The Other 26: Week 12

Posted by KDoyle on February 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor

Introduction

Parity is a great thing in sports. Not many enjoy watching a league where one team consistently dominates the competition and all the others are simply happy to compete with the top team. In the West Coast Conference this was the case for years. Gonzaga would roll right on through league play, win the conference championship, and then head onto the NCAA Tournament. Sure the ‘Zags would be upset on occasions, but those occasions were few and far between. This year, that is hardly the case in the WCC. St. Mary’s is the current leader, but there are a few other teams that are capable of knocking off the Gaels—Portland already has. The WCC is not the only conference where there is parity. How about the wacky Conference USA? It seems that every team in that conference has a shot to win it. The Atlantic 10 and CAA both have a couple teams at the top, but there are several others right below them that are just waiting for the right time to pounce on the top dogs. The MAC is the perfect instance of parity this year. You may call it mediocrity, but you cannot say that 11 teams with records ranging from 3-5 to 6-2 is not parity.

One can argue that parity is essentially synonymous with hope. Fans of every team that is right in the thick of things within their conference have legitimate hope that their guys will pull through and be the last one standing come the conclusion of their conference tournament.

Parity…Hope…Sports

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

  • Although BYU suffered a loss at New Mexico, they are still the top dog as their victory over second ranked San Diego State carries a lot of weight.
  • Butler is missing from the rankings. The Bulldogs began the year ranked high in the AP Top 25 poll, but have fallen on hard times since then. Their loss to Youngstown State has really done them in, and has taken them out of consideration for an at-large bid in my mind.
  • Speaking of Horizon League basketball, Cleveland State was a big winner this week as they moved up four spots. The Vikings are the clear-cut favorite now in the HL after they defeated Valparaiso.
  • Missouri State lost two games in the Valley this past week and dropped nine spots in the rankings.
  • Moving into the top 10 is Harvard after they went 2-0 on the week. They could very easily fall out, however, if they slip up at Princeton.
  • New to the rankings this week is George Mason; the Patriots have been rolling through the CAA lately.
  • Breakdown: 4 (A10), 3 (CAA), 3 (MWC), 2 (CUSA), 2 (MVC), 2 (WCC), 1 (Horizon), 1 (Ivy), 1 (WAC), 1 (A-Sun)

What team impressed the most?

Ever since I saw them play BYU in one of the first weeks of the year, the Utah State Aggies have been a team that I have keenly observed. I really like Stew Morrill as a head coach—the man has an impeccable resume—and the brand of basketball that Utah State plays is very enjoyable to watch. It is not too often that two teams from the WAC have a game on TV (does ESPN3 count?), and I was able to tune into the Utah State vs. Nevada game on Wednesday evening and found myself liking the Aggies more and more.

Utah State’s top two players Tai Wesley and Brian Green combined for just 14 points, well below their season averages, but the Aggies did not miss a beat even with their two top guns having off nights. Brockeith Pane and Brady Jardine picked up the slack by combining for 32 points in a 22 point route of Nevada. There are many more weapons on this team than I realized.

Utah State has a methodical offense that always looks to dump it inside to get Wesley a touch on many possessions, but they also have shooters—Brian Green and Pooh Williams—and an ultra athletic slashing guard in Pane that are just as capable as Wesley. On the defensive end, Morrill’s squad is one of the most sound teams you will find. They are not overly aggressive as they do not take many unnecessary chances and gambles, but will seemingly always have a hand in an opposing player’s face when shooting. If the opposition scores, they will have to earn it. There is a reason, after all, Utah State is giving up just 58.6 points a game—10th in the nation—and has a 21-2 record.

Clip of the Week

Standing at 4-18, the Manhattan Jaspers have not had a whole lot to cheer about this year, but Michael Alvarado’s heave from half-court gave the Jasper faithful something to smile about in their road victory against Marist:

Quote of the Week

Jimmer Fredette touches on what a great atmosphere playing in New Mexico’s infamous arena—The Pit—is like: “The Pit is always a very, very emotional place to play. It’s very loud in here. The fans are very passionate about Lobo basketball. We’ve been in a lot of tough places this year, a lot of sellouts, but this is a great place to play.”

