Ten Questions To Consider: Resume Building, Season Saving, Slump Busting Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 14th, 2020

With Selection Sunday now just five weekends away, the importance of each and every game increases. This weekend some teams will look to solidify their spot on the right side of bubble, while others will look to keep their position at the top of their conference standings. Here are 10 questions I have for just some of the meaningful action to take place.

  1. Did the win at Illinois turn a corner for Michigan State or will it prove to be a bit of a mirage? (Maryland @ Michigan State, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Michigan State played a tremendous opening half at Illinois on Tuesday night, as the Spartans led by 20 points early in the second half before falling apart and needing a Xavier Tillman putback to win in the final seconds. This is Michigan State’s first of five games remaining on the schedule against teams currently in the KenPom top 20.
  2. Can West Virginia dominate the glass and find a way to steal a win at Baylor? (West Virginia @ Baylor, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN+) Baylor and West Virginia each rank among the nation’s top 10 teams in offensive rebound rate. Rebounding has been a key factor for the Mountaineers all season, especially on the defensive glass. West Virginia has gone 13-1 when holding its opponent to an offensive rebounding rate below 28 percent. When that rate exceeds that mark, Bob Huggins’ team has gone just 5-5.
  3. How will the Louisville’s starting five respond to its lackluster performance against Georgia Tech? (Louisville @ Clemson, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) In Louisville’s surprising loss Wednesday at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals’ starting five combined for just 18 points. Jordan Nwora logged a season-low two points while committing four turnovers. In Louisville’s win against Clemson on January 25, the same five starters combined to score 48 of Louisville’s 80 points.
  4. Can Stanford find a way to save its season? (Arizona @ Stanford, Saturday, 10:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) After starting the season 15-2 and 4-0 in Pac-12 play, Stanford has dropped five of its next six games since. While the Cardinal maintain a top 30 NET Ranking as of Thursday night, a pair of home losses to the Arizona schools would likely serve as a knockout punch to its lingering Tournament hopes.
  5. Will the Illini have Ayo Dosunmu to help end a three-game skid? (Illinois @ Rutgers, Saturday, 4:30 PN EST, Big Ten Network) The final seconds of the Illinois/Michigan State game were not kind to Brad Underwood’s squad — from the game-deciding basket of Xavier Tillman to an injury seconds later to Illinois’ leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu’s status is unclear heading into the weekend, but without him, Illinois is in great danger of picking up its fourth consecutive loss.
  6. If Boise State protects the ball, can they become the first team to knock off the Aztecs? (San Diego State @ Boise State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) In the first match-up of the season between these two teams, Boise State made 60.7 percent of its two-point field-goal attempts, the highest percentage of any Aztecs opponent. Unfortunately for the Broncos, 18 turnovers (a season-high turnover rate of 26.3%) was far too much to overcome.
  7. Can the Hoosiers find a way to improve its offense away from Assembly Hall? (Indiana @ Michigan, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) The Indiana offense has looked vastly different on the road than at home this season. While the Hoosiers have scored north of 78 points per game at home, their road average sits at just 60.3 points per game. Archie Miller will need more from his four leading scorers this weekend, who average 50 points per game at home and just 36.1 points per game away from Bloomington.
  8. Will Colorado make it out of the state of Oregon with at least one win? (Colorado @ Oregon State, Saturday, 10 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Saturday’s game at Gill Coliseum will be an opportunity for Colorado salvage one win to remain on top of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes led Oregon State 63-52 with just under eight minutes to go in the first match-up before Colorado closed on a 24-5 run end the game.
  9. Can the Razorbacks end recent struggles and add a Quadrant 2 win to their resume? (Mississippi State @ Arkansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, SEC Network) Arkansas sat at #28 in the NET Rankings on January 28, but since then, the Razorbacks have gone 1-4 with a pair of those losses coming in overtime and another by a mere two points. Their current NET Ranking is now just barely inside the top 50. With a 4-8 record against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams, Saturday could amount to a must-win game for the Razorbacks.
  10. Can Porter Moser’s Ramblers slow Northern Iowa from beyond the arc or will it grab a stranglehold on the MVC’s top spot? (Northern Iowa @ Loyola Chicago, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN2) On the season, Loyola ranks outside of the top 300 in opponents’ three-point percentage, making this a difficult match-up against a Northern Iowa squad that is among the five best three-point shooting teams. Northern Iowa has three player who have made 40 or more threes at a clip of 40 percent or better.

