Wichita State in Great Position to Finish the Regular Season Unbeaten

Posted by Adam Stillman on February 6th, 2014

The biggest hurdle has been cleared. An undefeated regular season for fourth-ranked Wichita State (24-0, 11-0 MVC) now looks like a strong possibility after the Shockers traveled Wednesday night to Terre Haute and left with a hard-fought 65-58 victory against Indiana State. The Shockers entered the game with a 38.5 percent chance of going unbeaten, according to Ken Pomeroy’s projections. Now, after completing the season sweep of the only other legitimate challenger in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Shockers’ chances at perfection jumped all the way up to 55.6 percent. A win at Northern Iowa on Saturday would boost that number to about 68 percent. (Ed. note: Pomeroy noted on Twitter last night that continuing the run to 34-0 through Arch Madness would roughly approximate to a 34 percent chance as of today.)

Wichita State is on track to finish the season undefeated. (Photo courtesy of si.com)

Wichita State is on track to finish the season undefeated. (Photo courtesy of si.com)

The Shockers now have a reasonable chance to become the first team in 23 seasons to head into the NCAA Tournament without a loss on the resume. Defending national champion UNLV finished the regular season at 30-0 before falling to Duke in the 1991 Final Four. The 2004 Saint Joseph’s squad, led by Jameer Nelson, finished regular season play at 27-0 before falling in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. And recall Murray State started out 23-0 just two years ago before falling at home to Tennessee State in mid-February. So if we’re talking regular season here, the Shockers are chasing a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in a decade. And what an accomplishment it would be.

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We’re #351! Southern Utah Keeps Hope High in Trying Season

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 24th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He filed this article Thursday night after Southern Utah and Eastern Washington played at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Jumpers snap through the net. Thunderous dunks shake the basket and stanchion. Crisp passes fly around the court, sometimes two or three at a time. Laughter accompanies the occasional goofy or errant shot. The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are loose, just in time for tip-off. You’d never know the team was riding a 14-game losing streak, or that they were the worst team in Division I in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.

A Southern Utah player goes up for a slam dunk early in pregame warmups against Eastern Washington in Cheney, Wash. (Kenny Ocker/Rush The Court)

A Southern Utah player goes up for a slam dunk early in pregame warmups against Eastern Washington in Cheney, Wash. (Kenny Ocker/Rush The Court)

“Yesterday is history,” that’s what Thunderbirds coach Nick Robinson said Thursday morning as an evening tip-off against the Eastern Washington Eagles in Cheney, Washington, awaited his team. “There’s nothing you can do about it, whether it’s practice or a game, and you have to focus on what’s going on right now. We try to send that message to our team constantly.” That’s a tall order when your team struggles to hit 35 percent of the shots it takes, when opposing teams hit 50 percent of the shots they take against you, when you turn the ball over one out of each five possessions. But Robinson has his team’s attention, regardless of their 0-14 record against Division I schools. Keeping his players engaged is paramount; there might not be a Division I team with less experience than the Thunderbirds’ 10 combined seasons among their 13 players.

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The RTC Podcast: The KenPom Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2014

Running very late with the post this week, but this week’s RTC Podcast has already been up on iTunes since Monday night (even more reason to subscribe and automatically get the updates as soon as they drop!). As always, Shane Conolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, guiding us through a really interesting weekend of action that included a number of upsets within conference play and some very early takeaways about a number of highly-ranked teams. There will of course also be an interesting series of emails and a fired-up #rootforthesuit segment.

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We’re also pleased to bring back the Rush the Takes segment, featuring advanced metrics guru and bowling aficianado Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) this week. You’ll learn about a team that Pomeroy the fan disagrees with Pomeroy the statistician, and understand a little better what the future of advanced metrics holds in the arena of college basketball. Pomeroy gives a really good interview, and we hope that you’ll give it a listen.

