Archive for January, 2013

DPI Weekend In Review (1/12-13)

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Better late than never? I thought I already put this up, and then I had to edit it to update some things. Sorry about that. Something should be up on late Friday/Saturday.

DPI WEEKEND REVIEW

(January 12-13)

Five Most Notable Games of the Weekend

(#14) North Carolina State 84, (#1) Duke 76 – The Wolfpack knocked the Blue Devils from the top of the ranks, beating Ryan Kelly-less Duke in Raleigh behind strong games from C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, and perhaps most of all, Richard Howell, who pulled down 18 rebounds in Kelly’s absence.

(#5) Indiana 88, (#3) Minnesota 81 – Indiana looked in top form in a win over the Gophers, going up by 23 by halftime on Minnesota, who stormed back and almost pulled the trick on the Hoosiers, who got stellar performances out of all five starters.

(#29) Mississippi 64, (#16) Missouri 49 – Murphy Holloway led the Rebels with 22 points as Ole Miss moved to 2-0 in the SEC with Saturday’s upset of the Tigers, who shot 2-for-18 from downtown and committed 19 turnovers in the road loss.

(#21) Kansas State 65, (#82) West Virginia 64 – Shane Southwell’s late block ensured the victory over West Virginia for the Wildcats, who improve to 2-0 in the Big 12 with the win, and who jumps into the Top 20 of the DPI as a result.

(#29) Ohio State 56, (#1) Michigan 53 – In Sunday’s premier matchup, this Big Ten rivalry did not disappoint, with the Buckeyes building a big lead over the Wolverines, which only opened the door for Michigan’s wild comeback that fell just short, as they became the last unbeaten team to lose a game.

The Best Weekends

(#21) Marquette – Coming off a somewhat disappointing nonconference season, the Eagles needed a fast start in the Big East – and that’s exactly what they’ve gotten. An overtime win over (#32) Connecticut brought them their first win, and last weekend’s one-point upset of (#57) Georgetown netted Marquette a 2-0 mark in conference play. They would face another solid foe in (#37) Pittsburgh on Saturday, taking to the road for the first time during Big East play. Marquette led at halftime, and held a small edge over the Panthers throughout the entire second half until Lamar Patterson’s buzzer-beating three, which sent the game to overtime. The Eagles’ junior guard Vander Blue stepped up in a big way in this game, especially considering that Junior Cadougan – one of the team’s three best players – sat out the entire second half with an injury. Blue was clutch in the extra period, making all eight free throws he attempted on the way to a seven-point victory for Marquette. The win moves the Eagles to 3-0 in the Big East, a very noble mark considering the level of competition they’ve faced so far. Marquette joins some terrific company in Louisville and Syracuse as the conference’s only remaining undefeated teams.

(#77) Evansville – After beating (#116) Northern Iowa earlier in the week, the Purple Aces hosted (#17) Wichita State in a crucial early conference game. Evansville traded leads with the Shockers throughout the game and with only five minutes remaining in the contest, the score was tied at 56. The Aces hit two three-pointers over the next couple minutes, eventually taking a 64-58 lead over Wichita that they would not relinquish. Colt Ryan, who contributed to all of the Aces’ points during their crucial 8-2 run late in the game, led Evansville with 24 points and eight assists. The win pulls the Aces into a tie with Wichita for second place in the Missouri Valley, with both teams trailing (#3) Creighton, who has yet to lose a conference – and are the owners of Evansville’s only defeat. While it was a good week for Evansville – who, despite being a six-loss team, lost five of those games to opponents ranked 77th or higher in the DPI –  the Aces still seem unlikely to threaten for an MVC regular season crown.

(#75) Stony Brook – The Seawolves came into this weekend undefeated in the America East conference and were looking to stay that way as they hosted (#222) Hartford, who were also unbeaten heading into Saturday. Stony Brook went on a 20-3 run midway through the first half to build what eventually became a 29-point lead in the second half. Four players were in double figures for the Seawolves, including Tommy Brenton and Dave Coley, who also added ten and nine rebounds, respectively. Hartford eventually cut the deficit to a more respectable 14 points, but the fact remains that the Seawolves dominated in this contest, and demonstrated supremacy in the conference. Beating the Hawks also means that Stony Brook stands alone as the sole unbeaten squad in the America East Conference at 3-0, and they are joined only by Albany in the DPI Top 100.

The Worst Weekends

(#45) Kentucky – The Wildcats had not scored a truly solid victory since their season-opening win over Maryland, so they were looking to gain some credibility by beating conference newcomer (#34) Texas A&M. Kentucky did beat Vanderbilt in their SEC opener, but it was a two-point win over a sub-.500 team that included a contentious late-game jumper from Nerlens Noel. None of those factors add up to a huge confidence boost in Lexington, but Thursday’s result was certainly much more satisfying than Saturday’s. The Aggies’ Elston Turner decided to go bananas on the Cats, dropping a cool 40 points – including 25 in the first half. Despite Turner’s ridiculous game, Kentucky had the game tied with 4:30 remaining, but the Aggies went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes that sealed the victory for them. Noel – who had a great game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four steals, and seven blocks – disappeared offensively in the second half, only attempting one shot in the last 16 minutes. This is only the Wildcats’ first SEC victory, but more than a conference game, Kentucky lost out on a real chance to establish legitimacy for a young team still trying to come into its own. This week’s win over  (#122) Tennessee helped smooth things over in Lexington.

(#183) Illinois State – Look, I get it. I know I’ve been talking about these guys a lot, but every time I think they’re destined to pull out of this slump, they dig deeper into it. On Saturday, the Redbirds hosted Drake, one of two other MVC schools lacking a conference win at that point. Going into halftime, it looked like Illinois State was poised to avoid their fifth consecutive Missouri Valley defeat, but the Bulldogs came out firing in the second half, erasing the nine-point deficit and taking a lead before the first TV timeout. This was part of a larger 19-4 Drake run that spanned the first six minutes of the half, and ISU trailed by as many as 15 before rallying to bring the game as close as four points with under a minute to play. Drake hit their free throws, however, and preserved their victory. After Southern Illinois beat Indiana State on Saturday, the Redbirds now stand alone as the Missouri Valley’s lowliest squad, and their 0-5 mark has tarnished what was a promising nonconference performance from Illinois State. The Redbirds lost again this week, to move to 0-6.

(#133) George Mason – It was one step forward, two steps backs for the Patriots this week, as they trounced lowly (#334) Old Dominion on Thursday, only to fall to (#266) UNC Wilmington over the weekend. George Mason took to the road on Saturday for their contest against the Seahawks, who came into the matchup with an 0-3 record in the Colonial. Sherrod Wright was yet again a one-man show for GMU, scoring a team-high 25, including 15 in the second half. Although they held a lead with 6:30 left in the game, a 10-3 Seahawks run swung the momentum in favor of UNCW, who rode Chris Dixon’s 30-point performance to their eventual victory. The loss moves George Mason to 2-2 in the CAA, and furthermore, drops them below (#91) Northeastern – the conference’s last remaining unbeaten team – in the DPI. While they have arguably the conference’s best player in Wright, the Patriots will need to regain some consistency in their play if they want to grab the Colonial bid this season.

Six Teams Who Have Surprised Early On In Conference Play:

(#168) Auburn – After a dismal nonconference performance – in which the Tigers lost games to (#177) Rhode Island and (#228) Winthrop – Auburn has now won three straight games, including their first two SEC matchups. After the loss to Winthrop, the Tigers lost by two points at Illinois before beating (#69) Florida State at home. Then Auburn surprised (#141) LSU, scoring a five-point victory over their similarly-nicknamed opponents. This weekend, Auburn kept the streak alive, holding off Frank Martin’s (#155) South Carolina squad, 74-71, on the road. The Tigers looked early on like one of the worst power conference teams in the nation, but their recent string of victories has shelved that distinction for now. Rob Chubb had a double-double on Saturday, putting up 16 and 10 against the Gamecocks, to go along with Frankie Sullivan’s 17 points. The Tigers lost to Arkansas in overtime on Wednesday, though, which spoiled the fun a little bit. Still, it’s a surprising start for a team who looked awful in the first few months.

(#138) Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons didn’t have the worst few months of the teams on this list, but it certainly was nothing to write home about. Losses to (#107) Seton Hall, (#114) Richmond, and (#143) Nebraska aren’t horrible, but Wake Forest was blown out by 26 points against (#108) Iona. Still, they ended on a high note by beating (#88) Xavier, before losing their ACC opener to (#6) Duke. Since then, Wake Forest has reeled off consecutive wins over Virginia and (#153) Boston College to move to 2-1 in conference play. Leading scorer C.J. Harris dropped in 29 in Saturday’s win over the Eagles, and the Deacons have jumped up 42 spots in the last seven days alone. Wake Forest lost to (#89) Clemson on the road, but has a chance to redeem themselves in Blacksburg on Saturday to face (#129) Virginia Tech.

(#14) Miami (FL) – It seems safe to say that the Hurricanes have a really good team this year. Besides a puzzling loss to (#120) Florida Gulf Coast and a terrible Christmas weekend which included a 19-point loss to (#7) Arizona and a heartbreaking buzzer-beater from (#73) Indiana State’s Jake Odum, Miami has been a force this year. The Canes are 8-1 against the DPI Top 100 this season, including a very impressive win over (#27) Michigan State. Miami is 3-0 in the ACC, having beaten (#135) Georgia Tech in their opener, plus (#66) North Carolina and (#58) Maryland last week. Big man Kenny Kadji led the Canes in scoring in both victories, and he and fellow giant Julian Gamble swatted away 12 total shots between the pair. Miami traveled to Chestnut Hill and survived a big test against Boston College ahead of a huge test at home against a Ryan Kelly-less Duke.

