Big Ten Tournament: Minnesota Still Living on the Bubble

Posted by Walker Carey on March 13th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday evening’s Big Ten Tournament action between Penn State and Minnesota in Indianapolis.

Entering the conference tournament season on the NCAA Tournament bubble is always a precarious endeavor. Teams have to make sure they don’t drop a game they shouldn’t and even that sometimes is not enough. Minnesota is among those unlucky several on the bubble this week, as the Golden Gophers are striving to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, this year with a new head coach leading the charge. Prior to the start of Thursday’s opener against Penn State, Minnesota was among the “first four out” in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket. The Golden Gophers finished the regular season with a 19-12 overall record, but just an 8-10 record in Big Ten play. Strangely enough, Minnesota also possessed an 8-10 mark in league play last season when the school found itself on the right side of the bubble. Last season’s Golden Gophers were the first Big Ten team with a losing conference record to earn an NCAA Tournament bid since Iowa garnered one with a 7-9 league record back in 2005.

It Was a Good Day for the Pitinos

It Was a Good Day for the Pitinos

Part of Minnesota’s résumé that will be looked at positively by the committee will be its strength of schedule, as Richard Pitino’s squad has played the fifth most difficult schedule in the country. An area where the team may lose some favor with the committee is in that it suffered a few questionable setbacks. There was the home loss to 13-18 Northwestern, the triple-overtime defeat at 15-17 Purdue, and a home setback to an Illinois squad that finished the regular season with a 7-11 Big Ten record. While there are some troubling defeats on the Gophers’ résumé, there are also several impressive victories over NCAA Tournament locks Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

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Richmond Misses Prime Opportunity to Bolster Its Tourney Resume

Posted by Lathan Wells on February 19th, 2014

The Atlantic 10 is a league that holds major NCAA Tournament implications in the upcoming weeks. As many as five teams could emerge from this conference, which boasts a solid RPI representation among its top squads and has held its own in the non-conference slate. As the season winds down to its final few weeks, intra-conference match-ups between the league’s bubble teams become that much more important. Richmond , for one, missed out on a key opportunity to stake its claim into NCAA Tournament inclusion on Tuesday night, and the lack of diverse scoring options that led to the Spiders’ 73-65 loss to George Washington may well relegate them to a spot on the outside looking in come tourney time.

Cedrick Lindsay's injury has severely depleted Richmond's scoring options (gettyimages(

Cedrick Lindsay’s season-ending injury has severely depleted Richmond’s scoring options. (Getty)

In early February, the Spiders lost two of their starters in rapid succession, with bruising power forward Derrick Williams and starting point guard (and the conference’s third-leading scorer) Cedrick Lindsay lost for the season. Williams left due to personal reasons; Lindsay suffered injuries to both knees in a loss to VCU that effectively ended his collegiate career. In their absence, Richmond had admirably carried a 3-1 record into last night’s game, but those wins had come against three teams from the A-10′s lower half of the standings. The team was leaning exceptionally hard on junior Kendall Anthony, who was playing 36.5 minutes and averaging 25.8 points per game replacing Lindsay at the point. The 5’8″ Anthony — a spark plug off the bench who later became Lindsay’s running mate — was never meant to carry this much of an offensive load. He put up 14 points on Tuesday but he was clearly the focal point of GW’s defense and struggled to find many open looks (5-of-12 FG). Future foes undoubtedly took notice of this effective scheme and will also put it to use to slow down the Spiders.

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RTC Bracketology: February 22 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 22nd, 2013

bracketology

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 Thursday afternoons for the rest of the season.

