Circle of March VI

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2011

Say goodbye to six more schools after Monday night…  Western Kentucky, Iona, South Dakota State, Charleston, IUPUI and Middle Tennessee State.

Coming Next:   At least sixteen more knockouts on Tuesday…

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Set Your Tivo: 03.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Four automatic bids will be handed out this evening in places stretching from Connecticut to Las Vegas. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Colonial Championship (at Richmond, VA): VCU vs. Old Dominion — 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Old Dominion looks like a safe bet even if they lose but VCU more than likely has to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. The Rams and Monarchs split the season series, each winning on the other’s home floor. This game will be all about pace and one team’s strong defense against the other’s potent offense. If Old Dominion can keep this game in the half court, they can let their stellar two point defense and rebounding take over. The Monarch’s are the best offensive rebounding team in the country while VCU ranks #303 in defensive rebounding percentage. Old Dominion also ranks highly in defensive rebounding, placing them among the best overall rebounding teams in the nation, led by Frank Hassell, averaging just under 15/10 on the season. Over his last eight games, Hassell has been even better, averaging 19/10 down the stretch. Not coincidentally, the Monarchs have won all eight of those games and 12 of their past 13. ODU is #9 in two point defense but allows 36.9% three point shooting, #298 in America. That has been the bugaboo for Blaine Taylor’s group and the Rams are one team that can really take advantage of that. Four out of ten VCU field goals attempted are threes and they shoot it at a pretty good clip, 35.6% this season. However, that percentage drops to 33.7% when you look at CAA games only. The Rams must create offense through their defense by forcing turnovers. That will offset part of the rebounding edge ODU is almost sure to have. An energetic and aggressive defense can help push the pace and take Old Dominion out of its rhythm. The Monarchs struggle to shoot and score, relying on their defense and rebounding to win games most of the time. Shaka Smart should use some zone from time to time in order to force Old Dominion to make jump shots, something they don’t do well. Rebounding out of a zone is always difficult (especially against the #1 offensive rebounding squad) but we feel it’s worth the risk. VCU shouldn’t spend all game in a zone but mixing it up defensively will greatly help their cause. Old Dominion gets 57.5% of its points from two point range but they have a few threats from deep, most notably Kent Bazemore. He’s arguably their best three point shooter and also a terrific defender, ranked eighth nationally in steal percentage.  The Rams shouldn’t have that much trouble answering Old Dominion from the arc considering they have a number of quality shooters, including Bradford Burgess (16/13 vs. George Mason yesterday), but they need to get some looks inside for Jamie Skeen. The Wake Forest transfer has had a terrific year in Richmond and is averaging 21.7 PPG over his last three. It’ll be tough to score against Old Dominion’s interior defense but Skeen should look to get to the free throw line where he’s a 73.7% shooter. VCU is a good free throw shooting team overall and they’ve made it to the line on 41.5% of their possessions in conference play. Foul trouble for Old Dominion would open up the interior a bit and allow the Rams to spread the floor easier. VCU had lost four of their last five games heading into the conference tournament but seems to have found new life just down the road from campus in Richmond. They’ll be slight underdogs tonight but this is anybody’s game. Old Dominion will likely win the rebounding battle but whoever controls the turnover margin and the tempo will likely win this game and clinch the automatic berth.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.18-02.20

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 18th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it’s time for teams to make their moves. This weekend provides ample opportunities for some to do so. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

VCU @ Wichita State – 7 pm Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Skeen Leads VCU In Scoring (14.6 PPG), But Is Also Top Ten In the CAA In Rebounding (7.7 RPG) And PP40 (19.0)

This could very well prove to be an elimination game. VCU has lost two straight games at home and now has to venture out of conference on the road. Wichita State has lost three games at home already this season, however, and probably has to win out and make a run in the MVC Tournament in order to have a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t have a win in the RPI top 50 and those three home losses are really holding them back. VCU was blasted on the boards by Old Dominion recently (40-21) and it’s going to be hard to avoid that again in this game. If the Rams can’t create extra possessions through turnovers, it’s going to be a very long night.

