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.