The Week That Was: Feb. 1-Feb. 7Posted by jstevrtc on February 8th, 2011
David Ely is an RTC Contributor.
You know how ESPN loves doing college basketball marathons? The network put on 24 straight hours of hoops at the beginning of the season, and then ESPN aired four-straight games on MLK Day for your viewing pleasure. Well, why stop with those two days? Monday would have been the perfect day to sit on your coach all afternoon and watch some roundball. TWTW can’t think of a better way to nurse your Super Bowl hangover. Make it happen, ESPN.
What We Learned
North Carolina’s 20-point loss at Georgia Tech over MLK Weekend might have been the best thing to happen to the Tar Heels this season. Since that embarrassing loss, the ’Heels have ripped off five straight wins in ACC play, outscoring opponents by at least 20 points in the last three. A lot of people will choose to single out Kendall Marshall’s insertion into the starting lineup as the turning point of the season, but it’s been Harrison Barnes’ improved play that’s catapulted UNC into the ranks of NCAA dark horse. Barnes has scored at least 17 points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, and it’s no coincidence that UNC cruised in all three games. The Tar Heels already boast one of the better post duos with Tyler Zeller and John Henson, now they have the electric scorer they’ve missed since the 2009 title season.
Baylor, Butler and Kansas State all went on the road Saturday and came away with mega wins as they attempt to remain in the discussion for NCAA Tournament bids. Baylor landed the most impressive W, riding Perry Jones III to an overtime win at Texas A&M. Butler got a boost with its 12-point win at Horizon League leader Cleveland State, and Kansas State avoided a crippling loss when it eked past Iowa State. It remains to be seen what these wins will do for them in the long run, though, as all three are firmly entrenched on the bubble. The Wildcats have the best RPI of the bunch, checking in at #31, and according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, they appear to be in the best standing with the selection committee as an 11 seed, compared to Baylor (the last team in) and Butler (NIT bound). But anyone who feels secure in trusting Frank Martin’s team hasn’t watched any hoops this year.
Florida gained some much-needed separation in the SEC East with its victory over Kentucky on Saturday night. The Gators currently hold a 1.5 game lead over Tennessee in the division, and they’re up 2.5 games over Kentucky and Vanderbilt with seven games left in the regular season. It’s kind of bizarre to see a team with losses to Central Florida and Jacksonville control its own destiny in a major conference, but such is life in this year’s SEC where your biggest competition is Kentucky (4-4 in its past eight games) and Tennessee (with Bruce Pearl suspended for the first half of SEC play). Key for the Gators following their win over Kentucky will be avoiding their typical letdown. Four of their five losses this year have immediately followed a big win.
Not that anyone saw the game (memo to the Pac-10: get a better TV deal), but Arizona and Cal engaged in one of the most entertaining games of the season Saturday night with the Wildcats prevailing 107-105 in 3OT. The win puts Arizona in control of the Pac-10 with seven to go. The Wildcats have a 1.5 game lead over UCLA and a two game lead over slumping Washington, losers of three in a row. Given the state of the Huskies, the Wildcats look like a safe bet to take the Pac-10 regular season title. Arizona has the most dominant player in the conference in 6’8 forward Derrick Williams (21 points in a win at Stanford and 18 rebounds against Cal). The Wildcats travel to Arizona State next Sunday and then finish the regular season with four of their last six games at home.
The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.
Pittsburgh got some bad news to kick off a week of tough road contests. Leading scorer Ashton Gibbs is out for at least 10 days due to an MCL injury in his left knee. Gibbs went 5-5 from three and scored 25 points in the Panthers’ win over Cincinnati on Saturday night, but the next morning his injury was discovered. Pitt had five players score nine points or more in Monday’s win at West Virginia, but the Panthers depth will be tested Saturday at Villanova.
Upsetting news from Starkville, Mississippi: he Bulldogs are no longer allowed on Twitter — a sad development for anyone that enjoys seeing players manage to put their feet in their mouths in 140 characters or less. The social media crackdown came in the wake of Renardo Sidney tweeting “shame how our fans turn they back on us when need them most” and Ravern Johnson posting the ditty about his enlightenment of “starting to see why people Transfer, you can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game shooters need to move not watch why other coaches get that do not make sense to me.” Dissing your fans and your coach probably isn’t the best idea unless your goal is to get suspended, which happened to Johnson. It was then announced Monday that Johnson is indefinitely suspended from the program for missing practice last week and breaking MSU’s attendance policy.
Tom Crean’s rebuilding project at Indiana was dealt a setback early last week when leading scorer and rebounder Christian Watford suffered a broken left hand during the Hoosiers’ overtime loss at Michigan State. Watford underwent surgery to repair his hand last Tuesday and is out indefinitely. Indiana knocked off Minnesota in its first game sans Watford for its second win over a top 25 team this year but then fell to Big Ten cellar-dweller Iowa. IU is 12-12 with five of its last seven games against ranked teams. Looks like Indiana will miss the postseason for a third straight year.
