Pac-12 M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 27th, 2012


  1. Following their thrilling Christmas night win over San Diego State, Arizona is the talk of the college basketball world in this downtime before hoops picks back up again. Coming on the heels of their similarly enjoyable win over Florida, the win over the Aztecs puts the Wildcats in the driver’s seat for the meaningless title of “Best in the West” and NBC Sports’ Daniel Martin lays out the four best contenders. Arizona leads the pack, but Gonzaga and UNLV have their names in the mix as well, while SDSU, despite the razor-thin loss, needs to be considered among the contenders too. Notably (and understandably) missing are any other Pac-12 teams. The sad thing is that this is an improvement over last season where no Pac-12 team deserved to be in such a conversation at this point in the season.
  2. Elsewhere on the Arizona front, CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman wrote a great piece about how Sean Miller has taken that program from a team with questionable talent and turned it into a program that is on the move again. While the Derrick Williams-led run to the Elite Eight two seasons back was impressive, it was also just a fortunate blip on the radar for the ‘Cats. But, with this year’s talented recruiting class, future stars in the queue, and the program back near the level of national importance it regularly enjoyed under Lute Olson, odds are that Arizona is again going to be a regular fixture near the top of the national rankings for years to come.
  3. The Wildcats aren’t the only team in the Grand Canyon State that has its fans excited for the future. Arizona State, after a couple years lost in the basketball wilderness, is back on the map again behind freshman point guard Jahii Carson (who saluted himself as the best point guard in the Pac-12 on Christmas night) and Sun Devil fans are ready to be optimistic again about the direction of the program. As Ben Haber at House of Sparky points out, even if this team’s 10-2 record is built on the back of a somewhat weak schedule, the mere fact that the Sun Devils are an entertaining team to watch (and, yeah, let’s be honest, wins help too) is a significant upgrade over the past two seasons.
  4. As the non-conference seasons winds down, the number of interesting games on the slate begins to dwindle. We have Missouri and UCLA tomorrow night, and then on Saturday a couple of interesting East-West match-ups as Harvard visits California and Washington heads out to visit Connecticut. The latter match-up between a couple of groups of Huskies is an inter-regional rivalry with plenty of history behind it. And, for the UW folks, memories of those match-ups aren’t pleasant — the history includes Rip Hamilton’s buzzer-beater in 1998 and a 2006 Sweet Sixteen overtime game that again sent Washington home in crushing fashion. The first one hurt Lorenzo Romar just because of his status as a fan and an alum of UW, but the latter goes down as Romar’s toughest loss.
  5. Lastly, it is about that time where we begin to look full-bore at conference play, reassess where we were oh-so-wrong in the preseason, celebrate our few moments of clarity and come up with a whole new batch of guesses for the rest of the year. We’ll delve into that plenty early next week, but The Register-Guard already has its team-by-team Pac-12 preview ready to digest. Arizona’s clearly the favorite, but beyond that, I’d say the surprises are Oregon at #5 (too low), Washington at #6 (too high) and USC at #10 (the Trojans still play basketball?).
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2012

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can follow him on Twitter at @vbtnblog

Top Storylines

  • The Best Basketball (Only) Conference in the NCAA? You Bet– With the departure of Temple (to the Big East) and Charlotte (to CUSA), A-10 fans knew the conference would not “make due” with a 12-team configuration. The question was which candidates would match best with the conference profile and mission and not in the chase for football money? The A-10 could afford to focus on candidates with high quality basketball programs, thereby offering regional rivalries to the Midwestern and Washington D.C. metro area members. Virginia Commonwealth and Butler were the logical choices as both have had recent Final Four appearances, are high quality programs, and boast two of the hottest young coaching names in Division I. Both schools accepted and the existing circumstances of member departures and arrivals means that the A-10, with 16 members and an 18-game conference slate, will have a superconference look and feel this season.

