The Mid-Major Disadvantage: The Power of the Power Conferences

Posted by Shane McNichol on February 25th, 2016

For the first time in recent memory, Gonzaga is in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament. Throughout a season in which the Zags began in the top 10, they have experienced a variety of miscues (home losses) and misfortunes (Przemek Karnowski’s injury) that have resulted in a spot squarely on the bubble. Their ups and downs this year will lead the upcoming HBO documentary following Mark Few’s team around this month to look less like Ballers and more like Game of Thrones (For those without a friend’s HBO Go password, find some new friends.)

Kyle Wiltjer's Team Has Not Had the Season It Expected. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kyle Wiltjer’s Team Has Not Had the Season It Expected. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

In eight games against the KenPom top 60, Gonzaga has gone 1-7 with four of those losses coming at The Kennel. Conversely, the Bulldogs are a perfect 20-0 in the rest of their games. In determining their status on the bubble, the Zags are in a difficult spot because of a combination of zero signature wins without any corresponding bad losses. Gonzaga’s national brand name makes it unique in how it can schedule, but most other mid-major programs don’t get the chance to notch resume-building wins nearly as often as their power conference peers. Michigan, one of the Zags’ primary competitors on the bubble, will play 13 games against the top 60 this season, including six opportunities at home (five games against Big Ten teams). A different mid-major on the bubble cannot use multiple opportunities late in the season to enhance its resume — it can only avoid bad losses.

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Evansville’s Mockevicius Rebounding At Historic Pace

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 22nd, 2016

The most humble college basketball player in the country might be a Lithuanian based in southern Indiana. Egidijus Mockevicius has grabbed 20 rebounds in back-to-back games, including a 23 point, 20 rebound effort on Tuesday night against Loyola Chicago. How was he able to do this? Luck, he says. “The ball was just bouncing into my hands. It’s just the luck,” the senior big man told CBSSports Network after the game. The numbers would disagree. Mockevicius is grabbing defensive rebounds at a historic pace, currently leading the country with a 40.2 defensive rebounding percentage. This type of production is simply never seen, anywhere. This ferociousness on the defensive backboards is a big part of the reason why he won the Lou Henson Award, which is given the top mid-season mid-major player.

Edgidijus Mockevicius has been a monster on the defensive glass this season (Wichita Eagle, AP).

Edgidijus Mockevicius has been a monster on the defensive glass this season (Wichita Eagle, AP).

The table below shows the top individual defensive rebounding percentage of each of the past eight seasons. The only players that come even close to Mockevicius’ current production are Kenneth Faried in 2009-10 and John Bryant in 2008-09. Faried has been the gold standard in recent college basketball rebounding lore, but Mockevicius is exceeding even his numbers midway through this season. There’s still a long ways to go, but there’s little reason to think the senior can’t keep rebounding at this pace. His production hasn’t slipped against better competition, as he grabbed nine rebounds against Providence, 12 against Arkansas, 13 against Fresno State and 16 against Wichita State. “The thing that makes Big E so good is he’s so smart. Obviously he’s great on the boards,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller told The Pantagraph last week. “He keeps constant pressure on you at the rim at both ends.”

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Shock Therapy: Finding a Cure to Wichita State’s Ills

Posted by Chris Stone on December 23rd, 2015

It’s been a rough first month of the season for Wichita State, as the preseason top-10 Shockers have struggled mightily in non-conference play. After ankle and hamstring injuries to point guard Fred VanVleet and five losses in their first 11 games, the Shockers aren’t even receiving any votes. VanVleet was absent for three of those defeats and Gregg Marshall‘s group managed to pick up two nice non-conference wins over UNLV and Utah once he returned, but their loss on the road to Seton Hall last weekend raised continued concerns about the Shockers’ postseason hopes. Wichita State has just one game to go before Missouri Valley play begins, so Marshall will need to right the ship quickly if his team wants to make its fifth straight NCAA Tournament. The solution, though, begins with identifying the problem. So, what’s the matter in Wichita?

Fred VanVleet will stay smiling as long as he stays healthy. (Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

Fred VanVleet will stay smiling as long as he stays healthy. (Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

The obvious place to start is with the injuries to VanVleet, the Shockers’ on-floor captain of the ship. It’s easy to attribute three of the team’s losses to those injuries given that VanVleet didn’t play in those games, but Wichita State also lost twice this season with him in the lineup. Dating back to October, the senior has been dealing with injuries that have affected his ankle and hamstring. The result has been a clear lack of explosiveness that has contributed to a nearly 20 percent drop in his shooting percentage at the rim. According to hoop-math, VanVleet has converted on just 34.5 percent of his layups this season. Time to heal, though, appears to be the optimal solution. VanVleet scored 13 points in the Shockers’ dominant win over Nevada on Tuesday by forcing the issue and getting to the foul line 12 times. “That’s the most burst I’ve shown in a while,” he said afterward. His head coach agreed: “That’s the best he’s looked to me,” Marshall said. VanVleet hinted that his recovery is still a work in process, but it’s one that appears to finally be showing some improvement on the court.

