Night Line: More ACC Road Woes For Maryland: Are the Terps Down and Out?

Posted by BHayes on February 28th, 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.

The chaotic final weeks before the NCAA Tournament have everyone clamoring for clarity, and as simple and as fun as it would be to announce that yes, you did hear a giant “POP” coming from Atlanta this evening, the reality is that Maryland’s at-large hopes haven’t completely vanished. Yet. With games growing few and their ACC record worsening, a 78-68 loss to Georgia Tech tonight has slid the Terps one step closer to the bubble chopping block. Three regular season games remain for Mark Turgeon’s bunch, with two road dates involved (at Wake Forest and Virginia) and a home finale against North Carolina. If Maryland wants to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, they would be well served to snag all three — no easy feat, but when you consider that accomplishing it would triple Maryland’s ACC road win total, a hard road starts to feel nearly impossible.

Mark Turgeon Was At A Loss For Words After Another Maryland Road Loss

Mark Turgeon Was At A Loss For Words After Another Maryland Road Loss

February 7, Blacksburg, Virginia – Maryland won a game on a basketball court not inside the Comcast Center, an accomplishment that had not occurred since November, and has not happened since. A difficult fact to process considering the Terps were likely on the right side of the bubble after the seismic Duke victory on February 16, but it’s hard to make a case for your NCAA Tournament inclusion when you can’t win more than a single road game.

Give Georgia Tech credit tonight, as the Jackets made a lot of plays they don’t normally make. Brian Gregory said it was the best 40 minutes his team has played all season, and Turgeon was effusive with praise for the home team. “Tech was good tonight, they were really good” he admitted, but he couldn’t quite seem to put his finger on what ailed his team — both tonight and on the road all season. Sure, there were criticisms – poor point guard play, a lack of toughness in the paint, too much 1-on-1 offensively – but you could tell that even Turgeon felt at a loss for answers. “I did think we tried hard,” he concluded, but with a resignation in his voice that suggested a full awareness that effort alone will not get his team to the Dance.

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Where Does Iowa State Go From Here?

Posted by dnspewak on February 27th, 2013

Georges Niang drew a charge. Iowa State should have had possession of the basketball with a two-point lead late in regulation on Monday, and it should have had the chance to inbound the ball and ice the victory over sixth-ranked Kansas at the free throw line. The Cyclones should have all but sealed their NCAA Tournament at-large bid with the win, but then a funny thing happened. The officials made a human error. The Twitterverse blew up, ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla directed his outrage at the NCAA on the air, and the college basketball community essentially came to a consensus that Iowa State got jobbed.

Tough Loss Aside, Iowa State Has a Lot To Play For  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tough Loss Aside, Iowa State Has a Lot To Play For (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Cyclones indeed had a victory stolen from them. Even Kansas fans would probably agree with that statement, but it doesn’t change the facts. The Jayhawks won because Elijah Johnson put on a display for the ages, draining threes from every corner of the state of Iowa. The officials weren’t guarding him. The Cyclones were — they were trying to, at least. Nobody could guard Johnson on this particular night, and blown call or not, Iowa State had a five-point lead with less than a minute remaining in regulation and could not hold on for a victory. Cry foul all you want and blame the zebras if it makes you feel better, but there’s nothing Fred Hoiberg and his crew can do about it now. They lost.

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Does the Xavier Loss Reveal the Arc of Memphis’ Season?

Posted by Will Tucker on February 27th, 2013

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between Memphis and Xavier in Cincinnati.

Xavier outlasted Memphis, 64-62, in a game that exposed systemic weaknesses in Josh Pastner’s team fewer than three weeks from Selection Sunday. The Tigers entered the Cintas Center tied for the nation’s longest winning streak and boasting top-20 rankings in both the national polls and RPI. Their visit to Cincinnati represented the first of three consecutive road trips against potential RPI top-100 opponents, opportunities to combat the perennial whispers of “paper tiger” that pepper discussion of their Conference USA record. It also represented an audience with Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, chair of the NCAA Tournament selection committee and strong proponent of the “eye test,” as Mike DeCourcy tells us.