    Veteran St. Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli Has Garnered Plenty Of Media Attention Over The Years. Now Thanks To A New TV Deal, The Entire Atlantic-10 is Going to Get a Dose Of Camera Time (AP)

  • The New TV Deal – The conference announced an eight-year partnership with ESPN, the CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Network, worth an estimated $40 million dollars ($5 million per year) to run from 2013-14 through 2021-22. The three media outlets will televise 64 regular season men’s games (CBS and NBC Sports Network will televise 25 apiece and the ESPN outlets will televise 14). These three outlets will divvy the responsibilities for the conference tournament with NBC televising the men’s (and women’s) quarterfinals, CBS televising the men’s (and women’s) semifinal games, and ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU televising the men’s championship game. Though financial details were not disclosed, the conference’s 14 members are expected to collect about $400,000 apiece each season.
  • Brooklyn, Here We Come – A quiet affirmation that the move to lock up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn came with Hurricane Sandy. The superstorm swamped Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Boardwalk Hall, previous site of the conference’s championship tournament. The Barclays Center has garnered positive reviews for its architecture, facilities and amenities. The brand-new facility will work out the kinks with a number of invitational tournaments (Barclays Center Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, Legends Classic, Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational) and be ready to host the conference tournament next March.

Reader’s Take I

Predicted Order of Finish

Signs that the A-10 is in for a wild ride this season are everywhere. CBS Sports’ five basketball experts (Jeff Goodman, Doug Gottlieb, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello) tabbed four different schools (Butler, Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth) to take the regular season crown. The A-10 coaches named a fifth school – Saint Joseph’s – at the conference’s Media Day earlier this month. Note that nobody in that group is named Temple or Xavier – the two schools which have passed the regular season crown back-and-forth for the last five seasons.

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USC Week: A State Of The Program Address

Posted by AMurawa on July 7th, 2012

We’ve been all around the USC program in the past week, but we’ve got time for one more post. At the end of every week we like to take a step back and look at the overall state of the program – not just how the team performed last year or is expected to perform next year, but what the long term prognosis for the program is. And with USC, much like it has been with their basketball program for some time, the future is cloudy. As we pointed out in the first post of the week, it has been 26 years since the Trojans earned a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 years since they won a conference title outright (back when there were only four other teams competing in their conference). By comparison, in that same time frame the Trojans have won six national titles in football and vacated another one. It’s absolutely no secret that the importance that the athletic department puts on the success of their basketball program pales in comparison to the football program. Heck, basketball probably isn’t even a second fiddle to football, as numerous other programs around the SC campus have won multiple national titles (baseball, for instance, has won nine national titles since the basketball program last won a conference title outright; men’s water polo has won seven national titles; and men’s tennis has won 16). Let’s call basketball the gong at the back of the orchestra.


The Basketball Program Runs Far Behind Other USC Athletic Programs, Including Their Iconic Football Team

One thing USC’s basketball program does have going for it that it hadn’t had in the past is a beautiful on-campus arena in the Galen Center, which opened in 2006. A definite upgrade from their previous home – the decaying publicly owned Los Angeles Sports Arena – the Galen Center jumps right onto the list of the nicest Pac-12 venues and gives SC a clear recruiting boost. When it opened, there was talk of a newfound commitment to the basketball program around Heritage Hall, and the arrival of O.J. Mayo on campus a year later certainly instilled a level of excitement around the Trojan basketball program that hadn’t really been felt since the days of Harold Miner. But, after three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament under Tim Floyd, any momentum the program had built up was flushed away in controversy, as stories of payments from Floyd to Mayo surfaced, Floyd then resigned in disgrace, and USC self-imposed sanctions on its hoops program, including a one-year ban on any postseason play.

While all of that could go down as just an isolated incident related to one bad egg as head coach, its overall impact may be bigger. The Trojans were on their way to becoming regular NCAA Tournament participants, and had a bead on a strong incoming 2009 recruiting class including future Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams that surely would have extended USC’s success out a couple more years. Regardless of the history of the program, if SC had been able to string together six or seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, that could have started a positive feedback loop, setting up USC as a legitimate and attractive landing spot for elite basketball recruits.

