I realized over the past week or so that my tweets that included mentions for a specific school got more impressions than those that didn’t. Go figure, right?

What I also found was that finding each school’s Twitter handle was not always easy or intuitive. I would spend more time scouring for a name than actually creating the content. Maybe you’re in the same boat.

So, with that in mind, I buckled down and found every school’s Men’s Basketball twitter handle. A few schools, mostly (if not all) in the SWAC, just use their school’s main Athletics feed for MBB content. I included those too. They are in a handy .xlsx format below:

Twitter Handles for All 353 Division I Programs

I’ve done my best to make sure that these are all official accounts. However, if you find any errors, please let me know! You can comment here or message me on Twitter at @andrewdieckhoff.

Hope this helps!

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In the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains lays UNC Asheville, where basketball has been thriving for the past two decades… until now. The Bulldogs spent the last twenty-plus years building a consistent winner, but they’ve suddenly fallen off a cliff – a shocking, precipitous drop off one of those Appalachian mountains.

So how did we get here? To answer that, let’s jump all the way back to the 1996-97 season.

That was the year that Eddie Biedenbach took the helm. Biedenbach was a former NC State standout who won All-ACC honors twice as a player in the 1960s. After a brief stint in the NBA, he helped guide the Wolfpack to a national championship in 1974 as an assistant coach. He remained in that post until 1978, when he took his first head coaching job at Davidson. Biedenbach’s time with the Wildcats started poorly, but he parlayed a SoCon regular season title in 1981 into an assistant gig at Georgia. He later returned to Raleigh and was an assistant under Les Robinson.

Then he came to Asheville and built a winner.

The success was immediate. In his first year as head coach at UNCA, the Bulldogs won a share of the Big South regular season title. The next year, they won it outright. However, they couldn’t make it out of the conference tournament, so Asheville’s first NCAA Tournament bid would have to wait. After three straight third-place finishes from 1999 to 2001, the Bulldogs won a share of the Big South yet again in 2002. And just like before, they faltered, losing to 7-seed High Point in the first round. The following year, Biedenbach led the team to an 8-8 finish, good for fifth place.

But then, a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Bulldogs pulled off a huge semifinal upset of Winthrop – then a Big South powerhouse under the tutelage of current Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall – before cruising past 7-seed Radford in the championship game. For the first time in school history, the Bulldogs went dancing.

The success didn’t last, though. The next season was Biedenbach’s worst at the school, posting a 9-20 record and a 7th-place finish. Then a few more middling years. It came back together in 2008, when Asheville won its fourth regular season title in 12 years. But they missed the tourney yet again, instead forced to settle for the school’s first NIT bid. After two more subpar years, Asheville went to the NCAA Tournament two years in a row in 2011 and 2012.

And they almost made history.

The 16-seeded Bulldogs were leading Syracuse for most of the game before finally falling 72-67. They just barely missed their chance to be UMBC.

Earlier that year, Biedenbach promoted assistant coach Nick McDevitt to associate head coach. The next year, he stepped down after 17 years — and 3 Big South Coach of the Year awards — and left the university. McDevitt, a former guard who played for Biedenbach at Asheville from 1997 to 2001, was named head coach not long after that. After graduating, he immediately joined the Bulldogs’ bench and didn’t leave until 2018.

During his time as head coach, McDevitt’s Asheville squads were extremely successful. In five seasons, UNCA finished in the top 3 four times. The Bulldogs went to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and won at least a share of the Big South title in both of the last two seasons. In all, McDevitt was 98-66 at Asheville, including a 60-28 mark (.628) in conference play. He won 20-plus games in each of his final three seasons, a first for the program, nabbing his own accolades as the Big South’s best coach in 2017.

That success caught the eye of Middle Tennessee State, who had a vacancy in the spring after Kermit Davis bolted for Ole Miss, where he is currently leading the Rebels to a surprise run at the Big Dance. The Blue Raiders hired McDevitt away, leaving a void on the Asheville bench.

To fill that void, the Bulldogs looked toward Mike Morrell. The longtime assistant served under Shaka Smart for seven seasons at both VCU and Texas. But the head coach was not the only personnel change for Asheville this past spring.

Not by a longshot.

First, UNCA graduated four seniors from last season’s 21-win team, including All-Big South first teamer Ahmad Thomas. The 6-5 guard was second on the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game and was the teams top rebounder. He was also a nuisance on the defensive end, racking up nearly two steals per game. Joining him were Raekwon Miller, Kevin Vannatta, and Alec Wnuk. These three players were key cogs in the rotation. Replacing them was always going to be a tall task.

But then came the curveball.

In April, after McDevitt left and Morrell was hired, the team’s two best returning players transferred out of the program. First out the door was sophomore big man Jonathan Baehre, who left for the greener pastures of the ACC at Clemson. He was the tallest player on the team and provided solid minutes as a starter and off the bench. His absence would certainly be sorely missed. But that was just the first blow.

A few days later, leading scorer MaCio Teague – a sophomore guard who also made the All-Big South first team – announced his plans to transfer to Baylor. This was the one that really gutted the Bulldogs. Teague put up a nice line of 16.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game in 2017-18. He was almost sure to be the focal point of the offense this season. But with McDevitt gone, so too was Teague.

Another player, Drew Rackley, was a reserve for the Bulldogs last year. He also left the program, transferring to the University of Charleston, a Division II school in West Virginia. Rackley went from averaging under 15 minutes per game for Asheville to being UC’s top scorer. He’s currently averaging 23.3 points per game and put up 47 earlier this season. So, clearly there was some talent lost there, too.

When all was said and done, over 94 percent of Asheville’s scoring walked out of Kimmel Arena in March and never came back. In fact, only three players from last year’s team are currently suiting up for the Bulldogs. Two others who sat out last year have also joined in.

OK, so what of the incoming freshman?

There were two major recruits from McDevitt to be considered: Coty Jude and Anthony Crump. The latter decided to follow McDevitt to Middle Tennessee, where he started a few games before a season-ending knee injury. Jude, on the other hand, stayed firm in his commitment to Asheville and has been one of the team’s top performers so far.

Luckily for the Bulldogs, Morrell had gained a reputation under Shaka Smart as a good recruiter and he was able to cobble together a roster for the upcoming season. (That roster, by the way, is the least experienced in all of Division I basketball, according to KenPom’s analysis.) The highlight of the incoming class, outside of Jude, has been Devon Baker. The 6-2 guard out of Dayton leads the team, averaging over 16 points and three assists in nearly 34 minutes per game. He and Jude have started every game. Another freshman, Cress Worthy, has supplied some good minutes as well.

And the returning players? Well, they’ve provided minutes but not much more for Asheville. Sophomore big man Jeremy Peck, who sat out last year after transferring from Drexel, has taken Baehre’s place in the lineup, but he hasn’t made the same contributions on offense. He’s split time at the 5 with senior Donovan Gilmore (the team’s only senior), who likewise hasn’t done much this year. Redshirt freshman Tajion Jones has started every game and is third on the team in scoring with nearly 10 points per game. Sophomore Jalen Seegars has split time with Worthy in the backcourt. The last returning player is LJ Thorpe, who missed the first few weeks of the season with a foot injury, but did score 17 against Vanderbilt.

So, just how bad have things gotten in Asheville?

The word catastrophe comes to mind.

At current, Asheville is one of just four Divison I teams who have yet to beat another D1 school. Their current record is technically 2-15, but those two wins came against non-D1 schools. As far as analytics, they are near the bottom in a number of important statistical categories and efficiency metrics. (The one bright spot is that they are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country. They are also, unfortunately, one of the worst at getting to the line.)

To put their struggles into better perspective, the Bulldogs are ranked between 345th and 353rd (out of 353 teams, mind you) in each of the six rankings used by the NCAA Selection Committee. They are dead last in the NCAA’s NET rankings, as well as the results-based Kevin Pauga Index.

And the prognosis for the rest of season? Not good.

Ken Pomeroy’s projections don’t have the Bulldogs favored in any of their remaining matchups. Likewise for Bart Torvik’s projections. Both of those sites list the January 30th game against USC Upstate as the best remaining chance for Asheville to get a D1 win this year. (Both have them pegged at a 37% chance of beating the Spartans.)

This is the anatomy of an outright collapse.

