Tag Archives: Big East Men’s Basketball

Xavier Basketball: 5 Storylines for the Musketeers in 2013-14

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Despite not making the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005, the future looks bright for the Xavier Musketeers. The 2013-14 season will usher in Xavier’s transition to the Big East, the addition of Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook to the starting lineup and the development of reigning Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Semaj Christon.

With head coach Chris Mack at the helm, the Muskies will look to improve upon their 17-14 record and seventh-place finish in the A-10 last season. Xavier is in its second year of rebuilding the program.

The Musketeers will rely on a lot of youth next season with five freshmen and two sophomores on scholarship. Xavier can expect a lot of competition for playing time as well as depth on the bench—something the Musketeers lacked last season—as it enters a new era in the Big East.

Semaj Christon earned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors last season.  (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Semaj Christon earned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors last season.
(Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

1. Playing in the Big East

In the midst of conference re-alignment, the Big East became a revolving door as the “Catholic 7” of Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence and Seton Hall separated from the rest of their conference; the Catholic 7 then added Xavier and Butler from the Atlantic 10 in addition to Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to form a 10-team conference.

Despite sending five teams to the tournament last year, the A-10 has historically been regarded as a second-tier conference full of mid-majors. Xavier has achieved sustained success in the postseason that has exceeded the expectations for most mid-majors.

Xavier has 11 NCAA tournament berths in the past 13 seasons; the Musketeers have had three Sweet 16 and two Elite Eight appearances in that stretch. The Muskies will get the opportunity to take their program to the next level in the Big East.

The Big East is still one of the better basketball conferences, regardless if many fans add the qualifier “new” in front of it.

Butler has proven that it’s a program capable of making deep runs in the tournament.

Georgetown returns the majority of its roster from a Hoya team that had a 25-7 record and tied for a Big East Championship last year.

Creighton’s senior forward Doug McDermott will be one of the preseason National Player of the Year favorites after averaging more than 23 points and nearly eight rebounds per game last season.

Plus, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi projects for five Big East teams to make next season’s tournament in his first 2013-14 bracket.

The Big East Tournament will be held in Madison Square Garden, and ESPN New York reporter Kieran Darcy reported that the Big East agreed to a 12-year deal with Fox Sports.

The combination of star players, tournament-bound teams, major venues and multi-year television deals means that Xavier will have more national exposure than ever before.

2. Playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis

On Thanksgiving weekend, the Musketeers will play in the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis along with Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, USC, Vilanova, UTEP and Wake Forest.

While the matchups have not been announced for the tournament, Xavier has the opportunity to play a potential Top Five team in Kansas, who recently added the class of 2013’s No. 1 recruit, Andrew Wiggins, and a fringe Top 25 team in Iowa, who returns its top five scorers from last year’s Hawkeye squad that lost in the NIT Championship and finished the season with a 25-13 record.

It could also face USC and the Trojans’ new head coach Andy Enfield, who led No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 last year, and Tennessee, who CBS College Basketball Insider Gary Parrish said should be considered a Top 25 team after the announcement of Antonio Barton’s transfer from Memphis.

The Musketeers could potentially face challenging competition in the Bahamas, which would help the strength of their nonconference schedule, and the tournament can only help Xavier’s case to make the NCAA tournament in March.

Xavier has not faced a Top 10 team in its nonconference schedule since 2008, and playing multiple ranked teams in consecutive days would prepare the Muskies for the challenges that lie ahead in the Big East.

3. The Development of Semaj Christon

Xavier’s point guard won A-10 Freshman of the Year honors last season after averaging 15.2 points and more than four assists per game.

Christon suffered his share of growing pains; he turned the ball over 10 times against VCU, made just one of his nine shots before fouling out in a four-point loss to Tennessee and he was 3-of-11 from the field against Wake Forest, to name a few of his less-than-stellar performances.

