“I am truly sorry for my actions to everyone associated with the game last night and for losing focus after the early part of warmups,” Graham said in a statement released Friday by the school. “What I did should never happen and there is no excuse. I apologize for all of this and other concerns I had I will handle the right way internally with proper guidance.”
Arizona officials say they are looking into the allegation that racial slurs were shouted from the student section known as the Zona Zoo.
“We continue to look into the accusation made by Arizona State’s Torian Graham,” Arizona said in a statement. “At this time, we have not heard from anyone, including students, staff and security in proximity of the incident, who can confirm Graham’s claim. While we can’t say with certainty that it did not occur, we were told by people in that area that they did not hear words or language of that nature prior to, during and after the time of the incident as well as during the game.
“We pride ourselves on our sportsmanship, take these matters very seriously, and strive to deliver an appropriate environment for visiting teams and patrons.”
NCAA tournament selection process to consider using different metrics, analytics
Big news today coming down from the NCAA selection committee. In a story published on NCAA.org, Dan Gavitt, the senior vice president of basketball for the NCAA announced that there would be a coming together of the minds behind some of college basketball’s best metrics.
Ken Pomeroy (KenPom), Jeff Sagarin (Sagarin ratings), Kevin Pauga (KPI) and Ben Alamar (BPI) will all be meeting in Indianapolis next Friday to discuss integrating more advanced metrics into the NCAA tournament’s selection and seeding process. Less RPI is always a good thing, and with those four gentlemen in a room together, you can bet your mortgage on that line of thinking being pushed forward.
One of the goals of this meeting is to develop some kind of a composite metric, another tool that the selection committee can use to differentiate teams and to find a fair way to get the 68 best teams in the country properly seeded into a bracket.
I love it.
I don’t want to delve too much into why the RPI is an ineffective metric, but rest assured, there’s a reason that the smart people covering – and coaching in – this sport can recite KenPom rankings.
There are, however, two things that I do hope will come out of this:
1. Can we end the over-reliance on arbitrary cut-offs points for ranking wins? There shouldn’t really be a difference between beating the No. 50 team and the No. 51 team, but there is. How often do we talk about “Team X has this many top 50 wins”? (Hint: The answer is A LOT.) And I would rant here about ensuring that the value in winning road games shows up in this metric, but I know for a fact that the guys getting invited to this meeting understand that better than I do. It will be discussed.
2. More importantly, I have a plea for the gentleman heading to Indianapolis next weekend: Make sure that, when you leave that room, there is the understanding that the actual results still have to matter.
One of the flaws in the RPI is that it doesn’t take margin of victory into account. For example, Xavier lost by two points at Colorado and by 25 points at Villanova. In the RPI, Colorado’s win has the same value as Villanova’s win. Even my 16-month old son knows that’s silly, and he throws a tantrum when I make him eat with a fork. The metrics that incorporate the difference in those two results are always going to be more accurate.
But the concern, then, is just how much of a difference there will be in, say, a one point win and a one point loss. The fact of the matter is that both of those teams essentially played each other to a standstill, right? Whether or not a shot goes in on a final possession isn’t going to change how good either team is, can be or will be. Remember this finish between Butler and Gonzaga? Remember the big to-do everyone made about Brad Stevens’ reaction on the sideline? It was one of the most exciting and memorable shots of his coaching career, and he never even unfolded his arms? He was already walking towards Mark Few when the shot went in.
“That was a really lucky play for us. Great steal by Rose, got it off in time, made a great play,” Stevens said after the game. “I don’t think it tells the whole story about how good these two teams are, and shouldn’t take anything away from Gonzaga.”
And, to a point, he’s right.
Losing a close game on a fluky buzzer-beater doesn’t make you any worse of a team.
But it should have a tangible benefit to the team that won the game. You should want it to have a tangible benefit to the team that won the game, because that’s what makes these moments so exciting. That’s why Hinkle Fieldhouse went absolutely bananas when that shot from Jones went in. That’s why we collectively lose our minds anytime someone hits a big shot. That’s why, say, the three that Malik Monk hit to give Kentucky a win over North Carolina back in December was so meaningful. It didn’t mean that the Wildcats were suddenly that much of a better team that the Tar Heels, but it did mean that they had that win on their résumé.
And that needs to matter.
Winning needs to matter.
There should be a big difference between a one point loss and a 30 point loss, but there should also be a difference between a one point loss and a one point win.