In my years of following college basketball, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a sudden fall from first to worst. For a team that has had so much success over the past two decades, it has been truly shocking to see them sink to the bottom of the national ranks.

There is a silver lining, though. As I said before, this is the youngest team in America. Assuming they all stay in Asheville, this team has a chance to grow together. Baker and Jude have stood out in their first year with the program and if Morrell can land a few more talented recruits, the Bulldogs may see the sun again before too long.

But for now, they’re smack-dab in the middle of a free fall from the top of the Blue Ridge mountains.

It seems like every season, we say the same thing: “It’s only mid-January, but it already feels like March!” And that feeling has never been so strong perhaps as it has been this week. On Thursday, we saw a ridiculous 13 overtime periods played. On Saturday, it seemed like it was one buzzer-beater after another. If that doesn’t get you psyched for March Madness, nothing will.

But for some teams, March has historically not been such a fun month.

As it stands, 43 of the 353 Division I teams have never had a chance to put on their dancing shoes. Of course, two of them – Cal Baptist and North Alabama – won’t get that chance this year as they toil through the NCAA’s transition period for new teams in the top division. And a healthy number of the other 41 still haven’t found a way to make their programs successful.

But hope abounds for a handful of teams across the country. Let’s take a look at five teams with the best chances to earn their league’s automatic bid for the first time in school history. To do this, I’ll use Bart Torvik’s TourneyCast odds. (In case you aren’t already following him, make sure to add @totally_t_bomb on Twitter ASAP.)

So here we go. Below are five teams from five different leagues that have the best shots at punching their first-ever ticket to the Big Dance.

Abilene Christian (25.3% chance, 2nd in Southland)

The Southland has been the domain of Stephen F. Austin for what feels like forever, but there’s a new face that’s angling to get the bid this year. Abilene Christian is one of the newer D-1 teams, having joined the Southland Conference back in 2013-14. After struggling in the bottom of the league for their first few years, the Wildcats had their best season a year ago. They finished 16-16 and made their Division I postseason debut in the CIT.

Through 17 games, ACU has nearly matched their win total from last season. The Wildcats are 14-3 and are in a three-way tie for second place in the Southland behind Sam Houston State, who beat them 71-68 in Houston. But at the moment, Abilene is the highest-ranked team in my DPI Resume metric. They might not have any real marquee wins – their best is over Pacific, currently #168 in the NET – but this is the best team they’ve had since making the leap to D-1.

The Wildcats have five upperclassmen in their main rotation, led by senior forward Jaren Lewis. One of the keys to their success has been opportunistic defense, especially from guards Payten Ricks and Jaylen Franklin. As a team, ACU is forcing turnovers on nearly 23% of possessions, which is 25th in the nation. They’re also in the Top 100 for effective field goal percentage. Add it all up and the Wildcats have a real shot at their first Big Dance. They are only slightly behind Sam Houston State in the TourneyCast rankings, trailing the Bearkats by just 3.4 percent.

Gardner-Webb (19.3% chance, 3rd in Big South)

The Runnin’ Bulldogs of GWU got off to a slow start this season, but have reeled off nine wins in their past ten games. Gardner-Webb hasn’t been able to get over the hump despite some success in recent years. Before last season, they were bumped out of the Big South Tournament in the semifinals three straight years. Their biggest hurdle: Winthrop, who currently holds a 0.1% edge on the Bulldogs in the TourneyCast projections. The Eagles have ousted GW in three of the past four conference tournaments.

But maybe this year will be different. Of course, there is another team ahead of both Gardner-Webb and Winthrop: Radford. The Highlanders made a name for themselves earlier this year by beating Notre Dame and Texas, but have faltered a bit since. That opens the door for Gardner-Webb to make their first-ever NCAA Tournament. So who will get the job done for the Runnin’ Bulldogs?

Well, it may not be just one guy. GWU has four players currently averaging double figures. Senior David Efianayi and freshman Jose Perez lead the way with 16.8 and 16.0 per game, respectively. Similar to Abilene Christian, this team shoots well (86th in EFG%) and forces turnovers (65th in dTO%). But one of the strongest aspects of their game is their ability to get to the foul line (52nd in FTRate) and to convert those opportunities (72nd in FT%).

Getting past Radford and Winthrop will be no small task, but this year’s Gardner-Webb team may be better-positioned to pull it off than any other in the school’s recent history.

Grand Canyon (19.2% chance, 2nd in WAC)

I’ve been high on the Antelopes all year long, picking them to win the WAC in my season preview. They’ve hit some roadblocks along the way – including Saturday’s absolutely heartbreaking half-court buzzer-beater from chief rival New Mexico State. That game would have been huge for GCU, but just hanging with the Aggies is a statement in and of itself. Dan Majerle has been quietly building a winner since GCU made the jump in 2013-14. He’s boasting a .635 winning percentage and the Antelopes have finished the season at .500 or above in every one of their D-1 campaigns.

But is this the year they break through in the WAC? It just might be. Led by sophomore forward Alessandro Lever – the WAC’s preseason POY – the ‘Lopes are off to a 10-7 start, including a 3-1 mark in the conference. That has them tied for first in the league. And while the Italian big man has performed somewhat under expectations, he’s getting help from his supporting cast. Six players are currently averaging more than eight points per game, including the backcourt duo of Damari Milstead and Carlos Johnson.

Grand Canyon rebounds pretty well, especially on the defensive end (28th in dORB%). They’ve also got a defense that ranks #100 in the KenPom efficiency measure at current. If there’s one glaring weakness for the team, it’s their inability to hit threes (31.7%, 268th). So if Lever can turn things up a notch on the interior, the Antelopes will be a tough out. They trail New Mexico State in the TourneyCast projections by about 20%, but they’ve shown that they can hang with the Aggies.

Purdue Fort Wayne (17.1% chance, 2nd in Summit)

The Summit League looked for all the world like it was going to be a one-team show this season, with South Dakota State running away with the preseason polling. However, the Mastodons have asserted themselves as a dangerous team in the league and their TourneyCast projection reflects that. The Jackrabbits still hold a commanding 60.3% chance to win the league, but PFW is a clear #2 in the conference.

Head coach Jon Coffman has had quite a bit of success in his four previous years at the helm in Fort Wayne. The team has made the postseason in each of those seasons, with one NIT bid to go along with three trips to the CIT. And if they keep playing like they have this year, he should make it a solid five-for-five. But despite winning a share of the Summit League in 2015-16, they were bounced by North Dakota State in the semis of the conference tournament. They also made it to the Summit finals in 2014, before losing to that same NDSU team.

The Mastodons put the Summit League on notice by trouncing South Dakota State, 104-88. Led by a dangerous 1-2 punch of John Konchar and Kason Harrell, Fort Wayne is currently 4-1 in the league, tied for first with the Jackrabbits. They might not have the name recognition that SD State has, but this team is no joke. They play at a high pace (30th in the nation) and are extremely effective shooting the ball (20th in EFG%). Their defense leaves a lot to be desired (287th AdjDE), but they’ve already shown that they can beat the league’s frontrunners.

Bethune-Cookman (16.7% chance, 3rd in MEAC)

Last but not least, we head out to Daytona Beach, where Bethune-Cookman’s hopes are high that they can win the MEAC this year. All indications are that this league is up for grabs in 2019, with five teams projected between 15 and 20% in the TourneyCast rankings. Square in the middle of that pack are the Wildcats. BCU is coming off a season where they finished in a three-way tie for first, although the automatic NIT berth ended up going to since-departed Hampton. The Wildcats were picked to finish first in the MEAC preseason polls this season.

One reason for that is the frontcourt tandem of Shawntrez Davis and Soufiyane Diakite, both of whom were selected to the preseason All-MEAC First Team. And while those players have both missed a few games, the Wildcats have gotten good contributions from center Cletrell Pope and guard Malik Maitland. BCU is extremely experienced – their average 2.45 years rank 7th in the nation, according to KenPom.

The Wildcats are not really great at much statistically when you look at it on a national scale, but they’ve got enough talent and experience that they should be contenders for the MEAC title. They’ve faced two of the tougher teams in their first two league games, falling to NC Central but beating Howard. They certainly need to figure things out on offense, where they rank a dismal 327th in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency. Getting Davis and Diakite back on the floor should help with that, though. In a league with such a logjam at the top, there’s no reason to count Bethune-Cookman out just yet.

