Conference Tournament Primer: Big West Conference

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 13th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with the last five conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and WAC.

Dates: March 13-15
Site: Honda Center (Anaheim, CA)

BW

What to expect: The Big West pecking order finally sorted itself out in the final month of the season, as UC Irvine – league favorites entering 2013-14 – captured the title over UC Santa Barbara and grabbed the top seed in Anaheim. The Anteaters are a stingy defensive unit that holds opponents to the lowest effective field goal percentage in the country, and enters the tournament having won nine of its last 10 games. They will be the slight favorites this week. However, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Hawaii were all competitive this season and each will be capable of making a championship run, or at the very least knocking off UCI. The champs will meet the fourth-seeded Warriors on Friday if both advance to the semifinals, which could mean drama: They split a pair of overtime thrillers in the regular season, including one that featured a half-court, haltime buzzer-beater and a crazy game-tying bank shot. Likewise, LBSU pushed Russell Turner’s club to the brink twice this year, losing two games by a combined five points. It’s the Gauchos, though – led by brawny center Alan Williams, who averages 21.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and two blocks per night – that will be the Anteaters’ strongest threat in the Honda Center. KenPom suggests they are almost identically-matched teams, and Williams shredded UCI for 26 points, 10 rebounds and three steals back in January. The next three days should be interesting.

Favorite: UC Irvine. The Anteaters will be slightly favored this week, if only because their quarterfinal opponent, UC Riverside, is easily the worst team in the tournament. Beyond that, it’s probably a toss-up between UCI and UCSB.

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O26 Superlatives, Part III: Big Sky, Big West, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt & WAC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2014

In Part III of our three-part series (click here for Part I and Part II), we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from six different O26 conferences: Big Sky, Big West, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt and WAC. In alphabetical order: 

Big Sky

Davion Berry and Weber State finally edged Montana and won the Big Sky. (Photo by Weber State)

Davion Berry and Weber State finally edged Montana and won the Big Sky. (Photo by Weber State)

  • Team of the Year – Weber State (17-11, 14-6). After winning 55 games in the previous two seasons, this was the year – the most parity-driven in recent memory – that Weber State outlasted Montana and won the Big Sky. The Wildcats now host the conference tournament, which could mean a return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.
  • Player of the Year – Davion Berry – Weber State. Narrowly edging out Montana’s Kareem Jamar and North Dakota’s Troy Huff for our Player of the Year, Berry averaged 19 points per contest, distributed the ball effectively, shot almost 40 percent from long range, and led his team to a title.
  • Coach of the Year – Tyler Geving – Portland State. Portland State was picked to finish ninth in the conference, an outlook that became even worse when senior Aaron Moore, averaging nearly 12 points per game, was dismissed from the team in early January. After the Vikings lost four straight close games in the middle of the Big Sky season, Geving deserves credit for leading his guys to a 5-1 finish and a fifth-place tie in the league.
  • Upset of the Year – Northern Colorado over Kansas State, 60-58. Until last Saturday, Kansas State was pretty much unbeatable at home this season: Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State, and George Washington — all these teams left Manhattan without a win. But you know who did manage to leave Manhattan with a win (aside from Baylor)? BJ Hill’s Bears. Gotta love early November.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Jaron Nash – North Dakota. Nash goes baseline, emphatically stuffs it with one hand, then salutes the home crowd. Great stuff.

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The Best in the West: Ranking the Top 20 Teams West of the Rockies

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 16th, 2014

Believe it or not, we’re about halfway through the season right now. So, it is time to revisit our Best in the West rankings. We did this about a month back, but to remind you, here’s how we roll. We take all the schools west of the Rockies (and we’re going to be a bit generous with our geography – basically we’re looking at schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast and Big West and then some of the schools from the Big Sky and WAC) and give you the top 20 teams. But, rather than just ranking schools #1 though #20, we’re going to divide all these teams up into tiers of similar quality. Below, you’ll see our Top 20 teams in the West (their overall rank will be in parentheses), with descriptions of what we think the teams in each tier have in common, plus brief comments on some of the teams in our list.

The Best of the BestIn a league of their own.

  • Arizona (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – Not only are the Wildcats head and shoulders above the rest of the teams out West, the argument can be made that they’re on a tier of their own nationally as well.
Arizona Has Established Themselves As A Team Head and Shoulders Above The Rest (Kevin Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona Has Established Themselves As A Team Head and Shoulders Above The Rest. (Kevin Sapio, USA Today)

Contenders to the Throne – And all Top 25 teams.

