Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv). If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.
Location: Chapel Hill, NC Conference: ACC, at-large Coach: Roy Williams (170-37 at UNC, 588-138 overall) 08-09 Record: 28-4 (13-3) Last 12 Games: 10-2 Best Win: A good case can be made for the thirty-five point stomping of a future two-seed, when UNC topped Michigan State 98-63 back in November in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Of course it doesn’t really have the emotional resonance of the two wins over Duke (101-87 and 79-71, respectively.) Worst Loss: With only a few to choose from, I’d go with the loss to Boston College, 85-78, on January 4th. Off. Efficiency Rating: 123.9 (#1 in the nation) Def. Efficiency Rating: 90.8 (#20 in the nation)
Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Tyler Hansbrough (21.4 ppg, 8.2 rbg, former Player of the Year, multiple record holder), Ty Lawson (15.9 ppg, 6.5 apg, ACC Player of the Year). Unsung Hero: Ed Davis (6.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) only gets 18.8 minutes a game, but has come on strong in recent weeks and is a solid third big man for when Hansbrough or Thompson needs a spell. Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Ty Lawson (23rd), Tyler Hansbrough (25th) , Danny Green (42nd), Wayne Ellington (unranked). Key Injuries: Ty Lawson, injured toe (missed ACC tournament, should play in the NCAA’s) and Marcus Ginyard, left foot stress fracture (out for the season). Depth: 27.3% (257th nationally); percentage of total minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: Penetrating guards that can also pull up the three, lapses on defense. Will Make a Deep Run if…: Ty Lawson is healthy and the team plays like the experienced and talent-laden squad they’ve been all season. Will Make an Early Exit if…: Lawson does not return, or rocks fall on the team bus and everybody dies.
Last Year Invited: 2008, Final Four team Streak: 6 years running Best NCAA Finish: They’ve won it a couple of times; it made the local paper. (1957, 1982, 1993, and 2005) Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.34. On average, the Tar Heels win 0.34 more games per year than they would be expected to compared to the historical performances of other teams with a similar seed.
Six Degrees to Detroit: (1) UNC has never played a basketball game in Detroit. (2) No current UNC player is from Detroit, or the state of Michigan. (3) They have supplied the Pistons with a number of players, including Robert McAdoo, (1979-81), Pete Chilcutt (1993-94), Kenny Smith (1996-97), Eric Montross (1998-2001), Jerry Stackhouse (1998-2002), Hubert Davis (2002-03), and Rasheed Wallace, and coaches Larry Brown (2003-05), Phil Ford (2004-05), Dave Hanners (2003-05), and Pat Sullivan (2004-05). (4) All of these people know where the secret button is on the court of the Palace that releases the attack bears trained to devour your opponents, and have told that secret to the current UNC team. (5) Doug Moe was drafted by the Pistons in 1960, but chose instead to matriculate from Elon College. The next year he was drafted by the Chicago Packers and went instead into the ABA. (6) There is no six.
Distance to First Round Site: 55.6 miles School’s Claim to Fame: UNC is the first state university, founded in 1793. And we don’t really care what Georgia has to say about it. School Wishes It Could Forget: That among its notable alumni currently employed in broadcasting are Rick Dees and Stuart Scott. Yep, we brought you both “Disco Duck” and “Boo ya!” So yeah, that’s our bad. Prediction: A Final Four appearance is pretty likely, provided everyone is healthy and they can maneuver a tough bracket. Beyond that, it’s a tough weekend; there are good four or five teams who could the Heels fits in Detroit. But what kind of biased blogger would I be if I didn’t pick Carolina to win it all?
With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings based on the teams involved. Here are the results:
Welcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American–Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.
6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.
7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.
8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:
UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title
Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
#6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
#25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title
Late Night Games
San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
#5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)
10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.
