Analyzing Advanced Metrics: Does Florida Have What It Takes to be a Championship-Level Team?

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 28th, 2012

It’s November, and that is far too early to come to any major conclusions in college basketball. However, the Florida Gators opened up the 2012-13 campaign in dominant fashion. Nobody who has played Billy Donovan’s team has yet to finish a game within single digits of the Gators. They put a good Wisconsin team away by 18 points, beat Middle Tennessee State by 21, and wore down rival Central Florida by 13. But is Florida a team that could end up as a national champion at the end of the year? We know enough about the makeup of national championship teams as a result of 10 years of advanced statistics that it is not out of the question to begin to hypothesize.

Could Donovan Have a Shot at His Third National Title This Season?

There are a couple of general principles that have been established from the data available at Ken Pomeroy’s site. Before we get into that, it is important to remember that a lot can change from now until March. While he wrote the following passage regarding individual player stats, it is still somewhat applicable here. Before proceeding, we should all read Pomeroy’s “small size sample oath” to keep in mind the limited scope of the statistics and the fluidity of the numbers over the next several months.

I, (state your name), understand that the player stats are based on extremely limited information in mid-November. I understand that Erik Murphy is not the best college basketball player of all time and that Adreian Payne is not going to grab anything close to 43% of opponents’ missed shots nor 0% of his own team’s misses for a full season. Additionally, I understand that some of the numbers displayed on these pages are utterly meaningless at this point, like Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson’s free throw rate or anything on Jordan Vandenberg’s line. I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the responsible use of advanced stats for individuals in mid-November.

In analyzing statistics from the national champions from 2003 to present, there are four common denominators of national championship teams:

1) The national champion has never come from outside the KenPom top 10.

Overall KenPom rankings for past 10 national champs (national rankings in parenthesis).

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Who Won the Week? All of Us, Each of Us…

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2012

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week (note: this week’s edition is abridged because, well, nothing has happened yet). The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive anywhere to watch a basketball game. 

Excitement is different in November. Kind of like March, everyone thinks they still have a shot at the title, but it’s more pure and innocent because nobody’s expectations have been tempered yet. More than 300 schools’ fans are thinking “This is going to be our year,” and most of them even believe it. We’re a week away from real basketball, and it’s time to debut our Winners and Losers of the Week, which will appear every Friday (life willing).

WINNER: All of Us, Each of Us

College Hoops is Back, and It’s Spectacular…

It’s college basketball season again, you guys! We get to celebrate our teams, our conferences, our sport — and if you’re reading this, we get to get in on the ground floor of the season. Come this time next week, we’ll all be engrossed in the first non-conference games of 2012-13. At least for a night, it won’t matter that there’s only one Top 25 matchup going on. We have our sport back.

(Related losers: NBA fans, because they’re missing out.)

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Big East M5: Halloween Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 31st, 2012