  • San Diego State (#2 overall, Mtn West #1) – Last time we did this, we had three teams in this tier, and the Aztecs were not among them. This time, the Aztecs are the only team aside from Arizona that should be considered a sure-fire Top 25 team.

Solid NCAA Tournament Team – Just outside the Top 25, but all with plenty of upside.

  • California (#3 overall, Pac-12 #2) – These teams are all bunched together by just about any metric. While I think you can make a case for any one of them for something like the #24 or #25 spot in your national Top 25, you can make an equally valid case that all of these teams deserve to be on the outside looking in. That being said, it is likely that if you make a national top 35, every one of these squads should probably be in there. We’ll take the Golden Bears by a hair over the rest of this group on the basis of their hot streak minus a couple of key players, but really, all these teams are very tight.

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Hatin’ Larry Krystowiak: Volume I

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 15th, 2013

A Pac-12 adaption of Every Day Should Be Saturday’s Hatin’ Steve Spurrier character. 

credit: The Grizzoulian

Larry Krystowiak (Credit: The Grizzoulian)

  • It’s just not hoops season until Washington loses to a Big West team by 14 at home. Thanks, UC Irvine.
  • Who doesn’t love the new foul rules? Two and a half hour games. Fifty fouls. This game is about flow, kids.
  • Oregon’s at it again, guys.
  • I’ve got more important things to do at 7:00 AM than watch a Quinnipiac-La Salle game. Slackers.
  • Is there a coach with more job security than Craig Robinson after losing to a lower-level MEAC team? Is there a coach other than Craig Robinson taking his team to the White House this week? The answer is in there somewhere, folks.
  • Robert Morris will look to continue its dominance of Kentucky on Sunday in Lexington. LOL.
  • How many more times does Stanford have to give up 100 points before Johnny Dawkins is fired?
  • Grand Canyon has opened its season at 0-2. Stockholders ain’t gonna be pleased.
  • Gary Payton II has committed to Oregon State. They call him “The Mitten.” That’s not a joke. Really.
  • Yeah, we lead the nation in points scored. Play someone other than Evergreen State, you say? Haters gonna hate.
  • The Marshall Henderson show is back. Once a Ute, always a Ute, is what I say.
  • Colorado has found the key to student attendance – bacon. No word on how USC’s free Ferrari promotion is working out.
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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: California and Stanford

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 4th, 2013

In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’ve been breaking down all 12 non-conference slates over the last few weeks. Up next: the Bay Area schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

California

Three Games In The Maui Invitational And A Trip To Creighton Highlight Mike Montgomery And Company's Out Of Conference Slate (credit: Mark J. Terrill)

Three Games In The Maui Invitational And A Trip To Creighton Highlight Mike Montgomery And California’s Out-of-Conference Slate (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Cream of the Crop: vs. Syracuse (#14), vs. Minnesota (#34), @ Creighton (#24)

California will face two of those three teams. The Golden Bears play either Syracuse or Minnesota in the second round of the Maui Invitational on November 26. The Orange finished 2012-13 with a record of 30-10, which included six wins over ranked opponents as well as a six-point victory against Cal in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Gophers started last season 15-1 but were handled by Florida in their second game of the NCAAs. The only known game on this list is a December 22 trip to Omaha to face Creighton, which will be Cal’s last game before Christmas break. The Bluejays topped Mike Montgomery’s team by a score of 74-64 last December in Berkeley, so they’ll look to return the favor this time around against the new Big East opponent. Creighton is loaded in the backcourt with both Doug McDermott and Grant Gibbs returning.

Solid Names: Denver (#66), Oakland (#152), vs Arkansas (#95), UC Irvine (#126), Nevada (#173), Fresno State (#135)

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Oregon Ducks

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 4th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Oregon Ducks

Strengths. The talent that Dana Altman has assembled in the post can compete with anyone in the Pac-12. Headlining that frontcourt is UNLV transfer Mike Moser, who just might be the biggest one-year pickup in the country this season. Moser is the fifth senior to transfer into Altman’s program in the past three years, and he brings star power, quickness and explosiveness as a face-up four along with him. Starting at small forward will be Northwest Florida State transfer Elgin Cook. Cook is replacing the do-everything E.J. Singler, and he provides a varied skill set that gives point guard Dominic Artis a lot of options. Finally, there’s forward/center Ben Carter. Carter may be the least talented of the trio at the start of the year, but he is highly-valued in Eugene as the designated “hustle player,” much like Arsalan Kazemi last season.