Because otherwise, if winning the game doesn’t actually matter, what the hell are we doing all of this for?
Weekend Preview: Breaking down Saturday’s loaded slate
No. 7 Duke at No. 14 Louisville, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The most interesting matchup of the day might not end up being all that exciting of a game. Louisville is a smothering defensive team, one not so much built on forcing turnovers like past teams were, but a team built on making it tough to run offense and forcing you to take bad shots. This is a problem for the Blue Devils, because they are a team without a point guard at the moment. Grayson Allen is doing the job pretty well, but he’s a playmaker built to attack, not a guy that is a natural facilitator.
And then there is the issue of Duke’s defense. It’s not very good. At all. That’s good news for a Louisville team that struggles to score at times. Then consider that Duke’s best interior defender and defensive rebounder, Amile Jefferson, is not expected to play, and the No. 13 team in offensive rebounding percentage should have a field day pushing around Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden.
But here’s the most important thing to remember: In 2015, Duke was in the midst of a similar crisis of identity. They had just lost at N.C. State and been blown out at home by Miami. They were 2-2 in the ACC and everyone in the world was questioning whether a team with Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow actually deserved the hype they had entering the season and whether they were actually tough enough to defend at the ACC level. Their next game was at Louisville, a top ten team that looked the part of an ACC title contender, and Duke smoked them. They were up 32-20 at the half. They pushed that lead to 20 in the second half.
The Blue Devils, if you recall, won the national title that year.
PREDICTION: The biggest difference between 2015 and 2017? Coach K is not on the bench this year. I’ll take Louisville (-4).
No. 9 Florida State at No. 11 North Carolina, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The Seminoles are one of just two undefeated teams in the ACC as of today, and their schedule has been anything but fluff. They won at Virginia, which is not an easy thing to do or as impressive as their 16 point win over Duke on Tuesday night. This is probably the best team that Leonard Hamilton has ever had in Tallahassee, and if they can somehow manage to land a win at North Carolina on Saturday, it will be time to call them the favorite to win the league.
But the Tar Heels are not going to roll over easy. This is a team that has been as impressive as anyone in the country when they’re playing at full health against teams not named Georgia Tech. Justin Jackson vs. Dwayne Bacon may be the best individual matchup that we get on Saturday.
PREDICTION: I do think that UNC wins this game, but I don’t think that Florida State gets run out of the gym. Seminoles (+7.5) is pretty tasty.
It’s hard to know which of these two teams need this win more. Xavier hasn’t done anything yet this season to warrant their rankings – we’ll get into that later on in this column, I promise – while Butler has one of the weirder résumés in the sport. The Bulldogs have beaten Villanova, Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana and won at Utah. They’ve also lost to Indiana State and St. John’s and got obliterated by Creighton on Wednesday night. Both of these teams really, really need a win to get things headed in the right direction.
PREDICTION: Butler’s three losses all have something in common: they came on the road. Xavier? They lost by 15 at Baylor, at Colorado and by 25 at Villanova. Butler (-4.5).
No. 21 Saint Mary’s at No. 5 Gonzaga, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
You’re going to have to stay up late to watch this one, but who are we kidding. It’s a Saturday night. You’re going to be up late anyway, so it will be worth your time to check out one of the most underappreciated rivalries in the country getting played in one of the best atmospheres you’ll find in sports anywhere. And should I mention that both of these teams are pretty freakin’ good this season? I know we say this every year, but I think this is finally the team that gets Mark Few to the Final Four, while Randy Bennett has a talented, veteran group built around point guard Emmett Naar and potential all-american big man Jock Landale.
PREDICTION: You don’t win at Gonzaga, and you don’t hang with Gonzaga in the Kennel. Zags (-6).
FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH
No. 19 Virginia at Clemson, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ACC Network): After losing to Georgia Tech during the week, Clemson is digging themselves a hole they may not be able to get out of. The good news? The ACC is strong enough they’ll have plenty of chances. Prediction: Clemson (+2.5)
No. 20 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ACC Network): The Fighting Irish have developed quite a reputation winning close games this season. They’re 4-0 in the ACC and all four wins are by single-digits. Prediction: Notre Dame (+2.5)
No. 1 Baylor at No. 25 Kansas State, Sat. 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU): No team in college basketball has had worse luck in conference play. They lost at Kansas because Svi Mykhailiuk cannot travel and they lost at Texas Tech when the referees swallowed their whistles. Prediction: I liked Kansas State (+1), and I think KSU wins, but I don’t love the Wildcats (-2)
No. 4 UCLA at Utah, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (Pac-12): Utah is coming off of a 20-point win over No. 25 USC on Thursday night. UCLA will play their second game at elevation in three days. Prediction: (UCLA (-5)
Wichita State at Illinois State, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN2): Two 5-0 teams in the Missouri Valley square off on Saturday night. Prediction: Wichita State (-2.5)
FIVE STORY LINES TO KEEP AN EYE ON
1. We’re going to have a much clearer picture of the ACC hierarchy after Saturday: The way I see it, there are five teams that can legitimately win the ACC regular season title right now: No. 7 Duke, No. 9 Florida State, No. 11 North Carolina, No. 14 Louisville and No. 20 Notre Dame. On Saturday, Duke plays at Louisville and Florida State plays at North Carolina.
If Florida State wins at UNC, it may be time to pencil the Seminoles in as the outright ACC title favorites. They would have wins at Virginia and at North Carolina under their belt with a 16-point home win over Duke as well. The loser of the Duke-Louisville game, then, would likely be out of the running for a regular season title already. That would be loss No. 3 for either team.
2. Just how long will Gonzaga remain undefeated?: There is just one undefeated team left in college basketball today, and that is Gonzaga. And like the run Wichita State made during the 2013-14 season (and, frankly, like Kentucky the following season) the Bulldogs play in a conference where running the table is very possible. It’s not going to be easy, as every gym Gonzaga will walk into will be rocking as they play in their opponent’s Super Bowl, but the Bulldogs will be the heavy favorite in essentially every game they play the rest of the season.
Except for when they square off with Saint Mary’s, a top 20 team in their own right. The Bulldogs host the Gaels on Saturday night. They visit Moraga on Feb. 11th. If the Zags are going to have their undefeated run ended before March, it will probably happen in one of those two games.
3. Does Baylor avoid losing two in a row as the No. 1 team in the country?: The feel-good story of the season came crashing back to earth on Tuesday, as Baylor, then-undefeated and No. 1 for the first time in program history, went into Morgantown and got absolutely mollywhopped by No. 10 West Virginia. The Bears turned the ball over 29 times and, frankly, we made to look like an overmatched buy-game opponent instead of a legitimate contender to the Big 12 title. That came after Baylor struggled to dispatch Iowa State and Oklahoma State at home.
This weekend, the Bears head right back out on the road, playing at a Kansas State team that is better than you probably realize. The Wildcats would’ve had a chance to beat Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse had someone called Svi Mykhailiuk for a travel on the final play. They also would’ve beaten Texas Tech on the road if the referees in Lubbock hadn’t swallowed their whistles. Bruce Weber has himself a squad, and going into the Octagon of Doom is not an easy task for anyone.
Here’s the catch – if Baylor really is going to be a Big 12 title contender, if they are going to push a Kansas team that hasn’t been anywhere other than the top of the conference standings for the last dozen years, they have to do things like bounce-back from getting whooped to beat a good team on the road. That’s what conference champions do.
Can Baylor do it?
4. UCLA is going to be tested by Utah: The nicest thing that Colorado ever did for UCLA was to let them get a relatively easy win on Thursday night, because that means that the Bruins didn’t have to burn through their legs playing at altitude when they have to make the trip to Salt Lake City to face off with the Utes 48 hours later.
And, it should be noted, that Utah is much better now than they were a month ago. On Thursday night, they smoked No. 25 USC, a win that propelled them to 3-1 in the league. Their only loss came at Arizona, who is a game ahead of the pace. The difference came when Sedrick Barefield and David Collette were able to get eligible in December, meaning that the Utes now have depth and balance and a response when teams are able to slow down Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam. This game will be the chance Utah needs to prove themselves a threat in the league race.
5. What has Xavier done to make us believe they should be ranked where they are?: The Musketeers entered the season as a top 10-15 team, depending on where it is you go to get your college basketball team rankings. They’re currently ranked 15th, but what have they done this season to justify that ranking? A neutral court win over Clemson back in November? Because since then, they’ve lost at Baylor, they’ve lost at Colorado and they got smoked at Villanova. None of the wins they’ve landed since then are worth much of anything. On Saturday, they play at Butler. We’re halfway through the season, and there’s nothing on the Musketeers résumé to prove to us that this is a team that’s good.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Calvin Hermanson scored a career-high 27 points and No. 21 Saint Mary’s shut down the Portland Pilots for a 74-33 victory Thursday night.
