Ten Questions to Consider: Conference Races Heating Up

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 8th, 2019

Football season is now completely in the rear view mirror and the casual fan is welcomed to a weekend of college basketball highlighted by the #1 vs. #2 Duke/Virginia rematch along with numerous other heavyweight contests. Here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s loaded slate of action.

It’s Part Two of Potentially Four Duke-Virginia Match-ups This Season (USA Today Images)
  1. Which elite team’s defense improves upon a lackluster performance in the first match-up? (Duke @ Virginia, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) In Duke’s 72-70 win over Virginia last month, the two teams combined to shoot 67.1 percent from inside the arc. R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson, in particular, made 20 of their 28 two-point attempts that night. If interior defenses improve in round two, which team wins the three-point contest after the two teams combined for 5-of-31 shooting? This is without question the game of the weekend, and quite possibly the entire regular season.
  2. Can LSU protect its home court against a surging Auburn team? (Auburn @ LSU, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN2) Since losing three straight games in mid-January, Auburn has rallied back with three consecutive double-figure wins. In SEC play, no team has gotten to the free throw line at a better rate than LSU, while no team has put the opponent at the line at a worse rate than Auburn. Which matters more?
  3. Will Mississippi State’s offense show up against Kentucky? (Kentucky @ Mississippi State, Saturday 1 PM EST, CBS) The last match-up between these two teams was very one-sided as Kentucky held the Bulldogs to a season low 0.79 points per possession. Mississippi State could not buy much success either inside the arc (16-of-41) or outside it (3-of-20).
  4. Which Steven Enoch does Louisville get against Florida State? (Louisville @ Florida State, Saturday 4 PM, ESPN2) Since an early January decision to bring Steven Enoch off its bench, Louisville has gone 7-2. The big man transfer has scored 10 or more points in six of those games. On the season, Enoch averages 10.5 points per game in Cardinal wins and just 5.8 points per game in Louisville’s six defeats.
  5. Can Marquette make the Big East title race interesting? (Villanova @ Marquette, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, Fox) Marquette sits two games behind Villanova in the Big East standings heading into Saturday’s match-up. The Golden Eagles are undefeated (14-0) when holding opponents to an offensive efficiency of 100.0 or worse, but just 5-4 when opponents pass that threshold. Last season, Villanova torched the nets against Marquette, posting offensive efficiency totals of 122.2, 132.2, and 142.7 in three games.
  6. Will Ethan Happ be a dominant force against Michigan again? (Wisconsin @ Michigan, Saturday Noon, Fox) Ethan Happ scored 26 points on 12-of-22 shooting, dished out seven assists and grabbed 10 rebounds in Wisconsin’s first win over Michigan. Going back to his sophomore season, Happ is averaging 20.5 points per game on 45-of-87 shooting against the Wolverines.
  7. As bad as the Pac-12 might be, is it time to start taking Washington seriously? (Washington @ Arizona State, Saturday 10 PM EST, ESPN) After starting the season 7-4, Washington has now reeled off 11 straight victories, eight of which have been by 10 or more points. Three of the Huskies’ early season losses were at the hands of top-15 KenPom teams. If the Huskies can get through their desert trip unscathed, it might be time to consider them a dangerous, if not legitimate, Pac-12 team.
  8. What can be made of Nebraska moving forward? (Nebraska @ Purdue, 8:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Just a few weeks back Nebraska sat at 13-4 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Since then, the Huskers have dropped six straight games, four of which came at home. Tim Miles’ squad still sits in the top 40 in both NET and KenPom, so a win at Purdue would go a long way toward saving Nebraska’s free-falling NCAA Tournament chances.
  9. Can Houston take advantage of Cincinnati’s lackluster three-point defense? (Cincinnati @ Houston, Sunday 4 PM EST, ESPN) On the season, Mick Cronin’s Bearcats are ranked among the bottom 100 nationally in three-point defense. Their lack of success guarding the line has continued as American opponents are shooting 40.4 percent from distance against them. Houston’s Corey Davis and Armoni Brooks are both shooting better than 37 percent from downtown in conference play.
  10. Can Princeton stay in control of the Ivy League regular season race? (Princeton @ Yale, Friday 7 PM EST, ESPN+) While Yale has the Ivy League’s best NET Ranking, it is Princeton that is currently the only unbeaten team in conference play. Over its last six games, Princeton’s opponents have shot just 20.5 percent from beyond the three-point line.
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Morning Five: 12.15.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 15th, 2017

