Conference Countdown: No. 10 WCC

1 Comment

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Elias Harris, Gonzaga, So.

This
is as easy of a pick as you will come across. Best player on the best
team? Check. Most talented player? Check. Best NBA prospect? Check. At
6’8″, Harris is strong enough to score on the block, athletic enough to
finish above the rim, and skilled enough to knock down a three or
square his defender up and use the dribble to get to the rim. He was a
beast as a freshman, and with another year of development, there is no
reason to think that he won’t continue that trend as he becomes the
focal point of Mark Few’s attack. Harris will likely be a first round
pick, possibly even a lottery pick, by the time he decides to leave
Gonzaga.

And a close second goes too: Vernon Teel, Loyola Marymount, Sr.

Teel
was a first-team all-conference performer in the WCC last season, and
rightfully so. He led Loyola to a surprisingly good season last year,
stuffing the stat sheet with 15 points, 5 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals,
and 40% shooting from deep. Teel is about more than just numbers,
however. He is a floor leader, and a guy with some experience that
knows how to run this team. Loyola showed a great deal of improvement
this season, and they could have been even more successful had the club
not been dealing with injuries throughout the year. But as they got
healthy down the stretch of the season, Loyola started to win games.
They won five of the last seven, and two in the WCC Tournament, a
number of which were close games. A lot of that credit has to go to
Teel. Drew Viney may be the team’s leading scorer, but Teel is the most
important player for a Loyola team that should make a run at the
conference title.

Breakout Star: Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary’s, So.

Dellavedova
came into the St. Mary’s program with a bit of hype, but with the Gaels
relying so heavily on Omar Samhan inside last year, he became a third
option offensively. This year, St. Mary’s is going to have a much more
perimeter oriented attack as their back court is deep and talented, and
Dellavedova should be one of the focal points. Dellavedova’s game is
centered around his ability to knock down a jumper, but he is so much
more than just a shooter. He’s looks awkward and uncoordinated when he
puts the ball on the floor, but he is more-than-capable at getting by
his man and into the paint. He’s not a great athlete, but he is a
tough, strong kid that has a nice array of floaters and pull-ups. He’s
also an excellent creator, as his 4.5 apg would lead you to believe
(although, many of those assists came running the pick-and-roll with
Samhan). With the paint open this season, and a full summer to work on
his game, I expect Dellavedova to be more aggressive to the rim as the
No. 1 option offensively for Randy Bennett. Don’t be surprised if
Dellavedova follows the footsteps of Samhan and Patty Mills, becoming a
nationally known name at St. Mary’s.

Newcomer of the Year: Kenton Walker, St. Mary’s, Jr.

With
Omar Samhan and Ben Allen graduating, there is going to be a gaping
hole in the middle for the Gaels. Walker may be just the guy to fill
that void. The Creighton transfer, who averaged 5.1 ppg and 3.8 rpg, is
a big-bodied 6’9″ forward that showed the ability to protect the rim
with the Bluejays. And when you consider the minutes he played (15 per
game) and the type of talent that he was playing behind, including
Kenny Lawson inside, Walker was actually fairly productive. Seeing as
he will be the Gaels No. 1 option inside, and given that he has spent
the past season going up against Samhan and Allen in practice, Walker
could end up having a very good season for Randy Bennett’s club.

All-Conference First Team

  • POY – Elias Harris, Gonzaga, So.
  • G – Steven Gray, Gonzaga, Sr.
  • G – Vernon Teel, Loyola Marymount, Sr.
  • G – Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary’s, So.
  • F – Drew Viney, Loyola Marymount, Jr.
  • F – Marc Trasolini, Santa Clara, Jr.

All-Conference Second Team

  • G – Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s, Sr.
  • G – Keion Bell, Pepperdine, Jr.
  • G – Kevin Foster, Santa Clara, So.
  • F – Luke Sikma, Portland, Sr.
  • C – Robert Sacre, Gonzaga, Jr.

