Who Won the Week? Wahoos, BYU, Lumberjacks, But Not Hoosiers or Hoyas

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 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. That’s tough to do when the closest game in the week is two states away. There’s four schools, in four different conferences, within 90 minutes of his house. Figure it out, schedule-makers.

WINNER: Virginia

The Cavaliers picked off a pair of pesky road games, winning at a bubble-bound Clemson and pesky rival Virginia Tech, and  – thanks to timely losses from Syracuse and Duke – have the inside track on their first outright ACC title since 1980-81, when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. In Saturday’s 63-58 win against the Tigers, four Virginia players scored in double digits, led by senior guard Joe Harris’ 16. Tuesday’s 57-53 win over the Hokies was a little uglier, with sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon leading the team with 12 points, but he and Harris combined to shoot 5 for 21 from the field. The molasses-slow Hoos haven’t crested 70 possessions in a game this season, but their 10-game winning streak dates back to a 69-65 loss at Duke on Jan. 13, their only stumble in conference play. Their last four games are Notre Dame, Miami and Syracuse at home before a road trip to Maryland.

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner
(Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

(Related winners:  Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who coaches the best basketball you don’t ever want to watch. Related losers: Duke, which after losing to rival North Carolina cannot win the conference unless Syracuse and Virginia to both lose each game they play not against each other; Syracuse, no longer undefeated and now the only top-20 team with a loss to a team outside the top 150 of the RPI.)

LOSER: Indiana

It’s tough to tell which is falling apart faster: the Hoosiers’ season or Assembly Hall. Indiana got smoked by in-state rival Purdue 82-64 for its third straight loss and now sits at 14-11 and 4-8 in Big Ten play. Cold shooting did the Hoosiers in, with a 39 percent effective field goal rate against a team that usually gives up nearly 48 percent effective shooting. Oh, and Tuesday’s game against Iowa was postponed when a large piece of metal came unfastened from storied Assembly Hall’s roof, falling into the seats. Since then, more pieces of the ceiling have been found to be unsound, so who knows what’s going to happen in that regard. But as poorly as the Hoosiers are playing, maybe any distraction is welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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O26 Resume Review: Bubble Watch Edition

Posted by Adam Stillman on February 19th, 2014

We are less than a month from Selection Sunday. The bubble picture is as unsettled as ever. So what better time to do a complete O26 resume review? Instead of reviewing teams that helped and hurt their profiles this past week, however, let’s take a look at all the legitimate at-large candidates among the O26 conferences.

Atlantic 10

  • Locks: Saint Louis
  • Should be in: Massachusetts, VCU
  • Work to do: George Washington, Richmond, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton

There is no way SLU (23-2) misses at this point. The Billikens are ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1964, boast a #11 RPI and hold a three-game advantage in the loss column over VCU, Saint Joseph’s and Richmond with six games to play. The Atlantic 10 as a whole looks like a safe bet for four bids, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see the league get six teams into the NCAA Tournament this season.

Seven Atlantic 10 teams have legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes.

Seven Atlantic 10 teams have legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes.

  • Massachusetts (20-5, #19 RPI). The Minutemen are still in pretty good position to make the NCAA Tournament. Sure, a home loss to cellar-dwelling George Mason last week looks awful, but strong wins against New Mexico, Providence, BYU and LSU in the non-conference slate make this a solid overall profile. Home games with VCU and SLU, as well as a road tilt at Dayton, highlight the remaining schedule.
  • VCU (20-6, #23 RPI). All in all, not a bad week for the Rams. VCU took care of business at home against George Washington before falling 64-62 at SLU. A win there might have bumped the Rams up into the lock category, but they stay here for now. The early season win at Virginia continues to look better and better as the Cavaliers are on fire. VCU travels to UMass on Friday and hosts SLU on March 1.
  • George Washington (20-6, #37 RPI). George Washington rebounded Tuesday night after a rough week where the Colonials were walloped by 17 points at VCU before falling by six to UMass at home. Those were two huge opportunities for GW to cement its place in the field of 68. Then the Colonials topped fellow bubble-dweller Richmond on Tuesday, thus taking a step closer to the field. George Washington can pretty much count itself in with a win at Saint Louis this weekend. The Colonials still can hang their hats on a great neutral-court win against Creighton way back on December 1. Read the rest of this entry »
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O26 Game of the Week: VCU Visits Saint Louis in Defensive Clash