morning5

  1. We were surprised to hear that Charlotte had fired Mark Price yesterday morning partly because we had almost forgotten that he was coaching there and that it is still so early in the season. It turns out we weren’t the only ones who felt the same way as Price also was reportedly stunned (presumably just for the firing part) by the sudden announcement. The former Georgia Tech great finished with a 30-42 record in a little over 2 seasons including a 3-6 start this year. The firing might not be that surprising given Price’s record since we still consider Charlotte a decent program, but they haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2005 so we aren’t exactly sure what they are planning on doing with the extra three months searching for a coach.
  2. Louisville isn’t a top 25 team right now, but they still manage to make plenty of headlines. The two most recent stories are its counterclaim to Rick Pitino‘s suit and meeting with the NCAA to appeal the sanctions levied against them for the escort scandal (you know, the scandal before the FBI one). The first story is interesting because it is a response to Pitino’s claim that he is owed $38.7 million by the school. The school has responded by suing Pitino for money they are having to repay for NCAA Tournament appearances as well as bonuses paid to Pitino for those wins and other associated bonuses. Like we said before, the only people who are going to get rich off this are the lawyers. The latter story is essentially the school begging the NCAA to let it off without taking away its NCAA title and a host of other penalties that they probably don’t care about as much.
  3. Texas was off to a decent start in the third year of the Shaka Smart era going 6-2 with its only losses coming to Duke and Gonzaga, but was dealt a fairly significant setback on Monday when it announced that Andrew Jones, its leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, was expected to miss several games with a fracture in his right wrist. It is unclear when Jones, who sustained the injury at the end of a win over VCU, will come back, but it is not expected to be a season-ending injury. If he is out an extended period of time, the Longhorns will need to find another scoring option as they lost the first game of his absence, 59-52 at home against Michigan
  4. We aren’t sure why Villanova does not get the same media attention of other top-tier programs (maybe it is the result of having its games stuck on a network that routinely features teams from schools we have never heard of), but you could argue that they have been one of the top five programs in the country over the past five seasons even when you factor in the three second-round exits sandwiched around its 2016 title. Perhaps that is why players like Mikal Bridges tend to go under the radar for all, but the college basketball diehards. As Dan Greene notes, that might not be an issue much longer for Bridges as he has quietly transformed himself into lottery pick. It will be interesting to see who becomes the go-to-guy for Villanova (Bridges or Jalen Brunson) as the season goes on. Before the year started, we would have said Brunson without hesitation, but now it might not be that clear.
  5. We hadn’t really thought about the case of former Yale basketball player Jack Montague, who was expelled in 2016 for sexual misconduct, since he left the school, but his name resurface this week with the news that he had enrolled at Belmont. Montague, who was the captain of the team, was expelled for an incident that occurred in 2014 in which he claims that he did not hear that the woman asked him to stop. He is suing the school to reinstate him and allow him to complete his degree as he claims that the woman’s complaint was the result of a Title IX officer coercing her to file the complaint. Montague used up all of his eligibility so he won’t be playing for the Bruins, but his admission has led to quite a bit of controversy on campus with several individuals questioning whether he should be admitted to the school.
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Examining the Conference Unbeatens: Which Teams Can Go the Distance?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 10th, 2017

With one month left in the regular season, it’s no longer too early to consider which of the remaining conference unbeatens have a legitimate chance to enter March without a loss. So let’s dig in. (Chances of going unbeaten based on KenPom win probabilities).

Mark Few Appears to Have It All Figured Out (USA Today Images)

Gonzaga (25-0, 13-0 West Coast). America’s only remaining undefeated team, Gonzaga tops almost every relevant poll and metric thanks to nearly three full months of flawless basketball. Of the Bulldogs’ 25 wins, 22 have come by double-figures, including an astonishing 26.6-point margin of victory in conference play alone (with seven wins by 30-plus). Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (15.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.7 APG) has been worthy of All-America consideration; freshman forward Zach Collins (10.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) has been one of the most efficient players in the country; center Przemek Karnowski (12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG), who was sidelined nearly all last season with a back injury, hasn’t missed a beat. It’s been an all-around remarkable season, especially for a unit whose top five scorers weren’t on the active roster in 2015-16. Up until last month, Gonzaga was projected to lose at Saint Mary’s—college basketball’s 16th-best team according to KenPom—this Saturday night. Now, the Bulldogs are favored to win by two. If they can escape Moraga unblemished, Mark Few’s team would almost certainly enter the postseason without a loss.

Chances of going unbeaten: 56.3%

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O26 Early Impressions: Takeaways From First 10 Days

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 21st, 2016

With Feast Week now upon us and two weekends of college hoops in the books, let’s take a step back and reflect on what we’ve learned, which teams have impressed, and why Florida Gulf Coast’s loss at Michigan State was unforgettable… for all the wrong reasons.