New in This Update:

  • Illinois continues to be the toughest team in the country to figure out. The media’s mock bracket came out last week and the Illini were a #5 seed. This team was once ranked in the nation’s top 15 teams and then it was 2-7 in conference with a game against No. 1 Indiana up next. The Illini won that one at the buzzer and four more games in a row to get to 7-7 in conference. Compare Illinois to the other teams around them in the bracket — they have five wins against the RPI top 26 and no longer have an under .500 conference record to bring them down. I agree with the media mock — Illinois is now a #5 seed.
  • After Florida’s loss earlier this week against Missouri, the #1 seed line is again hard to figure out. Indiana and Miami (FL) are easy to pick given their overall resumes and Duke fits in nicely despite struggling somewhat without Ryan Kelly. The fourth #1 seed could be any number of teams. It looks like Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have pegged Gonzaga as the final top seed, but I disagree. The Zags are going to have to rely on the eye test to get that high and in general most are decided by overall profile and not eye test. Gonzaga simply does not have the profile of a #1 seed.  Michigan State is the fourth top seed in my field based on the Spartans’ overall profile.
  • The Mountain West is a mess. It looks like four teams are going to get a bid, with UNLV and Colorado State playing fantastic basketball over the last few weeks. New Mexico has a top five RPI and San Diego State held the Lobos to 33 points in a game earlier this year.  Putting those teams into the bracket is pretty tough, because there is not a lot of separation between them.
  • Maryland was in my field after upsetting Duke, but the Terps are out again after falling to Boston College.  Temple is in after defeating La Salle. Indiana State has fallen out of serious at-large contention after a loss to Wichita State and six inexcusable losses on its resume.
  • Kentucky and Mississippi are making things interesting in the SEC. Both teams are among my last four teams in. Missouri’s win over Florida practically assures the conference of at least getting two teams in.
  • Minnesota and Cincinnati are sliding in my bracket, but I still think both teams are safe. The Gophers may not want to tempt fate, though. Tubby Smith’s team has been blown out in games against Iowa and Ohio State and is now two games under .500 in the Big Ten. Teams under .500 in conference play typically do not get in. Overall, 34 teams have gotten at-large bids over the last 43 years while being under .500 in conference play.

LAST FOUR IN: Colorado, Baylor, Saint Mary’s, Kentucky
FIRST FOUR OUT: Boise State, Alabama, Arizona State, Charlotte

NOTE: Projected conference champions (or auto bid winners) are in capital letters.

(full bracket after the jump)

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Considering the Duke Hangover Effect: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by EMann on February 21st, 2013

In a series of events that seems almost predetermined, Maryland, fresh off a signature win against Duke (in what could be the last game in this rivalry played in College Park) and now finding itself either squarely off the bubble or in the Tournament, went out and dropped its next game at lowly Boston College. The Wall Street Journal has already written about how beating Duke has merited a court rushing (“including this season, in 27 out of Duke’s 33 losses in true road games [the last ten years], the fans have rushed the court”). There hasn’t been as much focus on what happens to these teams after getting their “signature win” over the Blue Devils. Beginning in the 2007-08 season, teams not named UNC are under .500 in their next game after beating Duke. Yes, it is a small sample size, but it is worth taking a closer look at this phenomenon.

Maryland won at Duke, but followed it up with losing at Boston College.  The Duke Hangover at work (Yahoo Sports)

Maryland beat Duke, but followed it up with losing at Boston College. The Duke Hangover at work (Yahoo Sports)

Here is just one example of this “Duke hangover”: Feb. 26th, 2011 – Virginia Tech upset top-ranked Duke, 64-60, and looked prime to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth. However, the Hokies lost their final two regular season games (at home against a BC team that did not make the NCAAs, and at a Clemson team that barely did) to finish 19-10 (9-7 ACC), and after bowing out in the ACC semis to Duke, found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.

I went through the ACC data from the 2003 season onward to determine just how often teams lost its next game after playing Duke. Teams who lost their next game after playing Duke are bolded below. Teams who made the NCAA Tournament are italicized, with their seed and round they lost in listed for reference. I mentioned the ACC Tournament only in the years in which Duke did not win (2004, 2007, 2008, and 2012).