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What’s Trending: Mid-Season Madness Continues

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 20th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

After Auburn’s loss on Wednesday night, San Diego State became the only remaining undefeated team in college basketball. Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs added two wins to their resume this week, pushing their overall record to 19-0. It is San Diego State’s best start since the 2010-11 season in which they began the year 20-0 en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Led by Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn, the Aztecs currently only have one remaining game against a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 100 (Utah State).

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1218310685962186753?s=20

The top four teams in the NET Rankings remain stable at the end of the week. While Baylor and Kansas were tested over the weekend, both made it through unblemished. The same cannot be said for the rest of the top 10.

As top teams continue to fall, one question repeatedly finds itself leading the narrative of the season: Is all this parity good for the game?

The answer should be an unequivocal yes.

While offensive efficiency and shooting percentages have dropped, the corresponding result has been the unpredictable. Talent alone is not serving as determinative. Transfers, early departures, NCAA eligibility issues and key recruits opting to play overseas all have impacted the landscape and consistency of play, but the result has been that teams need to come prepared to win every night out. This season, on any given night, anything is possible, and that is a good thing.

While the unexpected has ruled the land this college basketball season, there has been one player who has remained anything but surprising: Oregon senior point-guard Payton Pritchard. After beginning his career 3-0 in games at Washington, Pritchard’s Ducks were down three points late in the game when the All-American took things into his own hands…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1218672908379328512?s=20

In overtime, with the game tied, it was again Pritchard coming through in the clutch…

As far as the unexpected goes, there were a pair of games on Saturday that challenged the wildest of imaginations.

First, USC found itself down by five points with a mere 15 seconds to go when Stanford had the ball and a chance to ice the game away. Then, this happened…

While USC trailed by as many 21 points in that game, the Trojans at least had most of the second-half to claw their way back. Unlike USC, Boise State found itself down big but without much time left on the clock. Trailing 66-48 with 3:52 to go, the Broncos chipped the lead down to just five points with 8.9 seconds to go. Well, that’s when things really got weird…

Strange and funny things followed Kentucky this week as well. First, on Wednesday night, after leading by double-figures in the second half at South Carolina, Kentucky collapsed and trailed by six points with just over a minute to go. Thanks to some missed free-throws by South Carolina, Kentucky managed to tie things up in the closing seconds. While it looked like overtime was imminent, South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard had another idea…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1217626379837231106?s=20

After that difficult loss at South Carolina, Kentucky found itself at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday to face a hot Arkansas squad. After leading by nine points at the break, Arkansas fought itself to a tie game with just over eight minutes to go. With the tide seemingly turning, John Calipari had enough with the referees and got himself tossed from the game. While it cost the Wildcats the lead momentarily, Kentucky ultimately rallied and took control the rest of the way. All part of Cal’s master plan?

Entering this season, DePaul basketball had last beaten a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 20 on December 2, 2006 (a 64-57 win over Kansas). After early season wins against a pair of KenPom top 20 teams, DePaul picked up its third such win over the weekend in a trouncing of Butler. The win snapped a four-game losing streak and gives DePaul a chance to turn things back around as they spend the week at home with games against Creighton and St. John’s.

https://twitter.com/DePaulHoops/status/1218620020961562625?s=20

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Ten Questions: Mid-November Intrigue

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 16th, 2018

While this weekend’s schedule is a little light as teams prepare for the nonstop action of Feast Week, here are 10 questions to consider as the season settles in.