Saint Mary's center Jock Landale has been nothing short of excellent. (USATSI)

To this point, Saint Mary’s center Jock Landale has been nothing short of excellent. (USATSI)

The West Coast Conference looks even better than expected. We ranked Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s #1 and #2 in our preseason Power 13, respectively, with Brigham Young also cracking the list. Each has lived up to—perhaps even exceeded—expectations in the early going. In their first major test, the Zags crushed San Diego State by 21 points, holding the Aztecs to 0.69 points per possession and receiving major contributions from freshman big man Zach Collins (16 points on 6-for-7 FG). The Gaels, to their credit, blitzed a talented Nevada team in their opener before earning a huge, resume-bolstering road win at Dayton two games later. The Cougars began their season with a double-digit victory over Ivy League favorite Princeton. As for potential WCC Player of the Year candidates? There may wind up being too many to count. Along with Gonzaga’s cast of contenders, BYU forward Eric Mika (21.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG), back from his two year LDS mission, has looked downright dominant on both ends of the floor through three games. Likewise, Saint Mary’s center Jock Landale (20.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG)—who averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game in 2015-16—has been an offensive revelation for Randy Bennett, in addition to hyper-efficient point guard Emmett Naar (9.0 PPG, 9.7 APG). Strap in for a heavyweight battle atop the WCC.

Rhode Island is the real deal. Sure, the Rams (4-1) lost handily to #1 Duke in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship game, but they looked like they belonged, and they only got there by grinding out a 76-71 victory over #24 Cincinnati one day earlier. E.C. Matthews (19.5 PPG) appears to be his old self after missing last season with a knee injury, while forward Hassan Martin (4.3 BPG)—who blocked seven shots against Duke—looks well on his way to repeating as Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year. Rhode Island has the grit, the talent, and (finally) the offensive punch to reach its first NCAA Tournament since 1999. The season’s first 10 days have only reaffirmed that.

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Where 2016-17 Happens: Reason #17 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2016

As RTC heads into its 10th season — Season X, if you will — covering college basketball, 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 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 Friday, November 11. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#17 – Where There’s a First For Everything 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 and 2015-16 preseasons.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Duke 71, #12 Yale 64

Posted by Chris Stone on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Grayson Allen Led Duke to Coach K's 23rd Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Grayson Allen Led Duke to Coach K’s 23rd Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

  1. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram are a potent one-two punch. After an opening round victory that saw Marshall Plumlee score 23 points, Allen and Ingram accounted for 76 percent of Duke’s offensive production in scoring a combined 54 points in the second round win. With two legitimate number one scoring options, the Blue Devils can weather dips in production from the rest of their roster. They certainly did so today.
  2. Duke still hasn’t sorted out its defensive identity. The Blue Devils’ defense actually delivered in the first half against Yale, holding the Bulldogs to 0.81 points per possession before the intermission. However, after halftime adjustments were made, the Blue Devils struggled to slow their opponent down. The Bulldogs scored 1.15 points per possession in the second half as Duke was forced into the 1-3-1 zone that it had to rely on to knock them off back in November. That’s not necessarily a great sign against a Yale offense that ranks 79th in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.
  3. Yale’s seniors showed up when they were needed most. While Brandon Sherrod put together a 10-point first half, it took him 10 shots to get there and fellow senior Justin Sears was held scoreless during the first 20 minutes. Sherrod and Sears, though, keyed the Bulldogs second half run, scoring a combined 24 points and pulling down 13 rebounds as Yale pulled within three of the Blue Devils at one point. It was an impressive final outing for both seniors.

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Rushed Reactions: #12 Yale 79, #5 Baylor 75

Posted by Chris Stone on March 17th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Yale's Justin Sears slams one home during the first half against Baylor. (Credit: AP/ Charles Krupa)

Yale’s Justin Sears slams one home during the first half against Baylor. (Credit: AP/ Charles Krupa)

