national champs baby
Hoops Opponent Watch: Getting Some Distance
Prospective one-seeds started—or continued to—drop like flies this week. Duke got blasted at Miami; Syracuse lost at Villanova; Louisville is now on a three-game losing streak after dropping games to that same 'Nova team and Georgetown.
This is good news for Michigan in two ways: it gives them some wiggle room as the Big Ten inevitably piles defeat on them, and it helps get Florida on that one-line so Michigan can't face 'em until Atlanta. Yeah, maybe Florida isn't that good. I'd rather have someone else test that
theory hypothesis. If you're thinking about a bet on sports you could do a lot worse than taking Florida and the points.
So with the Big East chaos and Florida's continued rampage in the SEC I'm moving the Gators onto the one-line. Kenpom projects them at 27-3 in the regular season, and while the terrible terrible SEC will be a drag it may not matter.
As for Michigan's numbers, Crashing the Dance has moved Michigan to second and projects the same one-seeds as I do below. M is the top overall seed at the Bracket Matrix. Their RPI has dipped to 7th; RPI forecast projects that is where they will finish. They're up to second on Kenpom, with IU, Louisville, and Duke nipping at their heels. Florida is far and away #1.
Projected ones: Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Florida
The Nonconference Folk
Sweet hoppin' pickles, IUPUI and Binghamton are bad. IUPUI hasn't won in a month. Binghamton… OH MY GOD BINGHAMTON BEAT MAINE. Well done, Binghamton. Work that RPI for us. Uhn.
Fellow struggler EMU just got a lot of pub for holding Northern Illinois to four first-half points; they've actually leveled their MAC record at 3-3. Cleveland State continued losing. Western swept the other MAC directional Michigans last week and is looking like the best team in the West division of that conference, but that's not saying much.
Bradley is going to be a .500 MVC team; Western has pulled well ahead of them on Kenpom.
Big sorts of teams
@ Providence: W 68-64. DePaul: W 93-55
relevant, I promise
Providence isn't good but they do show relatively well in Kenpom (66th) and hung in against Syracuse at home, so the relatively narrow win there isn't as bad as it looks. Also, Pitt was up 10 with two minutes left and Providence never pushed their win percentage past 5 after that.
Then the Panthers did what they do to all bad teams, obliterating them. If you're thinking about a bet on sports you could do a lot worse than taking Pitt to crush a bad team. In a frenetic, up-and-down affair Pitt held the Blue Demons to 28% from the field. DePaul's decided that if they can't be good they'll at least be fast. They're currently the #1 team in the country in adjusted tempo.
Tonight, a huge game for Pitt watchers as the Panthers take on reeling Louisville. The Cardinals have dropped well back in the race for Indianapolis in the second round, but still remain a threat.
BONUS BONUS BONUS: while perusing Big East scores to find out what happened in the Pitt-DePaul game, I discovered, well, this:
Vander Blue scored 13 points and played suffocating defense on the Big East's leading scorer to lead Marquette to an 81-71 victory over Providence Saturday in a game delayed several times because of a dive-bombing bat.
Play on, man. This ain't no tennis.
Kansas State (15-4)
Kansas: L 59-55. @ Iowa State: L 73-67
A very creditable performance against Kansas in which the Jayhawks struggled considerably more than Michigan did when they took on K-State earlier in the year. Michigan had a neutral court, granted.
In that game, K-State jacked a bunch of threes, kept Jeff Withey from recording a block, and held Kansas just under a point per possession. Their offense was rough, as it usually is, and they were considerably aided by a 62% effort at the line from Kansas.
The Wildcats then went out and lost to The Hoiberg Home For Lost Big Ten Boys, albeit narrowly and on the road. Iowa State shot 46%(!) from the free throw line and 50%(!) from three; Kansas State couldn't get an offensive rebound to save their lives and fell despite shooting a lot better than they usually do.
SEEDWATCH: a seven on Crashing The Dance; a six on Bracket Matrix.
North Carolina State (16-4)
@ Wake Forest: L 86-84. North Carolina: W 91-83
NC State's crap defense perforated wildly against a Wake Forest team that's lost to Nebraska (by 16!), Iona, Richmond, and Seton Hall already. NC State let those dudes shoot 51% from two, sent them to the line 33 times, and allowed them to grab almost 40% of their misses. NC State did all the things they usually did on offense, and lost.
NC State did that again against UNC, but this time kept their opponents off the boards and the free throw line, so they won. Richard Howell is officially nuts. He had 15 OREBs in two games last week.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: Total of six minutes, one missed shot, three assists, and no turnovers.
SEEDWATCH: 5 on Bracket Matrix; 5 on Crashing The Dance.
BONUS: Wake Forest features a player named "Arnaud William Adala Moto."
Miss St: W 96-70, @ South Carolina: L 75-54
That press business is a feast or famine thing, eh?