What Happened?:

  • BYU? BYU… BYU!: Yup, the Cougars are headed to the WCC for basketball. More on this in a bit.
  • The Foreign Influx:
    We all know about the pipeline that Randy Bennett has established
    between Moraga, CA, and Australia. This season, Bennett has four
    Aussies, including star guard Matthew Dellavedova, on his roster. But
    Bennett isn’t alone in tapping the foreign markets for basketball
    talent. Gonzaga will likely have three starters from abroad — star
    sophomore Elias Harris (Germany), center Robert Sacre (Canada), and
    guard Mangisto Arop (Canada) — as well as a key sub in Kelly Olynyk
    (Canada) and two freshmen — Mathis Keita (France) and Mathis
    Monninghoff (Germany). Loyola has two players from Nigeria, a player
    from England (potential starter Ashley Hamilton), and a kid from
    Finland. Santa Clara and San Francisco have four imports apiece, while
    Portland (three) and Pepperdine (two) both have a bit of worldwide
    flavor on their roster.
  • Bye-bye Bol: Perhaps Gonzaga’s most well-known international recruit was Bol Kong, a Sudanese national that had been living in Canada. There was a lot of hype for Kong, who had a lengthy legal process
    before enrolling at Gonzaga, prior to his arrival, and while he had a
    mediocre season, he had a couple of offensive outbursts that led many
    to believe he had the potential to be a very good player at this level.
    Unfortunately, Kong will not be returning to Spokane.

    Kong
    isn’t the only player that is not returning to the Zags. Andy Poling,
    Grant Gibbs, and GJ Villarino (a former Kentucky commit) all decided to
    ply their trade elsewhere.

  • Rob Jones:
    Kong is no where near the most interesting transfer in this league.
    That award would go to Rob Jones, who left San Diego and transferred
    within conference to St. Mary’s. Jones happens to be the grandson of
    Jim Jones, the founder of Jonestown. I strongly suggest you read this ESPN article from 2008 on Rob.
  • Kwame Vaughn transfers too: Perhaps the most surprising transfer
    was Vaughn. Vaughn, a sophomore guard, was going to have a chance to be
    San Francisco’s go to player with Dior Lawhorn graduating.

What’s Next?:

  • BYU’s addition:
    Clearly, adding a basketball program like BYU’s is a good thing for
    this league. With Gonzaga, it gives the WCC two teams that are always
    going to be in and around the NCAA Tournament. With programs like St.
    Mary’s, Loyola Marymount, and even Portland, on the rise, the WCC is
    looking up. The question is, however, does BYU help bring up the WCC’s
    profile, or does the smaller conference hurt BYU’s program? The
    argument is there on both sides. For starters, adding the Salt Lake
    City market to one that includes most of the big markets on the West
    Coast can only aid the deal the WCC has with ESPN. It broadens the area
    that some of the lesser teams in the league can recruit (i.e. San
    Francisco can go after a kid in Ogden, UT, because he will get a
    homecoming game each season) and provides a recruiting tool. But is BYU
    willing to schedule like Gonzaga does in the non-conference, meaning
    they go anywhere to play anyone in November and December? If the
    Cougars aren’t willing to play a tough non-conference schedule, are
    they going to have the profile to be a tournament team?
  • Coaches staying home:
    There are obviously programs on the rise in the WCC. Loyola Marymount
    may contend for the league title this year with St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.
    Portland played their way into the national rankings last season.
    That’s good for the league, but what is better news is that the
    conference is keeping their best coaching talent at home. Eric Reveno
    is still at Portland. Randy Bennett seems to be taking Mark Few’s
    approach at St. Mary’s. Bill Bayno took a medical leave two years ago,
    but his replacement Max Good has kept the program moving in the right
    direction. For a league of the WCC’s stature, this continuity is
    important.
  • Will anyone ever unseat Gonzaga?:
    Last season might have been the best chance, with St. Mary’s being,
    arguably, the league’s best team. Hey, they won a conference
    championship (the tournament, but they beat the Zags in the final) and
    made the Sweet 16, right? Loyola Marymount and St. Mary’s will be the
    teams to do have a chance this season.

Power Rankings:

  1. Gonzaga:
    The Zags are the ideal program when it comes to basketball outside of
    the Big Six conferences. They are well into their second decade of WCC
    dominance, they are a nationally recognized name, they routinely
    schedule one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the
    country, and every year they are a top 25 team, if not higher. This
    year will be no different. Losing Matt Bouldin is going to hurt, more
    due to his playmaking ability than his scoring. But with Steven Gray,
    who is one of the more underappreciated players on the West Coast, back
    for his senior season and Demetri Goodson, a talented guard who has
    struggled at times but will be more of a point guard this season,
    returning for his junior year, Gonzaga still is plenty talented in the
    back court. On the front line, this team looks to be loaded. The first
    name that will come to mind is Elias Harris, who is the hands down
    favorite for conference player of the year. He’s a strong, athletic
    forward that can play in the post and on the perimeter, and has a very
    good shot at being a first round pick whenever he leaves school.
    Seven-footer Robert Sacre will be starting alongside him. Sacre was
    inconsistent last season as he was coming off of a serious foot injury.
    I expect an improvement this year. They also have Kelly Olynyk, who
    showed flashes as a freshman and played well at the World Basketball
    Championships, while redshirt freshman Sam Dower should also see time.

