Friday, February 24, 2012

Missouri at Kansas

The game of the weekend and a big one it is. We're talking Big 12 deciding, 1 seed potential and player of the year implications going on. Oh yeah, and possibly a bitter end (for the foreseeable future at least) of a great rivalry given Missouri's departure to the SEC next year. So what are you gonna be watching Saturday at 4pm?

If you've been following the player of the year race at all, you know it's a bit of a two way competition (MSU's Draymond Green in a close third) between Thomas Robinson of Kansas and the human block machine, Anthony Davis of Kentucky. I'm rooting for Robinson because he means more to his team, his stats are more impressive and I'm not afraid his eyebrows are going to become self aware and lead an eyebrow rebellion against mankind (Uni-killer). Between him and Jeff Withey, the surprisingly good step up center for the Jayhawks this year, I think Kansas just has too much size for Missouri.

Missouri was able to get it done against Kansas earlier in the season, but that was at Missouri. And Marcus Denmon played out of his gourd for the Tigers. He had 29 points in that game, two 3 pointers and a 3 point play in the final 2 minutes to rally for the win. I wouldn't bank on a repeat performance in Allen Fieldhouse. Of course, Denmon isn't the only hot shooter on the team. Missouri has a bevy of them from Michael Dixon to Kim English. Still, it will take a great shooting night as a team (or a vintage February 4th Denmonesque one) to pull it off.

Bottom line, the Tigers know what is on the line. So, no, it's not crazy to think that they could walk away with a victory. But I think this isn't a good week for them to be playing teams that start with Kansas (see their lose to Kansas State Tuesday). I think Frank Haith's team is coming away with the L, and it will be a long time coming before Missouri will be able to get a rebuttal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Expectations Rammed

Colorado St 71 New Mexico 63

I believe New Mexico is the best team in the Mountain West. Their past two wins, a drubbing of UNLV and a handy win on the road against San Diego State helped reaffirm my belief. The Lobos were really rolling. Last night Colorado State derailed their roll and gave me a mini crisis of faith. Then I took a breath. Pierce Hornung played an amazing game for Colorado State with 13 points, 15 rebounds and 4 steals. The Rams are undefeated at home and have another quality win against San Diego State. And they are playing with an outside shot at an NCAA Tourney bid. So, I still believe New Mexico is the best in the Mountain West and I still believe they are capable of the deepest tourney run outside of the power conferences with the possible exception of the Wichita State Shockers. Now that I've gotten over last night's shock.

Northwestern Heartbreak

Yup, the Wildcats dropped their second OT loss in as many tries against the Michigan Wolverines last night. Can they still make the tournament? I think they may need to win out. I think they likely won't. Oh, the Shurmanity!

Missouri Shuffle

Missouri lost at home to Kansas State last night 78 to 68. Rodney McGruder scored 24 points and the Wildcats (of the purple Manhattan variety) got an excellent win to move themselves out of bubble talk and into the tournament. A tale of two purples.

What it says for Missouri, who trailed by as much as 16 points, is nothing new. They rely on great guard play on offense. Their defense is so-so. It's a veteran group, but when that's your team when you're off you're off. And Missouri will likely get its second loss in a row when it travels to Kansas this Saturday. Still, 4 losses on the season isn't shabby.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Could They Really?

Could the Wildcats (of the purple Chicago variety) make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Northwestern history? Their RPI ranking right now is 43rd, their record sits overall at 18-12 and 8-10 in conference. With 4 games remaining on their schedule, winning 3 would bring them to 500 in conference. That's in the B1G Conference, by the way. The one every pundit is gushing over this year. Winning 3 of their next 4 would also give them at least 1, possibly 2 more wins over other top 50 RPI teams. That would help because they're standing kinda weak in that department at 2 for 6 tries.

So what are their last 4 games? In order: home against Michigan, on the road at Penn State, Ohio State at home and then Iowa on the road to finish. They should be favored against Penn State and Iowa, but nothing is given. Especially when you consider Iowa's recent 78-66 ambush of Indiana. But these Cats can smell tourney in the air and I expect them to play like they have super rabies...the kind that makes you good at basketball, not the kind that would lead to the euthinization of John Shurna.

They play both Michigan and Ohio State at home, but which is the more realistic top 15 squad to topple? Recent Ohio State struggles aside, Michigan is the better match up for Northwestern.

Battle of the 3 pointers for supremacy? At simplistic first blush, but there is more to it. They're both good 3 point shooting teams. Northwestern better than Michigan at 38.2% from beyond the arc compared to U of M's 35.6%. If one team is hot and the other not, it will make a difference. At the end of the night, however, I just don't think there will be a great disparity in their 3 point shooting...unless Hardaway decides to re-up the slump.

How Jordan Morgan defends against Davide Curletti and how Michigan as a whole defends the back door cuts of Northwestern will be big. On the flip side, does Northwestern have an answer for Trey Burke? Aaron Craft, who they tell me is one of the best on ball defenders in the nation, had trouble with him in the closing minutes of Saturday's action. Northwestern does not have one of the nation's best on ball defenders, but they can not afford many breakdowns if they plan on donning their dancing shoes. For the first time ever.

