College Basketball Nation: Gonzaga

Numbers To Know: Wednesday recap

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
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Player of the Night – Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

Jerrelle Benimon’s career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds led Towson, a team that went 1-31 last season, to a win over Vermont, the preseason favorite in the America East. The transfer from Georgetown will face his old team on Saturday. The Tigers snapped a 27-game road losing streak, picking up their first win since December 2010 at La Salle.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

Matthew Dellavedova scored 31 points and added seven assists, as the Gaels beat Drake 88-73. He’s just the third West Coast Conference player with 30 points and seven assists against a Division I team in the past 15 years (Manny Quezada and Dan Dickau). Not all of his numbers were great though. Dellavedova also committed nine turnovers, the most for any Saint Mary’s player in at least 15 years.

Bench Player of the Night – Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

Kevin Pangos was the hero of Gonzaga’s 71-69 win over Washington State, but Kelly Olynyk kept them in it. He scored a career-high 22 points, all coming in the second half. He went 10-for-12 from the field after halftime, and accounted for half of Gonzaga’s second-half points. At 9-0, Gonzaga is off to its best start since joining Division I.

Freshman of the Night – Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Jahii Carson scored 20 points and added five rebounds and six assists, as the Sun Devils beat Hartford 71-63. He’s just the sixth freshman with a 20-5-5 game this season. Carson currently ranks fourth among freshmen in scoring (18.3 ppg) and sixth in assists (5.3). Those averages stack up nicely to one of the greatest seasons for a Pac-12 freshman point guard. Terrell Brandon averaged 17.9 ppg and 6.0 apg for Oregon in 1989-90.

Ugly Stat of the Night - Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee failed to score 40 points for a second straight game, falling to Virginia 46-38. It’s the first time the Vols have been held under 40 in consecutive games since February 1946. It’s also the first time since 1943 that Tennessee has lost back-to-back games while failing to score 40.
Thanks to the annual national phenomenon that is March Madness, we know all about VCU now -- Butler, Gonzaga and George Mason, too.

But what does such awareness mean for schools that were not quite in the national consciousness before a magical men’s basketball tournament run? Millions of dollars, significant increases in student applications and even smarter students, according to various studies.

No school can afford the kind of publicity a deep run into the tournament offers. Studies done by media firms Borshoff and Meltwater for Butler University after it reached the title game the past two years show a combined publicity value for the university of about $1.2 billion.

Butler’s 2010 run to the national title game resulted in $639.3 million in publicity value, including $100 million from the CBS broadcast of the national title game. Last year’s appearance was valued at more than $512 million. Neither calculation included the publicity value of radio broadcasts or talk shows, but instead focused on television, print and online news coverage.

The exposure cascades off-court, as experts point to a positive correlation between athletic performance and application rates. They call it the “Flutie effect” after quarterback Doug Flutie, who was credited with a 30 percent increase in applications at Boston College the year after his Heisman Trophy win.

A 2009 study by brothers and economics professors Jaren and Devin Pope showed that just making it into the men’s NCAA tournament produces a 1 percent increase in applications the following year. Each round a team advances increases the percentage: 3 percent for Sweet 16 teams, 4 to 5 percent for Final Four teams and 7 to 8 percent for the winner.

The only way to achieve similar application increases would be to increase financial aid or reduce tuition by 2 to 24 percent, the study said.

"These numbers tend to be larger for private schools than for public schools," co-author Jaren Pope said. "For example, private schools in the Sweet 16 see a 4 percent to 5 percent increase in applications compared to a 2 percent to 3 percent increase for public schools."

Butler University experienced a whopping 41 percent increase in applications after its 2010 run to the title game. George Mason University saw a 54 percent increase in out-of-state applications following its 2006 Final Four appearance. And within a month of being defeated in the first round of the 2000 tournament, Central Connecticut State University saw application rates increase by more 12 percent.

The impact of admitting more out-of-state students can be profound. For example, George Mason’s in-state tuition rate is $9,066 per year, while out-of-state tuition is nearly three times as much at $26,544.

Rising application rates also can allow a school either to increase enrollment or be more selective. The Popes’ study found that basketball success did not lead most schools to increase enrollment but did allow for increased selectivity.

The study concluded, “… schools which do well in basketball are able to recruit an incoming class with 1 to 4 percent more students scoring above 500 on the math and verbal SAT. Similarly, these schools could expect 1 to 4 percent more of their incoming students to score above a 600 on the math and verbal SAT.”

Omar Samhan sticks it to the Zags

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
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Saint Mary's star center Omar Samhan had already been labeled "The Most Hated Man in Spokane" before helping his team beat Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament final.

During Monday's game, he played the villain again while picking up a technical foul for giving a slight shove to Robert Sacre during a break in the action, and the two exchanged words. Samhan the day after was happy to (jokingly) reveal what he told Sacre, who he's mixed it up with before:
"All I said was me and Coach B [Randy Bennett] are going for a victory dinner, and if he didn’t have any dinner plans, he was more than welcome to come with us," Samhan told KNBR radio in San Francisco.

Yep, he's quotable, all right.

Bennett said later on in the interview that he did in fact let the team celebrate the night away at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas before heading home to Moraga. He also said Samhan isn't perfect.
"Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water is the expression for him," Bennett told KNBR. "He’s got it. He’s got a huge heart, he’s emotional. Like any player, you want to have control of the emotions, and he’s improved so much in that area from his freshman year until now."