In my opinion, this is what makes college basketball the special game it is. There is really nothing like entering an arena with thousands of people on their feet yelling, the student sections’ innovating chants, and the feeling that the roof is literally going to erupt. Electric!

Sharpshooter of the Week

Trent Hutchin, Southeastern Louisiana—The Lions snapped a two game losing skid by winning two straight and getting back into the Southland Conference race. Hutchin shot the lights out in their latest victory against Lamar by going 8-14 from distance; Southeastern Louisiana would need all of these 24 points as they defeated Lamar 89-87. In two games, Hutching was 10-18 from three.

Clutch Performer of the Week

D.J. Gay, San Diego State—I loved Steve Fisher’s reasoning for not using a timeout—he had two on the table—after Colorado State had scored to tie the game up at 54: “I knew D.J. would do something good with the ball.” Well, he sure did.

Freshman of the Week

Doug McDermott, Creighton—The freshman Blue Jay does it again after lighting up the competition for another week. This is the second time McDermott has been awarded the honor, and it is hard to argue giving it to him again after averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds in two games. Creighton has been up and down in the Missouri Valley, but McDermott surely has not as he is averaging just over 16 points in conference play which is good for second best in the league.

Best Individual Performances

  • Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State—After beginning the season 1-12, Norfolk State six of their last seven games and Kyle O’Quinn is a big reason why. The sophomore big man from New York crushed Morgan State and Coppin State on the inside this past week by averaging 30.5 points and 13.5 rebounds. His efficiency in obtaining his points was also quite impressive as he went 20-28 from the field, 19-22 from the line, and even knocked down two three-balls.
  • Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure—The junior from north of the border had been struggling lately averaging just a shade over 10 points a night, but he got his act together in a big way and began playing up to his capabilities against Fordham and Dayton as he averaged 30 points and 11 rebounds against fellow A10 teams.
  • Adrian Oliver, San Jose State—The Spartans needed a couple wins in a bad way—no, not the Michigan State Spartans, the San Jose State ones, although MSU could use a few as well—and Adrian Oliver, like he has all year, turned in two huge performances to lead them to victories. Against Fresno State, Oliver nearly recorded a triple-double (25/10/8), and followed this game up by leading SJSU to a three point victory at Idaho by scoring 23 points and hauling in 10 boards.
  • Justin Patton, Grambling—It has been an excruciating year for Grambling, but Justin Patton has quietly had a solid season for the Tigers. In two games, the junior averaged 27 points and 13 rebounds, but unfortunately these impressive numbers did not translate into any wins for Grambling.
  • Julian Mavunga, Miami (OH)—The MAC is up for complete grabs this year, and Julian Mavunga is trying to ensure that his Redhawks will be the last team standing when all is said and done. After losing four straight games to conclude the non-conference, Miami has won five of seven games. In their two latest contests, Mavunga averaged 24.5 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.

Noteworthy “W’s”