(#51) Washington – The Huskies looked amiss early in the season after suffering losses to (#82) Albany and (#176) Nevada, and barely scraping past (#166) Cal State Fullerton, but Lorenzo Romar’s squad has returned to form of late. Since the loss to Nevada, the Huskies have won seven of eight, including their first three Pac-12 games, a defeat to Connecticut the only speed bump in that stretch. Their conference opener was a win in the Apple Cup over rival (#150) Washington State, and then they traveled south to face the Bay Area schools this past week. On Wednesday, the Huskies came into Berkeley and whipped (#71) California soundly, scoring a 15-point victory over the once-ranked Bears. Then, over the weekend, Washington went to Palo Alto and pulled the NorCal sweep, eking out a five-point victory over Stanford. C.J. Wilcox put in 27 points for the Huskies on the evening, his third game of as many points this year. The Dawgs stand with (#31) UCLA and (#33) Oregon as the Pac-12’s only unbeaten teams. The Dawgs stayed undefeated this week, toppling (#68) Colorado, before hosting (#195) Utah this weekend to try to keep it up.

(#19) Oklahoma – Since a disappointing upset at the hands of (#43) Stephen F. Austin, the Sooners have reeled off four straight victories over Top 100 opponents including (#76) Ohio, (#106) West Virginia, and most recently, (#56) Oklahoma State. Their victory over the Mountaineers was actually their second of the season, although the first matchup happened during a preseason tournament, so it did not count towards Big 12 play. Oklahoma’s win in the Bedlam game against rival OSU was proof positive that the Sooners will be a mainstay in the Big 12 race this season. Romero Osby, Buddy Hield, and Amath M’Baye led the Sooners on Saturday, as they have for much of the season, as well as Steven Pledger. Sparked by an 18-7 second-half run in which all three players scored, Oklahoma held off the Cowboys in Norman to improve to 2-0 in conference play, sitting as one of four teams with an unblemished Big 12 mark.

(#216) Mississippi State – Owners of a poor 5-7 nonconference record and the SEC’s lowest DPI score, the Bulldogs had little room for error come the SEC season. They’ve kept afloat to the tune of a 2-0 record in the conference, notching wins over South Carolina and (#188) Georgia – the second- and third-worst teams in the conference, respectively. The victories, albeit over nobody major, show that Mississippi State is on the right track. After Trivante Bloodman led the Bulldogs with 18 earlier in the week as MSU spoiled Frank Martin’s SEC debut with the Gamecocks, it was Jalen Steele and Craig Sword doing the heavy lifting for Mississippi State on Saturday. Steele had team-highs with 21 points and seven rebounds, and scored eight straight points during the second half to break open a nine-point lead for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State won their second straight SEC game and their third overall, bringing their record back to .500 –but only temporarily, as the Bulldogs fell to Alabama on Wednesday.

Half a Dozen Teams Who Have Disappointed So Far In Conference Play:

(#56) Oklahoma State – There’s no denying the skill level on this team – Markel Brown, Marcus Smart, and LeBryan Nash are all immensely talented players – but the production just has not been there lately for the Cowboys. In the past four games, Oklahoma State has lost three matchups against Top 50 teams in (#9) Gonzaga, (#20) Kansas State, and rival (#19) Oklahoma. Their only victory in that timeframe was a drubbing of (#242) TCU on Wednesday, which is not nearly as impressive a win as any of the other three would have been. The Cowboys were simply outshot on Saturday in the Bedlam matchup with the Sooners – OSU shot 28.6% from long range, compared to 61.5% for Oklahoma. OK State will look to get things back on track on Saturday with a win over Big 12 bottom-dweller (#187) Texas Tech, before a tough stretch of games including two ties with (#55) Baylor and a trip to Lawrence to face (#2) Kansas. At the moment, the Cowboys have the look of an 8-10 seed, a team who will likely play its way into the tournament, but won’t make a great deal of noise once they get there. For their sake, I hope they can prove me wrong.

(#37) Pittsburgh – Talk about an up-and-down week. First, the Panthers dispatch of Georgetown in D.C., avoiding a third-straight Big East loss to open conference play. Then Pittsburgh loses at home in overtime to an overachieving Marquette squad to move to 1-3 in the early season. Jamie Dixon’s team has been hard to put a finger on this year, looking at times like a Big East contender, and at others like an afterthought. Lamar Patterson tried to carry the team on his shoulders over the weekend, hitting the buzzer-beater to send the game to an extra period, but the rest of the Panthers failed to follow suit. The Panthers headed across the state to beat (#83) Villanova on Wednesday before they go home to host the Huskies of UConn over the weekend. This is a part of the schedule that Pitt needs to do very well in, with games against (#136) Providence and (#147) DePaul on the docket as well, if they want to compete for a top spot in the conference this year. If they are still under .500 in league play by the time they face (#1) Louisville and (#8) Syracuse, it could be a tough road to the tournament for Pittsburgh.

(#57) Georgetown – The Hoyas had a rocky start to the week, losing by 28 to Pitt at home, but the salvaged some semblance of redemption in the form of a win over (#102) St. John’s on Saturday. The Hoyas were staring at the possibility of starting out 0-3 in the Big East, having lost their conference opener to Marquette as well. Otto Porter Jr. led the Hoyas in scoring in both games last week, although his nine-point performance in the loss to Marquette left a lot to be desired for fans in D.C. Better, though, was his 19-point, 14-rebound outing against the Red Storm in New York on Saturday. A week consisting of (#54) Notre Dame and Louisville at the end of the month could be a distraction for the Hoyas. Georgetown needs to keep focused and take care of business this week in order to get back over .500 in the Big East.

(#94) Stanford – Stanford came into the Pac-12 season on a little bit of a shaky note, losing to four Top 35 teams, but scoring a close win on the road against (#127) Northwestern. The Cardinal began their conference campaign in Los Angeles, losing to both (#170) USC and UCLA, before scoring a victory of the Cougars of Washington State at home on Thursday. The win was nice for Stanford, but Wazzu is one of the worst teams in the conference, so this is nothing to get too excited about. Worse still, the Cardinal lost on Saturday to Washington, a team on a hot streak right now. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle have been playing good ball recently, but the supporting cast has been inconsistent – namely Aaron Bright, who scored 21 points against Washington State and none against the Huskies. The Big Game looms for Stanford on Saturday as they face (#71) California at home in Palo Alto. The Bears have likewise struggled through the first two weeks of conference play, splitting their first four games. A trip to the mountains is ahead after that, as both teams hit the road to play Colorado and Utah.

(#149) Virginia – The Cavaliers started out so promisingly in the ACC, besting (#66) North Carolina in Charlottesville after a strong showing in nonconference play. Three losses to Colonial teams – George Mason, Delaware, and Old Dominion – had been the only missteps for a team who scored wins over (#22) Wisconsin and Tennessee. This week was a hard one for Virginia, however, starting out by losing in Winston-Salem to Wake Forest in a close three-point loss. Then, on Saturday, the Cavs were held to just 44 points in a stinging defeat to Clemson. Virginia returns home this weekend to take on Florida State in an order to regain some of the promise that had surrounded this team after they knocked off the Tar Heels. The Cavaliers drew a lucky schedule to only play Duke and (#23) North Carolina State once apiece, but they’ll need to avoid future slip-ups against the lesser teams in the ACC if they want to go to the Big Dance in March.

(#175) Texas – Like Virginia, a win over North Carolina was a momentary feather in the cap for this Longhorns team, who were quick to spend all the good will it had earned them. Texas lost their very next match against Michigan State, and have now lost their first three Big 12 matchups. On the road in Waco, Rick Barnes’ squad were able to force overtime, but couldn’t finish Baylor off. Then, last Wednesday, Texas hosted West Virginia in a second straight overtime tussle, with the Longhorns again coming up on the short end. As devastating as two close losses were for Texas, they at least maintained respectability by keeping up for 40 minutes with two talented ballclubs. Saturday’s 20-point loss to Iowa State damaged their credibility, and the Longhorns have a lot of work to do if they have any plans on being relevant in the Big 12 this season. The end of Myck Kabongo’s suspension cannot come soon enough for Texas, who get their star point guard back in mid-February.

-AD

DPI Week-In-Review (1/7-1/11)

Posted: January 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

DPI WEEK IN REVIEW

(Monday, 1/7 – Friday, 1/11)

Quick Hits on Each Day’s Most Notable Game

(Rankings in the scores of each game reflect that day’s rank for the respective teams, not the teams’ current standing.)

Monday: (#27) Notre Dame 66, (#13) Cincinnati 60 – Cincinnati continues its dicey run, losing for the third time in four games to an upstart Irish squad who are looking like one of the Big East’s best teams, but it’s probably not time to panic just yet in Queen City. Next Up This Weekend: (#15) Notre Dame hosts (#45) Connecticut, (#20) Cincinnati goes to (#52) Rutgers.

Tuesday: (#39) Pittsburgh 73, (#47) Georgetown 45 – In a battle of two teams who were upset over the weekend, Pitt prevailed, trouncing the Hoyas on their home turf and saving the Panthers from a 0-3 start in the Big East – while Georgetown now sits at 0-2. Next Up This Weekend: (#25) Pittsburgh plays (#49) Marquette at home, (#65) Georgetown travels to (#101) St. John’s.

Wednesday: (#10) Kansas 97, (#63) Iowa State 89 (OT) – The Jayhawks looked a little human against the Cyclones, but Ben McLemore was otherworldly, scoring 33 points – including the shot from deep that sent the game to OT with six seconds left in regulation. Next Up This Weekend: (#8) Kansas faces (#171) Texas Tech on the road, (#66) Iowa State hosts (#182) Texas.

Thursday: (#48) Oregon 70, (#4) Arizona 66 – The Ducks did a lot for their NCAA Tournament chances this year when they tossed the Wildcats from the ranks of the unbeaten, upsetting Arizona in Eugene behind senior E.J. Singler’s 14-7-7 performance. Next Up This Weekend: (#35) Oregon plays host to (#19) Arizona State, (#10) Arizona goes to (#103) Oregon State.

Friday: (#59) Utah State 66, (#145) San Jose State 60 – On a slow day for college hoops, the Aggies scored another WAC win over the Spartans, which puts Utah State at 5-0 in the conference and 14-1 overall – the league’s best record in both cases – though they trail Louisiana Tech in the DPI. Next Up This Weekend: Neither team plays this weekend.