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 12th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Virginia Commonwealth (19-5) at Saint Louis (22-2) – 2:00 PM ET, ESPN2, Saturday

This game punctuates what could be a decisive week in the Atlantic 10. If VCU can take down George Washington on Wednesday night, it will claim sole possession of second place and remain just two games back of Saint Louis heading into Saturday. A victory would pull Shaka Smart’s club within a game of the top spot, setting the stage for a crucial rematch on March 1st; a loss would give the Billikens an overwhelming advantage over the rest of the league, nearly guaranteeing a second-straight regular season title. And conference implications aside, this game offers each team—both stingy-defensive units with second-weekend potential—the opportunity to notch a resume-bolstering victory just one month out from Selection Sunday. A lot will be at stake in Chaifetz Arena.

VCU travels to Saint Louis for an enormous Atlantic 10 tilt. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

VCU travels to Saint Louis for an enormous Atlantic 10 tilt. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

If last year was any indication, Saint Louis should have no problem handling VCU and its HAVOC defense, which is predicated on forcing turnovers and scoring points in transition. In their only regular season meeting of 2013, the Billikens—who run a slow-paced, ball-control offense—broke the Rams’ press time after time down the floor, committing just eight turnovers and getting countless easy looks under the basket. In turn, VCU was unable to get anything in the way of transition buckets—a huge problem against a dominant half-court defense adept at taking away the three point shot, the Rams’ next-best scoring method. Saint Louis coasted to a 14-point home victory in that one and validated it a month later in the A-10 Championship game, again staving off VCU’s pressure on its way to claiming the league’s postseason crown.

So, then, what hope could the Rams possibly have this year, on the road against virtually the same team? Well, for starters, the Billikens have been skating on the thin ice in recent weeks. Three of their last five games have been one possession contests in the final minute of regulation, including an overtime home victory over then-winless George Mason. They won all three—part of a current 16-game winning streak—but showed slight vulnerabilities on defense and at times struggled to score. If Saint Louis continues playing with fire, odds say it will eventually get burned. Plus, this season’s Billikens aren’t quite the offensive team they were a year ago (scoring at a modestly lower rate), and VCU is even better on defense. Anytime a middle-of-the-pack offense meets an elite defense, the former is probably going to have trouble at various points in the game. Of course, the same can be said for VCU’s offense and Saint Louis’ defense, but the point remains: the Rams certainly have a chance. And if they do manage to pull one out on the road, the A-10 will become a whole lot more interesting.

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We Salute You: Paying Homage to the Nation’s Undefeated Teams in League Play

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 6th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court and spent way too much time on these articles.

With the calendar turned to February and the meat of conference play upon us, the most dominant and least effective teams are showing their colors against equal competition. And with the halfway point of conference season rapidly approaching for many – and already here for others – now is a good time to take stock of both teams that are undefeated in conference and those who have yet to win. Tuesday’s installment took a look at the less fortunate teams among us, ranked from least likely to most to not win a game in conference play. Today, we do the same, but with the 10 teams still undefeated in conference play.

Note: All statistics dutifully harvested from kenpom.com.

Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 Atlantic Coast Conference)

Jim Boeheim has done a masterful job managing his lineup. But will the grind of the ACC season catch up to the Orange? (Getty)

Jim Boeheim has done a masterful job managing his lineup. But will the grind of the ACC season catch up to the Orange? (Getty)

  • Odds: 1.8 percent chance to go undefeated
  • Most likely losses: Feb. 22 at Duke, 67 percent; March 1 at Virginia, 59 percent
  • Biggest strength: Top 10 offense; defensively, second in block rate and steal rate
  • Achilles’ heel: Middle-of-the-road free-throw shooting
  • Key player: Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis (12.1 points per game, 5.6 assists per game, 2.3 steals per game; plays more of his team’s minutes than any other power conference freshman)
  • Outlook: Syracuse’s chances of going undefeated are not equal to their chances of beating the teams on this list. (In fact, I’d take the Orange in each match-up, and I hope that the team most likely to go undefeated and this Syracuse squad end up facing off in the NCAA Tournament, because that would be one hell of a game.) But the Orange still have to go into Cameron Indoor Stadium to face a Duke team that took them to overtime in Syracuse in an instant classic this past weekend. They also have to travel to Virginia and former Big East rival Pittsburgh in the regular season, which are the three toughest away games on their entire schedule. Syracuse has played a grind-it-out slow tempo this season, its seventh straight in which its pace of play has slowed down, going from 27th in tempo in 2007-08 to 344th of 351 teams in 2013-14. That slow tempo lets coach Jim Boeheim play six to seven players regularly, and his starters have played tons of minutes, which could be a big problem as the season drags on or, heaven forbid, a core player gets hurt.