  • 0:00-8:41 – Iowa Hands Ohio State Another Loss
  • 8:41-13:08 – Examining Other Upsets
  • 13:08-19:16 – Iowa State Can’t Muster Enough Hilton Magic Against Kansas
  • 19:16-30:21 – Rush The Take With Metrics Guru Ken Pomeroy
  • 30:21-34:58 – Most Indispensable Player
  • 34:58-39:41 – Piece of Memorabilia Worth $119,500
  • 39:41-42:21 – #rootforthesuit
  • 42:21-47:19 – Week Preview
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Let’s Make Some Room Atop the American for Cincinnati

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 9th, 2014

It seemed like the AAC’s first season of existence would be a banner year with defending champion Louisville joining, a talented UConn team shut out of the tournament in 2012-13, and a Memphis club armed with one of the best backcourts in America. Yet most forgot about the arrival of Cincinnati. The Bearcats aren’t exactly a big name in college basketball (well, not anymore). Highly-touted freshmen? Not here. Legendary coach? With time maybe, but not now. A rabid fan base that travels to road games well? There weren’t any more than 30 fans sitting behind the Bearcats’ bench on Tuesday night in Houston.

Mick Cronin has his Bearcats off to a 3-0 start in AAC play. (AP photo)

Mick Cronin has his Bearcats off to a 3-0 start in AAC play. (AP photo)

Still, Mick Cronin has perhaps his best team since being named head coach in 2006. And the Bearcats played like it in the first half against the Houston Cougars. The active hands and moving feet of Cincinnati’s defense frustrated Houston, forcing nine turnovers, blocking seven shots and forcing the Cougars to shoot 8-of-24 from the field. Cincinnati took a 16-point lead into the locker room. But the Cougars went on a 23-10 run to start the second, capped by a three-pointer from Brandon Morris to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 50-47 with 9:56 to play. It was Morris’ fourth three of the half on his way to a career-high 17 points. The Bearcats stopped playing their hard-nosed defense, which prompted Cronin to call a 30 second timeout to regroup. And regroup they did.

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Comparing ACC Team Computer Rankings With the Preseason: Pitt Up, BC Down…

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 12th, 2013

With approximately 30 percent of the regular season already played, it’s a good time to check out how ACC teams are currently rated by some of the most highly regarded computer rating systems. It’s also a good time to compare that with each team’s preseason expectations, where we find that there are definitely some surprises.

The chart below lists the 15 ACC schools according to their current computer rankings. This ranking is based on an average of three of the most respected basketball computer gurus – Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and Kenneth Massey. Keep in mind that these ratings are updated daily and this table represents data from Monday, December 9. The first column is the average national ranking for ACC teams in these computer systems. The next two columns compare the conference ranking for each team using the computers versus the official ACC Media Preseason Poll.

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With the unpredictability of college basketball it’s not surprising that several teams are quite a bit above or below expectations so far this year. The first team on the list has the third biggest variance between current computer ranking and ACC Preseason Media ranking (five spots). The computers love Pittsburgh this year. Pomeroy has the Panthers fourth in the nation despite a less than challenging schedule. Basically it means that Pitt has been beating bad teams convincingly. It is still reasonable to project Jamie Dixon’s team higher now than at least two of the teams that were ranked ahead of them in the preseason poll — namely Virginia and Notre Dame. It’s worth noting that the Panthers were also something of a computer darling last season. At a similar point in the 2012-13 schedule, Pitt was seventh in Pomeroy’s ratings and eventually ended the season at #11, despite entering the NCAA Tournament as a #8 seed and losing to Wichita State badly in its opening round game.

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Rule Change Progress Report: Possessions and Scoring Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 19th, 2013

With college basketball’s first full week-plus in the books, now seems like a good time to pause and take further inventory of the impact of the much-discussed offseason rules changes. Ken Pomeroy offered an early analysis of their influence by comparing first weekend statistics from the last two seasons; with a larger available set of data now, are KenPom’s first weekend findings still holding true? Namely, are fouls, scoring and tempo still on the uptick this season? Have the freedom of motion initiatives significantly impacted the game in any other areas? Let’s dig in…

Not All Teams Have Taken To The New Rules -- And Inevitable Free Throw Bonanza -- Like Unbeaten Indiana State And Jake Odum (13).