Three of The Best Weeks So Far:

Major Conference: (#3) Minnesota (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) – The Gophers continued their solid stretch of play on Wednesday with a big road win against (#24) Illinois. While this might not be Tubby Smith’s deepest squad, his five starters are about as good as they come. Trevor Mbakwe has enjoyed a much larger role on this team, earning minutes over Elliot Eliason, who was ineffective in more extensive play earlier in the season. Mbwake recorded a double-double with 19 and 11 rebounds, and Andre Hollins filled the stat sheet with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The real breakout performance, however, came from Joe Coleman, who notched a career-high 29 points against the Illini. After scoring five points apiece in the first half, Coleman and Hollins combined for 41 of the Gophers’ 50 points in the second twenty minutes. The Gophers pulled away with a 19-7 run over a six-minute stretch in the second half after Illinois pulled the game within two points. The win moved Minnesota to 3-0 in the Big Ten, but their biggest test remains when they take on (#5) Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday.

Mid-Major Conference: (#7) Gonzaga (16-1, 3-0 West Coast) – Now that West Coast Conference play has started, the Zags don’t have a lot of chances to pick up quality wins, but this week marked their first game against (#73) Saint Mary’s. These games between Gonzaga and the Gaels have become the conference’s marquee matchup, and usually the first chance to trip the Bulldogs up in the WCC. Kelly Olynyk led the charge with 31 points and eight rebounds, while Kevin Pangos dumped in 22 of his own. Gonzaga benefitted from the fact that St. Mary’s star Matthew Dellavedova never got his offensive game working, holding him to 4-of-15 shooting on the night. The Zags led by 20 points in the second half, but the Gaels brought that all the way back down to one, before Olynyk made a couple clutch free throws. Dellavedova’s three-pointer with ten seconds remaining misfired, netting Gonzaga first blood in the conference’s premier rivalry.

One-Bid Conference: (#87) Florida Gulf Coast (12-6, 4-1 Atlantic Sun) – The Eagles have kept up their solid play at the outset of the Atlantic Sun season, notching two close victories this week to keep them at the top of the conference. FGCU is currently the only team from the A-Sun in the Top 100 of the DPI, but they had to scratch and claw through a pair of nail-biters to get there. On Monday, the Eagles squandered an 11-point lead against (#269) North Florida, eventually trailing by four with less than five minutes to play. A quick 7-0 run put FGCU back on top, and Chase Fieler broke a tie with 1:30 remaining to give them the lead over the Ospreys for good. Fieler would come up big on Thursday, as well, when the Eagles traveled to Spartanburg to take on (#193) South Carolina Upstate. The Spartans tied the game with 20 seconds on a three-pointer by Ty Greene, sending FGCU to overtime with first place in the conference on the line. Brett Comer missed the back end of a trip to the line, leaving the Eagles down by one with less than a minute remaining. After SC Upstate missed a three-pointer with 15 seconds to go, Fieler – who had scored 15 points in the game’s first 32 minutes, but none in the last thirteen – took an Eric McKnight pass and made the game-winning layup with 2 seconds left. Florida Gulf Coast is now 4-1 in the A-Sun and they will play (#313) East Tennessee State on Saturday with a chance for a third conference win this week, which would extend their lead over second-place (#159) Mercer.

Three of the Worst Weeks So Far:

Major Conference: (#157) Vanderbilt (6-7, 0-1 SEC) – It has been a rocky season, to say the least, for Kevin Stallings’ crew, but they had a chance to score a big morale-booster when quickly-recovering (#27) Kentucky came to Nashville for each team’s respective SEC opener. The Wildcats opened up an early lead in the game, eventually going up by 16 points in the second half with 13:49 remaining. Out of nowhere, the Commodores went on an 18-0 run and actually took the lead over Kentucky, with five players scoring during the run. It was nip and tuck from there, but Kyle Wiltjer’s basket with two minutes to play broke the tie for good. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, Stallings’ pleas for a shot-clock violation on Nerlens Noel’s late jumper went unanswered, and Kentucky escaped with a win. Kedren Johnson had a stellar performance, scoring 18 points and notching six assists and four steals. The Commodores as a whole, however, shot under 33% for the game, including missing five straight shots down the stretch which cost them the game. The Coms will look to get back to .500 on Saturday as they take a trip to Fayetteville to do battle with (#61) Arkansas, who will be out to avenge their own loss to (#43) Texas A&M on Wednesday.

Mid-Major Conference: (#150) Illinois State (9-7, 0-4 Missouri Valley) – Yikes. Panic mode has officially set in for the Redbirds, who dropped to 0-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference with a loss to (#233) Missouri State on Tuesday. I had praised this team as one to watch in the MVC earlier in the season, even going so far as to say they could make it a three-team race with (#4) Creighton and (#12) Wichita State, but I am looking dead wrong at this point. Jackie Carmichael is doing his best to lift his team, although he was held pretty quiet against the Blue Jays. He has doubled-doubles in Illinois State’s other three conference games, including Tuesday’s loss, when he put up 21 and 12. Of the first four games on the schedule for the Redbirds, this game should have been their easiest win. The Bears were a dismal 2-10 in nonconference play, but have found early success in the conference, scoring three victories already. Illinois State has a good chance to erase the goose-egg this weekend they go up against similarly victory-challenged (#227) Drake. The Redbirds and Bulldogs join (#236) Southern Illinois as the last three Missouri Valley teams without a conference win.

One-Bid Conference: (#120) Illinois-Chicago (10-6, 1-2 Horizon) – Speaking of teams I’ve lauded in the past, UIC hit a bumpy stretch this week, dropping two Horizon League matchups to fall to 1-2 in conference play. In a trip to face (#217) Cleveland State on Monday, the Flames shot poorly, turned the ball over, and got outrebounded – a perfect recipe for disaster against just about anyone. The 50 points scored matched a season-low for Illinois-Chicago, although the earlier instance was in a 50-44 win over (#86) Northwestern. That win, and the subsequent one over (#50) Colorado State, seem like they happened a lifetime ago, with UIC losing five of their last six. The most recent came as they hosted perennial Horizon League contender (#112) Valparaiso on Wednesday. Gary Talton had a great game, scoring 25 points and converting on all 11 free throws (the team shot 18-for-18 overall), but the Flames fell to the Crusaders, 75-70, on their home court. UIC kept it close, but Valpo made their free throws down the stretch and the Flames just ran out of time. They are not completely out of the race by any stretch, but Illinois-Chicago now trails the Crusaders, as well as (#71) Detroit and (#95) Wright State, all three of whom enjoyed good weeks.

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

Six Teams Who Won Passed Big Road Tests This Week:

(#17) Miami-FL (11-3, 2-0 ACC) – There are a few teams in the ACC who are quietly putting together fantastic seasons, and the Hurricanes are perhaps the best of all of them. They headed to Tobacco Road this week to take on the Tar Heels, who lost their ACC opener to (#122) Virginia over the weekend. Big man Kenny Kadji led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds, adding four blocks for good measure, as the Canes down UNC in Chapel Hill. Miami trailed at the break, but it was not long before they took the lead and got it for good on a Rion Brown three-pointer with 8:25 left. This was a highly visible win for Miami, one which should put them squarely on the national map, especially if they beat Maryland when they host the Terps on Sunday.

(#41) Boise State (13-2, 1-0 Mountain West) – The Broncos have been a pleasant surprise in the Mountain West this season, bolstering the profile of an already-blossoming league. Another team working toward that same end is (#51) Wyoming, who came into Wednesday’s duel with Boise State as one of the country’s last four unbeaten teams. Neither this fact, nor that the game was in Laramie did anything to distract the Broncos, who rode Anthony Drmic and Jeff Eliorraga to victory. Eliorraga was especially important, hitting the buzzer-beating three-pointer – his sixth triple of the game – which halted the Cowboys’ 13-game winning streak. This is Boise’s second victory over a previously-undefeated team, having beaten Creighton in Omaha. The Broncos have the weekend off to prepare for Wednesday’s huge home game against (#18) New Mexico.

(#53) Florida State (10-5, 2-0 ACC) – The Seminoles traveled to face a (#44) Maryland team, the Terps coming off a blowout of (#144) Virginia Tech last weekend. Florida State, meanwhile, slipped past (#118) Clemson over the weekend and rode that momentum into College Park. The Terrapins had some inertia of their own, coming into the game with a 13-game winning streak, but Okaro White led the Seminoles’ rally against Maryland and FSU snuck out of the building with a 65-62 victory. The win puts Florida State — who looked very shaky in nonconference play (remember last week’s loss to (#162) Auburn?) — at 2-0 in the ACC and should rekindle some excitement for the Seminoles this season. They host (#75) North Carolina on Saturday, with the Heels looking to notch their first conference victory in Tallahassee.

(#59) Washington (10-5, 2-0 Pacific 12) – Don’t look now, but the Huskies are putting together a pretty nice little season in Seattle. They started out slowly, but have since found some form, winning their first two Pac-12 games. After winning the hardcourt version of the Apple Cup last week, the Dawgs took down (#94) California in Berkeley on Wednesday. Led by C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye, Washington outrebounded the Bears by a large margin and, despite poor shooting performances from both teams, the Huskies took pretty good care of the ball. N’Diaye notched a double-double and swatted four Cal shots, while Wilcox had 19 points, eight boards, and four assists. Washington travels to Palo Alto for a late game on Saturday against (#80) Stanford, who are coming off a win of their own over (#143) Washington State.

(#69) Eastern Kentucky (13-3, 3-0 Ohio Valley) – I must admit, after Eastern Kentucky’s undefeated run was halted by Illinois earlier this season, the Colonels fell of my radar a bit. However, with this week’s big win over (#81) Murray State, EKU’s bid to make the Ohio Valley Conference a three-team tango is very much alive. Eastern Kentucky got big games out of their backcourt trio of Mike DiNunnoCorey Walden, and Tarius Johnson, each of whom had 17 or more points. The Colonels jumped out to an early lead, going up by 18 in the second half before the Racers went on a 13-0 run to cut the lead to five, but that is as close as it got. EKU supplanted Murray State as the OVC’s second-best team in the DPI, but both teams are still behind (#38) Belmont, who walloped (#192) Southeast Missouri by 35 points this week. Eastern Kentucky hosts (#184) Morehead State on Saturday.

