ATB: Pac-12 Contenders Fall, Indiana and Michigan Eye Huge Showdown and La Salle’s Magic Ends…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 31st, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Saturday. Bloomington. Be There. If you needed a reminder for why Saturday’s Indiana-Michigan game might be the biggest conference game we see all season, the two participants did nothing to deflate the hype Wednesday night. Michigan stomped Northwestern at the Crisler Center. Indiana torched state rival Purdue at Mackey. Both wins were streamlined dismantlings of supreme quality. No surprises. Expecting anything less than convincing wins, even in this year’s tough Big Ten, would have been underselling these two teams’ current value. IU and Michigan are on a crash course for Big Ten title rights, and Saturday’s game is the first installment of a two-part rivalry (they meet in Ann Arbor on the last day of the regular season) that should produce some of best and most hotly-contested hoops any intraconference match-up has produced in years. Wednesday night provided a glimpse of what’s on tap for Saturday. Superbowl? Pshaw – There’s nothing bigger this weekend than Michigan’s visit to B-Town.

Your Watercooler Moment. Michael Snaer Does It Again. 

Tempo-free hardliners will cringe at any mention of late-game savvy, or a certain player being “clutch” or any other intangible assessment of basketball merit. I love using statistics. They make watching, evaluating and writing about the game I love much, much easier. Used alone, statistics are nice quick touch-points on the general contours of a team’s stylistic, defensive and scoring tendencies, but the real reason they’re so useful goes beyond crude number-crunching. Metrics allow me to take what my eyes tell me, and confirm/deny any conclusions I reach based on those observations. You see something on the court, glean a visual trend, pop open the handy kenpom.com efficiency ratings, and determine whether your game-watching wisdom matches up with what the numbers say.

The point of that mini-preamble was not to bore you nor give you a window into how I watch and think about college basketball games (though I’m pretty sure I achieved both). My purpose relates to one player, Florida State’s Michael Snaer. You probably heard a bunch about Snaer last season, and for good reason: He lit up the ACC while playing some of the nation’s best perimeter defense and carrying Florida State to an ACC Tournament championship. Snaer eschewed the NBA to return for one last season, but his individual performance – he has experienced minor dips in effective field goal percentage and offensive rating – has slipped (if only slightly), while his team’s performance has fallen well short of preseason expectations. Snaer isn’t having a great year – or at least not the breakout All-America campaign many predicted. What he is doing, is making game-winning shots. Wednesday night’s game-sealing three against Maryland was Snaer’s fourth game-winner over the past two seasons (h/t CBT), and his second in the past week.

Sure, there is no quantifiable trait that defines “ability to make game-winning shots.” But if we’re going to sit here and act like Snaer’s remarkable late-game prowess is a product of chance, that “the numbers” don’t register his ability to make big shots, that because his four daggers are isolated and situationally different that they have no real place in educated basketball analysis – I’m going to respectfully disagree.

Also Worth Chatting About. Two Big Pac-12 Defeats.

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Night Line: Michigan, Indiana Set Stage For Game of the Season

Posted by BHayes on January 30th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

For those of you who noticed the basketball game scheduled for 9:00 PM Saturday night in Bloomington, Indiana, Wednesday night followed script in a most beautiful way. All too often, we watch as titanic clashes are lessened by careless losses in the days leading up to the big one, but tonight, both Indiana and Michigan made sure they would not be caught looking ahead. Top-ranked Michigan went out and pounded Northwestern by 22 at home, while the third-ranked Hoosiers one-upped the Wolverine dominance by going into Mackey Arena and hanging 97 on a Purdue team that before tonight had a winning Big 10 record. Two impressive efforts that stood to only further whet the appetite of basketball fans across the country, because let’s be real: Saturday night’s match-up is shaping up to be the game of this college basketball season.

Good Luck Finding A Louder Gym Than Assembly Hall This Saturday

Good Luck Finding A Louder Gym Than Assembly Hall This Saturday

Purdue’s solid start to the conference season was in part due to a friendly early schedule, but the Hoosiers still went on the road and beat an average team by 37 tonight. The IU depth was there for all to see again this evening, as all five starters scored in double figures led by Cody Zeller’s 19. Much has been made of Zeller’s reticence to dominate games this year, but what many have considered a lack of production simply hasn’t been needed most of this campaign. Zeller is but one of a number of skilled offensive players Tom Crean has at his disposal – this luxury best evidenced by a stunning four Hoosiers ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s top 125 nationally for offensive rating. This may (and focus on the may here!) be the best offensive team in the land (#3 right now according to KenPom’s metrics), and their efficient outburst in West Lafayette tonight has to have them feeling ready for Michigan.