Hello hoops fans, and welcome to our first weekday version of your favorite semi-live journal, Boom Goes the Dynamite. We’re still feeling the effects of that six-overtime Goliath of a game last night, but we’re caffeinated and ready to rock with you all day while we move through what is traditionally the best day of the conference tournament weekend. It’ll be hard to top what we saw yesterday, though. Here are a few of the games you should be tracking; as you can see, today is an absolute blockbuster:
ACC – UNC vs. Virginia Tech – Noon, Maryland vs. Wake Forest – 7pm, Duke vs. BC, 9:30pm
Patriot – American vs. Holy Cross – 4:45pm
Big 10 – Michigan St. vs. Minnesota – Noon, Illinois vs. Michigan – 6:30pm, Purdue vs. Penn St. – 9pm
Big East – Louisville vs. Villanova – 7pm, Syracuse vs. West Virginia – 9pm
Big 12 – Baylor vs. Texas – 7pm, Oklahoma St. vs. Missouri – 9:30pm
Mountain West – San Diego St. vs. BYU – 9pm
Pac-10 – Arizona St. vs. Washington – 9pm, USC vs. UCLA – 11:30pm
SEC – Florida vs. Auburn – 9:45pm
Another couple of PSAs before we get started. Be sure to check the site throughout the weekend, as we’ll be doing these BGTDs each day, in addition to a revised bracketology on both Saturday and Sunday, all leading to a liveblogging of the Selection Show on Sunday. We’ll also be putting up the information for RTC’s Second Annual Bracket Challenge later this afternoon.
12:20 pm. Let’s get started here. UNC looks flat so far against Virginia Tech, and they should, given that Ty Lawson is over on the bench sitting next to Roy Williams. He is dressed, though, so it wouldn’t surprise us if his Big Toe makes an appearance. That crafty Roy – always using the element of surprise. Or something like that.
12:27 pm. Over at the Big Ten, Minnesota is leading Michigan State 22-20 in a high-scoring game. Yes, we said high-scoring and Big Ten in the same sentence. Wow, ESPN is already re-showing the Syracuse-UConn game on ESPN Classic. Tivo time. If these two games get worthless, we’re definitely moving back over there.
12:33 pm. They’re really hyping that game from last night – looks like they’re going to show the whole thing on ESPNU at 3pm. Getting back to business here, Virginia Tech looks poised right now, playing like a team that wants to keep playing in March should be playing. Carolina looks a little flat, but the question will be whether they can still make a patented run with Lawson sitting.
12:42 pm. Most of the ACC people are annoyed with the conference tournament being in Atlanta this year, but we think it’s refreshing that it’s not in the same old tired venue of Greensboro or Charlotte again. The home-state advantage that Carolina gets in those two building is ridiculous. Speaking of advantage, it looked like UNC was about to make a run until Va Tech came down and hit two consecutive threes. Ed Davis is going to be a player someday. He has really nice touch around the rim, and his per-40 rebounding average is in the 15 rpg territory!
You know that you’re coming to the end of the regular season when the McD’s Burger Boys are announced. This annual rite of late winter signals that it’s time to hunker down and prepare for some warmer weather and a little thing called March Madness, and this game always gives us a peak of some of the next few years’ stars to watch. Last year’s F4, for example, featured freshmen Kevin Love, Cole Aldrich and Derrick Rose – all three were Burger Boys in 2007, not to overlook Darrell Arthur, Sherron Collins, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and James Keefe from the 2006 game, and Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green and Super Mario Chalmers from the 2005 game. In all, a total of twelve McDonald’s All-Americans played in last year’s Final Four, and you can expect a multitude most seasons.
Keep in mind that aside from the top ten or so consensus players (this year, guys like Boynton, Henry, Sidney, Cousins and Favors are on that list), there is a fair amount of political posturing that goes into these selections. Don’t believe us? Then check some of the names of the last ten McD’s games and their career stats (you’ll notice a lot of “rep” schools on this list:
Rolando Howell – 2000 (South Carolina): 10/6 in 4 yrs
Neil Fingleton – 2000 (UNC/Holy Cross): 3/2 in 3 yrs
Michael Thompson – 2002 (Duke): 5/2 in 4 yrs
Travis Garrison – 2002 (Maryland) – 8/5 in 4 yrs
Ivan Harris – 2003 (Ohio St.): 6/2 in 4 yrs
Jawan McClellan – 2004 (Arizona): 8/3 in 4 yrs
Bobby Frasor – 2005 (UNC) – 4/3 in 4 yrs
Eric Boateng – 2005 (Duke/Arizona St.) – 3/2 in 3 yrs
Lance Thomas – 2006 (Duke): 5/3 in 3 yrs
James Keefe – 2006 (UCLA): 2/3 in 3 yrs
Another thing to remember is that while the McDonald’s game annually has many of the best players, it’s not the end-all. Here’s a list of this year’s collegiate stars who never sniffed the grease, special sauce and Ronald’s creepy smile while still a prep star, yet turned out ok.