However, the Cincinnati native was one of the bright spots on an inexperienced team that lost its top five scorers from the 2011-12 season. Christon led Xavier in points, assists, steals and free throws attempted last year.

His best statistical game of the season was a 20-point, seven-assist and seven-rebound effort in an overtime win against No. 16 Saint Louis as Xavier made one final push for an at-large bid to the tournament.

Xavier coach Chris Mack tweeted this spring that Christon will be one of the team’s captains as a sophomore, so he will have a larger leadership role next season.

Just as the point guard will have an opportunity to improve in the locker room, he has room to get better on the court as well. Christon made just 25 percent of his 28 three-point shots and connected on only 67 percent of his free throws. While he averaged nearly five assists per game, he turned the ball over almost four times per game.

Xavier’s success in the inaugural season of the “new” Big East starts and ends with Christon.

If he can make strides upon the promising foundation he laid in his freshman year, he could become one of the premier point guards in the country and even be in the discussion for Big East Player of the Year.

4. The Fab 5

Xavier coach Chris Mack put together an impressive five-man freshman class for next season that has flown under the radar.

Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds were both given a grade of 92 by ESPN.

Davis and Reynolds were supposed to play last season for the Musketeers, but the NCAA denied the eligibility of both players, according to former CBS Sports college basketball writer Jeff Goodman. Goodman wrote that both players paid for their first year of school at Xavier University and could not practice with the team.

Reynolds is a 6’9″ forward who was originally a 2011 commit before he attended prep school at Brewster Academy in New Jersey for one year. He will be two years older than most freshmen.

Davis is a 6’2″ guard from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.

In addition, Xavier will have Brandon Randolph, a point guard out of Inglewood, Calif. who is ranked No. 86 on ESPN’s 2013 Top 100 players list.

Kamall Richards is the fourth member of Xavier’s freshman class. The 6’6″ small forward is a 3-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.

The Musketeers’ most recent commitment was from Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 6’8″ Bulgarian forward who has experience playing on the Bulgarian junior national team and the Greek professional team Aris, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Shannon Russell.

With half of Xavier’s 2012 recruiting class, which was ranked 14th in the country by ESPN, beginning their college careers next season, in addition to the three 2013 commits, the Musketeers’ freshman class has a bright future.

5. The Impact of Transfer Players

After sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook, a junior center, will provide the Musketeers a big body in the middle. At 6’9″ and 275 pounds, Stainbrook averaged more than 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Broncos.

In two seasons at Western Michigan, Stainbrook registered 10 double-doubles and scored a career-high 32 points against South Dakota State as a sophomore.

The native of Bay Village, Ohio also had the chance to prove himself against some of the country’s top teams. He made seven of his eight shots against No. 19 Illinois in his freshman season in a 16-point effort. In his sophomore year, Stainbrook scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds against No. 5 Duke.

With the loss of Travis Taylor (11.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game) and Jeff Robinson (6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game) due to graduation, Stainbrook will have the opportunity to start immediately in Xavier’s frontcourt.

Similarly to Christon, Stainbrook was selected as a team captain by his teammates for the upcoming season, so he has earned his teammates’ respect despite not playing in a Xavier uniform yet in his college career.

On May 17, Xavier added a second transfer, former Indiana guard Remy Abell, to its roster. While the sophomore will have to sit out the 2013-14 season, he will be able to practice with the Musketeers and make his teammates even better.

Abell will bring the experience of practicing with two All-Americans, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, to Xavier, so he has seen firsthand what it takes to play at the highest level in college basketball.

The future of the new Big East

The Big East announced this week that the conference’s basketball-only schools, which have been referred to as the Catholic 7—DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova—will leave on June 30, 2013.

While early reports indicated that these universities would create their own conference under a new name, the Catholic 7 will retain the “Big East” label in addition to playing its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York.

As the new Big East looks to expand to a 10 or 12-team conference, the universities have three options in which they can add new members—only Catholic schools, only private schools or open the conference to public universities.