  1. Roundball guru Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings of all 347 Division I teams yesterday, which contained some surprising implications for the Big East. Most notably, Pomeroy went against the grain in ranking Syracuse ahead of Louisville and ranking Pittsburgh in the top 25 (#4 in the Big East behind Notre Dame). The disparity between the perception of Louisville as a sure fire top-three team and the Cardinals’ #8 national ranking in Pomeroy’s system does emphasize a glaring question mark surrounding Rick Pitino’s squad: How will this team generate substantially more offense than it did a year ago? The Cards’ had the worst adjusted offense ranking of any team in Pomeroy’s preseason top 24. While Louisville fans anticipate greater efficiency in 2012-13 for good reason, the offense remains a major question mark until guys like lauded sophomore Wayne Blackshear and George Mason transfer Luke Hancock demonstrate an ability to score at a consistent clip.
  2. Speaking of Louisville, the big news out of the Derby City yesterday was that Athletic Director Tom Jurich inked a five-year contract extension with Rick Pitino that will keep him at the school through 2021-22. If Pitino ends up fulfilling his contract, he’ll be 70 before he steps down as Denny Crum’s successor, and Louisville will have had only two head coaches in fifty years. This newfound commitment is quiet a departure from Pitino’s attitude last offseason, when he essentially set the stage for a 2017 retirement (a Final Four can have that effect on a body). Nonetheless, Jeff Goodman points out that the indecisive Pitino likely hasn’t changed his mind for the last time.
  3. Sports Illustrated released its Big East primer yesterday, ranking Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh at the top of the league, respectively, and naming Peyton Siva its conference MVP. The piece paints a bleak portrait of Kevin Ollie’s job security as he prepares to scramble in the undifferentiated middle of the Big East pack. It also points out that prior to last season, Jamie Dixon’s Pittsburgh teams had never finished outside of the top 54 nationally in defensive efficiency. Last season, Pitt dipped to #151 “thanks in large part to slipping from 19th to 229th in two-point defense,” and everyone saw the consequences. The arrival of Stephen Adams and Trey Zeigler will undoubtedly help, but they won’t instantly cure Pitt’s defensive woes.
  4. If you’re curious to read some impressions from Cincinnati’s first exhibition game on Monday, Bearcats Blog filed a thorough assessment of the good and the bad from UC’s 80-60 victory over Grand Valley State (MI). It seems UC’s dismal free throw shooting didn’t leave with Yancy Gates; the squad that finished #302 nationally in free throw percentage last year returned to its old form by shooting a collective 18-28 (64%) on Monday. Bearcats Blog cites poor rebounding as the biggest misgiving heading into this season, which was certainly validated after Cincinnati gave up 12 offensive rebounds to Grand Valley State. Nevertheless, very few first exhibition games are pretty, and Cincinnati managed to win by a deceptively comfortable margin. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Justin Jackson post a huge double-double against Bellarmine next Monday and make me eat my words.
  5. Yesterday, Bovada released its national title odds for the upcoming season. Five Big East teams appeared in the top 25 most heavily favored teams: Louisville (17/2), Syracuse (20/1), Georgetown (40/1), Cincinnati (50/1), and Pittsburgh (50/1). Interestingly Notre Dame (75/1), which has appeared in the top three of many preseason conference rankings, is the 8th most likely Big East team to win it all according to Bovada. Oddsmakers seem to be placing an emphasis on recent tournament performance: Kentucky is the most heavily favored team in the field despite losing most of last year’s talent, while Notre Dame’s tournament track record seems to have blemished its reputation in Vegas.
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Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2012