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What We Learned This Week In The Pac-12

Posted by PBaruh on January 30th, 2013

Here are some takeaways from the week that was in the Pac-12.

Arizona State Isn’t Going Away

The Sun Devils were impressive once again in another week of Pac-12 action by going 2-0 and continuing to win games they weren’t expected to win. First, Arizona State beat USC 98-93 in overtime by holding off a valiant effort from the Trojans. Then, they picked up their biggest win of the season as they were victorious over UCLA. Yes, UCLA was coming off a huge win against Arizona itself and might not have been particularly excited to play the Sun Devils two days later. Even without the presence of Travis Wear, the Bruins still have a lot of talent but that didn’t stop Arizona State from dominating the entire game. The great play of Jahii Carson has obviously been key in Arizona State’s success, but Carrick Felix’s improvement has been important as well. Felix was named ESPN’s National Player of the Week for his 16-point, 1o-rebound effort against USC and his 23-point, 11-rebound effort against UCLA. He is also second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game and first in rebounding with 8.2 boards per contest. Without the maturity and improvement of Carrick Felix, the Sun Devils would not be where they are at right now.

Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Carrick Felix has been a big part of Arizona State’s recent success.

Felix and Carson have had the largest impacts, but Arizona State has also been helped out by the strong play of Jordan Bachnyski. The 7’2″ center has been phenomenal on defense in rejecting 4.3 shots per game and blocking 15.6 percent of the shots taken while he is on the floor. He’s also been great at limiting his fouls as he’s only picked up more than three fouls once in conference play thus far and has yet to foul out all season. And he had his most impressive performance of the year against UCLA, with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the Sun Devils’ big win.

After two consecutive dismal years in the Pac-12 where Herb Sendek’s team only managed 22 total wins, they’ve finally turned it around. Jahii Carson has been incredible, and Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachnyski deserve a majority of the credit as well. Many thought Arizona State would prove that their strong record before conference play was due to an easy schedule, but the Sun Devils are proving their legitimacy with wins over Colorado and UCLA. Up next, Arizona State is on the road against Washington and Washington State. If they can sweep, Arizona State might no longer be on the bubble and could be looking at a great shot to make the NCAA Tournament and contend for a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

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CIO… the West Coast Conference

Posted by CNguon on January 30th, 2013

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Looking Back

Conference sorting itself out? — It’s halfway for some and near halfway for others, so how is the WCC conference race sorting out?

Here’s one viewpoint:

  • Gonzaga (6-0 WCC) and Saint Mary’s (6-1) seem locked into a two-team struggle for the regular season title and a showdown in the conference tournament in Las Vegas in March. Gonzaga has been cruising behind Kelly Olynyk’s resurgence in the post, and may not be challenged until it meets Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Valentine’s Day. The Gaels have used a stunning last-second victory over BYU in Provo to propel themselves to a five-game winning streak and a renewed sense of purpose. Architect of the streak has been – who else? – senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Not only did Delly personally secure the BYU win with his ESPN #1 highlight buzzer-beater, he has been orchestrating the Gaels’ offense even more brilliantly. His record last week of 21 assists and zero turnovers in two Gael wins has record-keepers looking for comparable stats.

    Kelly Olynyk's season keeps on getting better and better (Getty)

    Kelly Olynyk’s season keeps on getting better and better (Getty)

  • BYU will protest strenuously that it is not out of title consideration, but a home loss to Saint Mary’s and a road loss to Gonzaga weaken its argument considerably. The Cougars have a chance to play a major role when they face Gonzaga at home on February 28, but that may come too late depending on how they fare in a rematch with Saint Mary’s in Moraga the week before. Picking up a third loss against the Gaels will almost certainly eliminate the Cougs from the title race.
  • Santa Clara seems poised to move into the slot right behind BYU if it can retain its consistency. The Broncos faltered with three conference losses in a row but have bounced back with four straight wins. In their favor or posing a huge obstacle is a scheduling anomaly that postpones their first game against Saint Mary’s until February 7 at home. A win there would seriously erode the Gaels’ chances and give the Broncos momentum heading into the last weeks of the campaign.
  • The rest of the conference is a bit of a puzzle, with San Francisco and Pepperdine showing intermittent promise and San Diego fading fast. The only thing that seems certain is that Loyola Marymount and Portland will be battling to keep out of last place.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Gonzaga (6-0, 19-2): The Zags took care of business at home with an 83-63 thrashing of BYU and a 66-52 win over San Francisco that wasn’t as close as the score indicates – the Dons trailed by 23 with less than two minutes left before scoring the last nine points with the outcome never in doubt. The Zags can claim to have stopped both their opponent’s top players, holding Tyler Haws of BYU and Cole Dickerson of San Francisco without a bucket in the two games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume IV

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

Another week of classes, another week of grades from Professor Pac. As midterms approach, only Oregon is on pace for a A this semester.