Hasheem Thabeet – 2005 (UConn) – ranked #64
Terrence Williams – 2005 (Louisville) – ranked #44
Welcome back to another edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. I’m back as your semi-regular host after a day off with John Stevens covering for me. Today is a kind of weird day of basketball with the best games later in the day going head-to-head against the NBA All-Star game. So hopefully everyone will be sticking with us throughout the day and the real basketball fans (the ones who actually like defense and competition) will stay with us into the night.
1:00 PM: Our early games today are Illinois at Indiana on CBS and Clemson at Virginia on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com. We’ll be updating you with highlights of those games throughout the day, but like always if there is something going on that we are missing or we make a mistake leave us a message in the comment section.
1:10 PM: Illinois is up 10-7 early. Bruce Weber‘s club must be riding high after their amazing comeback at Northwestern in their last game. Clemson is tied 3-3 in Charlottesville with 15:54 left in the first half. I’m guessing today is Sean Singletary day at UVA today based on the parts of the pre-game that I caught. Singletary, a 3-time 1st team All-ACC player, is one of three players in ACC history (Danny Ferry and Johnny Dawkins being the others) to have 2,000 career points, 500 career assists, and 400 career rebounds.
1:25 PM: Illinois is up 15-7 as we go to a TV timeout. CBS just showed a graphic about Indiana’s tough losses this year by featuring the games they led, but lost. You know the Hooisers are having a bad year when having a lead of 2 points at some point during the game is highlighted as a tough loss. Meanwhile, UVA is up 16-7 with 11:54 as they head into a timeout as well.
1:30 PM: I just noticed the electronic board on the side of the court at Assembly Hall. I guess it’s a nice fan friendly feature and probably generates some revenue through ads, but I think it looks horrendous in this famous arena. I haven’t noticed it at Cameron Indoor, but I think they should avoid it in the historic arenas.
1:40 PM: Jeff Jordan just hit a jumper for Illinois. As we noted before, he was recently was given a scholarship at Illinois. For those of you who haven’t seen him play, we think you might have missed his only big play of the day if his performance this season is any indication of what we can expect today. He’ll probably be out there quite a bit since Indiana is awful so watch for #13 on Illinois.
1:45 PM: UVA is up 22-16 coming out of a timeout with 5:11 left in the first half. Illinois is up 27-13 with a little less than 5 minutes left in the first half. I’ll be focusing on the UVA-Clemson game for now unless the Illinois-Indiana game gets interesting.
1:55 PM: UVA is up 33-25 at half. That 3 by Terrence Oglesby with a little over a minute left in the first half was Clemson’s first of the day after the Tigers missed their first 10 straight. The Cavaliers might have a chance if the Tigers continue to have difficulty hitting from the outside. Trevor Booker has had a big first half with 10 of Clemson’s 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as none of the other Tigers are playing well today. Illinois is up 38-21 at half.
The regular season is flying by. Believe it or not, we’re only nine weeks away from having an official NCAA Tournament Bracket to review and obsess over. We also happen to be nine weeks removed from opening night, so yesterday marked the official midpoint – 63 days on each side – of the regular season. Which means, of course, for all you folks who have been busy with the holidays, busy with the bowl games, busy with the NFL Playoffs… let’s get you caught up.