Honorable Mention

Five more teams still searching for that elusive first Big Dance bid are currently in the Top 3 of their league’s respective TourneyCast odds:

  • Utah Valley (17.4%, 3rd in WAC)
  • Sacred Heart (11.4%, 3rd in NEC)
  • Grambling (10.9%, 3rd in SWAC)
  • Omaha (7.2%, 3rd in Summit)
  • Hartford (4.1%, 3rd in America East)

DPI Bracketology: January 7th

Posted: January 7, 2019 in Uncategorized

Another great weekend of college basketball in the books. Some big upsets — Nevada and Kansas, to be specific — helped to shake things up a bit. Rather than write ad nauseum about it, I’ll just post the updated matchups below, in visual and text forms.

If you have comments, leave them below or send me a message on Twitter @andrewdieckhoff. I’m happy to defend/explain my choices — who knows, you might even convince me that I’m wrong!

(click to enlarge)

 

SOUTH REGION

Columbia, SC

(1) Duke vs. (16) [St. Francis-Brooklyn vs. Norfolk State]

(8) Purdue vs. (9) Seton Hall

Tulsa, OK

(5) Houston vs. (12) Wofford

(4) Mississippi State vs. (13) South Dakota State

Salt Lake City, UT

(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) New Mexico State

(6) Wisconsin vs. (11) [Ole Miss vs. Butler]

Jacksonville, FL

(7) Nebraska vs. (10) Syracuse

(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Radford

 

WEST REGION

Columbus, OH

(1) Michigan State vs. (16) Lehigh

(8) Louisville vs. (9) LSU

Salt Lake City, UT

(5) North Carolina State vs. (12) Murray State

(4) Oklahoma vs. (13) North Texas

San Jose, CA

(3) Nevada vs. (14) UC Irvine

(6) Indiana vs. (11) [Creighton vs. San Francisco]

San Jose, CA

(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Texas

(2) Gonzaga vs. (15) Montana

 

MIDWEST REGION

Columbus, OH

(1) Michigan vs. (16) [Texas Southern vs. Stephen F. Austin]

(8) St. John’s vs. (9) TCU

Hartford, CT

(5) Iowa State vs. (12) Lipscomb

(4) Florida State vs. (13) Hofstra

Hartford, CT

(3) Virginia Tech vs. (14) Yale

(6) Villanova vs. (11) Arizona

Tulsa, OK

(7) Iowa vs. (10) Florida

(2) Kansas vs. (15) Northern Kentucky

 

EAST REGION

Columbia, SC

(1) Virginia vs. (16) Rider

(8) Maryland vs. (9) UCF

Des Moines, IA

(5) Kentucky vs. (12) VCU

(4) Ohio State vs. (13) Loyola-Chicago

Des Moines, IA

(3) North Carolina vs. (14) Georgia State

(6) Buffalo vs. (11) Alabama

Jacksonville, FL

(7) Marquette vs. (10) Minnesota

(2) Auburn vs. (15) Vermont

 

BID BREAKDOWN

Last Four Safe: Florida, Texas, Syracuse, Alabama

Last Four In: Ole Miss, Creighton, Butler, San Francisco

First Four Out: Arizona State, Utah State, Arkansas, St. Mary’s

Next Four Out: Washington, Northwestern, Clemson, Dayton

Multi-Bid Leagues:

Big Ten: 10

ACC: 8

SEC: 8

Big 12: 6

Big East: 6

American: 3

WCC: 2

This season has been a blast so far. We’ve had upsets and comebacks, close games and throttlings, and to be sure, our fair share of surprises. As we close the book on this calendar year, let’s see how the Field of 68 might shake out. I’ll drop the bracket image first and then break it down a bit below.

click to enlarge
South Region – Louisville, KY
  • Columbia, SC
    • (#1) Duke vs. (#16a) Texas Southern / (16d) Norfolk State
    • (#8) Maryland vs. (#9) Arizona State
  • Salt Lake City, UT
    • (#5) Houston vs. (#12) New Mexico State
    • (#4) Kentucky vs. (#13) South Dakota State
  • Salt Lake City, UT
    • (#3) Texas Tech vs. (#14) UC Irvine
    • (#6) Indiana vs. (#11b) Syracuse / (#11c) Alabama
  • Tulsa, OK
    • (#7) TCU vs. (#10) St. John’s
    • (#2) Tennessee vs. (#15) Northern Kentucky

Analysis: The South region features the #1 overall team in Duke. The Blue Devils share a pod with the dangerous Texas Southern team who may have the best chance to repeat UMBC’s feat from last season. This region has the potential for another wild Duke-Kentucky matchup in the Sweet 16, but only if the Wildcats can get past a currently undefeated Houston team (or the dangerous 12 and 13 seeds in their pod). On the bottom half, we could have a huge unstoppable force/immovable object situation if Tennessee’s offense comes toe-to-toe with Texas Tech’s defense. Also, can’t ignore the potential for Romeo Langford to go crazy and carry the Hoosiers into the Sweet 16 (and maybe beyond).

West Region – Anaheim, CA
  • San Jose, CA
    • (#1) Nevada vs. (#16) Abilene Christian
    • (#8) Florida vs. (#9) Kansas State
  • Hartford, CT
    • (#5) Nebraska vs. (#12) Old Dominion
    • (#4) Virginia Tech vs. (#13) Lipscomb
  • Des Moines, IA
    • (#3) Ohio State vs. (#14) Texas State
    • (#6) NC State vs. (#11) Texas
  • San Jose, CA
    • (#7) Oklahoma vs. (#10) Butler
    • (#2) Gonzaga vs. (#15) Montana

Analysis: Here’s the new big change in this edition of the DPI: Nevada on the 1-line for the first time! The Wolf Pack just keep churning out impressive wins and with the MWC looking wayward, there’s a huge chance for Nevada to go undefeated. Even if they slip up once, I still think we could see Eric Musselman’s squad in the top spot. They may have trouble making it out alive, though, with some tough defenses in the 4/5 pod beneath them. Whether Virginia Tech or Nebraska advances, someone is going to give Nevada a big test. Gonzaga seems the best bet to make it to the Elite Eight out of the bottom section of the West. But Ohio State, NC State, and Oklahoma have all exceeded expectations so far. Could one of them make a surprise run to the Final Four? Or will we see a matchup of the West’s best mid-majors

East Region – Washington, DC
  • Columbia, SC
    • (#1) Virginia vs. (#16) Holy Cross
    • (#8) Purdue vs. (#9) Seton Hall
  • Des Moines, IA
    • (#5) Mississippi State vs. (#12) Murray State
    • (#4) Wisconsin vs. (#13) Loyola-Chicago
  • Jacksonville, FL
    • (#3) Auburn vs. (#14) Yale
    • (#6) Buffalo vs. (#11) Minnesota
  • Columbus, OH
    • (#7) Iowa State vs. (#10) LSU
    • (#2) Michigan State vs. (#15) Vermont

Analysis: I’m putting Virginia up on the 1-line because their defense looks as strong as ever and they’ve got some offense to back it up in De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy. But both Purdue and Seton Hall are going to be dangerous teams in this pod. Even if they survive, there are future NBAers such as Ethan Happ and Ja Morant waiting on the other side. Bryce Brown and Auburn have lost a little luster but are still a dangerous club; the same can be said for Buffalo. Tom Izzo would have to do a heck of a job keeping his Spartans focused to make it out of this region. But before they can worry about Auburn or Buffalo, they may have trouble getting past Iowa State and their stud Lindell Wigginton. This region would be the one most likely to see big upsets, in my opinion.

