In Hoops We Trust: On Early Returns…

Posted by Joshua Lars Weill on November 30th, 2016

So, we’re three weeks in now, and while a majority of games have pitted teams expecting to win against teams expecting a paycheck, the holidays brought us some great major-on-major (and strong mid-major) action courtesy of a number of neutral site “tournaments.” North Carolina won Maui; Baylor won Atlantis; Gonzaga won the AdvoCare Invitational (okay); and Valparaiso won whatever the hell the “Men Who Speak Up Heavyweight Bracket” is. Geez, these things are getting worse than FBS Bowl Games (See also: the Poulan Weedeater Bowl). There have been a few surprises along the way. Butler, Baylor, and South Carolina are all undefeated with some good resume wins. Xavier and Creighton are lingering around and have the talent to stay there. Michigan State looks way down early after losing most of its experienced players to graduation. Indiana laid an absolute stinker on Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (say that five times real fast)’s home court.

Another year, another season where Butler fans have a lot to cheer about. (Credit: Kyle LaFerriere)

Another year, another season where Butler fans have a lot to cheer about. (Credit: Kyle LaFerriere)

Meanwhile, some of the usual suspects sit atop the rankings. Kentucky is demoralizing lesser opponents, relying on arguably the best three-guard backcourt in the country. Defending champ Villanova is rolling thanks to an All-American start from Josh Hart. North Carolina has a lot of offensive weapons with five players averaging double figures. Duke is banged up but clearly has the goods. Kansas is relying heavily on its experienced backcourt and will need its other players to step up as the season moves along. No one can score against Virginia. And Gonzaga and St. Mary’s—both undefeated to date—look to be on a collision course (again) in the WCC. All in all, it’s been a great start to the 2016-17 season. There are lots of questions as yet unanswered — Who will slow down Kentucky and North Carolina? When will Duke get its hot shot freshmen into the lineup? Can Xavier or Creighton keep their undefeated runs into the Big East season and beyond? — that will keep us watching through the holiday season.

Some meaty made-for-TV games will help answer some of those questions. Get ready for North Carolina-Indiana (tonight), Kentucky-UCLA (Saturday), Gonzaga-Arizona (Saturday), and Kentucky-North Carolina (December 17), to name but a few. These and other well-matched tilts should give us a clearer picture of who the contenders really are as the new year turns. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

In Hoops We Trust: It’s Finally Here!

Posted by Joshua Lars Weill on November 16th, 2016

It would be easy to open this debut In Hoops We Trust column with some sort of election metaphor, but haven’t we already exhausted all of those? Red. Blue. Bad. Good. Bah. Instead of focusing even more attention on the emotional land mine that our political season has been, maybe it’s time we look to college basketball to bring us together instead. (Excluding, of course, those ever-so-bitter rivals. Ain’t nothing gonna stop that.) In the spirit of unity, let us now gather ‘round the squawkbox, pennants high, our sauce-stained rah-rah sweatshirts on, cheering on Hometown U. against Directional State Tech. Let’s hitch a ride on the peace train, y’all, all the way to Phoenix.

The Season is BACK. (USA Today Images)

College Hoops is BACK. (USA Today Images)

After another tedious offseason of transfers, coach hirings and firings, speculative polls, NBA defections, off-court shenanigans, and Jeff Goodman troll stories behind a paywall, we’re finally here. And thank the heavens for that. To be sure, offseasons are unavoidable. And invariably they do set the tone for each new season. So this most recent one is no different. Players arrived on campus. Coaches bailed on hot seats (Vanderbilt and Memphis), while others claimed new thrones (TCU and, well, also Memphis). Fresh regimes begin in Stillwater and Palo Alto, while familiar ones reign in Chapel Hill, Durham, Louisville, Syracuse, East Lansing, Tucson and Lexington. One blue-blood rebuilds (UNLV), while some new bloods reload (Gonzaga and Virginia). A seat gets hotter (UCLA); another chills out (Indiana).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Sentimental Value: On the Notion of an ACC Regular Season Crown