  1. Today is the last day of the 10th month of the year, so that means it’s time to dust off your Mike Krzyzewski wig, grab your Jim Boeheim spectacles, and throw on your Bob Huggins track suit to head out into the sinister world of All Hallows’ Eve for tricks and treats. It also means, quite obviously, that tomorrow — the , not nearly as fun All Saint’s Day — is the first day of November, and that month is when we finally stop messing around and get down to the business of for-real college basketball again. Exhibition games and secret scrimmages are coming fast and furious right now, with Opening Night (live from Germany?) only nine days away now.
  2. Here’s a treat for your Halloween morn. For anyone who considers himself a student of the game-behind-the-game world of advanced metrics, Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday released his preseason rankings of all 347 Division I basketball teams. Much like Dan Hanner’s efficiency-driven rankings that we discussed in this space yesterday, Pomeroy throws some combination of returning talent plus incoming talent into the sausage maker to determine what comes out the other end (he explains his methodology here). He quite clearly states that he recognizes the weaknesses in his system at this point of the year, so he also wrote an article explaining the various outliers — teams that might appear too high (Kentucky, Ohio State, Wisconsin, etc.) or too low (NC State, Maryland, etc.) — in his initial rankings. Perhaps the biggest outlier left unexplained in the piece is Lousville — #8 in Pomeroy but #1 or #2 in most other human polls — it’s clear that his model isn’t ready to entrust the Cardinal offense with such rarefied status just yet (he ranks it #34 nationally in offensive efficiency).
  3. While on the subject of the Cards, how about some news about college basketball’s ultimate coaching trickster, Rick Pitino? The Louisville head coach has hinted at retirement for a number of years before backing off of that sentiment recently, but news Tuesday revealed that Pitino has agreed to a five-year contract extension that will ostensibly keep him on the sidelines of the school through the 2021-22 season. Can you imagine that the wandering-eye coach whom none other than Sports Illustrated once called ‘itinerant’ because of his frequent career moves is not only entering his 11th full season in the River City, but could potentially stay there for another nine years after that? In our mind’s eye, we’ll always associate Pitino as the Boy Wonder who resurrected Kentucky from the depths of probation, but he was only in Lexington for eight seasons before alighting to the riches of the NBA. It says here that Pitino will not rest until he gets another national title so that he can permanently disassociate from his rivals down the road in Lexington — this extension gives him at least 10 more shots at it.
  4. Here’s a treat to fans everywhere tired of the seemingly endless cat-and-mouse game between coaches performing illicit activities and the NCAA’s attempts to catch them. On Tuesday, despite hell or high water, one of Mark Emmert’s key initiatives was unanimously passed by the NCAA Board of Directors — the sweeping changes to the NCAA’s enforcement and punishment structure that will go into effect on August 1, 2013, are designed to hit programs and coaches directly where it hurts — by hurting their prestige and their bank accounts. Details are too numerous to list here, but the essential premise to the changes mimics a captain-of-the-ship liability theory. A head coach will be presumed to know (or should know) what’s going on in his program, and simply sticking his head in the sand and only popping up for practices and media appearances will not be enough to protect his skin or that of his program if illicit activity (boosters, impermissible benefits, academic fraud, etc.) is happening. On paper, this sounds great — but coaches will find the gray areas and the loopholes in short order, so strong enforcement techniques are absolutely essential to this initiative’s long-term success.
  5. Finally, let’s end the month with everyone’s favorite college basketball bogeyman. We mentioned a while back that Duke has implemented iPads into its practice and training protocols by loading up playbooks, scouting report information, video footage, and a number of other relevant items on each player’s device. The school on Tuesday announced that it had taken the next step in its data automation by contracting with a company that will provide each player with his individual PER (player efficiency rating) score immediately after each practice and game. Why does this matter? Well, one of the basic tenets of active learning is to provide immediate and direct feedback in real-time — while coaches can see a lot of things, they’re going to still miss quite a bit as 10 active bodies fly around the court. This mechanism, if it works as anticipated, will allow players to know precisely the areas where they did or did not excel immediately after leaving the court. Over time, the argument goes, their efficiency should improve, which begs the question for Pomeroy and Hanner, is there a bias for schools trying to teach for the so-called test? Good grief, Charlie Brown. Happy Halloween, everyone.
