With Virginia, it’s a choice of good wins or bad losses

It’s a simple question: With their resume, does Virginia have the resume to bypass the seemingly endless amount of other teams on the proverbial Bubble and make it into the field?

Consider me as one of those who thinks yes, without question. And it all has to do with their quality wins.

According to RealTimeRPI.com (the site I swear by when it comes time to look at such things) the Cavaliers have seven wins over Top 100 RPI teams. Four of them are against the Top 50 in North Carolina State, North Carolina, Wisconsin and now, Duke. The three Top 100 wins are Florida State*, Tennessee and Maryland.

(*Yes, somehow Florida State is still a Top 100 team.)

So we have the wins out of the way. Now, we have to look at the other side of things, the part that might actually weigh on the Wahoo’s NCAA Tournament chances more than anything. The bad losses.

And man, they’re awful. In fact, you could make a case that everything I’m writing is total crap, and these should keep them out.

On the season, Tony Bennett’s team is 20-8. Of those eight losses, six are against teams outside the RPI Top 150, including what could turn out to be the shot to the jugular to their Big Dance chances, the 63-61 loss to a dreadful Old Dominion team that ranks 323rd in the RPI*.

(*I understand there are other ways of determining what Virginia’s chances are. But the RPI is the main factor by which the NCAA Tournament Committee decides, so by that rationale, one has to think like the committee thinks.)

In fact, before back-to-back losses to North Carolina (20th) and Miami (3rd) on Feb. 16 and 19, all of the Cavaliers’ losses were to teams outside the Top 150.

So yea, one might see exactly why the case can be made that Virginia has some work to do, possibly even needing a decent run in the ACC Tournament.

But here’s my main argument, with the numbers all laid out: Those disgusting losses early in the season to bad teams, all of which were in the CAA (George Mason, Old Dominion, Delaware), don’t mean as much as getting four wins over sure-fire tournament teams in Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke.

Had the conference wins come in a lesser power conference such as the SEC or Big 12, which range from “bad” to “a bit down” this season, I’d say otherwise. But this a season in which even Miami, who isn’t traditionally a power in the conference, is dominant, and the ACC has shown to be  up there with the B1G this season as a best-of-the-best conference (though I believe the B1G to be the best overall, the ACC a slight second).

So the Selection Committee has to ask itself: What do we value more? Good wins or bad losses? When it comes to Virginia, the answer to that question will decide whether they’re celebrating or sulking on national television during the Selection Show in a few weeks.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

 


How Quinn Cook went from non-factor to X-factor

Last season might as well served as Quinn Cook’s redshirt season. The then-Duke freshman averaged 4.4 points, 1.9 assists and shot 25-percent in 11.7 minutes per game in 2011-12 and after all the hype surrounding him, looked well on his way to being a bust. Which doesn’t happen much with Mike Krzyzewski’s recruits.

This season, we’re finally seeing exactly why Coach K wanted Cook.

The sophomore point guard is averaging 11.4 points. 6.1 assists and 3.9 boards to accompany his 1.9 steals per game and has taken firm hold of the reins of the  Blue Devils’ offense. He serves as the facilitator for national player of the year candidate Mason Plumlee.

But I guess the question is, how?

The obvious answer is hard work, but what’s different?

Let’s examine? (And we’re throwing out “experience” here, that’s a given).

Increased Offensive Role

This might as well be called “the departure of Austin Rivers”. Rivers was not only the point guard — even if his skill set screamed shooting guard — but was the lead scoring threat. When essentially both guard spots were spoken for by one player, that makes it hard to pick a role for Cook. This season, with Rivers gone to the NBA, he can do what he does best, whatever he wants. That starts with being the point man. He gets everyone involved. Along with his 6.1 dimes, four other players besides Cook are averaging double-figures in points. He spreads it out. With Ryan Kelly out with a foot injury, he’ll have to get another starter involved as well.

The Rise of Rasheed Sulaimon

When the freshman Sulaimon got to campus this season, no one saw what they’re currently getting from their starting two-guard. He’s taken on an unexpected scoring load (11.3 points, 41.3-percent shooting) and when both guards spots were question marks coming into the season, this makes things easier for Cook to not only be selective with his shots — he’s 45.3-percent on the season with fifth-most shots attempted on the team — but has another reliable three-point shooter with Sulaimon taking the second-most three’s on the team, behind the obviously lead gun Seth Curry, at 56. Sulaimon has made 21 on the season, for a 37.5-percent clip.

No Need to Be the Leader

In the past, this hasn’t been the case for most star guards at Duke. From Jason Williams to Kyrie Irving to Rivers, the point guard has always been the guy to star, by way of scoring and passing. Cook is fourth on the team in scoring and, as previously mentioned, fifth on the team in field goal attempts. He’s not asked to score. And while Krzyzewski hasn’t demanded a bulk of the scoring load, he has demanded a bulk of the leadership come from the guard spot, at least on the court. With Plumlee, Kelly and Curry all seniors pacing the team in the huddle, Cook is asked only to make sure to minimize mistakes while making plays when the opportunities are presented.

Watching tape of Cook this season, compared to last, is like night-and-day. A number of pundits believed he just didn’t get the system, I’d say that, looking back, the coaching staff was just saving him, grooming him, even. He played 387 minutes all of last season, so far in 2012-13, he’s already clocked 492.

Cook has made 0ne of the largest improvements from last season to this season, and the reasons are equal-parts patience and opportunity.


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