The initial rumors are that the new Big East will acquire Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 Conference as well as Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to expand to a 10-team conference for the 2013-14 season.

The new Big East would like to reach at least 12 teams by 2014. Dayton and Saint Louis are the front-runners for the final spots for the new conference. Richmond and VCU have also been given consideration for admission to the new Big East.

Here is a look at the potential additions to the new Big East:

Butler Bulldogs

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-7 (11-5)—T-3rd in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 241-96 (.715 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 18

Conference tournament championships: 7

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 11—1962, ’97-98, 2000-01, ’07-11

Record: 18-11

Sweet Sixteen: 5—1962, 2003, ’07, ’10-11

Elite Eight: 2—’10-11

Final Four: 2—’10-11

National Championship Runner-Up: ’10-11

Butler has been one of the best teams in the NCAA Tournament in the past five seasons, with two national championship game appearances and another Sweet Sixteen run. Led by Brad Stevens, who at only 36 years old is one of the best young coaches in college basketball, Butler has skyrocketed from a middle-of-the-road team in the Horizon League to the front of the national spotlight. Butler University has the size of a mid-major but its recent accomplishments have earned the men’s basketball program the prestige of an established power 6 conference team.

Xavier Musketeers

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 17-13 (9-7)—T-6th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 236-105 (.692 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 17

Conference tournament championships: 10

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 23

Record: 21-23

Sweet Sixteen: 6—1990, 2004, ’08-12

Elite Eight: 2—2004, ‘08

Xavier is one of the best examples of a mid-major that has achieved sustained postseason success. The Musketeers have been a staple for the NCAA Tournament in the new millennium. Since the 2000-01 season, XU has only missed the tourney once, in 2005. The Muskies have made a name for themselves with five Sweet Sixteen appearances since 2004, including each of the past four seasons, and Elite Eight berths in ’04 and ’08. While a 17-12 record is a down year for Xavier’s standards, the Musketeers have defeated two ranked opponents in their past three games as they make a final push for the NCAA Tournament. Led by the probable Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year, point guard Semaj Christon, and an accomplished young coach in Chris Mack, the Xavier Musketeers have a bright future once their rebuilding process is complete.

Creighton Bluejays

Conference: Missouri Valley

Record: 27-7 (13-5)—1st in the MVC

Record over the past decade: 231-105 (.688 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 15

Conference tournament championships: 12

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 17

Record: 10-18

Sweet Sixteen: 3—1962, ’64, ‘74

While junior Doug McDermott has been the recipient of most of the media’s attention at Creighton, the Bluejays have long been successful before the school’s leading scorer ever stepped foot on campus. In the past decade, Creighton has failed to reach 20 wins only once and the Jays have finished no worse than fourth in the Missouri Valley standings during that time span.

Dayton Flyers

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 17-13 (7-9)—T-11th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 209-120 (.635 winning percentage)

Conference tournament championships: 2

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 14

Record: 14-16

Sweet Sixteen: 6—1952, ’65-67, ’74, ‘84

Elite Eight: 2—1967, ‘84

Final Four: 1967

National Championship Runner-Up: 1967

Unfortunately for Dayton, its best seasons were before any of the current Flyers players were born. The Flyers have a respectable winning percentage in recent years but they lack banners and trophies to show for it. They were selected to the NCAA Tournament four times since the turn of the century but were eliminated in the first round on three occasions. Dayton also lacks the elusive Atlantic 10 regular season champion honor and the team has only won the A-10 Tournament twice. Regardless of Dayton’s lack of post-season accomplishments, the Flyers are a solid team year in and year out.