Arizona State – A

Way back in June, Herb Sendek was talking about how his new Sun Devil team was going to get out and run and be as uptempo as anybody in the Pac-12. But, since getting run off the court by an athletic DePaul team back in early December, Arizona State had gone eight straight games without getting 70 possessions in a ball game. This past week when they hosted USC and UCLA and came away 2-0, they went over 70 possessions in both games and averaged 76 possessions – and 88 points – for the week. Sure, the USC game was aided by an extra five minutes of play, but the Sun Devils still played with more pace this past week than they have done in some time.

Focus on: Jonathan Gilling. We’ve talked a ton about Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski, we’ve touched on Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon on a regular basis, but Gilling is the fifth member of the starting unit, and criminally underrated. While his shooting percentages have dipped compared with his freshman campaign, Gilling is doing everything else better this season. He’s turned into an exceedingly effective rebounder and an underrated passer. He’s one of just two players in the conference to average seven rebounds and three assists per game (the other is Kyle Anderson) and as you could see by this week’s performance when he has 14 dimes, he finds exceedingly good looks for his teammates. Of those 14 assists, eight led to either layups or dunks, while four more ended in threes. And he’s an equal-opportunity distributor; Felix, Bachynski, and Gordon were each on the receiving end of four of Gilling’s assists.

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are the toast of the conference this week, but with a road trip up north to the Washington schools ahead, things can go south in a hurry. The Cougars and Huskies may not be the most intimidating opponents, but they’re more than capable of knocking off the Sun Devils.

Colorado – A

Don’t look now, but after an extended hangover effect following the debacle in the desert, the Buffaloes have won three straight by an average of 13 points and are back to .500 in the conference. And while the offense has been steadily improving, they’ve been doing it with defense. They’ve held their three opponents in that win streak to a 40.5 eFG%.

Focus on: Xavier Johnson. Doomed to play roughly the same position as the nation’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, Johnson has been lurking in the shadows somewhat most of the year. But on Sunday, when Roberson was limited to just two first half minutes due to foul trouble, Johnson had his breakout game, notching his first double-double of his career and scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attempts. In fact, over the course of this Buff winning streak, Johnson has been a major contributor. He’s scored in double figures in every game and has been hyper-efficient; he’s averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting a 74 eFG%.

Looking ahead: The Buffs have a short week, with only a trip to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off its worst performance of the season. If the Buffs don’t have a four-game win streak at this point next week, they may be the recipient of the year’s first F.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2013

CIO header

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Mid-Season Awards

The CAA schedule is roughly halfway over, so it’s time to see who’s leading the race to rack up hardware.

Coach of the Year

  1. Bill Coen, Northeastern
  2. Pat Skerry, Towson
  3. Matt Brady, JMU

All-Rookie Team:

  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (ROY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jerome Hairston, Towson
  • Chris Dixon, UNC-Wilmingon
  • David Walker, Northeastern

All-CAA Defensive Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon, Towson (DPOY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA First Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon (POY)
  • Sherrod Wright, George Mason
  • Joel Smith, Northeastern
  • Damion Lee, Drexel
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA Second Team:

  • Rayshawn Goins, JMU
  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
  • Marcus Thornton, William &  Mary
  • Devon Saddler, Delaware
  • Quincy Ford, Northeastern

All-CAA Third Team:

  • Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Devonta White, Georgia State
  • Frantz Massenat, Drexel

Power Rankings

After his team lost its third straight game last week, Delaware guard Devon Saddler said the Blue Hens needed to go to the movies to grow camaraderie and snap out of the slump. If the Hens did in fact share a movie night, it worked. They beat host Drexel last night on NBC Sports Network, despite nearly blowing a late 15-point lead. Every team in the CAA should pop some popcorn and watch a movie. In this week’s power rankings, I’ll suggest which current flicks each team should visit their nearby Regal to see.

  1. Northeastern (13-7 overall, 8-0 in the CAA): A skilled team of experts taking down targets on a regular basis, the Huskies might as well buy tickets for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Zero, after all, is Northeastern’s total of CAA losses through eight games. The Huskies are just the seventh Colonial team to begin a season 8-0. The last two to do so won the CAA title. Five of the eight wins have been by five or fewer points, but not the most recent one. NU smacked George Mason on Sunday, sweeping the series with a 20-point home win. The televised game was Northeastern’s announcement to the league that it’s the team to beat. Only one school earns a bye in the seven-team CAA tournament this year, and NU is already three games in the loss column ahead of next-best Mason/James Madison. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Bubble Watch: January 30 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on January 30th, 2013

bubble

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s new resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top several bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Fridays. RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Wednesday afternoons for the rest of the season. 

