The Week That Was: Feb. 8-14Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011
David Ely is an RTC Contributor.
What a weekend. We’re still reeling from the Saturday’s chaos in Madison. It’s always a bittersweet day when the final undefeated team in the nation suffers its first loss. Do you think the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne and toast themselves every year once that game clock hits 0:00 and their legacy is preserved for one more year? Sure, they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but we easily could picture Bobby Knight smirking to himself and lighting a cigar after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin.
What We Learned
Ohio State wasn’t an invincible juggernaut and we already knew that. OSU endured close calls earlier the season against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. It wasn’t a matter of if Ohio State would suffer its first loss, it was a matter of when some team would rise up and topple the Buckeyes. Cue the Wisconsin Badgers. Jordan Taylor exploded in the second half scoring 21 of his 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a come from behind win and an all-time RTC. But here at TWTW, we’re not as interested in single game scenarios; we focus on the big picture. So in their win, did the Badgers show the nation a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes? The main quality a team needs in order to emulate what the Badgers did against OSU is offensive efficiency. Ohio State is the #12 team in the nation at forcing turnovers, causing them on 25% of opponents’ possessions. Wisconsin values the ball more than any other team in the NCAA, turning it over on just 13.6% of its possessions, and on Saturday the Badgers had just eight turnovers. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to point out that fewer turnovers increases your win probability. But what’s harder to duplicate is the Badgers’ enigmatic guard. Taylor pretty much single-handedly propelled Wisconsin to the upset. Few clubs have a guard capable of putting up that many points that quickly. So while opposing coaches can point to Saturday’s outcome merely as proof that OSU is beatable, it’s difficult to emulate the Badgers’ winning formula. Here’s the best recipe for beating a highly ranked Ohio State squad: schedule the game in Madison. Neither the OSU football nor basketball teams are invulnerable to the powers of Bucky Badger.
A lot of people (namely, we here at TWTW) thought Duke was ripe for the taking in last week’s Tobacco Road showdown with North Carolina. And for 20 minutes the Tar Heels took it to the Blue Devils, jumping out to a 14-point lead at halftime. Could it be that Duke was on the downward slope and UNC was ready to retake the ACC after just one year? Was the loss of Kyrie Irving finally catching up to Coach K’s bunch? Nope. Not when Duke still has Nolan Smith running the show, and an emerging Seth Curry there to extend defenses. Smith and Curry combined for 40 points in the second half of Duke’s come-from-behind win, and only two other Blue Devils even had a bucket after halftime. Smith’s been producing big performances all year, quietly putting together a first team All-America candidacy, but Curry’s improved play could be the key ingredient for another Duke title run. Curry has hit double figures in three-straight games (his first such streak in ACC play) and has gone 9-17 from three over that span.
While Kansas vaulted into the #1 spot atop the polls in light of Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin, TWTW would have put a different team at #1: Pittsburgh. Heck, we even penned a passage praising the Panthers as the true #1 before the Jayhawks got faced by Jacob Pullen and Kansas State (we promise we did). So why the Panthers? Pitt just won back-to-back games on the road without top player Ashton Gibbs, who’s still nursing his MCL injury. The most recent win came at Villanova’s on-campus Pavilion, where the Wildcats had won 46 straight. The Panthers are 11-1 in the nation’s toughest conference according to RealTimeRPI.com, but as ESPN’s Dana O’Neil pointed out in her post-game column Saturday, they haven’t received a #1 vote in the polls through 14 weeks. Pitt finally got some #1 votes this week (six in the AP) but it wasn’t enough to change its #4 ranking from the previous week. What’s the deal? Part of the lack of Pitt love probably has to do with the fact that that Panthers haven’t reached the Final Four with Jamie Dixon and have only made one trip to the Elite Eight. But the fates of previous Pitt squads have no bearing on what’s to come of this year’s team, of course. These Panthers can win pretty (see their 78-63 drubbing of UConn and an 89-81 win over Marquette), and they can win ugly (see their TKO over Villanova in a match that was more UFC than college hoops). If they aren’t #1-worthy, nobody is.
Kentucky seems like it’s in a freefall right now after losing four of seven games in the SEC, but there is reason for optimism in Lexington. That’s because the toughest stretch of the season is over, and the Wildcats’ schedule looks pretty favorable from here on out. One thing we’ve learned about UK over the past month is that the Wildcats are just a putrid road team. They’ve lost five of their last six games away from Rupp Arena, whereas they sport an unblemished record in friendlier confines. The Wildcats play four of their final six games at home, including back-to-back home dates against Florida and Vanderbilt. If past results indicate future trends, Kentucky should have plenty of momentum heading into the SEC Tournament and March Madness.
The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.
Florida State has won seven of its last nine games, but the Seminoles’ long-term prospects took a major hit Saturday when Chris Singleton, who leads FSU in points, rebounds and steals, suffered a fractured right foot less than 10 minutes into the first half. Singleton was scheduled for surgery on Monday, and FSU coach Leonard Hamilton did not give a timetable for his star forward’s return. While the ’Noles managed to fend off Virginia on Saturday, their third-place position in the ACC is in serious jeopardy. Three of FSU’s final five games are away from Tallahassee, and the two home games aren’t easy by any measure (vs. Miami and North Carolina). Someone’s going to have to step up if the Seminoles are to continue on their NCAA path. No one else on their roster averages more than 10 PPG. Michael Snaer scored 16 against Virginia — that’s a good start.
The NCAA Tournament finally has moved into the 21st Century. On Thursday, CBS Sports and Turner Sports released their broadcasting schedule for March Madness, and here’s the major news: all of the games will be aired in their entirety on either CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV. No longer will we have to be forced to watch the local team on CBS, and stream online whichever game’s going down to the wire. It’s ridiculous that the NCAA stuck with its outdated TV model for so long, but better late then never.
