Tag Archives: West Coast Conference Men’s Basketball

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.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi responds to my question about Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament seed

The Gonzaga Bulldogs (21-2, 8-0) are ranked sixth in the country and have a half-game lead over Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference. However, Gonzaga has lost two of its three games against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs lost at home to No. 11 Illinois 85-74 and at No. 13 Butler 64-63 this season. Even though they have one of the best records in college basketball, most of their wins have come against unimpressive WCC teams and good but not great non-conference opponents.

This afternoon, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi held a live chat on ESPN.com at I asked him if Gonzaga’s seed can (not will) only get worse from their current two seed projection. Click here for the full live chat.

Joe Lunardi live chat

What If? Wednesday: What if Hank Gathers did not have an irregular heartbeat?

ESPN 30 for 30 is a series of 30 films about 30 different stories, produced by 30 different filmmakers. For Christmas, I received the first and second volume and yesterday afternoon I watched on titled “The Guru of Go.” The film was about basketball coach Paul Westhead, who won the 1980 NBA Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers and after being fired by the Lakers and Chicago Bulls, he was hired at Loyola Marymount University.

Westhead’s coaching career began at Cheltenham High School in Philadelphia. Two of the best college basketball players in the late 1980’s, Eric “Hank” Gathers and Bo Kimble, were Philly natives and won a city championship in 1985 at Dobbins Technical High School. Both Gathers and Kimble were recruited to play at the University of Southern California. After an the Trojans posted an 11-17 record in the 1985-85 season, Head Coach Stan Morrison and Assistant Coach David Spencer were fired and replaced with George Raveling. Raveling revoked the scholarships of the Dobbins Tech teammates and they transferred to Loyola Marymount University.

Westhead specialized in an offense called “the system.” His plan was to have his team take more shots than the opponent and more shot attempts means more shots made. When “the system” was most effective, the game was a track meet and it would wear down opponents both physically and mentally. It is the epitome of the phrase “run and gun.” The guards lead the charge down the center of the court, with a forward streaking down each side of the court and the center trailing the play.

Gathers and Kimble gave Westhead the perfect personnel for “the system” to be effective. In the three-year span of 1988-1990, the Loyola Marymount Lions went 27-3, 20-10 and 23-5. The most impressive part about Westhead’s strategy was the number of points it allowed his teams to score. In the Gathers/Kimble era, the Lions’ average points per game increased each year from 110.3 to 112.5 to the unfathomable 122.4 points per game in 1990 that still stands as the highest average ever in the history of college basketball.

Gathers was the heart and soul of the Lions. In 1989, he became only the second men’s college basketball player to lead the country in scoring (32.7 ppg) and rebounding (13.7 rpg). In the 1990 West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals against Portland, Gathers completed an alley-oop and collapsed as he ran back on defense. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital and his autopsy showed that he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the leading cause of sudden cardiac deaths of young athletes.

Hank Gathers was on top of the world at Loyola Marymount University until his tragic death during a game in 1990. (Image courtesy of http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/celebrities-who-died-young/images/30072059/title/eric-hank-gathers-february-11-1967-march-4-1990-photo)
Hank Gathers was on top of the world at Loyola Marymount University until his tragic death during a game in 1990. (Image courtesy of http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/celebrities-who-died-young/images/30072059/title/eric-hank-gathers-february-11-1967-march-4-1990-photo)

Without Gathers, Loyola Marymount managed to advance to the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual national champion UNLV 131-101. However, Hank Gathers’ death raises the question: what if he did not have the heart condition that eventually led to his death?

For starters, the Loyola Marymount Lions could have been the biggest Cinderella story in the history of March Madness. LMU was riding a six-game win streak and the Lions had won 10 of their last 11 games entering the Elite Eight matchup against UNLV. They won three games in the 1990 NCAA Tournament without Hank Gathers, including the defending national champion Michigan. UNLV’s 1989-90 team had four players, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and George Ackles, who were selected in the 1991 NBA Draft, including three in the first 12 picks. Loyola Marymount needed star power against the Runnin’ Rebels more than any other team. Bo Kimble put up a fight in LMU’s 30-point loss with a 42 point, 11 rebound performance but the rest of the team were non-factors. Jeff Fryer, the team’s go-to three-point shooter, was 4-16 from behind the arc and the Lions were out-rebounded by 18 boards. Gathers motivated his teammates, brought intensity to rebounding the basketball and consistently scored 30 points per game for the Lions. If Hank Gathers played against UNLV, Loyola Marymount would have had a legitimate chance to beat the No. 1 seed in the West Region, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. If LMU made the Final Four, then they would have had more momentum than the three other remaining teams and two consensus Second Team All-Americans leading the charge. As an 11 seed, Paul Westhead and the Loyola Marymount Lions could have been the highest seed to ever win the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.

After the Loyola Marymount’s success in the NCAA Tournament, Hank Gathers would have been one of the top picks in the 1990 NBA Draft and Bo Kimble’s draft status may have improved if LMU made it past the Elite Eight. Syracuse University forward Derrick Coleman was the number one pick of the 1990 NBA Draft. While Coleman’s 6’10” had three inches on Hank Gathers, Gathers made up for his lack of size at the power forward position with heart and tenacity. Gathers averaged over 20 points per game for three seasons in college while Coleman never averaged more than 18. Gathers’ junior and senior year rebounds per game averages were comparable with those of Coleman, which means that Hank Gathers could potentially have been selected by the New Jersey Nets with the first pick.

It takes a lot of assumptions to predict that Hank Gathers would have been the first pick of the 1990 NBA Draft so it seems more realistic that he would have been selected fourth overall to the Orlando Magic instead of Georgia Tech forward Dennis Scott. Gathers had virtually identical size as Scott but grabbed nearly twice the number of rebounds and made 10 to 15 percent more of his field goal attempts in college (to provide full disclosure, Dennis Scott attempted at least 200 three-pointers in each of his three seasons playing college basketball and made 42 percent of them, while Gathers only had four in his career, which certainly helped his shooting percentages).

With the number one pick in both the 1992 and 1993 NBA Drafts, the Orlando Magic selected center Shaquille O’Neal out of Louisiana State University and forward Chris Webber out of the University of Michigan, respectively. Webber was traded on draft day to the Golden State Warriors for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and three future first round draft picks. In the 1994-95 season, the Magic signed forward Horace Grant from the Chicago Bulls and Orlando made the 1995 NBA Finals to play the Houston Rockets. With Hank Gathers in his prime, Orlando could have stolen a game or two from Houston but it is unlikely that they would have won the 1995 NBA Championship.