ATB: Belmont’s At-Large Chances, Minnesota’s 11 Wins, and the Itinerant Laval Lucas-Perry…Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2011
Tonight’s Lede. It’s day two of Finals Week and, although tonight wasn’t as dry to the bone as Monday was, it was still rather light around the college basketball world. Still, a couple dozen games included a handful of ranked teams and even a questionable RTC in a place called Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Let’s jump into it…
Your Watercooler Moment. Belmont Loses to Middle Tennessee — Are Their At-Large Chances Kaput?
Middle Tennessee State and Belmont tipped it off for the second time already this season — in a scheduling quirk, the two teams als0 played on November 20 at MTSU, a double-overtime Belmont win — but this time, it was the home Blue Raiders who held on for the close victory, 65-62. As we discussed in tonight’s Night Line, Belmont now has three losses in its first nine games, and even though the Nashville school remains every Pomeroy/Sagarin disciple’s mid-major darling (the Bruins are currently #26 in Pomeroy, #31 in Sagarin), it appears increasingly difficult to map out a scenario where the Bruins could earn an at-large NCAA bid should they lose in the Atlantic Sun Tournament next March. The A-Sun’s next best team is Mercer, rated #140 in Pomeroy, and the only other team in the top 100 on Belmont’s schedule is C-USA’s Marshall, which the Bruins will play twice (12/19 at Marshall; 12/29 at Belmont). Obviously, Rick Byrd’s team needs to win both of those — no easy task — and run the table in the Atlantic Sun to even get serious consideration for an at-large. Its non-conference SOS is currently rated #47 by Pomeroy, but it’s unlikely to rise much more than it is now, with each of its remaining four non-conference opponents ranking below that mark. Furthermore, its overall SOS will get progressively destroyed by 18+ games against Atlantic Sun teams during January through March. One of the peculiarities of the NCAA Tournament system is that a really good team like Belmont could find itself the victim of a catch-22 in trying to schedule as well as you can (Duke, Memphis) without actually winning any of the games. Yet, their hands are tied in that they’re unlikely to get many power conference teams to play them anywhere else. We’ll most definitely be rooting for the Bruins to get back to the NCAAs in March, but they’ll certainly have a lot of pressure on them to win that conference tourney again.
Tonight’s Quick Hits...
- Is Minnesota Any Good? With tonight’s 76-56 win over Central Michigan, Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Gophers have 11 total wins, tied with Tulane for the most in the nation at this point in mid-December. But are they any good? That’s a difficult question to answer. So far Minnesota’s schedule has involved nine home games and three neutral games at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. The home schedule has been a joke, with only Virgina Tech (coincidentally, the only decent team Minnesota has played there) giving the Gophers a tough game. The Old Spice games were only marginally better, and Dayton ran Minnesota out of the arena by 16 points in the championship. Had Trevor Mbakwe not injured his knee and been lost for the season, perhaps Minnesota could challenge for the top half of the rugged Big Ten; but without him, we’re afraid that the 11-1 record the Gophers are currently sporting is nothing but a mirage.
- Bruce Ellington Is Getting His Legs. Football and basketball are vastly different sports that require completely different kinds of training. South Carolina’s Ellington, a two-sport star, played his fourth game back from the gridiron tonight and had his best game of the season. Coming off the bench versus Presbyterian, he scored a season-high 15 points, dished out three assists, and grabbed three boards. It may not sound like much, but all indications are that he appeared much more comfortable with his timing and shot this evening (he was 6-14 from the field after starting the season 5-21). If Darrin Horn’s team is to have any chance whatsoever to surprise in the SEC (not East), he needs Ellington working on all cylinders. It appears he’s on the way back.
… and Misses.
- Darryl Partin’s Egg at Villanova. A week ago Boston University’s Partin was one the nation’s three leading scorers with a scoring average hovering around 25 PPG. After a rough game versus Harvard over the weekend where he was held to 12 points on 5-16 shooting, it was even worse down on the Main Line tonight (although the game was actually in downtown Philadelphia). Tonight he suffered through a six-point, four-turnover, 2-16 shooting performance, punctuated by a miserable 0h-fer on eight attempts from beyond the arc.
- Middle Tennessee’s RTC. It didn’t really make a lot of sense to us. Belmont is a good team, but the Bruins were not ranked and MTSU with a win over UCLA and several road wins this season has proven that it’s going to be a really good team in its own right. Nor is there much of a local rivalry between these two schools and the game didn’t end on some ridiculous buzzer-beater. Basically, to echo Rasheed Wallace, the rush never lies. If you carefully observe the only video we could find of the RTC (why so tiny??), you’ll certainly note the trickle effect, a telltale sign that some of the court rushers are hesitating. As we tweeted out earlier tonight, when it comes to an RTC… if you have to think about it, you probably shouldn’t do it.
- NPOY – Laval Lucas-Perry, Oakland. The well-traveled Lucas-Perry (Arizona, Michigan, Oakland) put together a great game tonight against Rochester with 23/8/5 assts in a win that his team needed after two straight losses.
- Eric Moreland, Oregon State. Moreland may have only played 19 minutes in OSU’s win over UIC, but he made them count with eight points, 14 rebounds and five blocks tonight.
- Rodney Hood, Mississippi State. Hood stepped up with 19/10 on 8-14 shooting when his team needed him most, with starters Brian Bryant and Arnett Moultrie out of the lineup against Florida Atlantic tonight (FAU defeated MSU in Starkville last season).
- Jaime Serna, UC Santa Barbara. Stepping up for his better-known teammates Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, Serna dropped 22/6/5 blks on 9-12 shooting in a nice win at San Diego. He came into tonight’s game with five blocks on the season!
- Marcus Jordan, Central Florida. Baby Jordan had his best offensive output of the season with 28/3 assts/2 stls against North Carolina A&T — betcha didn’t realize that through seven games this year, he’s averaging 17.1 PPG, just three points off the pace of his dad’s junior year at North Carolina.
Tweet of the Night. Doug McDermott didn’t play tonight, but Fran Fraschilla put his ridiculous shooting percentages in some perspective anyway.