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USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

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Arizona Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on June 25th, 2012

For better or worse, there are three overriding eras in the history of the Arizona basketball program, all revolving around Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson. There is, of course, the Lute Olson era, from 1983 to 2007, during which the Wildcats made 23 straight NCAA Tournaments (over the course of 24 seasons), advanced to four Final Fours and won their lone NCAA Championship in 1997. The other two eras are dictated by their relationship to the Silver Fox’s reign in the desert. The pre-Olson era had its moments, mostly under Fred Enke (who coached the program from 1925 to 1961) when the Wildcats owned the Border Conference in the 1940s and advanced to three NITs and one NCAA Tournament, but by and large, the Arizona program was a non-entity prior to Olson’s arrival from Iowa. However, the end of the Olson era left the Wildcat program in something of a mess, as health and personal issues caused the transfer of power to be choppy at best, with Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell each limited to single ill-prepared seasons in the desert. Throw in the fact that the results from the 2007-08 season had to be vacated because of violations committed by Olson, and for a stretch, there was some doubt as to whether the program could live up to the high standards set by their iconic head coach.

Lute Olson, Arizona

Lute Olson’s Legacy Casts A Heavy Shadow Over the Arizona Basketball Program (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

But, in the spring of 2009, highly regarded head coach Sean Miller agreed to leave Xavier and become the new top man in the desert, immediately reestablishing a sense of stability around the program. Despite the fact that his Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament in his first season after 25-straight appearances, the program was back in the limelight in his second year, as the Wildcats won the Pac-10 and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2010-11, before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut as a potential game-winning three rimmed out at the buzzer. While last year’s team again missed the NCAA Tournament, Miller assuaged the fears of Wildcat fans by inking an elite recruiting class, ranked third in the nation by ESPNU, featuring three top 20 recruits. For the most part, there appears to be a confidence around the program that, despite a few bumps along the road in transition from Olson to Miller, the road ahead looks smooth.

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RTC 2012-13 Top 25: Post NBA Draft Deadline

Posted by KDoyle on May 1st, 2012

It’s never too early for these, right? We all love the debates, projecting who is too high or too low, and taking a closer look at the upcoming college hoops season — six months goes by quickly, promise. In quickly looking at the Top 25, one would surmise that having five of a team’s top players forgo the remainder of their college careers in favor of the NBA Draft would absolutely kill that team’s prospects for the upcoming season, but that is simply not the case for Kentucky. Last year’s National Champions check in at #2 in the Top 25, proving that John Calipari doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. It would not behoove us to let Kentucky steal the storyline, however, as Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers are the top dog in what looks to be a banner upcoming year. In what was arguably the most exciting and high-flying game of last year’s Tournament, the Hoosiers fell to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, but have nearly all the pieces back. Just two years ago this was a 12-20 team with no postseason experience, and now they are the top team in the land — according to our group of experts, at least. What a tremendous job Tom Crean has done. The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2011-12 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following five teams surged upward—and for good reason:

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Atlantic 10 Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter (@vbtnblog)

Tournament Glance

Postseason Preview

All first round games will be played at the campus of the higher seed on Tuesday (3/6) night. Using the log5 calculation, the order of probability of an upset is:

#8 Massachusetts/#9 Duquesne (73-27)
#7 La Salle/#10 Richmond (76-24)
#6 Dayton/#11 George Washington (86-14)
#5 Saint Joseph’s/#12 Charlotte (84-16)