Midwest Region – Kansas City, MO
  • Columbus, OH
    • (#1) Michigan vs. (#16b) Rider / (#16c) Fairleigh Dickinson
    • (#8) Cincinnati vs. (#9) Louisville
  • Hartford, CT
    • (#5) Marquette vs. (#12) VCU
    • (#4) Florida State vs. (#13) Wofford
  • Jacksonville, FL
    • (#3) North Carolina vs. (#14) Charleston
    • (#6) Villanova vs. (#11a) Arkansas / (#11d) Utah State
  • Tulsa, OK
    • (#7) Iowa vs. (#10) UCF
    • (#2) Kansas vs. (#15) Radford

Analysis: Last but not least, we have the Midwest Region, headlined by presumptive Big Ten champs, Michigan. Behind Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis, the Wolverines look poised to return to the Final Four – and perhaps cut down the nets this time. A tough Florida State defense or an electric Markus Howard might await them in the Sweet 16. One the other side, a potential rematch of the 2016 National Championship looms, as UNC and ‘Nova are matched up together. (Assuming Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley don’t pull off an upset of the Tar Heels.) The biggest threat to Michigan returning to the title game? Kansas and their dynamic duo of Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick. And once they get Udoka Azubuike healthy, it may be hard to keep Rock Chalk off the 1-line — and out of the Final Four.

The Bubble
  • Last Four Safe: Butler, LSU, Minnesota, Texas
  • Last Four In: Arkansas, Syracuse, Alabama, Utah State
  • First Four Out: Arizona, Creighton, Ole Miss, Northwestern
  • Next Four Out: Oregon, Providence, St. Mary’s, Vanderbilt
  • The Rest of the Bubble / Projected NIT Seeds 3-8
    • Tier 2: Notre Dame, Washington, Xavier, Dayton, Penn State, Missouri, Colorado, Baylor
    • Tier 3: Temple, Toledo, Miami (FL), Clemson, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, Connecticut, West Virginia
    • Tier 4: Belmont, Rutgers, San Francisco, Fresno State, San Diego, Boston College, USC, Akron

In this installment of The Long 2, I’m going to take a look at a couple teams who are actually playing each other today. I’ll give some analysis at the end, as well as the DPI Computer Prediction for the game. In this way, you can treat this like an in-depth preview of the game.

Today, I’m going to look at (#48) Toledo and (#86) Pennsylvania. The Rockets are hosting the Quakers at 2:00 PM ET in Toledo’s Savage Arena.

As I will always do, below I have listed the outside sources that I use to compile these profiles. (Seriously, bookmark all of these pages if you haven’t already. They each offer something unique and significant to the field of college basketball analytics and include some of the best and most creative datasets out there.)

***

TOLEDO ROCKETS

Team Rankings

  • Current DPI Rank: 48
    • 7-day (+/-): 0
    • 14-day (+/-): +2
    • 30-day (+/-): +29
  • Selection Committee Metrics
    • SOR (ESPN): 39
    • BPI (ESPN): 59
    • NET (NCAA): 65
    • KPI (Pauga): 65
    • Ken Pomeroy: 68
    • Jeff Sagarin: 74
  • Other Analytic Metrics
    • All Play % (Haslam): 52
    • T-Rank (Torvik): 73

 

Team Profile

  • Head Coach – Tod Kowalczyk
    • Years with team: 8
    • Overall record: 153-122 (.556)
    • Conference record: 73-65 (.529)
    • Postseason appearances: 3 (NIT, 2014; CBI, 2017; CIT, 2012)
  • Key Players
    • Jaelan Sanford, Sr., G – 31.8 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 88.9% FT
    • Willie Jackson, Jr., F – 26.9 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 51.0% FG
    • Nate Navigato, Sr., F – 30.4 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 52.6% 3P
    • Luke Knapke, Jr., C – 25.0 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 54.5% FG
    • Marreon Jackson, So., G – 27.3 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.7 RPG, 0.9 SPG
    • Chris Darrington, Sr., G – 16.2 MPG, 10.2 PPG, 75.7 FTRate, 84.9% FT
  • Strengths
    • Shooting free throws (80.3% FT, 2nd)
    • Keeping opponents off the stripe (22.9 dFTRate, 8th)
    • Ball movement (62.3% A/FGM, 12th)
    • Shooting three-pointers (40.0%, 14th)
    • Limiting opponents’ three-pointers (29.0% d3P, 31st)
    • Limiting opponents’ shooting (46.4% dEFG, 54th)
    • Limiting opponents’ offensive boards (25.2% dORB, 61st)
    • Making the most of shots (54.3% EFG, 63rd)
    • Ball control (17.1% TPP, 67th)
  • Weaknesses
    • Forcing turnovers (15.8% dTPP, 322nd)
    • Giving up the ball (7.7% dSPP, 263rd)
    • Getting to the line (31.7 FTRate, 232nd)
    • Blocking opponents’ shots (9.8 Block%, 215th)
    • Turning steals into points (8.95 Pts/Stl Rate, 288th)

 

Current Resume

  • Record: 11-1 (0-0 Mid-American)
    • Quadrant 1: 0-0
    • Quadrant 2: 0-0
    • Quadrant 3: 4-1
    • Quadrant 4: 6-0
    • Non-Div. I: 1-0
  • Strength of Schedule Ranks
    • Erik Haslam: 274
    • Jeff Sagarin: 285
    • DPI: 291
    • Bart Torvik: 292
    • Ken Pomeroy: 308
    • Kevin Pauga: 311
    • ESPN: 336
  • Best Wins (by KPI Value)
    • vs. UC Irvine, 67-60 (+0.609)
    • @ Marshall, 75-74 OT (+0.523)
    • vs. Louisiana, 77-64 (+0.331)
  • Worst Losses (by KPI Value)
    • @ Wright State, 74-84 (-0.315)

 

Season Projections

  • KenPom Projected W-L
    • 24-7 (12-6, Mid American)
  • Torvik TourneyCast Odds: 40.9%
    • 18.3% chance for automatic bid (2nd in Mid American)
    • 22.6% chance for at-large bid (2nd in Mid American, 52nd overall)
    • Projected seed: 10.4

***

PENNSYLVANIA QUAKERS

Team Rankings

  • Current DPI Rank: 86
    • 7-day (+/-): +10
    • 14-day (+/-): +6
    • 30-day (+/-): +58
  • Selection Committee Metrics
    • SOR (ESPN): 41
    • NET (NCAA): 52
    • KPI (Pauga): 66
    • BPI (ESPN): 77
    • Jeff Sagarin: 91
    • Ken Pomeroy: 100
  • Other Metrics
    • T-Rank (Torvik): 76
    • All Play % (Haslam): 86

 

Team Profile

  • Head Coach – Steve Donahue
    • Years with team: 4
    • Overall record: 58-43 (.574)
    • Conference record: 23-19 (.548)
    • Postseason appearances: 1 (NCAA, 2018)
  • Key Players
    • AJ Brodeur, Jr., F – 30.3 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 52.7% EFG
    • Devon Goodman, Jr., G – 32.6 MPG, 14.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 61.1% EFG
    • Michael Wang, Fr., F – 19.6 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 65.4% EFG, 40.5% 3P
    • Antonio Woods, Sr., G – 29.9 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 36.7% 3P
    • Bryce Washington, Fr., G – 17.9 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 48.8% 3P, 64.2% EFG
    • Jake Slipe, Sr., G – 22.5 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 76.9% 2P
  • Strengths
    • Making the most of their shots (56.7% EFG, 12th)
    • Shooting three-pointers (38.7% 3P, 32nd)
    • Ball movement (58.5% A/FGM, 39th)
    • Shooting two-pointers (55.8% 2P, 47th)
    • Limiting opponents’ three-pointers (31.0% d3P, 65th)
    • Limiting opponents’ free throws (29.5 dFTRate, 78th)
    • Experience (2.01 years, 80th)
    • Forcing turnovers (20.9% dTPP, 88th)
  • Weaknesses
    • Shooting free throws (64.5% FT, 300th)
    • Having shots blocked (6.4 Block%, 280th)
    • Height disadvantage (76.2 inches, 262nd)
    • Depth (28.0% Bench minutes, 250th)
    • Crashing the boards (27.0% ORB, 229th)
    • Ball control (20.0% TPP, 225th)

 

Current Resume

  • Record: 10-2 (0-0, Ivy)
    • Quadrant 1: 0-1
    • Quadrant 2: 2-1
    • Quadrant 3: 3-0
    • Quadrant 4: 4-0
    • Non-Div. I: 1-0
  • Strength of Schedule Ranks
    • Jeff Sagarin: 172
    • Ken Pomeroy: 181
    • Bart Torvik: 183
    • DPI: 209
    • Kevin Pauga: 215
    • ESPN: 216
    • Erik Haslam: 235
  • Best Wins (by KPI value)
    • vs. Villanova, 78-75 (+0.663)
    • vs. Miami (FL), 89-75 (+0.441)
    • @ New Mexico, 75-65 (+0.318)
    • @ George Mason, 72-71 (+0.251)
  • Worst Losses (by KPI value)
    • vs. Oregon State, 58-74 (-0.134)
    • vs. Kansas State, 48-64 (-0.012)

 

Season Projections

  • KenPom Projected W-L
    • 22-8 (9-5, Ivy)
  • Torvik TourneyCast Odds: 34.6%
    • 29.9% chance for automatic bid (2nd in Ivy)
    • 4.7% chance for at-large bid (1st in Ivy, 65th overall)
    • Projected seed: 11.9

***

AND-1! TODAY’S GAME PREVIEW

When Toledo and Pennsylvania meet at Savage Arena on Saturday, the result should be a pretty close game. Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each team.