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Morning Five: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Most schools held their Midnight Madness extravaganzas more than a week ago, but a couple prominent schools around college basketball nation didn’t get in on the act until this past weekend. At Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night was just that — a standing room only celebration of Indiana basketball past and present, replete with a three-point shooting Cody Zeller (he made 10 in one round of the contest) and even a Bob Knight sighting (in photo form, on the big screen). For a nice highlight reel from IU’s event, check out this video put together by CityLeagueHoopsTV from the event. Over in Durham, Duke‘s Countdown to Craziness began a festive on-campus weekend (Duke’s football team defeated UNC on Saturday night), as Coach K emphasized “togetherness” among his players and the fans while debuting his squad for the first time this season. For more Coach K hugs than you can possibly imagine, check out this video running along this theme played at the conclusion of the event. Jeff Goodman spent Friday with the Blue Devils, and reports back with 11 thoughts and observations about Coach K’s latest team (including who he thinks will take over for the all-time great upon his eventual retirement). At this point, most every school is finished with the pomp and circumstance and moving into the harsh realities of practice, but more on this in a moment.
  2. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes, but it also provides opportunities for the imperfect to rear its ugly head in the form of injuries. Two prominent players on teams with high hopes for this season were hurt recently — Oklahoma State’s Brian Williams and UCLA’s David Wear. Williams is the more serious injury of the two, as he injured his left wrist in a fall after dunking in practice last week and needed to have surgery to repair the damage done. He’ll have to wear a cast for three months and go through rehabilitation after that, essentially rendering Williams unavailable to build upon a very promising freshman campaign this season. Wear, on the other hand, suffered an ankle sprain during practice on Sunday and will have an x-ray on his foot today. Hopefully this injury isn’t as serious as Williams’ and we’ll see Wear back on the court very soon.
  3. Wear might be sidelined with an injury, but his UCLA teammates Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad have now entered their second full week of practice with no timeline as to when the NCAA plans to make a decision on their eligibility. This report from the LA Times suggests that neither player may be close to becoming eligible as the governing body has not given the players any feedback on the status of its investigation nor a timetable for its resolution. According to the piece, Anderson’s issue relates to the relationship between his father and an NBA agent named Thad Foucher, while Muhammad’s problem involves money given to both himself and his AAU team from friends of the family. There’s nothing new here, obviously, but one caveat from the piece must irk UCLA fans hopeful that things are progressing at a reasonable pace — with only 35 days left for the duo to continue practicing with the team until they must sit out, the NCAA has yet to formally interview Muhammad’s parents about any of this.
  4. If you consider yourself at all versed in the analysis of college basketball, you are familiar with KenPom‘s numbers. What you may be less knowledgeable about are the occasional yet insightful blog posts that he publishes from time to time. On Sunday night he presented the results of his analysis of the validity of the preseason AP poll (which has yet to release this season). His finding is that, at least with respect to NCAA Tournament seeding in March, the top half of the AP poll is highly predictive. As he writes: “The chances of being a one-seed get really slim once you get past the top 12 or 13, while the chances of missing the tournament altogether are very real for the teams in the bottom half of the poll.” There’s a better than half chance that a preseason top 10 team in the AP poll will receive a top three seed at the end of the season — that makes sense. What we’d be interested in knowing, though, is what are the common factors that allow us to predict why the other half of teams fall from those original estimations. Great analysis by Pomeroy.
  5. Finally, today, let’s talk discipline. Tubby Smith’s son and Minnesota assistant coach, Saul Smith, has been placed on administrative leave by the school related to his Friday night arrest for suspicion of DWI. Meanwhile at Maryland, senior forward James Padgett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving stemming from his arrest back in June for driving while impaired. Under the school’s code of conduct for alcohol-related driving arrests, he will not be suspended from the team since he is not guilty of a DWI — a true example of legal hair-splitting if ever there was one. Over at Louisville, Chane Behanan must sit out the Cardinals’ first exhibition game this season and has been banned from talking to the media (this is punishment?) for the rest of the semester. Head coach Rick Pitino didn’t specify what led to Behanan’s restrictions other than to say that there were “incidents” over the summer, but he did say that further slip-ups could cause the talented forward to miss more game action.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by mlemaire on August 1st, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Louisville.