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O26 Never-Too-Early Top Five (and More)

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on April 15th, 2015

Don’t look now, but college basketball season is only seven months away! Okay, so that may seem a bit far off, but it’s never too early to gin up a little excitement for the sport we love. Let’s examine a few O26 teams that are sure to make some noise in 2015-16.

Top Five

Wichita State will be right back at it in 2015-16. (Photo : Getty Images Sport)

Wichita State will be right back at it in 2015-16. (Getty Images Sport)

  1. Wichita State. Fred VanVleet is back. Ron Baker is back. As is Gregg Marshall, much wealthier after a sizable pay raise. With one of the country’s top backcourts and most sought-after coaches rejoining the fold, it almost goes without saying that Wichita State – on the heels of three-straight program-defining seasons – should be very good again next season. Of course, the Shockers will have to adjust to life without guard Tekele Cotton (9.8 PPG) and big man Darius Carter (11.4 PPG), but the late-season development of Evan Wessel (12 points against Kansas in the NCAA Tournament) along with forward Shaq Morris (4.7 PPG) should help mitigate those departures. So too should the addition of Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp and a solid recruiting class. Expect another year of big things from Wichita State next season.
  2. Gonzaga. Gone are WCC Player of the Year Kevin Pangos, guard Gary Bell Jr. and wing Byron Wesley (10.6 PPG). Still, barring an early leap to the NBA, Kyle Wiltjer (16.7 PPG), Domantas Sabonis (9.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and center Przemek Karnowski (10.9 PPG) are each returning for what should be one of the top frontcourts in America. Sophomores Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, both former prized recruits, bring plenty of talent (if youth) to the backcourt, where senior Kyle Dranginis will likely help both guys blossom. Throw in very good depth – like 6’8” Angel Nunez, who was granted another year of eligibility – and you quickly see why the Bulldogs could be top-15-worthy next season. Oh, and did I mention that the Zags are in contention for Drexel transfer Damion Lee (21.4 PPG), the nation’s fifth-leading scorer? Read the rest of this entry »
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Bracket Prep: Coastal Carolina, Northern Iowa & North Florida

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 9th, 2015

As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners:

Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina is going dancing for the second-straight season. (Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports)

Coastal Carolina is going dancing for the second-straight season. (Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Big South Champion (22-10, 11-5)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #144/#147/#151
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +2.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16

Strength: Coastal does not have great size but it does have an excellent guard quartet which accounts for two-thirds of the team’s scoring. Josh Cameron, Warren Gillis, Elijah Wilson and Shivaughn Wiggins – a Mount St. Mary’s transfer – each averages between 10.3 and 12.9 points per game and is a capable outside shooter. Their quickness and dribble-penetration abilities create kickouts and plenty of free throw opportunities, where the Chanticleers shoot a healthy 70.3 percent on the season. Despite ranking 301st nationally in effective height, the Big South champs are also a top-50 offensive and defensive rebounding team.

Weakness: Though the Chanticleers are fairly well-balanced and don’t have many glaring weaknesses, the vast majority of their losses came against opponents with an average possession length of 18 seconds of fewer – teams that like to get the ball and go. Squads that are able to get up the court before Coastal can set up its half-court defense – which often features numerous zone looks – seem to have the most success against Cliff Ellis’ bunch. The Chanticleers also ranked dead last in the conference (and 292nd nationally) in turnover percentage, which is only a bad thing as far as transition defense goes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wichita State’s Pursuit of Perfection Continues Friday in Arch Madness

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 6th, 2014

The Wichita State Shockers are looking to make some more history. After finishing the regular season undefeated at 31-0, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat since Saint Joseph’s in 2004, the Shockers look to become the first team to enter the NCAA Tournament unbeaten since UNLV pulled off the trick in 1991. Will Wichita State succeed in its pursuit of perfection? Based on its dominance of Missouri Valley Conference foes this season, you’d have to think the odds are in the Shockers’ favor to run through Arch Madness. Only three league opponents stayed within single figures of Wichita State this season, and just one — Missouri State — played them within six points. That 72-69 overtime win came on January 11 after the Shockers had rallied from 19 points down with 11:48 left in the game. Otherwise it’s been mostly an exercise in cruise control for Gregg Marshall’s team. Those numbers don’t really inspire much confidence for a shocking winner this weekend. In fact, Ken Pomeroy gives Wichita State a 78 percent chance to earn the league’s automatic bid.

Fred Van Vleet and the Wichita State Shockers look to remain unbeaten through the MVC Tournament.

Fred Van Vleet and the Wichita State Shockers look to remain unbeaten through the MVC Tournament.