Not All Teams Have Taken To The New Rules — And Inevitable Free Throw Bonanza — Like Unbeaten Indiana State And Jake Odum (13).

While the extra week’s worth of games does provide us with a little more ammo for the examination, we should keep in mind that we are still working with a small sample size as well as a relatively unrepresentative bucket of data when considering the entire set. For example, Oklahoma State scored 117 points against Mississippi Valley State in its season opener; not only do the Delta Devils not reappear on the Cowboys Big 12 schedule, but it’s unlikely Marcus Smart’s squad comes close to matching that output against any team that actually does. Quite clearly, the first couple weeks of the season is filled with mismatched foes and lopsided victories – things you rarely see after January.

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Let’s Talk Early Returns on Officiating and the New Foul Rules

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 13th, 2013

Ken Pomeroy has an interesting post on his website concerning the early effect of the enforcement of new rules regarding contact by the defender. He acknowledges that the sample size is very small, but he basically compared all the Division I games last weekend with a similar number of games to start last season. Scoring is up by about 4.5 points per team while tempo has only increased by about one possession per team. Therefore almost all of the scoring increase is because of an increase in fouls called, which has resulted in nearly nine more free throw attempts per game. With the number of possessions and field goal attempts remaining steady, the tradeoff has come in fewer turnovers, specifically those caused by steals. Overall, it appears that officials are calling fouls for defensive contact that last year resulted in steals.

Karl Hess and Other Officials are Working with Players on New Rules

Karl Hess and Other Officials are Working with Players on New Rules (Photo: flickr.com)

Many coaches have expressed concerns with the new rules, mostly regarding consistent enforcement. That is a reasonable worry since college basketball has no organized governance structure over officials during the regular season, with assignments made by individual conferences. There is, however, a national element with respect to the NCAA Tournament. Those officiating assignments are made by NCAA director of men’s basketball officiating, John Adams, who sounds like a supporter of the new rules. On Monday’s ESPN College Basketball Podcast, Tom Izzo and Bill Self both expressed concerns with how officials will call fouls. There was even a suggestion that the NCAA might want to make an example of the new officiating style by calling the Champions Classic games closely and putting all the stars on the bench with foul trouble. Last night’s games totaled 46 and 53 fouls, respectively, a high number (the season average thus far is 42) but not completely off kilter. And really only Michigan State’s Adreian Payne spent much of crunch time in foul trouble (Duke’s Jabari Parker fouled out late, but Kansas had already surged ahead at that point). John Calipari had a different take, basically echoing what Jay Bilas has been saying: “If you don’t want fouls to be called on you, then just don’t foul.” Sounds simple enough.

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AAC M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on October 31st, 2013

