Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

wonweek

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

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Sizing Up Three Potential New Basketball-Centric Members for the ACC

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 13th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

If we’ve learned anything about the recent conference realignment craze, it’s that the two principles governing inter-league swapping – football, television rights deals and the thick crossover between them – have unintended and often detrimental consequences for the parties involved. Case in point: the Big East, unraveled at its foundational core by realignment forces, has seen itself morph from a tightly-knit group of basketball-oriented schools along the northeast corridor with legendary coaches and historic rivalries to a geographically disparate medley of culturally and academically incongruous programs, cobbled together in a last-ditch effort in the hopes of leveraging a lucrative media rights deal this fall. The deterioration has fueled the ACC – much like in the early 2000s, when it poached Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East – into becoming one of Division I college athletics’ premier power brokers, along with the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12. More relevant to this space, the ACC, once all the moving pieces settle into their new league, is poised to field arguably the best compilation of hoops talent we’ve ever seen.

The ACC added a 15th basketball member in Notre Dame, but could No. 16 be on the way in the near future? (Photo credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Commissioner John Swofford added another gem Wednesday in Notre Dame, who plans to join the ACC in all sports except football (the Irish will play five games annually against ACC gridiron competition, but maintain their independence). This addition brings the ACC to 15 teams, an unwieldy number that could have nightmarish scheduling implications. Swofford told ESPN.com that the league has no plans to add a 16th member, citing the disruption of football division equality, among other factors. Since the league isn’t divided into divisions for basketball, there is no immediate impetus to add another team, but it stands to reason that the ACC will eventually look to move to an even number of hoops teams, and what better place to address the problem than the beleaguered, battered, on-life-support (ok, maybe it’s not that bad) Big East? What follows is a brief analysis of a few potential candidates for that 16th spot, should it open up in the coming years, with an eye toward each team’s purported value from a hoops perspective.

*Unless Notre Dame decides to relinquish its football independence, it would seem unlikely that the ACC will take on another fully engaged football member so as to preserve its current seven-team divisional configuration. This analysis, therefore, is limited only to basketball-centric schools without major football programs.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.27.11

Posted by bmulvihill on December 27th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we head into conference season, we will focus on two games that feature four teams that need a quality win to kick off the “second season”.

Jamie Dixon Needs Someone To Step Up Against Notre Dame

Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (***)
  • Without point guard Travon Woodall (currently listed as a game-time decision), Pitt is a two-man team.  Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson have taken 41% of the teams field goal attempts. Luckily, the level of competition the team has faced since the Woodall injury has not been stellar. However, they ran into a tough Wagner team last Friday that gave the Panthers their second home loss to a mid-major team this season. Gibbs is only shooting 38.5% from two-point range and shoots an equal amount of two-point and three-point attempts (just over 100 from each). Robinson is shooting much better from inside the arc, hitting 68.9% of his two-point attempts. To grind out a few more wins prior to Woodall’s return, Jamie Dixon’s team will need to get help from someone other than Gibbs and Robinson. Keep an eye on who steps up against Notre Dame. If a third scorer does not emerge, the pressure on those two may be too much.
  • Notre Dame is in desperate need of a win against a quality opponent. Through 13 games this season, they have zero wins against a school from a major conference. They have lost to Missouri, Georgia, Gonzaga, Maryland, and Indiana. While the Notre Dame offense ranks in the top 50 in efficiency, they have managed to shoot 50% eFG or under in 7 of their 13 games – going 2-5 in those games. Pitt has only allowed three of its opponents to shoot over 50% eFG. In more bad news for Mike Brey’s team, the Panthers are #1 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. Both areas are weak spots for the Irish. Since the Irish may be catching Pitt in one of its last gamess without its point guard, it is a perfect time for them to pick up a quality win at home. However, they will have to play a lot better than they have played all season.
  • Notre Dame must figure out a way to hit more shots and grab more rebounds. Unfortunately, Pitt is stronger in both areas. Keep a close eye on the Panthers’ rebounding numbers and field goal defense. If they win in those areas and get some contribution from another source than Gibbs and Robinson, they will win. The Irish must keep Pitt a two-man show, if they are to have a shot in this one.

