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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Checking In On… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences, and a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take


A Look Back

After a 39-10 start to the season, highlighted by UNLV’s 7-0 start and win over the nation’s then #1 team, North Carolina, the Mountain West was getting some love around the country. As a result, this week’s 10-4 record, with all four losses coming as a part of the MW/MVC Challenge, including a 19-point loss for those same Runnin’ Rebels to Wichita State, had to seem as something of a step back for the conference. The MW/MVC Challenge technically ended in a 4-4 tie (I say technically, because Boise State’s 44-point thrashing of Drake on Wednesday night was not included as a part of the challenge) after the Mountain West had won eight of the nine games in last year’s inter-conference battle. Aside from the UNLV game, San Diego State also took a tough loss on Wednesday night, blowing a 17-point first half lead in a loss to Creighton, although the Aztecs did bounce back with a hard-fought win over Cal on Sunday.

Team of the Week

Larry Shyatt Has Wyoming Pointing Forward (Star-Tribune, Tim Kupsick)

Wyoming – Larry Shyatt’s Cowboys aren’t the best team in the Mountain West. They may not even be in the top half of the conference. And certainly their 8-1 record is built entirely on wins from the bottom half of Division I. But given that we’re talking about a team that was an absolute mess last season, a team that lost to South Dakota and UC Irvine, North Florida, and Northern Colorado, this 8-1 record (and a six-game winning streak for the first time in nine seasons) truly shows serious progress. Last year the Cowboys were a turnover waiting to happen, giving away the ball on 21% of their possessions, good for #236 in the nation. Thus far this year, led by point guard JayDee Luster who has turned the ball over just five times against 37 assists, the Cowboys are #35 in the nation in turnover percentage, giving it away on 17% of their possessions. Last year the Cowboys allowed their opponents to shoot an 52.9% eFG from the field; this year that number is just 40%.  Last year, Wyoming allowed its opponents to grab 33.7% of their offensive rebound opportunities; this year that number is down to just 28%. In short, under Shyatt the Cowboys have made significant progress in a short time, and while those numbers will almost certainly worsen once they get into conference play and compete against better athletes, this program is certainly on the right track.

Player of the Week

Hank Thorns, Sr, TCU – In lieu of giving credit to the entire Horned Frog team for their 2-0 week and 6-2 start to the season, we’ll give the nod to Thorns over a host of worthy contenders across the conference (apologies to Mike Moser, Chase Tapley, Drew Wiley and Wes Eikmeier). Thorns has led his Horned Frogs in assists in each of their eight games this season, and Saturday at Evansville he absolutely refused to let his team go home a loser. Thorns hit a three with 20 seconds left in regulation to tie the game up and send it to overtime, then hit the game-tying and game-winning baskets – the last with just two seconds remaining – to give TCU the win.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #22 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 13th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#22 – Where DJ Game Winner Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #26 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#26 – Where Don’t Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Analyzing the Major Conference Awards

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2011

Amidst all the hullabaloo about conference tournament action this week, it might have been easy to overlook the major conference awards that were handed out earlier this week.  We thought it would be a good idea to get them all in one place and see if anything weird happened.  We’ll first list the teams from each of the BCS conferences plus the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West, and then add some quick thoughts after each one.

ACC All-Conference Team

  • Nolan Smith- Guard- Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney- Guard- Virginia Tech
  • Reggie Jackson- Guard- Boston College
  • Kyle Singler- Forward- Duke
  • Jordan Williams- Forward- Maryland

Player of the Year- Nolan Smith- Guard- Duke

Coach of the Year- Roy Williams- North Carolina

Freshman of the Year- Harrison Barnes- Forward- North Carolina

Quick Thoughts. We have no issues with these selections. It is interesting that North Carolina won the regular season title and had zero guys on the first team, although, the Heels put Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson on the conference’s second team, and Kendall Marshall on the third team (even though he didn’t start half the season).  And as much as Barnes was criticized this year for not living up to oversized expectations, he still managed to win ACC FrOY and make the second team.

Big East All-Conference Team

  • Ben Hansbrough- Guard- Notre Dame
  • Kemba Walker- Guard- Connecticut
  • Dwight Hardy- Guard- St. John’s
  • Marshon Brooks- Guard- Providence
  • Ashton Gibbs- Guard- Pittsburgh
  • Austin Freeman- Guard- Georgetown

Player of the Year- Ben Hansbrough – Guard- Notre Dame

Coach of the Year- Mike Brey- Notre Dame

Freshman of the Year- Cleveland Melvin- Forward- DePaul

Quick Thoughts.  An argument could be made that Kemba Walker should have been player of the year, but Hansbrough was the best player on a team that finished second in the conference; Connecticut finished ninth (notwithstanding his play this week thus far). An argument can also be made that Syracuse big man Rick Jackson deserved a spot on the first team, as he was an inside scoring and rebounding stalwart for the third place Orange. While Brey was probably the strongest candidate for coach of the year, it would have been reasonable to consider Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and St. John’s Steve Lavin.