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  1. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, suspended Memphis freshman Kuran Iverson for the Tigers’ first regular season game against in-state foe Austin Peay for playing basketball in two different cities this summer. Iverson, a Hartford, Connecticut native, played summer league games in both Memphis (the Bluff City Classic) and Waterbury, Connecticut (the Hartford Pro Am). The NCAA limits players to one team in one league during the summer, and Memphis self-reported the violation. “He assumed he could (play in the Hartford summer league) because it was in his backyard, in his neighborhood, and he grew up watching the league” Memphis coach Josh Pastner told the Commerical-Appeal. “He didn’t think anything would be against it.” Iverson can play in preseason exhibitions and scrimmages, will sit against Austin Peay (ranked #283 in the country by Ken Pomeroy) and will return for a road trip to Oklahoma State, who Pomeroy ranks #4. The timing is convenient for the Tigers, who shouldn’t have much trouble with Austin Peay, but will need all the help they can get against Marcus Smart and the Cowboys.
  2. Speaking of Memphis preseason games, coach Josh Pastner said he is trying to focus on defensive pressure ahead of this weekend’s “secret” scrimmage against Baylor. The Tigers’ defense has improved each year under Pastner; in 2009-2010, his first season, the team ranked #163 in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Defense at 101.2 (which roughly translates to allowing 101.2 points per 100 possessions against the average D-1 offense). The team rose to #60 in the ranking in 2010-2011 (96.4), #16 in 2011-2012 (91.6) and #13 last season (90.0). The defense played the crucial role in Pastner’s first NCAA tournament victory, when the Tigers snagged nine steals and limited St. Mary’s to 33% shooting. Maintaining a stout defense this season (Pomeroy projects the Tigers to rank #15 at 92.5) will be particularly crucial with the step up in competition to the American.
  3. A year ago, Connecticut had only thing left to play for: “Pride,” junior guard Ryan Boatright said to USA Today. “Pride and proving the world wrong.” Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had just retired in the face of the Huskies’ ineligibility for the NCAA tournament due to academics. Kevin Ollie was named the interim coach, “but I looked at it like I had a lifetime deal,” Ollie, a former Connecticut point guard, told USA Today. “I look that way at every aspect of my life, everything. That’s how I want my players to look at things. Sometimes you’ve got to believe in the dark. You don’t know the outcome, but you just keep believing in one another.” Playing for pride, and believing in one another, carried Connecticut to a 20-win season and now has them ranked #19 in the preseason coaches poll. Ollie got a new contract, and now finds himself as one of brightest young coaching stars in the game. Once Louisville leaves of the ACC, Connecticut will be the clear face of the league, and Ollie’s early success has them well poised to for that role.
  4. The major obstacle to Connecticut’s success this year certainly appears to be its thin frontcourt, and Wednesday’s easy exhibition win over Southern Connecticut State can’t be too comforting on that issue. The Huskies were outrebounded by their Division II foes 48-43, and managed only five offensive rebounds compared to SCSU’s 18. “I wasn’t happy with the rebounding effort, and they’ll understand that when we get back Friday,” Kevin Ollie said after the game, but singled out sophomore Phil Nolan for praise. “He as six rebounds in 11 minutes, that’s pretty damn good. If he does that, he’ll play.” For his part, Nolan said the rebounding would improve. “We’ll get back in the lab and work on rebounding, and you’ll see improvement next time,” Nolan said, adding that “People say we have a small team, but you look at it, we’re pretty big. We can do a lot of things.” The American promises to be a perimeter-oriented league, but the Huskies must improve their rebounding (they ranked #278 in offensive rebounding percentage and #319 in defensive rebounding percentage last year, according to Pomeroy) if they want to live up to their lofty preseason ranking.
  5. Temple coach Fran Dunphy has been a head coach in college for 24 years – with 15 NCAA tournament trips – but thinks this year might be his toughest yet. “I think this is as challenged as I’ve been as a basketball coach,” Dunphy told CBSSports.com. “It should be a very interesting experience for us this year to see where we wind up. There’s a lot of unknowns and a lot of apprehension at this point.” That’s reasonable, as the Owls find themselves in a new league with many new faces in their team photo. The team lost five seniors off a squad that won 24 games, including one in the tournament. Those five combined to average 52.9 points per game while the team averaged 72.8. Dunphy’s first team at Temple finished 12-18; the next six (also the last six) have each won 21 games and made the NCAA tournament, so it’s tough to count him out. But facing a tough non-conference slate and a stronger league, it seems highly unlikely that Temple will be dancing in March.
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Big East M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on October 30th, 2013

