Wednesday, January 31, 2018

War Damn Eagle

Entering the season, expectations on the plains for Auburn basketball were a bit muted. Considered a fringy tournament team by most, the season seemed off the rails before opening tip with assistant coach Chuck Person being named in the shoe scandal that reverberated through college basketball at the time. Given the checkered past of head coach Bruce Pearl, it seemed reasonable to wonder if Auburn’s potential mess would outweigh anything on the basketball court. Thus far, that has not been the case.

Brian has Auburn as a two-seed and depending how things play out, a 1-seed isn’t out of reach. They’re 20-2 but what’s most impressive about that has been how they’ve gotten to that record. Their win by 9 at Mississippi State last night was the first time they hadn’t won a league game by double digits. The Tigers only league loss was on the road at Alabama, hardly a bad loss. They don’t have a great non-conference win. Their best win is against Middle Tennessee as their thumping of UConn doesn’t carry much weight in 2018.

Auburn lost two guys in Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley before the season started. Both sophomores were expected to be key contributors. Junior guard Bryce Brown and sophomore guard Jared Harper have been very efficient players while sophomore Mustapha Heron is probably their best player. Heron is second on the in scoring and rebounding. Though a high volume shooter, he is still quite efficient. Junior Desean Murray is an undersized frontcourt player but really good rebounder. At 6’3”, he’s one of the nations top offensive rebounders. 6’ 8” Chuma Okeke is probably one of the best freshman you don’t know. An efficient scorer and very rebounder, he’s a name to remember.

Auburn does so many good things on offense. They’re a 52.7% effective fg% team and 15th in the nation in offensive rebounding %. No one getting regular minutes stands over 6’8”. They also get to the line and protect the ball well above the national average. They shoot 38% from deep and 78% at the line. It’s easy to see why they’re the 12th most efficient offense in the nation.

The defense isn’t as good but 27th in efficiency is still damn good. Teams only have an effective fg% of 47.2. That’s 42nd in the nation. Somehow, they have the 2nd best block % in the nation. They’re weakest at fouling, putting teams on the line too much. They’re 274th in FTA/FGA. They’re also just average at defensive rebounding. The last two numbers are a concern but ultimately, effective fg% probably trumps those concerns.

The hardest remaining game on the schedule is a trip to Gainesville and even in that one, they’re slight favorites. Basically, if we trust the numbers, it’s entirely possible they don’t lose again in the regular season. I hate to say it, but Bruce Pearl should probably be the coach of the year. My largest area of concern will be attrition as they get as little out of their bench as just about any team. They’re 303rd in bench minutes. Of course, if they keep blowing teams out, that would help immensely. This is a legit squad in 2018.

Wednesday Notes

Last Night Game Recap:

Clemson 82, North Carolina 78

Clemson was cruising most of the game but UNC was able to come back and tie it at 74 with about 2 minutes left.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and Clemson was able to knock off the Tar Heels.  This was a big win for the Tigers and UNC is now on a 3 game win streak with just Pittsburgh on the schedule before next Thursday’s game against Duke

Last Night Bracket Movements:

Texas A&M and Arkansas flip seeds with the Aggies win over Arkansas
Minnesota and Baylor drop from consideration after bad losses
Georgia moves into the First Four out with a win over Florida

Today’s Game of the Night:

Louisville vs Virginia
I don’t recommend watching this train wreck but it’s probably the “best” game on according to the experts

Today’s Bubble Games:

Providence (10) vs Seton Hall (6)
Houston (11) vs Cincinnati (3)
Syracuse (12) vs Georgia Tech
Maryland (NF) vs Purdue (1)
Missouri (12) vs Alabama (9)

Virginia Tech (FF) vs Boston College (AC)
Butler (9) vs Marquette (11)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday Notes

Monday Night Game Recap:

Duke 88, Notre Dame 66
Notre Dame needed a win here to stay in the bubble conversation but couldn't hang in the second half.  Duke is slowly but surely getting better on defense.  I feel like they are a better team when they have only 3 of the 4 freshman in the game.  Last night Jack White showed up.  Their bench makes their defense better.