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Fear The ‘Stache!

Posted by jstevrtc on February 17th, 2011

Congratulations are in order for the University of Vermont, who wrapped up the America East regular season championship on Wednesday night with their 73-57 win over Maine. The Catamounts are the first team to clinch a conference championship this season. Evan Fjeld (file photo below) hit nine of 13 shots and finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in the victory.

Also clinching a conference title on Wednesday were the Fairfield Stags, sealing up the Metro Atlantic with a 61-54 win over Marist. They’re attempting to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 14 years, and have put themselves in the best possible shape to do it by becoming the top seed in the MAAC tournament. Incidentally, they beat Vermont, 67-59, back on December 20th.

Behold, and genuflect.

One of the reasons we were happy to inform our readers of these developments was the chance to put up a photo of Evan Fjeld and that glorious moustache of his. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Fjeld is an outstanding player (15.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 BPG) and the main weapon on a Vermont team that’s won ten straight and truly excels on defense — 7th nationally in FG% defense (38.7%) and 20th in defensive points per possession (0.898) — and you can check them out for yourself this Saturday. They’ll play at Charleston at 5 PM ET as part of ESPNU’s BracketBusters series.

But seriously, look at that thing. It’s fantastic. A full-on Prefontaine. It’s the Cadillac of college basketball facial hair in the modern era. We were huge Adam Morrison fans, but come on. If Fjeld’s is a Cadillac, Morrison’s was at best a Toyota Tercel in need of an oil change. As far as this match-up is concerned, Morrison will have to be content with his Player of the Year awards.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.03.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Another Thursday night of mediocre power conference games means the mid-majors take priority, with the biggest one of all (Gonzaga, if they still are one) on the ropes. Apologies to Valparaiso and Cleveland State, but their game is not on television. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Wofford @ Charleston – 7 pm on ESPNU (**)

A Smiling Goudelock Means He's Hit a Rhythm, and You're In Trouble

These are the two best teams in the Southern Conference and they both happen to reside in the South Division. They’re tied in the loss column but Charleston won the first meeting in Spartanburg, as the Cougars shot 51% and out-rebounded Wofford on their way to victory. This game features the two best players in the conference, Wofford’s Noah Dahlman and Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock. You probably know about Goudelock from his exploits against North Carolina, Maryland and Tennessee, but Dahlman may be the best player most folks don’t know about.

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ATB: Kemba Is For Closers

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2011

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.  — MLK, 1963

The Lede.  We hope everyone had a brilliant MLK Day Weekend.  We know that you had a great MLK Day with the great hoops on all afternoon, culminating in two top ten matchups between Big East teams (aren’t all 16 Big East teams in the top ten?).  Hopefully you were off work to enjoy it, but if you weren’t, let’s get you caught up.

Walker is Big Time in the Clutch (H-C/J. Woike)

Your Watercooler MomentKemba Is For Closers. We still don’t really believe that UConn is a legitimate Final Four contender (which you are, by definition, as a top ten team), but we will say this without reservation.  If UConn can keep itself within reach at the five-minute point of the game, they are capable of beating anybody and have the best closer in college basketball.  You can have Jared Sullinger, Jimmer Fredette, Nolan Smith or whoever else you want — we’ll take Kemba.  His ability to use the dribble to create space for himself and get off clean and makeable looks sets him apart from all of the others, and essentially gives Jim Calhoun an x-factor that no other team can counter.  Witness Jay Wright’s comments after the game — Villanova knew Walker was going to get the ball for the final shot, sent two men at him, so he simply split them anyway en route to hitting a ridiculously tough game-winning floater in the lane with two seconds left. Walker didn’t even enjoy the biggest game (that belonged to Corey Fisher and his 28 points and six assists), nor did he look dominant as he bricked his way to a 6-18 shooting afternoon, but when the outcome is on the line he’s proven again and again that he’s up to the task.  We said this repeatedly back in Maui two months ago, but it’s worth noting that as talented as Walker is and has performed this season, the success of the Huskies will ultimately depend on the support he receives.  Alex Oriakhi has played like a man possessed in the four games since his donut performance against Notre Dame, averaging 14/13 and providing great interior defense so that his team will be in the game until the end for Walker to do his magic.  So long as he plays at a similar level, Jim Calhoun will continue to snicker at all of his naysayers, and deservedly so.