(#116) Boston College (9-6, 1-1 ACC) – A third ACC team picked up a big road victory this week, as Boston College headed south to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. The Eagles’ star forward Ryan Anderson led the team with 26 points and nine rebounds as BC took out the Hokies to move to 1-1 in the ACC. Boston College led for most of the second half, with Virginia Tech getting as close as three points with more than six minutes left. The Eagles pulled away, however, and withstood Erick Green’s 24-point, nine-assist night. Lonnie Jackson added 22 points on five made threes and seven boards for BC, while guard Olivier Hanlan had 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a team-high five steals. The Eagles stay on the road this weekend, traveling to Winston-Salem to face (#111) Wake Forest.

Half a Dozen Teams Who Slipped Up on the Road:

(#55) UNLV (13-3, 0-1 Mountain West) After escaping Cal and (#92) UTEP on the road in December, the Rebels fell to UNC just before the New Year, for just their second loss of the season. UNLV rang in 2013 with two nonconference blowouts, but faced a huge test on Wednesday in their Mountain West opener at New Mexico. The Rebels, who are still without Mike Moser, took a one-point lead with 3:30 left after a Justin Hawkins three-pointer, but would score only two more points for the rest of the game, compared to the Lobos’ nine. Anthony Bennett was held in check, while guard Anthony Marshall had a solid, if unspectacular, game. Marshall led the team in both assists and rebounds, with nine and seven, respectively. The Rebels play host to (#85) Air Force on Saturday, looking to move to 1-1 in the MWC.

(#60) Temple (10-4, 0-1 Atlantic 10) – The Owls wanted to make some noise to start off the Atlantic 10 season, but the headlines they made weren’t exactly what Temple had in mind. They traveled to Cincinnati to face a (#126) Xavier team who has been hit or miss over the past few weeks. Neither team played too great a game, but the Musketeers bested the Owls when all was said and done. Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall each missed three-pointers as Temple trailed by three with under a minute. Xavier’s Travis Taylor eventually capped the victory off with a pair of free throws, cementing an 0-1 start for Temple, who will host (#57) Saint Louis on Saturday.

(#90) Dayton (10-5, 0-1 Atlantic 10) – The Flyers had a chance to spoil (#13) VCU’s first Atlantic 10 game by coming into the Siegel Center in Richmond and dealing the Rams a loss. As fate would have it, though, Dayton was outdone by VCU, who used 26 turnovers by the Flyers to their advantage. The Rams’ Briante Weber was the biggest culprit, thieving the ball nine times in 28 minutes. Dayton kept the game relatively close throughout, but Virginia Commonwealth pulled away and dealt the Flyers their third loss in five games. Up next for Dayton is a home game against (#34) Butler, another newbie to the conference who won their first A-10 game over (#74) Saint Joe’s this week. It gets much easier for the Flyers after Saturday, as they face some of the conference’s weaker offerings in the next few games.

(#96) LSU (9-3, 0-1 SEC) – Despite a pretty good game out of Charles Carmouche, the Tigers were unable to win the opening game of their SEC campaign, falling 68-63 to Auburn. In fact, the game was not as close as the score would dictate, with Auburn leading by 14 with just over a minute remaining. It was at this point that Carmouche, who also had six rebounds and seven assists, scored 11 of his 15 points. His efforts made the loss to one of the SEC’s lowest-rated teams seem a little less damning, but the fact remains that this loss will be a blemish on LSU’s record in March, when this likely bubble team waits to hear their name called. Unfortunately for them, it’s probably going to get a little worse before it gets any better, as they host (#11) Florida on Saturday in their second SEC matchup.

(#122) Virginia (11-4, 1-1 ACC) – The Cavaliers were not as lucky as some of their other ACC compatriots, losing on the road to a wayward Wake Forest squad. Coming off their conference-opening victory over North Carolina, the Cavs were looking to build on their early successes, but took in the wrong direction in Winston-Salem. Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris had decent games for Virginia, but it was not enough to beat the Demon Deacons. Despite outrebounding Wake Forest by a sizeable margin, the Cavaliers’ 17 turnovers eventually did them in. Outstanding freshman Evan Nolte crashed down to Earth in this one, going 1-for-7 in a game where his team really could have used a boost. Virginia travels to Clemson in an early matchup on Saturday, looking to move to 2-1 in the ACC.

(#147) Hawaii (9-6, 3-1 Big West) – The Warriors came into Wednesday’s game with (#179) UC Irvine as the Big West’s highest-rated team, the one who both set off and has benefitted most from (#209) Cal State Northridge’s early collapse. Undefeated in conference play going in, Hawaii had to feel pretty good about their chances. The Anteaters kept the game close throughout, the two teams trading leads all through the second half. After taking a 57-56 lead with five minutes to play, the Warriors missed eight straight field goals before Vander Joaquim’s too-little-too-late bucket made it a seven-point game with 38 seconds remaining. Christian Standhardinger had a double-double for Hawaii, but the late shooting woes did the Warriors in, and they suffered their first-ever Big West conference loss, having joined the league this season. Hawaii goes to (#172) Long Beach State on Saturday night.

Okay, now go enjoy today’s great day of college basketball! At the time of this posting, a bunch of big games have already started and some surprising outcomes are brewing… but I’ll get to all of that in the next weekend-in-review post. For now, go ahead and check the updated Field of 68 & Complete Standings page. Some big-name teams (see: Georgetown, North Carolina, UNLV) have some work to do to get back in the good graces of the DPI.

-AD

DPI Weekend-In-Review (1/5-6)

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

DPI WEEKEND IN REVIEW

(January 5TH – 6TH, 2013)

Quick Hits on A Few The Weekend’s Most Notable Games:

(Note: Rankings next to team names in this section are from before that game was played.)

Saturday: (#82) Rutgers 67, (#10) Pittsburgh 62 – The Panthers fall to 0-2 in the Big East at the hands of the Scarlet Knights in New Jersey.

Saturday: (#60) Marquette 49, (#26) Georgetown 48 – Marquette follows up an impressive OT win over (#59) UConn with an upset of Georgetown at home.

Saturday: (#130) St. John’s 53, (#10) Cincinnati 52 – Apparently, the Red Storm got the memo about Big East upsets, topping the Bearcats in Cincy.

Sunday: (#9) Kansas 69, (#34) Temple 62 – The Owls wanted to take down another Top 10 foe in the Jayhawks, but KU holds up to Temple’s tough test.

Sunday: (#124) Virginia 61, (#44) North Carolina 52 – The Cavaliers established themselves as ACC contenders by stymying UNC, a team who looks a little lost.

Who Had The Best Weekend?

Major Conference: (#17) Kansas State – The Wildcats held court at home and beat (#42) Oklahoma State on Saturday, further bolstering their campaign as the Big 12’s second-best team. Rodney McGruder scored 11 points in the final seven minutes, including the tie-breaking three-pointer with 2:14 on the clock. His next triple came at 1:43, after Marcus Smart missed the back end of a double-bonus, putting the Cats up by five and proving to be the nail in the coffin for Oklahoma State. Nino Williams was huge in support of McGruder, scoring a career-high 17 points – including nine straight for the Wildcats at one point – in just 21 minutes. McGruder ended up with 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including five three-pointers.

Mid-Major Conf.: (#14) VCUShaka Smart and the Rams faced a tough task on Saturday: keep their focus and take down a tough (#95) Lehigh team. Making this job much easier was the fact that the Hawks’ best player, and one of the best scorers in the nation – C.J. McCollum – went down with a broken foot with about five minutes left in the first half. This was not a game very typical of the Rams’ “Havoc” style of play, a style which had netted VCU at least 70 points in eight straight games. Instead, this game was played at a plodding pace, but Rob Brandenberg came up huge in the final minutes for VCU. He made threes, came up with three big steals, and even had a block late in the contest. Darius Theus added six steals and Briante Weber had three, as well. Treveon Graham led the Rams with 17 points.

Low-Major Conf.: (#122) Arkansas State – Well, beating (#36) Middle Tennessee is surely a great way to start the season… but could the Red Wolves complete the trick Saturday and beat (#129) Western Kentucky, too? Apparently, yes. The Wolves outrebounded the Hilltoppers and got a huge game out of guard Ed Townsel, who had 25 and five boards. Arkansas State recovered from a four-point halftime deficit to score 52 points in the second half, and they eventually topped WKU, 75-61. The victory puts ASU in a tie for second in the Sun Belt at 4-2, while they switched positions with the Hilltoppers in the DPI. The Red Wolves are now own the conference’s second highest rating in the Index, and these kids look like they could make the Sun Belt a three-team race this year.

 Who Had The Worst Weekend?

Major Conference: (#102) Stanford – It’s never good to start off conference play by losing your first two games, but that’s exactly what happened to Stanford this weekend. The Cardinal had already lost earlier in the week to (#169) USC on the road, so they wanted to come into Saturday’s game against (#25) UCLA with a little extra fire. A win over the Bruins would not only negate the loss to USC, but would also firmly place Stanford among the contenders for second-place in the Pac-12 behind Arizona. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randall both scored 17 for Stanford this weekend, but the supporting cast did not show up fast enough, and the Cardinal dropped to 0-2 in conference play after a 68-60 defeat at Pauley Pavilion.

Mid-Major Conf.: (#106) Illinois State – Already having started 0-2 in conference, the Redbirds had a lot of work ahead of them coming into Saturday’s tilt with (#126) Northern Iowa. Illinois State had already faced two of the Missouri Valley’s tougher teams – (#74) Indiana State and (#7) Creighton – and were looking to regain some ground against some slightly lesser competition at home. The Panthers, however, balked at their role of slump-buster and beat the Jackie Carmichael-led Redbirds by ten. ISU now stands at 0-3 in the conference, and have already squashed not only the optimism brought about by a great start, but perhaps also their chances at going to the NCAA Tournament in March.