Monday Night Bracket Movements:

Kansas State drops a seed or two after losing at home to Kansas
Nebraska remains in the conversation after beating Wisconsin

Tuesday Game of the Night:

North Carolina vs Clemson
Both are currently top 4 seeds but I'm not sure I see both of them being there in March.  Carolina needs to bounce back after the Saturday loss to NC State.

Tuesday Bubble Games:

TCU (Currently a 8 seed) vs Oklahoma State (Also Considered)
Florida (5) vs Georgia (AC)
Arkansas (9) vs Texas A&M (11)

Monday, January 29, 2018

SEC Fever

This past weekend was the SEC-Big XII challenge. It ended in a 5-5 tie and like so many of these things, they don’t mean much. It did highlight how much deeper the SEC is this year. We may also have gotten a glimpse of what Kentucky can do.

The first thing that may surprise people is, if we use KenPom and we are, Auburn and Tennessee are top 10 teams. Auburn is 8th and Tennessee is 10th. Brian has Auburn up to a 2-seed and Tennessee as a 5-seed. The Vols have 5 losses but would be a tough matchup in a potential Sweet 16 matchup for any 1-seed. As I mentioned yesterday, Tennessee is favored in the rest of their games save a trip to Lexington.

At the beginning of the season, I was pretty high on Texas A&M and Florida but injuries and inconsistency have slowed both squads. The Aggies are 2-6 in league play and lost at Kansas on Saturday. They’re still 36th in KenPom but this feels like a lost opportunity season in College Station. The Gators hit a rough patch in non-conference play but have rebounded to 6-2 in league play. 21st in KenPom, they’ll still be a problem in March.

The rest of the league falls into the top 100 of KenPom. Arkansas and Alabama are in Brian’s last bracket with Missouri in the play-in. Missouri has some personnel issues that could lead to a slide. Mississippi State and Georgia are squarely on the bubble. None of them will be pushovers the rest of the way.

The one team talented enough to win it all would be Kentucky. They’re a flawed team but flashed what they’re capable of in winning at West Virginia. Calipari does a good job getting his youngsters to play defense but they’ve been a mess offensively. Imagine a super team of Duke/Kentucky freshmen.

The league may not make waves in March but it is as deep as it’s been in quite awhile. 

Monday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs Ark-PB(SWAC)/Savanah(MEAC)
Virginia (ACC) vs SE Louis(Sland)/FGCU(Asun)
Purdue (B1G) vs Wagner (NEC)
Duke vs Harvard (Ivy)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Xavier vs UNCAshville (Bsouth)
Kansas (B12) vs Montana (Bsky)
Auburn (SEC) vs Bucknell (Pat)
Michigan State vs UCSB (Bwest)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Oklahoma vs Wright St (Horizon)
Clemson vs Rider (MAAC)
Arizona (Pac12) vs Northeastern (Col)
Cincinnati (AAC) vs Belmont (OVC)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Texas Tech vs ETSU (SoCon)
West Virginia vs South Dakota St (Summit)
North Carolina vs Vermont (Aeast)
Wichita State vs Louisiana (Sbelt)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Tennessee vs Loyola (Mvalley)
Ohio State vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Florida vs Missouri/W.Kentucky
Kentucky vs Syracuse/Boise St
6 seed vs 11 seed
Seton Hall vs Texas A&M
Gonzaga vs Buffalo (MAC)
Arizona State vs Houston
Michigan vs Marquette
7 seed vs 10 seed
Florida State vs Kansas State
Miami vs Providence
Rhode Island (A10) vs Alabama
St. Mary's (WCC) vs Middle Tenn (Cusa)
8 seed vs 9 seed
Nevada (Mwest) vs USC
Creighton vs Texas
TCU vs Butler
Louisville vs Arkansas
First Four Out
North Carolina State
Virginia Tech
Notre Dame
Next Four Out
Mississippi St
Also Considered
South Carolina
Oklahoma State
Boston College
St. Bonaventure

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Top 10

10. St. Mary’s- The Gaels replace Arizona as our resident west coast team. Zags are higher on KenPom but the Gaels have the “W” at the Kennel. 