Pitt's Retro Media Guide Cover (h/t Luke Winn)

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. TwoSyracuse Drops From the Unbeatens. It was expected once Syracuse declared that starting forward and leading scorer Kris Joseph would be held out of tonight’s game against Pittsburgh due to a nasty knock on the head he suffered on Saturday, but the way in which it happened was still surprising.  For a while, it appeared that Jim Boeheim’s team must have left their entire offense back home as Syracuse’s defense faltered early, allowing Pittsburgh to run out to a quick 19-0 lead in front of a raucous crowd at the Peterson Events Center.  Then, just as quickly as they got down, Cuse battled back with a 17-0 run of its own.  We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a game start like that before, but nevertheless, it portended what would become a close game the rest of the way.  The difference was that Pittsburgh was simply better — they said they’d been practicing for a few days against a zone, and it showed in their execution (1.08 PPP was the third-best performance against the zone this year).  Time and time again the Panthers moved the ball inside-out to find the open shooter on the perimeter or found success pounding the ball down low to Nasir Robinson (21/7).  With the win, Pitt moves to the top of the line in the Big East with a flawless 6-0 record.  With upcoming games vs. DePaul, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Cincinnati in the next four, the Panthers look very good for heading into mid-February with a 10-0 conference record.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • The Ginormous MLK Monday.  All four of today’s games were great matchups on paper and we hope that ESPN keeps this up in future seasons.  There’s just something always a little cool about daytime basketball on a weekday — a little like you’re getting away with something by watching it.  The two Big East games ended up better than the Big 12 games, but we loved every bit of it.
  • The Morris Twins.  It’s like these two boys connected by genes suddenly decided to become grown men in the last two weeks.  After tonight’s combined 44/14, Marcus is averaging 24/13 in the last four games while brother Markieff is contributing 14/10 during the same period.  With point guard Josh Selby still struggling to adjust to the world of elite college basketball, it’s been the Morris twins who have pulled the Jayhawks through a series of recent close games against Michigan, Iowa State and Nebraska.  This buys Bill Self some time while his young but talented quarterback continues to develop over the next six weeks prior to March.
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The Other 26: Week 7

Posted by KDoyle on January 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the college basketball season is nearly half over. It is not all bad though, with conference play beginning we are just another step closer to Championship Week, Selection Sunday, and, of course, the NCAA Tournament. During this time of the year, the Other 26 and BCS largely go their separate ways, only to be reunited just two months later on the biggest stage of them all. As it is every year, the non-conference is nothing more than a tease of what is to come later. What are five major things that we learned during the first half of the year?

  • The top three teams in the Mountain West (SDSU, UNLV, BYU) will all be a force in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Gonzaga and Butler are not as dominant as they have been in past years, but both seem poised to perform well in their conference play as they drastically improved in the latter half of the non-conference schedule.
  • Temple and Richmond can go toe-to-toe with the big boys. In one week, the Owls defeated Maryland and then Georgetown, and then just weeks later they were points away from beating Villanova. As for the Spiders, they have beaten four of five BCS teams they played against.
  • Don’t sleep on Conference USA. Although the league probably will receive only two bids—maybe three—Central Florida, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB and UTEP are pretty darn good.
  • The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 will combine to have more teams in the NCAA Tournament than the ACC and SEC. Okay that is a bit of a reach, but don’t be surprised if this is close to happening. Right now, the only lock in the ACC is Duke, obviously. As for the SEC, it is only Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The MWC will almost certainly have SDSU, BYU, and UNLV, and the Atlantic 10 is a bit of a crapshoot at the top. Over the last three years, however, the A10 has sent three years to the Dance in each year—food for thought.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Around The Blogosphere: New Year’s Weekend Recap