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Big East M5: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 24th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Just days removed from being the top ranked team in the nation, Louisville has fallen on tough times.  Back to back losses to Syracuse and Villanova has Rick Pitino noticeably upset about his team’s play.  After the Villanova loss, his venom was directed towards the Cardinals’ free throw shooting, at the expense of a pair of basketball stars:  “It was really a simple answer to why we lost.  Basically we were Dwight Howard or Shaquille O’Neal. We came down we had a six-point lead and it could have been eight. Could have kept coming down and extending it but our free throws were a turnover. Very simple answer for why we lost. Our foul shooting was despicable.” Despite the two losses, Louisville can still be considered the class of the conference, and we know that Pitino is coaching his team with March in mind.  That being said, with both Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harris shooting ~50% from the line, the Cardinals may have a tough time closing out savvy teams.
  2. Moving forward, the game may say more about Villanova than it does Louisville.  The Wildcats have struggled to notch conference wins to this point, but they’ve been knocking on the door.  Against the Cardinals, they just decided to kick it down.  Where in previous games against Pitt and Providence, Villanova was unable to put away its opponent, against Louisville the Wildcats applied the pressure while playing from behind, and with an assist from the Cardinals’ poor free throw shooting, Nova finally stole one.  The Wildcats have a chance to make another big statement against Syracuse on Saturday morning.  Another strong performance would go a long way towards getting Villanova back into NCAA Tournament talks.
  3. I wouldn’t have guessed Buzz Williams as the Big East coach to utilize long-running extended metaphors to describe his team from season to season, but here we are.  Marquette‘s a hard team to pin down.  They haven’t looked awfully impressive in any game this season.  It took overtime to beat Pittsburgh and UConn, they snuck by Georgetown in a classic Hoya 49-48 game, and they only topped Seton Hall by seven.  However, they only have one loss in league play, in overtime against Cincinnati, and the Golden Eagles find themselves in second place, 1.5 games behind Syracuse.  Some teams have played below expectations, others have surpassed them.  Marquette seems to be right where it should be, it just hasn’t been an easy path taken.
  4. Scott Martin‘s six year Notre Dame career may be coming to a close.  The oft-banged up Irish captain has struggled to regain form after offseason ACL and meniscus repair, and has been shut down for the time being.  Mike Brey says that it’s all hands on deck to try to find a replacement for Martin: ”But I think I’m going into it thinking, we’re looking at everybody in a gold (practice) shirt – Zach (Auguste), Austin (Burgett), (Garrick Sherman), Tom Knight. We’re going to do it today, we’re going to do it tomorrow, and we’re probably going to do it the first half Saturday to see, what do we have?”  Martin’s scoring has dipped a bit this season, but he’s a solid player who is especially dangerous with his .463 mark from three-point range.  More than anything, the Irish will miss Martin’s consistency, and the team needs it more now than ever.  Hopefully Martin is able to come back from this most recent issue.
  5. UConn freshman Omar Calhoun was not only lucky enough to be blessed with tremendous skill on the court, but he also has two parents who have a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed off of it.  Calhoun’s father, Omar Sr., played at St. Francis College before leaving the game when Omar Jr. was born.  His mother, Semara Breland, was a star in high school on track to receive multiple scholarship offers before she left the game as a Junior.  Both stayed in school and received their college degrees while raising Omar and his sister Sierra, a good player in her own right, and that experience has been invaluable in guiding their kids to making good, informed choices with their basketball careers.
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Big East M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. One could say that Kevin Ollie’s first Big East season got going in the wrong directionAfter late game heroics for both UConn and Marquette by Ryan Boatright and Junior Cadougan, respectively, the two teams lined up on the wrong sides of the center circle to begin overtime. Enosch Wolf won the tip, and Shabazz Napier had an open look on what should have been his own basket swatted away by Jamil Wilson on what normally would have been a goaltend.  After reviewing the play, the referees did not count the goaltend for UConn as the Huskies shot at the wrong basket.  However, referee Karl Hess later admitted that after letting the players play in the wrong direction, they should have given UConn the two points. UConn would go on to lose to the Golden Eagles by six, 82-76.
  2. Louisville hasn’t had trouble putting points on the board, as the Cardinals are averaging 78.2 points per game so far this season. However, Rick Pitino is still not happy with his team’s defense. Louisville’s 17-point lead over Kentucky was nearly erased as the Cardinals played tentatively on defense due to foul trouble. That doesn’t gel with the high-pressure full court scheme that Pitino likes to use. Another concern is the team’s interior defense — despite the imposing presence of Gorgui Dieng (out for most of December with an injury), the Cardinals are still only 14th among Big East teams in blocked shots, a number that Pitino would surely like to move up.
  3. Jim Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse since the nascent days of the Big East conference, so naturally he has many strong feelings and opinions about the league that he credits for his national championship and Hall of Fame induction. In a two-hour interview with USA Today, Boeheim discusses the past and future of the conference, including the near-”warfare” like atmosphere of the coaches meetings in the 1980s, the Big East media contract negotiations which broke down before Syracuse and Pittsburgh made the announcement that they would be moving to the ACC, and, of course, his future plans to coach the Orange. Boeheim keeps his plans close to the vest and marches to the beat of his own drum, but when he does decide to hang the whistle up, he is confident that the program will survive and thrive under Mike Hopkins - ”I don’t have any plans on retiring, right now. Could that change? Yeah, I think that could change. But I don’t have any plans on retiring. I know Mike will be the coach and Syracuse will be in great hands… I told every recruit the last five years that I think I am going to coach but don’t know it. Mike will be the coach. And the (recruits) all came. Most recruits don’t care anymore because they only think they will be here one year.”
  4. Seton Hall was sitting solidly on the bubble last March before a shocking 86-58 loss at league dregs DePaul derailed the Pirates’ dancing aspirations. Seton Hall opens its Big East season with the same road trip tonight, looking to improve on an 11-2 record with a win over an improved Blue Demons squad. While some Big East teams may lack some motivation when playing DePaul, Brandon Mobley and Seton Hall have all that they need: “If playing at DePaul is not motivation, then I don’t know what is… Not only did we lose, we got embarrassed and that cost us the NCAA Tournament. We’re going up there with a grudge on our shoulder.”
  5. In news that is not directly related to basketball but may effect the futures of UConn, Cincinnati, and USF, the three schools who appear to be getting left behind by conference expansion and realignment, Boise State will no longer be joining the Big East in football. There is a good chance that San Diego State, which was also set to join for football only, may follow suit, leaving the remaining three Big East members and their future rivals in an increasingly vulnerable conference. In addition, the Mountain West has reworked its television contract which will give increased revenue to teams who make national television appearances. There have even been rumors that the MW could end up raiding the Big East for a school like Cincinnati. The conference carousel goes round and round…
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ACC Tournament: Scott-less Miami Falls to Florida State and Resume Comparisons