9. Tennessee- The Vols are 10th in KenPom and have a neutral court win over Purdue. They’re favored in the rest of their games save a trip to Kentucky and even that’s a toss-up according to KenPom. They won’t get a ton of love in the polls because they have 5 losses but this is a Sweet 16 type team.

8. Auburn- Sadly, this is a good team. 

7. Xavier- I’ve been holding back on Xavier because the defense has been sketchy. It’s still not great but it’s steadily improving. We may not have seen their best yet.

6. Michigan State- Garbage program 

5. Duke- Drop slightly after losing at home to Virginia.  Showed some stones coming back from 10 down against the speed bump defense of the Cavaliers. Defense and depth are still a concern.

4. Kansas- Congrats to Bill Self on his continued dominance in the Big XII. 

3. Virginia- National media fawning over them yesterday will make their inevitable embarrassing performance in March that much sweeter.

2. Villanova- Losing Phil Booth isn’t the end of the world given their depth of weapons but it doesn’t help. That’s deep analysis for you. 

1. Purdue- Their win over Michigan the other night was a thing of beauty. The Wolverines simply couldn’t miss and yet, Purdue never once have you an indication they weren’t going to win. I think the best comp for this team might be the 2005 North Carolina team. said it best, they’ve gone to plaid

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Michigan State

The floodgates have opened in East Lansing. I’ve been sort of hinting about it on the blog, knowing damn well there was institutional rot beyond the Larry Nassar case. It was a matter of whether or not any national media would go beyond that particular case.

Yesterday was the day. ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported on indiscretions within the basketball and football program. Neither walked away looking good. Since this is a basketball blog, I’ll focus on that but I can tell you, the football program is a cesspool. 

The day began with Mark Hollis “retiring”. He was the AD and media darling. Unbeknownst to me and reported by Brendan Quinn of The Athletic, he was seen as a potential replacement for Diamond Jim Delany as Big 14 Commissioner. ESPN’s report was damning to Izzo’s program.

It’s been common knowledge in Michigan of Title IX investigations into the basketball program, the big one involving Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. Payne became a media sensation due to his relationship with a young girl fighting cancer. Michigan State actively pimped that relationship and story, knowing what Payne had been accused of.

No charges were filed in the case despite disturbing details that have come to light. The prosecutor who wouldn’t file, questioning the accuser of whether she could withstand questioning, now works at Michigan State. What is also remarkable, this investigation wasn’t some state secret, yet the national media ignored it completely. Think back to 2014 and all the fawning over Payne. Couple that with the constant fawning over Hollis and Izzo, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why an institution may consider itself above the law.

Since the media got more involved in what is happening in East Lansing, they’ve been met with defiance and insolence. The school president and AD have since “retired” after initially being defiant. Where this new scrutiny leads in regards to Tom Izzo, we don’t know. But outside the bubble of East Lansing, it seems unlikely we’ll see much in the way of the “Izzo is March” fluff that permeates come tourney time. My only hope is, if they are successful in March and they damn well could be, we aren’t inundated with nonsensical stories of healing in the Michigan State community. Winning basketball games doesn’t heal sexual abuse or correct a culture of negligence towards it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday Musings

- The Trae Young backlash began in earnest after OU’s loss to OSU on Saturday. It was bound to happen. We build these kids up, just to tear them down. Don’t get me wrong, his play was somewhat erratic as he turned the ball over a lot and his shot selection had gotten poor in some instances. He deserved fair criticism. Last night though, he was dangerously efficient as they got a nice win over Kansas. OU will be dangerous if they can get contributions outside the kid. That’s not a guarantee, though.