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on March 14th, 2014

Since many of the ACC’s founding members sprang from what was known as the ‘Southern Conference’ in 1953, the ACC adopted many of the SoCon’s mannerisms and bylaws. The Southern Conference traditionally anointed a champion via their postseason tournament and out of that came their postseason automatic bid. Ever since the ACC formalized the wording of a similarly fateful decision in 1961, the ACC regular season title has been all but a formality. The idea behind awarding a postseason victor in a short and somewhat chaotic multi-day tournament setting was to provide a free-for-all environment that was both entertaining and unpredictable. This ACC Tournament gave lower seeded teams who had a less successful regular season a chance at making The Big Dance. And back in the day and age where these rules were first enacted, only 15 teams were awarded chances at the NCAA Tournament, making a bid all that more valuable and cherished.

Is ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success?

Is the ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success? Florida State parlayed a win in the tournament in 2012 into a solid showing in the Big Dance.

In a format where games are played on top of each other with little or no rest or time to prepare, less superior teams would essentially be able to pull a win out regardless of their records. But while all the other major conferences today at least recognize officially the regular season champion, why has the ACC lagged behind is perplexing to say the least. The ACC finally began paying homage to the regular season winners in 1990, and retroactively recognized the winners from 1954-1989 in that same year. But why it took them so long, and why more conferences do not go along with the Ivy League method of a regular season champion is beyond me. ESPN‘s entrance into the foray and emphasis placed on Championship Week may have something to do with it, glamorizing the end of season postseason tournaments as bubble bursting madness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Stanford Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 16th, 2012

Things were looking good for Stanford after the 2010-11 season came to a close. It wasn’t a great year by any means, but the Cardinal finished the regular season with a winning percentage of .500, picking up wins against #18 Washington and at Washington State along the way, all without a senior on the roster. Things took a turn for the worse, though, when leading scorer Jeremy Green announced he would be forgoing his senior season in Palo Alto to enter the NBA Draft. But instead of going somewhere like Sacramento or Dallas, Green ended up playing three games for the D-League’s Los Angeles D-Fenders before moving to glamorous Erie to finish the final 21 games of his inaugural pro season. Meanwhile, back on the Farm, the Cardinal was making some noise without him. Stanford won 15 of its first 18 games, led by sensational freshman Chasson Randle.

Randle Introduced Himself To Pac-12 Opponents Early And Often In 2011-12, Including In Stanford’s Four-Overtime Win At Oregon State (credit: Rick Bowmer)

Taking Green’s place in the starting lineup, Randle made an immediate impact for Stanford. At times early in non-conference action he struggled to score the ball consistently, which is expected for a freshman when facing opponents like Oklahoma State, Syracuse, NC State, and Butler. But he made up for his lapses on the defensive end, constantly bugging opponents with his ability to poke the ball away and get the occasional block.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Washington Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 9th, 2012

Despite winning the regular season Pac-12 title, a conference Coach of the Year award, and a run to the Final Four of the NIT, 2011-12 was considered a mediocre year by many in Seattle. That’s what happens when you make three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances coming into last season. Between the 2008-09 and the 2010-11 seasons, Washington posted a combined 76-30 record, with 11 of those 30 losses coming against teams ranked in the Top 25. Last season was a rollercoaster ride with too many “downs” for the selection committee’s liking, even if there were a lot of “ups” to go along with it.