  • Army 90, Bucknell 70—Army came into the game versus Bucknell having lost three straight, while the Bison had won nine straight games and owned the nation’s fifth longest winning streak. The Black Knights were not daunted by the Bison and took it to them right from the get-go to win by 20. With the victory, Army is one of five teams to have a 3-4 record in the Patriot League.
  • Jackson State 83, Mississippi Valley State 73—Jenirro Bush led all scorers with 25 points as Jackson State picked up a big win over Mississippi Valley State who was looking to move into first place in the SWAC. Currently, the Tigers and Texas Southern are tied atop the conference with matching 8-1 records.
  • Marshall 85, Memphis 70, Tulsa 68, Memphis 65—Conference USA becomes more complicated every single night. Memphis looked like they were separating themselves from the pack, but their setback at the hands of Marshall and Tulsa brought them back to mediocrity within the league.
  • New Mexico 86, BYU 77—If BYU was going to drop a game to a team of lesser talent the rest of the way, this was going to be it. Flying high after beating San Diego State, BYU entered The Pit and ran into a Lobo squad who played with nothing to lose. New Mexico came out on top, but BYU is still the team to beat in the Mountain West, along with SDSU.
  • Portland 85, St. Mary’s 70—Hitting 65% of your three point attempts (13-20) will usually end with a “W” following the game, and that is exactly how it happened for Portland. There has not been a season in quite some time with such parity in the WCC, and the resurgence of Portland has something to do with that.
  • Xavier 85, Richmond 62—This one was definitely a bit of a shocker, not so much that Xavier won, but in the way they did. Many of the so-called “experts” would have expected this game to be a nick-and-tuck type of game, but it was anything but that as Tu Holloway lit up the Spiders for 33 points. Richmond had a golden opportunity to pick up a much needed game on the conference leader, but failed to do so.
  • Valparaiso 85, Butler 79 (OT)—With the win, Valparaiso avenged a big early season loss to Butler, but more importantly moved alongside Cleveland State at the top of the Horizon League. The Crusaders had three players score 16 points apiece as they overcame an early second half deficit to defeat Butler. What the loss means for Butler is that they are now officially on a bubble that is on the verge of explosion; they may need to win the HL tournament to Dance this year.
  • Northern Iowa 60, Missouri State 59—Northern Iowa got off to a dismal 1-3 start to being play in the Valley, but since then have won eight straight with one of the biggest W’s coming against Missouri State. Johnny Moran drilled two free throws with five seconds remaining to put the Panthers in front and seal the win.
  • Northeastern 91, Virginia Commonwealth 80—With the top of the CAA ultra competitive this year, VCU could ill afford a letdown against one of the league’s bottom teams, but they went up against a Northeastern squad that simply could not miss. Plus, the Huskies were playing pretty well entering the game having won four straight. Against VCU, Northeastern shot 58% from the field and 59% from three.
  • George Mason 87, Hofstra 68—The Pride started the CAA so well getting out to a 8-1 start, but since then have lost three straight and have fallen from the upper tier teams. Their ugliest of the losses game against George Mason as they got down by 15 at halftime and never recovered.
  • Charlotte 66, Xavier 62—Is it possible Xavier overlooked a team with a 1-6 record entering the game, and were looking ahead to games with Georgia and Duquesne? Possibly. What is more likely, however, is that their top play—Tu Holloway—simply had an off night. Holloway scored just 12 points, shot 3-17 from the field, and committed six turnovers in the loss. Xavier is now a game behind Duquesne for the top spot in the A10.
  • Coastal Carolina 77, Liberty 71—Liberty was nipping at the heels of Coastal Carolina as they were just a game behind them, but CCU fended them off to all but secure the top seed in the Big South conference. CCU had five players score in double figures.
  • Youngstown State 62, Butler 60—The low point of the season for Butler came in this loss to Youngstown State. The Penguins had not won a game since early January when they defeated Wilberforce—a sub Division 1 team if you couldn’t figure that one out—but they clearly came to play against the National Runner Up of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Kendrick Perry drilled a three-pointer in the final minute to cap a 15-3 run to end the game.

Breaking down Lunardi

For the second straight week, Joe L. has seven O26 teams in his bracket via the at-large bid after having eight teams for much of the season Remember, when Lunardi is determining who receives the conference at-large bid, it is not who he believes will win the conference, but who is currently in first place in the league. The seven teams this week are: San Diego State (2), UNLV (8), Temple (8), Old Dominion (11), Wichita State (12), Butler (12), and Gonzaga (12).

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: BYU (2), St. Mary’s (8), Virginia Commonwealth (10), Xavier (10), Utah State (10) Missouri State (11), Memphis (12), Cleveland State (13), Oakland (13), Belmont (13), and Harvard (14).