- Wisconsin got waxed by a terrible Iowa team. It’s easy to blame lack of depth because of injuries but the fact of the matter is, they’re not very talented. How they parlayed back-to-back Final 4’s into this roster was roster malpractice. Other than Ethan Happ, player development, allegedly a program strong point, has been a myth. And honestly, Happ has gone from potential first round pick to nearly out of many mock drafts. I’ve seen some Badger homer journos argue if he comes back, he could be a POY candidate next year. That isn’t happening. The current junior class shows flashes but are largely “meh” college players. It’s possible Khalil Iverson takes a jump as a senior but the rest appear to be what they are. Brad Davison and Nathan Reuvers will be good college players but without reinforcements, I’m not sure what that means as far as wins and losses. They put all their eggs into the Tyler Herro/Joey Hauser basket and that failed spectacularly. Again, that was recruiting malpractice. The state has some top talent in class of ‘19 Nobal Days and ‘20 Jalen Johnson but the tea leaves and treatment of Herro after his decommit indicate the Badgers need to look elsewhere. They may not be this bad in 2019 but the Final 4 is a long ways away.

- Clemson scored 38 against Virginia. The injury to Donte Grantham is crushing. A promising season could go off the rails quickly. Coupled with Zion Williamson’s shocking decision to attend Duke over Clemson, it’s been a terrible couple of days for the Tigers.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs Ark-PB(SWAC)/NC A&T(MEAC)
Virginia (ACC) vs Penn (Ivy)/FGCU(Asun)
Duke vs Robert Morris (NEC)
Purdue (B1G) vs Hawaii (Bwest)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Kansas (B12) vs Canisius (MAAC)
West Virginia vs Radford (Bsouth)
Xavier vs Montana (Bsky)
North Carolina vs Bucknell (Pat)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Oklahoma vs Belmont (OVC)
Michigan State vs SFA (Sland)
Clemson vs William & Mary (Col)
Auburn (SEC) vs Wright St (Horizon)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Arizona (Pac12) vs ETSU (SoCon)
Cincinnati vs Louisiana (Sbelt)
Texas Tech vs South Dakota St (Summit)
Wichita State vs Vermont (Aeast)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Tennessee vs Loyola (Mvalley)
Ohio State vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Florida vs UCLA/W.Kentucky
Arizona State vs Houston/Syracuse
6 seed vs 11 seed
Michigan vs Buffalo (MAC)
Seton Hall vs Providence
Kentucky vs Alabama
Miami vs USC
7 seed vs 10 seed
Gonzaga vs Notre Dame
Nevada (Mwest) vs Middle Tenn (Cusa)
TCU vs Texas
Louisville vs Missouri
8 seed vs 9 seed
Rhode Island (A10) vs Texas A&M
Creighton vs Marquette
Florida State vs Butler
St. Mary's (WCC) vs Arkansas

First Four Out
Boise State
St. Bonaventure
Next Four Out
Kansas State
Also Considered
Mississippi St
Virginia Tech
Oklahoma State
Boston College
South Carolina

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Holiest Top 10

10. Arizona- They slide in as our token west coast squad. Watched them yesterday and I have no idea what to make of them. They’re a loaded squad but they have some lapses of indifference and stagnant play. They should win the Pac-12 but I’m not sure I trust them come tourney time.

9. Clemson- Lost at North Carolina like they always do but didn’t pout and handled business at home against a depleted but game Notre Dame squad.

8. West Virginia- They’ve lost 2 of 3 but they were by a combined 6 points. Responded by annhilating Texas at home yesterday.

7. North Carolina- They’ve quietly reestablished themselves with 4 straight wins. 

6. Kansas- They reek of a Kansas squad that will get knocked out as a 1 or 2 seed in the round of 32. I’ll say this, Malik Newman might be the breakout player in the month of February. I mentioned that last week and he was the reason they held off Kansas State yesterday.