  1. Yale is very fun… and very good. Yale is an entertaining group of basketball players as well as people. Justin Sears is quick-witted at the dais and Brandon Sherrod skipped a year of basketball to sing in an a cappella group, but this team is also very capable of making a run to the second weekend. The Bulldogs are ranked 41st on KenPom, play relentless defense (21st nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency), and rebound the heck out of the ball (third nationally in offensive rebound rate; eighth in defensive rebound rate). Although the Bulldogs lost to Duke back in November, the Blue Devils are vulnerable on the offensive glass, so don’t be surprised to see Yale pull off an upset away from Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  2. Makai Mason is a name to learn. The Yale sophomore led all scorers on Thursday with 31 points in the Bulldogs’ win after shooting 9-of-18 from the field. Mason, along with Sears, led Yale in scoring this year at 15.8 points per game and although he didn’t shoot it well from outside today (2-of-8), he converted 38.4 percent of his threes this season. Mason has proven that he can compete against high-major opponents despite not being recruited in part because he quit playing AAU basketball in high school. For academic reasons, of course. He told the media on Wednesday not to be surprised by how athletic the Bulldogs are, and he was right.
  3. The Big 12’s NCAA Tournament woes continue. After making two Elite Eights in 2010 and 2012 and a Sweet Sixteen in 2014, the Bears have suffered early exits from the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. It was Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter last year who knocked the Bears out with a late three-pointer, and despite all of the motivation from that first round exit, they’re going home early again. Baylor has put together a number of impressive Big 12 seasons recently, but that success hasn’t translated into the NCAA Tournament.

Star of the Game: Makai Mason. His 31 points fueled the upset and dazzled the crowd plenty of times during the first half with his impressive handle. “I felt in the zone,” he said. Did he ever!

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Checking In On Likely One-Bid Leagues

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on January 15th, 2016

When the Ivy League tipped off last Friday night, it was official: Conference play was underway everywhere, in power conferences and low majors alike. While only a handful of games in March will ultimately matter for those teams in leagues without legitimate at-large candidates, the regular season will still define the favorites to win automatic tournament bids in the smaller conferences. Some leagues have a clearly defined top dog, while others have a handful of teams battling for that status. Either way, if you like March chaos, there are low major teams out there you should absolutely be rooting for to hold serve and earn their way into the field. Here are a few of the team you should be getting familiar with now — whether because of star players, a proven core of seniors, or a collection of “red line” upsets against Power Five schools.

With the dynamic Dallas Moore at the helm, North Florida is looking pretty good for the Big Dance. (AP)

With the dynamic Dallas Moore at the helm, North Florida is in good shape. (AP)

  • America East  You probably already know about Jameel Warney, the unquestioned Stony Brook leader, but the rest of Seawolves also have a nice veteran core around Warney (30th in the nation in experience per KenPom). Stony Brook has also been close to scoring a signature victory for the league, leading much of the way at Vanderbilt in November before succumbing in overtime. Unbelievably, the Seawolves have either won the regular season title and/or been in the conference tournament final for six straight seasons, but they are still seeking the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. Albany has been the most frequent tormentor, and the Great Danes have matched Stony Brook’s 3-0 start to league play so far this season. Looking for pole position in the America East? The two teams’ first meeting is next Friday on Long Island.
  • Atlantic Sun – You probably heard about Ben Simmons’ destruction of North Floridabut did you know the Ospreys had two players (Dallas Moore and Beau Beech) score 31 apiece that night? As a team UNF hit NINETEEN threes against LSU; on the season they’ve connected on 43.4% of their triples, good for 8th in the country. They scorched Illinois in a 12-point season opening victory and legitimately own one of the best offenses in all of college basketball. They lost in a play-in game last March, but a return trip to the Dance may include a spot in the field of 64 for the Ospreys and their dangerous offense.

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Other 26 Previews: Ivy League

Posted by Michael James on November 10th, 2015

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at @ivybball.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

With Alex Rosenberg back in the mix, is it Columbia's year? (USA TODAY Sports)

With Alex Rosenberg back in the mix, is it Columbia’s year? (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Unusual SuspectsThe last time Harvard failed to receive a first-place vote in the preseason Ivy media poll, Cornell was wrapping up its three-peat in a season that would see the Big Red ultimately advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Five Ivy titles and four NCAA appearances later, the Crimson finds itself slotted fourth while the first-place votes were split as evenly as possible across the three favorites: Columbia, Princeton and Yale. Those three schools have combined for just one NCAA appearance over the last 11 seasons, and the Lions and Bulldogs haven’t made the Tournament since the 1960s. Yale arguably has the inside track after winning a share of the Ivy title last season, but Princeton returns all of its key contributors from a team that finished a strong third, and Columbia not only brings back a substantial portion of its squad but also adds former first-team All-Ivy forward Alex Rosenberg, who missed last year with a Jones fracture in his right foot.

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Where 2015-16 Happens: Reason #24 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2015

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2015-16 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish 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 Friday, November 13. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#24 – Where Championship Week in the Ivies Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-14 and 2014-15 preseasons.

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