The Week That Was: Feb. 21-28Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2011
David Ely is an RTC Contributor
March is here. Need we say more? Those three little words should be enough to put an extra skip in your step this morning and the rest of the week. March is the month when it’s not only socially acceptable to call in sick from work to watch sports — it’s encouraged. The way this season’s gone, the Tournament should be beyond epic, possibly even exceeding last year’s chaotic first two rounds. And if more male cheerleaders are involved, that’s OK by us. It’s March and we’re in a good mood.
What We Learned
Baring an epic collapse during the final two weeks of the regular season, BYU should get a #1 seed when the NCAA Tournaments brackets are released March 13. And none of this “in the discussion” talk. The Jimmer Fredettes (er, Cougars) are definitely one of the top four teams in the nation after their 13-point shakedown of San Diego State at hostile Viejas Arena on Saturday afternoon, a place where the Aztecs hadn’t lost a game all year. After San Diego State took a brief 2-0 lead, the Cougars led the rest of the way in an eye-opening performance that proved two important things: BYU can play some D, and it doesn’t always have to be all Jimmer, all the time. The Cougars held Kawhi Leonard to 17 points on 6-14 shooting, blocking his shot twice and harassing the Aztec big man whenever the he set up in the paint. BYU also had three players other than Fredette score in double figures. Charles Abouo led the way with 18 points, while Noah Hartsock finished with 15 and Jackson Emery added 13. The knock on the Cougars was always that they relied too much on Fredette. While it’s still a justified criticism (Fredette has the fifth highest usage rate in the nation), BYU gave teams reason to think twice about doubling Fredette, especially on the perimeter.
Selection Sunday should be a little less nerve-racking in Blacksburg, Virginia, than it’s been in recent years. After Virginia Tech’s upset of #1 Duke on Saturday night, the Hokies probably are safely in the field of 68. They’re now 9-5 in the ACC and the win over the Blue Devils gives them the resume-boosting win they’d been lacking the previous three years when they were one of the last teams left out of the tournament. But unlike those teams, this year’s VT squad showed the will and resolve to come back from for a late hole against a top team. The Hokies trailed Duke by six with 6:34 to go when Jeff Allen hit a three to ignite a 15-4 run and propel Tech to an upset it had to have. The Hokies entered Saturday’s game with the #64 RPI, strength of schedule of 110, and a number of bad losses (Virginia and Georgia Tech) — enough negatives to deter the committee from giving them an at-large berth. Now that they have a bright and shiny win over Duke, Seth Greenberg probably won’t sweat the hours leading up to the bracket’s unveiling. TWTW would be remiss to say we won’t be a little sad when the day passes and there’s no scathing diatribe from Greenberg on how his team was unjustly left out. Of course, since this is Virginia Tech we’re talking about, no one would be shocked if the Hokies hop right back onto the bubble with losses to Boston College and Clemson to end the season.
It’s not hard to lose a game in which one of your players sets a conference record for points in a game — you just have to play really, really bad defense. Marshon Brooks put up 52 for Providence last Wednesday to set a Big East record, but Brooks’ once-in-a-lifetime performance was all for naught as the Friars still lost to Notre Dame, 94-93. Providence gave up 60 to just Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, and the Irish shot 56.1% for the game. It’s not that bad defense from Providence is anything new — the Friars have been lit up for 90+ points three times this year in the historically competitive Big East. How competitive? It’s looking more and more likely that 11 teams from the Big East will be represented in the NCAAs after Marquette and Cincinnati both toppled ranked teams on the road this week. We’re not sure if this development is a good thing for college basketball, but we do know that the Big East Tournament should be every bit as competitive as The Dance a week later.
Speaking of the Big East, things are not looking good in D.C., where Georgetown’s stock is falling fast. The Hoyas lost Chris Wright to a broken left hand early in their loss to Cincinnati and dropped another one at home Saturday, losing 58-51 to Syracuse. Wright had surgery on his hand Thursday morning and should be back for the NCAA Tournament. The kind of state the Hoyas will be in upon Wright’s return is a whole other story, however. Without their point guard directing the offense, the Hoyas have had their two worst shooting games of the season: 25% vs. Cincy and 36% vs. Syracuse. Georgetown finishes its regular season at Cincinnati next Saturday and should face another likely NCAA-bound team in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament (if the Hoyas manage to get a bye). G’town could easily enter March Madness on a four-game losing streak.
The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.
China got a rare taste of college hoops Wednesday night when North Carolina and N.C. State’s game was broadcast in Shanghai — the first NCAA regular season game ever televised in China. While this was certainly a cool thing for both the Tar Heel and Wolfpack programs, we here at TWTW can’t help but think there are better ways to expand the NCAA brand oversees. Is showing N.C. State really the best way to create college basketball fans in China? We think not. And it’s not like North Carolina is the most TV-friendly team this year (anyone who watched the Tar Heels’ win over Boston College can certainly attest to that). It was a great idea, but the execution could’ve been better.
It’s pretty rare that an NCAA game could remind you of baseball, but that’s what popped into our minds when watching Tim Floyd get ejected Wednesday night at East Carolina. As soon as the ref T’d up Floyd, something in him snapped. Floyd unleashed a verbal tired that would have made Lou Piniella proud. He really did look like an old baseball manager trying to get in the face of an umpire. Floyd eventually was escorted off the court by a police officer, putting the capper on a sequence that made every highlight show. But there were two things that put the ejection over the top for TWTW: 1) It was hilarious watching one of the referees dart back-and-forth in an attempt to separate Floyd from his target. 2) Tim’s tie. The knot was pushed all the way to the right. Instead of campus security, someone should have called the fashion police.