5. Michigan State- I moved them back up after trouncing Indiana on Friday. It wasn’t an unexpected win but they’re too talented not to figure things out. They’re still a disgusting institution.

4. Duke- They haven’t had a big test in a few weeks but get one this Saturday when Virginia comes to Cameron. Coach K pulled off the biggest win of the weekend when Zion Williamson committed giving him the top 3 recruits for 2018-19. The train keeps rolling.

3. Virginia- Take a look at the play-by-play of the first 16 minutes of their game against Georgia Tech when you fill out a bracket in March. That’s going to happen then and a good team will trounce them.

2. Purdue
1. Villanova

The last two are basically interchangeable. Purdue embarrassed both Wisconsin and Iowa this week. As Jeff Potrykus was ripping on the NBA for bad play, he must have forgotten Purdue held his “talented” Badgers to a night of 10 assists and 20 turnovers. They followed that up by jumping ahead of Iowa 66-28 at Iowa before putting it in cruise control.

Nova annihilated old foes Georgetown and UConn on the road in games where they were the cat and the Hoyas and Huskies were dead mice. Both teams were damn impressive.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Life After The Big East

We’re now five years out from the end of “The Big East”. A lot has been said about the current league and its members. Original members, Providence and Seton Hall have thrived. For Georgetown and St. John’s, times have been tougher. For Villanova, life has never been grander. These things are cyclical.

But what about the other original members and Pitt who joined in 1982? How has life in the ACC and AAC treated these teams dreaming of football glory and riches?

Since leaving, Syracuse had a magical run to the Final 4 in 2016 as a 10-seed. A somewhat surprising at-large team, the Orange took full advantage of their opportunity. Outside that, things have been sticky. They put a self-imposed post-season ban in place in 2015 and we’re put on a scholarship limiting probation through 2019. They currently stand 45th in KenPom and are 2-4 in league with 3 winnable games ahead of them.

On the football field, little has changed. Despite upsetting Clemson early in the 2017 season, they were unable to capitalize and missed exhibition Bowl season once again. Within the league as a basketball school, Syracuse is still an outsider with no true rivalries. Even after starting 25-0 in their first year in the league and losing a memorable game at Duke, they haven’t developed a place in the league from where I sit. It’s possible for them to develop these rivalries but given geography and the allure of Tobacco Road, they’ll always be an ACC outsider.

During conference shuffling, UConn got left out in the cold and joined up with fellow rejects and formed the American Athletic Conference. Though the league has some historically good basketball schools, they also have Tulane and East Carolina and South Florida. Also, many of those historically good basketball schools are not very good at the moment.

Things started out well enough for the Huskies, winning their 4th title in 15 years in 2014 but things have fallen apart quickly. They fell to the NIT in 2015. They made it back to the tourney in 2016, making the round of 32. 2017 was a disaster from the get-go, losing at home to Wagner and Northeastern. Things in 2018 aren’t any better. The Huskies are 10-8 and coming off a shellacking at Memphis following an uninspiring 3-game win streak over hapless East Carolina, UCF and Tulane. They currently sit 157th in KenPom, just ahead of Canisius and just behind basketball power Marshall.

The football team has been largely a misfit, reaching back to Randy Edsall who had left them a few years back for Maryland. Dreams of joining the Big XII were scuttled when that league decided to stay at 10 teams. The best case scenario for UConn is joining the ACC or dumping football, a virtual non-starter and rejoining the Big East.

Fans and alum are split over the future of the athletic program and what direction it should take. For the moment, they’re stuck in a league they have no desire to be in and worse yet, not being a very good program. Their fall has been precipitous.

Finally, as bad as things are at UConn, it’s nowhere near as bad as it as Pitt. Pitt joined the Big East three years after the league formed but had a Big East identity as deep rooted as any of the other members. The move has been an unmitigated disaster. 