Still, The Spokesman-Review (from Spokane, of course) is taking issue with the stunt Samhan pulled during pregame introductions when he left Zags guard Demetri Goodson hanging and "seemed to cross the line into poor sportsmanship."
It started with his refusal to take part in the customary hand shake with the opponent at center court. Demetri Goodson was introduced and headed to the center circle. Samhan was introduced and met his teammates near the free-throw line. He looked over and caught Coach Randy Bennett’s eye, who quickly looked away. Samhan stayed put and glared either toward Goodson or the GU bench (couldn’t tell from my angle) in a hackneyed move that you’ve seen in every boxing press conference stare-down.

The big men on the Saint Mary's side of the bracket might want to take all of this into consideration. Who knows what Samhan has planned for his next act?

TMA: St. Mary's does it

March, 9, 2010
3/09/10
9:02
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The Morning After is our daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

St. Mary's 81, Gonzaga 62: Well, that settles it, huh? The Gaels entered Monday night not really needing, but definitely wanting, a win over rival Gonzaga. St. Mary's was a No. 11 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket; it managed to avoid an early WCC upset and had pretty much sealed its tournament fate. Surely a loss to top 15-ranked Gonzaga wouldn't hurt that fate, would it?

No matter: St. Mary's toppled Gonzaga, and how. ("And how": Totally underused phrase in 2010. We need to bring this thing back. And how! OK, I'll stop now.) Omar Samhan, the Gaels' leading scorer and rebounder, had a quiet night, but it didn't matter. Samhan's slack was picked up by a pair of efficient shooting performances from teammates, one expected, one not. Second-leading scorer Mickey McConnell dropped 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Ben Allen -- the former Indiana forward -- made 4-of-6 from behind the arc, scoring a career high 20 points. That shooting was the main difference between the Gaels and the Bulldogs, who, at 45.9 effective field goal percentage, simply couldn't keep pace.

Again, the win was obviously a tournament guarantee for Randy Bennett's team, and it will no doubt help boost the Gaels' tournament seed, possibly into single-digit territory. But a quick look at the Gaels' postgame quotes: "Samhan, one of just two seniors in uniform for the Gaels, said he wanted this win 'more than anything else in my life.'" -- and you know it means a whole lot more. It's St. Mary's first win over Gonzaga in the WCC tourney in 10 tries. It's a major relief for a team consistently bullied by one of the best programs in the country. It's a big deal. And how.

Old Dominion 60, William and Mary 53; Siena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT): Two teams with tournament expectations, two wins, one excellent wrap piece by Andy Katz. Go to it. Oh, and that 0-313 streak we talked about yesterday? Make that 0-314. Oof.

Everywhere else: Humble IPFW ended its potential Cinderella run with a loss to a heavily favored Oakland team in the Summit League semifinals. ... Fellow Indiana-Purdue partner school IUPUI fared better in its Summit semi, hanging on to take a close win over Oral Roberts to advance to the Summit title game. ... Western Kentucky won't be making another appearance in the NCAA tournament, as Big Red (the best mascot ever, by the way) bowed out in the Sun Belt semifinal. ... The winner of that game, Troy, will take on North Texas in the Sun Belt championship Tuesday night.
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Embrace the conference tournament fever! Here's Monday night's rundown.

William & Mary vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Who's ready for their close up? William & Mary and Old Dominion will play for the CAA Championship in Richmond, Va., tonight, a game that will be broadcast is as primetime a college hoops spot as possible. For many of you, it will be your first glimpse of two CAA teams on the court at the same time all year. What better time to study up than now? In that spirit, here's three important things to know about tonight's game. Impress your friends, or something:

  1. William & Mary has beaten every CAA team at least once in 2009-10 ... except for Old Dominion. The Monarchs beat the Tribe (let's take a second and appreciate just how awesome each of these teams' nicknames are, because they are awesome) twice this year, the first a three-point squeaker at William & Mary, the second a 19-point blowout at ODU.
  2. Old Dominion is far and away the more efficient team: The Monarchs are ranked No. 34 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rating, a full 80 spots ahead of William & Mary. Besides being the best offensive rebounding team per possession in the country (eat your heart out, West Virginia), the Monarchs make their bones on defense, where they're No. 18 in the nation, and where they hold opponents to 30.1 percent shooting from three. This is bad news for William & Mary, who rank fourth in the country in their ratio of 3-point attempts to field goal attempts; the Tribe shoot a tremendous amount of 3-point attempts, and if ODU can close out on shooters well, it could be a tough offensive night for the underdog.
  3. And what underdogs they are. Per ESPN researcher Jeremy Lundblad: "Since the advent of major college basketball -- or what we now call Division I -- in 1947-48, many teams have come and some have left D-I. However, only five have been playing major college basketball that whole time and never made the NCAA tournament. Northwestern, Army, William & Mary, Saint Francis (NY) and The Citadel were all part of the original 160 teams in D-I, but they were a collective 0-310 in trying to make the NCAA tournament entering this season." That number is now 0-313, as the Citadel, Army, and St. Francis have all bowed out of their respective conference tournaments. That leaves William & Mary fighting for their first NCAA tournament bid in history, a record that spans not only their own misfortunes but the misfortunes of several other clubs. Can the streak be broken? It'll be fun to find out.