What is a “Bubble Watch?” Below is my bubble watch. If you are not familiar with my work, this is basically a current look at how things are shaping up for the NCAA Tournament. Each conference is broken down and the teams I am currently considering on the bubble are listed. This makes it easy to figure out how many at-large berths are left for the NCAA Tournament. Remember, 31 automatic NCAA Tournament bids go to the conference tournament winners (and the Ivy champion). The other 37 bids are at-large bids, or bids that the selection committee gives to the best remaining teams that fail to win an automatic bid.

Bracket Math: Below there are 22 locks along the right column. That means if none of my “locks” wins an auto-bid, there are 15 at-large spots available for the NCAA Tournament. It is usually safe to say that an average of six of my locks will win automatic bids, so that means nine at-large bids will be taken and I project that 28 at-large bids  remain available to the NCAA Tournament. For those wondering, if you take all the teams I have at 70% or higher (six) and include them in my projection there are 28 “locks” and “should be ins”.  At the very least, that leaves nine at-large spots available for the NCAA Tournament. If you figure that at least six of my locks/should be ins win automatic bids, there are 15 spots available.

What Does Being a “Lock” Mean? It means that at this point, I see no way that team could miss the NCAA Tournament. Every year I end up having to move at least one team I have locked in back into the at-large pool. For example, I’ve already done it this season with Minnesota and Illinois.

Understanding “At-Large Odds” Percentages: In an attempt to help clarify the bubble picture even more, I have added “at-large odds” to each team below. All of the teams I have “locked” in have a 90% chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament or higher. Basically, teams with a percentage higher than 50% are probably on the good side of the bubble picture right now. Teams below 50% are probably on the wrong side of the bubble picture right now. Teams with a 50% chance of being in the Tournament basically have a coin-flip chance of getting in.  You might see me refer to teams with a percentage of 70% or higher as “should be ins,” referring to teams that should make the field.

UPDATED THROUGH ALL GAMES OF JANUARY 29, 2013

ACC: Three Locks, Four Bubble Teams LOCKS:duke50x50ncstate50x50miami50x50
ACC Overview: On November 13, if anyone had told me that Miami would be 6-0 and leading the ACC in late January I probably would have laughed hysterically. November 13 is the day the ‘Canes lost by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast. Miami now has wins over Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, La Salle, Maryland, and Charlotte. They are not only fighting for a top seed in the ACC Tournament, but a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament, It is safe to lock Miami into the field. Duke has the nation’s best wins, but the Blue Devils clearly are not the same team without Ryan Kelly. Coach K’s team is sliding down the seed line some, but it is still very much a lock for the field. N. C. State can also celebrate lock status. The Wolfpack’s victories do not scream “lock” but wins over shorthanded Duke, Connecticut, and North Carolina should be enough in a year where the bubble is looking weak. Virginia is the newest addition, moving onto the bubble after a big win against N. C. State on Tuesday.

