The Week That Was: Feb. 15-21Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2011
David Ely is an RTC Contributor
Monday’s Syracuse-Villanova and Kansas-Oklahoma State games kicked off Judgment Week at ESPN, and TWTW has no idea what that exactly means. Are our opinions (or “judgments,” if you will) supposed to be dramatically altered based on this week’s outcomes? Syracuse’s win over ’Nova doesn’t mean they’re no longer a flawed team that’s capable of looking great one night and mediocre the next. And barring any game-changing injury, you shouldn’t think differently about a squad based on a couple of games at the end of February. You are who you are at this point — no extra judgments are necessary. So why does ESPN feel the need to dub almost every week now? Just stop at Rivalry Week. Sometimes games are just games, they don’t need any extra labels. There’s only one real judgment to be made this week — Battle: Los Angeles looks like a god-awful movie.
What We Learned
We thought that Tristan Thompson was just speaking for Texas when he said that the Longhorns would prefer not to replace Kansas as the No. 1 team in the next AP poll — turns out he was expressing the sentiments for just about every possible No. 1 team in the nation. On Saturday #4 Pittsburgh went down at St. John’s, followed by #2 Texas at Nebraska, and then on Sunday #3 Ohio State lost at Purdue. ESPN Stats & Information said it was the first time that the #1-4 teams in the ESPN/USA Today poll all lost in the same week since 2003 — yikes. But this isn’t the first week that we’ve seen this level of attrition in the polls; remember, it was just a few weeks ago that 13 of the AP’s Top 25 lost and half of the top 10. So who deserves to be #1 now? Duke got the nod on Monday, but do the Blue Devils deserve to be vaulted all the way from #5 to the top? In all honesty, you could probably just put the top six teams on a dartboard (top seven if you want to include BYU who got two first place votes), close your eyes, throw your dart, and there’s your #1 team. Not that it matters — during the season #1 in college hoops has always felt like a superficial title to TWTW. What’s really important is who’s in position for a #1 seed. It’s not important to determine who’s #1 now. The competition to watch is the race to distinguish between teams #4 and #5.
Steve Lavin is your National Coach of the Year — mark it down. The Johnnies knocked off #4 Pittsburgh on Saturday for their fifth win at home over team ranked in the top 13 this season. There were 10 lead changes in the second half of that game (three in the final 27 seconds alone) and Dwight Hardy’s underhanded scoop shot with 1.2 seconds on the clock gave St. John’s yet another statement win. To truly get a feel for how Lavin has transformed the Red Storm in less than one year, you have to focus not just on the product on the court but on the atmosphere surrounding the program. Johnnies’ games are once again events in New York, and a packed Madison Square Garden was buzzing Saturday afternoon. And other than during the Big East Tournament, when was the last time you could say that of a college hoops game at MSG? St. John’s is now 9-5 in the Big East (17-9 overall) and entered the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade on Monday. The Johnnies now have to be considered a lock for the NCAAs, and a legitimate candidate to win the Big East Tournament played at MSG, which certainly will be rocking for the hometown team.
What’s with the late-game officiating this year? First we had a bogus foul called on Villanova to give Rutgers a game-wining four-point play, and then on Friday another ticky-tack foul decided a game when Wichita State got whistled for a foul on VCU’s Joey Rodriguez’s last-second runner. Rodriguez sank both free throws to give VCU the BracketBusters win and send a deathblow to Wichita State’s at-large hopes. The Shockers lack a marquee non-conference win on their resume’ (they lost to UConn and San Diego State earlier this season), and their #53 RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com, doesn’t scream At-Large Team. It’s also looking more likely that the Missouri Valley Conference isn’t strong enough to place more than one team in the Dance — the MVC is #12 in conference RPI. The MVC Tournament should be a war between Wichita St., Missouri State, and Northern Iowa. But getting back to the officiating issue, TWTW knows that there are people who want games to be called the same for all 40 minutes and for refs not to be intimidated in making a big call in a hostile environment. But there was nothing egregious on that play. That was a case when swallowing the whistle was the best option. Props to Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg for drawing our attention to the call.