1. The rotating door was busy this summer, and some folks don’t like it.

Is Pitino Running Lesser Players Out Of Town To Make Room For New Ones?

Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is no stranger to controversy and criticism, and this summer was no different as a multitude of injury-laden reserves left the program raising concerns about Pitino’s roster management strategy and questions about whether he is cutting ties with less important players to make room for new ones. Before the end of last season news broke that reserve forward Jared Swopshire would transfer so he could play right away in his final collegiate season. Then, just two days after highly touted recruit Montrezl Harrell signed with the Cardinals and people began to wonder where the extra scholarship would come from, backup and injury-prone big man Stephan Van Treese announced he was leaving also only to reverse course later that month. That reversal came just a week after another injury-prone reserve, Rakeem Buckles, announced he would transfer to Florida International, once again freeing up a scholarship that Van Treese happily took back.  There is absolutely no evidence that Pitino forced any of these players out and it’s entirely possible these players saw the writing on the wall and transferred to a place where they could find more playing time. But perception is also a big deal, and if recruits perceive that Pitino is jettisoning lesser talents to make room for younger players, it will certainly make them think twice before they sign on with Louisville.

2. Just how good can Louisville’s frontcourt become?

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Arizona State Week: Herb Sendek Promises A Faster Pace, Should We Believe Him?

Posted by AMurawa on June 14th, 2012

In talking to head coach Herb Sendek last week, one comment of his stood out about a change in the direction of his program. “I think the expectation is that we’ll play as fast as anyone in our conference, given the change in our personnel,” he said, referring primarily to speedy freshman point guard Jahii Carson. However, even with a new point guard who is most comfortable in the open court and a handful of athletic wings — given Sendek’s history — if that claim actually comes true it will represent a change in philosophy from the last 10 years of his coaching career. Note that last season, the most uptempo team in the Pac-12 conference, Oregon State, averaged 71.4 possessions per game. The team that played at the sixth fastest conference tempo was UCLA, averaging 66 possessions per game, representing roughly the median point in all of Division I. By comparison, only twice in the last decade of Sendek’s career has his team played at an adjusted tempo better than 66 possessions per game (according to KenPom.com), and not once over that span has his team broken the 67-possession barrier.

Season

Team

Adjusted Tempo

National Ranking

2011-12

Arizona State

63.6

281

2010-11

Arizona State

63.9

296

2009-10

Arizona State

62.5

326

2008-09

Arizona State

60.0

333

2007-08

Arizona State

62.3

315

2006-07

Arizona State

59.2

329

2005-06

North Carolina State

66.0

209

2004-05

North Carolina State

64.1

287

2003-04

North Carolina State

63.9

292

2002-03

North Carolina State

66.8

258

As the above table shows, Sendek’s history belies a coach who likes to play at a below-average tempo. His history over that span also shows a strategy that generally eschews offensive rebounding in favor of getting back and setting up a stingy halfcourt defense, supports an offense that is generally quite efficient and shoots the ball at a high percentage, while registering assists on a high percentage of shots and keeping turnover rates low. That’s what you think of when you think of a Sendek team.

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Tracking The Four: Scouting Reports

Posted by EJacoby on January 27th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

You know each of our four team’s records, you can see where they’re ranked relative to other teams, and their advanced statistical breakdowns are easily accessible on sites like StatSheet and KenPom. But what about how they actually look in person? If you haven’t watched these teams play multiple times this season, we have the quick-hitting analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. This week’s TT4 Wildcard gives a scouting report for each team, which is a useful way to compare and contrast teams and also look at how they perform in future games relative to their expected tendencies. Feel free to chime in if you think we missed on something!

A Dynamic Offensive Attack has Led to Indiana's Success (AP Photo)

Indiana Hoosiers

Strengths:

  • They space the floor very well offensively, capable of attacking from a variety of angles… Capable of running offense inside-out through Cody Zeller, or outside-in by swinging the ball around the perimeter amongst a number of dangerous scorers.
  • Great perimeter shooting… They take good shots, which leads to a high three-point percentage… Jordan Hulls and Matt Roth have unlimited range on their shots… Christian Watford excels in the mid-range.
  • Cohesive unit that has started the same five players in every game… Starters and reserves both know their roles.

Weaknesses:

  • Poor perimeter defense, often leaving opposing guards without much ball pressure… Allow opponents to run offense comfortably.
  • Lack depth in the frontcourt, putting themselves in a bad position if Zeller is fatigued or in foul trouble.
  • No true point guard on the roster has led to struggles penetrating offensively… Poor assist percentage for such a high-scoring offense.