From now until the first tip in Dayton March 17th on the Road to the F4 in Detroit (ugh), roughly 150 or so teams are realistically jostling for position to be selected as one of the Chosen 65. As we nestle into the familiarity of conference play (only the Ivies have yet to begin) and America once again wakes up to our game, weaknesses will be exposed, experienced teams will try to avoid complacency and young teams will start to figure it all out. Come Selection Sunday, many of these prospective bracketeers will have fallen by the wayside, but there will be 50 or so at-large teams holding NCAA-caliber resumes, even though only 34 will be taken. Before we jump in with both feet into the fun that the next two months will bring, let’s take a look back at the first two months to see what we’ve learned.
Carolina is Not Unbeatable, but Are the Heels Still the Favorite? A mere month ago we wrote that North Carolina was playing like a team with plans to lose no more than a couple of games (if that many) all season. Then the last eight days happened. First, UNC lost at home to an underwhelming BC team, followed by a road loss at Wake Forest last night to start 0-2 in the ACC. So what’s going on – how can this juggernaut of a team with nearly everyone returning look so… mortal? It’s easy, really. So far, UNC’s defense hasn’t been up to snuff. It’s more efficient as a whole than last year’s version, but their statistical profile is elevated on the defensive end by forcing turnovers which in turn fuels their lethal fast break. In a halfcourt set, as Wake and BC repeatedly and effectively showed, UNC can be penetrated and exposed. The key to playing with the Heels is limiting those TOs that Ty Lawson turns into the quick strikes that overwhelm teams. Is it a fatal flaw? It could be (how’s that for a hedge?). Teams that can’t consistently make stops don’t win championships, but we really don’t see why UNC’s defense shouldn’t be able to make the commitment to improve over the next two months. The 2005 title team only became legit once Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May got serious about stopping people in addition to outscoring them. Can the 2009 Heels – specifically, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Deon Thompson – do the same? Stay tuned.
These Guys Have to Commit to Better Halfcourt Defense
The Big East Should Have Its Own Region. Seriously, let’s just rename the E. Rutherford Region this year and invite every Big East team. Or at least the top 12. Of course, if we did that, it would prohibit the possibility of the conference placing four teams in the Final Four this year – a plausible scenario. Tell us that you couldn’t envision a situation where four of the following teams – Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse – would reach Detroit in April. Throw in Villanova, Marquette and West Virginia and you might just have nine of the Sweet Sixteen. The top half of this conference is really that good. So who is the best of the best? It depends on when you ask the question. Two weeks ago it was UConn. A week ago Georgetown. Now it’s Pittsburgh. Next week… probably Syracuse. The point is nobody knows. UConn has the most raw talent, but they’ve exhibited problems putting it together consistently. Georgetown, haven’t you heard, has rebounding issues. Pittsburgh isn’t reliable from behind the arc. Syracuse has a tendency to lose to teams like Cleveland St. on miracle shots. Louisville spends much of its time looking for its ass with both hands. Notre Dame has a maddening tendency to play defense with its hands. Marquette and Villanova are too guard heavy. West Virginia has Bob Huggins. And on and on. All we can say for certain is that the quality of play in the seemingly-nightly matchups between Top 25 teams is top-shelf, and it makes up for all those other nights where we’re stuck watching Auburn-Ole Miss.
The Big Ten Doesn’t Suck This Year.Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that our friendly midwestern conference is on par with the Big East, or even the ACC, but it’s a lot stronger in the middle of the pack than it has been in recent years. Not much was expected out of Minnesota (15-1), Illinois (14-2) or Michigan (13-3) this year, but each of them are playing excellent ball and have marquee wins over the likes of Louisville, Missouri, Duke and UCLA in their pockets. Combine their success with the standard good seasons expected from Michigan St. (13-2), Purdue (12-4), Ohio St. (11-3) and Wisconsin (12-4), and you have a competitive six-bid conference. Even traditional cellar dweller Penn St. (13-4) has shown signs of life this year. Heck, they even made the ACC/Big Ten Challenge competitive (losing 6-5) this year!