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Southland Race Gets More Interesting With Mandated Forfeitures

Posted by Adam Stillman on January 9th, 2014

Man, what a crazy season it’s been for the Southland Conference. It’s only January, but the league has already found itself in the news a couple of times, and that’s without any shocking upsets. It started in early December when Oral Roberts announced it would return to its original stomping grounds — the Summit League — for the 2014-15 season. Then it was announced on Wednesday that Stephen F. Austin and Oral Roberts would be forfeiting games based on a misunderstanding of NCAA scheduling rules.

Stephen F. Austin (pictured) and Oral Roberts will be forfeiting Southland Conference games. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Stephen F. Austin (SFA, pictured) and Oral Roberts will be forfeiting Southland Conference games. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

That about explains it all right there. Basically NCAA Division I programs aren’t allowed to play more than four games against non-Division I programs in any given year, regardless of whether they’re exhibition or regular season contests. To date, Stephen F. Austin has played two regular season games and one exhibition contest against non-D-I opponents, while Oral Roberts has faced a four non-D-I teams in the exhibition and regular seasons. That’s not more than four, you might say, so what’s the beef? Alas, a pair of Southland Conference teams will count against that tally. With Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word transitioning from Division II to Division I this season, those two programs still technically count as non-Division I programs. After playing Abilene Christian on January 30 (its fourth) Stephen F. Austin will forfeit a home game to Incarnate Word on February 1 (its fifth), while Oral Roberts will forfeit a January 16 game at Abilene Christian (its fifth) and a January 18 contest at Incarnate Word (its sixth).

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Morning Five: 01.09.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 9th, 2014

morning5

  1. Creighton got some great news on the injury front yesterday when it got back MRIs on Doug McDermott‘s shoulder and Grant Gibbs‘ knee. McDermott is listed as day-to-day with a shoulder sprain and is expected to play on Sunday. Gibbs’ status is a little less clear after he dislocated his kneecap and is expected to miss the next month. While both injuries obviously are tough blows to the Bluejays this is probably the best that their fans could have hoped for after both players were injured in a win on Tuesday night against DePaul when it seemed like both players might miss an extended period of time.
  2. Vanderbilt was not as fortunate albeit for completely different reasons as they will be without Eric McClellan, their leading scorer, for the rest of the season as he will not be in school for the spring semester after violating one of the school’s academic policies. According to the school he is expected to be reinstated this summer so we would expect to see him back in a Commodore uniform next season. McClellan, a sophomore transfer from Tulsa, was averaging 14.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season. His departure is a crushing blow for a team that was going to have a tough time staying in the top half of the SEC with a full roster and now is down to just seven scholarship players.
  3. We have talked a lot about conference realignment in this space over the past few years, but we cannot think of a time where it has had such a direct influence on wins and losses as it will with the Southland Conference this year. Yesterday the conference announced that it would be making Stephen F. Austin (the best team in the conference) forfeit one game and Oral Roberts forfeit two games because they are scheduled to play more than four non-Division I opponents this season (the NCAA maximum). The worst part about it? They have to forfeit conference games because two of the schools in their conference–Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word–are transitional Division I programs meaning that even though they play in a conference full of Division I teams they still get counted as a Division II team (their previous Division) until next year.
  4. When Florida dismissed Damontre Harris from their team we assumed it would be the last time we would see the Virginia Tech transfer in Gainesville. It turns out that we were wrong, which happens more often than we would like to admit, as Billy Donovan said yesterday that Harris was re-enrolling at Florida and could work his way back onto the team next season. Given the continuous state of flux that most basketball rosters seem to be in taking another chance on Harris, who averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore at South Carolina in the 2011-12 season, certainly seems like a reasonable risk since it appears that he did not have any legal issues.
  5. Three years ago we created a Big Four State Tournament where we created fictional all-star teams from the best college basketball states in the country. Ryan Fagan of Sporting News took a similar approach with states this year, but took a much broader look at each state by considering the individual teams rather than the most prominent players. The results probably won’t be too surprising to those who have actually followed the season, but it should create some debate particularly since some of the traditional powerhouse states are ranked lower than where they might normally be in this type of ranking.
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O26 Buzz: This Week’s Storylines

Posted by Nicholas Patrick on January 3rd, 2014

Every Friday throughout the rest of the season, the Other 26 Microsite will dig into some of the top storylines featuring those leagues from the previous week.