Moser Will Get A Chance To Fly Above California As A Member Of The Ducks In 2012-13 (credit: Stephen Lam)

Moser Will Get A Chance To Fly Above California As A Member Of The Ducks In 2012-13 (credit: Stephen Lam)

Weaknesses. As good as those above three will be in the post, the depth behind them is incredibly thin. With a solid one-two punch at the one and two and talent at small and power forward, the backups in the frontcourt could be the thing that drops this team from a top two Pac-12 finish to in the top four. Senior Richard Armadi has the body of a center but will have to play at the four, and sometimes even the three, because of the lack of depth. Armadi has some raw talent but it may be tough to display in a new role. And that’s the highlight of the second-string forwards and centers. Junior Jalil Abdul-Bassit and redshirt freshman Arik Armstead will also see time in the post, but only when needed.

Non-Conference Tests. All of Oregon’s acquired talent will be on full display on opening night in a made-for-ESPN tilt with Georgetown from Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Things ease up a bit after that, but a four-game stretch in mid-December may be one of the toughest in the Pac. Oregon goes to Mississippi, then meets Illinois in Portland before finishing the stretch by hosting a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams, UC Irvine and BYU.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: California Golden Bears

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on October 31st, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

California Golden Bears

Strengths. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it is a good thing that shooting guard Allen Crabbe is gone after averaging 18.4 PPG last season. However, Crabbe’s departure opens the door for freshman two guard Jabari Bird, a five-star recruit out of Salesian High School (CA). If things go according to plan, Bird will be on the Pac-12’s All-Freshmen team next March. Providing strength, explosiveness, a high basketball IQ, and the ability to float to open areas on the court and hit from anywhere after doing so, Cal has another legitimate scoring threat to play along senior Justin Cobbs in the backcourt. Cobbs became more of a score-first point guard last season, and for the most part, it worked out just fine. If he nears the same type of production, this duo will be a lethal one.

Bird Needs To Live Up To The Lofty Expectations Put Upon Him If The Golden Bears Want To Go Dancing In 2012-13 (credit: Dennis Lee)

Bird Needs To Live Up To The Lofty Expectations Put Upon Him If The Golden Bears Want To Go Dancing In 2012-13 (credit: Dennis Lee)

Weaknesses. The Golden Bears have potential up front, but it is a very thin group. And this is where they go from an NCAA Tournament lock to the bubble. Richard Solomon and David Kravish are solid players but won’t do anything that jumps off the page, and after that it gets scary. Mike Montgomery will have to go small for the majority of games and desperately needs 7’0″ freshman Kameron Rooks to be ready immediately when the two starters need a break.

Non-Conference Tests. California will face five tough opponents in its non-conference schedule, four of which come within a one-week span. It’ll open Feast Week in Lahaina against Arkansas in the first round of the Maui Invitational, then face either Syracuse or Minnesota a day later. Gonzaga highlights the four options for its final game on the Islands before Cal returns home to face UC Irvine, a team projected by most to take the Big West. The final non-conference test will be played December 22 at Creighton.

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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Oregon and Oregon State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 9th, 2013

October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up next; the Oregon schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

Oregon

Dana Altman's Oregon Team Is On The Rise, But They Have A Few Tests To Handle Before Pac-12 Play Begins In January. (credit: Alex Brandon)

Dana Altman’s Oregon Team Is On The Rise, But They Have A Few Tests To Handle Before Pac-12 Play Begins In January. (credit: Alex Brandon)

Cream of the Crop: vs Georgetown (11), vs Illinois (40)

Oregon has managed to get two high profile, neutral site games on its non-conference schedule. The Ducks will face Georgetown on opening night at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, in a game to be televised by ESPN. The Hoyas finished 2012-13 with a 25-7 record and notched six victories over Top 25 opponents. Of course, the last time we saw Georgetown, it was getting dunked all over by Florida Gulf Coast in an NCAA Tournament opener. Oregon’s second marquee opponent is Illinois, who they will meet in Portland on December 14 at 6:00 PM in a game also televised by the ESPN family of networks. It looked as if this would be a return game for former Oregon State point guard Ahmad Starksbut his transfer waiver was denied last week by the NCAA. The Fighting Illini are still loaded at guard, with both Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand returning.