    The
    way I see it, there are going to be two question marks for the Zags.
    The first is filling Matt Bouldin’s spot on the floor. Mangisto Arop
    seems like the natural choice, as he seemed to be a solid spot up
    shooter in his limited minutes as a freshman. JuCo transfer Marquise
    Carter, whose game is similar to Bouldin, is another possibility as
    well. The second issue is a different team make-up. Gonzaga is a team
    with a loaded front court and without a real knock-down shooter on the
    perimeter. Can the Zags win as a team that pounds the ball inside and
    plays aggressive perimeter defense? The Zags, once again, will be the
    favorite for the WCC title and should get another top four seed in the
    NCAA Tournament.

  2. St. Mary’s: The
    Gaels will be a much different team this season than the one that had
    the school’s most successful season in history — which included a run
    to the Sweet 16 — mostly due to the fact that they lose their starting
    front court, particularly Omar Samham. The strength on this year’s team
    will be on the perimeter. Scrappy sophomore Matthew Dellevadova, who
    came into Moraga with a lot of hype and didn’t disappoint, has a chance
    to develop into a star this season. Sharpshooting point guard Mickey
    McConnell is back as well, and will once again be relied upon quite
    heavily to orchestrate Randy Bennett’s offense. Redshirt freshman Tim
    Harris, whose season was cut to one game with a hamstring tear, will
    see heavy minutes, as will Stephen Holt, a freshman point guard that is
    one of Bennett’s most heralded recruits. 6′ sophomore Jorden Page and
    6’7″ junior Clint Steindl will also play heavily into Bennett’s
    perimeter rotation, and Beau Levesque could see minutes as well. The
    front court is a different story. Rob Jones, a tough, rugged 6’6″
    forward and transfer from San Diego, will likely see time at both
    forward spots. He should be a key contributor for this team after
    averaging 9 points and 6 boards in two seasons at San Diego. 6’9″
    Creighton transfer Kenton Walker may end up starting for the Gaels at
    center this season. Three bigs return — Mitchell Young, Phil Benson,
    and Tim Williams. Young was the only one that got consistent minutes
    last season for the Gaels, but with the void left by Samhan and Ben
    Allen, all three of these players will be counted on to produce inside.
    The Gaels are not as good as last year’s team, but this is still a
    squad that will compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament and, if
    things break right, could give Gonzaga a run for the league title.
  3. Loyola Marymount: Just
    two years ago, this Loyola Marymount program was in shambles. Prior to
    the 2009-2010 season, they had won just eight games the previous two
    seasons. But thanks to the addition of some talented transfers and the
    development of a couple of their own players, the Lions won 18 games
    and went 7-7 in the league. Those two records could have been much
    better had Loyola not been battling injuries all season. The best news?
    Essentially everyone is back (the notable exception is 6’8″ Kevin
    Young, who transferred). Loyola may be one of the few teams in the WCC
    that can actually match up with Gonzaga inside. 6’8″ Oregon transfer
    Drew Viney, who averaged 16.7 ppg and 7.1 rpg, is back. His perimeter
    ability makes Viney a tough matchup in the WCC, and he also is a solid
    defender. Edgar Garibay, who was granted a medical redshirt due to a
    torn acl he suffered, is a 6’10” center that started four games before
    his injury. All-freshman team member Ashley Hamilton, an athletic 6’7″
    forward that averaged 8.6 ppg and 4.5 rpg, will also return and could
    turn into a real threat inside. On the perimeter, the Lions are led by
    all-conference performer Vernon Teel, a stat-sheet stuffing combo-guard
    (he averaged 15 points, 5 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals, and shot 40%
    from three) that could blossom into one of the best players on the west
    coast this season. Jared DuBois, who is a solid spot-up shooter, will
    be a nice complement to Teel on the perimeter, while Larry Davis, a
    Seton Hall transfer that has been plagued by injuries (he didn’t travel
    with the team to Europe this summer), will provide a shot of
    athleticism on the perimeter when healthy. Also expect point guard
    Anthony Ireland to see some time in the back court as well. This is a
    very good basketball team, the question will be whether or not they can
    handle being marked this season. The Lions won’t be sneaking up on
    anybody.
  4. Santa Clara:
    The Broncos had a tough season last year, but a lot of that was a
    result of their inability to score after the loss of Kevin Foster six
    games in. With Foster, who was averaging close to 20 ppg when he was
    hurt, and sophomore point guard Robert Smith, who had a very good
    freshman season, both returning, the Broncos have their back court of
    the future, especially if Foster can get into better shape. Throw in
    6’9″ forward Marc Trasolini, who was one of the better big men in the
    conference, back for his junior year, and Santa Clara has a solid core.
    Sophomores Ray Cowels, Niyi Harrison, and Chris Cunningham all had
    solid freshmen campaigns, while senior Michael Santos should also see
    some time in the rotation again. The issue for the Broncos last season
    was rebounding and perimeter shooting. The physical Ben Dowdell
    returning will help their rebounding, as will the addition of John
    McArthur and Yannick Atanga, and unless a couple of the wings turn into
    knock down shooters, Santa Clara doesn’t look like a good bet to
    improve their 29.9% three point shooting. This is a team that likes to
    slash to the rim and relies on Trasolini’s ability in the post, but
    without that shooting, there won’t be much space for them to operate.