Saint Louis Billikens

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-6 (13-3)—1st in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 183-125 (.594 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 6

Conference tournament championships: 1

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 7

Record: 4-8

Sweet Sixteen: 2—1952, ‘57

Elite Eight: 1952

While SLU’s most accomplished seasons were in the 1950’s, the Billikens are on the rise. In 2011-12, Saint Louis won 26 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens won the regular season A-10 title this year with a 13-3 conference record and they were ranked as high as 16th. Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews has led the team through the death of SLU’s former coach, Rick Majerus, and many analysts believe that the Billikens could be a sleeper in March.   

Virginia Commonwealth

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-7 (12-4)—2nd in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 222-92 (.707 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 9

Conference tournament championships: 8

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 11

Record: 11-11

Sweet Sixteen: 2011

Elite Eight: 2011

Final Four: 2011

Virginia Commonwealth is not new to the NCAA Tournament—the Rams participated in March Madness five seasons in a six year span in the early 1980’s. However, VCU then went dormant for nearly two decades before re-emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. The Rams knocked off Duke in ’07 then made a Final Four run in 2011, in which they lost to a fellow Cinderella team in Butler in the national semifinal. VCU’s move to the Atlantic 10 has paid off as Shaka Smart & Co. have proven themselves against stronger competition than they faced in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Richmond Spiders

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 18-13 (8-8)—T-9th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 180-144 (.556 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 5

Conference tournament championships: 6

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 9

Record: 8-9

Sweet Sixteen: 2—1988, 2011

While Richmond has only one conference honor, 2011 A-10 Tournament champion, since 2001, the Spiders are known for their performances in March. In 1984, Richmond took down Charles Barkley and No. 5 seed Auburn. In 1988, UR defeated the defending national champion, Indiana, in the opening round and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after beating Georgia Tech. Then in 1991, the Spiders became the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 when they topped Syracuse. While Richmond hasn’t been able to sustain regular season success, the Spiders are deadly in the NCAA Tournament. 

When the new Big East evaluates its options for the conference, it will look for private universities with both a history and recent track record of success in college basketball. There are no bad choices in the group—all of the teams have had some level of regular and postseason successes as well as most schools have trended upward in the past decade.

Assuming that the new Big East will only select private universities, it will likely admit Butler, Xavier and Creighton over the summer. Saint Louis is the next best team out of the private institutions. To make the Big East a 12-team conference, Dayton or Richmond would be the final school. Neither one is a bad choice. Dayton has gone further in the NCAA Tournament on more occasions. However, Richmond has more regular season and conference tournament championships; plus, the Spiders have more damage in March more recently than Dayton.

These additions should make the new Big East a stronger basketball conference in the long run than the America 12, which is the frontrunner for the schools left out of the new conference. Connecticut has won two men’s and three women’s basketball national championships in the past decade but the America 12 will lack the depth that the new Big East will have after 2014.

Big East

America 12

Butler

Central Florida

Creighton

Cincinnati

DePaul

Connecticut

Georgetown

East Carolina

Marquette

Houston

Providence

Memphis

Richmond/Dayton/VCU

Rutgers

Saint Louis

South Florida

Seton Hall

Southern Methodist

St. John’s

Temple

Villanova

Tulane

Xavier

Tulsa

Bracketology Report: Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats—(19-7, 7-6)—10th in the Big East

Strength of schedule: 31

RPI: 42

BPI: 21

Good wins:

  • 77-66 vs. Oregon
  • 70-61 @ Pittsburgh
  • 71-69 OT vs. Marquette

Bad losses:

  • 54-50 @ Providence

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/21 @ Connecticut
  • 2/24 @ No. 24 Notre Dame
  • 3/2 vs. Connecticut
  • 3/4 @ Louisville
  • 3/9 vs. South Florida

Even though Cincinnati has six conference losses and sits towards the bottom of the Big East standings, the Bearcats have been competitive in every game they’ve played in this season. Four of their losses have come against ranked opponents and another was against an unranked New Mexico squad that is now No. 16. UC has lost two games by one point, in addition to three other losses by six points or fewer. The Bearcats have proven that they’re a tough out but they lack quality conference wins, which are readily available in a conference with six ranked teams.