Only Cal is worse than Pitt in KenPom out of all the Power 5 football leagues. They’re 208th! Worse yet, if you’ve seen any Pitt games, god bless you, the fans have been staying away in droves and apathy, long a problem for the football program has crept into the hoops program. 

Pitt made the NCAA tourney 2 of the first 3 years they were in the ACC but the writing was on the wall for Jamie Dixon who took the TCU job following a brutal 47-43 loss to Wisconsin in 2016. Pitt made the uninspired hire of Kevin Stallings who was about to be run out of Vanderbilt. The Pitt basketball program has found depths not seen since before Ben Howland righted the ship in late 90’s and early part of the century.

Interestingly enough, vagabond schools such as West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville have all found some varying degrees of success outside the Big East breakup in football and basketball. And not to be forgotten, perennially punching bags South Florida and Rutgers continue their losing ways — though Rutgers has a crack at respectability.

What does this tell us? Maybe nothing. It’s only 5 years but sometimes, you need certain others more than they need you and the grass while greener in the pocket book, isn’t greener in results.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Two Day Quick Hitters

I was ready to post this morning but couldn't stop vomiting after the Cincinnati-Central Florida game.  Who do these teams think they are Virginia?  Wisconsin?  Gross.

Tonight is shaping up to be a nice night of basketball.

-Villanova looks dominant
-Texas Tech got upset by Texas
-Wichita State lost and gave SMU a big resume boost
-Alabama gave Auburn it's second loss of the season (there's plenty more where that came from)
-Iowa is bad, as Eric pointed out
-And Creighton is currently spanking Seton Hall

8 weeks to March Madness; it's going to be crazy....or as Kurly would say, BANANAS!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs JacksonSt(SWAC)/NC A&T(MEAC)
Virginia (ACC) vs Penn (Ivy)/FGCU(Asun)
Duke vs Robert Morris (NEC)
Oklahoma (B12) vs Bucknell (Pat)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Purdue (B1G) vs Cal-Fullerton (Bwest)
Wichita St (AAC) vs Iona (MAAC)
Texas Tech vs Radford (Bsouth)
West Virginia vs Drake (Mvalley)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Kansas vs Montana (Bsky)
Xavier vs Belmont (OVC)
North Carolina vs SFA (Sland)
Michigan State vs ETSU (SoCon)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Seton Hall vs William & Mary (Col)
Arizona (Pac12) vs Louisiana (Sbelt)
Auburn (SEC) vs South Dakota St (Summit)
Kentucky vs Wright St (Horizon)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Clemson vs Vermont (Aeast)
Tennessee vs Buffalo (MAC)
Arizona State vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Cincinnati vs W.Kentucky/Alabama
6 seed vs 11 seed
Gonzaga vs USC/Boise State
TCU vs Maryland
Ohio State vs Syracuse
Miami vs UCLA
7 seed vs 10 seed
Michigan vs Texas A&M
Arkansas vs Middle Tenn St (CUSA)
Nevada (Mwest) vs Marquette
Florida State vs Missouri
8 seed vs 9 seed
Creighton vs Texas
Rhode Island (A10) vs Notre Dame
Florida vs Louisville
Butler vs St. Mary's (WCC)
First Four Out
Next Four Out
St. Bonaventure
Also Considered
San Diego State
Oklahoma State
Boston College
Penn State
Mississippi St
Virginia Tech
Kansas State

Texas Tech

I’ve been on the Red Raiders bandwagon for awhile. It began when they stole Chris Beard from UNLV. A quick reminder of how he got to Lubbock is in order.
He was the coach at Arkansas-Little Rock and lead them into the 2016 NCAA Tournament. He parlayed that into a job offer at UNLV that he accepted. Shortly thereafter, Tubby Smith left Tech for Memphis. Beard had been an assistant at Tech for a decade and was a natural fit to replace Smith.