Low-Major Conf.: (#95) Lehigh – Having already lost by more than 20 points to both (#53) Baylor and (#33) Pittsburgh to open the year, the Hawks really needed a marquee nonconference win to have even an astronomical chance at an at-large berth in March. A game in Richmond against VCU provided just such an opportunity, and Lehigh came out and made the Rams play at their tempo – a far cry from VCU’s “Havoc” style of play, as I discussed above. More devastating than the eventual loss to the Rams was the loss of all-everything guard C.J. McCollum. Without McCollum – who will miss 6-8 weeks with his broken foot – the Hawks are left to play with one hand tied behind their back, essentially. Coupled with the failure to nab a good nonconference win, their chances in the Patriot League were hampered by their star’s injury. (#55) Bucknell now looks like the heavy favorites to secure the league’s top seed later this season.

 Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

Six Teams Who Came Back From Tough Losses:

(#18) Illinois – The Illini came home to Champaign following their loss to (#118) Purdue on the road and trounced (#23) Ohio State, a team who has now lost all three games against ranked opponents this year. Brandon Paul led the scoring efforts with 19, and Nnanna Egwu was huge in this game, putting up 16 and eight boards on the Buckeyes. While the team still needs to clean up its play – they had 18 turnovers to just 12 assists – the Illini bounced back nicely from a somewhat embarrassing loss to the Boilermakers. A win like this certainly lends a bit of credence to a team that has been widely (and rightly) questioned throughout their hot start to the season.

(#36) Middle Tennessee – It was close, but no cigar for the Blue Raiders against Arkansas State earlier in the week when Middle Tennessee lost a close overtime game in Jonesboro. They came into Saturday facing one of the Sun Belt’s hotter teams, South Alabama, who was 4-1 in conference play going into the weekend. Bruce Massey and Shawn Jones led Middle Tennessee to victory in Mobile, both scoring in double figures in just over twenty minutes of play. The game was nip and tuck throughout the first half, but the Raiders pulled away in the second, going up by as many as 15 before the Jaguars cut it all the way back to two. Luckily for Middle Tennessee, South Alabama missed a layup with less than a minute to play, and Massey was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound, making two clutch free throws to seal the 60-56 victory.

(#39) Michigan State – Elsewhere in the Big Ten, the Spartans of Michigan State displayed why Illinois should have been a little red in the face over losing to Purdue. Sparty crushed the Boilermakers in East Lansing, 84-61, led by Gary Harris and his six three-pointers. After losing a hard-fought game to an exceptional (#4) Minnesota club earlier this week, Michigan State really needed a game like this to keep confidence in the Big Ten season. And while Purdue may not exactly be the best barometer for success, Spartans fans have to be encouraged by the performance. They will look to continue their success on the road, traveling to (#57) Iowa on Thursday to square off with the Hawkeyes.

(#67) Florida State – Florida State is now 0-3 against teams from states with whom they share a border, what with (#197) South Alabama’s season-opening upset of the Seminoles, the loss to (#190) Mercer at home, and then Tuesday’s defeat at the hands of (#177) Auburn. Just in case you’re thinking, “Well, Auburn is an SEC team at least!” – Florida State and (#108) Charleston are the only two schools in the Top 275 of the DPI who have fallen to the Tigers. That’s not really a morale-booster heading into ACC play, but don’t tell that to Leonard Hamilton’s team. They came to (#105) Clemson ready to play, and despite Michael Snaer’s off-night offensively, the Seminoles left victorious. One worrisome note, however, is that FSU let a 16-point lead in the second half dwindle back down to three before they eventually put the Tigers away.

(#91) DePaul – The Blue Demons will likely end up in the bottom half of the Big East this season, but this is a pretty decent team. While it might be tough for them to steal victories from the conference’s better squads, they should be able to pile up some wins against the Big East’s more mediocre offerings. They failed to do just that on Tuesday, falling at home to an upstart (#65) Seton Hall team who has eyes on the Big Dance. This weekend, the Demons took to the road and traveled to (#131) Providence, a team not unlike both DePaul and Seton Hall. Led by Cleveland Melvin, DePaul picked up the road win and avoided the pitfall of an 0-2 start, which is often a kiss of death in the Big East.

(#112) George Mason – A loss to (#159) Northeastern on Wednesday sent the Patriots plummeting in the DPI, falling out of the Top 100. George Mason responded on Saturday during a trip to Williamsburg to face (#229) William & Mary. It was The Sherrod Wright Show, as the junior guard exploded for 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds, leading GMU to victory. The Patriots trailed by four going into the break, but they pulled ahead and then traded leads with the Tribe until the three-minute mark. The turning point came when the game was tied 61-all and Johnny Williams converted on a three-point play with 2:48 to go. A minute later, Wright completed one of his own, capping a 7-0 run for George Mason which put them up for good and sent them to 1-1 in the Colonial.

Half a Dozen Teams Who Made Bad Weeks Worse:

(#33) Pittsburgh – The Panthers ended 2012 with a bad taste in their mouths, having been beaten at home by (#13) Cincinnati to start off Big East play. While the Bearcats have stumbled a couple times recently, they are a very good team, and this loss should not have weighed too heavily on Pittsburgh, regrettable as it may have been. Their matchup with (#64) Rutgers was the first game of the day on Saturday, and Pittsburgh had a chance to redeem themselves for their earlier loss. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Rutgers had their eyes on an upset. The Scarlet Knights, who were crushed by (#9) Syracuse earlier in the week, made their first five shots – including three from downtown – on their way to a 14-point halftime lead. While the Panthers almost erased the deficit, they could only get as close as two points, eventually losing by five and going to 0-2 in the Big East. It will be an uphill battle for Pittsburgh from here on out.

(#31) Colorado – Out west, Colorado was looking for redemption after last week’s heartbreaking loss to (#3) Arizona after the controversial review of Sabatino Chen’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. The Buffaloes came in to Sunday up against an (#20) Arizona State team who was on the better side of an overtime game earlier this week, topping (#113) Utah in the extra period. It only took 40 minutes to figure out who the better team was that night, with Colorado dropping to 0-2 in the Pac-12 after losing 65-56. The Sun Devils’ Jordan Bachynski blocked nine of the Buffs’ shots – most of which weren’t going in, anyway. Colorado shot 2-of-19 from downtown and 35% overall. Andre Roberson finished with five points and now has nine fouls to only five made baskets in his last two games. Even Spencer Dinwiddie’s 19 points lose some of their sparkle when you see his 1-for-8 mark from downtown.

(#129) Western Kentucky – Western Kentucky was fortunate not to really lose ground when they lost earlier in the week to (#178) Arkansas-Little Rock, given that their chief nemesis, Middle Tennessee, lost in kind. However, while the Blue Raiders took care of business over the weekend, the Hilltoppers failed to do the same, squandering a halftime lead. Jonesboro proved as tough a place to play for Western Kentucky as it was for Middle Tennessee, and the Hilltoppers fell to Arkansas State, and likewise fell to 4-2 in the Sun Belt. Aleksejs Rostov had a big game off the bench, hitting 5-of-6 from deep and leading the Toppers with 17 points. WKU will be dangerous once they get guard Jamal Crook back, but in the meantime, Brandon Harris and T.J. Price will have to be more consistent in holding down the fort until he arrives.

(#232) Robert Morris – One moment they look to me like perhaps the Northeast Conference’s best team, and the next they are 0-2 and looking a little lost to start the new year. (#138) Bryant is a team that is playing well this season and beat the host Colonials on Wednesday. Robert Morris made matters worse when they lost by seven – again – to (#218) Central Connecticut State at home. This is the same Blue Devils team who became the first victim of (#302) St. Francis (PA). CCSU’s Kyle Vinales went nuts, scoring 34 points to lead the charge against RMU. The Colonials’ Velton Jones scored 22 of his own, but it was not enough to keep pace with the Devils. Robert Morris dropped 61 spots on the week as a whole, the third-worst fall of all 347 teams in the country.

(#191) Cal State Northridge – Second on that list of drop-offs are the Matadors of Northridge, who fell 75 spots this week. (Note: (#312) Prairie View A&M had the most precipitous drop at 79 places lost.)After earning my praises for beating Utah, Northridge has dropped three straight conference games to open up Big West play. A loss to (#330) UC Riverside on Thursday was bad enough, but getting shellacked at home by (#196) Cal State Fullerton really knocked the Matadors for a loop. Despite 20-point games out of Stephan Hicks and Stephen Maxwell, Northridge couldn’t keep up with the Titan’s 12 three-pointers or D.J. Seeley’s 37-point performance. The Matadors were a Top 100 team just two weeks ago, but now look lost in the Big West, falling behind (#109) Hawaii, (#156) Cal Poly, and (#168) Pacific in the DPI – and stand with UC Davis as the only two teams without a win in the conference.

(#319) Old Dominion – The pain train kept on chugging in Norfolk, as the Monarchs fell to 2-13 on the season following a loss to (#174) Delaware at home. ODU shot poorly on Saturday, only hitting 33% of their shots. They failed to capitalize on 21 turnovers from the Blue Hens and showed almost no discipline, fouling 31 times to send Delaware to the line for 50 free-throw attempts. Fifty. And Delaware made them pay, hitting 41 of them. Old Dominion already looked like a team in trouble coming into this game, but one figured they might get a little better during conference play. Sadly for Monarch fans, the spiral continues downward for another week in one of the worst season folks Norfolk have suffered through.

A Few Other Games That Caught My Eye:

(Note: Rankings next to team names in this section are from before that game was played.)

(#20) Missouri 66, (#54) Bucknell 64 – These two teams traded blows for a full 40 minutes, with neither side ever going up by more than five. The Bison had a chance at the end after Phil Pressey missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11 seconds left, but a Mike Muscala turnover with four ticks remaining gave Missouri a chance to hit a pair of freebies to extend the lead to three. The Tigers fouled rather than letting Bucknell shoot a three, ensuring the victory. Muscala was fantastic, going for 25 and 14, while Pressey led the Tigers with 26.

(#33) Maryland 94, (#98) Virginia Tech 71 – In a very telling game for two of the middle-tier teams in the ACC, Maryland made their case as a legitimate squad in beating down the Hokies by 23. The Terrapins put up 53 in the first half, led by Jake Layman and Alex Len. Seth Allen had 14 of his 21 points in the second half for Maryland. Erick Green led the up-and-down Hokies with 28 points, raising his nation-leading average to 24.6 points per game.