  5. Portland:
    After a successful 2008-2009 season, the Pilots had sky-high
    expectations last season. They were legitimately thought to be a
    contender for the conference title in the preseason — even moreso
    after wins over UCLA and Minnesota early on — but the Pilots came back
    to earth after that. While the good news is that head coach Eric
    Reveno, who turned this team into a contender in the league, didn’t
    leave for a bigger school, the Pilots did lose three starters from last
    season, including their two most important players in Nik Raivio and TJ
    Campbell. Returning is Jared Stohl, who may very well be the best
    shooter in the country, and Luke Sikma, Jack’s son and one of the
    better big men in the WCC. Also back are guard Nemanja Mitrovic and big
    man Kramer Knutson, who will be counted on for significant increases in
    production. But beyond that, most of the rest of the Pilot’s minutes
    are going to be played by their seven freshmen. If Reveno can find a
    point guard to replace Campbell, whose value to last year’s team cannot
    be understated, and develop some kind of bench, Portland has a chance
    to be competitive. Reveno’s recruiting class deserves to be noted, but
    this looks like it will be a rebuilding year for the Pilots, one where
    a third straight trip to a postseason tournament seems unlikely.
  6. San Francisco:
    The Dons had a fantastic end to what amounted to a disappointing
    season. They won five of their last eight games, and the three losses
    were competitive losses to the top three teams in the league on the
    road. But carrying that success over to this season will be difficult.
    Star Dior Lawhorn graduated, and second leading scorer Kwame Vaughn
    transferred out of the school. The good news is that the Dons three
    leading returning scorers are all young. Junior Angelo Caloiaro is a
    6’7″ forward and a knock down shooter. Sophomore Perris Blackwell is a
    big-bodied presence in the paint. Junior Rashad Green, as well as
    sophomore Michael Williams, both showed flashes of some promise with
    big scoring outputs, but were inconsistent. That said, with more
    minutes and more opportunities, a bump in their production should be
    expected. With 6’10” Moustapha Diarra returning as well, there is
    potential on this team to maintain some of that success, especially
    considering the praise that the team received from head coach Rex
    Walters for coming together as a group late in the season. With the
    trapping zone they played down the stretch, cohesiveness is quite
    important for this group. Depth and inexperience is going to be an
    issue on the bench, as Walters has brought in nine freshman this season
    including 6’5″ Charles Standifer. The Dons have some potential, but a
    best case scenario seems to be more of the same — middle of the pack
    in the conference.
  7. Pepperdine:
    The good news for the Waves is that they return their entire team, a
    group that has now played together for two full seasons. The bad news
    is that in those two seasons, Pepperdine has won a grand total of eight
    league games, going just 7-24 (3-11) on the season in 2009-2010 and
    losing their last eleven in conference play. The one bright spot for
    Pepperdine the past few seasons has been Keion Bell, who is more than just a dunker.
    Bell put up tremendous numbers last season (18.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.2
    apg), but he also took a lot of shots and played some selfish
    basketball. Part of that is who he is, but part of it is the fact that
    Pepperdine needs him to be selfish. This is not a team loaded with
    talent. Outside of Bell, the only other real scoring threat is Mychal
    Thompson, a 6’7″ forward with range, but he is inconsistent as a
    shooter. Jonathon Dupre’ and Taylor Darby are the two bigs, while Dane
    Sutter should be recovered from the injury that cost him the last seven
    games by the time the season roles around. The biggest question mark is
    at the point Lorne Jackson, who is probably the Waves third best
    player, and Bell both spent time there during the season, but by the
    end of the year freshman Caleb Willis was starting. To get an idea of
    how dire the straits were, Willis went literally 20 games — two whole
    months — without scoring, getting seven DNP-CD’s along the way. This
    is the third year this team has been together, and while they have
    looked competitive at times — in 2008-2009, they won five league
    games, and last season they won their first three followed by a seven
    point loss at Gonzaga — they have a long way to go.
  8. San Diego:
    San Diego went from a team that won a game in the 2008 NCAA Tournament
    to one that won just three WCC games last year. And now, they lose
    their top four scorers, which is not a good thing for a team that
    struggled offensively at times last season. In all likelihood, it is
    going to be a long season for the Toreros. The leading returning scorer
    is shooter Matt Door, a 6’4″ senior that has started much of the last
    two seasons. He has shown signs of potentially being one of the better
    shooters in the league. Devan Ginty also is returns in the back court
    to provide some experience, but much of the production is going to be a
    result of the younger guys. Sophomores Patrick McCollum and Cameron
    Miles got some time at the end of the year, with Ken Rancifer showed
    the potential to be a very good player in the league, ending the year
    with a 20 point outburst against Portland. Also expect freshman Ben
    Vozzola and transfer Darian Norris to see a lot of minutes. Inside, the
    addition of New Mexico State transfer Chris Gabriel will help, as will
    the development of Chris Manresa. Beyond that, however, three freshmen
    bigs will be competing for time. It is going to be a down year once
    again in San Diego.