Why Toledo Could Win: The Rockets should have the best individual players on the court in Jaelan Sanford and Nate Navigato. However, the latter’s effectiveness may be cut down by Penn’s ability to defend the three-ball. That means that Sanford, Luke Knapke, and Willie Jackson will need to be extra effective inside. The Rockets should use their size advantage to win the battle of the boards. Penn doesn’t allow many assists, so Sanford may find himself in a lot of isolation situations this game. The result could be a big stat line for the senior guard.

Why Penn Could Win: This team shoots the lights out – as long as it isn’t from the free throw line. Toledo has been good so far at not allowing teams to shoot very well, but they haven’t faced many teams as effective as Penn. And while turnovers are often an issue for Penn, the Rockets really don’t force many on their end, so ball control could be better for the Quakers today. The key to this game will be getting AJ Brodeur and Michael Wang involved early and often. They’ll have an even better shot if those two bigs can manage to crash the boards well.

DPI Projection: @Toledo 75, Penn 71

Welcome to “The Long 2”! This is a new recurring article idea that I am trying out. I am going to randomly choose two teams from the DPI Top 100 and give them a deeper look.

The goal of this to not only to edify myself – following 353 teams closely is not an easy task – but also to give you a better idea about some of the teams that are likely to either make the NCAA Tournament or at least be somewhere near the bubble in March.

For each team that I profile, I will give an overview of the roster and the head coach, analysis of their most notable wins and losses, and a look at how the teams fare in the major NCAA basketball metrics. I will use various pieces of data from different sources to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team and to look at the projections for season records and NCAA Tournament bids.

The result, hopefully, will be a comprehensive take on the teams in question that will put their current performance and their future expectations into better context.

This will probably be much more useful as time goes on. I envision that in February and March, I will use it as a platform to compare bubble teams or teams vying for supremacy in their respective conferences. Still, I think that getting to know some of the less-heralded teams now will inform my analysis going forward.

Below are the outside sources that I will be using to compile these profiles. (Seriously, bookmark all of these pages if you haven’t already. They each offer something unique and significant to the field of college basketball analytics and include some of the best and most creative datasets out there.)

 

The first team spotlight today will be for NORTHWESTERN of the Big Ten.

Team Rankings

  • Current DPI Rank: 36
    • 7-day (+/-): -1
    • 14-day (+/-): -1
    • 30-day (+/-): +36
  • Selection Committee Metrics
    • BPI (ESPN): 35
    • NET (NCAA): 44
    • Ken Pomeroy: 45
    • Jeff Sagarin: 51
    • KPI (Pauga): 90
    • SOR (ESPN): 100
  • Other Analytic Metrics
    • T-Rank (Torvik): 47
    • All Play % (Haslam): 67

 

Team Profile

  • Head Coach – Chris Collins
    • Years with team: 6
    • Overall record: 96-81 (.542)
    • Conference record: 36-56 (.391)
    • Postseason appearances: 1 (NCAA, 2017)
  • Key Players
    • Vic Law, Sr., F – 32.9 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 40% 3P
    • Dererk Pardon, Sr., C – 30.5 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 BPG, 63.4% FG
    • Ryan Taylor, Sr., G – 30.4 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 95.5% FT
    • A.J. Turner, Jr., F – 32.7 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.9 RPG, 87.2% FT
    • Alex Gaines, So., G – 23.3 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 79.5 FTRate
  • Strengths
    • Passing the ball (63.5% A/FGM, 7th)
    • Height advantage (78.6 inches, 13th)
    • Limiting opponents’ three-pointers (28.0% d3PT, 18th)
    • Avoiding blocked shots (13.5% dBPP, 43rd)
    • Limiting opponents’ shooting (46.3% dEFG, 48th)
    • Forcing turnonvers (21.4% dTPP, 68th)
    • Experience (2.05 years, 70th)
    • Ball control (17.6% TPP, 93rd)
  • Weaknesses
    • Depth (23.9% bench minutes, 324th)
    • Sending opponents to the line (34.8 FTRate, 206th)
    • Shooting three-pointers (33.9% 3PT, 180th)
    • Giving the ball away (8.7% dSPP, 178th)

 

Current Resume

  • Record: 8-4 (0-2 Big Ten)
    • Quadrant 1: 0-4
    • Quadrant 2: 0-0
    • Quadrant 3: 3-0
    • Quadrant 4: 5-0
    • Non-Div. I: 0-0
  • Strength of Schedule Ranks
    • DPI: 79
    • Bart Torvik: 89
    • Kevin Pauga: 113
    • ESPN: 147
    • Jeff Sagarin: 161
    • Erik Haslam: 165
    • Ken Pomeroy: 185
  • Best Wins
    • vs. DePaul, 75-68 (0.398 KPI)
    • vs. Georgia Tech, 67-61 (0.312 KPI)
    • vs. Utah, 79-57 (0.292 KPI)
  • Worst Losses
    • vs. Fresno State, 78-59 (-0.047 KPI)

 

Projections

  • KenPom Projected W-L
    • 17-14 (8-12, Big Ten)
  • Torvik TourneyCast Odds
    • 0.7% chance for automatic bid (10th in Big Ten)
    • 4.6% chance for at-large bid (10th in Big Ten, 67th overall)
    • Projected seed: 10.7

 

 

Now, for our second team spotlight: TEXAS STATE, of the Sun Belt Conference.

Team Rankings

  • Current DPI Rank: 90
    • 7-day (+/-): +1
    • 14-day (+/-): -2
    • 30-day (+/-): +20
  • Selection Committee Metrics
    • SOR (ESPN): 87
    • NET (NCAA): 89
    • KPI (Pauga): 117
    • BPI (ESPN): 121
    • Ken Pomeroy: 124
    • Jeff Sagarin: 134
  • Other Metrics
    • All Play % (Haslam): 67
    • T-Rank (Torvik): 117

 

Team Profile

  • Head Coach – Danny Kaspar
    • Years with team: 5
    • Overall record: 84-89 (.486)
    • Conference record: 37-57 (.394)
    • Postseason appearances: 1 (CIT, 2016)
  • Key Players
    • Nijal Pearson, Jr., G – 32.3 MPG, 19.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 49.4% 3P
    • Tre’Larenz Nottingham, Sr., G – 28.2 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG
    • Alex Peacock, Sr., F – 27.0 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.3 SPG
    • Jaylen Shead, Jr., G – 27.3 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.7 AST/TO
    • Alonzo Sule, Fr. , F – 14.5 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 72.5% FG, 90.0% FT
  • Strengths
    • Limiting opponents’ offensive rebounds (23.4% dORB, 19th)
    • Forcing turnovers (22.1% dTPP, 46th)
    • Limiting opponents’ good shots (46.0% dEFG, 47th)
    • Shooting three-pointers (37.0% 3P, 66th)
    • Shooting the ball (53.8% EFG, 76th)
    • Crashing the boards (31.6% ORB, 84th)
    • Experience (1.98 years, 84th)
  • Weaknesses
    • Sending opponents to the line (42.2 dFTR, 315th)
    • Ball control (20.7% TPP, 264th)
    • Height disadvantage (76.2 inches, 261st)
    • Shooting free throws (67.4% FT, 244th)

 

Current Resume

  • Record: 10-2 (0-0 Sun Belt)
    • Quadrant 1: 0-1
    • Quadrant 2: 0-1
    • Quadrant 3: 2-0
    • Quadrant 4: 7-0
    • Non-Div. I: 1-0
  • Strength of Schedule Ranks
    • Kevin Pauga: 243
    • Erik Haslam: 272
    • DPI: 313
    • Ken Pomeroy: 323
    • Bart Torvik: 323
    • Jeff Sagarin: 327
    • ESPN: 340
  • Best Wins (by KPI value)
    • @ Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 77-68 (0.326 KPI)
    • @ Portland, 91-68 (0.177 KPI)
  • Worst Losses (by KPI value)
    • @ Arkansas, 73-70 (-0.034 KPI)

 

Projections

  • KenPom Projected W-L
    • 23-8 (12-6, Sun Belt)
  • Torvik TourneyCast Odds
    • 23.2% chance for automatic bid (2nd highest in Sun Belt)
    • 0.0% chance for at-large bid (T-1st in Sun Belt, T-96th overall)
    • Projected seed: 13.8

 

Feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @andrewdieckhoff and suggest a team to be profiled! Otherwise, I’ll just continue to pick teams at random. Thanks for reading, friends. Until next time.