Fast forward to today and Texas Tech is one of the best teams thus far in college basketball. Similar to Clemson, the Red Raiders improvement on defense have turned their fortunes. They were 50th in defensive efficiency a year ago and are 2nd this year. Opponents have an effective fg% of 43.9 which is 10th best (Teams only shoot 42.9 from 2.). The Red Raiders 24.1 defensive turnover % is 9th best. Their steal rate is 12%, 10th best in the nation. They do put teams on the line.

They also are a very good rebounding team. Teams only have an offensive rebounding % of 25%. They’re also a good offensive rebounding team. They have an offensive rebounding % of 34.3%, 44th best. 

A year ago, they were 57th in defensive efficiency and teams had an effective fg% of 50.7%. Once again, a big defensive improvement has put a team in position for a special season. 

Tech is also a senior heavy team. They are getting a lot of good minutes from freshman Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver. Senior Keenan Evans is their best player. It may not have a roster full of NBA players but it’s a damn good college team. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Morning Top 10 Dump

10. Michigan State: Sparty had a terrible week. They got blown out in Columbus and needed overtime to beat Rutger. Michigan got them yesterday in East Lansing in what had to be a satisfying win for John Beilein and his team. Rumblings of them going undefeated in league play have been replaced by what’s wrong with Sparty. That’s too bad.

9. West Virginia: They won a rock fight over Baylor at home and blew a second half double-digit lead on the road to Texas Tech. Not a terrible week in the grand scheme of things but one that could have been great.

8. Clemson: Nice win yesterday over Miami at home. They go to UNC on Tuesday that should be a good test and a chance for them to do something they’ve never done, win in the Dean Dome.

7. Gonzaga: Are they the best team in the West? They very well could be. But other than St. Mary’s, tests will be few and far between in the WCC.

6. Oklahoma: They has two home games this week, winning against two good teams in Texas Tech and TCU. Trae Young continues to be a marvel but he did have quite a few turnovers yesterday. Will the rigors of league play wear him down? His usage rate is insane.

5. Duke: Big jump this week for Duke. They embarrassed Pitt at Pitt and beat Wake at home yesterday. They did so in convincing fashion. It was the kind of week you’d expect. They have a home game against Miami on Big Monday. 

4. Texas Tech: OU handled them early in the week but I was impressed by the toughness they showed yesterday in overcoming Press Virginia. They were sloppy for 30 minutes but even as the Mountaineers built a double-digit lead, did you get a sense the Red Raiders were panicked. I don’t have a feel for their ceiling but that’s a damn good team.

3. Virginia: Barf

2. Purdue: The Boilermakers escaped Ann Arbor and then embarrassed Minnesota on their home court yesterday. When Purdue is clicking on offense, they’re as good as any team in America. This is a Final 4 team and a team that can cut down the nets.

1. Villanova: They ran Xavier out of Philly on Wednesday in a game that was never close. The defense is probably good enough but worth monitoring. Having Phil Booth healthy is such a bonus. This is easily Jay Wright’s most dynamic offensive team

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Daily Bracket Notes

Kurly mentioned Syracuse who I was going to talk about a little today as well.  I agree they have been lost in the shuffle of the ACC but one thing is different this year (even though they lost last night)....their computer numbers.  Usually they are middling right around 70 in the RPI due to poor non-conference scheduling.  This year they aren't super strong but they do have a RPI of 26 and KenPom of 46.  Those numbers will go up as they grind through the ACC and as long as they get to 7 or 8 wins they won't even be on the bubble.  Congrats to Jim Boeheim on figuring that out 10 years too late.

Other games of note:

Texas A&M is falling off the map.  As high as a 3 seed going into conference season they are in the 7-8 range.

Auburn keeps churning out win after win.  Can't stand it but they look good.

Baylor was one of my last 2 teams in and lost so they fall out.  Who leaps in?

Well, 3 of my first four out won so it comes down to Marquette, Boise State, or Alabama.  Let's go with Marquette since they had the biggest win coming against Seton Hall.