St. Mary's vs. No. 14 Gonzaga, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The more things change, the more Gonzaga beats St. Mary's to win the WCC conference tournament outright. I'm pretty sure that's how that saying goes. OK, maybe not, but it certainly applies: The Gaels are in the exact same position they were last year -- stuck on the bubble and needing a win over the hated Bulldogs to ensure an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The Gaels are in better shape than in 2009, though: Joe Lunardi has St. Mary's in as a No. 11 seed already. Last year required a hurried return from injury from star player Patty Mills, and it didn't matter. Gonzaga rolled over St. Mary's in the conference title game, ending the Gaels' long-shot hopes of sneaking into the tournament with one dominant 40-minute stretch of basketball. This year is a slightly different story -- St. Mary's is looking like an at-large team with or without tonight's win. But don't for a second think St. Mary's doesn't want to improve their seed, not to mention dish out a little bit of revenge for years of Bulldog dominance out west.

Everywhere else: Siena's at-large chances died with their BracketBusters loss to Butler, but if the Saints can complete their run through the MAAC tournament with a win over Fairfield in tonight's championship game, it won't matter ... When I think Appalachian State, I think "upset"; the Wofford Terriers would very much like to avoid any such thing in the SoCon title game ... the 16-14 IPFW Mastodons will face Oakland in one of the Summit League semifinals, while Oral Roberts and IUPUI do battle in the other ... Western Kentucky will look to get one step closer to going back to the NCAA tournament in its Sun Belt semifinal match up with Troy ... and Denver will face North Texas in the other half of Hot Springs's bracket.
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Tuesday night's rundown.

Illinois at No. 7 Ohio State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Of any team facing bubble implications to play tonight, Illinois' situation is perhaps the most fluid. A win at Ohio State puts the Illini in the absolutely-in pile; a loss leaves them right about where they are now, if not worse off. Losing would make the Illini would 18-12 overall, the sort of record the committee will not be perfectly thrilled with, and Illinois would still have to fend off loss No. 13 when Wisconsin comes to Champaign, Ill. on Sunday.

The good news is Illinois has proven capable of beating top Big Ten teams on the road before. The bad news is that Illinois' style plays right into the Buckeyes' hands: Few teams prevent free throws quite like the Buckeyes, and few teams refuse to pocket their jump shots and attack the rim quite like the Illini. If Illinois can reverse this trend for a night -- if they can get Demetri McCamey to attack the basket and get forwards Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis some good looks against Ohio State's somewhat undersized, shallow front line -- Bruce Weber's charges have a chance. If not, well, Ohio State is better and more efficient than Illinois in just about every aspect of the game. Things don't bode well.

No. 19 Vanderbilt at Florida, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of bubble teams in need of help ... Florida, come on down. Joe Lunardi has Florida as a No. 10 seed in the tournament right now, but thanks to a close loss at Georgia (which is actually not that horrible loss, given how well Georgia has played at home this season), Florida could use a big win tonight before a daunting trip to Rupp Arena on Sunday.

Make no mistake: That's what a win over Vanderbilt would be. Big. The Commodores have been a steady force in the SEC all season. Their only league losses have been to Kentucky and a blowout at Georgia -- there's that pesky Georgia team again -- and while not a great defensive team, Kevin Stallings' bunch is very difficult to stop on the offensive end. Vanderbilt's attack is nicely balanced between forwards A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor, and guard Jermaine Beal, all who shoot a plus-50 effective field goal percentage. Florida's lack of a true post presence could hurt them against the 6-foot-11 Ogilvy. Then again, Florida's strength isn't its size; it's speed. Make Ogilvy work away from the hoop on defense -- the sudden offensive brilliance of forward Chandler Parsons applies here -- and the Gators can make Vanderbilt exceedingly uncomfortable. And then we can stop talking about the Florida's bubble issues forever. I'm cool with that.

Everywhere else: Cincinnati doesn't share Illinois' and Florida's bubble anxiety -- it's entirely out of the picture, now -- but a win over Villanova couldn't hurt matters, I guess ... Gonzaga would put the cap on another WCC title season by topping Cal-State Bakersfield tonight ... With a win at Marshall, UTEP would seal the outright Conference-USA crown ... Baylor will put its third-place standing in the Big 12 on the line at Texas Tech ... Likewise for Missouri at Iowa State ... Minnesota plays at Michigan in yet another battle of the upper midwest's most disappointing teams ... and deadlocked Big East teams Louisville and Marquette will play a game both teams want, but don't necessarily need, in regards to NCAA tournament hopes. Marquette is involved, so it's a safe bet the game will come down to the wire. That should be fun.

Mark Few also dislikes expansion

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
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Most coaches seem to love expansion. We've been over this before. Most people against expansion tend not to be in charge of basketball programs. They tend to be fans and media worried, with good reason, that expanding the tournament will ruin a good thing merely for the sake of the NCAA's bottom line. Coaches, on the other hand, see an easier route to the NCAA tournament (and thus less pressure to make the tournament) and have almost uniformly jumped on board.