Oregon State’s glory days may be long past, but the Beavers are finally starting to trend upward after more than two decades of embarrassment and inconsistency.

Let’s travel back in time for a moment.

For millenials (and those non-millenials with shorter memories), it may surprise you to learn that OSU used to be one of the most consistently successful teams in the country. From the 1979-80 season through 1989-90, the Beavers averaged better than 21 wins per season and made the NCAA Tournament eight times. Head coach Ralph Miller, the namesake of the court at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, earned a reputation as one of the game’s best. (Note: NCAA violations resulted in the vacating of Miller’s first three NCAA Tournament appearances with OSU in 1980, 1981, and 1982.)

And when Miller retired in 1989, he left the Beavers in a good position. The team had future NBA players in Gary Payton and Scott Haskin. OSU went on to earn a 5-seed in the 1990 NCAA Tournament under first-year head coach Jim Anderson, but despite the efforts of Payton – the Pac-10 Player of the Year that season – the Beavers were upset by Ball State in the first round.

But the pain didn’t stop there.

After Payton graduated, the program faded into obscurity. Over the next five years, Anderson’s OSU squads won just 40.7% of its games, including a 32-58 mark in league play. After moving on from Anderson, the Eddie Payne era began. Unfortunately, he couldn’t revive the program. In fact, the hole just got bigger. Payne’s teams won just 22 of 90 Pac-10 contests for a measly 24.4% winning percentage. Suffice it to say, the Beavers did not make the postseason under Payne, who lasted five seasons in Corvallis.

Then came Ritchie McKay, who is currently the head coach of a successful Liberty team. McKay also found wins at New Mexico after leaving Oregon State in 2002. But all of that success came later, years after McKay left Gill Coliseum. McKay’s two seasons in Corvallis resulted in two 9th-place finishes. Despite the poor performance, the coach moved back to the Mountain West and guided the Lobos to the 2005 NCAA Tournament, that promised land that continued to elude the Beavers.

Meanwhile, Jay John had taken the helm for Oregon State after McKay’s departure. John was a big hire for the program after he spent four season as an assistant to Lute Olson at Arizona. In his first season, the team rose up to 6th place in the Pac-10, fell back down to 9th in 2003-04, but then the tide turned in 2004-05. For the first time in 15 years, the Beavers had a winning season and even made it to the postseason. Oregon State reached the NIT in 2005 behind star forward David Lucas.

The good times were brief, however; the Beavers finished 8th, 9th, and 10th over the next three seasons. The low-water mark of the program was a 6-25 season in 2007-08, in which Oregon State failed to win a single Pac-10 game.

Cue the Craig Robinson era.

Hiring Robinson – the brother of then-First Lady Michelle Obama – away from Brown started the Beavs on what was, at that time, their most successful stretch of play since the glory days of Ralph Miller. In Robinson’s first year, the Beavers went .500 overall and earned a place in the CBI, which they eventually won. It looked like Oregon State had finally found a coach to bring them back to glory.

But then came the inconsistency.

The Beavers got something of a pity invite to the CBI in 2010 after a 14-18 season. Then, OSU finished 9th in the conference in 2011. Despite another 9th-place finish in 2012, Oregon State won 21 games and went back to the CBI. Then another losing record and no postseason. Then a .500 season, Craig Robinson’s last, which saw a first-round exit in the CBI against Radford.

After that season, OSU decided that it had had enough of the roller-coaster ride. The school fired Robinson – surprisingly its fourth-winningest coach after just five up-and-down seasons – and hired Wayne Tinkle away from Montana. Tinkle had made quite a name for himself in Missoula. The 6’10” big man cut quite a figure on the sidelines and his teams always embodied his toughness.

(I actually had the opportunity to sit a few feet away from Tinkle when the Grizzlies visited Portland State in 2013, when I was an intern with the Vikings’ sports information department. He exuded passion at every moment, even when Montana was firmly in control of the game.)

The new Beavers coach brought that intensity with him to Corvallis and instantly changed the culture at Oregon State. The team went 17-14 in his first season and moved up to 7th in the Pac-12, led by the son of the last great hero of Beaver basketball, Gary Payton II.

The following season, the drought finally ended.

Wayne brought his son, Tres, into the program, as well as Stephen Thompson and future pro Drew Eubanks. Everything clicked for the Beavs that year, and as a result, Oregon State was awarded with a 7-seed in the Big Dance. However, they ran into a tough VCU squad that pulled off an upset in the first game. (Note: “Upset” is a relative term. These teams could have easily been seeded the other way around. Oregon State was a 6th place team that finished .500 in league play, while VCU won 25 games.)

Then, in true Beavers form, the team plummeted. In 2016-17, OSU went 5-27 and won just one conference game. This was the Beavers’ lowest win total in nearly 100 years. Tres Tinkle was lost to injury after just six games. In his absence, this young, inexperienced squad just couldn’t get anything done.

Thing turned around a bit last year, though, as Tinkle returned alongside Eubanks. Stephen Thompson, then a junior, was also joined by his brother, Ethan, who meshed with the offense immediately. The Beavers went .500, but still finished 10th in the 12-team league and didn’t play in the postseason.

Still, the future looked bright as their trio of studs who guided them to the NCAA Tournament looked set to return for their fourth season. However, Eubanks declared for the NBA draft, leaving the team with a big hole in the frontcourt entering this year.

So, that brings us to where we are now.

So far in 2018-19, the Beavers are off to a 7-4 start. They took home third place in the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands, where they scored their two best wins of the season over Old Dominion and Penn. Since then it’s been a bit rocky for the Beavs.

After a 6-1 start, OSU is 1-3 in its past four games, but the losses have at least been close. They lost by four points on the road to a Saint Louis team that will challenge for the A-10 title. They lost to a suddenly-surging Texas A&M team by three in Portland. Most recently, they fell at home by three to a decent Kent State squad. The Beavers will finish their non-conference slate at home against Central Connecticut State, which should bring them to 8-4.

This team, like any, has its various strengths and weaknesses.

The good? Tres Tinkle has been outstanding so far. The redshirt junior is averaging just under 20 points per game to go along with nearly 9 rebounds, more than 4 assists, and a steal and a half per contest. He’s angling toward an All Pac-12 selection if he keeps this up. Also, 7-footer Kylor Kelley, a junior college transfer, has been a huge find in the frontcourt. While he is still finding his footing on the offensive end, his defense has been sublime for the Beavers. Kelley’s 4.1 blocks per game leads the nation and he is looking better with each game. They’ve got good balancing, ranking in the Top 100 on both ends of the court in the KenPom ratings.

The bad? The Beavers haven’t been able to find their stroke from dowtnown, for starters. OSU doesn’t shoot many threes – and perhaps, with good reason. They’ve made just 32.8% of those shots this year, which is 292nd in the country. Also, for a team that plays so much offense inside the arc, they are terrible at getting to the free throw line. They’ve only attempted 180 foul shots, which is 331st in the nation. In addition, big man Gligorije Rakocevic, who was the offensive catalyst in the win over Old Dominion, hasn’t played in over a month. And while this has thrust Kelley into the starting lineup, there is definitely something missing in the Beavers’ low post game with “Big G” out. (Rakocevic should return to the lineup in the next couple weeks.)

