. Don’t get me wrong, they have played some great teams in St. Mary’s, UCLA, and Arizona among others, but not that prime-time team. How will they respond when they go up against one of the “big boys?”
  • Top Player: Jimmer Fredette (25.8/3.4/4.4): There are a laundry list of various awards and accolades that I could list, but I will save you the excess reading. You, no doubt, already know what makes Fredette as good as he is.
  • Why? Whenever you have a guy like Jimmer Fredette on your team, you always have a shot; there is no telling when he could go off for 40. Aside from him though, this is a team with a great deal of experience that has been on the big stage before as they have been to the NCAA Tournament four straight years.

St. Mary’s

  • Impressive Statistic: May be the best offensive team in the nation: 1st in effective FG% (59.2), 3rd in 2P% (57.1), 7th in 3P% (41.6), and 7th in offensive efficiency (119.6).
  • Offense: Relies primarily on the three-point shot (9.6 made a game), but they are still able to go inside, even with the graduation of Omar Samhan—one of the best big men in recent WCC history. Having to respect the inside play of Mitchell Young who shoots 64% from the field opens up the outside shot.
  • Defense: The Gaels will play a mixture of man-to-man and zone. In their second game of the year against St. John’s, they employed a match-up zone that had the Johnnies flustered for much of the game.
  • Weakness: Their interior defense needs to tighten up, especially when they bang bodes against Gonzaga.
  • Top Player: Mickey McConnell (15.0/2.7/6.4) 90% FT and 48% 3 PT: McConnell, along with being a highly skilled point guard, is one of the most entertaining players to watch as he is a lights out shooter and is always good for one or two jaw-dropping passes a game.
  • Why? Whenever a team can go out and drain 10+ threes routinely, they will always be in a game. Even if the Gaels were to get down in a game, they can erase a double-digit lead in a matter of minutes. Plus, I think they may be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. After advancing to the Sweet 16 last year, they received only two votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Important Upcoming Games

  • San Diego State @ BYU (Jan. 26)—Not only is this my game of the week for the Other 26, but it unquestionably should be the game of the week for all of college hoops. Before delving into specific match-ups that make the game so intriguing, take a gander at some of these numbers heading into the game: Two teams ranked in the RTC top 10, two teams ranked in the top 10 for the RPI, a combined record of 38-1, and a combined 9-0 in the Mountain West. San Diego State is trying to become just the third team since the 1991 UNLV squad to have a perfect regular season. Jimmer Fredette and BYU will look to derail the Aztecs.
  • St. Mary’s @ Vanderbilt (Jan 22.) @ Gonzaga (Jan. 27)—Any head coach, regardless of the sport, always preaches to his team of great opportunities that are presented to them throughout the season. Randy Bennett and his St. Mary’s Gales are presented with two great opportunities to take their sharpshooting and high scoring offense on the road against nationally known programs in Vanderbilt and Gonzaga. Their game against Vanderbilt is important for purely a resume perspective, but traveling to Spokane to Gonzaga is much more important as it will give either SMC or Gonzaga an upper hand in the West Coast Conference.
  • Central Florida @ Memphis (Jan. 26)—Two Conference USA teams that are in need of a win badly, although moreso for UCF at this point. Both got off nice starts to begin the year and performed well in the non-conference, but Central Florida dropped two early games in conference, and Memphis suffered a bad loss to Southern Methodist. If UCF has any aspirations at receiving an at-large bid assuming they fail to win the CUSA, this is a game they absolutely have to win.
  • Indiana State @ Wichita State (Jan. 22)—After having an up-and-down non-conference performance that saw the Sycamores go 5-6, they have gotten hot having won six straight games all against MVC teams. A win in Kansas against Wichita State would firmly plant them in the running for the league crown.
  • Virginia Commonwealth @ Old Dominion (Jan. 22)—Probably the most important game of the weekend in the CAA will take place in Virginia as the rejuvenated Rams do battle with ODU. After an up and down non-conference, VCU has won five straight CAA games and will look to keep ODU beneath them in the CAA standings.
  • Belmont @ East Tennessee State (Jan. 23)—From the looks of it, the only thing that may be stopping Belmont from winning the remainder of their games and entering the NCAA Tournament with just two losses is ETSU. No team in America has steamrolled through their conference quite like the Bruins have, but the Buccaneers have been impressive too defeating A-Sun teams by an average of 10 points.
  • Wright State at Cleveland State (Jan. 22)—There are four teams atop the Horizon League that are tussling for the top spot—Detroit finds themselves on the outside looking in after three straight losses—and any game that features either of these two squads along with Valparaiso and Butler is a critical clash from here on out.
  • Hampton @ Bethune-Cookman (Jan. 22)—Darrion Pellum—the MEAC’s leading scorer—and Hampton travel down to the Sunshine State in a pivotal game between two of the MEAC’s top teams. Hampton had the most impressive non-conference record going 10-3, but B-C holds the better conference record as they are 5-0.

Just Spitballin’

  • This three game road trip for St. Mary’s—Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, and Portland—is where America finds out just how good the Gaels are.
  • Your guess is good as mine with regard to who will win Conference USA.  UTEP? Memphis? UAB? Houston? Southern Miss? Notice that I did not even mention Central Florida…they are 1-3 in the league.
  • After losing 15 straight games, N.C. Greensboro won all three of their games this week and two of the wins were not against futile competition either as they defeated Appalachian State and Davidson. What happened in between the Elon loss and Appalachian State win?
  • Maine didn’t look like much through the first seven games (2-5 with one of the wins against a sub-D1 opponent), but the Black Bears have won nine of 11, and are 5-1 in the America East. Their most recent win came against conference favorite Vermont.
  • Speaking of Vermont, this is old news, but Keegan Hyland—a big recruit out of Maine who attended Gonzaga for a semester—is transferring to UVM. Hyland had originally verbally committed to Vermont, but then rescinded his decision in favor of Gonzaga.
  • Like N.C. Greensboro who has put together a modest winning streak, Colgate has won two games in a row after beginning the year 1-15.
  • St. Bonaventure’s senior guard Ogo Adegboye is averaging more than 40 minutes played per game. Impossible? Nope. That’s what happens when you play a triple overtime and a quadruple overtime game.
  • Come on Princeton, get it together for the sake of your hoops team. The lone Ivy League school in New Jersey has an odd academic calendar as they have final exams following the holidays, and the basketball team’s schedule takes  a minor hit because of it. From January 6-27, the Tigers will have played just a single game against the College of New Jersey.
KDoyle (99 Posts)


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