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RTC Top 25: Week 9

Posted by rtmsf on January 10th, 2011

With all the ranked teams losing over the weekend, there was quite a bit of movement after the top six teams in this week’s poll.  QnD analysis after the jump…

(ed. note: we revised the original Top 25 after a data entry error surfaced)

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RTC Top 25: Week 4

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2010

Not a lot of movement at the top of the polls this week as we move into the part of the schedule where schools generally lighten their loads around exams.  This poll will likely look very much the same through the holiday season.  Quick n’ dirty analysis after the jump…

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Morning Five: 06.30.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 29th, 2010

  1. This is around the time of the year when the felonies start.  We guess that players get out of school, start feeling the summer heat and lose their minds.  Or something.  UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis, a first team all-MWC junior guard last season, was arrested Tuesday on felony charges of domestic battery by strangulation and grand larceny.  The person Willis allegedly strangled was his 28-year old girlfriend, which begs the question whether Willis may have been watching old Chapelle episodes before the incident.  There’s been no comment from UNLV head coach Lon Kruger yet, but obviously Willis is a big part of what he is expecting to put on the floor next season.  It’ll be interesting to see how he handles this one.
  2. We figure that you’ve been on pins and needles all summer waiting for this decision, but the WAC announced yesterday that it will not expand in 2011.  What does this mean?  Well, with the loss of Boise State to the MWC after the 2010-11 season, the WAC will operate as an eight-team league for at least one year.  How quaint — an eight-team league.
  3. What, no Craigslist?  This AP report examines the secondary market for tickets to NCAA events in light of the recent Kansas scandal.  Although we didn’t know that the NCAA had embraced Razorgator as its online ticket broker, it’s nice to see folks waking up as to how many people acquire ducats to these events.
  4. So how much will Colorado have to pay for the privilege of leaving the Big 12 and moving to the Pac-10?  Probably about $10M more than they expected (had the Big 12 dissolved, as they undoubtedly thought would happen).
  5. Coach K will talk one-on-one with Alabama football head coach Nick Saban on Wednesday night on Sirius XM radio, and we’re half tempted to listen to it just to see if the irresistible force/immovable object thing is really true.  Well, that and to see if the Russian spies show up.
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Realignment Rumors: On Today’s Pac-10/Big 12 Rumblings

Posted by jstevrtc on June 3rd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

That sound you just heard may have been the proverbial first domino creaking a little. Today, columnist Chip Brown reported that, in advance of the Pac-10 meetings which begin this weekend in San Francisco, the Pac-10 is set to invite six Big 12 schools to join in the creation of the first superconference of the new era of college sports. Brown reports that Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech will be the schools invited, leaving Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Nebraska behind. All this comes on the heels of the Big 12 meetings, wrapping up on Friday, which opened with a plea by commissioner Dan Beebe for a united front among member institutions and a commitment to the conference. Obviously, this rumor has huge ramifications for the Big 12 and the Pac-10, but the ripple effect of such a move would be felt across the college sports landscape. We’ll take a look here at the specifics of this rumor and how this rumor could affect other conferences around the country.

Why is this man smiling? Beebe has his work cut out for him. (AP/Mike Fuentes)

The Pac-16. Or Big 16. Or the Great New Superconference

According to the Brown article, which cites multiple unnamed sources, the new conference would be divided into two eight-team divisions with the six Big 12 schools joining Arizona and Arizona State in an Eastern or Inland Division and Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State forming the Western or Coastal Division. Then, with the aid of Fox Sports Net, already an operating partner with the Big Ten Network and television partner with both the Pac-10 and Big 12 conferences, the league would create its own cable network akin to the BTN. Perhaps coupled with new television contracts with ABC/ESPN, Fox, CBS, Turner or any other bidders, the projected revenues of the new conference (which would encompass seven of the top 20 television markets in the country) could rival those of the SEC or even the Big Ten.

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Big East: We Won’t Sit Idly By and Wait For the Big Ten Pillagers

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences and an occasional contributor.

There was plenty of news that came out of this week’s Big East spring meetings: elimination of the double-bye in the Big East basketball tournament and the approved use of high-definition monitors for football replays (consider me amazed that this wasn’t the norm already), but there was also the underlying issue of the looming Big Ten expansion and how that will affect the Big East.

The most interesting line of the week came from rookie Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who said he is playing the Bud Fox to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s Gordon Gekko (two characters from the 1987 movie Wall Street). “I feel like I’m Bud Fox and he’s Gordon Gekko,” Marinatto said. “He’s always honest and helpful with me. He’s brilliant and creative — just like Gordon Gekko — he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape.” While the quote comes across as mostly complimentary towards Delany, it also underlines the fact that this is a high-stakes business situation, and begs the question as to whether greed is indeed good for the NCAA and its conferences.

Greed is Good?

But, despite Marinatto’s respect for his sparring partner here, he also made it clear that with all that is at stake for the Big East, they are not just sitting idly by and waiting to see what the Big Ten is going to do.  When the Big East lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004 and 2005, the Big East was able to respond by adding all-sport schools Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and basketball-only schools DePaul and Marquette to create a new and improved version of the conference, one that morphed into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. But with the Big Ten rumored to be interested in current Big East schools like Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse (amongst others), once again they are on the defensive. “I look at this situation as another threat certainly,” Marinatto said. “It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We’re trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can’t do that in a public forum.”

Fortunately, we, and others, can do that in a public forum. The New York Post has reported that representatives from the Big East have already had discussions with Atlantic 10 schools like Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s and Xavier about possibly joining up in the event of the Big East losing teams to the Big Ten. There has been speculation elsewhere about schools like Buffalo, Central Florida and East Carolina as all-sport replacements in case of the potential loss of, for instance, Pitt and Syracuse. And there is even continued talk about the Big East laying down an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join us in football or leave us in the rest of your sports. The thinking here is that even if Notre Dame decides to leave and is left without a home for its non-football sports, it would be more apt to join up with the Big Ten, perhaps saving schools like Syracuse and Pitt from its elongated reach.

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