So, what does the future hold for these Beavers?

According to KenPom, the Beavers are projected to finish 17-13 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-12. But with the Pac-12 looking as weak as it ever has, a .500 finish in league play will likely not result in any at-large consideration for the NCAA Tournament. However, that weakness could also result in OSU pulling off some upsets.

Perhaps unfortunately for the Beavers, the uneven Pac-12 scheduling means that they’ll only get to face struggling teams like California, Utah, and Stanford only once this season. This means that they will play tougher teams like Arizona State, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and UCLA twice. While there are certainly some vulnerabilities in all of those teams, it’s a tougher league slate than the team would prefer, surely. But such are the vicissitudes of sport.

The best case scenario for Oregon State is likely a sweep of their rivals, Oregon, plus at least a split against each of the teams listed above. In this scenario, they would probably win around 20 games and finish in the top third of the league. Still, even this might not be enough to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. But fans of the Beavers can dream.

In all likelihood, Oregon State is going to finish near the middle of the Pac and will likely end up getting an invitation to one of the lower-tier tournaments. They look like a potential NIT team, but if the Pac-12 only ends up with one or two bids in the Big Dance, that tournament may fill up with other household names from the league before moving on to other conferences.

Still, barring a total collapse in league play, Wayne Tinkle’s job is likely safe, regardless of whether the Beavers make the postseason. Save for the disastrous five-win season just two years ago, Tinkle’s Beavers have been the most consistently successful that the program has had in the past two decades. Keep in mind, though, that no coach has stayed in Corvallis for more than five seasons since Ralph Miller retired in 1989. That’s a lot of turnover.

But for now, it looks like Oregon State may have finally found their man.

Still, many questions hover over the program’s future. Will Tres Tinkle enter the NBA draft after this spectacular season? Once his son is gone – either after this year or next – will Wayne Tinkle stay with the program? And if he does stay and the Beavers still can’t find their way back to the Big Dance soon, will Oregon State’s (somewhat fickle) athletic department look elsewhere for success?

After growing up in Corvallis and watching firsthand as the Beavers struggled mightily throughout my youth, these are refreshing questions to be asking. Much better than pondering whether the team will finish near-last or dead-last in the conference.

But all of the uncertainty about the future can wait. Right now, the Beavers need to focus on capitalizing on the opportunity that a weak Pac-12 provides for them. They need to continue playing solid defense and find more consistency on offense.

If they can, the prize will be a trip to the NCAA Tournament, just the third in the past 20 seasons. Even better would be the team’s first official victory in the Big Dance since 1975 (not counting the two vacated wins from 1982). That 44-year drought, for the record, is the longest of any Power Conference team in the NCAA.

And perhaps nobody is better suited to take them there than the Beavers’ father-son duo.

Merry Christmas everyone! Since there’s not much basketball over the next few days, it seems like the perfect time to stop and review some of what we’ve witnessed over the past few weeks — and to start looking ahead to the conference season.

(Plus, who doesn’t like to do a little reading while they digest their Christmas dinner?)

While major conferences such as the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Big East, and yes, even the Pac-12, will have exciting, tight races, they certainly aren’t the only excitement that lies ahead. There are a number of mid-major conferences that you should keep an eye on in 2019. While some leagues like the Mountain West, West Coast, and Mid-American can pretty much already be claimed by top teams, most of the lower-tier leagues are wide open.

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my love for mid-major basketball. It’s really the biggest reason why I love college hoops so much. Watching tiny schools from towns that you can hardly find on the map is why I fell in love with this sport at an early age. Digging deeper into these less-heralded leagues gives me unending joy and you can always expect a steady stream of mid-major content here at the DPI.

OK, platitudes over. It’s time to highlight the most exciting mid-major races for 2019. I’ve got them listed roughly in order of what I consider to be the leagues with the best talent or the closest spread of teams.

The American

The AAC boasts three very good teams that will contend for the league title over the next few months. First, undefeated (#27) Houston is looking stronger than ever under the tutelage of renowned coach Kelvin Sampson. They’ve got six wins over the DPI Top 125, with the best of those probably being against (#37) LSU. They are stalwart on defense and Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis have been doing good things on offense. Right there with them are (#15) Cincinnati, who just trounced (#67) UCLA. The Bearcats have arguably the best player in the league in Jarron Cumberland and are super efficient on both ends of the floor. Last but not least is (#38) UCF. The preseason pick to win the league, the Knights haven’t played a very tough schedule, but still have a good win over (#77) Alabama. With a talented backcourt of BJ Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins and a huge defensive stopper in Tacko Fall, UCF should hang around the top of the league.

Atlantic 10

A lot has been written about the early failings of the Atlantic 10, but what makes this league so interesting is that everyone has stumbled here and there. It’s made the A10 wide open and should turn league play into quite the gauntlet. At the moment, (#62) Dayton looks like the most balanced team in the conference and their neutral-site win over (#25) Butler was huge. That victory stands as the best win of any A10 team so far. Also making strides are (#70) VCU and (#98) Rhode Island. Both teams excel on the defensive end, but have struggled on offense. (#112) Saint Louis is another team that profiles similarly – and the Billikens also beat that good Butler squad. Conversely, teams like (#100) Davidson, (#117) St. Joseph’s, and (#122) Massachusetts boast Top 100 offenses, but have had loads of trouble defending. The Wildcats probably have the conference’s frontrunner for player of the year in Jon Axel Gudmundsson, though players like UMass’ Luwane Pipkins, Rhody’s Cyril Langevine, and St. Joseph’s sophomore Charlie Brown may have something to say about that. This is a league with no clear favorite right now and will be extremely fun to watch.

Conference USA

There is a ton of talent spread around the Conference USA right now. The fact that the C-USA has been a one-bid league for roughly a decade makes this six-team race even more exciting. Leading the pack at the moment are the Monarchs of (#72) Old Dominion. ODU has won eight straight – including two Top 100 wins over (#46) Syracuse and (#70) VCU. The backcourt tandem of Ahmad Caver and BJ Stith is playing lights-out basketball. Another fun team hot on their tails is (#105) North Texas. The Mean Green don’t really have a marquee win, though they did beat a talented (#118) Indiana State on the road. (#148) Marshall has their own pair of dangerous guards in Jon Elmore and CJ Burks, though the Herd have stumbled a bit in non-conference play. Charles Bassey has looked every bit the part of NBA prospect as he’s led (#150) Western Kentucky to some good wins, including over (#41) St. Mary’s, (#49) Arkansas, and (#85) West Virginia, but the Hilltoppers have also lost some head-scratchers to teams like (#168) Troy and (#213) Missouri State. (#143) Louisiana Tech and (#144) Southern Miss should not be counted out of this race just yet. Tech has a Top 100 offense and beat (#129) Wichita State on the road. Southern Miss excels more defensively and also have a solid road win against (#97) SMU.

Missouri Valley

When the season started, there was a belief that last year’s Cinderella, (#83) Loyola-Chicago would run away with the Valley title. But a slow start has opened the door for a few other contenders. The Ramblers are currently 7-6, with all of those losses coming to Top 125 teams and all of the wins coming against teams ranked #190 or lower. So, it’s hard to know exactly what we have there. Three challengers have stepped up in recent weeks, with the biggest riser being (#107) Drake. The Bulldogs have a Top 100 offense and nabbed two impressive victories over (#56) New Mexico State and (#71) San Diego this past weekend. They also beat (#90) Texas State and (#152) Boise State. (#118) Indiana State has some good wins in their own right, including four over the Top 150. The Sycamores have taken down (#66) Colorado, (#103) UNLV, (#131) Wright State, and (#150) Western Kentucky. Finally, (#139) Southern Illinois has looked pretty good. The Salukis played (#31) Buffalo close twice this year and beat (#112) Saint Louis and (#119) Tulsa. While Loyola is still the favorite to win the league, their margins are increasingly slim as we head into January.

