The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Harvard Basketball: The Startup (Slam Magazine)
On Wednesday night the Harvard Crimson play their final non-conference game of the season as they visit UConn, with the Huskies coming off of two losses in Texas (Houston and SMU). Those defeats may have taken some of the luster off of this matchup, one that a Harvard program looking to build on last season’s NCAA tournament victory can use. How did Harvard reach the point where an at-large bid can be considered? It all began with a vision.

Midseason Awards: NEC (Big Apple Buckets)
With conference play underway, the first days of January are usually a good time to recap what happened in non-conference play. This piece takes a look at the Northeast Conference, with its race shaping up to be the competitive one that many predicted prior to the start of the season.

London Perrantes brings “that Cali swag” to the Cavaliers as a freshman (Washington Post)
With the graduation of Jontel Evans at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett had a hole to fill at the point guard position. Into that role slid freshman London Perrantes, a California native who grew up dreaming of playing in the ACC and on Saturday at Florida State played arguably his best game to date. He’ll be a key factor for the Cavaliers if they’re to reach the NCAA tournament.

URI pays heavy price for slow start (Providence Journal)
After winning games against Brown and LSU last week, Rhode Island entered Tuesday night’s Atlantic 10 opener against Saint Louis brimming with confidence. But the Rams saw their win streak come to an end, falling by the final score of 59-58, and their poor start to the game certainly had an impact on the result.

Kentucky basketball behaving more like a team, Calipari and players say (Louisville Courier-Journal)
The winter break, in some instances, has a knack for forcing college basketball teams to improve their chemistry. Why? Much of the student body is home for the holidays, leaving the players with few options when it comes to on-campus interactions. That was the case for a young Kentucky team working to reach the level many expected before the season began, and according to the player and head coach John Calipari the winter break certainly helped.

Comebacks nothing new for this season’s undefeated squad (Wisconsin State Journal)
After struggling for much of the game’s first 30 minutes on Sunday night, No. 4 Wisconsin found a way to come back and beat No. 22 Iowa in Madison. And while the Badgers, who are off to the best start in school history, haven’t been in too many situations like that one they knew what needed to be done.

UNC JV team: Hubert Davis takes charge (Raleigh News & Observer)
North Carolina is one of the few athletic departments that also field a JV basketball team, with players who don’t have the talent that the guys we see on TV every week living out their dream of wearing that jersey. And this is also a positive experience for the assistant who gets to coach the JV team, with Hubert Davis leading the way this season.

Point guards are key to winning 2014 Mid-American Conference title (Cleveland Post-Dispatch)
Guard play has always been important in the game of basketball, regardless of the level of play. And for the Mid-American Conference, the winner could be determined by which team gets the greatest amount of production from the position. Akron? Ohio? Toledo? Someone else? Whoever wins the automatic bid will likely have a capable floor general leading the way.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25

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Michigan State is your new No. 1 team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Spartans received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes after their comeback from 27 points down to beat Northwestern on the road on Saturday.

Virginia is still sitting at No. 2 while Villanova and Xavier round out the top four. Duke climbed a few spots to No. 5.

Here is the full coaches poll:

1. Michigan State (20 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (8)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Gonzaga
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Wichita State
13. Auburn
14. Arizona
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Saint Mary’s
21. West Virginia
22. Nevada
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee State
25. Arizona State

Was Bob Huggins justified in his anger over foul shots in Kansas win over West Virginia?

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Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.

The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:

Huggs is a national treasure.

The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.

And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.

Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.

Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.

Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.

It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.

But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:

“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”

“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”

But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:

“It wasn’t their fault.”

It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.

But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?

Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.

But the whistles played some kind of a role.

Just like they always do in the Phog.

College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25

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Virginia remained in the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll while Michigan State and Villanova still sit at No. 2 and No. 3 with Xavier once again in fourth.

The biggest change in the poll was that Duke rose to No. 5 after three straight wins; they were No. 12 last week.

Kentucky is still not a part of the top 25.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Virginia (42 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
t-6. Texas Tech
t-6. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary’s
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

VIDEO: Wichita State celebrates in locker room after win over Cincinnati

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Wichita State went into Cincinnati — well, Northern Kentucky — on Sunday evening and landed their biggest win of the season.

They were fired up about it, as you might imagine.

And their locker room celebrating after the win was, as the kids say, litty:

Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.

Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.

CBT Podcast: Monday Overreactions: Villanova-Xavier, the Big 12 is drunk, the best in the Big Ten is … ?

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Rob Dauster was joined by Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic on today’s show to overreact to everything that happened this weekend, from Villanova pasting Xavier to the insanity that is the Big 12 to what happened in the Big Ten in the last ten days. We also spend a good 30 minutes talking about bubble teams, tournament resumes and some misconceptions with both. The rundown.

OPEN: Bubble Banter. We talk about weird bubble teams and whether or not we like the new Quadrant system.

36:08: Villanova’s win over Xavier and the Big East title race.

45:15: The Big 12 makes no sense and I love it.

58:30: Michigan State deserves the Big Ten title.