Last weekend, Jim Calhoun broke the mold, saying he still wanted to hear a good argument for why expanding the NCAA tournament would actually make it better and not just more profitable. Add Gonzaga's Mark Few to Calhoun's company. Few spoke out against tournament expansion on Dan Patrick's radio show Friday, sounding a lot like most fans, who are pretty sure they like the NCAA tournament just the way it is, thanks:
"I like the way the tournament is right now," Few said. "I think it's an honor when that name flashes up there on Selection Sunday. It's a sense of accomplishment -- not everybody gets invited. I mean, just think of the teams that aren't going to make it this year. I think if we went to 96, you just totally lose that type of feeling and it would be so watered down that I think our regular season wouldn't have as much importance."

"There's a tremendous amount of expectations and pressure up here (in Spokane, Wash.) to make the tournament," he said. "So if it did go to 96 (teams), that would probably make my job a lot easier."

But Few also said that the excitement of the charge toward the tournament, including the madness that is the NCAA tournament bubble, could get lost in the shuffle if the field were expanded.

"Think about what we're dealing with here down the stretch ... Everybody is talking about 'well, do you think they have enough wins to get in' ... and all of a sudden you kind of lose that if we go the other direction."
I'm not sure Few's argument about the bubble is entirely valid. Even with 96 teams, there would still be a bubble. Would it be as rigorous? No. But it would be a definite bubble -- teams would need to play well to get in the tournament, and other teams would need to play poorly to miss out.

Still, though, it remains refreshing to hear a little dissent on the matter from someone who, like Calhoun, has every logical professional reason to push for expansion. Think of how much easier Mark Few's job would be if Gonzaga didn't need to be Gonzaga every year to get into the tournament. But expansion, if it happens, shouldn't be about making coaches' jobs easier. It should be about making the tournament better. Priorities, please.
Saddle Up is our nightly preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Thursday's rundown.

Tulsa at No. 5 Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Hey, Dad, I can't see real good. Is that -- waves glasses up and down face -- is that a nonconference game I see over there? Why, yes, Matt Foley, it is: Those of you who thought we were done with any and all nonconference fun until the NCAA tournament were wrong. Instead, Tulsa will head to Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight to play Duke. Why does this game exist? Two reasons: 1) Because Coach K wanted a late-season nonconference game to help prepare his team for the NCAA tournament, and 2) because Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik wants his team to experience playing an elite team in a hostile road environment.

Both missions will be accomplished. The slightly disappointing Golden Hurricane will get their experience and a long-shot chance to do what no team has done this year (beat Duke at home) or in 77 tries (beat Duke at home in a nonconference game). Duke will put Tulsa through the meat grinder in the name of tournament preparation. Both parties will go home happy. The only way to change this status quo -- and maybe the only way for Tulsa to get in the tournament, with a big emphasis on the maybe (and barring the C-USA tournament, of course) -- is for it to pull off an shocker-of-the-season-level upset. But don't hold your breath.

South Carolina at No. 2 Kentucky, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The only reason Kentucky isn't, as of Feb. 25, sitting at 27-0 and dealing with writers like me trying to put into perspective how impressive that run is, and how likely the Cats are to finish a perfect season, and so on and so forth, is South Carolina. More specifically, Devan Downey. The diminutive guard and his cohorts dealt Kentucky its only loss of the season on Jan. 26. Of course, that game was in Columbia, where the Gamecocks are game. Away from home, South Carolina is an ugly 1-8, and tonight's match up requires Downey and company to play in front of 24,000 screaming Kentucky fans, a far cry from the last time these two faced off. That alone would lend to a blowout tonight; add in Kentucky's reborn focus in recent weeks and its likely desire to punish South Carolina for dealing John Wall and company that lone loss and, well, yeah. Things could get ugly.

Everywhere else: Mike Montgomery will hope Cal fans show up to tonight's game with Arizona, as the Bears can inch closer to their first conference title in 50 years. ... Santa Clara will go to Gonzaga for tonight's late West Coast showdown. ... Wisconsin travels to all-but-dead Indiana; for seeding purposes, the Badgers can't afford another letdown. ... Iowa-Northwestern is your early ESPN game, and don't try to hide your excitement, either. ... Georgia will look to climb back to .500 at Vanderbilt; good luck. ... and, this being Thursday night, there are a host of Pac-10 games that (other than Cal-Zona, I guess) don't mean a whole lot more than which team gets which seed in the Pac-10 tournament, when the real anarchic fun ought to begin.

Good day for Loyola Marymount, not Zags

February, 19, 2010
2/19/10
12:57
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Exactly two weeks to the 20th anniversary of the death of Hank Gathers, Loyola Marymount pulled off a historic win in Hank's House.

LMU stunned No. 9 Gonzaga 74-66 at Gersten Pavilion on Thursday, marking the Lions' first win against a ranked team since Bo Kimble and the 1990 team captivated the nation by beating Alabama in the Sweet 16 while playing with the grief of Gathers' death. Since that day in Oakland, the Lions had been 0-35 against Top 25 teams.

[+] EnlargeAshley Hamilton
AP Photo/Alex GallardoAshley Hamilton scored 17 points and had six rebounds in Loyola Marymount's upset of No. 9 Gonzaga.
After this one, though, the students were rushing the court.

Second-year coach Max Good put the upset in perspective, as he hoped it would be the start of LMU's return to at least something resembling the glory days.

"Everyone's running around all excited," Good said by phone. "The wins are just a little less miserable than the losses."