(Credit FOX Sports Ohio)

Xavier exposed Memphis’ vulnerability on the defensive glass (Credit FOX Sports Ohio)

They faced a Xavier team hung over from a crushing VCU comeback that all but eliminated its hopes of an at-large bid, and a student section reduced by the diaspora of spring break. Moreover with starting point guard Dee Davis injured, the Musketeers would field one primary ball-handler against the Tigers’ athletic press. It was against that backdrop that Memphis showed up and did all it could to reinforce the criticisms of its detractors. The Musketeers set the tone early with ferocious intensity under the basket and on 50/50 balls. They made Memphis look like the team with nothing to play for in the first half as they ran out to a 30-21 lead. The languid effort struck a chord with Josh Pastner: “Our energy level stunk that first half, and I believe in energy… We were minus-five in 50/50 balls at halftime –– first time in a long time that’s happened.” The Musketeers outrebounded Pastner’s team by 11 in the first half, and an six-rebound advantage on the offensive boards helped establish a 12-0 disparity in second-chance points. Memphis went to the locker room with zero points off five Xavier turnovers and only two fast break points.

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NC State Forward TJ Warren is a Man Without a Position

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 27th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham

At some point in the 118-year history of basketball it was decided that each player on the court had to have a set position with a skill set that lent something to the way the game was played. These positions — point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center — held up for the most part through the years with players falling into one of the positions based on their height, athleticism or abilities with the ball in their hands. Recently, however, these positions have become somewhat amorphous with the advent of the “stretch four” and “combo guard” creating their own archetypes on which young players can model themselves. One such player who defies all classification is NC State’s 6’8″, 233-pound TJ Warren — a man without a position.

TJ Warren, NC State

TJ Warren can take it to the post or off the bounce. But what position should we say he is? (Photo: Rob Kinnan, USA TODAY Sports)

Warren was a McDonald’s All-American in high school who could score in every way imaginable and even some ways that players hadn’t thought of yet. Physically he would fit into the old mold of a power forward but athletically he would fit more naturally into the small forward role. He isn’t a natural jump shooter which means his effectiveness on the wing would depend purely on his ability to get into the lane and score around the rim, much like a younger LeBron James before he developed his outside game. Warren has played both the small and power forward at times for the Wolfpack but giving him a position other than “forward” would pigeonhole his game too much, so we will just stick with the general term.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: The Delinquents

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

We’ve had plenty of good students this week, but we’ve got four squads that need to put in some extra work. Professor Pac breaks them down, here.

Arizona State – D+

The Sun Devils have unquestionably been a great story all year long. This is a team that won 22 games over the last two seasons combined that is now sitting at 20 wins already this season. If #1 seeds were handed out based on improvement, ASU would be very much in the mix. As it is, however, the Sun Devils’ last three losses – on Saturday at home to Washington, two weeks ago at Utah, and just prior to that at home to Stanford – have combined to leave them likely on the outside looking in when it comes to bubble talk. At present they’re near the bottom of the barrel in terms of free throw percentage in the nation, making just 62% from the charity stripe.

Focus on: Carrick Felix. The senior has done a lot of amazing things this season, from his elite defensive performance to his improvement on the glass to his career-best 58.1% eFG and 37% three-point shooting. But, somewhat inexplicably, Felix is shooting a career-worst 62.9% from the free-throw line. Somehow, someway, as his shooting while people attempt to guard him has been consistently rocketing upwards, his shooting while no one can guard him plummets.

Looking ahead: For all the talk about how the Sun Devils have taken themselves out of contention for an at-large bid, I can’t help but think if they win at UCLA tonight, win at USC on Saturday and handle Arizona next Saturday, they’ll be in pretty good position. Yeah, so, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three road wins over teams who are a combined 12-5 in the past month.

Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Carrick Felix’s Numbers Are Up Almost Across The Boards – Except From The Free Throw Line (US Presswire)

Oregon State – D+

If you wanted to get a feel for how the 2012-13 Beavers season has gone, you could probably just watch Saturday’s game against Cal. Before the clock operator even had a chance to start the clock, OSU found itself down a point after freshman Olaf Schaftenaar picked up a technical for dunking in pregame warm-ups. Then, over the course of the next 20 minutes of action, they built themselves a nine-point deficit, a jumped up to 13 early in the second half. But behind Joe Burton, celebrating his senior day in style, the Beavers fought most of the way back against the hottest team in the conference, getting to within one point with 43 seconds remaining. But an ugly final possession that resulted in a wild Ahmad Starks three as time expired ensured that the lead remained in Cal’s possession. And yup, that’s right, the final margin was that one point that OSU sacrificed before the game even began.

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CIO… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

CIO header

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Conference Round-Up

For weeks and weeks the constant talk around the conference was of confusion; who is the best team, where is the separation? Now, all of a sudden we look up with still a full two weeks remaining in conference play and, barring a collapse, New Mexico is going to take home at least a piece of the conference title (and a #1 seed in the conference tournament) and is a strong favorite to earn the regular season title outright. Along the way, Steve Alford has probably sealed up the MW Coach of the Year award, while teams like Colorado State, UNLV and San Diego State look locked into NCAA Tournament bids. In other words, what was once a confusing mess (and I mean that word in a good way) of a conference is now pretty much crystal clear. Yeah, we still have to settle who exactly gets what seeds, both in Las Vegas and in the NCAA Tournament bracket, but New Mexico has clearly separated itself from the pack.

Reader’s Take

 

Team of the Week

New Mexico – While it is not yet sealed, the Lobos went a long way towards earning themselves a Mountain West regular season title this week when they went into Fort Collins, interrupted Colorado State’s 27-game home winning streak and came away with an impressive road win. We’ve spent a lot of time this year talking about what the Lobos can’t do and where their weaknesses may lie, but this far along this much is apparent: These Lobos are tough and they know how to win ballgames.

Kendall Williams' Career Day Carried New Mexico To A Big Road Win

Kendall Williams’ Career Day Carried New Mexico To A Big Road Win

Player of the Week

Kendall Williams, Junior, New Mexico – For the second consecutive week, there is no serious debate about the winner here as Williams went for 46 points, knocking down 10 increasingly improbable three-pointers while doing a little bit of everything for the Lobos in one of the greatest individual performances anywhere in the nation this season. For a guy who hadn’t scored more than 20 since December 22, it was also one of the most unlikely performances, but it is a glimpse into the type of ceiling this ridiculously talented junior has.

Newcomer of the Week

Colton Iverson, Senior, Colorado State – While the Rams came up on the short end of  the stick in both of their games this week, it wasn’t due to lack of production from their senior transfer. Iverson was his typical efficient self, averaging 20 points, 12.5 boards and 34.5 minutes per game of action this week.

Despite Colton Iverson's Big Week, His Rams Went 0-2 (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Despite Colton Iverson’s Big Week, His Rams Went 0-2 (Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post)

Game of the Week

UNLV 61, Colorado State 59 – Both Colorado State games this week were wildly entertaining. But while the outcome of the New Mexico game was hardly in doubt in the final minute, this battle in Vegas went down to the wire. After getting outscored by 11 in the first half, the Rams came out of the halftime locker room on fire, scoring 19 of the first 27 points in the second half to get back to even with still more than 13 minutes to play. When Dorian Green knocked down a pair of free throws with just under two minutes in the game, the Rams were up two and looked to be in good position to earn a big road win. But the Rams would never score again, while allowing a Bryce Dejean-Jones offensive rebound and putback to tie the game. And then an Anthony Marshall jumper with a waning shot and game clock sealed the deal and sent the home crowd home happy.

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Did Minnesota Save Its Season Tuesday night?

