Monday, March 7, 2011

Week in Review - 03.07.2011

I can't think of a single relevant thing to say about Gopher basketball right now, other than this is easily the most disappointing season I can recall - period.  Injuries played a part and so did a couple big defections, no doubt, but even with what was left and based on the start to the year this team should have been able to get a bid into the NCAA Tournament.  At this point the NIT even looks shaky.  What's more prestigious, the CBI or the CIT?  Let's just move on.  Lots of good basketball going on.


1.  Belmont Bruins.  Yes!  I know Coastal Carolina lost to Asheville so they won't be in the tournament, but they were just the second most interesting small college in play - Belmont was #1.  I mentioned it in my conference tournament preview, but I don't think anyone actually reads those so I'll mention it here - Belmont is ranked as the 20th best team in the country by  It's all math and there's no eye test involved here so Belmont jumps up because of it's complete domination of the Atlantic Sun (30-4, average margin of victory around 25 points), but it's intriguing just because of how bizarre it is.  For reference, last year's top non-major or mid-major team was Murray State who was ranked at #50.  The year prior it was Siena at #59.  Teams like Belmont are never ranked that high, and I'm intrigued.  They played three good teams this year (Vandy - lost by 9 and Tennessee twice - lost by 9 and by 1) so they don't have any real great wins, but I'm very, very excited to see what they can do in the first round.

2.  Jon Diebler.  As much as I hate to give credit to a guy with one skill, Deibler had a hell of a week shooting the basketball.  He was 10-12 from three in the Buckeyes 82-61 win over Penn State and then followed that up this weekend going 7-8 as they dismantled Wisconsin.  Ohio State is a dangerous team no matter what - maybe the best team in the nation - but when Diebler is on they're basically unstoppable.  Obviously nobody can keep up that level of shooting accuracy, but he won't need to.  If he can hit even 50% in the tournament they're going to be almost impossible to beat.  Can a team with only six players really win the national title?  I guess we'll find out.

3.  Virginia Commonwealth Rams.  I believe from what I've seen of VCU that they belong in the NCAA  Tournament, even if their resume maybe disagrees.  That's why it's awesome they beat George Mason in the Colonial semi-finals (the Patriots are in regardless), not only do they get a chance to play Old Dominion tonight for an auto bid, but even a loss might put them in thanks to the quality victory they picked up.  They're 22-10 and 13-6 in a very good CAA, with an RPI of 56 and a SoS of 99.  They have wins over UCLA, Wichita State, ODU, and now George Mason.  They do have a couple bad losses (Georgia State, South Florida) but in a year with a whole bunch of weak bubble teams they stick out to me.  It would serve them better, of course, just to beat the Monarchs again and get the auto bid, but I think they deserve to be regardless.  

4.  North Carolina Tar Heels.  Guess who is suddenly the hottest team in college ball?  Two hugely impressive wins this week (@ Florida State, vs. Duke) run their win streak to seven, and they're now 26-4 overall with an ACC record of 14-2, and are in line for a two seed.  Basically Harrison Barnes has figured it out (averaging 17 and 6 during the streak) and Kendall Marshall has really blossomed since Larry Drew departed (10 pts, 7.5 assists per game the last seven).  The Heels are suddenly looking really, really tough.  Makes me cry with anger that the Gophers beat them.  Why separate knob?!  Why separate knob?!!??!

5.  Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  I'm going to help you out with your bracket.  This is a guaranteed Elite 8 team.  I'd say Final Four, because I think they are, but I can't guarantee a win over Ohio State, Pitt, or Kansas.  Here's the important thing to remember though - they're upset proof.  Too smart, too good, too disciplined, and too balanced.  They aren't going to lose to a bad/mediocre team - they're just not.  And they just finished up the season on an 11-1 run through the Big East.  They very well might be the best team in the nation.  Go ahead and put them into your Elite 8 - in ink.  Guaranteed.