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

(Note: The statistics presented are following the completion of games on February 2nd)

Team Record Last Week’s Seed RPI SoS vs. top 100 vs. 101-200 vs. sub 200
SDSU 22-1 2 3 38 7-1 11-0 2-0
UNLV 17-5 8 31 43 4-4 6-1 7-0
ODU 18-5 12 32 52 7-4 6-1 5-0
Temple 16-5 8 37 78 4-5 7-0 5-0
Wichita St 19-4 12 39 106 0-4 11-0 7-0
Butler 14-9 11 42 29 4-5 7-3 2-1
Gonzaga 15-8 10 84 55 6-6 1-2 7-0

Source: basketballstate.com

Thoughts:

  • Several numbers that stick out: San Diego State’s impressive RPI, Wichita State’s weak strength of schedule and few games against the top 100, and, most notably, Butler’s loss to a sub 200 team.
  • Speaking of Butler, I am not sure that they will find themselves in Lunardi’s next bracket. Losing to a very weak Youngstown State team will obviously not help their cause one bit.
  • Gonzaga saved themselves by defeating Portland 67-64. A loss to the Pilots would have made them 14-9 overall and 4-4 in the WCC. They are already on the bubble to begin with, and a loss may have popped the bubble they currently sit on. What the ‘Zags do have going for them, however, is that 6-6 record against the RPI top 100. While only .500, the committee loves to see teams challenging themselves and Gonzaga certainly has done that.
  • UNLV is safe. Barring a monumental collapse, this is a team that will definitely attain an at-large bid. They have a solid record of 17-5, a big early season win against Wisconsin, and their RPI and SoS are both high.
  • I am a big fan of the Duquesne Dukes, but I guess Joe L. is not. I can understand why though as their non-conference performance was very average and they did not have any signature wins. As long as they continue to win in the A10, their voice will be heard soon enough.

A Closer Look

Missouri State

Impressive Statistic: I suppose I could cite their strong shooting percentage from inside the arc (52%), or their offensive efficiency (37th in the nation) as two impressive statistics, but Missouri State is simply a very solid basketball team that does not specialize in a particular facet of the game.

Offense: Having arguably the Valley’s best player in Kyle Weems, much of the Bears’ offense runs through him, but they still manage to remain very balanced on offense as their points are largely distributed between six players. Jermaine Mallett and Adam Leonard both have the ability to step out and hit a three as the two combine for roughly 3.5 treys a night.

Defense: Again, no statistic jumps off the page when scrutinizing their defensive numbers; they are just very solid, will not take too many risks, and play a staunch man-to-man defense primarily. Weems, their best offensive player, may also be the Bears’ top defender as well averaging about a steal and a half a game and a block a game. All of this adds up to the Bears relinquishing just over 60 points a game.

Weakness: It is difficult to find a blatant weakness, but the lack of steals on the defensive end is rather low. I am not sure how much of a concern this is, however, as they still manage to give up about 60 points a game.

Top Player: Kyle Weems is without question Missouri State’s best guy. While there are others around him who are very capable players, much of the offense runs through Weems.

Why? A junior and senior laden team that is play with a great deal of confidence; just two years ago the Bears were 11-20. The current seniors were sophomores and juniors senior during that rough year, and they have been through adversity before. They have made great strides since then, and this may be their moment to do something special for Missouri State.

Utah State

Impressive Statistic: Go to Utah State’s page on Kenpom and take a gander at all of their offensive statistics. All that green is pretty to look at, eh?

Offense: As I touched on earlier, Utah State will look to get their big man Tai Wesley involved in the offense early by giving him touches, but there are many others who can beat you as well. Brian Green is one of the top three point shooters in the nation and Tyler Newbold is a steady point guard boasting a 3.6 assist to turnover ratio.

Defense: Big part of Stew Morrill’s philosophy and what makes them so successful on defense is to not gamble, and always stay between your man and the basket. If they are going to score, have it be a contested shot that they earn.

Weakness: Although they are 21-2 and have won 16 straight, much of the W’s have come against futile competition. Is Utah State battle tested? Their game with St. Mary’s in the BracketBusters will be very telling.

Top Player: Tai Wesley is the clear go-to guy for Utah State. He does not post monster numbers—14 points and 8 rebounds a game—but the Aggies offense does not need him to as they do not rely on one player to carry the load.