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Big East Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 27th, 2011

  1. We ate.  We drank.  We were merry.  We took some TUMS and are back.  Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend.
  2. While we are not necessarily looking at marquee matchups, Big East conference play kicks off tonight and that is a good thing!  There are two games on the docket this evening to get things started and despite a lack of glitter, there is intrigue.  #22 Pittsburgh (11-2) heads to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame (8-5).  The Tim Abromaitis-less Irish would love a signature victory to get things rolling but this one may end up occurring game late as the Panthers will not be in letdown mode after getting beaten by Wagner at home last Friday.   The other contest features two squads looking to answer questions as St. John’s (6-5) hosts Providence (11-2).  The Red Storm have battled on and off the court from the sudden departure of guard Nurideen Lindsey to head coach Steve Lavin’s recovery from prostate cancer.  They are a young team and hope the second semester addition of talented freshman Amir Garrett gives them a boost in conference play.  The Friars are feeling good at 11-2 under first-year head coach Ed Cooley, but know the competition is going to increase dramatically as league action begins. Although Cooley was not around Providence the last couple of years, it is a virtual certainty he will be reminding his crew of their back-to-back four win Big East campaigns often as this year progresses. The new tag for Friar point guard Vincent Council is “underrated.”  Maybe if enough people call him underrated he will get sufficient attention so as to not be any longer.  There is no predicting the result of this game, but one thing you can bet on is that the Red Storm will not be sleeping on ‘VC’, and that the growing chip on Council’s shoulder does not bode well for opposing defenders.
  3. As noted above, Big East play begins tonight but this week also brings some notable non-conference matchups involving Big East teams.  #10 Florida heads north to battle Rutgers at the RAC in a game that features a couple of notable Big East connections.  Florida’s Mike Rosario is a 1,000 point scorer… at Rutgers.  Rosario transferred to the Gators and it was certainly understandable he would be looking forward to facing his old team, but it appears he will not be able to play due to a nagging back injury.  Florida head coach Billy Donovan has tremendous Big East memories as he led Providence to the 1987 Final Four while playing for Rick Pitino.  Cincinnati, who has taken out their aggression on soft assortment of cream pies since brawling with cross-town rival Xavier a couple of weeks ago, will face a test when they host Oklahoma.   Marquette faces an SEC rubber match when they host Vanderbilt on Friday.  The Golden Eagles beat Mississippi in the Big East – SEC challenge in November and then lost to Louisiana State last week.  Finally, in the main event, #4 Louisville will travel to Lexington to take on bitter in-state rival and #3 ranked Kentucky on Saturday.  Both teams play on Wednesday but while Kentucky fattens up against Lamar, Louisville will have to stay focused against #12 Georgetown.
  4. The Big East is back with its weekly honors and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones has earned last week’s Player of the Week award.  Jones, who now leads the Big East in scoring (21.0 PPG) and rebounding (11.9 RPG), put up beastly numbers (23.0 PPG, 14.7 RPG) in a 2-1 week for the Mountaineers including a career-high 28 points to go with 17 boards in a loss to Baylor.  Once again, Connecticut’s Andre Drummond is the Big East Rookie of the Week.  Drummond had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in UConn’s lone game, a 79-71 victory over in-state foe Fairfield.  This is Drummond’s second consecutive Rookie of the Week honor, and third for the season.  Weekly Honor Roll recipients: Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley on the merits of his 19-point, eight-rebound performance in a drubbing of Sacred Heart; Providence guard Vincent Council who averaged 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in Friar victories over New Hampshire and in-state rival Rhode Island; Louisville forward Kyle Kuric who averaged 16.0 points and five assists in two wins, including 17 points and eight rebounds in the Cardinals’ seven-point win over the College of Charleston; Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier who netted 24 points to go with five assists and six rebounds in the Fairfield win and Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore who averaged 20.0 points and seven assists in a 2-0 week for the Pirates, including a season-high 26 points versus Longwood. In related news, Seton Hall’s Herb Pope was not among the honorees for the first time this season.
  5. The polls are out this week and as expected Marquette and Pittsburgh slipped in the rankings due to losses suffered last week.  Marquette (11-1) dropped four spots to #14 as it lost for the first time this year, a 67-59 defeat on the road against Louisiana State.  Pittsburgh (11-2) plummeted from #15 to #22 on the heels of its 59-54 upset loss at home to Wagner.  Syracuse (13-0) kept it rolling and remained the nation’s top team.  Georgetown (10-1) showed some upward mobility as it beat Memphis for the second time this year and leaped four spots to #12.  Louisville (12-0) is still undefeated and #4 as it gets ready for the previously mentioned home showdown against Georgetown on Wednesday.  It should also be noted that the Cardinals garnered two first place votes this week. Connecticut (10-1) held off a second half surge from Fairfield that the pollsters apparently did not like as the Huskies slipped a notch to #9.
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