The Lions, at 14-13 with road wins against Notre Dame and USC, have more victories this season than in the previous two combined (eight). This despite being plagued by injuries and lacking a single senior on their roster.

Credit Good, known for being a foul-mouthed disciplinarian, for kick-starting the Lions' return thus far to respectability and getting players he half-jokingly calls "social misfits" to perform.

"My first job is to make these kids graduate," Good said before repeating the mantra he uses on them.

"Prisons and cemeteries are full of people that make bad five-second decisions."

Even during the game, Good sent sophomore guard Kevin Young to the bench, and the two exchanged words while Good said he was trying to explain an error made on the court. Good followed him to the end of the bench and appeared to very briefly put his hand on Young's neck.

Asked if he regretted the physical contact, Good said, "I was just trying to get him calmed down. Of course not. Anyone that got that has too much time on their hands.

"Kevin is just a very emotional kid and very intense competitor and sometimes will sulk. He's not a good kid. He's a great kid."

Ashley Hamilton scored 17 points to lead LMU, and Oregon transfer Drew Viney added 16 points and 10 rebounds to help the Lions to the upset.

Gonzaga, meanwhile, is appearing vulnerable and could take a hit in its tournament seeding after shooting 34.4 percent and suffering its second West Coast Conference loss. The Zags lead Saint Mary's by a half-game and Portland by a game in the standings, but have already swept both teams.

"Gonzaga’s still Gonzaga," Good said. "The rest of the teams are validated because they set the bar. That’s where we want to get to."
  • That's the argument made by Mike Miller at NBC. Most fans are probably noticing that Duke-North Carolina doesn't have the same flair in 2010 as it usually does, and that's for obvious reasons: The Tar Heels aren't very good. At 13-10 overall and 2-6 in the ACC, UNC has squandered a wealth of a talent and a high preseason ranking, and most sane predictions would have Duke rolling over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill tonight. Then again, Duke isn't the best road team in the world, and it's not like North Carolina lacks talent. So hey, maybe Mike's right. Maybe this thing is a classic. We can hope, can't we?
  • Similarly, Stewart Mandel argues that despite a loss of luster, Duke-UNC's stakes "couldn't be higher."
  • Much has been made of Duke's "decline" this year. After the Georgetown loss, the buzz was that Duke wasn't dominant anymore, and thus wasn't fun to hate. (You would think it would be more fun to hate a team that's not playing well; you get to point and laugh far more frequently. But I guess not.) In any case, UNC fan blog Carolina March actually dug up a decade's worth of tempo-free numbers and examined this so-called decline. Disclaimer: This is a UNC blog discussing Duke, so don't expect an unbiased analysis. But the numbers do speak for themselves.
  • Want the inside scoop on Arizona's NCAA violations? Here's your must-read.
  • John Calipari posted a Twitpic (something the youngs do when they're sharing photos online, or something) depicting John Wall sitting down for a Slam photo shoot in a blatantly mispelled Kentucky jersey. Rather than the normal spelling, the state is spelled "K-e-n-t-c-u-k-y," which would be very difficult for a play-by-play announcer to pronounce. The reason? Calipari wanted to test Kentucky fans' powers of observation. They're apparently better than mine, because it took me like five minutes to figure out what letters were misspelled. I need a Red Bull.
  • Gonzaga fans are loving the re-emergence of the Zags' big men.
  • Kyle Whelliston writes a typically excellent essay on the importance of a coach's name on the floor, and how that importance weighs against the celebrity status of the average major-college coach in 2010.
  • Speaking of "typically excellent," Mr. Mark Titus has a new blog post today. Are you excited? I know you're excited. Prepare for passages like this: "For the past few years, I’ve been told by various people throughout the Ohio State basketball program that I 'don’t do anything', and by various people I obviously mean Evan “The Villain” Turner. This idea stems from the fact that I’m not called upon to stay after practice and shoot extra shots, I don’t have to do all the drills the scholarship guys are required to do, and I’m really not expected to contribute in any way. I see where The Villain is coming from, but still, I like to think that putting up 19 points in a 90 minute practice last year counts as me doing something, not to mention the various other instances over the past few years in which I’ve been virtually unguardable." And that's only the first paragraph.
  • The CAA is kicking into high gear, and CAA Hoops has devised what I consider to be a awesome aptitude for alliteration. They're calling it "the official CAA Season Shaper Stretch." It rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?
  • The Quad has a full rundown of crucial mid-major conference games you should be paying attention to Wednesday night.
  • Dan Hanner asks: Why did Wisconsin abandon the interior so quickly against Illinois? The Badgers are usually preternaturally patient, and when the shots aren't falling, they're well-coached enough to use that swing offense to get post looks from block-to-block screens. And yet, after being punched in the mouth early by Illinois, they didn't do that. Weird.
  • Sidney Lowe may or may not survive this season at NC State -- his ability to get some serious competition out of a team most picked to finish last in the ACC bears some consideration in that decision -- but if he does, his group of young players could be dancing again, writes Jeff Goodman.
  • South Carolina's Devan Downey was held out of Tuesday's practice, but it looks like he'll be ready to play Florida tonight. I'm sure the Gators are thrilled.
  • Oh, in case you were wondering, Connecticut interim coach George Blaney will be coaching at Syracuse this evening. Blaney has no idea when Calhoun will return.
  • Jarvis Varnado is steadily closing in on the NCAA's all-time blocks record; Joe Lemire details the march.
  • And from the ESPN section of the college hoops world, be sure to check out Pat Forde's latest Minutes, which includes a rather awesome list of the best and worst cities in college basketball. Also see: Andy Katz's quick hitters from a snow-logged travel session Monday, Dana O'Neil's live chat at 2 p.m. ET today.
As always, follow me on Twitter to send me links and tips. Try to avoid the midwestern earthquakes.
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Thought for the morning: Even if you have to work on Saturday, Friday still feels awesome. That never goes away. Why is that? What's so special about this day? Anyway, per the usual, try not to make it awkward.