Why? Their head coach, that’s why. Stew Morrill is an absolute winner in every sense of the word. He always seems to have Utah State in the NCAA Tournament every year and the Aggies are always a tough out for their opponent.

Important Upcoming Games

  • Princeton vs. Harvard (Feb. 4)—Last week, the Johnnies defeated a 2-0 Columbia team by 11 points. Now, this week, Harvard travels down to New Jersey to take on 2-0 Princeton in one of the biggest Ivy League games of the season. Something tells me this game may go down to the final minutes, and an 11 point difference will not separate these two squads on Friday evening.
  • Fairfield vs. Iona (Feb. 4)—The Stags are one of the hottest teams in the nation and have only one loss in the MAAC. While they have a stranglehold on the league, Iona may have the league’s best player in Michael Glover. Iona currently sits at 7-4 in the MAAC and three games behind Fairfield, a victory in Connecticut would be a big boost for the Gaels heading into the final stretch of the league.
  • Gonzaga vs. Memphis (Feb. 5)—A game of paramount importance for both teams. Each is teetering on the edge of an at-large bid and having their bubble popped, and whomever loses this tussle between two of the traditionally top teams in the Other 26 may be forced to win their conference tournament.
  • Cleveland State vs. Butler (Feb. 5)—Similar to the Gonzaga vs. Memphis affair, this game carriers the same implications. There is an outside shot that the Vikings may be able to garner an at-large bid if they fail to win the Horizon, but their body of work is not overly impressive. While Butler has some nice wins on their resume, they also have too many losses to futile competition. This is a game Brad Stevens’ crew absolutely has to have, especially after losing three straight and four of five.
  • BYU vs. UNLV (Feb. 5)—BYU is absolutely to attain an at-large, assuming they lose in the MWC tournament, but this game has implications for the Cougars for seeding purposes. A victory over UNLV would mean another win against presumably a top 50 RPI team, and most likely another NCAA Tournament team. As for the Runnin’ Rebels, an at-large bid seems safe for them as long as they do not collapse the rest of the way. I’d expect Tre’Von Willis and UNLV to throw everything save the kitchen sink at Jimmer Fredette.
  • George Mason vs. Old Dominion (Feb. 5)—Not only is this a huge game for conference standing, but it is also crucial as both teams are vying for at-large bids. Frank Hassell and ODU appear to have the body of work warranted for a bid, and GMU is trying to get to that level. A win at home versus the Monarchs would help that cause.
  • Ball State vs. Buffalo (Feb. 5)—The Mid-American Conference has not been getting a whole lot of love this year. Maybe it is because there is not one team that truly sticks out as a legitimate power. Maybe it is the fact that none of the teams are ranked, nor have they received any top 25 votes. Or, it just may be that there is so much parity in the league that it is very hard to single out one team. I think it is the latter. Currently, Bowling Green has the best conference record at 6-2, but there are a host of teams beneath them that are pretty good as well. Two of these teams—Ball State and Buffalo—square off in a pivotal game as each squad is looking to sit atop their respective divisions within the MAC (East and West).
  • College of Charleston vs. Furman (Feb. 5)—After absolutely dismantling first place Wofford, Charleston is looking to maintain their lead atop the South division in the Southern Conference with a victory  over Furman. The Paladins meanwhile are on the verge of cracking into the top of the league having won six of seven games.
  • Long Island vs. Quinnipiac (Feb. 5)—Long Island has been flying under the radar the entire year in the NEC, but having won 11 of 12 games people should probably start to take notice of the Blackbirds. Not one player stands out, but LIU does have five players who average 10 points or better—pretty remarkable. Quinnipiac looked like they were the class of the league throughout much of the non-conference with Justin Rutty (15.5 pts. and 10 rebs.) and James Johnson 17 points leading the way, and they will have an opportunity to prove that they are indeed the NEC’s best with a win over LIU.
  • Austin Peay vs. Murray State (Feb. 5)—Murray State was a hot team to like early in the year after they beat Vanderbilt in the Tournament last year, but early losses in the non-conference hurt the chatter surrounding them. They have recovered nicely though, and are neck-and-neck*** with Austin Peay in the OVC. A win for either team would be major at this point in the season.
  • Bucknell vs. American (Feb. 9)—Two of the top teams in the Patriot League meet again; this time in Lewisburg. The Bison won the first game and are a game up in the standings on AU, but recently suffered a bad loss at Army. If the Eagles have any hope of attaining the top seed in the PL tournament, this may be a must win for them.
  • Denver vs. Florida Atlantic (Feb. 10)—In looking at the records, Denver and FAU are far and away the top teams in the Sun Belt. Each is leading their respective division by a sizable margin, and will meet up for the first time this year in what could be a preview to the conference championship game.
  • Santa Clara vs. St. Mary’s (Feb. 10)—Santa Clara is the hottest team in the WCC as they have won four straight conference games with two of the wins coming against Gonzaga and Portland. If the Broncos manage to beat St. Mary’s, they will have knocked off the WCC’s three best teams.