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  1. Renowned college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings for the upcoming season. The Big East comes in as the second best conference in the nation, behind the Big Ten. This is surprising after Louisville, Syracuse, and several other quality teams left, as well as seeing ESPN writer Dan Hanner have the Big East in the middle of the pack of the power seven conferences. Pomeroy has Creighton leading the league, ranked 13th, with Georgetown right behind them at 14. Marquette and Villanova follow at 24 and 26. Pomeroy’s rankings look fairly different than Hanner’s, which has Marquette as the top team in the league and ranks the bottom seven teams lower giving the Big East a much lower rating. Pomeroy admits that his predictions have the “simplest algorithm possible without being a complete joke.” This is not the best way to predict how well a team will play during the season, but it is fun to see what a respected statistician says about the upcoming season. The high ranking for the Big East should give fans optimism and reason to believe the Big East will compete to be one of the top conferences in the nation.
  2. CBS Sports writer Jeff Borzello wrote an interesting piece about the team outside his top 25 that he thinks has the most potential and St. John’s was his clear cut choice. With so much talent, it is easy to see why. The Red Storm return all five starters as well as Jamal Branch and God’s Gift Achiuwa, who will have major roles. He points out that the biggest addition is freshman Rysheed Jordan. Steve Lavin said “He has tremendous poise and makes good judgments on the court. He plays with a hard edge, which is an indication of his competitiveness and that’s why he has had success since a young age on the court.” Jordan was named Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year and his addition raises the potential even higher. Last year’s team also had talent, but a lot of inexperience. This year players like D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson will have to take a big step forward in becoming more complete and smarter basketball players. Lavin will also have to impress this year after having a reputation for being a great recruiter, but not being able to win with top talent. All the pieces are in place for this to be a big season in Queens.
  3. Last night, Butler scrimmaged against Nova Southeastern and won handily 101-64. Obviously it was an easy game for them, but it is still nice to see it wasn’t close, as opposed to DePaul‘s scrimmage against Lewis University, which saw the Blue Demons trail at halftime before using an early run in the second half to win by five. Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star took a look at Butler freshman Rene Castro. Castro is a point guard who looks like he could end up being a key contributor this season and possible starter by the end of the season, as Keefer predicts. Castro has a good bit of improving to do especially on the defensive side of the ball and needs to adjust to the college game, but he has impressed and is working hard on his outside shot. First-year coach Brandon Miller could use Castro’s physical abilities to bring another aspect to the team. If Castro is the real deal, he could make sophomore Kellen Dunham’s life much easier by using his quickness to get into the lane and kick it out to him for three’s. Castro has big goals, saying “Our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament and fight for a championship.”
  4. The Big East is benefiting from the thrilling World Series on Fox, as Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal points out. Fox is airing several commercials publicizing the upcoming season on Fox Sports 1 and is reaching millions as game 4 on Sunday night outdrew the NFL. The commercials are pushing it’s opening night games of Providence-Boston College and Lafayette-Villanova. Fox Sports also announced its lineup of announcers for the upcoming season. Besides the already announced star combo of Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, Justin Kutcher, Dick Stockton, Thom Brennaman, Brian Anderson, Eric Collins and Kevin Kugler will have play-by-play duties and Kevin O’Neill, Gary Williams, Donny Marshall as well as several other former players and coaches will serve as analysts. FS1 has some big names announcing games with Stockton and Brennaman being well-known announcers who have plenty of experience. O’Neill and Williams should be interesting to have in the booth as they will be making their debuts, but have had great success coaching and will have interesting analysis.
  5. The Big East announced that it has hired Tom Jernstedt as senior adviser. He will be tasked with helping commissioner Val Ackerman on officiating, scheduling, postseason play and an entire strategic plan. Jernstedt worked for the NCAA for almost 40 years and Ackerman says that “few have as keen a grasp as he does of the intricacies of the NCAA and the college basketball world.” ESPN’s Dana O’Neill makes the point that the hiring is very important as it gives the Big East credibility from the start. His past experience will be key in getting the Big East through the tough early stages of establishing itself as a power conference. Their is a lot of work to be done and Ackerman will benefit from having someone who knows the ins and outs of the NCAA and the college basketball world.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 28th, 2013