Our Midwestern Friends Have Been Practicing
They’re Putting It Together. Now that Tom Izzo once again has a full complement of players with Goran Suton back in the fold, Michigan St. has looked much better since their abysmal performance in the ACC/B10 Challenge against UNC. They’ve run off nine in a row with wins at Texas, at Minnesota and Ohio St. – everyone wrote this team off after that UNC game, but they’ll be heard from in March. UCLA is also quietly going about its business, also reeling off nine in a row (including a 3-0 start in road games in the Pac-10) since their loss to Texas in mid-December. Ben Howland is getting production from eleven players, and if anyone really thought the Bruins were going to have a ‘rebuilding’ season, they need to have their head checked. This team will win close to 30 games again. It’s amazing how a series of close games that go your way can make or break a team’s confidence. After Louisville had dropped tight ones to Minnesota and UNLV in late December, everyone was ready to write off the Cards. Now that they’ve won three of their lost four on the last possession, they sit at 3-0 in the Big East (with two road wins) and appear to be in relatively good shape compared to some of the other Big East contenders (UConn, ND, and Georgetown in particular). We’ll see just how good they can be when #1 Pittsburgh visits on Saturday.
Pleasant Surprises. Obviously, Wake Forest is a pretty big surprise – we expected them to be pretty good, but nobody saw a top five team coming from Dino Gaudio this year. What about Syracuse? – at 16-1 and the lone loss to Cleveland St. from 75 feet, Jim Boeheim’s crew has as much talent as just about anybody in the country. Clemson is pulling its annual ridiculous start, but there are signs that this Tiger team is legit – they have a balanced attack, they’re strong at both ends of the court, and they have good road wins at Illinois, South Carolina and Miami (FL) so far. Butler is a HUGE surprise, although we shouldn’t ever be surprised with that program. The Bulldogs sit at 14-1 and two of their top three players are freshmen, yet they once again appear to be the class of the Horizon and a top mid-major. Tubby Smith has Minnesota playing great ball, and the Gophers are on a fast track to the NCAA Tournament at least a year ahead of schedule. Coaching matters – Mike Montgomery also has California playing hard for the first time in a decade. The Bears look like a top three team in the Pac-10 at this point.
Syracuse Has the Look of a Team Built for March
Disappointments. Since the Q1 update, Gonzaga has done nothing but crap itself, losing games to Arizona, UConn, Portland St., and Utah. They did get a key OT win at Tennessee last week, and their defense is still stronger than in recent years, but for some reason or another, the Zags are having trouble putting it all together. USC is destined to become this year’s NC State (a preseason ranked team that won’t make the NCAA Tourney). The SEC – Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky – have all been various shades of disappointing. Between the cream of the SEC East, there’s what, three quality wins? On the other side of that conference, only Arkansas has even been mildly interesting, with big home wins over Oklahoma and Texas. At the mid-major level, Southern Illinois (6-8 ) and Wright St. (9-8 ) have a long way to go before they’ll turn their seasons around.
RTC Midseason All-Americans. We’ll take some heat for not putting defending NPOY Tyler Hansbrough on our first team, but his numbers, particularly his rebounding average, are off from last season. Granted, he’s still probably recovering from a stress reaction injury, so he’ll have time to recover his (rightful?) place on the 1st team, but for now, we like Griffin (obvious choice) and Harangody in our frontcourt. Curry and Harden are also easy choices in the backcourt, but we’re making a leap of faith choosing Teague – his last two games against BYU and UNC were very impressive performances (he averaged 32/5/4 assts on 59%) and we’re riding on the Wake bandwagon right now.
Jeff Teague, G – Wake Forest(21/4/4 assts on 54%/54% 3fg shooting)
Stephen Curry, G – Davidson (29/4/7 assts/3 stls on 45%/37% 3fg shooting)
James Harden, G – Arizona St. (23/6/5 assts on 56%/42% 3fg shooting)
Blake Griffin, F – Oklahoma (23/14/3 assts on 65% shooting)
Luke Harangody, F – Notre Dame (25/13 on 51% shooting)
Knocking on the Door (2d Team).
Tyler Hansbrough, F – North Carolina (22/8 on 54% shooting)
Patrick Patterson, F – Kentucky (19/9/3 assts on 71% shooting)
Dejuan Blair, F – Pittsburgh (15/13 on 61% shooting)
Manny Harris, G – Michigan (19/8/5 assts on 44%/31% 3fg shooting)
Ty Lawson, G – North Carolina (15/3/6 assts on 53%/42% 3fg shooting)
All-Freshman Team. Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Jrue Holiday (UCLA) and Gordon Hayward (Butler) were tough to leave off this list.