Cincinnati has held its opponents below 70 points on 23 occasions this season. However, the Bearcats’ offense leaves them susceptible to close losses in low-scoring games. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with his 18 points per game average on 41.6% shooting. Senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are the only other Bearcats to average in double figures in scoring. UC’s offense is too guard heavy and Cincinnati is lacking an inside scoring presence that the team had last season with center Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Cincinnati’s résumé is certainly tournament worthy but the Bearcats still have lots of room for improvement. At this point, UC is on pace for a seven, eight or nine seed. With four games remaining against Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, who are fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Big East, respectively, the Bearcats could move up to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they run the table. A strong showing in the Big East Tournament would allow Cincinnati to be in the discussion as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Prediction: Cincinnati will lose at Connecticut and Notre Dame, then end its three-game losing streak with a home victory over UConn. The Bearcats will lose on the road to Louisville and end the regular season with a win over South Florida to finish the season 21-10 (9-9). UC will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati will win its first game and lose the second. The Bearcats will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

College basketball stock report for week 16

After five consecutive weeks of teams moving up to the No. 1 spot one week and then back down the next as if there was a revolving door for the top spot, Indiana has held on to the No. 1 rank for the past three weeks. Miami (FL) has continued its ascent up in the polls from No. 25, No. 14, No. 8, and No. 3 to No. 2 and 23 first place votes behind the Hoosiers.

The Big East leads all conferences with six ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten with five and Big 12 with three.

With three weeks left of regular season conference play, here is my college basketball stock report:

BUY

Michigan State Spartans-(22-4, 11-2)-Ever since losing by five on the road to No. 7 Indiana, the Spartans have rattled off five wins in a row, including a 23-point drubbing of No. 4 Michigan. Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten with the opportunity to have sole possession of first place with a game against No. 1 Indiana tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)
Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.
(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)

Georgetown Hoyas-(19-4, 9-3)-The Hoyas have taken advantage of Syracuse’s three losses in the Orange’s last six games; Georgetown has won seven straight games, including three against ranked Big East opponents, and is in a three-way tie for first place.

Gonzaga Bulldogs-(25-2, 12-0)-Gonzaga has won 16 of its last 17 games and the Bulldogs’ only loss in the new year was a one-point defeat at the hands of Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs on the road. Gonzaga played and defeated the four teams remaining on its schedule by an average of nearly 13 points this season. It would be no surprise if the Bulldogs do not lose until the NCAA Tournament.

SELL

Butler Bulldogs-(21-5, 8-3)-Butler has proven that its best is very good after the Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana in December. However, Butler has lost three of its past eight games. Even though the Bulldogs play in an improved A-10, they have gradually fallen from their top 10 ranking.

Michigan Wolverines-(22-4, 9-4)-There is no doubt that the Wolverines have a roster that has the ability to play in Atlanta for the Final Four but Michigan has slipped up several times lately. The Wolverines lost three of their past five games. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have come on the road and the No. 7 team in the country will have to be able to play away from Ann Arbor, Mich. in order to go deep in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats-(19-7, 7-6)-Cincinnati has been ranked for most of the season but fell out of the top 25 this week after losing three of their past four games and four of seven. All of the Bearcats’ losses have been by ten points or fewer, with four of them being by less than five points, UC has struggled to emerge as one of the best teams in the Big East. Cincinnati is tied for ninth in the conference with games against Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats were projected to be a No. 3 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament but they are falling quickly.

HOLD

Notre Dame Fighting Irish-(21-6, 9-5)-In the past two weeks, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes and No. 20 Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Fighting Irish also lost to No. 9 Syracuse by 16 and unranked Providence by 17. Notre Dame has a lot of potential but the team has been too inconsistent.