Is Michigan Due For a Letdown? (USA Today Images)

  1. How will St. John’s fare in its only road non-conference game? (St. John’s at Rutgers, Friday 7 PM EST, BTN) St. John’s only road non-conference game takes place just down the road in New Jersey against local rival Rutgers. In Mustapha Heron‘s  first two games as a member of the Red Storm, he is averaging over 20 points per game.
  2. Will Arizona State avoid an upset in a potential trap game? (ed. note: this game was canceled last night because of smoke issues related to wildfires) (Arizona State @ San Francisco, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Before Arizona State heads to Las Vegas to take on a ranked Mississippi State team, they will take on the Dons in San Francisco. After falling behind by 15 points early, San Francisco was only outscored by three points in the final 30 minutes of last season’s match-up in the desert.
  3. Has Stanford found Reid Travis 2.0 in KZ Okpala? (Wofford at Stanford, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) When Reid Travis decided to transfer to Kentucky, Stanford had to fill a large gap in its offense. Sophomore KZ Okpala has seen his scoring average explode from 10.0 as a freshman to 22.7 PPG through the first three games of the season.
  4. Will early season turnover woes be the deciding factor? (South Carolina vs. Providence, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, ESPN 3) Through three games South Carolina has committed 44 turnovers while Providence has committed 46 turnovers. Both the Gamecocks and Friars are forcing turnovers at a rate better than the national average, so winning the turnover battle will be crucial in this game.
  5. Can Charleston stay perfect with a win in Stillwater? (Charleston @ Oklahoma State, Sunday 4 PM EST) Coming off a 26-8 record last season, Charleston was picked second in the preseason CAA media poll. The Cougars feature two of the conference’s best players in Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is struggling, having lost to #299 Charlotte already this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Where 2018-19 Happens: Reason #20 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2018

As RTC heads into its 12th season covering college hoops, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish the games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Tuesday, November 6. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#20 – Where One Dribble and Fire Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17  and 2017-18 preseasons.

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Pac-12’s Week 2 Cannibal Routine May Prove Costly

Posted by RJ Abeytia on January 11th, 2018

The Pac-12’s Cannibalization hit full swing this week as once again the road proved significantly difficult for even the best teams in the conference. The first week of Pac-12 play saw six of the 10 games finish with margins of 10 points or more. In the second week, only four of 10 games ended with such margins, and two of those included California, which is really only an approximation of a Pac-12 team on most nights this year. Arizona State and Arizona, the conference’s clear upper tier at this point, dropped from sixth and 19th in the RPI, respectively, to 14th and 24th. They weren’t the biggest losers this past week, however, as Utah, in getting swept by those two schools in Salt Lake City, went from 35th to 63rd. That’s going from fringe NCAA Tournament status to deep in the heart of NIT City.

One of the more problematic teams over the course of the Pac-12 season could be Stanford. The Cardinal enjoyed a miraculous home sweep of the Bruins and Trojans last weekend, and vaulted from 214th to 154th in the RPI as a result. The Bruins and Trojans correspondingly dropped from 40 and 44th to 46th and 56th, respectively, after their Maples heartbreaks. The Stanford problem is that with the Cardinal now playing with its healthiest possible roster (Kezie Okpala and Dorian Pickens have returned while Marcus Sheffield will take a medical redshirt), they are a much tougher team. But because their cumulative performance to date (8-8 overall, the aforementioned +200 RPI) has been so underwhelming, beating Stanford isn’t going to do much for teams’ resumes. Conversely, losses — even if they’re more understandable now — are still going to sting.

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Peaking at the Margins: Washington’s Luck and Other Pac-12 Points

Posted by Adam Butler on January 10th, 2018

According to KenPom’s luck rating, Washington is the most Irish team in the country. Let’s now dissociate ourselves from preconceived notions of luck and consider both what the rating means (you can read about it here) and more relatable measures of success and expectations. To synopsize the luck statistic, this is a measure of a team’s success relative to expectations (as established by their efficiency ratings). At 12-4 overall, with an adjusted efficiency differential of just +5.44, the Huskies sit ahead of similarly efficient teams in terms of wins and losses (although most have between one to three more losses). Consequently, they rate 108th by KenPom, or slightly above average. What do other margins say about the rest of the Pac-12? As we’ve established, the Huskies are the luckiest team, but what else can 17 or so games tell us about the remaining and critical two-and-a-half months of Pac-12 Hoop?

