Morning Five: 11.03.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2011

  1. It’s a precipitous drop down the face of a monolith like El Capitan to go from the national championship game to losing to a D-II school at home, but Butler found itself in just that situation Wednesday night. The Northern State (SD) Wolves entered one of the most historic and difficult arenas in the nation in which to play — Hinkle Fieldhouse — and walked out with a 53-50 exhibition win after NSU’s Alex Thomas nailed a three at the buzzer to cap off a late 12-0 run. An image of the final shot can be found here (h/t @ryan_hilgemann), but nobody on the north side of Indy should go apoplectic just yet. After having lost three star players in the previous two seasons, the easy storyline is that Butler is going through a transition year, but the truth is that last season was a transition year too — all the way up until around March 15 when the Brad Stevens magic kicked back in. Butler is definitely going to have some growing pains as they figure out some things, but write off the Bulldogs at your own peril.
  2. Connecticut freshman guard and dunking machine Ryan Boatright is facing eligibility issues with the NCAA reportedly as a result of an issue involving his AAU team in his hometown of Chicago. Without knowing what the issue might be, it’s difficult to say how long this might drag out. But what we do know is that Boatright is expected to provide a backup role for starting point guard Shabazz Napier this season, and if he’s unable to do so, the Husky attack suddenly becomes much more tenuous. At that point, the depth chart moves into walk-on territory with freshman Brendan Allen next in line, although Jeremy Lamb would most likely be called upon to slide over from the shooting guard position and run the team — not an ideal situation, but one the Huskies may have to face.
  3. While on the subject of eligibility, Maryland freshman center Alex Len received a ruling from the NCAA on Wednesday that will allow him to resume practice immediately but will force him to miss the team’s first ten regular season games as penance for playing with an overseas club team. The seven-foot Ukranian will be eligible to rejoin the Terps’ seven other healthy scholarship players on December 28 against Albany, but Mark Turgeon’s team will have to tread water with limited personnel for the first few weeks of the season against a tough nonconference schedule that includes Alabama, Wichita State (possibly), Illinois and Notre Dame.
  4. Now this is the kind of news we like to read and put into the M5. Last week it appeared that Louisville freshman wing Wayne Blackshear was likely to miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury. Rick Pitino said on his radio show this week that surgeons found a better-than-expected situation when they opened him up, and with proper rehabilitation and a little luck, the star rookie could be back in action in as soon as 6-8 weeks. In case you’re doing the math, that’s right around the time that the Cards will make their biennial trip 60 miles east to play a certain game in Lexington. Welcome to college basketball, kid?
  5. Finally, Matt Norlander over at CBS Sports has put together a fairly interesting analysis prospectively looking at strength of schedule metrics for the upcoming season. As he says in the article, the gold is in the graphic that shows every power conference team (+ eight others, including Xavier, Memphis, Butler and Gonzaga) and how its 2011-12 schedule rates on a number of criteria. Long Beach State, for example is off the charts, playing a nonconference slate that features six true road games and a set of opponents who collectively averaged 26.2 wins a year ago. DePaul‘s opponents, on the other hand, averaged 12.8 wins last year. It would have been interesting to take another step with this data set and accounted for the personnel losses and incoming talent of the opponents (as Dan Hanner has done in the past), but there are still some interesting takeaways available here.
Share this story

Clemson’s Paper Tigers

Posted by rtmsf on September 6th, 2007

Perusing today’s blogroll, we came across another insightful ridiculous article from our favorite whipping boy Gary Parrish over at CBS Sportsline, er, whatever they’re calling it nowadays. His topic today was the Clemson Tigers, and how they were theoretically two plays away from an NCAA berth and overall fantastic season last year. He writes:

All the average fan remembers about last season is how the Tigers roared to a 17-0 mark before collapsing like an Iraqi government. After the best start in the country, Clemson closed the regular season by losing nine of its final 13, then dropped the ACC Tournament opener to enter Selection Sunday with a 21-10 record.

Goodbye NCAA Tournament hopes. Hello NIT.

So yeah, the 2006-2007 season was a big disappointment at Clemson, at least the roller-coaster aspect of it. But anybody who takes the time to take a closer look will quickly realize how close it was to being much different. In fact, if you’re willing to let me reverse two strokes of luck — just two moments from a season of countless moments — I can easily change two Clemson losses into two wins and transform a season of sorrow into one of celebration while making a convincing argument this is a program that could’ve entered this season ranked in the top 15 of every major poll.

Just hear me out. Take away the malfunction by the clock operator at Duke, and Clemson forces the Blue Devils to overtime on Jan. 25 and likely wins, if momentum is any indication. Take away a blown 16-point lead in the second half, and Clemson beats Virginia three days later.

I’m not asking for a huge leap of faith, am I?

Before we completely rail Parrish’s argument, let us make one point. We happen to agree with him that the Tigers have the third or fourth best returning talent in the ACC this year, and should be able to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. Does that translate to a top 15 squad? Probably not. Still, the 2007-08 Tigers should be Clemson’s most competitive ACC team in several years.

Clemson fan

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up, Kid

Where we take issue with Parrish’s argument is that the media is somehow sleeping on Clemson because of last year’s collapse. He misses two key points.

First, he doesn’t discuss that the collapse was predicated once again on a non-conference schedule softer than Miss Teen South Carolina’s gray matter. According to Pomeroy’s RPI ratings, Clemson’s non-conference SOS last year was a paltry 214th in the nation. In its “roaring” 17-0 start, the best team Clemson played was at Old Dominion (CU won 74-70). When they finally got into the rigors of ACC play, their inevitable return to mediocrity occurred.

The second point is that Clemson seemingly does this every year. Is there another program in America that year after year has a great November and December, rises up the rankings, starts getting a little buzz, and just as quickly falls flat on its face in January? Bama has a tendency to do this too, but they also have good teams every couple of years. Consider the following:

  • 2007 – Started 17-0, but finished 4-10 including 7-9 in the ACC. Went to the NIT Finals (4-1).
  • 2006 – Went 11-0 to start the season, but closed 8-13 including 7-9 in the ACC. Received NIT bid (0-1).
  • 2005 – Started 9-3 in pre-conference, but finished 7-13 including 5-11 in the ACC. Received NIT bid (0-1).
  • 2003 – Went 10-0 in its pre-conference schedule, but finished 5-12 (5-11 ACC).
  • 1999 – Started 11-1, but finished the regular season 5-13 including 5-11 in the ACC. Regrouped to go 4-1 in the NIT.
  • 1997 – Started 16-1, but ended the regular season 5-7 (9-7 ACC). Made the NCAA Sweet 16.

In at least half of the past twelve seasons they’ve made everyone who starts hyping them in early January look foolish for doing so. Thank goodness that hype as a poll metric is virtually meaningless in our sport. But at the end of the day it should be easy to see why we roll our eyes when Clemson starts a season “hot,” as well as why we’re not ready to jump on the Clemson bandwagon for 07-08 just yet.

Share this story