Marquette Golden Eagles-(18-6, 9-3)-With the exception of a loss at Green Bay in December, Marquette does not have any horrible losses this season. The Golden Eagles were routed by Florida and Louisville, two teams that have been at the top of the polls for most of the season, but they have faired well in their conference schedule. Marquette hasn’t proven that it’s a great team but has exceeded expectations in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. With four road games and two matchups against ranked opponents remaining on their schedule, the Golden Eagles have a challenging home stretch before the Big East Tournament.

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

By the numbers: No. 25 Notre Dame’s upset of No. 11 Louisville

ESPN college basketball writer and potential psychic Eamonn Brennan tweeted the following at 5:36 p.m.:

In the early hours of Sunday morning, his pre-game prediction turned out to be nearly correct except he underestimated the matchup by one overtime. No. 25 Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville 104-101 at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind. For those who missed out on the longest regular season game in the history of Big East men’s basketball, here is the breakdown of the game by the numbers:

No. 11 Louisville and No. 25 Notre Dame's 5OT thriller was the longest regular season game in Big East history. (Image courtesy of http://www.uhnd.com/articles/basketball/notre-dame-wins-5-ot-thriller-12945/)
No. 11 Louisville and No. 25 Notre Dame’s 5OT thriller was the longest regular season game in Big East history. (Image courtesy of http://www.uhnd.com/articles/basketball/notre-dame-wins-5-ot-thriller-12945/)

5 overtimes is how long it took for Notre Dame to beat Louisville.

26 lead changes and 16 ties occurred over the course of the game.

5 of  the last 6 matchups between the two schools have gone to overtime and they have played a total of 11 overtime periods during that span.

8 players fouled out. Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware for Louisville. Jack Cooley, Tom Knight, Jerian Grant and Zach Auguste for Notre Dame.

66 fouls were called in the game.

39 minutes and 16 seconds it took Notre Dame to score 48 points.

44 seconds it took Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant to score 12 points (three three-pointers and one three-point play) to tie the game at 60 at the end of regulation.

17 points and 6 rebounds for Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman, who did not enter the game until the first overtime period.

Sherman did not play in 4 of Notre Dame’s previous 6 games.

4 times in which Louisville guard Russ Smith took the Cardinals’ final shot in an overtime period and missed.

ESPN college basketball writer Myron Medcalf credits Notre Dame in 5OT victory over Louisville

Last week I discovered how much fun ESPN’s live chats are because they allow fans to converse directly with the personalities that they follow on a daily basis. With the ridiculous number of upsets and exciting conference matchups, much of my attention is devoted to following college basketball. This afternoon, ESPN college basketball writer Myron Medcalf held a live chat on ESPN.com. I asked him about the five overtime thriller between No. 11 Louisville and Notre Dame on Saturday night that extended into Sunday morning.

Louisville junior guard Russ Smith is the Cardinals’ leading scorer at 18.3 points per game and Rick Pitino’s squad would not be national title contenders without him. Against the Fighting Irish, Smith scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out three assists. However, he was just 4-19 from the field in addition to missing game-winning or game-tying shots at the end of the first, second, fourth and fifth overtime periods. I asked Myron Medcalf how much blame Russ Smith deserves for the loss.

Myron Medcalf live chat UL v. ND

 

To read the full live chat, click here.

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

The first week of 2013 in review

College basketball conference wins are hard to come by, especially on the road

Conference play started kicked off in college basketball and it has already taken its toll on some of the top teams in the country. No. 18 Michigan State fell to No. 9 Minnesota 76-63, Purdue upset No. 11 Illinois 68-61, Marquette bested No. 15 Georgetown and No. 24 Pittsburgh is off to an 0-2 start in the Big East after losing to No. 14 Cincinnati and Rutgers.

Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)
Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)

Colorado was set to hand No. 3 Arizona its first loss of the season thanks to a career night from senior guard Sabatino Chen. Arizona came back from a double digit deficit in the second half and Mark Lyons tied the game with a pair of free throws in the final seconds. Chen hit a pull up three with 00.1 seconds left to win the game and the referees ruled the shot good. Upon further review, they waived off the shot (which was determined in HD replay to have left Chen’s hands before the clock hit zero) and the Wildcats won in overtime.