Jock Landale added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Gaels (15-1, 5-0 West Coast Conference), who led by as many as 44 points. Evan Fitzner also had eight points. Hermanson was the only Gael in double figures.
Alec Wintering, who leads the conference with an average of 21 points a game, was held to just four points for the Pilots (9-6, 2-1). Jazz Johnson led Portland with 13 points.
The Pilots’ lowest-ever point total was 27 points, in a 43-27 loss to Pacific Lutheran in 1947-48.
The Gaels arrived in Portland on Wednesday night following an unusual snowstorm that dumped as many as 14 inches on parts of the city. With little melting on Thursday during the day, and freezing temperatures after the sun went down, the game was sparsely attended.
The Pilots had already postposed a game against No. 5 Gonzaga, which was set for last Saturday night at Chiles Center, because of an earlier storm in Portland.
Portland announced Thursday that the game against the Bulldogs was rescheduled for Jan. 23 at the Chiles Center.
The Pilots are playing their first season under former NBA player and coach Terry Porter. His son, Franklin, Porter’s oldest son, played as a freshman at Saint Mary’s but transferred to Portland to play for his dad and is redshirting this season.
Saint Mary’s has won 11 of the last 12 meetings, with the lone loss coming during the 2015 WCC Tournament quarterfinals. Joe Rahon’s layup with 2.7 seconds left gave Saint Mary’s a 74-72 victory at Chiles Center last year.
The Gaels’ only loss this season came at home against Texas-Arlington on Dec. 8. They were coming off a 63-52 win at San Francisco last Saturday.
Saint Mary’s took a 14-2 lead after Emmett Naar’s 3-pointer. Hermanson’s layup extended the lead to 24-4.
Wintering hit a jumper that ended a scoring drought of more than 4 minutes for the Pilots, but they still trailed 29-9. Portland would not score again and the Gaels led 37-9 at halftime.
The Pilots’ point total matched the low for a half this season in Division I.
Hermanson, who is from the Portland area and went to Lake Oswego High School, led all scorers with 17 points in the first half. His 3-pointer put the Gaels up 45-12 early in the second half.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels remain atop the WCC standings with one more game played than Gonzaga, which beat Loyola Marymount 93-55 on Thursday night to remain the nation’s only undefeated Division I basketball team. The Bulldogs are 16-0 overall and 4-0 in the WCC. The teams meet Saturday.
Portland: The Pilots were coming off a 70-42 loss at Santa Clara. … Center Philip Hartwich sustained a concussion in the first half and did not return.
ABOUT THOSE ZAGS:
Portland’s postponed game against Gonzaga was a sellout. Tickets purchased for the original game will be honored on Jan. 23, and fans who cannot attend the rescheduled game will be offered a ticket to a future game, based on availability. The Pilots said Thursday that it is expected that the rescheduled game will be televised, but details have not yet been worked out.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels visit Gonzaga on Saturday in a showdown of the league’s top two teams.
Portland: The Pilots host Loyola Marymount on Saturday.
Iowa picked up a big home win over No. 17 Purdue on Thursday night, but it didn’t come without controversy.
With 13 seconds left in the game and the Hawkeyes up one, Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl missed a free throw that was eventually knocked out of bounds. Caleb Swanigan opted not to grab the loose ball, letting it bounce into Iowa’s bench where it was ruled to be off of a Purdue player.
The play went to review and, somehow, after spending three minutes watching replays of the play, the referees determined that it was inconclusive. (It wasn’t. This was off of Iowa.)
But blaming this loss on that one bad call would be foolish for Purdue and Purdue fans, because the Boilermakers had plenty of chances to make sure that they didn’t have to risk everything on a replay review. The possession before the free throw, Swanigan, Purdue’s all-american center, didn’t grab the loose ball when it went out of bounds. The possession before the free throw, he missed a shot from point-blank range that would have put Purdue up 80-79. The possession before that, Swanigan turned the ball over after Ryan Cline missed a wide-open three and Isaac Haas missed a layup on the same possession. Before that, P.J. Thompson missed an open three from the corner. Before that, Cline missed two free throws.
In total, Purdue came up empty on five straight possessions in the final 2:19, and on every possession the Boilermakers could have either taken the lead or tied the game.
Yes, that call was awful, but Purdue lost this game all by themselves.