Posted by nvr1983 on January 4th, 2011


We have quite a few links today after an extended long weekend/hiatus. If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #2 Ohio State 85, Indiana 67: “Peeking at the numbers, it sounds a little silly to say Indiana brought it this evening. After all, the Hoosiers allowed Ohio State to shoot a blistering 60.5 percent from the floor (23-of-38) and 68.4 percent from three (13-of-19). They lost by 18. But this Ohio State team is so strong, so lengthy, so crisp, so, well, good. Undefeated through 14. Ranked No. 2 in the nation. Selfless and experienced — with a freshman phenom in Jared Sullinger to boot. No one will be surprised if the Buckeyes find themselves in the Final Four this spring. They are that good. They can outclass a team like Indiana with relative ease.” (Inside the Hall: Recap, Post-Game Interviews, and Breaking Down Jared Sullinger; Eleven Warriors: Recap)
  • #3 Kansas 83, Miami (OH) 56: “Four days ago the Jayhawks played a bit of a lackluster style in an easy but somewhat sloppy win over Texas Arlington.  Following the game Bill Self made the statement that practices were about to get interesting for the Jayhawks and he followed that up by stating he wouldn’t know the starters for this one until gameday. For coach Self basketball boils down to great effort and intensity on the defensive end.  He’s said it time and time again that offense takes a night off, but great defense does not.  Sunday night Kansas finally seemed to get back on track and heed that message.” (Rock Chalk Talk: Recap and Statistical Analysis)
  • #4 Syracuse 70, #16 Notre Dame 58: The Orange had one of their most important wins of the season over a Notre Dame team that had just knocked off Georgetown a few days earlier. (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • #8 Villanova 78, Temple 74: “When #25 Templa faced #8 Villanova at the Pavilion on Villanova’s Main Line campus the national media touted the match up as a “1 in 220” game — the last time two nationally ranked Big 5 teams faced off in a City Series game. But for the 6,500 fans who braved the December cold to watch Villanova beat back four Temple second half rallies to preserve their 78-74 win, it was just another night in the Big 5. Desipite taking a commanding eight point lead, 76-68 inside the last minute, the Wildcats watched the Owls record six points in the last 18 seconds to close the final margin to four points.” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • #8 Villanova 81, Rutgers 65: “‘Tough’ was the theme in the post game interviews — two technicals and a player ejection can refocus a storyline in that way. Rutgers Head Coach Mike Rice was asked where on the toughness meter did his team play the Wildcats. The toughness meter? I have heard of turnover meters and foul meters, but not toughness meters.” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • #9 Purdue 82, Northwestern 69: The Boilermakers had a solid win over the Wildcats to get them to 2-0 in the Big Ten and have a few more relatively easy games before they get into the heart of the Big Ten schedule. (Boiled Sports)
  • #10 Kentucky 78, Louisville 63: Buoyed by the play of Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson the Wildcats knocked off their intrastate rivals with relative ease. (Recap: A Sea of Blue and Card Chronicle)
  • #10 Kentucky 86, Penn 62: “If not for Josh Harrellson, this game might have been lost.  That’s a strong statement, but there is a defensible argument to be made that Kentucky was ripe for a major upset tonight, and Josh Harrellson was a big reason why that didn’t happen.” (A Sea of Blue)
  • #11 Georgetown 86, DePaul 75: “There is an old adage in golf that there are no pictures on the scorecard, meaning that it doesn’t matter how one gets a score, as long as it is good.  That adage does not apply to Georgetown basketball today.  Sure, we got our first Big East victory today over an improving Depaul squad.  But for 30 minutes, the Hoyas were lifeless, apathetic, and defenseless in an 86-75 victory.  Austin Freeman seemed to be the only player aware that Georgetown played today, pacing the team with 21 crucial points on 12 shots. Jason Clark and Chris Wright continued to struggle shooting the basketball, but were able to find other ways to score, netting 21 points and 17 points respectively.” (Casual Hoya)
  • St. John’s 61, #11 Georgetown 58: “In a hard-fought Big East basketball game that recalled the heyday of the Hoyas – St. John’s rivalry, the Hoyas dropped to 1-2 in Big East play after a 61-58 defeat at the hands of the suddenly surging Red Storm.  Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas 16 points, and that alone should tell you all you need to know.  The vaunted ‘Hoya Trinity’ of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark combined for 20 points on 7 of 26 shooting from the field (2 of 14 from three point range).  Georgetown fans have long wondered what would happen if all three of the Trinity had off nights and that picture clearly isn’t pretty.” (Casual Hoya or for a St. John’s perspective: Johnny Jungle or The East Coast Bias)
  • #15 BYU 90, Buffalo 82: “More than 5,800 fans packed Alumni Arena on the campus at the University of Buffalo anticipating an All-American performance. The UB Bulls nearly stole the show. All-American Jimmer Fredette recovered from a sluggish first half scoring 28 of his game-high 34 points after the break to lead the 16th-ranked BYU Cougars over the University of Buffalo Bulls 90-82 in non-conference action Thursday night.
    More than 5,800 fans packed Alumni Arena on the campus at the University of Buffalo anticipating an All-American performance.The UB Bulls nearly stole the show. All-American Jimmer Fredette recovered from a sluggish first half scoring 28 of his game-high 34 points after the break to lead the 16th-ranked BYU Cougars over the University of Buffalo Bulls 90-82 in non-conference action Thursday night.” (Pickin Splinters)
  • #17 Illinois 69, #19 Wisconsin 61: “Demetri McCamey is the sort of guy I would hate if I were a fan of any other team. Just when you think you have locked him down and he can’t get a clean shot, he starts dishing to players and racking up assists (six in the first half) and just when you let up on him to keep his passing down, he lights up the score board (17 points in the second half.) He is crafty, an excellent ball handler and a frightening player to go up against. Demetri McCamey took the Illini over in the second half once again today, and proved again that this team will go exactly as far as he takes it. When he plays like this, or like at Iowa, he can take them far. The Illini do not win, however, when Demetri is the only person getting his production, and thankfully that was not the case today.” (Hail to the Orange)
  • #22 Washington 74, UCLA 63: “If this year’s edition of UCLA basketball needed any reminders why it’s important to play the full 40 minutes, this should be it. It is a shame that such reminders are needed at this stage in the season against one of the better opponents we’ve faced this year.” (Bruins Nation: Part 1 and Part 2)