The NFL Playoffs are under way

For the second year in a row, the Houston Texans ended the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff hopes, leaving Cincinnati winless in the postseason since 1990. In a game in which the majority of the points were scored by the kickers, Houston dominated time of possession by having the ball for 38 minutes and 49 seconds. Arian Foster moved the chains for the Texans with 140 yards  and one touchdown on 32 carries. Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half and the Bengals had -6 passing yards at halftime. Houston settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, which allowed Cincinnati to stay within striking distance but the Bengals struggled to put together a scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)
Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)

Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder did not start against the Green Bay Packers due to an elbow injury, making Joe Webb the first quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game without throwing a pass in the regular season. Webb only took three snaps all season–two rushes and a kneel–but looked to beat Green Bay for the second time in as many weeks. The Vikings had the second fewest first half passing yards in NFL Playoff history (6) to only the Cincinnati Bengals, who set the dubious record just hours earlier. The Ponder-less Vikings could not keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Minnesota scored first with a field goal in the first quarter but surrendered 24 unanswered points, which was enough for the Packers to win at Lambeau Field.

Two long streaks end in the NBA

The Charlotte Bobcats ended an 18-game losing streak by beating the Chicago Bulls, who then beat the defending champions, the Miami Heat, in their next game.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Clippers put together a 17-game win streak before falling to the Nuggets in Denver.

Kobe Bryant may be 34 years old but the Black Mamba still has some gas left in the tank for the Lakers. He posterized Chris Paul on a fast break in Friday nights matchup between the two Los Angeles teams. Kobe also joined Twitter this week, giving social media users insight into his life, including his acupuncture therapy and his love to challenge himself. You can follow him @kobebryant.

Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)
Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)

Oregon and Johnny Football shine in bowl wins

In a matchup that had national championship hopes late in the college football season, Oregon routed Kansas State and the Ducks didn’t take long to get on the board–De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff and Dion Jordan took a shovel pass into the end zone to give Oregon an 8-0 lead 12 seconds into the game. While the Wildcats had possession of the ball for six minutes more than the Ducks, Oregon outgained Kansas State by 102 yards. The strangest play of the game was when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed for a touchdown but Alejandro Maldonado’s extra point attempt was blocked, a Kansas State played grabbed the ball and pitched it to a teammate in the end zone and the Wildcat player was tackled for a one-point safety in favor of Oregon. Oregon won the Fiesta Bowl 35-17.

Johnny Manziel backed up his Heisman Trophy winning regular season with an impressive bowl game performance. Manziel had over 500 yards of total offense along with 2 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns as No. 9 Texas A&M defeated No. 11 Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

A tale of two halves as Cincinnati comes from behind against Pittsburgh

The No. 14 Cincinnati Bearcats traveled to No. 24 Pittsburgh in the opening game of Big East play. Both teams entered the matchup with a 12-1 record. Cincinnati was coming off of a one-point loss to New Mexico and Pittsburgh’s lone slip up was in a close game against No. 4 Michigan in November.

Cincinnati entered a difficult environment to play in at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. Since it opened in 2002, the Panthers had only lost 19 times at home entering the matchup. However, the Bearcats had momentum in the conference rivalry after defeating Pittsburgh, who was ranked 22nd, in its Big East opener last season.

The Bearcats looked lost on both ends of the court to start the game. No one picked up Pittsburgh freshman point guard James Robinson as he cut to the basket for an easy layup on the Panthers’ opening possession. Then, Senior guard Cashmere Wright dribbled the ball off of his foot and turned it over in Cincinnati’s first possession. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick turned the ball over on UC’s next time down the court, which led to Lamar Patterson finding Talib Zanna for a layup in the lane. Senior center Cheikh Mbodj was called for offensive three seconds on Cincinnati’s third possession and Zanna cleaned up a missed Tray Woodall three-point jumper to give Pittsburgh a 6-0 lead.