Despite Being Named Pac-12 Coach of the Year In 2011-12, Lorenzo Romar and The Huskies Weren’t Dancing On Selection Sunday (credit: North and South of Royal Brougham)

The Huskies knew going into the season that there would be some early roadbumps after losing do-everything players Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas. Grouped with what turned out to be a season-ending foot injury for guard Scott Suggs that was suffered during preseason workouts, the Dawgs limped out of the gate. Washington struggled to beat a Florida Atlantic team (the Owls finished the year with an 11-19 mark) at home in their second game of the season, and a week later would lose by 13 points against Saint Louis. The hits would keep on coming, as it would go on to lose three of its next four games after the trip to Missouri. Midway through that stretch, Washington announced that Suggs would redshirt the 2011-12 season. And while this was obviously a good choice for the future, it felt at the time being as if the Huskies had already given up some hope of a successful season. The low point of the season came in the first two games of its five game mid-December home stand. After limping to a 87-80 win over UC Santa Barbara, the Huskies were blown out of their home arena by South Dakota State, suffering a 19-point loss to the Jackrabbits. And while SDSU would go on to have a great season, they were just three days removed from a 19-point defeat of their own — at the hands of vaunted North Dakota.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

That’s Debatable: May Madness?

Posted by WCarey on February 2nd, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This week’s topic: Last weekend Dan Wolken of The Daily wrote an article suggesting that college basketball should move its season forward to the spring semester so as to not compete with football. Is this a good idea? Bad idea? Why?

Patrick Prendergast, Big East Microsite Writer

All the article does is validate the argument that college football should have a tournament to decide its champion. From a television standpoint, a comparison cannot be made between a football bowl game and a regular season basketball game.  Traffic is herded to bowl games, not to mention the gambling angle. Bowls are played in a media competition vacuum and promoted to no end.  The great thing about college basketball is its depth and breadth. Fans are likely to be just as entertained and intrigued by Boston University vs. Stony Brook as they are Georgetown vs. Syracuse, so the audience spreads itself artificially thin.  The only schedule tweak that would make meaningful sense is to work conference play around the semester break. Home courts are much better with a student presence to drive the energy.

Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent

Bad idea. I like Wolken’s one semester argument because that would make transfer rules a lot less complicated while allowing freshmen and transfers more time to get acclimated to their new schools, but I don’t agree with much of anything else in his piece. College basketball already goes out of its way to not conflict with the NFL. Just look at the lackluster schedule every Sunday from November to January. If college basketball can’t draw ratings during the week or on Saturdays (when the NFL isn’t playing), there isn’t much hope to begin with. It is hard to go up against college football on November Saturdays but that’s why college basketball saves most of its good non-conference matchups for December, in between the college football regular season and bowl games. It pains me to say this as a person who follows only two major sports (college basketball and MLB) but college basketball will never be more than a niche sport in months not named March. Making the season run January to May instead of November to March won’t change that.

Brian Goodman, Editor

The idea of moving the season to a window entirely within the second semester is interesting, but would wreak logistical havoc. I wouldn’t envy those tasked with planning the NCAA Tournament sites around the potential of conflict with the NBA playoffs, for instance. Also, early entry candidates would have a shorter window of time to gather information and be properly evaluated, increasing the potential of regrettable decisions. It wouldn’t be without its advantages, though. In addition to the idea of owning the spotlight, positioning the end of the season to coincide with the end of the semester would probably lead to a lower rate of classroom attrition by draft candidates, which would bring some relief to programs with APR concerns. Wolken’s column raises some valid points – for the longest time, college basketball has lacked a true “kick-off” event that maximizes viewership. This is hardly a new revelation, but it’s nonetheless relevant. Events like the Carrier Classic and ESPN’s 24-Hour Tip-Off marathon are nice starts, especially for us die-hards, but the endurance of casual fans of marquee programs in the Eastern and Central time zones is tested every year with late games during the Maui Invitational. Competing with football is a tall order, and it may be impossible if the pendulum doesn’t swing back to the days before the gridiron took over.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.08.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 8th, 2011