North Carolina (14-6, 5-3; RPI: 35): North Carolina has one great win (over UNLV) and two mediocre ones (Florida State, Maryland), but bad losses against Texas and Virginia are not helping the Tar Heels’ resume. Losing to the 9-10 Longhorns by 18 points is inexplicable. The Heels still have not played Duke and a win over the Blue Devils might do it based off North Carolina’s history in the sport and what that rivalry usually does for NCAA Tournament chances. Of course, Roy Williams also takes his team to Miami on February 9, a scary proposition after what the Hurricanes did at home to a much more talented Duke squad. Before getting a chance to help its resume, North Carolina better make it through the next two without another blemish (VT, Wake). AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Maryland (15-5, 3-4; RPI: 60): Since my first Bubble Watch, Maryland has lost four of six games. The Terrapins’ best victory came over North Carolina State by one on January 16, but they followed that up by losing at fellow bubbler North Carolina by 10 on the road. Maryland also let a big opportunity go by the wayside when they let Duke romp on Saturday. Other than the victory over the Wolfpack, there is not a NCAA Tournament win on Maryland’s resume. The only upside here is that they still get Duke and North Carolina at home. Plus, unlike many other bubble teams, Maryland’s losses are not bad ones (Miami, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Florida State). AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Virginia (15-5, 5-2; RPI: 91): After back to back losses to Clemson and Wake Forest in early January, I thought the Cavaliers were done. Fast-forward 18 days and this profile looks entirely different. Since those losses, Virginia has held Florida State to 36 points, knocked off a N. C. State team coming off a win against North Carolina, and won four straight games. This team is worthy of at large consideration. The Cavaliers have wins over Wisconsin, North Carolina, and North Carolina State to offset bad losses against Delaware, Old Dominion, and George Mason. The RPI still has to improve for this team to be taken seriously as an at large candidate, but Virginia is at least in the conversation. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Florida State (11-8, 3-3; RPI: 67): The Seminoles “Snaered” a win over Clemson last week on a last second three by Michael Snaer and basically kept their at-large hopes alive in the process. Florida State’s best two wins are against Charlotte and BYU, teams that are in the exact same spot as the ‘Noles. Beating them may help them move up the at-large consideration board on Selection Sunday, but it won’t get them into the top 37. This team also lost to South Alabama, Mercer, and at Auburn — teams that are all below 150 in the RPI. Losing to Miami on Sunday was a big blow because it was yet another chance for a big win blown. The good news is that Florida State still plays Duke, Miami, at N. C. State, North Carolina, and N. C. State (home) before the ACC Tournament. In other words: This is a high reward, low risk schedule. Winning a few of those games might put Florida State on the good side of the at-large bubble. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Atlantic 10: One Lock, Eight Bubble Teams LOCKS:butler50x50
Atlantic 10 Overview: Right now the Atlantic 10 is Butler and then everyone else. VCU had a two-loss week to fall further towards the bubble cut line, while La Salle has jumped into the at-large conversation with wins against the Bulldogs and Rams this week. In the A-10, we need to some separation from the pack by the bubble teams. This is a good conference that will likely end up with three or four bids, although right now it is not easy to see who the bids will go to outside of Butler.

Virginia Commonwealth (16-5, 4-2; RPI: 40): I don’t have anything against VCU, but I am convinced more and more every day that 80% of the nation’s bracketologists are overrating the Rams’ resume. This team’s best victory is against Belmont and the second best win is over Memphis. Both of those teams are fringe at-large teams and both had better win their conference tournaments if they want to snag an a NCAA Tournament bid. Plus, losing to Richmond and La Salle is inexcusable. Coming into the week most bracket makers had this team at about a six seed. How? There isn’t a great win here. VCU is not as far into the Tournament as you’d think. The chance for a resume-defining win really comes down to a home game with Butler on March 2. Before then, Charlotte, Saint Louis, and Xavier all get the Rams at home. VCU better turn into a great road team to avoid losing to other Atlantic 10 bubble teams, beat Butler, or advance far into the A-10 tournament to get an NCAA Tournament bid. AT-LARGE ODDS: 65%

Temple (13-6, 2-3; RPI: 57): Victories over Syracuse and Villanova look great for the Owls, but Temple is really only living off those wins at this point. Losses to Canisius and St. Bonaventure are bad and they are really bringing down Temple’s resume. If the Owls had been able to knock off Butler on the road Saturday, this resume would have a completely different feel to it. Instead it feels like Temple better be careful. On Wednesday night, a game against Richmond is a must win for both teams. AT-LARGE ODDS: 60%

La Salle (14-5, 4-2; RPI: 25): The last time I did a bubble watch, I only included the Explorers because of a strong RPI. Boy, have things changed since then. La Salle knocked off Butler and VCU in the same week and also owns a victory over a Villanova team that just knocked off top five teams in Syracuse and Louisville. There is one gigantic blemish on the resume — a loss to #211 RPI school, Central Connecticut State — but that might be forgiven based off the good wins here. The only bad news is that La Salle does not get another shot at Butler or VCU and instead has to keep its head above water against other Atlantic 10 bubble teams. Wednesday night the Explorers host Massachusetts. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%

Saint Louis (14-5, 3-2; RPI: 66): Other than a victory over New Mexico, the Billikens have little in the cupboard in the way of impressive victories. There are no other good wins on this resume. Saint Louis also lost to Rhode Island and Santa Clara, two teams that won’t be dancing without an automatic bid. Here’s the good news: They get Butler in their next game (January 31) at home. They also get the Bulldogs in late February. Right now Brad Stevens’ team has a huge bulls-eye on it, because the rest of the league knows a victory over Butler will be a season-defining win that will separate a team from the pack in the very competitive Atlantic 10. AT-LARGE ODDS: 45%