.500 SEC team; NIT bid, usual.
West Virginia (9-10)
TCU: W 71-50. @ Okie State: L 80-66.
Results as expected—yeah, TCU is that bad. They're headed for a season around .500.
CONFERENCE OF POWER RANKING POWER POWER
LAST WEEK Eased by Purdue and Illinois, though Purdue kept it close in the first half with some torrid three-point shooting.
THING There's just one more game in this relatively easy stretch before the bear appears: @ IU, OSU, @ Wisconsin, @ MSU. Go 2-2 there and hold serve at home against MSU and Indiana late and they'll likely secure the title. Easier said than done.
OTHER THING Trey Burke is descending into some heroball business at times. In the Illinois game, Nnanna Egwu was repeatedly switched onto Burke; instead of trying to drive it was a lot of dribble dribble dribble questionable long two. Michigan would be better off if they moved the ball around more.
OTHER OTHER THING Here's a candidate for Most Frequently Repeated Sentence In Big Ten Basketball This year: "Nik Stauskas is not just a shooter™." Every time Stauskas puts the ball on the floor for a gliding layup or GAME… BLOUSES dunk or beauty touch pass assist, the color commentator says Nik Stauskas is not just a shooter even if we have been given ample evidence that he is not just a shooter already.
OTHER OTHER THING Meet the new Nik Stauskas: Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway is now 17/31 from three in Big Ten play.
OTHER CANDIDATES FOR MOST FREQUENTLY REPEATED SENTENCE IN BIG TEN BASKETBALL THIS YEAR
- "DJ Byrd from way downtown."
- "Steal by Victor Oladipo."
- "DJ Byrd from Cleveland."
- "Official time out to clean up Tom Izzo's froth."
- "This game does not involve Purdue but DJ Byrd just attempted a three pointer in it despite being in Indiana."
THING THEY ARE LIKE boom headshot
LAST WEEK Clubbed Penn State again. Broke out a inadvisable 2-3 zone at home against Michigan State and survived MSU's unexpectedly frequent and effective three-pointers to avoid a second home loss in the league.
THING Good God, Victor Oladipo: 21 points on 12 shots, many of those generated from his six steals. Steals that lead to fast break dunks seem to be worth far more than the two points they generate—you've defeated an offensive possession and then grab a free two on the other end. They're big deals; Oladipo is kind of good at that.
And then that thing where Oladipo goes from the three-point line to the basket in Denard Robinson time. PLUS: three blocks! Three OREB! I am impress, Oladipo.
OTHER THING Wither Cody Zeller? His absence (two points) in the Penn State blowout was essentially irrelevant; a similar disappearance against MSU was rescued by a late drive to the bucket and charge taken. Still, just nine points and not much in the way of peripheral stat-itude for Zeller in this one. I'd still be a little concerned about his production if I was an Indiana fan.
OTHER OTHER THING Was the 2-3 zone an attempt to hide Jordan Hulls?
OTHER OTHER OTHER THING Yogi Ferrell's shooting numbers aren't great but he was a major part of Keith Appling having a miserable night. Appling couldn't check Ferrell and ended up fouling out.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Last year's Indiana team except Victor Oladipo is awesome.
DESHAUN OF THE DEAD
3. Ohio State (15-4)
LAST WEEK Ran out to a huge lead versus Iowa, stopped scoring, almost gave it all back, yes this sounds familiar. Had no such problems against Penn State.
THING Iowa's defense was permissive enough to make the OSU box score look like an actual basketball team produced it instead of Deshaun Thomas and several undead people. Four Buckeyes hit double figures. Three managed it against Penn State, and Thomas was not Ohio State's leading scorer. Dios mio, man.
OTHER THING Thomas has still cracked the KPOY leaderboard. He's now tenth, and why not: despite jacking up almost a third of OSU's shots he's putting up excellent efficiency numbers and has a rock-bottom turnover rate. If he had gone to the NBA last year, OSU would be an NIT outfit. If you're looking for a Most Valuable Player that really emphasizes "valuable", he's it.
THING THEY ARE LIKE That scene at the end of Shaun of the Dead where Shaun and his zombie buddy are playing playstation—it's gonna be okay, you guys. Unless he eats me.
LAST WEEK Played Wisconsin game against Wisconsin, winning by two. Stayed in contact at Indiana thanks to blazing three-point shooting but never really threatened to take the lead.
THING Adreian Payne's three point shooting career:
- Entirety of freshman and sophomore years plus the first 16 games of this season: 1/4
- Last five games: 6/7
The miss was a desperation jack at the end of the Indiana game; he's hit every plausible three pointer he's attempted in January.
It's weird man.
