The Other 26: Week TwoPosted by KDoyle on November 20th, 2011
Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor and the Patriot League correspondent. Each week he will examine the other 26 non-power conferences in college basketball. You can find him on twitter @KLDoyle11.
Well this is refreshing, isn’t it? College basketball on the tube every night, several Other 26 teams already knocking some ranked BCS teams off of their high horses, and a whole lot of goodness upcoming with more early season tournaments and games. There is not a specific theme that has made itself apparent to open the season — I will usually try to hone in on a theme during the introduction of each column — but business has been usual to open the season. We have seen two major upsets with Long Beach State and Cleveland State shocking Top 10 teams — both have crawled into our Top 10 as a result — and we have not seen The Jimmer all over ESPN routinely hitting shots from 35 feet, something that was all too common last year. Rest assured though, as more and more games are played, storylines and themes will naturally develop. For now, let’s dig into the Top 10 teams for the week.
The Top 10
Tidbits from the Rankings
The top four teams — Xavier, Gonzaga, Temple, and Memphis — remain unchanged, although Belmont was not able to keep pace with this group as the Bruins dropped both of their games against Duke and Memphis. Belmont had the toughest start to their season of any team in the country, and even with two losses I would have considered leaving them in the Top 10, but their performance against Memphis was not nearly as impressive as their game with Duke. Despite two early season losses, the Bruins are still an elite mid-major team.
Two new faces in the Top 10: Long Beach State and Cleveland State. Defeating teams ranked in the Top 10 nationally will do this.
Breakdown: Atlantic 10 (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast, Conference USA, Big West, Ivy League, Horizon League, MAAC
What team impressed the most?
It has been well documented that Long Beach State’s non-conference schedule is without question the most difficult in the nation. Playing five teams who are currently in the Top 15 is no easy task for even the North Carolinas and Kentuckys of the world, so how would Long Beach State out of the Big West conference fare? Well, the 49ers had little trouble in their first of many tests as they jumped all over Pittsburgh, held a double-digit lead late in the second half, and ended up defeating the Panthers going away, 86-76. The last non-Big East team to beat Pittsburgh at home, you ask? The Bucknell Bison all the way back in 2006. Led by dynamic guard Casper Ware who dropped in 28 points against Pitt, Long Beach State will have a golden opportunity to make a big splash onto the national basketball scene as many of their games against marquee opponents will be televised and in the spotlight. This 49ers team draws comparisons to last year’s Oakland squad who played a brutal non-conference schedule, but in doing so made a real name for themselves. Can Long Beach State do the same? They already have.
Clip of the Week
For about a two hour stretch during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Gonzaga freshman Kevin Pangos simply killed the college basketball sector of the Twitter world. The Gonzaga-Washington State game commenced the 24 Hours of Hoops marathon on ESPN, and Pangos put on an absolute show draining nine triples. Will someone get a hand in the youngster’s face!
Quote of the Week
Memphis sophomore guard Will Barton on how many analysts and fans throughout the country perceive this year’s Tiger team:
We feel disrespected. We really do. People are saying we’re the most overrated top-10 team in the country. We don’t like that. We’re just focused. We’re not cocky or nothing like that. We just want to prove we’re one of the best teams in the country, too.
Memphis can become a lethal team when playing with a chip on their shoulder. An explosive offensive team with something to prove — look out!
- Cleveland State 71, Vanderbilt 58—Was Vanderbilt a little overrated by the “experts” and Cleveland State a tad underrated after losing Norris Cole to graduation? Methinks this is the case. Remember Vandy hasn’t made it past the opening round of the NCAA Tournament for two straight years.
- Kent State 70, West Virginia 60—Loved the ESPN cameras in the Kent State locker room at halftime as they caught Rob Senderoff — in his first game as head coach — urging his team to continue to compete with the Mountaineers. At one point he exclaimed: “They are freshmen…they will crumble under the pressure.” He was right as they outscored West Virginia 42-27 in the decisive half.
- Long Beach State 86, Pittsburgh 76—LBSU was not phased playing at Pittsburgh — good thing they weren’t as they will play in many other raucous arenas later this year — as they beat the Panthers rather easily. Casper Ware was not ghost-like at all as he led all scorers with 28 points.