(#56) Baylor 86, (#126) Texas 79 (OT) – This was a game that both teams could have used on their résumé later in the year, but the Bears reigned victorious in overtime on Saturday. It was a close game throughout, but Pierre Jackson took over in the extra period. He hit nine free throws and scored 11 overall in those five minutes, scoring as many points as the entire Longhorn team, and Baylor held court at home.

(#345) Kennesaw State 83, (#152) Mercer 75 – The Bears undid some good work from earlier in the week, losing on the road to Kennesaw State. Just days after beating their chief competition, (#117) Florida Gulf Coast, Mercer became only the second victory all year for the Owls, who are the lowest-rated team in the Atlantic Sun. One wonders if the Bears overlooked this one.

(#3) Arizona 60, (#113) Utah 57 – It was another night in the McKale Center, and another nail-biter. The Cats survived a torrid rally from the Utes. Jarred DuBois missed a couple threes in the final seconds that would have either given Utah the lead or sent the game to overtime. Arizona remains unbeaten on the year, one of four teams still able to make that claim. Solomon Hill led the Wildcats with 19 points and Mark Lyons had 12 despite a poor shooting night.

(#339) Mississippi Valley State 79, (#257) Alabama A&M 68 – Last but not least,  to the SWAC. I generally have little to say about the Southwestern, but the Delta Devils – alma mater of one Jerry Rice – caught my eye this weekend when they got off the schneid and won their first game of the 2012-13 campaign. MVSU exploded for 54 second-half points, sparked by Davon Usher, who scored 23 of 27 in the stanza. Perhaps this will be a sign of things to come for Mississippi Valley, who played one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules this year.

Okie dokie, there you have it. I’m having a slight issue updating the rankings and tournament projections, but those should be up sometime tonight.Head on over and look at the newest Tournament Projections & Complete Standings. Then enjoy this upcoming week of college basketball and look out on social media for picks and upsets! There should be a week-in-review posted on Saturday.

-AD

DPI Week-In-Review

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

DIECKHOFF POWER INDEX WEEK IN REVIEW

(Monday, 12/31 – Friday, 1/4)

With a new year comes a new format for the DPI. I will now be doing posts on Saturday and Monday – the first going over everything that happened on the weekdays, and the latter covering all of the weekend’s action. This calls for a some changes to the frame for these posts, and so without further ado, here is the first post in the new style.

The Weekdays’ Most Notable Games

(Note: Rankings in this section are from the start of the day the game was played, not the team’s current ranking. Everywhere else, the teams will be marked with their current rankings.)

Monday: @(#55) Saint Louis 60, (#15) New Mexico 46

Tuesday: @(#72) Marquette 82, (#42) Connecticut 76 – OT

Wednesday: @(#117) Purdue 69, (#13) Illinois 61

Thursday: @(#5) Arizona 92, (#18) Colorado 83 – OT

Friday: (#58) Memphis 85, @ (#66) Tennessee 80

The Best Week So Far

Major Conference: (#90) Purdue (7-6, 1-0) – For a team that struggled out of the gate like Purdue did, it was always going to take a strong showing in the Big Ten to save their season… and they started in the right direction on Wednesday, beating (#24) Illinois at home. Terone Johnson had a huge game, going off for 25 points and nine rebounds, but perhaps it was D.J. Byrd’s play at the end of the game that was most important. Byrd grabbed an offensive rebound with 21 seconds left after Jacob Lawson missed two free throws with Purdue up by two, and then the 6’5” senior guard laid the ball back up and got fouled. Byrd hit the free throw to extend the lead to five with 20 seconds left, and solidified the much-needed victory for Purdue. The game dropped Illinois 14 spots, while the Boilermakers jumped up 24. Purdue plays (#49) Michigan State on Saturday to see if they keep up the era of good feelings.

Mid-Major Conf.: (#55) Saint Louis (11-3, 0-0) – Despite having played two games this week, it was the first that was most important for the Billikens. On New Year’s Eve, Saint Louis played host to (#16) New Mexico, a team coming off a roller-coaster ride of losing their first game of the season to (#122) South Dakota State and then knocking off (#10) Cincinnati. The Billikens held UNM to about 32% shooting and the Lobos committed 21 turnovers. Cory Remekun led SLU with 15 points on a night when they weren’t shooting all that well, either. With Friday’s victory over (#207) Savannah State, Saint Louis has now won eight straight games since the passing of Rick Majerus. It’s hard to ignore the impact of this emotional lift that the Billikens have apparently been given, and all that remains to be seen now is whether or not Saint Louis will carry this momentum into the Atlantic 10 season.

Low-Major Conf.: (#307) St. Francis (PA) (1-11, 1-0) – Well, take solace, Saint Francis of Pennsylvania: at least you weren’t the last team across the finish line. The Red Flash were able to finally separate themselves from (#343) Maryland-Eastern Shore, (#339) Mississippi Valley State, and (#347) Grambling State, by doing what none of the other three have done yet: winning a game. St. Francis took down (#237) Central Connecticut State at home in their NEC opener, 67-60. Earl Brown was the spark for this inaugural victory in this season’s campaign, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 25 rebounds against the Blue Devils. This was the first time in over three years that a D-I player had grabbed so many boards. St. Francis’ leading scorer, Umar Shannon, also added 19 points and eight assists. The Red Flash face (#140) Bryant on Saturday, looking for NEC win number two.

The Worst Week So Far

Major Conference: (#81) Florida State (8-5, 0-0) – When you’re a major-conference team that already has losses to South Alabama and Mercer on your schedule, you can’t really afford to drop any other games against subpar competition. On Wednesday, the Seminoles did just that, however. Florida State traveled to (#189) Auburn and lost by six points to one of the worst SEC teams. The Seminoles had won four straight, including one over (#63) Charlotte, before losing to the Tigers. Senior leader Michael Snaer had a good game for FSU, putting up 18 and 12, but the only other Seminole in double figures was Terry Whisnant II. Auburn used a 22-10 run in the first ten minutes of the second half to erase a halftime deficit and they never gave the lead back to Florida State. FSU dropped 21 spots from this loss, while Auburn climbed up 12 places in the Index.

Mid-Major Conf.: (#141) George Mason (7-6, 0-1) – The Patriots looked like they were going places after their buzzer-beater victory over (#95) Richmond last weekend, but two straight losses will not help George Mason down the road. Saturday’s loss to (#72) South Florida, while disappointing for GMU, was not quite as damaging as their CAA-opening defeat at home to (#188) Northeastern. The Patriots got a good showing out of Sherrod Wright, their star player, but squandered a seven-point halftime lead against the Huskies, falling victim to an 11-0 run over a two-minute span late in the game. Further hindering George Mason was the fact that Wright’s jumper with 5:55 remaining would be his final made basket of the night. The Patriots fell out of the Top 100 after this one, losing 41 spots in the Index. Northeastern gained 26 places with the win, hopping into the Top 200.

Low-Major Conf.: (#97) Canisius (9-5, 2-1) – Like George Mason, Canisius had the look of a dangerous team after they dispatched (#36) Temple on a neutral court. They came out a little flat in their next big test against (#29) UNLV and were unable to pull off a second upset. Then they made quick work of (#331) Alcorn State before their next big game. They traveled to (#108) Detroit on Sunday and lost, 83-78, to a Titans squad, whose near-upset of (#11) Syracuse put them on the map this year. Then, again like George Mason, the Canes compounded their nonconference woes with a head-scratching conference loss. (#121) Fairfield, who lost to Canisius at home earlier this season, traveled to Buffalo and dealt with their MAAC counterparts, whipping the Canes by 21 points. Canisius hasn’t completely free-fallen out of the Top 100, but they’re close, after falling 38 spots just this week.

A Few Upsets That Caught My Eye

A couple teams in the Conference USA didn’t do themselves any favors in the New Year. On Wednesday, (#147) East Carolina fell at home to (#255) Campbell in overtime, while (#207) Marshall couldn’t finish the job against (#224) Delaware State at home in Huntington. Both C-USA teams trailed at the half, but were able to draw it back level in the second stanza. Marshall was able to get the game tied at 46 with under two minutes to play, but the Hornets’ Jabari Joyner hit a big three with 0:58 left and DSU knocked down four important free throws to seal the win. ECU, on the other hand, actually held a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining, but the Camels’ Andrew Ryan sent the game to overtime. In OT, the Pirates took a three-point lead with 2:09 on the clock, but Campbell went on an 11-0 run that was only broken when ECU’s Akeem Richmond hit a meaningless three-pointer as time expired, to bring the game within five.

The scene was a bit different in the Sun Belt, where the conference’s top two teams took tumbles on Thursday. (#51) Middle Tennessee just couldn’t stave off (#155) Arkansas State, eventually losing to the Red Wolves on the road in overtime. The Blue Raiders trailed by as much as seven in the first half, but these two traded blows all game, exchanging leads throughout. ASU hit only one of two free throws with 0:04 on the clock, leaving the lead at three points, and Tweety Knight went down and hit the game-tying triple for Middle Tennessee. The Wolves jumped out to a quick lead in overtime that the Raiders just couldn’t close, however, and MTU dropped their first Sun Belt game of the season. Elsewhere in the state, (#135) Arkansas-Little Rock hosted (#99) Western Kentucky, who was the Sun Belt’s other undefeated team. The teams were tied at half, but a span of about five minutes for the Hilltoppers in which they made no field goals allowed the Trojans to take an eight-point lead. What really hurt Western Kentucky’s comeback chances was losing T.J. Price to fouls with about eight minutes to go. Kevin Kaspar played admirably trying to pick up the slack, but without Price and injured guard Jamal Crook, the Hilltoppers just didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with UALR.

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

Six Teams Climbing Up the Index:
(#25) Miami (FL), +9 – The Hurricanes used a solid win over (#85) La Salle to jump into the Top 25 this week. They take on (#66) Georgia Tech this afternoon in what should be a solid ACC matchup.

(#39) Memphis, +22 – The Tigers took down (#75) Tennessee on Friday to work their way into the Top 50. They had been battling for the C-USA’s top spot with (#57) Southern Miss all season, but this win should solidify them – for a while, at least – as the conference’s best team.