1. Eye-Opening O26 Results from the Past Week

Kyle Collingsworth and his fellow BYU Cougars need to get back on track after opening WCC play with consecutive losses

Kyle Collingsworth and his fellow BYU Cougars need to get back on track after opening WCC play with consecutive losses

  • Saturday: UNC Greensboro 55, Virginia Tech 52: The Spartans’ complete list of victories against D-I opponents now includes High Point, Stetson, James Madison, oh, and a member of the ACC.
  • Saturday: Massachusetts 69, Providence 67 (OT): Derrick Gordon’s game-winner gave the Minutemen their fifth victory against power conference opponents.
  • Monday: Southern 116, Champion Baptist College 12: This game was already unsettling by the time CBC scored its first point (at that time, Southern had already put up 44 points).
  • Monday: Louisiana Tech 102, Oklahoma 98 (OT): Alex Hamilton scored 36 to lead the Bulldogs to their first win against a power conference opponent.
  • Monday: Pepperdine 80, BYU 74: The Cougars trailed from the opening minutes and finished a disheartening week that also included a loss to Loyola Marymount to open WCC play.
  • Tuesday: North Texas 61, Texas A&M 41: The Mean Green took charge midway through the first half and never looked back on their way to crushing the Aggies.
  • Thursday: Gonzaga 73, Saint Mary’s 51: If this blowout win over their primary WCC rival is any indication, the Zags may not have a true challenger for the conference crown.

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Pac-12 Bracketology: Final Update and Bubble Predictions

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 17th, 2013

After four months of basketball, the NCAA, NIT, and CBI fields will be released later today. In this piece, I project how each Pac-12 team fits into the field and where the national bubble stands. To review last night’s post, click here.

Category Team Projected Seed Projected Opponent P12 S Curve Rank
Definitely Dancin’ Arizona 5 Boise State/Middle Tenn 18 – Down One Spot
UCLA 7 Minnesota 25 – Down One Spot
Oregon* 8 San Diego State 30 – Up Four Spots
 
Bubble In Colorado 10 Colorado State 38 – No Change
California 10 Creighton* 39 – No Change
Bubble Out Arizona State 2 (NIT) Stephen F. Austin* No Change
NIT Locks Stanford 3 (NIT) Northern Iowa No Change
NIT Bubble Out Washington N/A UTEP (CBI) No Change

*Conference Champ

We’ll just run through this quickly and address the changes from last night. Arizona drops one spot as a result of Saint Louis’ win against Butler. That means the Wildcats now face the winner of the Boise State/Middle Tennessee First Four game. UCLA drops one spot as well after losing to Oregon. They also get a much tougher match-up in Minnesota than what I projected last night (Bucknell). Oregon climbed four spots after upsetting UCLA, but because North Carolina got a good win as well, the Ducks are still in the dreaded #8/#9 game. They face San Diego State in my projections. There are no changes on the bubble, as Colorado and California didn’t move at all after last night’s action. Both teams remain #10 seeds and still face Colorado State and Creighton.

In the NIT, Arizona State remains a #2 seed but gets a new first round opponent after some NIT auto bids were handed out last night. They now get Stephen F. Austin at the Wells Fargo Arena early next week, a dangerous club that finished the regular season 27-4. Stanford is just behind the Sun Devils as a #3 seed and gets a very tough match-up in Northern Iowa.

Due to the increase in NIT automatic bids over the past couple of days, Washington won’t make the field of 32. They are my seventh team out of the field and host UTEP in the first round of the CBI.