Solid Names: San Francisco (167), Pacific (97), Cal Poly (164), @ Mississippi (48), UC Irvine (126), BYU (63)

Mississippi headlines the second group, and the Ducks and Rebels will meet December 8 in Oxford. The game will tipoff at 2:00 PM and be carried by ESPNU. Dynamite senior Marshall Henderson is back after leading Ole Miss with 20.1 PPG last year, and while the guard is currently suspended, he will likely be back by December. Outside of him, however, the Rebels are pretty thin, and a finish in the lower half of the SEC is likely. BYU presents a challenge for Oregon. The Ducks and Cougars will play December 21 in Eugene, and the team that won 24 games in the 2012-13 campaign is expected to compete with Gonzaga for the WCC title. Pacific is the only other team on Oregon’s non-conference slate with a double digit RPI.

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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Washington and Washington State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 7th, 2013

October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up first; the Washington schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

Washington

Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Lorenzo Romar’s Program Is on Shaky Ground Right Now (Geoffrey McAllister, AP)

Cream of the Crop: vs Indiana (8), @ San Diego State (30)

Washington has a pair of marquee opponents on its non-conference slate this season. The Huskies will face Indiana in New York City on November 21, in a game to be televised by ESPN2 at 6:00 PM. The Hoosiers finished 2012-13 with a 29-7 record and lost to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. Replacing their two leading scorers (and lottery picks) from last year will be of top importance heading into the season, and Washington will be IU’s first test. Equally as tough will be the trip to Viejas Arena to open the month of December. Senior guard Chase Tapley, and of course, the raucous student section known as The Show, will be waiting for the Dawgs. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network at 12:05 PM on December 8.

Solid Names: UC Irvine (126), vs Boston College (113), Montana (74), Long Beach State (115), @ Tulane (178), Connecticut (49)

Connecticut headlines the second tier, and Washington could actually face the other Huskies twice this season, depending on how the 2KSports Classic shakes out. The scheduled match-up will be the final game before Christmas break, tipping off at 12:30 PM on ESPNU. When the two teams met last season in Hartford, freshman Omar Calhoun picked apart UW in UConn’s eight-point win. Now that Lorenzo Romar and company will get them in front of their own Dawg Pound, it says here that Washington gets a big revenge victory heading into the holiday. Northwest rival Montana could present a challenge. The Huskies always seem to drop a head-scratching home game or two (South Dakota State two years back, Albany and Nevada last season), and the Grizzlies are a likely candidate to continue the tradition. Seniors Mathias Ward and Kareem Jamar, both who averaged over 14 PPG last season, will lead a balanced Montana attack on the offensive end of the floor.

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Who Won the Week: Duke, UC Irvine and Texas (sorta) …

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 21st, 2012

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Duke

Mason Plumlee has led Duke in rebounding 10 times in 11 games as the Blue Devils are 11-0 while ranked third in strength of schedule. (AP Photo)

Mason Plumlee has led Duke in rebounding 10 times in 11 games as the Blue Devils are 11-0 while ranked third in strength of schedule. (AP Photo)

The week couldn’t have gone much more perfectly for the Blue Devils than it did. Achieve top ranking? Check. Land a top recruit? Check. Win both games handily? Check and check. Yes, Duke should probably send some flowers to Butler for knocking off preseason favorite Indiana, but who would have looked at the two teams before Saturday and thought the Hoosiers were better? Outside of the state of Indiana, I’m guessing few would. The Blue Devils (11-0) have the nation’s best body of work, and have dominated it in such a fashion that they look to be the nation’s top team convincingly, and this is before prized prospect Jabari Parker picked Mike Krzyzewski’s squad over Michigan State and BYU. On the court, Mason Plumlee, who has led Duke in rebounding 10 times so far, carried his team to an 88-47 win over Cornell with 18 points and nine rebounds Wednesday and followed that up the next night with 21 points and 15 boards in a 76-54 win over Elon. And as an added bonus, the youngest Plumlee, freshman Marshall, already made a brief return to the court against Cornell coming back from a foot injury.

(Related winners: Mason Plumlee, Butler. Related losers: Indiana, Michigan State, BYU, Cornell, Elon, and especially North Carolina – more to come.)