Charlotte (16-4, 4-2; RPI: 51): The 49ers have been in the at-large conversation all along because of a great record and a mediocre RPI, but a 20-point loss to Richmond and a 28-point loss to George Washington in the last two weeks have really changed the complexion of this resume. The good news is that a win against La Salle is now looking better and better, but that win is Charlotte’s only win against the top 75 of the RPI. The 49ers play Massachusetts, at Temple, VCU, at Butler, at Saint Louis, and Temple in their next six games. AT-LARGE ODDS: 35%

Xavier (11-8, 4-2; RPI: 77): The Musketeers have been sneaking back into the conversation but a weak RPI is hindering their chances. Wins against Butler, La Salle, and Temple give Xavier some of the best wins among contenders in the A-10, but losses to Pacific, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, and Wofford are killing this resume. On March 9, Xavier gets a game against Butler that actually counts in conference play. They also still get VCU and Memphis down the stretch, so there is hope left for an at-large berth. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Massachusetts (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 57): A win against Richmond on Sunday night really helps the Minutemen’s case for an-large bid. Now, a win over the Spiders is the best win on the resume, but Massachusetts still lacks a victory against the RPI top 50. In the Atlantic Ten (seemingly one gigantic bubble), things can change quickly. Trips to La Salle and Charlotte this week will tell us a lot about this resume. If Massachusetts loses both, look for the Minutemen to be off the next update. AT-LARGE ODDS: 15%

Richmond (13-8, 3-3, RPI: 72): The Spiders enter the conversation after a victory over VCU, but other than a win over Charlotte there is not much else here. Richmond is 2-6 in road/neutral games and has to play at VCU and at Temple down the stretch. Losing Sunday to Massachusetts really did not help Richmond’s chances. The Spiders have to find a way to win at Temple on Wednesday night or they’ll be off this list on my Sunday update. AT LARGE ODDS: 10%

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Who Is The Second Best Guard In The ACC?

Posted by KCarpenter on January 30th, 2013

There’s no doubt that Erick Green has been the best guard in the ACC this season. He scores and makes plays at a hyper-efficient rate while playing a ton of minutes at a very fast pace. No other guard in the conference has performed as consistently and as well. He’s miles ahead of the competition, but it’s not because of a lack of quality guards in the league. In fact, the ACC has a plethora of talented guards, playing well for a lot of different teams. Let’s get down to the big question though: If Erick Green is the best guard in the ACC, who is the second best?

Who Is the Second Best Guard In The ACC?

If you had asked this question not all that long ago, the answer might have been an easy one: Seth Curry. The Duke shooting guard is enjoying a strong year as a perfect complementary piece on this Duke team. Is Curry really the second best guard in the conference? What about undefeated Miami’s Durand Scott or the lead guard of another team that beat the Blue Devils in NC State’s Lorenzo Brown? What about some of the conference’s other great shooting guards like C.J. Harris or Joe Harris? None of these are crazy choices. Does Curry stack up?

Curry’s elite skill is scoring. He’s fourth in the conference in points per game and he is the second best guard in this measure after Erick Green. He’s not a volume scorer, but rather very efficient, posting an offensive efficiency mark of 114.2 this season with a usage rate of 22.1%. This is very good. However, from an efficiency standpoint, Curry is nowhere close to Reggie Bullock‘s silly numbers. Averaging a 129.1 offensive efficiency on 19.1% usage rate, Bullock is shooting better than Curry from every part of the floor: three-pointers, two-pointers, and from the free throw line. Bullock is a better play-maker, a better rebounder on both ends, has more steals and blocks, and by just about every account is a better defender. Curry has a slight edge in turnovers, and a serious advantage at getting to the line.  Still, it would be difficult to argue that Curry is playing better basketball than Bullock.

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Bill Walton, Northern Illinois and the Rise Of Marshall Henderson

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 30th, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Bill Walton Comedy Hour

There’s almost nothing better then the glee and unbridled joy Bill Walton spews into his microphone when calling a basketball game. Formerly an NBA-only announcer for ESPN, Walton has resurfaced this season calling Pac-12 games for the Worldwide Leader, and we’re all better for it. He’s a bit kooky, sure, but what’s most enjoyable about Walton is his unique ability to criticize and praise a player or coach with a positive tone of voice. Take Ben Howland, for example. While he’ll say it with a smile on his face, Walton is quick to judge the coach of his alma mater, and it was never more prevalent than last Thursday during the Bruins’ game against Arizona.

Drink. Drank. Drunk. Thanks, Bill.

Duke Gets Wrecked By Hurricanes

It feels like it happened eons ago, but we can’t forget that the Blue Devils were embarrassed by Miami last week, potentially turning Coach K’s team in to national championship pretenders and Jim Larranaga’s team into real ACC contenders.

You used to laugh at him, but perhaps an injury to one of Duke’s best players will define his worth as he watches from the sidelines.