Posted by jnowak on February 27th, 2013

Minnesota has been at a karaoke bar for almost two months now, just belting out the chorus to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” on repeat, with Tubby Smith singing the lead vocals. But a team that is as frustrating as it is talented finally got its act together at just the right time on Tuesday night, upsetting #1 Indiana, 77-73, at The Barn. Perhaps it was the sports psychologist that Smith brought in this week. Perhaps it was the crowd and the team recognizing the opportunity of having a vulnerable #1 come to town in conference play. Or perhaps it was just this group of talented, athletic players finally figuring out how to play together. Whatever the case was, Minnesota needed this win, and badly. Fortunately for the Gophers, they’ve likely played their way safely into the NCAA Tournament field and only have games against Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue remaining before the Big Ten Tournament. Can they hold on? We’ll see. But here’s a few more thoughts on Tuesday night’s upset:

Minnesota needed the Big Ten Player of the Year-esque Trevor Mbakwe to show up on Tuesday, and that's what they got. (USA Today)

Minnesota needed the Big Ten Player of the Year-esque Trevor Mbakwe to show up on Tuesday, and that’s what they got. (USA Today)

  • The Gophers were clicking — There may not be a more athletic team in the country than the Gophers, which is exactly what made their recent struggles so puzzling. They didn’t seem to have any leadership, couldn’t find any chemistry on the floor, didn’t seem to be taking much direction from their coach and just weren’t appearing to be having all that much fun playing together. Funny what the No. 1 team coming to your house can do. What stood out most to me was that the Gophers did a great job of taking what the game and the Hoosiers gave them. If Indiana was going to get stuck with a smaller player on the red-hot Elliott Eliason, the Gophers kept feeding the post. If Minnesota needed a big basket, it would go to the stronger Trevor Mbakwe inside. And when Indiana refused to move away from its zone defense, the Gophers kept taking three-pointers. They weren’t always going in the basket early, but they were clean looks, and kudos to Minnesota for taking them. They eventually started to fall and were what allowed the Gophers to get over the hump midway in the second half. The Gophers have more than a handful of athletic, talented players who can beat you on any given night and that depth is hard to match in the conference. When they’re all on the same page, we saw what they’re capable of.

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What Happened to C.J. Leslie?

Posted by KCarpenter on February 27th, 2013

Before the season started, North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie was picked as the probable conference Player of the Year while leading his team to a predicted first place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Wolfpack currently sits at fifth in the conference standings and Leslie seems like he is now well outside of the all-ACC First Team, much less anywhere near the Player of the Year Award. He’s likely not even a serious contender for the best player on his team, let alone the conference. What happened to the Wolfpack star and how did he manage to fall so short of expectations this season?

Has C.J. Leslie underachieved this season? Or is he just a product of optimistic expectations? (USA Today)

Has C.J. Leslie underachieved this season? Or is he just a product of inflated expectations? (USA Today)

The answer, like the question, is two part. First, nothing happened to Leslie: He is fairly close to the same player he has always been. This season, the ultra-athletic forward is averaging 15.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG, marginal improvements over last year’s marks of 14.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG. In terms of tempo-free measures, Leslie has been a bit better at shooting, slightly worse at offensive rebounding, and a good bit worse in terms of turnovers while using about the same number of possessions as last year. The net result? An offensive efficiency of 100.1 this year as opposed to a mark of 102.1 last year. Outside of a little variation, Leslie has been what he was last year — a nearly average offensive player using the eighth largest proportion of possessions in the conference. Why then, was Leslie picked as potentially the best player in the conference?

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CIO… the West Coast Conference

Posted by CNguon on February 27th, 2013

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

Looking Back

Appreciating Assets – Solid weeks by Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, plus a rebound by Santa Clara, marked the WCC’s next-to-last week in the regular season. All three teams enjoyed a rise in prospects, although the degree of ascent differed greatly.