Overview: A dynamic offensive team that thrives during up-tempo games, enabling them to consistently space the floor and hit open shots… Struggle defensively in the half court with physical teams, and can get in trouble when Zeller or Watford get in foul trouble… Very streaky performance has led to extended runs and deficits during games… Improving defensive team but continue to have trouble getting stops in conference play.

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Tracking The Four: Cuse Get Juiced and Leaves One Unbeaten Team Standing

Posted by EJacoby on January 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Welcome back to TT4, where the lowest ranked team of the four in this week’s RTC Top 25 also happens to be the only undefeated squad left in the country. Will Murray State lose a game before the Big Dance? They continue to win in impressive fashion and are now getting a key cog back in the lineup for the stretch run. Meanwhile, our two major-conference teams are coming off poor weeks and UNLV keeps quietly handling their business. All four TT4 teams remained ranked in the Top 20 and have important games this week. Let’s look at what’s new:

Murray State Racers

Isaiah Canaan and Murray State Continue Pushing Towards Perfection (AP Photo/S. Dennee)

  • Trending UP Because… – They are the only undefeated team left in the country! After being down at halftime, the Racers climbed back to defeat Morehead State on Wednesday, 66-60, in a huge road win that was their toughest remaining test. Please raise your hand and leave a comment below if you had Murray State as the last team to lose this season. Not only is MSU unbeaten but they are getting their third-leading scorer Ivan Aska back any day now, as the senior forward has been cleared to play by doctors. All things are looking up for the Racers (20-0, 8-0 OVC), and all of their remaining games have suddenly become must-watch, or at least must-follow action as they try to make history.
  • This Week’s Key CogIsaiah Canaan. The star guard was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week after going for 20 points in the win at Morehead State and 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in a road win over SIU Edwardsville on Saturday night.
  • Play of the Week – The Racers were down by one against Morehead State until Canaan hit this deep three-pointer with 3:58 left to give Murray State a lead they would not relinquish.
  • Talking Point – The head coach of SIU-E, Lennox Forrester, was thoroughly impressed by the Racers on Saturday, and thinks they may have a special season ahead: “They carry a swagger about them. They’re at least a Sweet Sixteen team and maybe Elite Eight. They could be a so-called Butler.”
  • Coaching Tree of Life - The last time Murray State was ranked before this season (1998), Mark Gottfried was the head coach. The last Racers’ rookie head coach to win 20 games was Mick Cronin in 2003-04, and the in-jeopardy MSU single-season wins record of 31 came under Billy Kennedy’s watch in 2009-10. Gottfried, Cronin, and Kennedy are all major coaches at NC State, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M, respectively, today; perhaps coach Steve Prohm is next in line for a big-time job. Then again, Prohm could also be deserving of a major raise and extension there in Murray.
  • Stats Central – They’ve earned praise for proficient three-point shooting, but an underrated aspect of Murray State’s offensive game is their attacking prowess. The Racers have a season-long free throw rate (which measures FTA/FGA) of 45.1%, which ranks 19th nationally. But they’re even more outstanding in conference play, with a rate of 52.8% that ranks third in the country amongst all teams in their conference games.
  • What’s Next? – The Racers have just one game on tap for this week, at home against Eastern Illinois on Saturday (8:00 PM ET). EIU is 2-4 in OVC conference play and coming off three straight losses.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

  • Trending EVEN Because… – They took care of business this week by thrashing TCU at home before then opening up a big second-half lead and defeating New Mexico at home as well on Saturday. The Runnin’ Rebels continue to look the part of a consistent, elite team and they’ve even slid into the Top 10 of this week’s RTC Top 25. UNLV (18-3, 2-1 MWC) has only lost on the road to three teams that are either ranked (SDSU) or receiving votes (Wisconsin, Wichita State) this week. They are ranked sixth in the RPI and should get a very strong look at a top three NCAA Tournament seed if they continue to play this well.
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Tracking The Four: And Then There Were Two (Unbeatens)

Posted by EJacoby on January 17th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