Posted by mpatton on March 10th, 2012

Truthfully, I don’t know why Miami suspended Durand Scott. The Hurricanes already took a big gamble allowing DeQuan Jones to play: why not take another with Scott? Assuming the Yahoo! Sports allegations are true (the NCAA investigation is ongoing), Miami is forfeiting nearly all of its wins from this year. Obviously, I’m not privy to insider details, but if you’re going to let one athlete under investigation play, why not let another–significantly more valuable–student-athlete play?

Durand Scott Was Missed In Miami's Loss to Florida State.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they may be in trouble. I still think they’re in if they split with NC State but they didn’t, and the bracketology consensus appears to have the Hurricanes in the “Last Four Out” group. What’s funny is I think Miami’s profile is as good or better than NC State’s right now. Frankly I think the profile is better than Virginia’s. Depending on how the Selection Committee views Reggie Johnson‘s injury, there are three feathers Miami can put into its cap:

  1. No bad nonconference losses. Seriously, Miami’s worst loss was an overtime loss at Ole Miss. The Black Bears aren’t banging down the door of the NCAA tournament, but they’re just outside of the RPI Top-50. The Hurricanes also lost a tough one to bubble team West Virginia on the road. In conference the loss to Maryland hurts, but that’s one bad loss to Virginia’s three.
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