  1. We begin in Tucson, where Arizona got the regular season started with a 73-64 win over Valparaiso. After a mediocre exhibition season, this was a fine win to open up the year for the Wildcats. Kyle Fogg broke out of his shooting slump with 16 points, but the surprise of the night was freshman Nick Johnson. Johnson continued to outperform freshman teammate Josiah Turner with 14 points and six assists, while Turner had a lackluster seven points and one assist. Turner got the start,but it is becoming more evident from head coach Sean Miller that Johnson will be the second guard in the lineup in crunch time. Matching Johnson’s 14 points was senior forward Jesse Perry, but even more impressive was the ten rebounds he collected. Up next for Arizona is a visit from Duquesne on Wednesday night.
  2. There is a serious lack of power in the Pac-12 this year after many stars left last season. As Patrick Finley points out, the top seven scorers in the league last year are now gone, not to mention eight out of the nine best rebounders. But while you may see less highlights on SportsCenter because of it, the lack of star players and exceptional talent could make for one of the best Pac-12 championship races in recent history. “I don’t know if there’s a team to beat,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters. When you look at it, five teams (California, Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon) could all make a serious push for the conference crown. There will surely be upsets along the way as well, considering that the next tier of teams (Oregon State, Stanford, and Colorado) have enough talent to also compete night in and night out.
  3. If you were ever wondering how to build a basketball dynasty, Greg Hansen has laid out the steps that former Arizona coach Lute Olson used to take the Wildcats from conference cellar-dweller to national powerhouse. Included is everything from “playing nonconference road games,” to “acknowledging the fans,” to “running an up-tempo offense.” This is truly a great read for all Pac-12 fans, whether you want to take the trip back to memory lane or look to the future and see if your team is navigating the right steps on the road to a future dynasty.
  4. CBSSports has compiled its annual list of the Top 100 Best Players, and the Pac-12 is represented with a total of nine players at #’s 23, 24, 42, 46, 47, 49, 77, 85, and 88. Topping the Pac-12 portion of the list is Washington guard Terrence Ross. With the departure of Isaiah Thomas from Seattle, Ross is going to play a huge role in both the Husky offense and defense this year. Directly behind him is UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who had a ridiculous 14 double-doubles last season. Nelson is both a threat from the perimeter and low post, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. At #42 is a surprise pick, Bruin center Joshua Smith. Smith can certainly score, but constant foul trouble does not make him a Top 50 player in my mind. Josiah Turner, Jorge Gutierrez, Jabari Brown, Allen Crabbe, Jared Cunningham, and Trent Lockett round out the Pac-12’s representation on the list.
  5. Arizona State will be looking to change the attitude around the program when they take the court on Friday to open up the regular season. The Sun Devils have not won a postseason game of any kind since 2009, which was also the last time they went to the NCAA Tournament. While 2009-10 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, expectations were higher going into last season. Instead the Devils finished 12-19, last in the Pac-10, reviving old doubts about the program and the direction in which it was headed. We live in a world of “what have you done for me lately,” so the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances has coach Herb Sendek on the hot seat. “That’s definitely not what I expected, to be a junior (without) having played in an NCAA Tournament,” guard Trent Lockett said, reiterating the point. The Sun Devils will begin their quest back to relevancy when they take on Montana State at Wells Fargo Arena Friday afternoon.
Share this story

Will the Duke Swoon Begin Tonight at Clemson?

Posted by rtmsf on February 4th, 2009

Wait, did you guys hear that?  It happened over the weekend…  a strange ticking noise, more specifically, it happened as the calendar moved to February.  It has the faint sound like a bomb is about to go off, as if some well-known and respected ACC team is about to collapse.  Ok, maybe not collapse – that would characterize Clemson.  It’s become a pat line around these parts that Clemson inevitably collapses every season.  While the Tigers got over that particular demon last year and managed to actually find its way into the NCAA Tournament (losing in the first round to Villanova after leading by as much as 18), there’s still an elevated wariness about Oliver Purnell’s club as it enters the last month-plus of the season.