No. 7 Purdue 78, Indiana 75: It's hard to say when Indiana fans are going to start feeling discouraged by games like Thursday night's loss to highly ranked and obviously superior rival Purdue, when they won't be able to take moral victories away from losses like this, when their patience will eventually run out. It isn't happening yet, and it shouldn't -- and last night's game proved why. Sure, the Hoosiers didn't pull out the victory. But for a team that started last year's season with one returning player, and is relying on freshmen and sophomores and two transfers, lost its high scorer and most promising youngster Maurice Creek to a kneecap fracture in late December, to stay with Purdue up to a last-second Verdell Jones three that hit the front rim, well, that's an accomplishment. The Hoosiers played hard. They never gave up. The crowd was rocking. For a moment, you could forget the Hoosiers were still in rebuilding mode; the team and the arena and everyone else seemed to forget it too. It was just Purdue-Indiana, just like the good old days. That this was even possible is a testament to the job Tom Crean has done at IU. He hasn't been perfect, to be sure, but if teams take on the personality of their coaches, Crean is one hard-working, thorough, and determined dude -- and IU will be back in the top 20 sooner rather than later.

Give some credit to the Boilermakers, too. It's not easy to win in Assembly Hall, even when the team there isn't vintage Indiana. This year's Boilermakers are the first team to do so since 1999. How'd they do it? They kept up with a torrid Hoosiers offense with buckets of their own, and they took advantage of their size and athleticism by getting to the rim and getting fouled. (Purdue posted a 50 percent free throw rate. Shooting this many free throws is helpful.) It was an impressive win, the Boilermakers' fifth in a row.

No. 9 Duke 86, No. 19 Georgia Tech 67: Take a good long look at Duke's four factors output from last night's blowout win over Georgia Tech. It's crazy. A 55.4 FG percentage. An 18.2 percent turnover rate. A 45.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. A 64.3 percent (!!) free throw rate. Do any one of these things, and your offense should be in good shape; do all three of them, and you can chalk up 1.3 points per trip, which is what the Dukies somewhat insanely did last night. No wonder Pomeroy's numbers still love this team so much: They are efficient. Whether they can put together these sorts of performances on the road is a different question. Andy Katz made a good point last night: Duke, despite being a less talented team than Kansas, never seems to get pushed the same way Kansas does at home. That's a huge home court advantage; no wonder Coach K didn't schedule any real non-conference road games other than the one required by Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Kansas can take its show on the road this year. Duke hasn't. The Dukies are 14-0 in Cameron Indoor Stadium and 1-4 outside it. Do the Crazies really matter that much? Are Duke's shooters just that used to Cameron's rims? Duke is an awfully good team, but it's weird they can't prove it off-campus.

Everywhere else: In other "road conference games are hard to win" news, Tennessee hit a drought at the wrong time Thursday night, scoring a mere seven points in the last eight minutes at LSU but avoiding the upset all the same, winning 59-54. ... Portland can call itself a victim of scheduling: The Pilots are a solid team capable of upsetting Gonzaga, but not right after a Gonzaga loss. ... Butler went to 12-0 in the Horizon with a hard-fought home win over Detroit. Gordon Hayward led with 18 points and 10 boards. ... Florida continues to get the benefit of buzzer-beating shots. Erving Walker's jumper with 11 seconds left lifted the Gators to a one-point win at Alabama. ... It might be time to pay attention to Maryland again. The Terps went on the road for their latest ACC win, topping Florida State in Tallahassee, and are 5-2 in the conference, and one game behind rival Duke, which should make Feb. 13's trip to Cameron Indoor mighty interesting. ... Notre Dame beat Cincinnati handily in South Bend. ... For more on last night's Pac-10 results, check out Diamond and Andy's posts early this morning.

Saddle Up: Time to test Tech

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
3:59
PM ET
Saddle Up is our nightly preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Oh, come on. You can always record the new "Parks and Recreation." Catch it after the games! Anyway, here's Thursday night's rundown.

No. 19 Georgia Tech at No. 9 Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Purdue's rivalry showdown with Indiana will be on the main network tonight, but those of you unconcerned with Midwestern hoops provincialism will probably be more interested in this. It's a good one: Georgia Tech toppled Duke back before Duke's road woes were an apparent problem, back when Duke's record matched its gaudy efficiency numbers. Since then, Georgia Tech has become even more confusing: Is this the team that loses at Virginia? Or the team that wins at UNC? And what does a tight road loss at Florida State, followed by an all-cylinders-pumping home blowout of Wake Forest really mean? I have no idea. Georgia Tech is an enigma -- a dynamic squad with enough young talent (look no further than freshman Derrick Favors here) to compete for the ACC title, but who has put it all together once or twice thus far. Tonight's a legitimate chance for the Jackets to show us who they really are. Win at Duke, and the rest is gravy.