In this second full edition of TT4, two of our teams have taken a step backward while the other two continue to roll along as the only unbeaten teams remaining in the country. Do Murray State and Syracuse both have a good chance to go undefeated in the regular season? All four of our teams remain ranked in the Top 20 of the major polls. Let’s take a look at the juxtaposition between the two pairs of teams that are making headlines for different reasons:

Murray State Racers

Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole are Running Full Speed Ahead for Undefeated Murray State (AP Photo/L. Dennee)

  • Trending UP Because… – They’re still without injured starting forward Ivan Aska, who has a broken hand, and the Racers continue to take care of business. MSU (18-0, 6-0 Ohio Valley) remained undefeated after knocking off Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech at home over the past week. The Racers’ unbeaten start extends the school record to open a season, and improving to 18-0 also set the school record for longest win streak overall at any point.
  • This Week’s Key CogDonte Poole. The senior guard has been the perfect complement to Isaiah Canaan all season, but it was Poole who did the heavy lifting this week. He averaged 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals in two games last week, including a career-high 28 points versus Tennessee Tech, to propel his team to those victories. The prolific three-point shooter was more aggressive attacking the basket, getting to the line a total of 23 times in the two games, converting 21 of those shots.
  • Play of the Week – Twenty-five seconds into this video clip, watch star guard Canaan split defenders on a high pick-and-roll before a crafty finish at the rim. The announcer pronounces his name wrong, so just let the highlight do the talking.
  • Talking PointSteve Prohm on improving to 18-0 despite missing their best forward: “Credit our guys’ resiliency. We’re having to play a lot of different ways and we’re just trying to figure things out and they’re doing things on the fly and making adjustments and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
  • Best Read - ESPN’s Dana O’Neil sat down with coach Steve Prohm for an interview Tuesday that discussed how the first-year coach has dealt with success, amongst other issues.
  • Stats Central – According to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, the only currently ranked teams that played a more challenging non-conference schedule than Murray State were Duke, Kansas, and Gonzaga. The Racers were actually picked to finish third this season in the OVC by conference coaches in the preseason poll, behind Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech. Those two teams now don’t have as many wins combined (17) as the Racers currently do on the season.
  • What’s Next? – MSU has two road games this week against conference foes dreaming of ending a perfect season. First is a test at Morehead State on Wednesday (7:00 PM ET) against the defending champions of the OVC. Morehead, 3-3 in conference play thus far, is a tough team whose five best players are all upperclassmen. The Racers then head to play at SIU-Edwardsville against a Cougars team that is also 3-3 in conference. Murray will look to continue their undefeated streak again without their best big man as Aska has been ruled out for these games.

Syracuse Orange

  • Trending EVEN Because… – Already at the top of nearly every poll and rating, there’s not much higher to go. Syracuse remained undefeated and improved to 20-0 (7-0 Big East) after beating the three teams at the bottom of the Big East conference last week. The Orange handled their toughest task at Villanova last Wednesday without a problem, and it’s been weeks since SU played a game in which the outcome was ever in doubt after the first 10 minutes. Fast starts are becoming a staple of this team, and it holds leads easily with the most talented bench in the nation. Jim Boeheim’s team is beating Big East opponents by an average of 15.7 points per game, although five of their seven games have come against the bottom four teams in the conference.
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Ken Pomeroy Unveils Preseason Rankings: North Carolina and Duke in Top Five

Posted by mpatton on November 3rd, 2011

The Tsar of the Tempo-Free, Ken Pomeroy, released his second annual preseason rankings with some surprises atop the list. The top ten teams are fairly consistent in content with most preseason rankings, but the order is definitely different.Pomeroy’s projections don’t love the Tar Heels, who slide from consensus number one in human polls to third. On the other hand, the rankings are relatively bullish on Duke, putting the Blue Devils at fourth. Kentucky checks in at the top spot, followed closely by Ohio State. As for the ACC, I thought North Carolina‘s ranking made some sense if you consider their whole season last year instead of just the last quarter. The high rankers of the Tar Heels make the assumption that they will pick up where they left off last season, rather than regressing to their early season struggles.