LOSER: Eastern Kentucky

The Ohio Valley’s Colonels started their season off hot, winning nine straight games before a weekend matchup at also-undefeated Illinois. The major-conference team expectedly pulled Eastern Kentucky apart, winning 66-53, but it was what happened next that wrapped up a bad week in Richmond, Ky. On a rare road trip to a MEAC school, the Colonels were tripped up by North Carolina A&T, who pounded the ball inside while shooting 55 percent from the field and stifling Eastern Kentucky’s guard-oriented offense by holding it to 40 percent shooting. The Bulldogs also nearly doubled up the Colonels on the glass, sealing the game. So much for a hot start.

(Related winners: North Carolina A&T, the 457 Bulldogs fans who watched the game in person. Related losers: Murray State and the Ohio Valley Conference, which both need every break they can get come March.)

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Pac-12 M5: 12.21.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 21st, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. The biggest news of the day doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Bruin Report Online is reporting that UCLA is currently leaning toward replacing head coach Ben Howland. Tracy Pierson notes that booster and donation support has diminished considerably, and the tip of the iceberg came when UCLA lost three of five games from late November to early December this season. Howland has already had a pair of players transfer out of the program in the first two months, and while that kind of stuff gets excused when you’re winning, losing games in front of small crowds to the likes of Cal Poly and nearly UC Irvine brings the issue to the forefront. This report comes at a time when the Bruins have won three in a row, and if they can extend that streak into Pac-12 play it would mean wins against Fresno State and Missouri. Gaining back respect from AD Dan Guerrero and Bruins boosters will start by winning that high-profile non-conference game.
  2. So far in this 2012-13 season, just about the only thing Washington fans should be happy about is the play of its backcourt. The one-two punch on the perimeter between fifth-year senior Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox is one of the Pac-12’s finest, with each player averaging at least 14 PPG. To show how important Suggs is to the Husky offense, the Dawgs dropped a game to Albany when the senior suffered a concussion just 90 seconds into the game. He also missed UW’s 18-point loss to Colorado State with a sore foot, and they nearly dropped games to Saint Louis and Cal State Fullerton without him. Needless to say, as Suggs goes, so does this Washington team.
  3. One of the more intriguing games/tournaments to be played directly around, and on, Christmas (okay, so these are the only college hoops games) features Arizona. The Wildcats are spending the holiday in paradise, and they’ll start play in the Diamond Head Classic tomorrow against East Tennessee State. The Bucs and Cats of course have a short but storied history, with 14-seed ETSU upsetting Arizona in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament. Tougher games will be in store for Sean Miller’s club as it progresses through the bracket, as possible meetings with Miami (FL) and San Diego State could be on tap.
  4. There’s nothing I love more than some good tournament talk, and the California Golden Blogs roundtable delivers in this discussion. As they note in the opening, California put up a big goose egg in its big three-game series, yet the Golden Bears were competitive for two-thirds of them. The general consensus between CGB writers is that Cal will receive either a 12-seed or flat out miss the tournament altogether, but it’s still too early to tell. At this point, I’d say they are firmly atop the NCAA bubble along with UCLA, and the two Bruins/Bears match-ups in January and February could go a long way deciding who gets the Pac-12’s final spot.
  5. Stanford missed out on one of the top recruits in the nation Thursday when Jabari Parker announced his intentions to play basketball at Duke. The Simeon High School (IL) forward also revealed that Stanford and BYU were the only schools in Parker’s top five to not make the final cut of three. What makes Parker so special is his versatility. He could have played anywhere on the floor for Johnny Dawkins, and his superb ball-handling and passing abilities would have helped the Cardinal as well.
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RTC Top 25: Week 2

Posted by KDoyle on November 26th, 2012

Let’s cut right to the chase: Duke is #1 and Indiana #2. This may upset some, considering Indiana began the season as our #1 team, is a perfect 6-0 with a good win against Georgetown, has perhaps the best offensive attack in college basketball, and has shown little — if any — weakness. But, there is little denying Duke’s resume at this point (more on that after the jump). Two Big East squads—Georgetown and Cincinnati—made power moves up in the rankings after impressive weeks, while two other teams have plummeted right out of the Top 25—UCLA and Memphis. There wasn’t just movement at the top of the rankings, as five new teams have entered the Top 25 after strong showings during “Feast Week.”

This week’s QnD after the jump…

Quick ‘n Dirty Analysis.

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