No. 7 Purdue at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: You've already heard plenty about What It All Means, what the rivalry says about the state of Indiana, and why, despite the Hoosiers' post-Kelvin Sampson morass, this is still a hot ticket in the Midwest. You'll no doubt hear plenty more of it tonight. For now, let's focus on the hoops. Since dropping three in a row to start the Big Ten season, Purdue has rattled off four straight wins. Much has been made of Purdue's lack of a "true" point guard, but the Boilermakers' best quality is that they never turn the ball over; they're the No. 7 team in the country in that all-important tally.

Purdue is also more than capable at turning other teams over, and that just so happens to be Indiana's worst quality -- the Hoosiers give the ball away on 22.3 percent of their possessions. Indiana is not as incapable of upset wins as last year. If the Hoosiers keep turnovers low and make enough shots to keep Purdue within striking distance, they have a chance. And hey, the home crowd never hurts; Indiana is much better in Assembly Hall than it is away from it. Still no one would expect Indiana to win this game, and the numbers back that up. The Boilermakers are tough, physical, and experienced, all qualities IU is still figuring out. This is a great rivalry, to be sure. Whether this year's version will live up to that history is less certain.

Everywhere else: You would have been forgiven for thinking Tennessee's season was effectively over after the Tyler Smith fiasco; you, me, and everyone else would have been wrong. The Vols are still in the Top 25, still fighting for the SEC title and still a viable NCAA tourney team. They'll try to keep their surprising run going with a visit to LSU, which has a chance to prove its not actually the worst major conference team in the country. ... Portland is one of Gonzaga's few fellow contenders in the WCC; pity for the Pilots they're stuck playing Gonzaga just after the Zags dropped their first conference game of the year. ... Butler welcomes a surprisingly tough Detroit team to Indianapolis; the return of former Indiana characters Eli Holman (who famously threw a potted plant in Tom Crean's office) and coach Ray McCallum should be interesting. ... Maryland will try to get back to its early ACC form with a tough road visit to Florida State. ... How could it possibly get any worse for UNC? Losing to Virginia Tech and going to 2-5 in the ACC would be a start. ... Finally, in the Pac-10, Cal will travel to USC and attempt to get a game up on Arizona in the conference standings; meanwhile, Arizona will have a daunting task at Washington.
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 6 West Virginia 70, No. 21 Pittsburgh 51: Who wants to go play in Morgantown? Not me. Granted, I am not a college basketball team, so I don't have to worry about that. If I was an opposing team, though, I would officially see the angry fans -- the people who threw spare change onto the court (make it rain!) as Pitt rebounded and closed the deficit last night, prompting Bob Huggins to grab the microphone and tell fans "that's stupid" -- and I would get a little nervous. But the real cause for concern is the Mountaineers themselves. West Virginia is officially finding its stride. Huggins' group has won five straight over Big East foes in consistent and overpowering ways, especially on the offensive glass -- WVU grabbed 57.6 percent of its misses on offense last night, leading to a variety of second-chance buckets and putbacks, and that's the key right there. That's how West Virginia wins. They don't have to shoot the ball all that well. They just have to rebound. If you can stop them, you can win, but good luck: No one's figured it out yet.

Pittsburgh shouldn't be too discouraged by this result, which started OK and then got ugly after the half. (Speaking of ugly and true to its name, the Backyard Brawl included some mild brawl-like occurrences late in the game.) Why? Because the Panthers never really found their shot, and despite a high number of free throws and plenty of offensive rebounds of their own, the lack of shooting wasn't enough. It should correct itself in time. That might not make Jamie Dixon, whose team has now lost four of its last five, feel any better. But it's true.

No. 1 Kansas 72, Colorado 66: I barely previewed this game in Saddle Up, and that tiny mention was merely this: "New No. 1 Kansas will try to avoid the fate of last week's No. 1 when it hits the road for a meeting with a marginal conference opponent." Lesson learned: Don't sleep on marginal conference opponents at home. Of course I knew this already, but sometimes it takes a little reminder, and last night's thrilling back-and-forth in Boulder (my third favorite college town of all-time, and I've only been there for like three hours) was all that and more.

Part of me wants to say I knew Colorado had this in them -- the Buffs were pesky against Gonzaga and Arizona in Maui in November, after all. But I didn't. Rather, I expected Kansas to take control of the No. 1 seed and avoid the road pitfalls that have so frequently plagued other No. 1s this year. Oh well. The Jayhawks weren't at their finest, and Colorado deserves credit for finding a way to hang in despite not really beating Kansas in any particular phase of the game, but after Colorado missed its last-second opportunity in regulation, you had to figure Kansas would overpower the Buffaloes in overtime. So it did, and so it stays. But at least it was interesting on the way down.

South Florida 72, No. 8 Georgetown 64: "Y'all come watch Dominique Jones play!" That was the sentence screamed from Georgetown's court by -- who else? --Dominique Jones Wednesday night, just after Jones scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half to give South Florida its biggest win in program history. Um, you guys? Maybe we should listen to him. If you caught any glimpse of the game last night, or if you've seen Jones in the past, you know: Jones is an occasionally dominating college basketball player, a guy with skills to isolate the ball at the top of the key but the size outrebound and physically dominate smaller defenders. Check out the move he makes at the -0:15 mark in these highlights. Strength, size, speed and skill, all melded into one. Watch him play. He wasn't joking.