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  1. As we’ve discussed before, at this time of year everybody and their brother has some ranking or another to succinctly represent their predictions about the upcoming college basketball season. We’ve got AP polls and various media polls for different conferences, and all the national sites have some kind of poll. We’ll of course be unveiling our picks in the coming days, but nowadays, one of the most highly anticipated set of preseason prognostications comes from Ken Pomeroy, and he just released his 2014 preseason rankings this weekend. Pac-12 fans might be a little disappointed as they look through the rankings and have to drop all the way down to #23 before the first conference team, Arizona, pops up. There are a total of nine conference teams in the top 75, but seeing an Arizona team regularly talked about as a top 10 team that far down is interesting, to say the least. Pomeroy explains it away as a quirk of his system that doesn’t count freshmen or transfers in very high regard. That quirk also explains why Oregon, despite having arguably the second most talented roster in the conference, is languishing as the eighth-ranked team in the conference and 56th in the nation.
  2. For what it’s worth, even Pomeroy himself points to other ranking systems, like Dan Hanner’s, that probably include those newcomers more fairly. In Hanner’s ranking system, Arizona is 8th, UCLA is the only other Pac-12 team in the top 25 (#20), and there are six other Pac-12 teams ranked between #26 and #50. Oregon is 33rd according to Hanner. Pomeroy also points to Team Rankings as another good example of analytics-based preseason rankings, although, like anything else, even those can be wild guesses at times. Exhibit A, check UCLA at the fifth spot in Team Rankings’ preseason list last year.
  3. We had some fun last week arguing about how many Pac-12 teams will be in the discussion for NCAA Tournament invitations come March and Arizona State is one of those teams of which there is some disagreement. But Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports that point guard Jahii Carson and head coach Herb Sendek think that this year’s vintage of the Sun Devils will have more depth and weapons for the team to play with. If ASU is indeed improved over last season, they could be in a good mood come Selection Sunday because last year they were one of the first dozen or so teams on the wrong side of the bubble.
  4. USC held a public scrimmage on Sunday that served not only as the unveiling of the new style of Trojans basketball under head coach Andy Enfield, but also of freshman Julian Jacobs, who threw down five dunks in his debut with the program. While senior transfer Pe’Shon Howard is still expected to be the main man at the point for Enfield, you can never have too many capable and explosive ball-handlers in his type of offense. Jacobs’ debut bodes well, as the Trojans will need some of the newcomers to step up and provide offense immediately for a team that has recently struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
  5. Lastly, the Daily Camera has a good piece on Colorado redshirt freshman forward Wesley Gordon, one of a handful of Buffaloes who will chip in to try to replace Andre Roberson’s departed production. Gordon sat out last season in order to get stronger to handle the physical rigors of playing up front in the Pac-12. He added 15 pounds of muscle and, having played against center Josh Scott for a year, he’s more confident in his abilities now, especially on the defensive end. While Gordon certainly can’t do all of the things that Roberson provided to the team, he’ll be counted on mainly to help out on the glass and become a defensive force inside.
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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Georgetown Hoyas

Posted by mlemaire on March 22nd, 2013

The Hoyas surpassed everyone’s expectations this season and won a share of the Big East regular season title and the No. 1 overall seed in the Big East Tournament where they lost in the semifinals to Syracuse. The Hoyas were in contention for a No. 1 seed before losing to Villanova down the stretch and not reaching the title game in the conference tournament. Instead the selection committee rewarded their excellence with a No. 2 seed in a winnable region and a first-round date with the Eagles and their rabid fan base.

It doesn't take a basketball expert to understand Otto Porter's importance to Georgetown (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

It doesn’t take a basketball expert to understand Otto Porter’s importance to Georgetown (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

Region: South
Seed: No. 2
Record: 25-6 (14-4 Big East)
Matchup: v. Florida Gulf Coast University in Philadelphia

Key Player: Let’s face it, to call anyone other than Otto Porter the key player for the Hoyas would be forcing it as the athletic sophomore is the at the center of the team’s success this season. Porter is a first-team All-American, the team’s leading scorer (16.3 PPG) and rebounder (7.4 RPG) and three-point shooter (42.7 3PT%) who just so happens to be capable of defending multiple positions well to boot. He might be the most important player in the entire tournament if you consider what type of team Georgetown would be without him. As long as he plays as well as he did during conference play, the Hoyas should make a run, and if he rises to the occasion and turns it up another notch, well the rest of the South Region and the bracket better look out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2013