Gonzaga, by tearing through Santa Clara (85-42) and San Diego (81-50) while #2 Miami sleepwalked through a pasting (80-65) from lowly Wake Forest, moved into the #2 position in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls, the highest ranking ever for the Bulldogs. It is of a piece with a dazzling season that has seen, among other triumphs: a return to the top of the WCC after Saint Mary’s won the undisputed title last year; the highest number of regular-season wins in its history (27), with two conference games to go; and an undefeated conference record, only the third time in its history as a Division I team if it holds up. In addition, it is a given among most bracketologists that Gonzaga is a compelling favorite to be the #1 West seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, meaning the Zags will make an easy trip from Spokane to San Jose or Salt Lake City for the opening two rounds of the tournament.

Could the nation's #1 overall ranking be in the cards for Kevin Pangos, Kelly Olynyk and Gonzaga? (Getty)

Could the nation’s #1 overall ranking be in the cards for Kevin Pangos, Kelly Olynyk and Gonzaga? (Getty)

Saint Mary’s may have removed itself from the shadow of the NCAA Bubble Watch by defeating BYU (74-67) and Creighton (74-66) at home last week, giving the Gaels a much-needed quality win over the previously high-ranked Creighton Bluejays and moving them into #23 in the Coaches poll. Of course, with the Gaels this year nothing comes easily, so the favorable comments on their chances are couched in must-dos: win the remaining two games on the WCC schedule (Pepperdine on the road and Santa Clara at home), and get to the finals of the WCC Tournament March 6-11 in Las Vegas. In a comment on the Darwinian nature of the competition for at-large berths in the NCAA Tourney, Creighton may have fallen from lock status to bubble team itself with the loss to Saint Mary’s.

Santa Clara, which has had more ups and downs than perhaps any 20-game winner in the country, could have taken an eight-count against Portland last Saturday after being eviscerated by Gonzaga two nights earlier. The 45-point loss to the Zags was its worst since 1998, but the Broncos rebounded for a 75-63 win over Portland and a sweep of that series to go with three other sweeps – against Pepperdine, San Francisco and San Diego. The latter sweep is important because the Broncos have a two-game lead over the Toreros with two games to go in a race for fourth place and a bye in the first round of the WCC Tournament. Third place is not out of the Broncos’ reach, as they enter the last week just one game behind BYU.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Gonzaga (14-0, 27-2): The Zags are not just defeating conference foes these days, they are annihilating them. That is not good news for upcoming opponents BYU, in Provo on Feb. 28, and Portland, in Spokane on March 2. BYU might be playing for its last shot at an at-large NCAA berth, but even a gritty effort against Saint Mary’s came up short and the Cougars may not have enough left in the tank to stall an onrushing Gonzaga. Read the rest of this entry »
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Bill Self Dancing, Michael Carter-Williams losing, #NCAAOscars

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 27th, 2013

bythetweets

Remember back in the fall when North Carolina State was the trendy pick to contend for a Final Four berth? Following a Sweet Sixteen appearance, C.J. Leslie was coming back to lead a team with a solid point guard and top flight freshman class. Everything was coming up roses in Raleigh. Then the Wolfpack even seemed to meet expectations, too, opening the season 14-2, including a win over then No. 1 and undefeated Duke. But on Saturday Mark Gottfried’s team lost to its rival North Carolina, a team who was supposed to be trending down this season. They’re now 8-6 in ACC play and have the look of a team whose fangs have been blunted, becoming the latest casualty to the rigors of conference play.

Sometimes, you gotta peel back the onion before assuming a team is solid on paper.

Bill Self and the Tremendously Fast Cycle of Twitter

Last week Kansas took on Kansas State. The highlight? That would be Bill Self dancing. Or shuffling. Or Harlem Shaking. Or intuitively doing something to spark a flurry of social media activity. The response is a perfect case study in how sports GIFs and memes are digested at a rapid pace. Take a look:

Here was the immediate reaction.

Followed by the delayed reaction, which in Internet time is like 20 seconds after the event occured.

Then, if it is worthy, @Bubbaprog hops into action.

Followed by a someone asking for something more.

And suddenly, the wish is granted, thanks to a random dude with the right resources and the right level of initiative.

Seriously. This took all of 27 minutes to unfold. The Internet has evolved so prolifically that its current state is analogous to passing against a defense rather than trying to dribble through. It’s so much faster and effective.