National Bubble Watch – NCAA

  • Last Four Byes: Wichita State, Temple, La Salle, Virginia (last bye)
  • Last Four In: Boise State, Iowa State, Villanova, Middle Tennessee
  • First Four Out: Kentucky, Mississippi, Southern Miss, Iowa
  • Next Four Out: Alabama, Arizona State, Tennessee, Baylor

Some think Villanova and Boise State are locks, but I just don’t see it that way. The Wildcats have an RPI rank of #51; far from a team locked into the field. Both will make it, but with a rough Championship Week, they’ll be going to Dayton. La Salle, meanwhile, should avoid the First Four. Finishing tied for third in the Atlantic 10 is no small task, and the Explorers finished with quality wins over Villanova, Iona, Butler, and VCU. The only other pick that is widely disagreed with is the exclusion of Mississippi, but I ask you this; just count the wins. Count the wins in which the Rebels have beaten a solid team, and compare it to the list of Villanova, Iowa State, or even Kentucky. They don’t even come close. Ole Miss could still make the field if they knock off Florida later this morning, meaning Middle Tennessee would likely drop to the NIT.

Kentucky and Iowa will be closer to the field of 68 than you think. And so will Alabama and Arizona State. With the softness of the bubble this season, anyone can make the case that the Wildcats should be in over the Blue Raiders, or that the Crimson Tide could beat Iowa State.

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The Other 26: Let the Madness Begin

Posted by IRenko on March 2nd, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

As the calendar turns to March, let us declare: Let the Madness begin. The NCAA Tournament is still three weeks away, but the fight to get there begins in earnest this coming week, as 12 mid-major conferences will kick off their tournaments. The Big South and Horizon League will have the honor of kicking things off on Tuesday night, with their first round tournament games. Ten more conferences will follow suit with the first auto-bids being awarded a week from today in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.

We’ll be back next week with updates on all the action, but until then, there is still the homestretch of the regular season to attend to. So let’s move on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and (regular season) games to watch this week.

Top 10

RTC -- TO26 (3.2.13)

Honor Roll

The Honor Roll is our weekly fixture highlighting the teams, players, and performances that impressed us in the past week.

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The Other 26: It’s Nate Wolters’ World, and We’re Just Living In It

Posted by IRenko on February 9th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were musing in this space about whether an early December ankle injury was hindering Nate Wolters’ performance. After missing two games, Wolters registered three straight games with a sub-100 offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy), decidedly mediocre performances by Wolters’ high standards. But those would be the only three games this year where Wolters fell below that mark, as he emerged from his funk with a 28-point performance in a big win over New Mexico. Since then, Wolters has been as productive as ever. But none of us could have expected what happened on Thursday night. Wolters exploded for an incredible 53-point performance.

Nate Wolters Owned the Court on Thursday Night (South Dakota State Athletics)

Nate Wolters Owned the Court on Thursday Night (South Dakota State Athletics)

Wolters shot 17-of-28 from the floor, including 9-of-14 from three-point range. He added 10 points from the free throw line. He outscored the entire opposing team, IPFW, in the second half, 38-37. He scored in every which way — step back threes, drives through the lane, catch-and-shoot threes, drives along the baseline, threes off ball screens, pull-up jumpers … you name it, he did it.

Wolters is now averaging 22.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He commits just 2.3 turnovers a game despite using more than 30 percent of the Jackrabbits’ possessions. He shoots over 80 percent from the free throw line and over 40 percent from the three-point line. And perhaps most important of all, he has led his team on an eight-game winning streak that has buried an uneven start to the conference season and put the Jackrabbits in a first-place tie with Western Illinois. If you’ve yet to catch the Wolters show, fret not as there are some high-profile opportunities in the coming weeks. Next Saturday, the Jackrabbits welcome Western Illinois to Brookings, and you can bet that the joint will be jumping. And a week later, Wolters will take his talents to Murray, Kentucky to square off against Isaiah Canaan and the Racers in a premier Bracketbuster matchup.

On to this week’s Top 10, our Honor Roll, and the games to watch this week …

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ATB: Another Loss For Louisville, UCLA Can’t Sweep Arizona Schools and the Big Ten’s Best Come Up Big…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 28th, 2013

ATB

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

The Weekend’s Lede. Parity Rocks Conference PlayThe theme of this college basketball season isn’t going away. There are no dominant teams. From Indiana to Duke to Louisville, or whoever else inherits the top spot in the rankings this season, their stay won’t be a long one. But what we’re seeing this season is about more than big-time upsets. Not every surprising result is a top-five stunner. It’s the parity in conference play that makes pegging conference frontrunners and Final Four contenders so adventurous. The insanity continued over the weekend, and frankly, I don’t envision it stopping any time soon. This – hotly-tested games, minimal gaps between the best and worst of each league, contested conference races, no clear favorites – is college basketball at its finest. It comes at you from so many different angles, so many different time zones, so many different TV channels. It gives you unranked Villanova knocking off two top-five teams in a week, and UCLA losing to the little-brother Arizona school two days after beating big brother, and Marshall Plumlee and Alex Len engaging in mid-game dunk warfare. And then, just when you’ve seen enough, it brings you another healthy heaping throughout the week. Before we get there, the weekend brought us plenty to dissect and deliberate. Time to dive in.