OTHER THING ABOUT ADREIAN PAYNE He's looking kind of scary right now. It doesn't really show up in the box score outside of the three point shooting but he looks like a much better player. The charge Zeller took was one of those where the guy gets there after the guy with the ball takes off, and Zeller had forever because Payne leapt a thousand feet in the air from around the three point line. So… yeah, charge, but a really impressive charge.
50/50 he Puts It All Together around now and makes MSU into a real contender.
OTHER THING Michigan State had a huge nationally televised game and looked dumb; Indiana looked like Indiana.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES Against Wisconsin Nix and Payne combined to go 2/7 from the field with no FTAs, 3 assists, and four TOs, though these days who knows where Payne is shooting from.
Things were a bit better against Indiana: 8/14. No FTAs, but Nix had six assists, mostly on high-value open threes.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Flowers For Algernon Guy, but at what point on the cycle?
5. Wisconsin (14-6)
LAST WEEK Played two grim games with 50-some possessions in them, winning against Minnesota and losing to Michigan State.
THING They nearly won that game against Michigan State despite hitting 30% from both two and three and 39% from the free-throw line. Gross. Meanwhile, they didn't do much better against the Gophers—42%/32%/50%. If Wisconsin wants to play HORSE with Michigan that's a matchup Michigan will be fine with.
OTHER THING Wisconsin gave up only nine threes against MSU (19%) and 11 against Minnesota (24%). Preventing three-pointers is a skill. Unlike shooting free throws, it's one the Badgers have.
RYAN EVANS FT WATCH 3/6 last week. Sent to the line late in the Minnesota game, he barely scraped the rim on the first and flung it way too hard on the second, and was then lifted in the last few minutes. If you are trailing Wisconsin there are worse ideas than fouling him every time he touches the ball.
THING THEY ARE LIKE
LAST WEEK Locked in a tight game with Northwestern until the Wildcats unleashed the zone, whereupon they looked upon it like it was a space monolith and withered. Had Wisconsin-style game at Wisconsin, losing by one in a 51 possession game.
We can declare the Gopher renaissance slightly overstated. They'll still be a team you do not want to draw in the tournament… unless you can run an exotic zone.
THING You kind of had to see Minnesota disintegrate in front of your eyes to believe it, but the win percentage graph from Kenpom does a pretty good job of communicating how baffled the Gophers were once Northwestern deployed the 1-3-1:
Take Michigan's game against Pittsburgh and multiply it by 10. It was amazing watching Minnesota turn it over against the guy at the top of the zone over and over again. Does Tubby coach offense? Seriously.
OTHER THING Also Austin Hollins fouled out with 12 minutes left in that game. I'm usually a zealot about not chaining your best players to the bench with foul trouble; even I wouldn't grumble at hiding a guy with four on the bench until eight minutes or so
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR Rebounded 48% of their misses against Northwestern—Mbakwe had nine. However, got badly out-rebounded by Wisconsin en route to defeat.
OTHER TUBBY COACHING BITCH How the hell is this team 278th in defensive rebounding and first (by a mile) in offensive rebounding? They're last in the Big Ten in TOs surrendered, too. The Gophers look like a talented team with abnormally crappy coaching. A Michigan outfit featuring lots of Evan Smotrycz at the five finished 99th last year. There is no possible excuse for these Gophers to be bad on the defensive boards.
THING THEY ARE LIKE a dizzy King Kong who feels like he's about to throw up.
LAST WEEK Fell behind by lots against OSU, almost caught up, lost by nine. Had grim, grim first half against Purdue that morphed into super fun second half and OT; lost.
THING Okay, my love affair with these guys is over. Nobody on this team can shoot even a little bit. Freshman PG Mike Gesell had to take over the scoring load against Purdue, and while he's a pretty good freshman he is no Stauskas. He had to do this because…
OTHER THING Roy Devyn Marble has evaporated in Big Ten play. This week he was 3/15 from two, 1/7 from three. He's shooting 29%/25% since the conference season kicked off, and even that Indiana game when he hit 12 free throws saw him miss 13 of his 14 shots from the field. About the only thing he's done right this year is hit some threes against Michigan.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Maybe I should have termed them a quintessential Amaker bubble team.
LAST WEEK beat up on Nebraska, had every little run they made ruthlessly stomped out by Michigan.
THING Illinois is dying by the three. DJ Richardson scorched the nets for 30 points versus Nebraska, but only one of Illinois's 13 threes from the rest of the team went in and they scuffled to 32%. It was worse against Michigan, 23%. As the season goes along these things stop being anomalies and just become reality.
OTHER THING The last time Tyler Griffey hit a three, Michigan was #1 in the AP poll. Tyler Griffey had not yet been born.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH The rebounding has picked up. He secured a total of ten in the Michigan game. Unfortunately for the Illini, Egwu has started jacking up extremely inadvisable shots, perhaps as part of an attempt to impart a helpless fatalism into Illinois fans*.