On to Wednesday night...

Wednesday Wisdom

Some brilliant observations for you all...

- Michigan had a chance for a “signature” win over Purdue at home last night but came up just short in a game where the zebras became the story late. Refs on sports are getting way too much airtime. Ultimately, the refs didn’t cost Michigan a win, getting the calls right but a lack of consistency shines through. We’re at the point, though, where Michigan has probably cemented itself below MSU and Purdue, along with OSU as the 3rd and 4th best teams in the league.

- The Big 14 Network went a propagandizing last night blasting critics of the league’s basketball teams. They’re wrong. Whatever metric you want to use tells us the league is very bad. Underachieving Minnesota and Northwestern are the culprits. Rebuilding Indiana and puzzling Wisconsin, the other two. If I’m a Big 14 honk, I’d focus my energy not defending the dreck of the league but pointing out the two national title/Final 4 contenders.

- The Big 12 minus 2 gave us another great night. West Virginia held serve at home over a game Baylor team. That’s the kind of ugly game I suspect trips up West Virginia in March. Texas Tech had a chance to cement itself as legit threat but fell on the road to Oklahoma. Kansas held off a spry Iowa State team behind Malik Newman who played liked a 5*. A good Newman could be a big boost for Kansas going forward. Let’s see if this gets him going.

- As wild as the Big 12 will be, I think the Big East will match it for great nightly tussles. Creighton handed Butler a second straight loss. Butler has issues on defense and if they miss the tournament, that’ll be why. Speaking of defense, Marquette played some last night and showed what they’re capable of when they do, thumping Seton Hall by 20. That’s Wojo’s 3rd win in 3 years over a Top 15 team. St. John’s dropped to 0-5 in league play with a bad home loss to Georgetown. They’re without Marcus Lovett but they need to start showing some results in Mullin’s 3rd year.

- The most disappointing team at the moment might be Texas A&M who lost at Kentucky last night. Both teams have personnel issues but A&M is now 0-4 in league play and head to Tennessee Saturday. The Vols got a solid road win at Vandy last night. The Aggies are still 25th in KenPom but things aren’t good in College Station

- Finally, Virginia beat Syracuse last night but does anyone else think it’s still weird Syracuse is in the ACC? I feel like they’ve lost some of their identity and are just another team in the ACC. In the Big East, they always had the aura of being one of the Big Dogs and usually were. I don’t get that sense with them in the ACC. Just an interesting dynamic to me.

Monday, January 8, 2018


I put Clemson in my top 10 yesterday based on the 14-1 record. They’re 15th in KenPom and 13th in T-Rank, so it’s not a stretch. Is this Clemson team the one that puts Brad Brownell back into the tourney?

Clemson lost star player Jaron Blossomgame to the NBA and expectations were middling entering the season. Brownell was on the hot seat. At 14-1, Clemson is predicted to go 13-3 in the ACC, which would have them finishing 2nd in the league behind Virginia. That’s a big jump for a team pegged for the NIT. What’s changed?

The answer is simple. Despite a reputation as a defensive-first coach, the truth was, Clemson’s defenses had been good but flawed. Offensively, this team isn’t much different than the last two seasons. They’re currently 47th in offensive efficiency. They were 35th last year and 45th in 2016.

On defense, they’re 10th in defensive efficiency. A year ago, they finished 86th and 62nd in 2016. They’re currently 30th in effective fg% on defense. Last year, they were 228th. In 2016, they were 77th. Teams have an effective fg% of 46.3 against the Tigers. Last year, that number was 51.9%.

The big difference is teams are only shooting 44.1% from 2. That’s 31st best. Last year, that number was 228th. The defense has propelled Clemson this year. Couple this improvement with a low foul rate, something that they’ve done the last two years, and you get a tournament level team. They’ve also increased their block rate to 2016 levels.

Pay attention to these numbers. The offense remains the same, the defense has vastly improved. If they maintain it, they’re not a mirage.