  • Probability follows seed this season, a departure from previous seasons. The Dayton/George Washington game will be a return engagement. The Flyers beat the Colonials by 16 at home last Saturday. A rookie coach with a team that may be overconfident could spell upset. But unlike 2010-11, the higher seeds in this round have proven over the last 16 games to be the stronger teams. Seed should hold. If Xavier, Saint Joseph’s and Dayton all win at least once more, the conference will boast seven 20-game winning programs for the 2011-12 season, only the second time in conference history when seven members collected 20 or more wins.
  • The Temple/Saint Bonaventure side of the bracket offers (if seed holds) two interesting quarterfinal matchups for a Friday afternoon. Both could well become “do-overs” of games played in the last week of the season. Temple barely beat Massachusetts (at the Liacouras in Philadelphia) on February 29, but only after an overtime period. Neither squad should need much by way of motivation. The Hawks dropped their last game of the regular season to the Bonnies, by five, on the road. A Bonnies win would bolster their NIT credentials (and put them into a winnable semi-final game with either Temple or Massachusetts), while a Saint Joseph’s win could well set-up an all-Philadelphia semi-final that should cause a traffic jam as Big 5 fans and partisans of both schools pile onto the Atlantic City Expressway to see the rubber game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 29th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Editor’s Note: Report written before Tuesday’s contests.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was:

Does Anyone Want to Win This Conference?

  • One of the odder turns this late in the season is the sudden spate of losses suffered by upper division conference teams. Though Charlotte bounded out of the gate with two quick wins and Xavier stumbled mysteriously for much of January, the conference appeared on the way to sorting itself as January turned into February. Not so last week as the two conference elites, Temple and Saint Louis each dropped a game. Temple’s loss may be understandable as Saint Joseph’s is putting together a great turnaround from last season, but Saint Louis stumbled against bottom dweller Rhode Island, a squad that posted 20 losses before St. Valentine’s Day. The conference’s flagship program, Xavier, was in the midst of a late season push when they dropped a very important road decision to Massachusetts last Tuesday. Other notable late season hiccups, Saint Joseph’s loss to a young Richmond squad, La Salle’s three game losing streak (which has all but eliminated the Explorers from NIT consideration) and the aforementioned Massachusetts squad, whose win over Xavier is the only win in the last four games.

    Fran Dunphy's Temple Squad Stumbled Last Week, But The Owls Still Look To Be The Top Team In the A-10 (AP)

  • Early season results hinted that the middle of the conference was stronger this season, a theory born out by the continued uncertainty over bye bids to Atlantic City even into the last week of conference play. The resurgence is not limited to the middle of the conference however. Consider that in each of the last two seasons the bottom two teams in the conference combined to win four games. This season Fordham and Rhode Island have combined for six wins, with at least one more before the seeds for the conference tournament are finalized Sunday. I have also noted several times over the last month that the points per possession margin between Saint Louis (at the top) and Fordham (at the bottom) is much closer than last season.
  • With a loss to Saint Joseph’s last weekend Temple dropped back towards the rest of the conference, leaving Saint Louis virtually alone at the top with a wide, +0.04 margin in points per possession. Comparing the statistics to the Billikens’ conference record (and especially the record of late), leaves one wondering if Saint Louis’ Top 25 status (as suggested by Pomeroy) is the product of an illusion fostered by the numbers or a genuine sleeper going into the postseason. The conference tournament may be the last best chance to gauge the Billikens before the NCAA opening rounds.

  • The results last week produced a few strange late season upsets, but even more surprising is that the point per possession margins are beginning to align more consistently with conference records. Teams with losing records show negative point per possession margins, an expected pattern in theory that does not always play out in practice. Saint Louis continues to be an outlier atop the conference and Massachusetts, which has an 8-6 conference record should, according to the Pythagorean Winning Percentage, show a 7-7 record through 14 conference games.

Power Rankings

The top teams developed a ripping case of hiccups at just the wrong time. If the power rankings do not look terribly different from last week however, consider that they all hiccupped at the same time. Saint Bonaventure moved up and La Salle crashed, but the other teams moved very little over the past week.