Ok, so how about swoon?  How about starting to jerk and fit and shudder and snort like some epileptic old fighter trying to make contact with his younger adversary (that would be known as… Rocky Balboa)?  Still good enough to not completely embarrass itself, but definitely not as dominant as the first two-thirds of the season.   Yeah, we’re talking about Duke.

It's Good Times Now at Duke - But What's Coming?
It’s Good Times Now at Duke – But What’s Coming?

How dare we?!?  The Devils are currently 19-2 (6-1 ACC) and #1 in the RPI.  They can spread, penetrate and shoot the rock.  They play defense like maniacal meerkats protecting their lair.  They even rebounded from a close road loss to Wake Forest last week with a demolition of Virginia (well, it was Virginia).   But hear us out.  There is a history that suggests that Coach K’s teams of recent vintage have more troubles at the end of the regular season than they do at the beginning and the middle.  Check the table below, which begins after Duke’s last truly great team, the 2001 national champions (keep in mind, these are regular season numbers):


Ok, so let’s reconcile the obvious criticism first and foremost…

  • Duke plays in the ACC, a tough conference, so it makes sense that their Nov-Jan record (full of cupcakes and fewer ACC games) will be much better than their Feb/Mar record.

Right and wrong.  Duke does load up on easy home wins in Nov/Dec, for sure, which builds the bulk of their guady annual Feb. 1 records.  But the ACC season is, on average, 42% completed by Feb. 1 during this eight-year period (6.75 games of a 16-game slate), and Duke still only has has a total of seven conference losses in Dec/Jan.  If you project that out to the remainder of its ACC schedule over the last eight seasons, we would expect to see 16 or 17 total losses for the Dukies in the ACC regular season.  Instead we’ve seen 23 ACC losses, a full 39% higher than the rate anticipated by the Dec/Jan ACC slate.

So what might cause Duke to “swoon” to the tune of a 39% higher rate of losses in the ACC regular season in Feb/March?  A few things…

  • They Play Carolina Twice. This is as good a reason as any, as ESPN and ABC want to push both editions of the premiere rivalry in the game to as late in the schedule as possible.  Only once in the past eight years has the first game been in January (1/31/02), and the other thirteen regular season matchups have accounted for six of Duke’s 23 ACC losses.  This year’s games, fyi, are on 2/11 and 3/8.
  • Duke Wears Down. We all know that Coach K gets his players to play REALLY HARD (if you don’t believe us, listen to any ESPN announcer for corroboration.  Or this.).  Seriously, they do get after it, especially on defense.  But when you’re playing with the same balls-t0-the-wall intensity in November as you are in late February, it makes sense that you might start to wear down physically and mentally.  Just a little.  Just enough to not have the same fire in the tank when you’re on the road in another ACC dogfight.
  • Coach K Doesn’t Develop His Bench. This is corollary to the above reason – part of the problem with players wearing down is because K plays them into the ground.   This year is better than others – there are only two players (Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer) playing 30+ minutes per game, but it’s a commonly held truth that K’s rotation is usually only seven players deep.
  • Other Teams Catch Up. Duke is traditionally one of those teams that doesn’t start off slow – just look at the above table for proof of that.  The Devils are usually excellent from the first tip, walking away year after year with Maui, NIT, you-name-it preseason tournament titles.  For whatever reason, some other teams aren’t like this.  UCLA is notorious under Howland for having great regular seasons, but not really working on all cylinders until the end of the year.  Maybe the rest of the ACC is ‘catching up’ with Duke by February and March.
  • Duke is Simply Evil, and the Basketball Weauxfgods are Making Them Pay.   Sorry, we think that our nephew must have gotten a hold of the computer for a moment there.

Whatever the reasons for Duke’s regular season swoons in February and March of the last several years, it will be interesting to watch this year’s version to see if it happens again.  The schedule (@ Clemson; @BC; @ Va Tech; Wake Forest; UNC twice) certainly lends itself to another swoon, but we’ll have to wait and see how the Devils respond.  Starting tonight.

Share this story