*[A futile attempt since any Illinois fan who doesn't have it yet must be immune.]
THE ENNUI QUESTION Should I move them below the line? Mmm… not yet. They're 2-5 in the league but I assert they can make the tourney at 21-11, 8-10 in league play. Very few bubble teams are going to be able to stand up to wins over Gonzaga, Butler, and Ohio State.
Let's assume they win home outings against Penn State and Nebraska. Can Illinois win four of these games?
- HOME: Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue
- AWAY: MSU, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, OSU
I think they can. Likely? No. As unlikely as Kenpom thinks? (~20 percent.) No. And hell, it might be tough to leave them out at 7-11. Last year a 22-14 South Florida team with one good win (@ Louisville) and losses to Penn State, Auburn, and Old Dominion got in. Above the line they stay.
THING THEY ARE LIKE the pointless destruction and creation of meaningless human life
HENRI LINE OF ENNUI
LAST WEEK kept it close for a half against Michigan, whereupon their bullcrap threes abandoned them; was on the happy end of that fun Iowa-Purdue game.
THING AJ Hammons was a useless seven-foot lump against Michigan.
OTHER THING AJ Hammons was probably the best player on the court against Iowa, with apologies to Terone Johnson's double-double. While Hammons wasn't particularly effective on offense there was an obvious difference in Iowa's ability to get any shot worth having when he left the game.
OTHER OTHER THING Purdue's advancement is a bad thing for the league since they've got very little shot at an NCAA bid what with a loss to Eastern Michigan on the ol' record; honey Purdue don't care.
With DJ Byrd likely to be the only departure from this edition of the Boilers, a .500-ish Purdue will be eyeing large improvement and an NCAA bid next year. I project the rims at Mackey will experience a barrage of practice three-pointers heretofore unknown to man.
RONNIE JOHNSON THREE POINTER WATCH nyet
THING THEY ARE LIKE Something specifically designed to piss off Jim Delany. Garlic, then. Or rap. Like, early-90s rap that's about as offensive as bubbles. Bust A Move. Yes. Purdue is Bust A Move.
not that bust a move
/disapproves of loose women
/takes refuge in Bob Seger
LAST WEEK Picked up the Loki baton from Illinois, beating Minnesota by deploying the 1-3-1 in the face of the uncomprehending Gophers and then losing to Nebraska by lots.
THING Seriously, WTF, Northwestern?
OTHER THING Oh you were 6 of 29 from three.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Chaos.
11. Nebraska (11-10)
LAST WEEK DJ Richardson beat them by 20, with some help from the other Illini. And then they cruised against Northwestern. Life is weird.
THING For a guy who was supposedly out for the year, Brandon Ubel played a suspiciously large number of minutes against Northwestern: 39. Assertion: Brandon Ubel is not, in fact, out for the year.
THING THEY ARE LIKE corn quicksand
LAST WEEK Crubberated by Indiana. Not quite crubberated by Ohio State, but basically.
THING they ain't winning a single game this year in the league you guys
OTHER THING it's at Nebraska or nothin'
OTHER OTHER THING okay maybe Purdue at home
OTHER OTHER OTHER THING and everybody knows neither of those is happenin'
THING THEY ARE LIKE movies my wife likes
hoo boy you should see some of these movies
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 MICHIGAN, #2 Indiana, #3 Michigan State, #4 Ohio State, #5 Minnesota
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
Games relevant to your interest that are on the TV and may be worth watching after the first ten minutes. Bolded teams are suggested teams to root for, calibrated for …
1) helping M win conference title
2) best chance for quality-win pile-up to help M seeding
3) greatest number of tourney teams from league
4) eff Michigan State
5) also Wisconsin
Pitt at Louisville, 7 PM, ESPN
Kansas at West Virginia, 9PM, ESPN
Wisconsin at Ohio State, 7 PM, ESPN
Nebraska at Minnesota, 9PM, BTN
NC State at Virginia, 7 PM, ESPN2
Northwestern at MICHIGAN, 6:30 PM, BTN
Indiana at Purdue, 8:30 PM, BTN
Texas at Kansas State, 8PM, ESPN2
Illinois at Michigan State, 7 PM, ESPN
Penn State at Iowa, 8PM, ESPNU
Arkansas at Alabama, 9PM, ESPN2
Purdue at Northwestern, noon, ESPN2
Syracuse at Pitt, noon, ESPN
Miami at NC State, 4PM, CBS
Tennessee at Arkansas, 4PM, ESPN
Kansas State at Oklahoma, 6PM, ESPN2
Ohio State at Nebraska, 7 PM, BTN
MICHIGAN at Indiana, 9PM, ESPN
Iowa at Minnesota, 1PM, BTN
Wisconsin at Illinois, 3:30 PM, BTN