Pour This Man A Drink
We’re not sure if Larry Drew II watched UNC’s throttling of Florida State or not, and considering the fact that most of his ex-teammates still haven’t heard from him days after he announced his intentions to transfer, TWTW sincerely doubts Drew planned his Sunday morning around the Tar Heels’ game. But there’s no way that word of UNC’s win (and of Marshall’s coming out party) didn’t get to Drew, and the look on his face had to have been priceless when he saw that Marshall dropped 16 assists on the Seminoles. It’s poetic justice that Marshall had his best game of the year in the first game after Drew decided to transfer in one of the most bizarre turn of events in recent college basketball history. Most people familiar with UNC always suspected that Drew wasn’t happy to the degree that his transfer shouldn’t surprise anyone. The fact that he left the program mid-season and had his NBA-coach dad do the dirty work, though, is definitely a jaw-dropper. There’s no tangible benefit for Drew to leave no as opposed to sucking it up and leaving at the end of the season. So what if Williams found a better player in Marshall, Larry? You still were going to get your minutes as one of the first players off the bench, and you did a good job as a reserve, logging nine assists to one turnover in a win at Boston College. But you obviously view yourself more worthy of a starting role. Good luck finding another program that’s willing to hand its keys over to you. We hear that coaches are always on the look out for mediocre point guards with an overbearing father and a reputation for deserting his team.
KenPom vs. the AP
Here we address one team whose rankings in the KenPom and AP Top 25 polls* just don’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 14 poll, while KenPom’s is through games played through Feb. 6).
This week’s team is Kentucky. The Wildcats currently are #18 in the AP but #7 according to KenPom. Where should we place them? Let’s find out.
Why Kentucky should be #18: For starters, the Wildcats have gone 4-4 in their past eight games, a stretch that included embarrassing defeats to Alabama and Mississippi. The 4-4 SEC record is the Wildcats’ worst through eight games since the 1989-90 season. The .500 mark is appropriate for UK, as the team is currently the embodiment of inconsistency.
Why Kentucky should be #7: While the Wildcats don’t always put together a complete team effort, their individual pieces are still some of the best in the nation. Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Brandon Knight all are capable of dominating games on their own, and their talents help give Kentucky the #16 offensive and #11 defensive units respectively according to KenPom.com. The Wildcats’ rank #6 in effective defensive FG% (42.7), and only one opponent (Connecticut) has eclipsed 80 points against them this year.
Our verdict: If there’s one thing that TWTW hates, it’s waiting for teams to play at the level of their talent. There’s nothing more frustrating in all of college basketball. Eventually, though, you are what you are, and we doubt the Wildcats will be anything more than a team that looks great one night only to disappoint the next. The fringe of the top 20 sounds about right for a schizophrenic team like Kentucky.
Your Seven-Day All-Americans
Kendall Marshall, guard, North Carolina — All Marshall did was set a North Carolina record for most assists in a game by a freshman. Marshall’s 16 dimes were the most in a game by a Tar Heel since Raymond Felton dropped 18 in 2003. Marshall also scored nine points against FSU, while playing a career-high 36 minutes. Now Marshall just needs to work on not throwing up at halftime.
Ben Hansbrough, guard, Notre Dame — Hansbrough continued his campaign for first team All-Big East with 24 points at DePaul and 25 at Rutgers this week. The Irish have won five straight, and Hansbrough has scored at least 19 points in his last four games.
Marshon Brooks, forward, Providence — Brooks put on his Jimmer cap this week in posting 24 points in a win over South Florida and then 43 in a loss at Georgetown. Brooks’ 43 is all the more impressive considering only six of those points came via the 3-ball.
Joevan Catron, forward, Oregon — It was a big week for the Ducks and for Catron. Catron averaged 18.5 PPG and 9.0 RPG in wins over Washington State and Washington. Catron’s effort in those two wins earned him Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.
Perry Jones III, center, Baylor — Jones came up huge in a must-win for the Bears at Texas A&M on Saturday. He scored a career-high 27 points on 9-16 shooting and a 9-9 effort from the line. Jones still needs to work on crashing the boards — he’s only hit double figures in rebounds twice this year — but it’s tough to complain if he posts more 20+ nights.
Trevor Releford, guard, Alabama — Releford took home the SEC Freshman of the Week award thanks in large part to his 16-point, eight-assist tally in a win over Mississippi State last Wednesday. Releford has scored in double figures in five of his last six games as the Tide have jumped out to a surprising 7-1 record in the SEC West.
Kyrie Irving, guard, Duke — We’ve got an update on the most famous digit in college basketball: Kyrie Irving ditched the hard cast on his right foot last Friday in favor of a walking boot. Honestly, this isn’t a very big deal. It’s unlikely that Irving returns to the Blue Devils lineup this season, and if for some miraculous reason he does, he won’t be in the kind of shape necessary to be an impact player. Coach K said Saturday that Irving is a long way from playing.