Your Watercooler Moment. Villanova Strikes Again.

Two top-five upsets highlighted an excellent week for the Wildcats (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Two top-five upsets highlighted an excellent week for the Wildcats (Photo credit: Getty Images).

There is no rational explanation for why Villanova was able to take down not just one but both of the Big East’s best teams this week. The Wildcats are still worlds away from the perimeter-oriented teams that fared so well under Jay Wright over the past decade. But they got those wins, and now Villanova’s season is headed in an entirely different direction. A week ago, the Wildcats were licking their wounds after dropping consecutive games against Pittsburgh and at Providence. The first was predictable and totally understandable; the second one hurt. It hurt not just because you’d rather not lose to a talented but young Providence team on the road under any circumstance, but because the rigorous two-game stretch that loomed left the possibility for a sustained losing streak. That rigor, in hindsight, was ‘Nova’s upset gold. And the weirdest part: Louisville and Syracuse, both ranked in the top-six in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency rankings entering Saturday, are about as upset-proof as tom-five teams come this season. Sure, the Cardinals’ offense betrays them from time to time, and when the bad, turnover-proned, wacky Russ Smith overwhelms the All American-level star we’ve seen in large stretches this season, Rick Pitino’s team can lose. And yes, the Orange have their warts, especially without their best shooter, James Southerland. But that baseline defensive commonality buffers against bad shooting nights, against 25-point games from Darrun Hilliard and poor late-game foul management. Seeing one of these teams go down in Philadelphia would have been run of the mill stuff for this season. But two, both lorded over by hall of fame coaches with decades of upset-avoiding wisdom at their disposal? Can’t say I saw this coming.

Also Worth Chatting About.  Bruins Still Maturing.

As the season rolls on, the Bruins will continue to get better (Photo credit: AP Photo).

As the season rolls on, the Bruins will continue to get better (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Swinging through a late-week road trip bookended with games at the two Arizona schools without a loss was a pipedream from the start. UCLA is an explosive offensive team, flush with talented freshmen and a handful of valuable role players, plus a much-improved defense. It is not the best team in the Pac-12; at least not yet. By season’s end, Ben Howland’s team is the odds-on favorite to own that title, but the Bruins have a few tweaks to make before they reach their peak. They won the more important of the two games, beating Arizona Saturday in relatively comfortable fashion, and that’s the biggest takeaway from this brutal two-game stretch. UCLA, like its Pac 12 challengers (Oregon, Arizona), is not experienced or balanced enough to stroll through conference play without a few hiccups along the way. Besides, Arizona State is quietly playing some excellent hoops on both ends of late; the Sun Devils entered Saturday making exactly half of their two-point shots, tops in the Pac 12. If Jordan Bachynski is going to give you 22 points and 15 rebounds, Carrick Felix adds 23 and 11, and David Wear can’t hold his side of the bargain (five points on 2-for-12 shooting), competing – much less winning – is a dubious goal.

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The Other 26: Reshuffling the Top of the Deck

Posted by IRenko on January 26th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a wild week for the TO26’s best teams, as seven of the teams ranked in our top ten — including our top five — all suffered losses. With Gonzaga, Creighton, VCU, Butler, and UNLV all going down, who has a rightful claim on the number one ranking?  Does New Mexico slide all the way from 6th to 1st after their win over Colorado State?

Not quite.  Yes, Gonzaga lost to Butler in a game played without Rotnei Clarke, Butler’s leading scorer. But it was in a hostile road environment, and even under those conditions, Gonzaga had a victory in hand with just a few seconds left on the clock. And on Thursday, the Zags followed up the loss with a 20-point drubbing of conference rival BYU. So Mark Few’s men will continue to hold the top spot in our rankings. But all of the action elsewhere will produce a substantial reshuffling. Without further ado, on the substantially revised Top 10, our weekly Honor Roll, and a few games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

Top Ten

RTC -- TO26 (1.26.13)

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