The four pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.
Monday was not a good day in Lawrence, KS. The Jayhawks indefinitely suspended starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor for violating team rules. The school would not go into detail as to why Taylor was suspended, but coach Bill Self said that he would remain a part of the team and would participate in practice until he’s reinstated. This is a huge loss for the Jayhawks as they hit the stretch run of the regular season. While Taylor hasn’t put up gaudy numbers in his first season as a starter (8.8 PPG, 4.7 APG), he led the team in minutes (27.5 MPG) and had the fourth highest usage rate on the squad (20.9%). The onus will now be on star freshman Josh Shelby to not just put up points, but to run the team. Kansas did just fine Monday, thrashing Oklahoma State 92-65, but we’ll see how the Jayhawks fare in the long term if Taylor remains on the shelf.
Kenneth Faried has gotten more pub than probably any player in recent Morehead State history. There’s been a profile in Sports Illustrated, and another one on ESPN.com. Here’s guessing those two pieces won’t be the last ones written on Faried, who now holds the NCAA modern era career rebounding mark. Faried’s seventh board Saturday night (and 1,571st of his career) against Indiana State moved him past Tim Duncan on the all-time list. Faried is averaging an astounding 17.5 PPG and 14.2 RPG — numbers that have made Faried a potential first round pick in this June’s NBA draft. America will have the rare opportunity to check out Faried’s skills this Thursday night when the Eagles travel to Murray State at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU in a battle for control of the OVC. Both teams are currently 12-4 in conference with two regular season games remaining before the OVC Tournament.
Interesting story out of San Francisco: this season the program invested $10,000 for players to wear heart rate monitors in practices, games and weight room workouts. The data collected from the monitors is observed on a laptop by the Dons’ Director of Strength and Conditioning and the Director of Basketball Operations. They then use the info to determine when a player has reached his maximum heart rate, letting them know that its time for said player to take a break. The program also gives the coaching staff a nightly breakdown on the players’ output during a game or practice, and how much recovery time each athlete needs after a given game. So instead of just merely guessing when a player should sit on the bench for a couple of minutes, the coaches now have hard data that let them know the precise moment that an athlete has hit his wall. The method seems to work for the Dons, since they’re 3-0 in overtime games this year and 8-4 in the WCC.
Battling traffic across Los Angeles to get to Pauley Pavilion has never been fun, but attending UCLA home games is about to get a heck of a lot more inconvenient. UCLA is considering six sites for its home games during the 2011-12 season when Pauley Pavilion will be closed to renovations. A recent L.A. Times article lists San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center as a possible site, but TWTW sincerely doubts the Bruins would ever force its fans to make the two-hour trek to San Diego for more than one home game. The other possible venues are Staples Center, the L.A. Sports Arena, the Honda Center, Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario and Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. According to the Times story, the Honda Center in Anaheim is the front-runner to host as many as nine games.
Pour This Man A Drink
Normally we’d suggest a soothing green tea for Bruce Weber (anything really to help his vocal cords), but something stiff is in order after Illinois continued its freefall with a loss at Michigan State on Saturday night. The Fighting Illini have lost seven of their past 11 conference games since a 3-0 start to Big Ten play. To make matters worse, the loss to the Spartans came on the heels of a Wednesday press conference from Illinois AD Ron Guenther, who felt it was necessary to endorse his downtrodden coach. Guenther said that Weber is the man to fix the problems with Illinois basketball, but he also admitted the program isn’t meeting expectations this year. It’s never a good sign for a coach’s job security when the AD has to make public statements on his behalf. But what’s worse for Weber’s status is Illinois’ less-than-solid position on the NCAA bubble. The Illini are 7-7 in conference with road games at Ohio State and Purdue left on the schedule. If they can’t pull off an upset, they’re looking at a 9-9 Big Ten record heading in to the conference tournament. Given the strength of the Big Ten this year, that record should be enough for an at-large bid. But given Illinois’ recent poor play, a 9-9 record is no guarantee.