Greg Monroe, C – Georgetown (14/6/3 assts on 57% shooting)
Sylven Landesberg, G – Virginia (19/6/3 assts on 49%/30% 3fg shooting)
Tyreke Evans, G – Memphis (16/6/4 assts/3 stls on 45% shooting)
Seth Curry, G – Liberty (20/4 on 45%/40% 3fg shooting)
Paul George, F – Fresno St. (16/7 on 54%/46% 3fg shooting)
Big Games (Q3). Here are the top 10 games of the next month.
Syracuse @ Georgetown – 01.14.09
Pittsburgh @ Louisville – 01.17.09
Georgetown @ Duke – 01.17.09
Wake Forest @ Clemson – 01.17.09
Texas @ Baylor – 01.27.09
Duke @ Wake Forest – 01.28.09
California @ UCLA – 01.29.09
Connecticut @ Louisville – 02.02.09
Duke @ Clemson – 02.04.09
Michigan St. @ Minnesota – 02.04.09
Notre Dame @ UCLA – 02.07.09
Extremes. This won’t last much longer, as we fully expect all three of the unbeatens to have a loss by this time next week, if not sooner. That’s what conference play does to you. NC Central will get a win against a D2 squad soon, but poor little NJIT has no relief in sight. They’re sitting on 49 in a row and, according to KenPom’s projections, 60+ in a row is within reach. Memo to NJIT coach Jim Engles – take a page from the NC Central playbook and schedule some JVHigh School D2 teams.
Unbeaten (next possible loss)
Pittsburgh (Big East):15-0 (@ Louisville 1/17)
Wake Forest (ACC): 14-0 (@ BC 1/14)
Clemson (ACC):16-0 (v. Wake Forest 1/17)
Winless (next possible win)
NJIT (Ind): 0-16 (Bryant 1/21)
North Carolina Central (Ind): 0-18 (D2 Central St 1/16)
Carolina Goes Down Again.Wake Forest 92, UNC 89. Roy Williams may want to avoid these Sunday night FSN games in the ACC, as his Tar Heels lost for the second consecutive weekend in the showcase event (UNC only has one more scheduled – Feb. 15 at Miami (FL)). Unlike last week when UNC lost to BC, an upset in the traditional sense of the word, we don’t consider the #4 team in America beating the #3 team (even if it’s Carolina) as much of an upset (and the Wake students should lose their ticket privileges for their ignorant, inappropriate RTC tonight). Vegas disagreed (UNC was a 7-pt fav at tipoff), but having watched both teams several times this season, we’re absolutely convinced that Wake (not the more vaunted Heels) is the team with more NBA-level talent on its roster. It played out tonight, as Wake’s long arms and quick defensive closeouts regularly harassed the Carolina shooters into rushed and contested shots – the Heels shot a season-worst 35% from the floor (26% from three). This is consistent with Wake’s position as the second most efficient defense in the country – the package of length, size and quickness that players such as Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson and Jeff Teague bring to bear quieted the offensive skills of everyone on the Heel roster except Danny Green (22/6/5 assts). Consider that Tyler Hansbrough (3-12), Deon Thompson (3-13), Ty Lawson (4-12) and Wayne Ellington (4-13) threw up bricks from everywhere on the floor; the only thing that kept the Heels in this game was their superior work on the boards (46-35 and 17 off rebs) and 31 made free throws. On the Wake side, Jeff Teague (career-high 34 pts) is every bit as good as advertised and he may just be the best player in the ACC this year (21/4/4 assts on 53% FG and 54% 3FG for the season) – notwithstanding the hype machine that surrounds Psycho-T’s every move. Chas McFarland had a quietly efficient game (20/9), but the key to Wake’s victory tonight was reining in Carolina’s breakneck attack that results in easy baskets. We recall no more than a mere handful of occasions where Lawson was able to actually push the ball into the gut of the Wake transition defense and create good scoring opportunities. Oh, and this play by James Johnson was simply nasty…
So what does this mean – is UNC overrated? Probably not in the sense that they’re definitely one of the top five teams in America. But the ridiculous talk about undefeated seasons and ‘best team ever’ was egregious and irresponsible. Carolina is an experienced, talented team, but they’re essentially the same team as last year. Their offense remains spectacular, especially when Lawson can get them running up and down the court, but their defense is almost completely predicated on getting on-the-fly turnovers to fuel that attack. When they don’t get takeaways where they can run, they have to rely solely on their halfcourt defense, and as we saw tonight, it can be broken down and exposed by dribble penetration and ball movement. What about Wake