AP Poll: Baylor remains No. 1 in week with few changes at the top

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is the latest college basketball AP Poll.

For those interested, here is the NBC Sports Top 25.

Baylor is No. 1 for a second straight week in a college basketball AP poll that had no major changes at the top, a rare bit of stability in a wildly unpredictable season.

The Bears stayed well ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga in Monday’s poll, part of an unchanged top seven for the first time this season. In fact, the only change in the top 10 came with Villanova moving up a spot to No. 8 to swap positions with No. 9 Duke. That comes in a season that has seen seven different teams reach No. 1 this season, matching a record set during the 1982-83 season.

Baylor (17-1) hopped over Gonzaga last week to reach No. 1 for the second time in program history, then earned 44 of 64 first-place votes to keep a firm hold on the top spot after beating Oklahoma and Florida last week.

The Zags earned 19 first-place votes to remain either No. 1 or No. 2 in the poll since the middle of December, followed by Kansas, San Diego State — the last unbeaten team in Division I — and Florida State.

Louisville, Dayton, Villanova, Duke and Seton Hall rounded out the top 10.

No. 22 LSU, No. 23 Wichita State and No. 24 Penn State were the week’s new additions, re-entering the poll after appearances earlier this season. Texas Tech, Memphis and Arizona fell out of the rankings.

Here is the full college basketball AP Poll:

1. Baylor (44 first-place votes)
2. Gonzaga (19)
3. Kansas (1)
4. San Diego State
5. Florida State
6. Louisville
7. Dayton
8. Villanova
9. Duke
10. Seton Hall
11. Oregon
12. West Virginia
13. Kentucky
14. Michigan State
15. Maryland
16. Butler
17. Auburn
18. Iowa
19. Illinois
20. Colorado
21. Houston
22. LSU
23. Wichita State
24. Penn State
25. Rutgers

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

ACC fines Brey for his officiating comments

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Leave a comment

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) The Atlantic Coast Conference has fined Notre Dame $20,000 and publicly reprimanded Fighting Irish basketball coach Mike Brey for his comments about officiating after Saturday’s loss at Florida State.

