Dee Bost has a diagnosis for why the Mississippi State Bulldogs -- who were mentioned as a possible NCAA tournament team before the season, thanks in large part to the eligibility of highly touted but troubled forward Renardo Sidney -- have been so thoroughly bad for most of the season. That diagnosis? Severe circulatory deficiency. Or, to the layman, a lack of "heart": "The same thing I’ve been saying: Heart,” Bost said. “That’s all that’s missing. If we play with heart, and we compete, we should be in every game. No way in the world we should keep losing by 20 or 10-plus. All of our games should be close.”
An undefeated 20-0 record is already impressive enough. But the San Diego Union-Tribune argues that it's especially notable given San Diego State's various disadvantages. Union-Tribune writer Mark Zeigler cites four major examples: practice facilities, salaries, scheduling budget and travel. In other words, "money." From Ziegler: "SDSU’s budget for 'buy' games this season: $140,000. That got them two Division I foes, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. UNLV had a budget of $200,000 this season. Schools from the power conferences routinely will spend $500,000-plus [...] Without the ability to pay guarantees, you are forced to either go on the road for a similar payout or enter into home-and-home arrangements. Either way, the result is a healthy dose of road games early in the season that can ruin your chances at an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. SDSU knows. It has never received an NCAA at-large berth, and in several years one or two more wins -- or one less early-season road loss -- might have made the difference. This season, the Aztecs played four nonconference road games and four more on neutral courts." This is worth keeping in mind whenever we're talking about schools like San Diego State. Yes, the Aztecs are in a conference with schools that have plenty of cash to spend on sports. But the Aztecs aren't exactly rolling in it, which is why mid-major-ish success like this team's is worth celebrating.
CBS's Eric Angevine is puzzled by Butler's down season, which now includes a season sweep at the hands of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The obvious answer is defense. Or, to be more precise, a lack thereof: "Brad Stevens still has the best offensive team in the Horizon by a wide margin. The Bulldogs maintain a 114.3 adjusted offensive efficiency mark, which is nearly ten points better than Cleveland State, the next closest challenger. Looking at kenpom.com’s defensive efficiency numbers, however, Butler posts a 98.7. Defensive numbers are like golf scores – the lower the better. The Bulldogs have the worst number out of the league’s top four teams right now, and they’re inching toward the above-100 club, which features every member of the league’s bottom six, including Milwaukee."
Liberty cornered the market on 2010 Team USA members' little brothers. First it was Seth Curry, brother of Stephen. Now Liberty is rolling with Evan Gordon, younger sibling of former Indiana guard Eric Gordon.
I'm not sure why anyone would vote for Duke No. 1 in this week's poll, but, per the usual, someone decided to get frisky with their ballot (or just plain ignore it entirely). Naturally, this person ended up in Gary Parrish's Poll Attacks.
Last week, we learned that Jimmer Fredette has had 12 of his 13 (now 13-of-14 after Fredette's big night at Colorado State) career 30-points-plus scoring performances on the road. That's a crazy statistic, one that seems to defy explanation. But Rob Dauster gave it a crack Monday.
Seth Davis ranks his top 10 coach of the year candidates. I'd throw Mark Turgeon much higher in that list, but that's a minor quibble.
In the preseason, Lansing State Journal beat reporter Joe Rexrode predicted every game of Michigan State's season. Those predictions concluded with a 34-5 record and a national title celebration in Houston. That was a little optimistic, but not out of line with the national consensus. Needless to say, Sparty's year has not gone according to plan. On Tuesday, Rexrode offered an apology for buying into the hype, and then explained why the Spartans have underachieved so much thus far.
And, as always, some in-house stuff you should be aware of (if you're not already): Here's Diamond's latest Diamond in the Rough (I have never loved a series title so much as this one, you guys), a feature on New Orleans forward Zach Kinsley. Andy broke down the travails of the Minnesota Golden Gophers for his Daily Word yesterday. Dr. Joe hit us with another Bracketology Monday. Dana preps you for tonight's monster, Ohio State at Purdue. And Pat drops his latest Forde Minutes today.