Let’s take a look at the Shockers’ likely path in the MVC Tournament. First up will be the winner of the #8/#9 game between Drake and Evansville, which tips off this evening. In the four games Wichita State played against the two opponents this season, the Shockers won by an average of 19 points with the closest an 81-67 victory against the Aces on February 1. There’s virtually no way that Wichita State drops its quarterfinal game, as KenPom gives the Shockers a 95.2 percent chance of advancing to the semifinals on Saturday. That’s where Wichita State would meet either Missouri State or Illinois State, depending on Friday’s result between the two. Sure, the former gave the Shockers quite a scare two months ago before capitulating in overtime, but Wichita State rolled through the Bears in the return game last Saturday, winning by 23 points in the regular season clincher. The Shockers beat Illinois State by an average of 17 points in their two meetings this season as well. KenPom gives Wichita State an 87.4 percent chance to advance to the title game here.

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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

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

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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The RTC Podblast: Episode 13.5

Posted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2013

Welcome to this week’s RTC Podblast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114). It was a week of big rivalry games from Michigan-Michigan State to Duke-North Carolina to Kentucky-Florida and UConn-Syracuse. We hit on a few of these during this week’s podblast, while also finding some time to discuss the MVC and Creighton and looking ahead to what can only be described as a fairly miserable lineup of games over the weekend. Oh well, there’s always next week… this week’s outline is below.

  • 0:00-7:45 – Sparty Establishes Itself as the State’s Best Team
  • 7:45-10:20 – Syracuse Drops Last Big East Game vs UConn
  • 10:20-12:45 – Creighton Struggling in MVC Play
  • 12:45-15:44 – Thoughts on Randy’s NorCal Night (UCLA-Cal/Gonzaga-St. Mary’s)
  • 15:44-18:55 – There Should Be More Games to Preview This Weekend
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Night Line: Clarity Proves Ever Elusive in Wacky Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by BHayes on February 13th, 2013


Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Back in January, there was a time where we thought we actually knew what was going on in the Missouri Valley Conference. We were confident that Creighton was a top-10 team and that Wichita State was nearly as good as the Shockers of a year ago. Surely Illinois State had been exposed as a fraud, a once trendy sleeper pick to win the league before losing their first six conference games. And our early January convictions on Missouri State? Entering conference play without a D-I win, the Bears looked like one of the worst teams in the country, much less the Valley.

Jake Odum And Company Took A Loss Tuesday Night They Really Could Not Afford

Jake Odum And Company Took A Loss Tuesday Night That They Really Could Not Afford

Well, at least Evansville and Northern Iowa have avoided confusing us too much over the past month. The constantly evolving complexion of the conference took on yet another look Tuesday night, as Indiana State suffered a costly 67-65 loss at the hands of Missouri State. The Sycamores had been one of the league’s positive stories of late, as a recent surge had them entering Springfield as MVC co-leaders. If you are looking for narratives from the other side of the ledger, look no further than those of ISU’s fellow top-of-the-Valley dwellers, Creighton and Wichita State. The Bluejays have toiled through multiple losing streaks in the past month, and in what should be a daunting task, will take the floor at the McLeod Center tomorrow night seeking to avoid stretching their current losing streak to three. Wichita State can tell the Jays all about three-game losing streaks, as a mind-numbing loss to Southern Illinois highlighted the Shockers’ recent skid. Wichita and Creighton are still far closer to being in the field of 68 than out, but if current trajectories hold, it won’t be long before these losses become as crippling as Indiana State’s was tonight.

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Who Won the Week? Hurricanes, Orange, and Not Doug McD…

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2013

wonweekWho Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Miami (FL)

Miami Fans RTC'd the Blue Devils After Last Night's Destruction (credit: WaPo)

Miami Fans RTC’d the Blue Devils Wednesday Night (credit: WaPo)

Jim Larranaga’s Hurricanes, by extension the subject of an NCAA inquiry regarding the alleged payment of former player DeQuan Jones, had one of the best weeks on and off the court of any school this season. First, the NCAA botched its investigation so much that it has to investigate its own investigators, according to CBS Sports. Then the ‘Canes went off and destroyed No. 1 Duke by the score of 90-63 on Wednesday, putting the third-worst beating ever onto an AP top-ranked team. Wednesday’s game also marked the return of gargantuan center Reggie Johnson (listed at 6’10”, 292 lbs.), who scored two points and grabbed five rebounds in his first game back from a broken thumb that was supposed to leave him out for up to another month. Miami now has a two-game lead on the rest of the ACC, although a return trip to Duke does remain. You know you had a good week when knocking off the top team in the country isn’t even the best thing that happened to you.

(Related winners: Miami guards Shane Larkin and Durand Scott, who combined to shoot 17-of-28 from the field on their way to 37 total points. Related losers: Duke guards Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton, who combined to go 1-of-29 from the field on their way to six total points; the NCAA – see below.)


This was all set to be Frank Haith’s spot, as his Missouri team got shellacked by Florida 83-52 on Saturday, barely escaped at home Tuesday against South Carolina, and then news broke that Haith could face unethical conduct charges from the NCAA relating to the aforementioned DeQuan Jones issue. But instead, the NCAA now must review its own investigators’ conduct, particularly related to the release of Haith’s supposed looming punishments. So Haith is safe for now, and all of a sudden NCAA President Mark Emmert has another public relations maelstrom on his hands. Bummer.

(Related winners: Florida, because it still shellacked Mizzou. Related losers: Ethics.)

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