You’re Not Mistaken: Conference Races Are Tighter This Season

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on February 19th, 2016

We are quickly approaching March and that means the regular season is almost over. Usually by this point in the season there are a few teams running away with the crowns in the power conferences, but it hasn’t quite gone that way this year. Analysts have described the level of parity this year in college basketball as unprecedented, but we decided to look into it ourselves. Exactly how close are the conference races this season as opposed to in previous years? Here’s a look at the last six years of the power conference races three weeks from the end of the regular season.

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A quick glance at each league reveals that the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and especially the SEC are having some of the most contested conference races in recent memory. Interestingly, for every conference other than the Big East, the current first place team (e.g., Kansas at 10-3 in the Big 12) has as many or more losses than any first place team the past five years has had on this date. That also means that second and third place teams across the board have a better chance of winning their leagues than they usually would.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Florida, Illinois, Surprising Conference Leaders, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 22nd, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Saturday night’s epic Gonzaga vs. Butler game was everything college basketball is about and then some. The game had all the trappings: two great basketball teams, a national TV audience, a historic venue, two terrific (and classy) coaches, an electric atmosphere, 40 minutes of competitive action, and an indescribable finish to the game. This was college basketball in its purest form. Everything you could ask for in a game. The kind of game you would show someone who has never watched college basketball before. It was the game of the year to date, one that will be nearly impossible to top in the regular season (we know what the Tournament can do). This was a high-level game between two teams that have the potential to make deep runs in March and the top two “mid-major” programs of the last decade. Roosevelt Jones’ game-winner will be the lasting memory from this game but I hope people remember just how well it was played on both ends. In the final minute and a half, I don’t think either team missed a shot in those final 90 seconds and the only mistake was Alex Barlow’s turnover which, ironically, set up the memorable ending. Dick Vitale said it was one of the top five games he has seen since he started working for ESPN 34 years ago. I wouldn’t doubt it. The game was that good.

    Butler's contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

    Butler’s contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

  2. An important result from last week in the Big Ten was Wisconsin taking down Indiana on Tuesday night in Bloomington. That’s now 11 straight Badgers’ victories over the Hoosiers and it’s safe to say Bo Ryan owns Tom Crean. Even when Crean was at Marquette, he only won three games against Ryan’s Badgers in their annual intra-state rivalry making him 3-13 against Ryan in his career. “Tommy Basketball,” as Ryan once called him, didn’t have an answer for Wisconsin last week. The Badgers controlled the pace of the game from the opening tip and got physical with the more athletic and talented Hoosiers. Once again, Ryan overcame a talent disadvantage on the road to score a huge victory. He’s one of the best pure basketball coaches in the nation and it shows year after year no matter who is on his roster. Wisconsin let Cody Zeller do his thing in the first half but the Badgers really clamped down on him after halftime. A big key to the win was limiting Jordan Hulls. With Ben Brust glued to him most of the game, Hulls could only manage one three-point attempt. That’s outstanding defense and a great game plan against one of the best shooters in the country. Wisconsin limited everyone not named Zeller to 28.2% shooting, a remarkable accomplishment against one of the best offensive teams in the nation. It was a great win for the Badgers but, unfortunately for them, they followed it up with a road loss to Iowa on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is getting better. Never count out Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Which Non-Conference Trends Are Here To Stay?

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013

Conference play is underway, and it’s time to take what we’ve learned from a couple months of uneven schedules and evolving lineups and try to project that forward to a couple grueling months of the conference meat grinder. To wit:

“What trends that we’ve seen developing in the non-conference do you see continuing or changing as we head into the final 18?”

Connor Pelton: Going into the season, if I had told you Oregon would be 11-2 going into Pac-12 play, most would have said E.J. Singler would either be leading the team in scoring or a close second behind Arsalan Kazemi. Instead, Singler has fallen into a role as more of a distributor, now passing up shots he had to take last year. With options like Tony Woods and Carlos Emory in the post, and capable scorers Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis on the perimeter, I see no reason why the Ducks wouldn’t be able to keep up their success sustained thus far. This is a much more balanced team than in years past, so much so that Singler has been able to sit out nearly four more minutes a game than in 2011-12. With all of this said, the senior has to be able to hit big shots when needed. In Oregon’s triple-overtime loss at UTEP last month, Singler was a complete non-factor in the three extra periods. Not only that, he only hit one shot all game long. If the freshmen up top are freezing in big games late in the year, it’ll be Singler who gets the call. I think he answers it, giving the Ducks a great shot at reaching their first NCAA Tournament in five years.

Oregon Has Had Success So Far, But Needs Singler To Contribute More

Oregon Has Had Success So Far, But Needs Singler To Contribute More

Adam Butler: I foresee the improvement of Stanford’s Dwight Powell to continue. Here’s a guy who’s long had the physical tools to be good and in the preseason (both this and last year), we discussed just how good he could be. A season ago he played through injury and, frankly, awkwardness; a hint of a baby giraffe out there. This year he’s begun to assert himself, catapulting his usage numbers into the realm of team leader. He’s put up some insanely impressive games and those have been the one’s he’s sought to be the man. And that’s the trend I expect to see continue. When he’s on, he makes Randle and Bright better. Consistency will be the name of the game for this Canadian and I really think that the routine of a Pac-12 season (Thursday, Saturday, Thursday, Saturday…) can really help these guys get into comfort zones the non-conference slate doesn’t always afford. For Powell, 10 to 15 shots per game will be his sweet spot. It’d also be sweet if he didn’t foul people. He has a tendency to do such. Powell is still improving, which is a scary thought considering he went for 23/8 against CJ Leslie and N.C. State. One other thing I expect to continue is Shabazz Muhammad playing well. And that’s horrifying if you’re not wearing powder blue.

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What Parity?

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2008

Is it just us, or has college hoops halfway through the season been almost completely devoid of big upsets so far this year? Last night’s UNC-Clemson game was exciting on many levels, but it failed to deliver in the one key area that makes the college hoops regular season so great – the big upset (leading to a home team RTC, of course).


On the Horizon – More of This?

In the aftermath of the wild and wacky college football season that saw several teams out of the national title hunt/back into the picture/out/then in again, as well as some eye-opening early college basketball losses (ahem, Gardner-Webb, Mercer), pundits wondered aloud whether we were in store for another zany hoops season where a new #1 team would last about as long as it takes to hang the banner (sup, Carolina fans).

This may all become completely irrelevant as conference play begins in earnest, but this is one of the quietest pre-conferences we’ve seen in many years. It turns out that the Kentucky loss to Gardner-Diego wasn’t that much of an upset as anyone with a starting five can beat UK this year, and the few other eyebrow-arching intra-top 25 losses (e.g., Texas over UCLA and Tennessee) aren’t what we’re talking about. Don’t agree?

  • Consider that we’re two months into the season and the AP top 10 consists of nine of the same teams as the preseason poll (Louisville has been replaced by Duke).
  • Consider that those preseason top ten teams are a combined 127-9 and four of those nine losses are accounted by Rick Pitino’s injury-prone Louisville squad.
  • Of the five other losses, two of them came against other preseason top tenners (Georgetown against Memphis; Michigan St. against UCLA), and two of them were against Texas (#15 preseason). The other top ten loss was Indiana against Xavier.

So this means one of two things. Either we can expect an oligarchy of about 6-8 power teams this year running roughshod through their respective conferences; or, none of this analysis means a damn thing and we’ll have a brand new top 10 in a couple short weeks of conference play. Let’s lace em up and find out.

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