Since Ryan Kelly went down with a busted foot, the Blue Devils are 2-2, and while that shouldn’t change the magnitude of the victory for The U, the annual rules of court rushing were brought to the Twitter table from the moment the game was all but over.

We all have our opinions on when this student celebration should and should not be warranted, but much like your fantasy football team, nobody else really cares to hear about it.

The Week of Marshall Henderson

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Pac-12 M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

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  1. After little more that just the news that Dominic Artis was out indefinitely, Oregon head coach Dana Altman shed a bit more light on the freshman point guard’s injury, putting the number of games that Artis will miss at “anywhere from three to five games.” But Altman isn’t overly concerned. Even without the talented freshman, he still wants his team to get up and down the court and he has complete trust in junior Jonathan Loyd and freshman Willie Moore to handle Artis’ duties in his absence. However, you can bet that the lack of Artis will make it that much more difficult for the Ducks to break their 37-year streak of not earning a sweep at the Bay Area schools, starting tonight at Stanford.
  2. Carrick Felix has won so many Pac-12 Player of the Week awards this season that he’s starting to lose count. “Half the time, I don’t even know when I get the player-of-the-week award,” Bud Withers of The Seattle Times quotes Felix as saying. Given that he’s won it three times this year already (the most since Derrick Williams was a three-time winner in 2011), you can hardly blame the senior if it has become passé, because without a doubt, Felix has been a huge part of ASU’s vast improvement this season. After a couple years of relative mediocrity in Tempe, Felix is on pace to earn an easy berth on the all-Pac-12 teams, especially since, like, 35 people make the Pac-12 first team.
  3. ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil spent some time with UCLA’s Ben Howland last week and is apparently flabbergasted by the fact that the Bruins are enjoying some success despite playing a different brand of basketball than Howland became known for in his years at Pitt and his early years in Westwood. Howland told O’Neil that he’s enjoying coaching this team even if he is still trying to find some way to coax more defense out of his team. And, apparently, all the changes are making him a bit insane. Following the Arizona win, he brushed off questions about the team’s youth, claiming “our young guys aren’t freshmen anymore… They’re playing like veterans.” But then after laying an egg at Arizona State, he fell back on the team’s inexperience as something of an excuse, saying “they’re all learning for the first time.”
  4. A couple other random bits of news from the UCLA program. First, the Bruins will be unveiling their all-new all-blue basketball uniforms against USC tonight in front of a “blue-out” crowd. But perhaps more importantly, they might be doing so with only six players in the rotation. Travis Wear still hasn’t been cleared for participation following a concussion suffered last Thursday, and now Shabazz Muhammad is potentially out while struggling with the flu. Some of his teammates think Muhammad will play, although Howland isn’t too sure, while the smart money seems to be on Wear missing another game.
  5. And while UCLA unveils their blue-out plans, Arizona head coach Sean Miller seems ready to retire the “white-out” game that the Wildcats have now lost in the past two seasons. Whether he said that in jest or in reality, it matters not (he backed off his initial comments later in the day, essentially saying, “we’ll see”) because Miller is more focused on the cause of the loss during the most recent white-out, not whatever color shirts his team’s fans were wearing. Still, Miller said he felt good about the UA home stand, taking pleasure in the fact that his team bounced back from the bad Thursday loss and played one of their best games in conference play Saturday in a blowout win over USC.
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Big 12 M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 30th, 2013