Will Northwestern go dancing? We'll probably know after tonight.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Last Night

TCU 102 UNLV 97 OT
I do get that upsets happen. I get that good teams will drop the occasional game to an inferior team over the course of a season and that overreaction is not required. I just didn't buy that UNLV was the number 11 team in the country before last night and I certainly don't buy it this morning.

They beat North Carolina early in the year. Yes, I remember. It was a case of an inferior team beating a superior opponent over the course of a season in reverse. Other than that their best win is over San Diego State at home. How good that win is depends on whether or not you buy San Diego State as the number 15 team in the nation. I don't. New Mexico, despite being un-ranked, is probably the better win for UNLV and they got that one at home too.

The reality is that their defense is ranked 52nd in the nation by Ken Pomeroy and it looked worse than that last night as they let TCU come back from an 18 point deficit. We'll see what comes of their next game at New Mexico on Saturday, but I get the feeling we're going to see another loss unworthy of a team ranked 11th in the nation.

Ohio State 78 Minnesota 68
Minnesota decided to spot Ohio State 21 points to start the game. Just for funsies. Ohio State came out determined to bounce back and they did. Buford atoned for his horrible performance at home against MSU with a 24 point outing. Jared Sullinger chipped in 23 with 8 boards.

But I'll be damned if Minnesota even seemed to know where Buford was half the time when they were on defense in the first 10 minutes of that game. Half of the Buckeyes seemed unaccounted for when they were on offense. Minnesota was slow, lazy and unfocused to start the game. Did they think Ohio State was going to wait for them to come around?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two Yearly Narratives That Should GoThe Way Of LOL

These two narratives are ones that I really wish would die. Title confusing given that people still use LOL? Yeah, LOL isn't dead, but people who use it are dead to me.

Useless Narrative #1: Will College Basketball Ever be the Cool Kid?

If you go to the 6:52 mark you'll hear Pat Forde and Matt Norlander hand wringing over the failure of College Basketball to grab more of the national spotlight given the NBA delay this year. If it didn't happen this year, when will it happen? And there are no good story lines. There are no heroes and no villains. Worst of all, there's no Jimmer! So forth and so on.

The vast majority of the American public will never, ever pay much attention to College Basketball before March. Accept it and move on. Football isn't over till January. What can you do? A lack of national buzz didn't change a brilliant month of December for Indiana, in which they knocked off the number 1 and 2 teams in the nation and brought the luster back to Hosier nation. It didn't stop the game winning 3 by Michael Snaer at Cameron Indoor Stadium to upset Duke. It didn't stop Austin Rivers from paying it forward with a game winning 3 of his own against North Carolina a few weeks later. It didn't stop a coaching hire that everyone questioned (loudly), Frank Haith, from taking his team on a 23-2 run and put them at the 3 spot in the national rankings.

The season is good. The games have been good. This is not a tree falls in the forest conundrum. Quality is not determined by popularity. And let's be honest, most people didn't even know Jimmer's name till March anyway. Accept it. Move on.

Useless Narrative Number 2: Which is/are the Best Team/Teams in the Nation

Kentucky is clearly ahead of everyone else? Right? And Syracuse and Ohio State, depending on who you ask, at what time, depending on the lunar cycle, which direction the gales are brewing from and which flavor of soft serve ice cream they just had, one of those two is right behind them.

I could not be more sick of this need to define a team (or small handful of teams) that are clearly above all the rest. North Carolina in 2009 was heads and shoulders above everyone else. Clearly. They were an NBA lite team. That is an exception to the rule, not the rule. In modern college basketball there are very few years in which you are ever going to have 1 team (or a small handful of teams) that are clearly better than all the rest. I thought this year, with the extreme shuffle going on at the 1 spot in the rankings, with some of the wacky early season results, that we might have finally outgrown this. I was wrong.

Remember in 2010 when Kansas was clearly the elite team in the country? How'd that work out for them? Northern Iowa? You don't say. Just out of curiosity, in 2011 did any national media member anoint UConn as the head and shoulders best team? No? Well, they didn't do much besides win a national title, right?

We have a tournament. This isn't the fraudulent post season of the college gridiron. There is no need to try and crown a national champion 2 months before it's all said and done. Keep on trying to construct artificial separation. The results will keep tearing it down.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Did you see?

That blurry image is Kelsey Barlow embarrassing Sullinger as the big man attempted to take a charge. Ohio State won, but they gave up some many lanes for easy layups you started to wonder if this really is the clear number 2. Their defense, at home, against a desperate Purdue team sure didn't play like it. Also, Jared Sullinger got a highlight moment from the other side.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pay for Pom

Yup, Ken Pomeroy is charging now to his see his statistical breakdowns and predictions. A man's gotta eat, I suppose, and it was kind of incredible that such an insane wealth of stats was free for the picking. Combine a matter of time with a recent rash of Pomeroy ego stroking and it is what it is. Asking price is 20 bucks for the year.

I wonder if he could have made more by opening up his site to advertising. I don't pretend to know the difference these days between advertising and subscriptions, and maybe Pomeroy didn't want to go the way of ads regardless. I'll just say I personally wouldn't have minded dealing with some flashing nonsense if it meant continued free use.