- Loyola Marymount 69, UCLA 58—The Lions exposed UCLA for exactly what they were to begin the season: a fraud. There is no other way to describe UCLA’s early season woes. Maybe playing away from Pauley Pavilion is more difficult for the Bruins than many expected? However, something tells me that there many more issues with UCLA this year than just their arena undergoing renovation.
- Middle Tennessee State 86, UCLA 66—See above.
- Wichita State 67, Colorado 58—The Shockers’ victory over Colorado was significant for two reasons: 1) They garnered a win over a BCS team, and 2) The win gave them an opportunity to play a Top 20 team in Alabama (even with a loss, the RPI boost will help).
- Coastal Carolina 71, LSU 63—Coastal Carolina began their season with wins over Covenant and Methodist — two non-D1 opponents — but they followed these cupcakes with a nice win over LSU. For the second time in as many seasons the Chanticleers knocked off LSU. Good thing LSU is the #1 team in America for college football to overshadow its lackluster performance on the hardwood. Coastal goes back to their non-D1 schedule as they play Spalding in their next game, but then travel to Clemson. An interesting sequence of games to say the least.
- Akron 68, Mississippi State 58—The Zips surprised the entire MAC last year by storming through the conference tournament and making to the Dance, and they have clearly carried over some of the momentum to this year having defeated the same Mississippi State team that easily got by Texas A&M and Arizona to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Akron will be a team to be reckoned with all year in the MAC.
Important Upcoming Games:
- Memphis @ Maui Invitational (Nov. 21-23)—It would be foolish to select just one game for Memphis in Maui as important. In reality, the Tigers will have an opportunity to pick up several marquee wins as the field in Maui consists of Michigan, Tennessee, Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Kansas and, of course, the host Chaminade — at this point it would seem that Chaminade would be a better win the UCLA though. Memphis will begin the tournament squaring off against Michigan.
- Denver vs. St. Mary’s (Nov. 23)—Known more for its team that plays on the frozen pond, Denver has a strong hoops team this year that will contend in the Sun Belt Conference. The Pioneers are led by the two-headed monster of Brian Stafford and Chris Udofia who are averaging over 35 points between them to start the season.
- Santa Clara vs. New Mexico (Nov. 24)—With Kevin Foster now entering his junior season after being awarded a red shirt year as a sophomore, Santa Clara automatically becomes a contender in the WCC — Foster is that good. However, with the addition of BYU to the conference, Gonzaga and St. Mary’s looking very strong, and upstart San Francisco in the mix, Santa Clara will have an uphill challenge during conference play. The Broncos game against New Mexico will provide a nice barometer of where Santa Clara stands early in the season.
You will find that this is easily my favorite section of each article as it allows me to express anything and everything that is related to the Other 26. From top storylines to interesting features on teams/players all the way to controversial and funny tweets, this is the forum to highlight them.
- Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State are two teams that are traditionally not known for their success or prowess in basketball, but boy did they really give it to the most storied program in the history of college basketball: UCLA. We will find out in the coming weeks whether these were fluke wins as UCLA endured some early season struggles, or if UCLA simply is not a quality team this year.
- Big ups to Central Connecticut State’s guard Kyle Vinales who is averaging 31.5 points a game, good for second in the nation. Although CCSU has fallen in both of their opening games, the freshman from Minnesota has lit it up, shooting 66% from three.
- Don’t get me wrong, I think that Dick Vitale is great for college basketball, and I enjoy his enthusiasm and antics, but I was very turned off by a comment he made during a game this past week. Elon defeated South Carolina this past Tuesday, and Vitale made the claim that it was embarrassing for South Carolina to lose to Elon because “Elon spends as much on their basketball program as South Carolina does on their monthly phone bill in the basketball office.” Good basketball is played outside of the BCS conferences too, Dickie V!
- Coastal Carolina, are you really playing four games against non-D1 schools this year? Granted the Chanticleers just knocked off LSU, but step up your game and quit scheduling these games. One or two, maybe, but four games?
- Lastly, here’s to a big upcoming Feast Week of college hoops for everyone! Cheers…