(#67) Indiana State, +39 – The Sycamores followed a win over (#65) Illinois State on Sunday by beating (#143) Northern Iowa on Wednesday. They’ve used these two solid MVC victories to crack the Top 100.

(#86) Villanova, +21 – The Wildcats beat (#130) St. John’s in overtime on Wednesday to open up Big East play. The win was the team’s sixth-straight and puts them into the Top 100.

(#90) Purdue, +28 – The Boilermakers’ upset of Illinois sent them skyrocketing up into the Top 100, as well. After a tumultuous start to the year, Matt Painter looks to have his kids on track, and they face Michigan State in one of Saturday’s earlier contests.

(#122) South Dakota State, +29 – The Jackrabbits responded to the loss to (#32) North Dakota State by cruising past (#294) UMKC to slide into the Top 125. Nate Wolters and company play in-state rival (#236) South Dakota on Saturday.

Half a Dozen Teams Sliding Down the Index:
(#67) Connecticut, -25 – A home loss to (#60) Marquette was a bad way to start Big East play for UConn, who fell out of the Top 50. The Huskies, who are ineligible for postseason play, would like all the Big East success they can get for Kevin Ollie’s squad going into next year.

(#91) Stanford, -33 – Likewise, losing to (#137) USC in your conference opener won’t help at all, as the Cardinal found out as they plummeted down the Index. Stanford was a missed Dwight Powell put-back dunk away from sending the game into overtime.

(#97) Canisius, -38 – The Canes are thisclose to falling out of the Top 100 after being as high as #59 on Sunday morning. They’ll look to pick their winnings ways back up at home against (#274) Marist on Saturday.

(#141) George Mason, -48 – The Patriots’ loss to (#188) Northeastern sunk their Index ranking immensely, knocking George Mason out of the Top 100. GMU plays (#206) William & Mary on Saturday for a chance at redemption.

(#143) Northern Iowa, -51 – The Panthers not only lost by 25 to (#13) Wichita State on Sunday and by four to Indiana State on Wednesday,but their Index dropped on Thursday, as well, when two of their best opponents – Stanford and George Mason – were both upset.

(#163) Cal State Northridge, -51 – The Highlanders took a much simpler path to losing 51 spots this week than UNI’s – they just lost to (#327) UC Santa Barbara. That loss alone was enough to plunge Northridge all the way down from #112 to #163.

And there it is, your first taste of the new format. Go ahead and check out the Tournament Projections and Complete Standings now. I put up some predictions for Saturday’s early games on Facebook and Twitter, and that’s where I’ll be doing predictions from now on. If you’d like to follow the DPI on either, there are links on the toolbar on the lefthand side of the page. Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great weekend.

-AD

Well, despite this not being posted until after the end of the year, it’s still part of that series… and hey, it’s only about a day late. And it’s not updated with any of 2013’s games yet! So, read on for the final installment of the DPI Conference Spotlight special, and check back throughout the week for updated standings and projections. (note: The rankings in the Conference Spotlight reflect rankings through Sunday’s games.)

SOUTHEASTERN

The Best Team So Far: (#12) Florida (9-2, 0-0) – The Gators started out a perfect 7-0, before dropping games to (#4) Arizona and (#29) Kansas State in December. Florida is led by a solid group of players, starting with Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, as well as Erik Murphy, Patric Young, and Scottie Wilbekin. This team has wins over (#50) Wisconsin, (#32) Middle Tennessee, (#99) UCF, (#72) Marquette, (#63) Florida State, and (#92) Air Force, making them 6-2 against teams currently in the Top 100 of the DPI. Billy Donovan has the Gators poised to make a run for an SEC title come March, but they will get a big challenge from (#22) Missouri and (#33) Kentucky.

The Next Best Team: (#22) Missouri (10-2, 0-0) – Missouri looked to be riding high after their win over (#13) Illinois, but stumbled in Pauley Pavilion, losing to (#35) UCLA, 97-94 in overtime, on Friday. This was only the Tigers’ second loss of the season, falling in November to (#8) Louisville in the Bahamas. (#59) Stanford and (#16) VCU are the other two impressive victories for Missouri, both also coming on Paradise Island. The rest of the schedule has been mostly cupcakes, but they have one last chance for a great nonconference win when (#54) Bucknell comes to town. The Tigers lead the nation in rebounding behind Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi, while Phil Pressey leads the SEC in assists per game by a large margin.

The Best Player So Far: Laurence Bowers/F, (#22) Missouri – Though you won’t find Bowers in any of the Top 5 lists in the major statistical categories, Bowers has put together a special season in the early going. Bowers’ worst game came in Missouri’s biggest test, when foul trouble limited him to 22 minutes and he only scored 6 points and grabbed one board. Other than that, though, Bowers has been excellent, recording double-doubles against Stanford, VCU, and Illinois, the latter being his best performance on the season with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He was one rebound shy of a double-double against UCLA, too. He has been consistent in both scoring and rebounding while shooting over 57% on the year, and the 6’8” senior is even hitting some threes this year.

SOUTHERN

The Best Team So Far: (#112) Davidson (7-5, 2-0) – The Wildcats have played a pretty tough schedule this season, and they’ve already amassed a few impressive victories. Teams such as (#172) Vanderbilt, (#83) West Virginia, and (#104) Richmond have lost to Davidson already. Losses to (#17) New Mexico, (#6) Gonzaga, and (#62) Charlotte don’t look too bad for the Cats, but the ones to (#319) Milwaukee and (#236) Drexel are a little harder to swallow. They have one more nonconference challenge remaining when they play (#1) Duke on Wednesday. Led by De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen, Davidson will look to return to the NCAA Tournament in March, and they’re a good bet to do just that.

The Next Best Team: (#126) Charleston (9-5, 1-0) – Probably the biggest challenger to Davidson for the SoCon crown, Charleston is led by the trio of Andrew Lawrence, Anthony Stitt, and Adjehi Baru. Lawrence, a guard hailing from London, leads the team in scoring and assists, while Baru, the big man from the Ivory Coast, leads the Southern Conference in rebounds at nine per game. The Cougars inexplicably lost to Division II Anderson at home, but also have wins over (#136) Boston College and (#46) Baylor. The Cougars and Davidson clash for the first time on January 19th and their second matchup comes on Valentine’s Day.

The Best Player So Far: Trey Sumler/G, (#243) Western Carolina – In a conference lacking a true star, such as Stephen Curry or Andrew Goudelock were in years past, Trey Sumler has perhaps been the most consistently good against tough competition. While Western Carolina hasn’t recorded any big wins yet, Sumler put up big games against (#14) Wichita State, (#76) Western Kentucky, and (#66) Tennessee, averaging 22 points per game in those contests. He was less effective against Illinois and (#24) Georgetown, but Sumler is third in the SoCon in scoring, fourth in assists, and second in steals per game. He put up 24 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in the Catamounts’ SoCon opener against (#331) Furman, as well.

SOUTHLAND

The Best Team So Far: (#85) Stephen F. Austin (10-1, 1-0) – The Lumberjacks are off to a very hot start this year and they are currently the Southland’s only Top 100 team. Their only loss came to (#55) Texas A&M in College Station, and only by eight points. Four of their wins, however, are over non-Division I teams, a fact that hurts their résumé quite a bit. They do have wins over (#144) Tulsa and (#43) Oklahoma, though, and they’ve won five straight as they continue Southland play. The Lumberjacks are led by Taylor Smith and Hal Bateman, and they seem to be the clear choice to win the Southland title this year.

The Next Best Team: (#117) Northwestern State (6-4, 0-0) – Creeping their way up the standings, however, are the Demons of Northwestern State. The Demons are second in the nation in scoring and are eighth in rebounding, while placing in the Top 50 for assists and field goal percentage. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a team sitting at 6-4. The four losses, however, have all come to Top 70 opponents: (#70) LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and (#51) Arkansas. Dequan Hicks and Jalen West lead the way for the Demons, who beat (#58) Louisiana Tech earlier this year. They have, like Stephen F. Austin, beaten four non-Division I schools, so that would explain their ranking in the Index, despite their respectable set of losses, and also their statistical dominance (which can, itself, be explained by four non-DI romps).

The Best Player So Far: Taylor Smith/F, (#85) Stephen F. Austin – Smith is fourth in the Southland in scoring at 15.7 points per game, while his 8.3 rebounds nightly rank him third in the conference. He leads the Southland with 2.6 blocks per game, as well. In the Lumberjacks’ road upset of Oklahoma, Smith had 14 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and three steals. His best game of the season was the team’s Southland opener against (#279) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, in which he went off for 25 points and 14 rebounds, season-highs in both categories. The 6’6” senior has recorded double-doubles in two straight games going into Thursday’s meeting with (#344) Lamar.

SOUTHWESTERN

The Best Team So Far: (#179) Southern University (6-6, 0-0) – The Jaguars are the only team in the SWAC with a .500 record and are the only squad in the DPI Top 200. Southern has won five of their last six games, including a road upset of Texas A&M. They start their SWAC schedule this week, facing (#246) Texas Southern on Wednesday and (#234) Prairie View A&M on Friday. All of Southern’s losses have come to teams in the DPI Top 150, except for (#162) North Carolina Central. Derick Beltran and Malcolm Miller have been the statistical leaders for the Jaguars thus far, with Beltran ranking fourth in the conference in scoring with 16 points per game.

The Next Best Team: (#233) Prairie View A&M (5-8, 0-0) – Prairie View has three wins over non-Division I opponents, which makes their early-season performance all the less impressive, but there’s really not a lot of teams to choose from in the SWAC. The Panthers have beaten (#135) Houston on the season, but they lost in the rematch on Saturday. Jourdan DeMuynck and Carl Blair have led the Panthers this season, and their losses have come to Top 150 teams, except (#164) Texas Tech and (#282) Fairleigh Dickinson. Given the nonconference schedules of many of these SWAC teams, it’s hard to know just how they’ll fare against each other, but my guess is that Prairie View will perform well this season.