Forest – are the Deacs underrated? As John Stevens’ showed in his column last week, there are dozens of teams ahead of Wake on the Vegas odds list, so it’s clear that the national consciousness hasn’t caught up with them yet. But we’re looking at a team with two NBA lottery picks in the starting lineup (Teague/Aminu), the possibility of a third (Johnson), a few other nice parts (McFarland, Williams, Hale, Woods) and we’re wondering if any other team in America, Carolina included, has more talent? Furthermore, the core of Wake’s team are sophomores and freshmen, which means this team could be markedly better by March (cf. with UNC, where we pretty much know what we’re going to get) – how good could this Wake Forest team ultimately become? From the looks of it now, this team is clearly one of the top four in America, and probably has more upside than anybody. The only real question is how the Deacs will perform now that the national spotlight will begin to squarely focus on their program. This isn’t a program that has traditionally reveled in that role.
Wake's Rush the Court = FAIL
Sunday’s Other Games.
UCLA 64, USC 60. This USC team is not good – they’ve lost to every halfway-decent team they’ve played (and Oregon St.) – ugh. We’d rather have Jrue Holiday on our team than Demar DeRozan, though.
Alabama 65, LSU 59. We do not want to hear about LSU again until they win a game away from Baton Rouge – the Tigers are now 0-3 away from home.
Purdue 65, Wisconsin 52. Robbie Hummell came back from his back injury and hit four threes in a 16/5 performance.
St. Mary’s 66, San Francisco 54. SMC continues to roll. Nobody seemed to see the dagger three that Patty Mills hit to win Friday night’s ESPNU game against Santa Clara at home, so we’re providing it here (start watching at 7:30).
ACC Wins Again. Well, it was closer this year than it has been since 2005, but the ACC won the event for the tenth year in a row, 6-5. The league of atlantic coast schools are now 62-35 (.639) against its midwestern counterparts in this challenge – can we go back to the ACC/Big East version now? Oh, and we really couldn’t have made worse picks today if we had tried – we went 1-4, and Wake was our only winner – picking that game correctly was akin to picking the sun to come up tomorrow. Maybe we’ll stay out of this prediction business for a while. What we found really interesting was that home court in the two leagues with the most advantageous home environments didn’t seem to matter much – home teams were 5-6 in the Challenge (see below).
Carolina Looks Unstoppable.UNC 98, Michigan St. 63. We hesitate to move into the realm of hyperbole in early December, preferring to leave that to the likes of Vitale with his offerings of UNC “competing with” the Clippers, T-Wolves and Grizzlies (which is patently absurd, btw). But at least at this point in the 2007-08 season, UNC is well ahead of everyone else in college basketball. What the Heels did to Michigan St. tonight in its home state could appropriately be described as an absolute dismantling. Frankly, we’re not sure how the Spartans show their faces in E. Lansing tomorrow, considering the Heels only defeated UCSB by 15 in Santa Barbara and Kentucky by 19 in Chapel Hill. As good as Carolina was, MSU was utterly moribund. UNC held the Spartans to 35% shooting from the field, 24% from three, and forced 21 turnovers, many of which directly led to Carolina layups or threes. Speaking of which, if Ty Lawson is going to play as well as he did tonight – ripping balls out of passing lanes (7 steals) and dropping 25-footers with consistency (twice), then we really can go ahead and pass the championship trophy over to Roy Williams. And the question of whether Tyler Hansbrough is healthy was put to rest with another workmanlike 25/11 where he was pretty much able to do whatever he wanted inside the lane. Danny Green was his typical stat-stuffer self (6/5/5 assts), and Ed Davis continues to impress off the bench (10/7 in 17 mins). As for MSU, the only player that seemed ready to play was Chris Allen, who singlehandedly kept MSU in the game with his long-range shooting in the first half. The others – Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe, Marquise Gray – all horrible. Looking at the schedule, the next even remote possibility of a team staying within 15 pts of Carolina will be at Wake on January 11th. As for MSU, this supposed top ten team hasn’t looked anywhere near it thus far this season – can Izzo get it together?
