All in the Family: Episode 2

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2011

We’re back with the second episode of AITF, a semi-regular piece that will take a closer look at each of the six power conferences to see what interesting tidbits relating to the national picture might be occurring.  And yes, for those of you asking, we’re still classifying the SEC as a power conference (even if KenPom has the Mountain West ahead of it). 

Power Conference Rankings

1.  Big East.

  • Everyone in the Big East has now played between six to nine conference games, so we have a somewhat decent sense as to how the pecking order in this league looks at this point.  So far, Pittsburgh (7-1), Villanova (5-1) and possibly Connecticut (4-2) have separated themselves in our eyes as the cream of the conference.  Syracuse (5-2) is just a shade below that group, but they’re going to have to figure out some things before we anoint the Orange among this year’s Big East elite – we’ll keep them at the bottom of the top tier for now, though.  The next level is a muddled mess of seven teams — Louisville, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Marquette, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Georgetown.  The most likely candidate from this group to play up to the next level is (unsurprisingly) Notre Dame after last night’s big win at Pitt, while the most likely candidate to fall completely apart is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies.  ND has already played the toughest part of its schedule whereas St. John’s is already sputtering and still faces four games versus the top tier (plus Duke and UCLA).  The lower tier — Rutgers, Seton Hall, Providence, South Florida and DePaul — isn’t likely to do much more than spring an occasional eyebrow-raising upset (witness PC’s win over Louisville on Saturday).
  • Notre Dame has been the beneficiary of the scheduling gods thus far.  The Irish have played nine games (6-3), winning five in the friendly confines of South Bend while going 1-3 away from home.  With nine games left, Mike Brey’s team has only four remaining contests at home, BUT five of their remaining games are against bottom-tier teams, more than another school in the mid-pack.  If the Irish can simply win all of those, they’ll already have eleven wins this season, good enough for an NCAA Tournament bid and a strong seed.  On the other hand, West Virginia, already with wins over three of the bottom tier en route to a 4-2 record, has four games remaining against the elites including a home date with Pitt. 
  • We’re simply not a believer in Louisville despite their 15-4 overall and 4-2 conference record.  The Cards shoot 41% of their attempts from three, and when the bombs aren’t falling, bad things happen.  In UL’s two bad performances this season, vs. Drexel and at Providence, Rick Pitino’s modern-day bombinos shot 8-39 (.205) from outside the arc.  When you keep in mind that the Cards have had a soft Big East schedule thus far and escaped Marquette on a miraculous comeback, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the wheels come off soon.
  • Rutgers is at 3-4 after defeating after defeating fellow bottom-dwellers South Florida and Seton Hall last week.  But credit is due to Mike Rice’s team for separating the Scarlet Knights a little from the true bottom of the barrel by beating those two plus Providence so far this season.  Having lost the personnel they did and to already be well past last year’s pace of five wins is a solid achievement even if the schedule toughens up from here on out.

2.  Big Ten.

  • There was some consternation over the weekend about Michigan State suffering its seventh loss of the season and whether that puts Tom Izzo’s team in danger of falling onto the bubble, and that worry is misguided at this point.  According to Pomeroy, MSU has played the toughest schedule in the nation to date, and various bracketologists (Glockner – #7; Lunardi – #6; Hayes – #6) as of this morning have the Spartans still feeling comfortable.  Still, the Spartans are a couple of bounces away from having lost six in a row (instead of three of six), and it’s clear that Michigan State is struggling to find answers.  Kalin Lucas still doesn’t appear to be himself, and the continued inconsistency of Durrell Summers and Delvon Roe remains perplexing.  Sparty needs to win its next three easily (vs. Michigan, vs. Indiana, @ Iowa). 
  • Big Ten schools must be so tired of Bo Ryan and Wisconsin.  Year after year no matter the personnel the guy finds a way to become an annoying thorn in the side of every team in the league.  After a road destruction of Northwestern in Evanston on Saturday, the Badgers sit at 5-2 in the league with four shots to overtake league leaders Ohio State and Purdue on the horizon.  Since the Big Ten expanded to an 18-game conference schedule, the Badgers have averaged a 13-5 record, with Purdue (13.3 wins) and Michigan State (13.7 wins) just barely ahead.  Would you bet against them? 
  • Illinois has been close-but-no-cigar in losses to Texas and Ohio State this season, and there’s a general sense that Bruce Weber’s team is just one little thing short of being truly elite.  That one thing is interior defense.  Despite having the very large Mikes (Tisdale and Davis) inside to man the post, Jared Sullinger and Tristan Thompson shredded the Illini frontline for easy scores when they needed them down the stretch.  If Illinois had made stops in those situations (in addition to losses to UIC and Wisconsin), they would very likely be 17-3 or thereabouts and sitting in the top eight of the polls. 
  • It’s no big surprise, but Northwestern’s NCAA prospects are dim and fading to black after the beatdown that Wisconsin put on the Wildcats Sunday.  Now at 3-5 in the league with Minnesota away followed by Ohio State and Illinois at home, it’s very likely that the next two weeks will finish them off.  The sad part is that both Michigan State losses were there for the taking; had Northwestern won those, we would be handicapping a very different situation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Another Night, Another Bad Loss in the SEC West…

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2010

The Lede. What a ho-hum evening of basketball.  There were 19 games on the slate, but only a couple of them were even mildly interesting.  Get used to it.  There is a smattering of games throughout the week, but things don’t really heat up again until Saturday when most schools are finished with exams and heading into the holiday break.