The league announced the penalties Monday, saying Brey’s comments “were in direct violation” of the league’s sportsmanship policy that states that public criticism of officiating “is not in the best interest of intercollegiate athletics.”

Brey referenced several issues after the 85-84 loss to the Seminoles, including a technical foul called on the Irish bench with 2:31 left. He also mentioned game official John Gaffney by name as he left the news conference in Tallahassee.

“We’re treated by the officials like we haven’t brought football as a full member (to the league), but yet we get a full share of the ACC Network TV, are you kidding me?” Brey said, a reference to Notre Dame’s independence in football even as it remains a member of all other league sports.

Moments later, a frustrated Brey waved both hands as he got up to leave and continued his comments as he left the room.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, man,” Brey said, raising his voice. “Come on, man. We’re in the league, too.”

The league said in a news release that the matter is closed and declined to make additional comment. The fine will go toward an ACC scholarship fund that assists athletes with pursuing graduate degrees after completing undergraduate requirements.

More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Monday Overreactions: Ayo Dosunmu, Maryland and Nick Richards’ takeoer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

Ayo Dosunmu did it again.

Illinois’ sophomore star and leading scorer finished with 27 points, none of which were bigger than the final shot of the game as Dosunmu hit a foul line jumper over Zavier Simpson with 0.5 seconds left on the clock to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor:

It’s the sixth straight win for the Illini, who have climbed all the way up to No. 21 in the AP poll, and no one has been more influential in that run than Dosunmu. He’s averaging 19.0 points and 5.4 assists over the last five games, and in a conference where winning road games is notoriously difficult, the Illini have won at Wisconsin, at Purdue and at Michigan during that stretch.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Maryland Terrapins

No team in the country has elicited a louder chorus of doubters throughout the course of the season than Maryland.

The Terps were a top ten team in the preseason, and spent the entire season ranked inside the top 20 of the AP poll and currently sit at No. 10 in KenPom’s rankings. But because of some uninspiring performances early in the season, combined with the fact that the Terps had entered the week with an 0-4 record on the road, it was easy to overlook this group as nothing more than another fraudulent Mark Turgeon roster.

This week, the narrative changed. The Terps erased a 14 point deficit on the road to knock off Northwester, 77-66, in Chicago and then followed that up by going on a 7-0 run in the final two minutes to land a 77-76 win at Indiana.

Suddenly, the Terps are on a three game winning streak with back-to-back home games coming up next.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. NICK RICHARDS IS THE SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Richards has been one of the most improved players in the country this season, but Saturday was really the first time that we saw him completely take over a game.

He finished with 25 points, 14 boards and four blocks in the 76-74 overtime win at Texas Tech, scoring the game-winning points with 10 seconds left.

This is notable, because if you look at Kentucky’s biggest wins of the season to date, they all happened to be a result of one of Hagans or Maxey going absolutely nuts. Maxey had 27 in the win over Michigan State. He had 26  against Louisville. Hagans went for 21 points, seven boards and seven assists against Georgia Tech. He had 13 points, six boards and six assists at Arkansas and 15 points, nine boards and nine assists against Alabama.

Point being, this is the first time that Richards has definitively been the best player on the floor while carrying Kentucky to a win like this on the road.

I also get it: He completely overwhelmed Texas Tech’s frontline — which, frankly, is not a new occurrence, if you have seen the Red Raiders play this season. But we’ve seen Richards play against frontlines he should dominate and, well, not dominate.

As it stands, he’s now the leading scorer and rebounder for the Wildcats. He’s probably the leader in the clubhouse for SEC Player of the Year, and very much in the mix for an all-american team.

2. TEXAS TECH HAS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF WORK TO DO TO GET TO THE TOURNAMENT

I’m not sure people realize just how little there is on Texas Tech’s resume right now. They beat Louisville (11) on a neutral court. They beat Iowa State (70) at home. They beat Oklahoma State (83) at home. They won at Kansas State (89). Combined, that’s one Quad 1, two Quad 2 and a Quad 3 win. They have eight wins against sub-200 teams and have lost to seven Quad 1 opponents, including Kentucky (23) at home on Saturday. The Red Raiders will have plenty of chances to build on their profile — they get West Virginia (7) at home and play at Kansas (3) next week alone — but there is no doubt that this team has to start winning some games against teams that are not horrific.

As it stands, the Red Raiders are the very last team in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection.