If you go to BYU, but haven’t totally bought into all of the Jimmer Fredette hype, you might want to keep those feelings to yourself. Definitely don’t write a letter to the BYU student newspaper warning the student body of idol worship. And DEFINITELY don’t post a Facebook status about said letter. Michelle Peralta of Apple Valley, California, did just that this past week when she vented about the inescapable Jimmer mania on BYU’s campus. At least she’s not upset at Jimmer for all of his fanfare, explaining, “I’m not blaming Jimmer for all this; was it Nephi’s fault in the Book of Mormon when his brothers worshiped him?” Peralta’s letter prompted over 600 Jimmer-related responses on her Facebook wall, where BYU fans displayed their comedic chops. Final consensus: Peralta got Jimmered.
Pour This Man A Drink
It must have been rough for you this past week, Sidney. Whenever UNC-Duke get together right in your own backyard it has to remind you how irrelevant your program is not just on a national level but also within the state of North Carolina. But it’s tough to feel sorry for Sidney Lowe; he pretty much built the fire underneath his current hot seat with his lousy coaching. Lowe has yet to win more than six games in the ACC in a season, and it doesn’t look like he’s breaking that trend this year given N.C. State’s current 3-7 record in conference. This season is especially disappointing considering the highly touted recruiting class that Lowe reeled in during the offseason. All the losing combined with the general lack of buzz around the program equals a probable pink slip for Lowe at the end of the season. Lowe’s eventual firing will certainly please a large contingent of Wolfpack faithful, but N.C. State fans should do a little soul searching before their next hire. Are the expectations that N.C. State can compete with UNC and Duke on a yearly basis reasonable? We hear at TWTW don’t think so. If fans can temper their expectations and be content with a program that occasionally rises up to place in the top three of the ACC, then the next coach should find a work environment in which he can succeed.
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 15 poll, while KenPom’s is through games played through Feb. 13).
This week’s team is Temple. The Owls currently are #23 in the AP but #37 according to KenPom. Are they top 25 worthy? Let’s find out.
Why Temple should be #23: The Owls haven’t suffered an embarrassing loss this year, dropping non-conference games to Villanova, Texas A&M and Cal either on the road or at a neutral location. Their only two conference losses have come at Xavier and Duquesne who are a combined 17-3 in the Atlantic 10. They also have a win over Georgetown on their resume, and they boast a guard in Ramone Moore capable of delivering some big time performances.
Why Temple should be #37: The Owls are an offensively challenged bunch. They rank #66 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and their effective FG% is a paltry 50.1& (117th overall). Temple also struggles to extend defenses, shooting just 33.5% from beyond the arc (203rd in the nation). Those shooting numbers are troubling for a squad in which three of its top four contributors are guards.
Our verdict: We are going to side with our friend KenPom on this one. While it’s fun to have Temple in the top 25 and think back to the times when John Chaney roamed the sidelines, the Owls just aren’t a top-25 team at this point in time. They boast the #33 RPI in the nation and have only one win over a team in the RPI’s top 40. Unfortunately, Temple only has one more chance to prove itself before the postseason when it travels to Duke on Feb. 23. If the Owls play the Blue Devils tough in that one, then we’d be willing to reevaluate them.
Your Seven-Day All-Americans
Jordan Taylor, guard, Wisconsin — Taylor was the burning spearhead behind the introduction of Ohio State to the loss column on Saturday. Taylor exploded for 21 points in the second half, as the Badgers rallied back from a 15-point deficit. Taylor scored eight-straight points in a 15-0 Wisconsin run and eclipsed the 20-point mark for the seventh time in 12 Big Ten games.
Nolan Smith, guard, Duke — Smith grabbed control of the ACC Player of the Year race Wednesday night when he scored 22 of his career-high 34 points in the second half to rally the Blue Devils past North Carolina. Smith was the first Duke player to score more than 30 points against the Tar Heels since J.J. Redick in 2006.
Norris Cole, guard, Cleveland State — Cole went from virtual unknown to national sensation Saturday when he became the first player since Blake Griffin (and second in 15 years) to score more than 40 points and grab at least 20 rebounds in a game. Cole, 6’2, posted 41 points and 20 boards in a win over Youngstown State.
John Jenkins, guard, Vanderbilt — The guard trend continues with Jenkins, who was unstoppable in the Commodores’ win over Kentucky. Jenkins played all 40 minutes and scored 32 points on 11-17 shooting (6-10 from 3). Jenkins has scored at least 20 in five of his last six games.
Jacob Pullen, guard, Kansas State — You can’t have five guards on your team you say? Well, college basketball has long been a guard-oriented game, and TWTW will construct its team in whatever manner it sees fit. Besides, Pullen was just that good Monday night against Kansas, scoring a career-high 38 points in a season-saving win.
Aaron Craft, guard, Ohio State — Jared Sullinger gets all the hype when it comes to the Buckeyes’ freshman class, justifiably, but Craft has earned Thad Matta’s trust as the first reserve off OSU’s bench. Craft has played at least 20 minutes in every conference game this year and has eclipsed the 30-minute mark in nine of OSU’s 12 Big Ten games. Craft scored eight points and dished out six assists in the loss at Wisconsin.
Terrence Jones, forward, Kentucky — Jones was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the fourth time this year after posting his eighth double-double of the season in a win against Tennessee (best in the SEC), and scoring a team-high 25 points in the Wildcats’ loss at Vandy. Jones nearly got his ninth dub-dub that day but fell one rebound shy of double figures.