Your Watercooler Moment.  The SEC West should consider seceding from the rest of the conference and joining the Southland.  After yet another embarrassing home loss to a low-major team tonight when LSU lost in overtime to Coastal Carolina, 78-69, the SEC’s redheaded stepchild of a division seemingly cannot get any worse.  Consider that in the first six weeks of this season, the six division members have lost to the following laundry list of national powers: Campbell, Jacksonville, ETSU, UNC-Asheville, Nicholls State, Samford, St. Peter’s and Florida Atlantic.  They have a combined eighteen losses already, which is more than the top twelve teams in the Big East and makes you wonder if Cam Newton has mesmerized everyone from Birmingham to Baton Rouge down there.  According to Pomeroy, the top team (Ole Miss) is the 60th best team in America, and the bottom (Auburn) is 210th, which puts this division roughly on par with the Missouri Valley Conference.  Yet if we put together a hypothetical SEC West/MVC Challenge, we’re pretty confident in asserting that the one-bid Valley would roast this sad-sack collection of southern teams.  Well, the good news is that four of the SEC West division teams rank in the bottom 75 schedules in the country so far, proving that even when you try to cook the books by loading up on easy wins in the non-conference season, the basketball gods may have something else in mind.

Maybe Football-Only is the Way to Go...

Five Games in Five Days.  If it feels like Mississippi State has been playing an awful lot lately, it’s because they have been.  Tonight they beat Nicholls State 67-58 behind Ravern Johnson’s 23/4, but you’ll forgive the Bulldogs if they’re running out of steam.  You see, on Saturday they played and lost to ETSU 63-62; yesterday the Bulldogs defeated NC A&T 74-58; and tomorrow, they’ll play Alabama State in Starkville.  Want more?  Well, on Wednesday, MSU will play its fifth game in five days, this time an exhibition against Belhaven College.  Honestly, we’ve never heard of anything quite like this where a school purposefully scheduled this sort of gauntlet, but there is a rhyme to the reason behind it.  Dee Bost’s nine-game suspension handed down by the NCAA didn’t take place until after the end of the fall semester, which was officially on Saturday.  So the school put together this schedule (along with upcoming games against Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s and three games at the Diamond Head Classic) so that Bost would be able to play in their SEC opener against Alabama on January 8.  We’re not sure if this is pure insanity or utter brilliance, but it’s certainly unique.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • SDSU Minus Kawhi Leonard & Chase Tapley.  Down two starters due to illness, the rest of the Aztecs gutted through one of those games that ends in a big-time upset if you allow it to.  Sure, it was exceptionally ugly — a 16-15 halftime score is all you really need to prove that — but Malcolm Thomas went for 18/15 and the SDSU defense held Cal Poly to only 29% from the field in order to secure the win and move to 11-0 on the season.
  • Northwestern Still Unbeaten.  They’ve been very quietly going about their business so far this season, but Northwestern’s win over LIU, 81-65, moved the Wildcats to 6-0, its best start in seventeen years.  With three more cupcakes between now and their Big Ten opener against Purdue on New Year’s Eve, the Wildcats are in good position to start 9-0.  This record will not help the RPI all that much because of the weak schedule, but more importantly, it may help the confidence of a team (and fanbase) who is still looking for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • Well, It Is Called the Badger State.  With Wisconsin’s well-balanced win tonight over Green Bay, Bo Ryan’s team took the crown as the top team in the Badger State for the 2010-11 season.  In consecutive games over the last six days, Wisconsin beat Milwaukee, Marquette and GB, the first time since the 2006-07 season that the Badgers have turned the in-state hat trick.

and Misses.

  • Literally, 0-18. Not many teams will be without two of its best players and shoot 0-18 from three and still win, but San Diego State is one of those teams.  Guard DJ Gay brought in a 48% stroke from distance this season, and left with a 42% one after an 0-7 outing.  Just one of those nights, but SDSU was lucky to get this win.

Tweet of the Night.  With the news that Rick Pitino will take over the coaching reins for the Puerto Rican national team, the jokes kept coming.  Here’s the best:

Share this story

John Pelphrey’s Job Just Got Harder

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2008

Not a full week after John Pelphrey signed a nice one-year extension and received a ‘we have full confidence in you’ raise, he was hit with news that his talented but confounding PG Patrick Beverley has effectively been dismissed from the program.  Privacy concerns limit what school and team officials would say on the record, but Friday was the last day of summer classes at Arkansas and it doesn’t seem a major reach to think that Beverley’s dismissal involved academic problems. 

The Hawgs Have Some Rebuilding Ahead of Them

Arkansas was already facing a rebuilding year next season, having lost four starters from an NCAA second-round casualty squad.  Beverley stood to be the leading returning scorer (12 ppg) and rebounder (7 rpg) and overall team leader despite his diminutive size (6’1).  As Hawg blog Razorback Expats put it, this kinda sucks:

John Pelphrey’s incoming recruiting class is highly regarded, but you can’t like the fact that the player who is now the Hogs’ leading returning scorer – that would be junior guard Stefan Welsh – averaged a whopping 5.3 points per game last year. Only a few days before Beverley was ruled ineligible, Pelphrey told the media that “our basketball team is only going to be as good as our three juniors.” Oops.

Looks like Alabama’s (the presumptive 2009 SEC West champion) seventeen basketball fans are collectively rejoicing right now.

Share this story