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Behind the Numbers: The Thin White Line and Foul Theory

Posted by KCarpenter on December 1st, 2010

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor.

Moneyball isn’t the founding document of sabermetrics; that honor probably belongs to Bill James’ Baseball Abstract. That said, the reason that most baseball fans know about the advanced, modern approach to baseball statistics is because of Michael Lewis’s nearly 300-page story about the Oakland A’s. Well, they know either because of the the book itself or the uproar and debate around it. In any case, Moneyball was and remains a cultural phenomenon, a true breakthrough into the mainstream. Because of Moneyball, baseball and the dialogue around baseball has gotten smarter.

Battier Represents an Efficient Player Without Huge Stats

Basketball hasn’t had a single watershed moment like Moneyball. Progress in the advanced stats movement has come in fits and starts. Unsurprisingly, the closest thing to a mainstream breakthrough for advanced statistics in basketball came from Michael Lewis. “The No-Stats All-Star” was published February 13, 2009 in the New York Times, and focused on the world of advanced stats in basketball through the microcosm of the Houston Rockets player Shane Battier and his general manager, Darryl Morey. The article introduced the larger world to lots of fun ideas like offensive and defensive efficiency and adjusted plus/minus. It had a few interesting smaller nuggets too, and today we’ll be taking a look at one of those.