Jim Calhoun will sit out Connecticut’s first three Big East games during the 2011-12 season. That was the punishment dolled out by the NCAA this past week, suspending Calhoun three games and docking the Huskies scholarships for three academic years. UConn also was hit with recruiting restrictions, permanent disassociation of a booster, and three years’ probation for recruiting violations under Calhoun’s watch. What’s important for the Huskies, though, is that they avoided a postseason ban. Those three games are just a glorified slap on the wrist and shouldn’t have a large impact on the Huskies’ overall success next season.
Pour This Man A Drink
Same old Longhorns? Same old Rick Barnes? You have to wonder after Texas’ last two weekends. First, there was the loss at Nebraska when the Longhorns could have become the #1 team in the nation. Then they gave up 91 points on Saturday in a loss at Colorado, and on Monday they lost at home to unranked Kansas State. What’s troubling for Texas is that, in each of the three games, the other team decisively won the second half. The Longhorns fell behind big at Nebraska, and they let a 22-point cushion slip through their fingers at Colorado. And what’s even more troubling is the following quote from Jordan Hamilton, who needed 24 shots to score 21, after the loss to the Buffaloes: “The second half we didn’t execute and I think they played harder than us, and they wanted it more, it seemed like.” That isn’t what you want to hear less than two weeks away from the NCAAs. It’s not like Texas hasn’t melted down the stretch before; they did it last year, going 7-10 to close out the season. We’re not saying the Longhorns are going to become a disaster case again, we just don’t think it’s wise to trust Texas, and especially Barnes. TWTW will never forgive Rick for failing to get out of the Round of 32 with Kevin Durant. Until he wins a title, we won’t be able to let him live that one down.
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 17 poll, while KenPom’s is through games played through Feb. 27).
This week’s team is Utah State. The Aggies currently are ranked #25 in the AP but #17 according to KenPom.
Why Utah State should be #25: The Aggies crushed Idaho this past week and jumped back into the rankings Monday after a one-week hiatus. The Aggies had slipped at Idaho a couple of weeks ago for the lone loss in WAC play, but they gave the Vandals an 18-point beatdown Saturday to improve to 13-1 in conference. The week before, Utah State scored one of the most impressive wins of Bracketbusters Week when it went on the road and beat St. Mary’s by 10.
Why Utah State should be #17: The Aggies are 21-1 since their 17-point loss at Georgetown. While some people might be put off by Utah State’s #102 ranked SOS, TWTW would encourage them to look at what the Aggies accomplish on the floor. Twenty of their 25 wins are by at least 10 points, and they boast the #19 most efficient defense in the nation.
Our verdict: Gazing at the teams directly ahead of Utah Sate in the polls makes us think that the Aggies are getting jobbed. They have a better RPI (#18) than six teams ranked ahead of them (Texas A&M, Xavier, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Villanova and Arizona). Teams struggle to shoot against Utah State, hitting just 42.6% on two-pointers and 31.4% on 3s.
Your Seven-Day All Americans
Marshon Brooks, guard, Providence — We’ve already mentioned the Big East scoring leader’s epic performance against Notre Dame. For an encore, Brooks only netted 17 points on Sunday vs. Marquette, but that still left him with a 34.5 PPG average for the week.
Jimmer Fredette, guard, BYU — In the Cougars’ win at San Diego State, Fredette showed he can create for others as well as himself. Fredette tied a season high with nine assists to go along with his standard 25 points. Fredette also had 34 (14 from the line) in a win over Colorado State on Wednesday.
Jeff Allen, forward, Virginia Tech — Allen went 2-for-2 from downtown in the Hokies’ win over Duke, with the latter of his two threes sparking the comeback. Allen finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds for his eighth double-double in his last nine games.
Reeves Nelson, forward, UCLA — Nelson scored a career-high 27 points and fell one rebound short (16) of another career best in the Bruins’ win over Arizona on Saturday. Nelson put up those gaudy numbers, while Wildcats star (and likely Pac-10 player of the year) Derrick Williams was limited to five field goals and 15 points.
JaJuan Johnson, forward, Purdue — Johnson led the charge in Purdue’s 67-47 pounding of Michigan State with a cool 20/17. Johnson’s scored at least 20 points in 11 of 13 games, and the Boilermakers have won six straight.
Deshaun Thomas, forward, Ohio State — Thomas scored 22 points on 7-9 shooting in just 24 minutes of action as the Buckeyes routed Indiana on Sunday. This was without a doubt Thomas’ breakout performance this year. He had hit double figures just once previously in Big Ten play and had been buried on Thad Matta’s bench of late. Thomas has two games before postseason play to prove Sunday’s performance was no fluke.
Brandon Knight, guard, Kentucky —While the rest of his teammates tend to disappear whenever the Wildcats leave Rupp Arena, Knight comes to play regardless of the locale. Knight netted career-highs in points (26) and rebounds (8) in UK’s loss at Arkansas. Kentucky has lost its last five road games, but Knight has scored at least 20 in four of those five games.