3. THE BIG TEN IS GOING TO DISAPPOINT IN MARCH

The biggest reason that I believe this is the lack of elite point guard play. I’ve made this point roughly 18,000 times by now, but in the last decade, the only team that won the national title without having two lead guards playing together was the 2012 Kentucky team that had the top two picks playing together.

And the thing about this year’s Big Ten is that the lead guard play is not great. Cassius Winston, when he’s right, is the best in the country. Ayo Dosunmu, the way he’s been playing for the last month, is right there with him. Anthony Cowan is, in theory, on that list. Zavier Simpson? Maybe. Marcus Carr? At times.

I think that’s it.

So that’s a concern.

As is the fact that every team in the Big Ten is built around their frontcourt play.

I was struck over the weekend as I watch Michigan and Illinois down the stretch play with four centers on the floor — Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili for the Illini and Jon Teske and Austin Davis for the Wolverines. Iowa is at their best when they play with Luka Garza and Ryan Kriener. Tom Izzo loves to play Xavier Tillman with another big man. I could keep going if I had the time.

That is the only league in the country where that happens, and I think it is fair to wonder how well that will hold up in March.

4. ARIZONA IS NOT FAR AWAY FROM BEING REALLY DANGEROUS

More than anyone else in college basketball, the Wildcats are the team that appear to be the darling of the predictive metrics this season.

(I would say Ohio State, but they spent the first half of the season absolutely bludgeoning really good teams and still don’t have a loss to a team outside the top 40.)

They have one win against a top 30 team and just two wins against top 55 opponents. Their best win away from home is against Wake Forest, yet the Wildcats, at 13-6 overall, find themselves sitting at 10th in KenPom and 12th in the NET. This is what happens when you find a way to lose games close. Five fo their six losses came by five points or less, and it hasn’t always been the same formula. Arizona erased leads to land backdoor covers against Baylor, Gonzaga and Saint John’s. They blew leads on the road in league play in losses to Oregon and Arizona State. They completely collapsed in the second half against Oregon State.

So I’m not sure there is a clear-cut answer to what ails the Wildcats right now.

But I do know that with the talent on their roster, they are not as far away from being an actual top ten team as the average Arizona fan on twitter will have you believe.

5. IS SYRACUSE THE FOURTH-BEST TEAM IN THE ACC?

Someone has to be the fourth-best team in the ACC, and as far as league standings go, the Orange currently qualify. They are 6-3 in the conference, having won their last five games, and they have fully embraced the idea that this roster needs to fire up as many threes as possible to have a chance to win.

That said, they still haven’t beaten anyone. Their best win came at Virginia in overtime, but Virginia may not be a tournament team this season. The trouble is that the Orange only get the other top teams in the conference — Duke, N.C. State, Florida State and Louisville — once each.

They probably need to win at least two of those games to have a real shot at a tournament bid.

Bracketology: Baylor strengthens its grip on the No. 1 overall seed

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Baylor continues to strengthen its grip on the No. 1 overall seed.  The Bears won their fifth true road game (5-0 in opportunities) of the season at Florida on Saturday.  They are No. 1 in the NCAA’s NET ratings, 6-1 in Quadrant 1 games and 10-1 against Quadrant 1 and 2 opponents combined.  Baylor hasn’t lost since November 8, a nearly two-month stretch of perfection.

Elsewhere, the top line remains in tact.  There’s room for debate across lines two through four. It’ll be interesting to see how the Selection Committee views the profiles of teams like Florida State, Louisville and Duke in the weeks ahead.  Unless something changes, there will be fewer Quad 1 opportunities in this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference.

Tracking the Bubble is going to keep you busy.  It’s several lines deep into the bracket today.  The margins between a nine seed and an 11-seeded play-in team are minimal.  And that’s not factoring in the next 8-12 teams knocking on the door.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 27, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
MIDWEST REGION NC State vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION VCU vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  ROBERT MORRIS vs. NORFOLK ST
MIDWEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. PR VIEW A&M

