Tracking The Four: Let’s Play 21 QuestionsPosted by EJacoby on January 20th, 2012
Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.
For this week’s wildcard edition of TT4, we’re going to tackle some burning questions regarding each team. All four teams have pressing issues as they try to hit their strides in conference play, and there’s one team on our list that specifically needs to find some answers, quickly, if they want to stay relevant as a contender. Find out the answers to each question, or at least our quick takes, below each question. If you want to play along, comment with any of your answers!!!
1. Which game on Syracuse and Murray State’s schedules should be circled as their toughest challenge to an undefeated regular season?
Monday night’s game in Cincinnati is Syracuse’s first shot at going down, while Murray State’s game on February 15 at Southeast Missouri State will be their toughest test.
2. Can Indiana recover from this losing streak to regain their status as a top three team in the Big Ten?
They’ll be able to recover, but Indiana is not a top three Big Ten team (OSU, UM, & Michigan State are better).
3. Will UNLV be able to win big games outside of Las Vegas, like SDSU did in The Pit this week?
They’ve already played seven true road games, so yes this will help UNLV win conference road games.
4. The Hoosiers have lost three straight games while the Racers have won 19 straight, but who would win on a neutral court if they played today?
We’d love to see this in the NCAA Tournament and today we’re going with Indiana, but if Ivan Aska comes back strong for MSU, ask again in two weeks.
5. When they inevitably need a bucket in crunch time, whom will Syracuse and Jim Boeheim draw the play for?
He doesn’t specialize in taking over games, but Kris Joseph is still the most talented offensive player and toughest mismatch on the team, so he should get his number called.
6. Will UNLV’s 69.1% free throw percentage come back to haunt them at some point this season?
Although it’s the worst of these four teams, no a 69% rate should not be a huge concern for the Rebels.
7. Will Ivan Aska come back and be effective for Murray State with enough time left in the season?
This is the huge question for MSU, but our guess is that yes, Aska should be back on the court within a couple of weeks, and there’s enough time to get him acclimated for postseason.
8. Which team is the most balanced offensively, Indiana, UNLV or Syracuse?
We’re actually going with UNLV; they average the most points (81.5) and assists (18.6) per game of the three teams and have nine players averaging at least 13 minutes per game.
9. What seed will Murray State eventually receive in the NCAA Tournament?
Much remains to be seen to answer that question, but we think Murray can receive a 3-seed if they never lose, but predict they will land with a loss or two and an eventual 5-seed.
10. Can IU win games in the NCAA Tournament if their defense continues to be this poor?
They’re so good offensively that yes we think the Hoosiers can win some games despite their 1.11 defensive PPP in conference play, though they are too flawed to become an elite team.
11. Who is the most irreplaceable player for the Orange?
Another incredibly tough one, but we’ll say Fab Melo because of his impact in the 2-3 zone and tremendous protection of the rim.
12. Will UNLV be able to win in March against a team that plays at a slower pace?
The Rebels play at a Top 30 pace rate and considering they were handled by Wisconsin earlier this season, this could be an issue; no they will not beat a good team playing a slow pace.
13. Who will advance farthest in the NCAA Tournament, Murray State, UNLV, or Indiana?
Tough one but we think UNLV is truly the best team of that bunch.
14. Is Syracuse the number one favorite to win the National Championship?
Some will say Kentucky and others will question their schedule strength to this point and choose a different team, but having seen this team play enough we say yes, it’s Syracuse.
15. Stripping away all other factors (opponents, amount of national games, etc.), which of these four teams is the most exciting to watch?
They are all awesome to watch, but Syracuse gets the nod because they create so many highlights in transition and the surreal-effective 2-3 zone changes shape every game.
16. What should Indiana’s primary focus be offensively?
Even though they lead the nation in three-point shooting percentage, the Hoosiers need to keep running offense through Cody Zeller inside to be most successful.
17. What team is the overall biggest surprise this season for where they are at right now?
We never would have guessed Syracuse would be this good and we thought Indiana was at least a year away, but the fact that Murray State may go undefeated is truly a shocker.
18. Which of the following do you feel more confident in: Syracuse advances to the Final Four or Murray State to the Sweet Sixteen?
We think Syracuse to the Final Four is actually the better bet.
19. Who has done the best coaching job this season between these four teams?
All have been great and the Coach of the Year may come from one of these teams, and we’re going with Tom Crean; it’s remarkable that he has IU back as a Top 20, relevant team already.
20. If you could build your team around any one player on these four teams, for this season, whom would you pick?
Mike Moser is on the Midseason Wooden Award List of top 25 national players and his numbers, talents, and impact lead us to the answer that MM is our guy.
21. If you could pick any other team in the country to track (outside of UK or UNC), which team would you choose?
We thought long and hard about these selections, and Butler was one of the intriguing options we had to leave out. Which team would you have wanted to see?!?