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 16 poll, while KenPom’s is through games played through Feb. 20).
This week’s team is George Mason. The Patriots currently are unranked in the AP but #18 according to KenPom. Are they top 25 worthy? Let’s find out.
Why George Mason should be unranked: The Patriots didn’t exactly start the year strong. They lost to N.C. State and Wofford in November and dropped two of their first three CAA games of the season. It’s probably tough for voters to shake George Mason’s slow start when evaluating the Patriots for the Top 25. Plus the Patriots’ schedule ranks 65th according to RealTimeRPI.com — not a lot of sexy wins, there.
Why George Mason should be #18: So what if George Mason has only the 65th toughest schedule. That same site also has the Patriots with the #20 RPI in the nation, and the Patriots are riding a 13-game winning streak in the tough CAA, showing that they can win tough games on the road. A lot of teams in the top five haven’t proven they can do that on a consistent basis.
Our verdict: We’re hopping in our hot tub time machine and partying like it’s 2006 — George Mason is back, baby. The Patriots have all the ingredients of the perfect Cinderella. They knock down threes (#13 in the nation at 40.2%), they don’t commit turnovers (TOs on just 16.9% of possessions), and they play respectable D (#34 in effective FG% at 45.6). We’re not saying you should pencil George Mason into your Final Four, but there’s no reason to think they can’t make it to the second week.
Your Seven-Day All Americans
E’Twaun Moore, guard, Purdue —Moore had a subpar game when Purdue got shellacked at Ohio State on Jan. 25, going for 16 points on just 4-13 shooting. Consider that performance redeemed after Moore exploded for 38 points on 13-18 shooting (7-10 from three) in the Boilermakers’ 13-point win over OSU on Sunday. Don’t look now but Purdue has won its past four games.
Tu Holloway, guard, Xavier — Holloway logged his second triple-double of the season with a 26-11-10 against Fordham to match the 14/10/14 he had against Wake Forest on Dec. 18. Xavier lists Holloway at 6’0, but given the passion with which he plays and crashes the boards, TWTW would like to have him remeasured.
Ashton Gibbs, guard, Pittsburgh — TWTW is a big fan of Gibbs and we were thrilled to see him come back and pour in 26 points and hit six treys after missing his previous three games. Gibbs did all that he could to prevent the Panthers from losing at St. John’s.
Ryan Pearson, forward, George Mason — We’ve already stated our affection for the Patriots, and Pearson is a big reason why the Patriots’ stock is hotter than Apple’s the day after the iPhone came out. In Saturday’s BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa of the MVC, Pearson had 21 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.
Derrick Williams, forward, Arizona — Williams posted back-to-back games of 26 points in wins over Washington State and Washington and averaged 9.5 RPG for the week. But it was a defensive play that made Williams stand out this week. Williams’ last-second flying block spoiled the Huskies’ upset bid Saturday night. We don’t know what was more astonishing: Williams’ block, or the fact that a major Pac-10 game was on national TV.
Terrell Stoglin, guard, Maryland — Stoglin scored 25 points and dished out nine assists in the Terrapins’ win over N.C. State on Sunday — a game the Terps had to win to remain in the NCAA picture. Stoglin also dropped 25 points in a losing effort at Virginia Tech earlier in the week. Those two performances earned Stoglin ACC Rookie of the Week honors.
Cleveland Melvin, forward, DePaul — DePaul might be in the midst of a dreadful year in the Big East, but Melvin is one of the few bright spots in Oliver Purnell’s first-year in Chicago. Melvin nearly led the Blue Demons to an upset win over Villanova on Saturday, scoring 16 points on 7-13 shooting. He also put up 20 in a win at Providence — DePaul’s first conference win of the year.