  1. Temple (22-6, 11-3 #23 AP) – Temple went 1-1 last week, beating La Salle in overtime by a single point (80-79), and then dropping a 10-point decision to Saint Joseph’s (82-72) and holding onto their Top 25 ranking for the second consecutive week. Though the result was disappointing to the Owl faithful and prevented Temple from clinching the #1 seed in the conference tournament, it was actually better than Ken Pomeroy predicted. The college basketball stats sage’s model had Fran Dunphy’s squad losing both games (and dropping into second place behind Saint Louis). Games with Massachusetts (at home) and Fordham will close out the regular season for the Owls, and both should be wins (though stranger things have happened this season). Temple can finish no worse than #2 even if they lose their last two, so they have a bye seed in hand right now. The Minutemen, with dwindling hopes for a bye seed themselves, come to Philadelphia for a February 29 date at the Liacouras. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Note: Standings are up-to-date but games earlier in the week have already taken place

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was:

Points per Possession Margins Through February 19

Ken Pomeroy has shown Saint Louis as the top team since late December, but college basketball’s stats guru looks at an overall margin as an indirect part of his formulation. For the past four weeks Temple posted the largest positive margin derived from conference games.

Saint Louis and Temple were not the only two squads whose conference points per possession margins moved closer to alignment with their overall numbers. Count Richmond among those whose skew was rectified last week. The Spiders stubbornly posted a +0.006 points per possession margin even though the team was three games below 0.500 in conference play. Though the Spiders posted a “positive” 1-1 week, their points per possession margin slid into negative territory, consistent with their record. Though throughout the conference the records and points per possession margins do not align exactly with the won-loss conference rankings (see Duquesne above), the alignment is the most consistent in the three seasons I have tracked the numbers. Identifying and explaining the discrepancies will be one of the bullet points for next week.

A Look at Conference Honors Two Weeks Out

The race for conference Player of the Year was not a serious contest in 2011. Tu Holloway won recognition either as Player of the Week or at least a nod in nine of the sixteen weeks the conference posted weekly honors. Honored as Player of the Week six times, Holloway’s nearest competitors had not gathered more than two, one-third the number of times Holloway was honored.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona at Washington

Posted by AMurawa on February 17th, 2012

Arizona at Washington, February 18, 12pm PST, FSN

The last time these two teams played in the regular season, the games were decided at the buzzer by great defensive plays. Last time out, it was Tony Wroten rejecting Josiah Turner at the buzzer (just to the 10:45 mark to check it out) and the time before it was Derrick Williams swatting Darnell Gant to save the game. So, can we expect more of the same this time out? Another hard-fought classic that comes right down to the wire? Don’t bet against it.

However, it is worth noting that in the previous matchup this season, Washington went into McKale Center and controlled the action for much of the game, jumping out to an early lead and later taking a ten-point lead into the final media timeout, before some sloppy play combined with some Solomon Hill heroics conspired to set up a wild final minute. The Wildcats had trouble keeping the Huskies off of the offensive glass in that first meeting (U-Dub grabbed over 41% of their offensive rebound opportunities), and they again struggled with turnovers, coughing it up 15 times, or an almost a quarter of all of their possessions. Sean Miller will no doubt want to see his team improve in both of those areas. But one spot where the Wildcats did excel in the previous game was in getting to the free throw line: they got to the line 29 times, made 21 of those attempts and outscored the Huskies by two touchdowns from the charity stripe. Getting to the line and earning easy points is almost assuredly another key to the ‘Cat gameplan.

Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill Almost Singlehandedly Kept Arizona In The Game In Their First Matchup With Washington (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

For the Huskies, they’ll need to find a better solution for Hill, who wound up with 28 points on a highly efficient 9-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line). They limited everybody else on the Arizona roster to just 12-of-40 shooting and a 32.5 eFG%, but Hill almost singlehandedly kept the ‘Cats around. Further, Hill went a long way towards putting the Huskies in foul trouble, drawing two fouls each on Terrence Ross and Darnell Gant. There’s no single great matchup on the Washington roster for Hill, but redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons could see a significant chunk of face-time with him.

With Oregon’s loss to California on Thursday night, we’re down to four teams sitting within one game in the loss column of first place in the conference. Depending on the outcome here on Saturday afternoon, we’ll either go a long way towards eliminating Arizona from the title hunt (in the event of a Washington win), or the race will tighten up even more, with California leading the way a game ahead of a pack of three other teams (if Arizona wins). Given all that is on the line for both teams, expect this one to be a knock-down, drag-out fight.

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