Indiana & Kelvin Sanctions (cont.). The big news of the day was of course that Indiana managed to avoid postseason sanctions even though they’ll formally be on probation for the next three seasons. Kelvin Sampson, to his credit, took responsibility for the complete lack of oversight at Indiana ‘while on his watch,’ but at least once Tom Crean gets this program moving in the right direction again, the Hoosiers won’t also be burdened by the crimson scarlet letter of postseason sanctions. Recruits can still be sold on the basis of playing in the postseason at Indiana (although admittedly, that seems farfetched at this point, even within three years). Sampson is now working for the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant, but he’s now effectively barred from coaching in the NCAA for the next five years as part of a ‘show cause’ restriction (a school would have to show cause for the NCAA to allow it to hire him). Frankly, this seems to us like a penalty that was ‘easy’ for the NCAA to prove, but one that doesn’t necessarily fit when we know of so many other obvious recruiting violations that are simply untidy for prosecution and therefore ignored.
Games of the Night. We had two great games today, for the first time all season.
Notre Dame 81, Texas 80. This game was nearly everything we expected, and a little more (featured by Justin Mason, below). Notre Dame was led by Luke Harangody’s 29/13 and a 40-footer at the shot clock expiration to what seemed like a solid win with a minute to go, up 79-71. Then the bricks started – Tory Jackson missed two from the line; Zach Hillesland missed two from the line; then Harongody missed both with five seconds left, leaving the door open for Texas to win the game with a two (ND was only up 81-80 at that time). Luckily for Notre Dame, AJ Abrams’ 60-footer at the buzzer was just a bit short (but right online). Good performances abound – ND’s Kyle McAlarney had 19/5 including five threes, and Texas’ was led by AJ Abrams’ 23/5 and Damion James 11/12. Both of these teams are top ten worthy, in our opinion, and we expect Notre Dame to give Carolina all they want tomorrow evening.
Syracuse 89, Kansas 81 (OT). This was a phenomenal game with enough eye-popping plays to cause Beetlejuice to take notice. Kansas appeared as if they were going to blow the game open in the mid-second half until Jim Boeheim changed his trapping defense up and seemingly stole the ball a dozen straight times for dunks and layups. This 13-2 run led to a tight game down the stretch which was capped by Jonny Flynn’s (25/5 assts) dagger three with 6.4 seconds remaining (see below) to effectively send the game to overtime. Cuse continued its hot shooting in the OT – Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf combined for six threes in the game – and KU appeared to lose its confidence in the extra period. KU’s Cole Aldrich (15/14) and SU’s Arinze Onuaku (19/12) both showed a strong skill set in the post as each tried to one-up the other during the game. Both of these teams are going to be very good this season.
What’s Wrong with Steph Curry?Davidson 78, Loyola (MD) 48. Nothing, that’s what. As in Steph Curry put up a donut tonight in the points column (get a good look below because we doubt you’ll ever see it again). The word is that Loyola head man Jimmy Patsos strategized to take Curry completely out of the game by double-teaming him on every offensive possession, anywhere he went on the court. Curry, happy to let his teammates play every possession 4-on-3, stood in the corner and watched as they got open look after open look (14 threes went down). Remember, Jimmy Patsos is the coach who decided to leave the bench last week during a game to sit in the stands. We’re starting to seriously worry that he could be losing his mind. We’re not sure if a player averaging over 35ppg has ever had a scoreless game, but jeez, Steph, what happened on the three shots you missed?