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  1. The college basketball community was abuzz last night discussing the gruesome-looking knees injury suffered by Kentucky center Nerlens Noel during the second half of the Wildcats’ loss to Florida in Gainesville. At the time of this writing, no official news has been released as to the severity of the injury, but as you can see from this video and this photo, the star freshman’s knee buckled in a way that caused him quite a bit of pain. Afterward, head coach John Calipari said that he feared the worst but hoped for the best, but the collective mood around Big Blue Nation suggests that Noel may not be coming back this season. You hate to see a player of any kind suffer a serious injury, and this is especially so when it involves a player with the talent, skill and future of Noel. Let’s all hope that by the time you’re reading this on Wednesday morning that Calipari’s hopes for only a sprain have rendered true.
  2. From a potential season-ending injury to a definite one, Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire‘s career is officially over after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. The Louisville transfer graduate student had hoped to spend his only year in Evanston contributing toward the Wildcats’ first-ever run to the NCAA Tournament, but the snake-bitten team that has suffered multiple key injuries this year now sits at 13-11 and 4-7 in the Big Ten with a Thursday trip to Ohio State looming. Without the team’s best rebounder available, Bill Carmody’s squad expects to now have only seven scholarship players available for that game. Ouch.
  3. While on the subject of bad news, a bizarre and sad story is developing in the Philadelphia area this week as Maria Reyes Garcia-Pellon, the wife of former Penn starting center and 1979 Final Four participant Matthew White, was arrested on charges of murdering her husband with a pair of kitchen knives. She claimed to police that she found White “looking at pornography, young girls,” which caused her to attack him as he slept, but it’s unclear whether White was actually doing so. According to a written statement from a spokesperson for the county attorney’s office, “there is no indication that [what White was looking at] was child pornography,” but we’re sure that the specific details will come out if such an accusation is true. The last Ivy League team to make the Final Four was White’s Quakers, who lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the Final Four.
  4. You’re up three points with eight seconds left and the opponent heading your way — do you foul or choose to defend? This strategic discussion has been bandied about for the last several years among the punditocracy, with a data-driven cabal arguing that fouling is the proper decision — that the likelihood of the sequence of events that will cause your team to lose is even smaller than forcing a tough contested three. Ken Pomeroy begs to differ. Looking at three years worth of data, he found that defending the three results in a win 94.0% of the time, while putting your opponent on the line produces a victory 92.7% of the time — a minor difference, to be sure, but a difference over a data set of 804 instances nevertheless. Considering the margin of error, perhaps there’s no meaningful difference between the two strategies, but Pomeroy argues that the preponderance of game-tying threes (witness: Wisconsin’s buzzer-beater versus Michigan over the weekend) compared with instances of  successful fouling strategies gives a false impression of one solution preferred over the other. It’s a fair point — perception drives reality for most — but we also wonder if the answer here might be mostly driven by the personnel on the floor analyzed through a matrix of three-point shooting, foul shooting, and rebounding prowess.
  5. It’s the end of the Big East as we know it, and Grantland‘s Charles Pierce does not feel fine. In a wide-ranging piece that focuses on ancient Eastern basketball rivalries, anti-Catholic nativism in the South (read: Tobacco Road), and somehow, a sluggishly-paced game between Georgetown and Marquette, Pierce laments the loss of one of the great college basketball leagues there ever was. While we’re just as torn up as anybody with the implosion of the venerable conference, we also recognize that the league really did this to itself. And when given the opportunity to shore up its ranks by getting back to what made the Big East relevant in the first place — basketball — the conference instead made a mockery of itself by reaching near and wide to schools like TCU, Boise State and (egads) Tulane and expected everyone to keep a straight face. Well, there is that new NBC Sports television contract, we suppose.
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