#NCAAOscars

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

We’ve bragged about our pet pupils yesterday, and we’ll get to the folks in detention later, but for now, here’s the middle of the Pac from last week’s performances.

Washington – B

After getting run off the court on Wednesday night against Arizona, the Huskies rebounded nicely with a strong performance in knocking off Arizona State on Saturday. In recent weeks it has been as simple as equating made shots with wins for the Huskies. In seven games in February they’ve shot a better than 50% eFG three times and won all of those games. Of course, four times they’ve shot lower than 50% and lost all four of those.

Focus on: Scott Suggs. With C.J. Wilcox clearly hurting, the Huskies desperately needed Suggs – their only other proven scorer – to break out of his slump. And, against the Sun Devils, after scoring just four points in four of his previous five games, Suggs did just that. He provided some offensive punch right out of the gate on Saturday night, either scoring or assisting on 12 of the Huskies  first 18 points. With just three games remaining in the regular season of his final collegiate season, you can bet both he and Lorenzo Romar hope he can keep up that type of performance the rest of the way.

Looking ahead: The Huskies host Washington State on Sunday night as the Evergreen State gets to say goodbye to five really good seniors between the two squads in their final Apple Cup (basketball edition) game.

Once Branded A Glue Guy, Josh Huestis' Recent Streak Proves He's An All-Around Player (Ben Margot, AP)

Once Branded A Glue Guy, Josh Huestis’ Recent Streak Proves He’s An All-Around Player (Ben Margot, AP)

Stanford – B-

The Cardinal went on the road and got a split for the week; that’s a good thing, right? It certainly is, but for Johnny Dawkins and company to move themselves into range for an at-large bid, they really needed to get a win Saturday at Oregon. Unfortunately for them, they shot the ball poorly, turned it over far too much and even got beat on the boards as the Ducks backed Stanford into a corner, where they need to win the Pac-12 Tournament lest they be relegated in trying to defend their NIT title.

Focus on: Josh Huestis. He has previously shown the ability to score both inside and out, but with talented scoring guards and emerging star Dwight Powell on the same roster, the expectation was that Huestis was locked into a “glue guy” role. His occasional outbursts of offense, an expectation that was being met through most of January, the junior from Great Falls regularly grabbed more rebounds than he scored points. But, over the last month, Huestis has undergone an offensive renaissance, scoring in double figures in nine straight games, registering seven double-doubles along the way, and averaging 14.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game over that stretch. Somewhat unbelievably, Huestis is a legitimate first-team all-conference contender.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host Colorado and Utah this week. There really isn’t a scenario whereby they earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs, so while neither of these games are must wins, they must build confidence and coherence if they hope to threaten to win the title in Vegas.

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Ten Tuesday (or Wednesday!) Scribbles: On Scoring, Rule Changes, Syracuse and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 27th, 2013