Just Spitballin’

  • Did something happen with the Central Florida basketball team that the country is simply not aware of? I just don’t understand how a team can win 14 straight games beating Florida, Miami (FL), Princeton, and UMass in the process, and then drop six straight games in Conference USA.
  • Montana has been tearing up the Big Sky, but now has company at the top of the conference in the form of Northern Colorado. This appears to be a two team race as they are both 8-2 and the next best team is 5-4.
  • Boston University is just 1-10 on the road this season, but recently beat America East leader Maine (at home) to move into 3rd place in the conference…if only they could get that home cookin’ on the road.
  • It is crazy to think, but N.C. Greensboro, the team that was 0-15 before picking up their first victory is only a few plays away from being 8-2 in the Southern Conference and in contention—from a record stance—for the league title. They lost in overtime to Appalachian State, lost to Chattanooga in double overtime, and then lost to Samford and Chattanooga again to begin conference play. Not too far away from being 8-3 in the SoCon.
  • Who will emerge from Conference USA? If I knew I’d tell you, but there is a new team every week that looks to be the best. Some weeks it is UTEP, then it is Memphis, then UAB, then Southern Mississippi. Will someone please stand up?
KDoyle (99 Posts)


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5 Responses to “The Other 26: Week 12”

  1. Danny says:

    Wondering if you can explain why Oakland is never been considered for this? Pretty big omission there.

  2. Danny says:

    has never been*

  3. KDoyle says:

    Hey Danny,

    I am not sure what the question is. If by “this” do you mean why don’t I have Oakland in my rankings?

    Although I have not touched on the Griz too much in this article, I have written about them extensively in previous ones. After Oakland beat Tennessee, the Week 5 edition had a lot of great information on them. There is a great picture that features them running off the court in Noxville, and I named Oakland my “Team of the Week” and Keith Benson was honored in my “Best Individual Performances.”

    Going forward, I think you can expect me to write more on Oakland in my “Closer Look” section.

  4. Danny says:

    Ya, sorry I guess it was overly vague. I was in fact wondering about them being left off the rankings after teams like Belmont and UNLV. The collegeinsider poll has them at 9, but I this one they are unranked. My question struck more to what was not being seen in them to warrant not being ranked. Just curious. I am looking forward to reading more and always appreciate rtc’s coverage of mids. I wasn’t complaining just wondering. Keep up the good work!

  5. KDoyle says:

    It is very hard to gauge at times how good one team is compared to another. Oakland is definitely a team to keep an eye on with Benson and Hamilton both having great seasons…Benson is the kind of player that can carry a team a round or two in the NCAA Tournament I think.

    As for the rankings, you have to remember that the A10, CUSA, and Mountain West are included in the Other 26 rankings. The collegeinsider poll does not include teams from these leagues.

    Oakland’s 17-9 record cannot be ignored, but their most recent loss to IUPUI over the weekend will not help their cause. What I do like about the Griz is how much they challenged themselves in the non-conference. As they say: “Just keep winning, baby!”

    Glad you are liking the articles, Danny.

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