Ken Pomeroy's Preseason Top Ten

Duke will see its rating fall over the first few weeks, if observations about the team’s middling defense prove true. Right now Pomeroy has the Blue Devils ranked fourth in defense, which seems very high. But the rest of the ACC is very interesting. Miami checks in ranked above Florida State and the Seminoles’ top-ranked defense. This definitely could be true once Reggie Johnson returns to the lineup, but I suspect the teams will flip-flop fairly quickly. Pomeroy also doesn’t share the media love for Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad, which he predicts to finish tenth behind Georgia Tech.

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Morning Five: 09.02.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 2nd, 2011

  1. Yesterday we mentioned the piece by SI.com’s Andy Glockner listing five teams that finished near the bottom of Ken Pomeroy’s luck statistic and why they should be in for some better fortune in the upcoming. Who, you may ask, finished dead last in that stat? Who was the unluckiest team in college hoops in 2010-11? The answer: the same team that finished last in luck in 2009-10! In fact, they did it under two different coaches. On Tuesday (not sure how it got by us), Mr. Glockner examined what exactly the luck statistic is and how this squad can avoid a three-peat of ill fate.
  2. Whatever happens, DeQuan Jones at least knows that his family and friends have his back. The mother, high school coach and AAU coach of the Miami (FL) senior swingman released an understandably spiky response to “friend of the program” Nevin Shapiro’s allegation that a family member of Jones’ asked for $10,000 to insure Jones’ commital to the Hurricanes from high school. The most compelling part of their story is the timeline; Jones had already verballed and signed his letter of intent to attend Miami a full seven months prior to the time Shapiro says the payola request was made. Certainly not the end of the matter, but the linked article by the Miami Herald‘s Michelle Kaufman will bring you up to speed.
  3. If you’re reading a college basketball blog, you’re likely aware that there are many players who are not just student-athletes but also innocents abroad from their foreign homes. There’s a pretty big international competition called the Summer Olympics in about a year, and a couple of fellows recently learned that they may find themselves in London playing for their respective national teams. Saint Louis’ Rob Loe was called up to New Zealand’s national side for a best-of-three series against Australia next week for the right to go to the Olympics, and College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence — a native Londoner – made the final cut for the national team from Great Britain, meaning he’ll get to play in the Olympics in his hometown. This seems like as good a time as any to remind you that, because of their uniforms, the formidable NZ national rugby team is called the All Blacks. Playing off that, New Zealanders call their basketball team…the Tall Blacks.
  4. College basketball fans have seen the occasional boon resulting from this whole NBA lockout nonsense, and another one just came to fruition. We didn’t get to see a Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker matchup last season, but the two have agreed to participate in a pair of games in Utah featuring two teams comprised of NBA rookies, presumably a bunch of guys trying to understandably stay in playing shape. BYU head coach Dave Rose will lead Fredette’s team, while San Diego State boss Steve Fisher will coach the Walker side. We don’t know who else will be involved, but we wouldn’t mind if Kemba and The Jimmer just ended up playing what would amount to a full-court 1-on-1 game while the others rebounded for them.
  5. The people who run Kelley Farms in Lexington, Kentucky undoubtedly love two things: John Calipari, and — evidently less so — corn. As basketball fans, it would be difficult for them to go all Ray Kinsella and clear out crop space for a court, since that wouldn’t make quite the economic impact as Kevin Costner’s character’s baseball field, and basketballs don’t bounce well on uneven dirt. Instead, they decided on a John Calipari corn maze, open for the public to get lost in on September 23. We’ll be waiting to hear if any ghosts from Kentucky’s glorious past emerge from the stalks. Perhaps farm owner John Kelley heard a voice telling him, “If he comes, you will build it.” Yeah, we know — enough with the Field Of Dreams references.
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