1.  Virginia Tech Hokies.  Has any team every pissed away a huge win quicker than the Hokies did to their big victory over Duke?   That win gave them the signature win they needed desperately, and with just two games to play they looked to suddenly be in solid shape.  They had BC at home and then traveled to Clemson, two fellow bubble teams, needing to win just one in order to feel pretty confident in their chances to get a bid.  Of course because it's Va Tech, they couldn't just take care of business and lost both.  And they weren't close with BC beating them by 15 and Clemson by 9.  They lost to a mediocre BC at home by 15 in a must win game.  Yuck.  Now they likely have to win two in the ACC tournament to avoid just missing the NCAAs again.  But really, who cares?  If they get in over VCU I'm going to burn the whole system to the ground.

2.  Maryland Terrapins.  The Terps were sort of supposed to be a bit of an ACC sleeper this year, but that clearly never happened, and they couldn't have put more of an upside down exclamation point on their season than they did this week dropping games to both Miami and Virginia (both by 14) to drop to 7-9 in the conference and making damn sure nobody put them anywhere near any bubbles of any kind.  Just ugly.  Apparently Jordan Williams (16.9 points, 11.6 rebs per game) can't do it all, and you actually need guards of some kind in order to win.  I guess we maybe kind of saw some of that this year at Williams Arena.

3.  Baylor Bears.  There are a lot of disappointing teams out there this year:  Maryland, as mentioned.  The Gophers, who make me cry.  Michigan State, who might sneak into the tournament anyway, and plenty of others with NCAA bid aspirations who are going to fall short.  No team, however, was as bad as Baylor this year - a team with National Championship aspirations who isn't even going to make the tournament.  An elite 8 team last year losing just one key player but gaining a consensus top-5 in the nation freshman?  How could they lose?  Well, in every possible way, culminated by losing four of their final five including two this week, @ Oklahoma State and Texas at home.  One they couldn't lose and the other they needed to win, but of course neither happened.  The only good news about all this is that maybe we'll get a chance to see them in person at the Barn.  That's an NIT CBI game I would actually show up for.  

4.  Klay Thompson.  Let me see if I have this right.  You've just won a huge game over one of the better teams in your conference on the road, a big enough win that it takes your team from "no way is this an NCAA Tournament team" to "maybe this is an NCAA tournament team."  You have one game left against UCLA, one of the two best teams in your conference and a good enough team that if you beat them on the road you suddenly jump to "this is probably an NCAA tournament team."  Huge game.  Monster game.  You're also the best player on your team and it isn't even close.  So what do you do?  Get busted for marijuana possession ON YOUR WAY HOME FROM THE USC GAME.  Seriously?  Jesus Smokey, wait until you get to your hotel.  Suspended for the game, which Washington State lost in overtime.  Do you think Thompson, who averages 21-5-4 per game, would have made a difference in a tight one?  Nice work, Marley.

5.   Gopher basketball.  Just because I want to put them in here one last time.  Unfortunately there's nothing left to say.  I was impressed by Blake's transformation from one-trick pony to do it all everything guy, and nobody gave more to the team than him.  I loved watching Mbakwe's terror show in the paint, not since Courtney James have the Gophers had a power forward like him, and Trevor's even better.  I hope he's back for another year.  I liked what I saw from Chip Armelin - an incredible athlete with a drive to score.  On a team full of guys who wait for the game to come to them, he goes out and grabs it - a little over enthusiastically at times, but at least he does it.  And I though Maverick Ahanmisi showed he could end up being a decent back-up PG some day, which is far greater praise than I expected to be giving him.  And that's pretty much it.   I can't come up with any other positive words to say.  So I'll just stop.  For now.

Finally, a shout-out to the Optimator, who won our first ever Big Ten Fantasy College Basketball League, smoking Snacks in the Championship game.  His team of Jordan Taylor, Verdell Jones, Aaron Craft, JaJuan Johnson, and Jeff Brooks took it home.  Nice work, nerd.


Dawg said...

WWWW - To make yourself feel better you should do a 2011 preview of the Gophers. Tub will be able to go back to a man to man defense and full court press as they will be much more athletic which will hopefully result in more transitions baskets. That way we don't have to watch the brutal half court offensive sets or the terrible out of time out plays that never seem to work.

WWWWWW said...

That all sounds good, but I'm starting to think it'll just never happen. I suspect Tubby is some kind of vampire who sucks the athletic ability out of his players. Just wait, before you know it Chip Armelin will be Chad Kolander.

LatvianPlayerAdvocate said...

You fucking downer. Oto is the new Abu-Shamala. No way we lose to Northwestern next year.