To start the conversation, I examined scoring differential (total points for minus points against), the Synergy Sports points per possession margins and the aforementioned KenPom adjusted efficiency margins. The Pac-12 results:

Team W L Scoring difference PPP difference KP difference
Arizona 12 4 171 0.127 20.17
Arizona State 13 2 252 0.185 20.08
UCLA 12 4 130 0.100 13.91
USC 11 6 142 0.078 13.87
Utah 10 5 121 0.122 11.88
Oregon 11 5 179 0.125 10.66
Washington 12 4 55 0.050 5.34
Colorado 10 6 28 0.016 4.89
Oregon State 10 5 95 0.077 4.6
Stanford 8 8 -6 0.002 4.34
Washington State 8 7 1 0.043 0.51
California 7 9 -84 -0.088 -2.59

 

Some quick notes followed by a few takeaways: 1) scoring differential is a predictor of success and usually an indicator that you’re a really good team regardless of record, 2) The PPP difference column is based on Synergy data, which accounts raw points per possession information into its metric (i.e., it’s neither a prediction of possessions nor adjusted for strength of schedule, home/away or otherwise), 3) a reminder that the KenPom difference includes the aforementioned adjustments.

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Pac-12 Non-Conference Reset (non-Arizona State Edition)

Posted by RJ Abeytia on December 28th, 2017

It may seem out of sync with the Holiday Spirit to practice exclusion, but we’ve spent SO much time on Arizona State already and quite honestly, their unblemished 12-0 record should be more than enough to keep Sun Devil fans happy. They have played great ball to date and, entering conference play, are sitting prettier than they have in quite some time. We’ve heard enough about the story of the year in the Pac-12, so let’s take some stock from the rest of the Conference of Champions with Pac-12 play ready to begin this week.

UCLA is the Surprise Team of the Pac So Far (USA Today Images)

Team of the Non-Conference: UCLA snatched this award away just moments before Santa and his reindeer took flight on the strength of a huge neutral court win over Kentucky on December 23. The Bruins have three wins over Power 6 teams right now (Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Kentucky) which is second-most in the league behind… well, you already know. The Bruins are doing all this despite the suspensions/departures of three freshmen expected to contribute this year in LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh have been providing the on-court stability the Bruins were expecting, with both playing heavy minutes and logging true shooting percentages of about 57 percent. UCLA, a team with a relatively short roster, has damned the torpedoes and pushed the ball up at a pace of 74.5 possessions per game, 27th-fastest nationally. Lunardi currently lists UCLA as one of the first four out of the NCAA Tournament, but those three solid wins along with no bad losses (KenPom #29 Creighton, #33 Michigan, and #10 Cincinnati) gives it a good shot to work Pac-12 play to a decent seed in March. Credit head coach Steve Alford for moving past all the distractions and keeping things together in Westwood.

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On an Amazing Weekend of Basketball in Portland…

Posted by RJ Abeytia on November 27th, 2017

Nike’s goal was to get the best in college basketball together for Phil Knight’s 80th birthday, and a sport that has badly needed an on-court distraction from its off-court shambles absolutely put its best foot forward in Portland over the holiday weekend. The quality of the performances by many of the 16 teams in the double-bracket event has led me to a number of conclusions about the state of the game and this season. First of all, nobody who watched or attended Duke vs. Texas or Gonzaga vs. Florida OR Duke vs. Florida should have any time for arguments against the quality of the college basketball product being undermined in comparison with college football’s regular season. Both the electric atmosphere of the games in the Moda Center and the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the quality thereof easily passed for elite March-caliber. Everything was great, and it’s still over three months before the first rounds ofthe NCAA Tournament.

Duke Used Consecutive Comebacks to Take Its Bracket of the PK80 (USA Today Images)

This of course begs a question about one-and-dones. Duke‘s Marvin Bagley III — who averaged 27.3 PPG and 10.0 RPG over the weekend — was every bit as good as advertised. After the championship game on Sunday night, Mike Kryzyzewski called the versatile freshman the “most unique player I’ve ever coached at Duke.” I don’t want this piece to digress into a debate on the merits of one-and-dones in college basketball, but suffice it to say that having talents like Bagley, Michael Porter, Jr. (injury notwithstanding) and DeAndre Ayton (Arizona’s Bahaman Nightmare notwithstanding) is great for college basketball. The Duke head coach went on to say in his postgame presser to support the larger point here: There are amazing things happening on the court these days, and the PK80 event played a far more vital role in spotlighting what’s good about the game than anyone could have anticipated. In the other bracket, sophomore “old man” Miles Bridges led Michigan State into a classic lockdown of defending national champion North Carolina, a team with which Coach K has some familiarity.