Ohio Valley

The Ohio Valley is – yet again – going to be a hotly-contested league, with its two marquee programs both looking very dangerous in the early going. (#51) Murray State, led by the league’s best player and future pro Ja Morant, only have two losses. Both of those came against Top 100 teams from the SEC, (#9) Auburn and (#77) Alabama. The Racers lost those games by just five and six points, respectively. Meanwhile, (#74) Belmont has scored three Top 100 wins, including two over (#53) Lipscomb and a road upset of (#67) UCLA. While those two teams will garner most of the focus in the OVC, two other squads have been playing good basketball through the first two months. (#155) Jacksonville State has a Top 100 defense recently gave (#85) West Virginia and (#129) Wichita State everything they could handle before losing both of those games by two and four points, respectively. (#158) Austin Peay has also looked slightly above-average on both ends of the court. The Governors just beat a surging (#110) Liberty team and took (#99) South Florida to overtime in November. Still, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that either Murray State or Belmont will walk away with the OVC title in March.

Ivy League

The Ivy League has established itself as a very interesting league over the past five years and this year’s conference run may be the most enjoyable. (#84) Penn looks like the team to beat, especially after they knocked off (#33) Villanova at home. The Quakers also have another impressive win over (#58) Miami-Florida in their recent six-game win streak. (#108) Yale also has a win over the Hurricanes and nearly added another on the road against (#94) Memphis before falling in double overtime. Lastly, (#127) Harvard has had a bit of a roller-coaster start to the season. The Crimson sport wins over (#41) St. Mary’s and (#122) UMass, but they also lost to (#296) Siena. Still, once league play starts, it will be hard to count Harvard out of any game. This may not be the sexiest conference in America, but it’s got three very good teams that any team would be foolish to overlook in the NCAA Tournament.

Southern Conference

It was (#106) Furman who grabbed all the headlines with big wins over (#33) Villanova and (#83) Loyola-Chicago on the way to a 12-0 start and the school’s first appearance in the national polls, but they may not be the SoCon’s best team. That honor may lie with (#68) Wofford and their superstar Fletcher Magee. The Terriers’ best win was over (#115) South Carolina. They also scored an early conference win over another of the league’s best in (#142) East Tennessee State. The Buccaneers are a young team still growing, but they’ve looked good on defense so far, ranking in the Top 100. A surprisingly good team in the early going has been (#135) Citadel, who sports a road victory over (#99) South Florida. The Bulldogs play an up-tempo pace and their offense has been very good so far. Two more teams who could vie for the league title are (#116) Samford and (#123) UNC Greensboro, both of whom have good balance on offense and defense. Likely, this race will come down to Wofford and Furman, but it’s too early to count the others out.

There are a few other races that will be fun to watch, but they didn’t quite make the cut. Here are some quick thoughts on those:

  • The Sun Belt will be a tough league to win this year, with four teams looking especially strong. (#90) Texas State, (#145) Georgia Southern, (#154) Georgia State, and (#170) Louisiana all have a good shot at winning this conference.
  • (#89) Charleston and their star Grant Riller look like they’re in control of the Colonial, but (#101) Hofstra and their star, Justin Wright-Foreman, are going to give them headaches. Also, don’t count out Vasa Pusica and (#140) Northeastern after a rocky start against a pretty tough non-conference slate.
  • The Horizon is also shaping up to be pretty exciting, with (#126) Northern Kentucky and (#131) Wright State gearing up for a long battle. But one more team to keep an eye on here is (#159) IUPUI.
  • (#146) Montana is in the driver’s seat in the Big Sky, but don’t be surprised if they face serious challenges from (#186) Weber State and (#208) Northern Colorado.
  • (#134) Radford made headlines by beating (#42) Texas and (#54) Notre Dame, but the Big South has three Top 100 offenses in (#164) Gardner-Webb, (#174) Winthrop, and (#192) Presbyterian — any of whom could wrestle the league title away from the Highlanders.
  • Lastly, the Atlantic Sun has a pretty clear favorite in (#53) Lipscomb, but both (#111) Liberty and (#165) NJIT could make some noise here, too.

I’m sure I could say more about all of the remaining conferences, but I’ll leave that for another time. I look forward to seeing how all of these leagues play out over the next few months.

I hope you’ll continue to join me throughout 2019 as I break down the biggest — and smallest — stories in NCAA hoops. Message me on Twitter @andrewdieckhoff with your thoughts on these races and let me know if I missed anything big.

Holly Jolly Bracketology

Posted: December 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

As we head into what will surely be a grueling few days with no college basketball, there is still a lot to talk about with regard to the potential field of 68. So, snuggle up with your warmest blanket and dig into the Christmas Edition of DPI Bracketology!

As always, I’ll drop the bracket in first for those of you who just can’t wait to open up your presents.

(click to enlarge)

Below are the stocking stuffers. (OK, I think that’s it for the holiday metaphors.)

  • The 1-line remains unchanged, despite Kansas losing to Arizona State. I think the Jayhawks are an unfinished product at the moment, but they’ve got serious Final Four potential. Duke, Tennessee, and Michigan are all still deserving in my eyes.
  • There are some changes on the 2-line. North Carolina and Auburn both lost last week, which drops them down to 3-seeds. Taking their place: Michigan State and still-unbeaten Nevada. Other 2-seeds are Virginia and Gonzaga, standing pat after getting the job done this past week.
  • Just below that, Marquette’s impressive victory of Buffalo rockets them up to a 4-seed, where Florida State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State still stand.
  • Mississippi State moves down to the 5-line to make room. In fact, the entire 5-line has changed. Arizona State’s victory propelled them up to this spot, while undefeated Houston keeps looking better and better. And in looking at the resumes, I just feel that Indiana has a slight edge over teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska – both of whom have dropped to 7-seeds until they can score a true marquee victory.
  • Putting Villanova as a 6-seed is, honestly, mostly just speculation. I still can’t figure this team out, but their dismantling of UConn, coupled with their strong performance against Kansas indicates that they’re starting to figure things out. NC State and Kentucky stay here after big wins over Auburn and North Carolina, respectively. And Buffalo falls just one seed after losing to Marquette.
  • There are some small changes on the 7/8/9 lines, with Iowa, St. John’s, and Cincinnati all moving up one spot, while Butler and Purdue both move down one.
  • LSU continues to solidify its place in the field, moving up to the 9-line after beating Furman (more on them below). The Tigers have switched places with Kansas State. The Wildcats move down two seeds, despite a couple good wins, because of the loss of Dean Wade.If they can find a way to keep winning, they’ll slowly creep back up.
  • Speaking of teams with important injuries, Oregon has fallen out of the field entirely after losing to Baylor without Bol Bol. If he doesn’t return soon, the Ducks are in big trouble. And UCLA is out after two embarrassing losses to Cincinnati and Ohio State last week. This leaves the Pac-12 with just one bid, though they have some teams teetering on the bubble (see below).
  • Jumping into the at-large field: Seton Hall and Northwestern. The Pirates beat a good Maryland team and are safely in the bracket for now. The Wildcats played a tough Oklahoma squad down to the wire, losing in OT. For Northwestern, their ascent has more to do with teams above them losing ground, though. They’re still on shaky ground as one of the last teams in.
  • New automatic bid teams:
    • Furman is out after losing to LSU. I was never fully in on the Paladins and, for my money, Wofford is still the team to beat in the SoCon.
    • Also, I’m putting Dayton in as the sole A-10 team after Saint Louis was crushed by Florida State — but VCU is hot on the tail of the Flyers.
    • Down south, I’m finally giving Texas State their due as the Sun Belt’s best team at the moment. The Bobcats nearly knocked off Arkansas in Fayetteville.
    • Same goes for Holy Cross, who takes Bucknell‘s spot.
    • Fairleigh Dickinson has been the strongest team in a weak NEC so far, nearly pulling off a big road upset of Massachusetts.
    • North Carolina A&T gets the nod in the MEAC for the time being after Howard lost twice.
  • Last four “safe” teams: Texas, Seton Hall, Arkansas, Kansas State
  • Last four in: Creighton, Syracuse, Northwestern, Minnesota
  • First four out: Oregon, Notre Dame, Alabama, Vanderbilt
  • Next eight out: Washington, Temple, Utah State, Arizona, San Francisco, Providence, St. Mary’s, VCU

OK, so there you have it. Feel free to point out my mistakes by messaging me on Twitter @andrewdieckhoff or in the comments section below. Try to find a way to enjoy your holiday break, even without the warm glow of college basketball. See you on the other side.