According to Morey (and the research), the worst possible outcome of a defensive play is to foul. In fact, Morey mentions that they identify other teams in the NBA that make use of the modern numbers-based thinking by looking to see which teams make a consistent and radical effort to avoid fouling. It’s a simple check, but one that makes sense: of the Four Factors that contribute to defensive efficiency, opponent’s free throw rate is the easiest to control. Telling a team to not foul is an easier instruction than “rebound better!” or “reduce your opponent’s effective field goal percentage!”

In any case, Morey’s observation made me curious as to which teams in college basketball make use of that mantra and consistently avoid fouling. To make sure that I didn’t wrongly consider a fluke year, I looked at the average team opponent free throw rate from 2006-10. For those keeping score at home, free throw rate is calculated by dividing attempted free throws by attempted field goals (and multiplied by 100 to get a slightly friendlier percentage). The average free throw rate for Divison I schools over the past five years comes in at 37.1%, while the fouling-est team registered a 54.3% and the best, least-fouling-est team managed a mere 23.3%.  [the complete and fully sortable list is located here as a Google Doc] Now, to name names: The top four teams who foul the least in order: Ohio State, Siena, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Three of these teams are perennial championship contenders and Siena is one of the most successful mid-majors of the past few years. The rest of the teams near the top of the list are a little more scattered. The top thirty teams on the list are an odd admixture of regular contenders (Syracuse, Florida, Arizona), mid-major spoilers (College of Charleston, George Mason), and middling teams of all sizes (Central Connecticut, Samford, Notre Dame, Boston College). So that’s interesting, but inconclusive.

But, what about the bottom of the list? Is there any discernible trend amongst the teams that foul the most? Well, here, the picture is clearer. The bottom seventy-five or so teams are almost exclusively small conference schools that have had middling success at best, though the true booby prize goes to Central Michigan, who, from 2006-10 averaged an opponent free throw rate at an astonishing 54.3%. So while it’s unclear that rarely fouling is the true mark of a great team in college basketball (though it does appear to have helped some very good teams), fouling a lot seems to be the mark of pretty bad to thoroughly mediocre teams.

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The Other 26: Week One

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.

Introduction

It is finally here. After a 216-day hiatus, crowds are again filing into the 345 arenas throughout the country—ranging from the colossal Carrier Dome (33,000) to the small, but quaint Charleston Southern Field house (790)—coaches are berating their players and the officials, the zebras are whistling while they work, and the student-athletes are providing us, the fans, with numerous drama-filled and gut-wrenching college basketball games. Is there anything better in the world of sports? I think not. I know I got butterflies in my stomach when the ball went up on November 8.

Now that many schools have a few games under their belts, I am pleased to release my Top 20 rankings of the “Other 26;” everyone likes rankings, projections, and predictions. There is a reason why virtually the second after the National Championship has concluded projections for next year’s Tournament are already being drafted up. There are, of course, always the preseason rankings that give people an idea of who the top teams are heading into the coming season. Suffice it to say, I am behind in the game by releasing my top 20 rankings of the “Other 26” after the season has begun. But, without further adieu, here are your top 20 after the first full week of action:

What team impressed the most?

I have placed four teams from the Mountain West conference in the top 10 as this is one of the most underrated conferences in America. BYU, UNLV, New Mexico, and San Diego State were all quite strong last year and all four made it to the NCAA Tournament. It is apparent that the top half of the Mountain West is  stronger than the upper echelon teams in the Pac-10. San Diego State demonstrated how strong of a conference this is by defeating Gonzaga 79-76, and in doing so they had the best week of any of our “Other 26” teams. The two-headed monster of Kawhi Leonard and Billy White up front will pose lots of problems for the opposition. One needs to look no further than how they carved apart Gonzaga’s defense by combining for 48 points, 21 rebounds and four steals. The Aztecs are legitimate and should be taken very seriously by the rest of the Mountain West and the NCAA Selection Committee.

Best Individual Performances

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