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Pac-12 Listicles: Pick and Roll Offense

Posted by Adam Butler on November 15th, 2017

Offensively, the pick-and-roll is a common means to forcing a mismatch, a big vs. small scenario either on the post or the perimeter. Its ubiquity gave way to positionless basketball and a treasuring of the 6’8” athlete. Philosophically, if a defender is versatile enough to defend both off the bounce or on the block, the offense would be limited in its ability to create these mismatches. Of course this is more difficult to achieve at the collegiate level. Players are less refined, needing greater definition to their roles. Considering as much, I thought it’d be interesting to see which of the Pac-12’s offenses utilized the pick-and-roll more often and more effectively than others. Heading in to a Pac-12 season featuring some fantastic frontcourt and backcourt combinations (Trier/Ayton, Holder/White, McLaughlin/Metu, Holiday/Welsh, Cartwright/Travis, Pritchard/Brown), is the PnR a tactic more coaches will be inclined to use?

Arizona’s Allonzo Trier is Murder on the PnR (USA Today Images)

Here are last season’s Pac-12 PnR utilizers:

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Morning Five: 11.14.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 14th, 2017

morning5

  1. R.J. Barrett‘s commitment to Duke seems to be a case of the rich getting richer as Mike Krzyzewski continues to rack to highly-rated recruits. It was not that long ago that it seemed like John Calipari was luring almost every top recruit to Kentucky, but over the past few years Krzyzewski has certainly held his own. In Barrett, Duke gets its third straight #1 recruit following Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III. Barrett, a 6’7″ small forward who recently reclassified from the class of 2019 to the class of 2018, chose Duke over Oregon and Kentucky. Although there are still several top recruits who have not committed it looks like the Blue Devils have a good shot at finishing the year with the #1 recruiting class as they already have commitments two other top-10 recruits (Cam Reddish and Tre Jones).
  2. Darius Garland committing to Vanderbilt might not draw the same level of attention as Barrett’s commitment to Duke, but it is more surprising. As RTC alumnus Chris Johnson notes Garland, a five-star recruit, is taking an unconventional route bypassing the traditional powerhouses. Garland had been considering Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA, but ultimately decided to stay in his home state. It’s unclear if Garland’s commitment will help Bryce Drew lure in any more recruits, but it cannot hurt.
  3. Like most people we were surprised by BYU junior guard Nick Emery announcement that he was withdrawing from school this year. Like most people we originally assumed it was the result of an investigation into whether he may have received impermissible benefits, but according to Emery the reason for him withdrawing was the stress from a divorce although some find that hard to believe. Whatever the reason, it is a big loss as the Cougars will be hard-pressed to replace the talent of a player who averaged 16.3 points per game as a freshman (his numbers were down slightly across the board as a sophomore).
  4. On Friday, Oklahoma State announced that preseason first-team All-Big 12 guard Jeffrey Carroll would be held out amid eligibility concerns. Carroll, who averaged 17.6 points (on 53.7% shooting) and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, could return as early as next week although we are never sure how long these investigations will take especially with the FBI involved. Getting Carroll back would be a huge lift for the Cowboys particularly with a game against Texas A&M looming on November 20.
  5. We usually are not interested in stories about athletes not qualifying academically since all the stories tend to be similar (player bounced around from school to school, etc), but the story of Stanford freshman Kezie Okpala caught our eye. Okpala, a top-50 recruit in the class of 2017, was ruled ineligible because of a grade he received in an AP Calculus class in his last semester of high school. We aren’t sure what Stanford’s policy is in accepting high school credits or what the rest of Okpala’s academic transcript looks like, but it seems absurd that someone taking AP calculus could fail to qualify academically (albeit by the standards of one of the top universities in the world) while the vast majority of players will never take a math class that challenging in college much less high school. More than anything it speaks to the absurdity of the NCAA or any other governing body determining academic eligibility when schools vary so widely in their academic requirements.
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