Everywhere else: Running out of words in a hurry, so let's go to the lightning round: UAB will have to wait to take full control of Conference USA, as Memphis topped the Blazers by 10 and pulled itself into a tie for the conference lead. ... Vanderbilt got a major late challenge from Mississippi State; Jarvis Varnado had another ho-hum nine-block effort. ... Northern Iowa hung on at home over Wichita State, avenging its earlier loss in Wichita and moving to 11-1 in the Missouri Valley. ... Evan Turner line watch: 27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and three steals (!!). ... Baylor cruised over Iowa State at home. ... Georgia State handed George Mason its second conference loss, moving Jim Larranaga's squad to 10-2 in the CAA and making a conference tournament win a must.

Afternoon Linkage: Gonzaga the weak

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
12:49
PM ET

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If KU is No. 1, then who's No. 2?

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
3:09
AM ET
Polls are a snapshot of a team over the course of a week, a quick glimpse of who is playing well from Monday to Sunday.

Kansas deserves to be No. 1. The Jayhawks won at Kansas State in overtime in a place where Texas could not. The win will be enough to propel the Jayhawks to No. 1 in the country when the polls are announced on Monday.

But who is No. 2?

That’s where the debate gets interesting between late Saturday and Monday morning.

I would lean toward Syracuse. The Orange had quite a week. Remember, this is about what you have done during the week. It's not necessarily about a team's entire body of work.

Syracuse
Jerome Davis/Icon SMISyracuse rallied from a big early deficit to beat Georgetown.
Syracuse had one of the more impressive wins earlier in the week when the Orange steamrolled Georgetown in the final 30 minutes at home last Monday. That's the same Georgetown team that took out Duke in convincing fashion Saturday.

Villanova has quite an argument as well with a home win over Notre Dame for its only game of the week. But Syracuse has played a tougher slate than Villanova. Overall, if you compare their sole losses, then losing to Pitt, even at home, may be a tad better than losing at Temple. This argument has holes on both sides so deciding who is most worthy of the No. 2 spot right now might come down to how you feel about the pair. And right now, after Syracuse found a way to win at DePaul when it didn’t play well, the edge could go to the Orange.

Of course, the Kentucky nation would have an issue with the Wildcats not being No. 2 after dismantling one of the hottest teams in the country in Vanderbilt. The Wildcats looked quite special in running away from the Commodores. The question is does Kentucky get knocked down this week because it lost a game, even though it was on the road at South Carolina? The answer for now is yes. Remember the poll isn’t about where teams will finish in March but how they’re playing over the course of a week.

  • One thing is certain: Texas is dropping lower than No. 6 and Michigan State will at least stay put at No. 5 after a week in which the Longhorns fell to Baylor and Michigan State beat Northwestern.

  • Maybe I shouldn’t have dumped off my original sleeper team so early. UTEP beat UAB in double overtime in Birmingham to draw into a first-place tie with the Blazers in Conference USA. I still think UAB is the only team in the league that can get in as an at-large unless Tulsa wins at Duke.

  • Here’s what’s great about the Ivy League. You go, you dress and maybe you can get into the game. Cornell played 18 players in the first strike against Harvard in the Ivy League chase.

  • San Francisco will not have another crowd like the one it had to beat Gonzaga late Saturday night. But credit the Dons, they did what Santa Clara and others in the league could not -- hold on to beat the mighty Zags. Other WCC teams tend to freeze when they have a chance to shut down the Zags.

  • The Big East will investigate how the officials handled the West Virginia-Louisville game, especially in going to the monitor to (ahem) look at the shot clock when they may have actually been looking at who should have possession on an out-of-bounds play. Official Mike Kitts didn’t make a call and when no call is made on the floor, the possession goes to the team with the alternating possession arrow, which was Louisville. The ball actually did go off Louisville and West Virginia got the ball. So while the call was right it was not handled correctly. Louisville coach Rick Pitino criticized the officials by saying he was “tired of the officiating.” The Big East says it will investigate.

  • Marquette’s Jimmy Butler told me Saturday he was speechless after making the game-winning shot to beat Connecticut. The Golden Eagles had been 1-7 in games decided in the final five minutes this season.

  • Notre Dame’s loss at Rutgers is the kind of defeat that can send a team to the NIT.

  • Siena’s win over Marist should clinch the Saints’ BracketBuster date at Butler. Announcements are due Monday.

  • Maybe the most bizarre event of Saturday occurred in the USC-Oregon game. USC manager Stan Holt got a technical foul after saying something to official Bobby McRoy, which led to the game becoming tied at 47-47 with 4:35 left. Holt left the bench and the Ducks went on a 10-0 run to essentially win the game 67-57. USC coach Kevin O’Neill was quoted in the Oregonian late Saturday night saying, “That’s on me and that will be rectified -- it already has been -- he’s gone. That’s incomprehensible to me, in a two-point game, that our manager would get a technical foul. It’s unforgivable, it’s unprofessional. I apologized to our team for it, also." Holt was a three-year graduate manager. The only remaining question was how he did he get home from Eugene after O’Neill clearly tossed him off the roster?

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