tuesdayscribbles

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Much has been made about the decline in scoring in college basketball over the last decade. These days, it is very common to see games played in the 60s, 50s or even 40s in some instances. It is true that scoring has decreased substantially over the last 10 years and the numbers bear it out. In the 2002-03 season, 172 teams averaged at least 70.0 PPG. That number has steadily declined, falling to 145 five seasons ago and 111 this year. With the advent of advanced statistics, one in particular stands out. Ten years ago, 123 teams averaged an adjusted tempo of 70.0 possessions per game. That was cut in half by 2007-08 (62 teams) and the number has continued to decline even since then. This season, only 28 of America’s 347 Division I teams play at that pace or greater. Why is this happening? Pace is certainly a factor but there are other issues at play here. With the proliferation of television coverage and video based scouting programs such as Synergy Sports Technology, scouting and video material is more available than ever. Head coaches and their staffs know everything about an opponent and that makes a huge difference for a lot of teams on the defensive end. A lot of teams run the same sets and it’s simply easier to prepare when you see the same thing over and over again. The elephant in the room, however, is the talent level in college basketball. Most of us probably wouldn’t like to admit it but the talent level has noticeably dipped in our sport over the last decade. I’m not talking about a once in 20 years type of player like Kevin Durant but the overall depth of talent in the game. There’s a reason a lot of people are saying this year’s NBA Draft class could be the weakest ever. That’s because it is. Until college basketball gets a much-needed infusion of talent, low scoring games will remain the norm.
  2. A lot of people would like to see the so-called “one-and-done” rule fade to black and that got me thinking about some much-needed rule changes in college basketball. I’m not going to discuss the one-and-done here, I’m talking about changes that need to be made during the actual games. If I had the power, the first thing I’d do is shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds. Five seconds may not sound like a lot but since there are roughly 66 to 67 possessions in an average Division I game, that would translate into another 10 possessions per game. Immediately you’d see an increase in scoring which makes the game more attractive to fans. One thing that annoys me is the amount of timeouts and stoppages in the game. There are already four mandated media timeouts every half and each team gets a total of five timeouts per game. In an era when coaches rarely leave timeouts on the table, there are 18 different timeouts in a typical college game, an average of one every two minutes and 13 seconds. It hurts the flow of a game in a big way and my proposal would be to reduce the number of timeouts to three per team and no extras in overtime. The end of every college basketball game these days seems to include a multitude of timeouts, fouls and official reviews. Officials reviewing plays has helped many sports get calls right, including college basketball. However, officials are abusing the monitor more than ever before. A big reason why is the NCAA rule change a few years ago regarding flagrant fouls and elbows thrown. I get why this rule was implemented (player safety) but there is no evidence this rule acts as a deterrent. Players have been taught from a young age to clear space with your elbows when being pressured by a defender. Now, a loose elbow can be deemed a flagrant foul even if there was no intent to injure by the offending player. This has to change. I have absolutely no problem with calling a flagrant foul for a malicious elbow or other physical contact. But calling a flagrant for an innocent or accidental elbow is wrong and is another thing that contributes to college games that lack an entertaining flow. A couple other changes I’d make include not resetting the 10-second count in the backcourt after a timeout, not being able to inbound the ball into the backcourt (it’s a bailout move for a team without a quality inbounds play) and starting the 1-and-1 bonus at nine fouls instead of seven. What are your thoughts on some of these proposals?

    Tubby Smith, Minnesota

    Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed in the right direction

  3. This time of year, bubble talk dominates the discussion. My way of looking at bubble teams is simple: Did you beat quality opponents and what have you done away from home? This approach is one Jay Bilas mentions on television every year, something I wholeheartedly agree with. I remember years ago when Bilas went on ESPN and said something like, “Bubble teams have all proven they can lose. The question is, who did you beat and where did you beat them?” Truer words have never been spoken. You can’t dismiss all losses but when we’re talking about bubble teams, we’re usually looking at teams that have lost anywhere from 9 to 12 games, sometimes more. When I look at this year’s group of bubble teams, a few stand out. Minnesota is only 7-8 in Big Ten play but has multiple quality wins over Memphis (neutral), Illinois (away), Wisconsin (home), Michigan State (home) and last night’s massive upset of Indiana at the Barn on its resume. All of that trumps Minnesota’s loss to Northwestern and should get the Golden Gophers into the Big Dance.  Staying in the Big Ten, Illinois is in the same boat and I believe the Illini have done enough to warrant a bid at this point. Villanova is an interesting team. The Wildcats have a high number of losses (11) but wins at Connecticut and home versus Louisville and Syracuse have them in the NCAA discussion. I think Villanova is an NCAA-worthy team but the Wildcats need to do more to earn a bid because a pair of bad losses on their resume hurt the cause. Teams like St. Mary’s are harder to quantify. The Gaels have just one top 50 win (home vs. Creighton) on their resume and a pair of bad losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech. When a team wins a number of games against poor competition as St. Mary’s has, it’s very hard to determine if they’re NCAA-worthy. I think the Gaels are, but their resume leaves a lot to be desired. Beating Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament would prove to everyone that they deserve a spot. Read the rest of this entry »
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