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  1. We have seen the best (Puerto Rico Tip-Off) and the average (currently 3-3 in the Big 12) from Oklahoma State, but with a team as talented as the Cowboys are, why haven’t they been able to stake a claim as one of the top teams in this league? What’s keeping this team from flourishing? CowboysRideForFree has an idea of what it could be: the three-quarter court trapping press. The article cites this as a catalyst for making a comeback in the Oklahoma game even though they ultimately lost. And as recently as Saturday, the Cowboys fell behind 13 points to West Virginia before Travis Ford implemented a combination of the press and 2-3 zone to turn that game into a 14-point victory. Maybe it has something to do with the press but there’s much more to Oklahoma State’s inconsistencies than that. Not knowing what you’ll get from Le’Bryan Nash is part of the problem too. They better fix their issues fast because the last thing the Cowboys want is their bubble to burst come Selection Sunday.
  2. Wednesday could be an important day in the history of Iowa State basketball. Dating back to 1988, the Cyclones have made the trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena 17 times and 17 times they have left Stillwater empty-handed. That also means head coach Fred Hoiberg never saw a Cyclone victory there as a player either. Iowa State already knows the Kansas State win was a step in the right direction but now it’s time to really make a statement. Are they able to go on the road, to one of the toughest arenas in the Big 12, and beat a fellow bubble team? It’s a big game for both clubs but it would mean so much for the Cyclones to get this one without the help of “Hilton Magic.”
  3. Will Spradling is one of the more prolific shooters in the league but at just 35% from three on the year, the Kansas State junior is, ahem, shooting for more consistency from outside. Spradling says he’s going back to an old routine he used to do with his dad where he makes 50 threes during practice… with one hand. “I’ll do that at least once a day,” Spradling said. “That has my shot feeling great right now. Two of the last three games I’ve shot it well and played well. I feel like I’m getting better.” That’s about the worst thing you could hear if you’re an opposing coach.
  4. How bad has Texas been this season? Here is their season-in-review in a neat 257-word layout. The Horns scored their two season highs in points against North Carolina and Baylor, both games I happened to see take place live. But they have the tougher task of matching up against Kansas State in Manhattan tonight. Texas hasn’t won a game at the Octagon of Doom since 2008 and I will go ahead and say Kansas State will have their way with Longhorns. For the first time in the Rick Barnes era, they will be looking towards next season while still in the middle of their current season.
  5. History has told us that when a coach like Bob Huggins talks/yells/face turns bright red, players listen and respond in the way he would like. There hasn’t been a whole of that this season but in Monday’s game against Kansas, at last, someone finally listened. Aaric Murray explained how to appropriately listen to coach when he’s yelling: “You’ve got to listen to the message and not how he’s saying it. I think I was listening to how he said it instead of what he was saying. When I stopped worrying about him [Huggins], everything was fine.” 17 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals later, hopefully Murray is a success story. Now about the rest of his teammates…
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Big Ten M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 30th, 2013

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  1. Michigan State forward Adreian Payne showed his versatality on the offensive end against Indiana by scoring 18 points from several different spots on the floor. He drained a couple of shots from beyond the arc and had a jaw-dropping reverse dunk off a pass from Travis Trice. If Payne continues his offensive explosion, he may work himself up to the NBA Lottery of next summer’s draft. The junior forward has averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.9 RPG in primarily playing the power forward position for Tom Izzo, but Cody Zeller also had a tough time scoring (nine points) against Payne’s defense which will also impress the NBA scouts.
  2. Michigan forward Jordan Morgan tweaked his ankle in the first couple of minutes of the game against Illinois on Sunday. Head coach John Beilein confirmed that nothing is broken in his ankle which is great news for Wolverines fans. According to the staff, it is “just a sprain” but his playing time will be determined based on how he feels during practice over the next couple of days. Morgan has averaged 5.2 RPG this season but his defensive presence will be needed as Michigan visits Bloomington for arguably the biggest game of the 2012-13 season. Mitch McGary filled in for Morgan against Illinois, but he will have an extremely tough time keeping up with Cody Zeller and defending Christian Watford off the screens.
  3. Speaking of the Hoosiers, they have a big week ahead of them as they visit West Lafayette to play the Boilermakers tonight and then play Michigan at home on Saturday. The coaching staff is taking a “fresh” approach to these games and wants to manage fatigue effectively as the team heads into February. Head coach Tom Crean said, “What we’ve done is we’ve started to back off the practices a little earlier than we did last year.” He has plenty of depth at the wing position with Will Sheehey (10.4 PPG) and Remy Abell (5.3 PPG) available, but he doesn’t have much depth in the frontcourt considering Derek Elston’s injury to begin the season. But if the Hoosiers run their offense through the perimeter and look for scoring opportunities in transition, they may be able to give Zeller some rest over the next few weeks.
  4. In case you missed it, Illinois has lost six out of its last nine games but head coach John Groce remains positive. When asked about the Illini’s slump, Groce said, “We’re focusing on getting better. That’s the culture and environment we want.” His team has more turnovers (261) than assists (225) right now, and as a result most of the Illini guards settle for poor shots from beyond the arc. The lack of a true point guard on this team hurts its ball movement and even though Tracy Abrams (11.3 PPG and 3.2 APG) handles the ball in most half-court sets, he is still learning to play the position as exhibited by his 2.9 turnovers per game.
  5. After getting hammered by Iowa in Evanston two weeks ago, the Wildcats went to Champaign to pull off an upset against the Illini and then comfortably beat Minnesota at home. After losing Drew Crawford for the season due to a back injury, the Wildcats have showed no particular pattern this season in their performance. Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski said, “We should get up for every game, especially in this league.” They will have a shot against the #1 ranked team in the nation this week as they visit Ann Arbor tonight to play the Wolverines for the second time this season (the first contest was a 28-point Michigan blowout).
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