SOUTH Houston WEST – Los Angeles                         
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) ROB MORRIS / NORFOLK ST 16) NORTHERN COLORADO
8) Wichita State 8) USC
9) Saint Mary’s 9) Oklahoma 
Sacramento Tampa
5) Penn State 5) LSU
12) YALE 12) AKRON
4) Kentucky 4) West Virginia
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Cleveland Albany
6) Marquette 6) Colorado
11) VCU / Texas Tech 11) BYU
3) MICHIGAN STATE 3) Villanova
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) COLGATE
Tampa Spokane
7) Indiana 7) Wisconsin
10) Saint John’s 10) Memphis
2) Florida State 2) OREGON
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) UC-IRVINE 16) MONMOUTH / PV A&M
8) Ohio State 8) HOUSTON
9) Florida 9) Arkansas
Greensboro St. Louis
5) Butler 5) Creighton
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NORTHERN IOWA
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) VERMONT 13) LIBERTY
Greensboro Cleveland
6) Auburn 6) Illinois
11) DePaul 11) NC State / Arizona St
3) Duke 3) DAYTON
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany St. Louis
7) Rutgers 7) Arizona
10) Stanford 10) Michigan
2) SETON HALL 2) LOUISVILLE
15) WILLIAM & MARY 15) WINTHROP

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Michigan Arizona State Rhode Island Purdue
BYU NC State Virginia Tech Tennessee
Saint John’s VCU Richmond Xavier
DePaul Texas Tech Minnesota Georgetown

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
Pac 12 (6)
SEC (5)
Big 12 (5)

ACC (4)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor, Gonzaga lead the way

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

I sat down at my laptop to write out a column about why I ranked certain teams in certain spots and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t find a way to give a damn.

As I’m sure you all know, Kobe Bryant died today. He was in a helicopter along with eight other people, including his daughter, Gianna, and her teammate, Alyssa Altobelli along with her mom, Keri, and dad, John. They were on the way to play in a travel team game. At least two, and certainly more, families were gutted, and while we are going to be talking about Kobe for the most part, I do think that should be emphasized.

Nine people died on that helicopter. Nine.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about why so many folks — like myself — spent Sunday completely torn up about the death of a person that we never met, a person that may or may not be deserving of the outpouring of love and adoration coming his way. What I came up with is this: The true heartbreak in this story is that Kobe was on the plane with one of his four daughters, the one he has spent the last couple of years proudly and publicly developing into a full-blown middle-aged sports dad with. It was awesome to see. This was not how their story was supposed to end.

Kobe and his wife also have three other daughters: a 17-year old along with a three year old and a newborn that is just seven months old. The Altobellis left a family behind, too, and what that family is going through is crushing as well, but I can’t stop thinking about what Vanessa, his wife, is going to be forced to deal with. She’s post-partum, with one daughter that will never know her father, and now has to cope with the loss of her husband and the loss of a child while trying to keep that 17-year old sane and explain to a three-year old why daddy and her big sister are never coming home.

That’s unfathomable to me.

But the reason I think this hit me so hard is that I keep putting myself in that helicopter. As a parent, the only goal in your life is keep your kids safe and happy. At any cost. It’s that simple. How do you deal with being on a helicopter with your child — and, for the Altobellis, with your spouse — knowing that something has gone wrong? Knowing what’s going to happen? Knowing the inevitability of your situation? Knowing that there’s nothing you can do to stop it, to keep your baby safe?

I don’t think that I’m alone there.

So I spent as much time as I could today playing with my kids, because arguing about ranking college basketball top 25 teams has never seemed dumber.

We can yell at each other next week.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



1. BAYLOR (17-1, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (21-1, 2)
3. KANSAS (16-3, 3)
4. FLORIDA STATE (17-2, 4)
5. LOUISVILLE (17-3, 5)
6. SETON HALL (15-4, 6)
7. DUKE (17-3, 7)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (21-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (18-2, 9)
10. OREGON (17-4, 13)
11. KENTUCKY (16-5, 14)
12. WEST VIRGINIA (16-3, 15)
13. VILLANOVA (16-3, 17)
14. ILLINOIS (15-5, 24)
15. AUBURN (17-2, 12)
16. MICHIGAN STATE (16-3, 10)
17. IOWA (14-5, 18)
18. MARYLAND (16-4, 23)
19. HOUSTON (16-4, 20)
20. BUTLER (16-4, 11)
21. CREIGHTON (16-5, 25)
22. COLORADO (16-4, NR)
23. PENN STATE (14-5, NR)
24. RUTGERS (15-5, NR)
25. ARIZONA (13-6, 19)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Colorado, No. 23 Penn State, No. 24 Rutgers
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Texas Tech, No. 21 Memphis, No. 22 Michigan