The Best Player So Far: Demarquelle Tabb/G-F, (#296) Alabama A&M – Tabb leads the conference in rebounding by two full boards, pulling down 9.5 per game. He is also second in blocked shots in the SWAC, and scores 12.6 points every night. He has five double-doubles on the year, and he led the Bulldogs to their ‘upset’ of (#259) Mississippi State this weekend. In that game, Tabb recorded team-highs of 14 points and seven rebounds, while adding three blocks – including one against Jalen Steele which would have given MSU the lead in the final seconds of the game. Tabb, a 6’5” junior swingman, has some big-man stats for a player of his stature.

SUMMIT

The Best Team So Far: (#41) North Dakota State (11-3, 2-0) – While they lack any big-time wins over top competition, the Bison of NDSU have been very solid this year. They have no wins over anyone in the Top 150, but they have beaten (#156) Duquesne and (#165) Youngstown State, as well as rival (#155) South Dakota State in their most recent game. What has the Bison floating so high in the standings is that two of their three losses have come to Top 5 teams in (#3) Indiana and (#5) Minnesota, and their only other loss is to (#180) Green Bay. With Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund leading the way, NDSU is also one of two Summit League teams that are still undefeated in conference play, along with (#106) Western Illinois.

The Next Best Team: (#106) Western Illinois (10-3, 4-0) – The Leathernecks are quickly jumping up the Index, thanks to winning their first four conference games and seven straight overall. This stretch includes their best victory, a win over Horizon League leader (#89) Illinois-Chicago. Terell Parks leads Western Illinois in scoring and is the Summit League leader in rebounding and blocks, to boot. Ceola Clark III is second on the team in scoring and leads the Leathernecks in assists and steals. The Leathernecks host South Dakota State and North Dakota State on the 17th and 19th of this month, respectively, in what will be the first real tests in conference play for WIU.

The Best Player So Far: Nate Wolters/G, (#155) South Dakota State – There aren’t a lot of people who can take over a game the way Nate Wolters can. Just ask New Mexico, who suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Wolters and the Jackrabbits. He went off for 28 points, seven assists, and five rebounds in that game – just one of eight 20-point games for Wolters so far. He had a season-high 30 against (#82) Alabama in the team’s opener, a three-point loss to the Tide. He has played 38 or more minutes nine times this season, including 40 minutes in the loss to NDSU on Saturday, when he scored 26 points. He leads the conference in scoring at 20.5 PPG, and is pulling down six rebounds and dishing out five and a half assists, as well.

SUN BELT

The Best Team So Far: (#32) Middle Tennessee (11-3, 3-0) – The Blue Raiders have been the class of the Sun Belt so far, with wins over (#123) UAB, (#27) Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt so far on the season. All three of their losses have come on the road to Top 100 teams in Florida, (#81) Akron (in overtime), and (#71) Belmont. Middle Tennessee has won their first three Sun Belt games and four straight overall heading into their matchups this weekend with (#197) Arkansas State and (#225) South Alabama, two of the better teams in the conference. Marcos Knight and Shawn Jones have been the keys to success for the Blue Raiders this season, and they will look to bring the Sun Belt title to Murfreesboro in 2013.

The Next Best Team: (#76) Western Kentucky (10-5, 4-0) – All of the Hilltoppers’ losses have come to Top 100 opponents, in (#65) Southern Miss, (#40) Iowa, (#78) Murray State, VCU, and Louisville, but they’ve yet to score a marquee victory on the year. Their best win is over (#88) DePaul, but their chances to gain at at-large berth took a huge hit when they were unable to register wins in either of their mid-major matchups with VCU and Murray State. This means that they will have to go toe-to-toe with Middle Tennessee and get into the Big Dance the hard way, by winning their conference tournament. T.J. Price, George Fant, and Teeng Akol will try to get them there, and this team will receive a boost when Jamal Crook returns to action.

The Best Player So Far: Augustine Rubit/F, (#225) South Alabama – Rubit has been pretty consistent this year, scoring in double figures in all but one game and recording seven double-doubles in 12 games, including in four straight contests. His performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was perhaps his most dominant, putting up 23 and 19 on the Islanders. Rubit scored a season-high 31 points earlier this year in a game against (#235) Georgia State, and has three games of over 15 rebounds. He also recorded five blocks against (#267) Monmouth. The 6’7” forward is leading the Sun Belt in rebounding (10.8 RPG), is second in scoring (19.0 PPG), and is fifth in blocks (1.5 BPG).

WEST COAST

The Best Team So Far: (#6) Gonzaga (13-1, 0-0) – Just when it was looking like it was time to start writing off this year’s Gonzaga squad after they barely eked out a victory over (#95) Washington State before dropping their first (and only) game of the season to Illinois, the Zags have kicked it into overdrive. They have faced three Top 50 teams from the Big 12 in (#29) Kansas State, Baylor, and (#21) Oklahoma State, and they have beaten them all. The Bulldogs also beat West Virginia by 34 points earlier this year, as well as (#91) Clemson, Oklahoma, and Davidson. Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris have been the stars of this team, but Kevin Pangos and Gary Hall, Jr. have had some big moments, as well. Gonzaga faces their toughest portion of their remaining schedule in the next weeks, when they play (#79) Saint Mary’s, (#28) Butler and (#53) BYU in a two-week span.

The Next Best Team: (#56) BYU (10-4, 0-0) – The Cougars are off to a good start this year, thanks to the efforts of Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws. Their best wins are over (#94) Utah and (#102) Virginia Tech, but BYU is helped by the fact that all of their losses have come to teams ranked between 45 and 63 in the DPI. Two of these losses, to (#63) Florida State and (#45) Notre Dame, came on a neutral court in the Coaches v. Cancer tournament. The other losses came on the road, in defeats to (#48) Iowa State and Baylor. The Cougars, who are ranked in the Top 50 nationally in points, rebounds, and assists per game, begin their WCC schedule on Thursday when they host (#217) Loyola Marymount.

The Best Player So Far: Brandon Davies/F, (#56) BYU – Davies is third in the West Coast Conference in scoring (20.1 PPG), rebounding (7.9 RPG), and blocks (1.6 BPG), fifth in field goal percentage (.571), and eighth in steals (1.5 SPG). He has been the Cougars’ most consistent player on the season, scoring in double figures every game and recording at least five rebounds in all but their most recent game against Virginia Tech. Davies’ best game of the year came in the team’s loss to Baylor, when his 26 and 17 were not enough to push BYU past the Bears. The 6’9” senior has improved in just about every statistical category this year, despite playing fewer minutes.

WESTERN

The Best Team So Far: (#53) Utah State (11-1, 1-0) – Led by Preston Medlin, Jarred Shaw, and Kyisean Reed, the Aggies are playing some good basketball at the moment. They have won ten straight games after losing to Saint Mary’s, including a win over in-state rival (#67) Weber State and an overtime victory against (#57) Santa Clara. The big knock on the Aggies is that they have not played a very good schedule outside of the three games I’ve mentioned. The nice thing about this team, however, is that they are 15th in the nation in assists, as well as fourth-best in field goal percentage, shooting 51% on the year. Fans in Logan have the 26th of January circled on their schedules, when Louisiana Tech comes to play for the first time.

The Next Best Team: (#58) Louisiana Tech (11-3, 2-0) – Right behind the Aggies are the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech, who are off to wonderful start to the season. Raheem Appleby is the leading scorer for Tech and has two 30-point games already for the Bulldogs this season, against (#245) Chattanooga and Georgia State. Despite Appleby’s inefficiency against Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech still managed to pull off the win at home behind a season-high 18 points in as many minutes for reserve guard Kenyon McNeail. Cordarius Johnson and Kenneth Smith have also been bright spots for the Bulldogs. Smith leads the WAC in steals at 2.5 per game, while big man Michale Kyser leads the conference in blocks with over three per contest.

The Best Player So Far: Kyle Barone/F, (#189) Idaho – Even though his team is sitting at a mediocre 5-7 on the year, Idaho’s Kyle Barone is separating himself a bit from the rest of the players in the WAC. His 16.4 points per game rank him fourth in the conference, while his 8.1 rebounds per night are good for fifth. He is also second in the WAC in shooting percentage, making his shots at a 61% clip on the year. Barone has four double-doubles on the year, including one against (#44) Boise State a few weeks ago. In a win over (#280) Eastern Washington, Barone went off for 20 and 11, plus five blocks and five assists. The 6’10” senior center scored 25 and grabbed 11 boards in Idaho’s WAC opener against (#257) Seattle on Saturday.

Alright, so that wraps up the Conference Spotlight Special! Hopefully you gained a little bit of knowledge about some teams and players you might not have ever heard about, and now you can wow your colleagues and friends with your vast amount of trivial knowledge about college basketball… which should come in handy in March. I’ll leave you now with Wednesday’s predictions.

(#109) Providence @ (#8) Louisville

(#167) Eastern Michigan @ (#33) Kentucky

(#93) Nebraska @ (#20) Ohio State

(#73) Rutgers @ (#11) Syracuse

(#327) Pennsylvania @ (#28) Butler

(#63) Florida State @ (#196) Auburn

(#332) Binghamton @ (#60) Georgia Tech

(#54) Bucknell @ (#258) Cornell

(#90) Massachusetts @ (#194) Miami (OH)

(#92) Air Force @ (#104) Richmond

(#305) Coppin State @ (#81) Akron

(#16) Virginia Commonwealth @ (#276) East Tennessee State

(#204) UNC Asheville @ (#62) Charlotte

(#10) Creighton @ (#61) Illinois State

(#100) St. John’s @ (#105) Villanova

(#44) Boise State @ (#185) Texas-Arlington

(#87) South Florida @ (#99) Central Florida

(#86) Indiana State @ (#113) Northern Iowa

(#26) Wyoming @ (#151) Southern Methodist

(#14) Wichita State @ Drake

(#13) Illinois @ (#119) Purdue

(#64) Seton Hall @ (#88) DePaul

(#80) La Salle @ (#37) Miami (FL)

(#289) Cal State Bakersfield @ (#25) San Diego State

(#94) Utah @ (#30) Arizona State

(#129) UTEP @ (#38) Colorado State

(#170) San Francisco @ (#57) Santa Clara

So there you have all the games involving Top 100 teams in them for tomorrow. Now go check out the Tournament Projections and Complete Standings, updated through games played on New Year’s Eve.