Cincinnati’s fundamental flaw was exposed early by Pittsburgh and it is that the Bearcats have three extremely talented guards but the team lacks a consistent scoring presence down low. Kilpatrick, Wright, and JaQuon Parker make up 57% of Cincinnati’s offense and make 87% of the Bearcats three-pointers. The Panthers started out in man-to-man defense before switching to zone. Pittsburgh kept Cincinnati’s guards out of the lane and the Bearcats struggled to feed the ball into the post in the first half. UC made just one of its first ten shots as Mick Cronin’s team struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. Pittsburgh freshman seven-foot center and preseason Big East Freshman of the Year Steven Adams contested Cincinnati’s short-range shot attempts and was a monster on the boards with nine rebounds.

Cincinnati’s pressure on defense and the Panthers’ 0-10 shooting performance from behind the arc kept the Bearcats in the game. Cincinnati forced seven turnovers in the first half against a Pittsburgh team that averaged roughly ten per game through its first 13 games of the season.

Cashmere Wright made the first three-pointer of the game with four minutes remaining in the first half and Cincinnati pulled within one point of Pittsburgh. The Bearcats took their first lead of the game when forward Shaquille Thomas grabbed the rebound off of his own miss and slammed it home for two points. The Panthers ended the half with an 8-0 run that gave them a 34-27 lead heading into halftime.

Cincinnati came out of halftime revitalized with defensive intensity and the Bearcats’ full court pressure disrupted Pittsburgh’s ability to run its offense.

A turning point in the game was when Steven Adams picked up his fourth foul with 9:42 remaining in the second half and Cincinnati leading by three. Even though he was scoreless in the game, Adams’ defensive presence and ability to rebound the basketball had been critical to Pittsburgh’s first half success.

Soon after University of Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon pulled Adams, Cashmere Wright hit a three that took the life out of the Panthers. The shot clock was winding down on Cincinnati and it appeared that the Bearcats were going to fall victim to a shot clock violation but Jermaine Sanders kicked the ball out to Wright just in time for him to nail a shot a few feet behind the arc and double UC’s lead.

With Adams on the bench, it was David Nyarsuk time. Nyarsuk is a 7’1”, 230 lb. center (the tallest player in the history of the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball program) who is originally from Juba, Sudan and transferred from Mountain State University in Beckley, W.Va.

With eight minutes left, Nyarsuk laid the ball off the glass for his first points of the game and he extended Cincinnati’s lead to seven points. Moments later, Titus Rubles assisted Nyarsuk as he banked in a jump shot to help the Bearcats pull away from Pittsburgh. While his scoring contributions were critical to Cincinnati’s lead at the end of the game, his offensive rebounding may have been his greatest asset because he allowed the Bearcats to take nearly one and a half minutes off the clock. David Nyarsuk finished with six points and three rebounds in what was a game-changing second half performance by the NAIA transfer.

Junior center David Nyarsuk's second half performance gave the Cincinnati Bearcats the boost on offense to complete their comeback against Pittsburgh. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/bigeast/2012/12/31/no-14-cincinnati-slips-by-no-24-pittsburgh-70-61/1801145/)
Junior center David Nyarsuk’s second half performance gave the Cincinnati Bearcats the boost on offense to complete their comeback against Pittsburgh. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/bigeast/2012/12/31/no-14-cincinnati-slips-by-no-24-pittsburgh-70-61/1801145/)

The Bearcats hit eight free throws in the final 70 seconds to cap off a second half in which Cincinnati outscored Pittsburgh by 17 points. Cincinnati improves to 13-1 and next face St. John’s at 4:00 pm ET at home on January 5th.  Pittsburgh drops to 12-2 and will face Rutgers at 11:00 am ET on January 5th at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.