It really doesn’t matter that Temple lost on Saturday at St. Joseph’s. And neither should anyone else.
It’s really weird to think that the Owls, who had an 11-game winning streak snapped by the Hawks, haven’t been talked about more this season.
I get it, they play in the Atlantic 10, not exactly the Big Ten, or even, this season, the ACC. But look a little deeper, and Temple deserves more praise — and it has nothing to do with their no. 22 national ranking.
During their 11-game winning streak, they’ve scored at least 73 points in each game, and held six opponents to 60 points or less. At 22-6 and 10-3 in the A-10, a league hell bent on scoring in bunches, that’s pretty impressive.
Like most teams in the A-1o, their strength lies in the deep ball. They shoot 40.5-percent from 3-point range. That’s 11th in the nation, though surprisingly, second in the conference (behind LaSalle’s 40.8).
It seems like forever ago, but everyone seems to forget that this team has a win over Duke. At home, 78-73, on Jan. 4. It didn’t look like a lot against what most though was a down-trodden Blue Devils squad, but it looks better and better by the day. Throw in wins over Penn and Wichita State, two of the better mid-major programs this season, and the Owls A-10 record almost only needs to be average to get them an At-Large ticket.
Being senior-led doesn’t hurt. Ramone Moore (18.0 ppg) and Juan Fernandez (10.9 ppg) are two of the three scorers for the Owls. The second-leading scorer? Junior Khalif Wyatt’s 17.5 ppg.
And that one thing that everyone always harps on late this the season? Depth. Temple has it. Fernandez, Moore and Rahlir Jefferson-Hollis have started all 28 games this season, with With Anthony Lee playing in all 28, starting 17 and Wyat playing in 27 while starting 25. As for the rest, two of their bench players, T.J. DiLeo and Aaron Brown have notched minutes in all 28 games, while Will Cummings (20) and Michael Eric (15) have played in at least half the games this season, with Eric getting 11 starts. That’s effciency, homes.
It’s tough to define which teams will make runs when the Big Dance rolls around. But honestly, what more does a team have to do? Given the Owls’ schedule. As long as the final two games of their regular season, at home against UMass and at Fordham, are W’s, this squad should earn an at-large berth, with a no. 34 ranking in both the KenPom and Sagarin and a no. 15 ranking at RealTimeRPI.com.
Fran Dunphy has his postseason demons, which may be the only thing holding them back — the Owls haven’t been past the second round, and that was once, last season, in his six seasons in Philadelphia — but that doesn’t mean that this season is poised for a run. With Murray State riding a 28-1 record to national headlines and teams like Indiana sparking their own resurgence, it’s easy to understand why a story like Temple’s — a solid, deep, senior-led squad reeling off wins in an average conference — is overlooked.
Not that Temple probably cares. Just don’t say you saw it coming if this team gets on a roll next month.
But please, Fran, please, bring back the ‘stache. People want the ‘stache.
-PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES
Miami’s hopes of making it to the NCAA Tournament were already iffy, but it will likely get even more difficult for them.
In case you didn’t see it over the weekend, the Hurricanes’ starting center Reggie Johnson has been declared ineligible after an investigation revealed some of his family members took travel benefits that came for the Miami coaching staff.
There is a good chance Johnson will be out for the remander of the year, and if so, it will be a big blow for the Hurricanes. Johnson is fourth on the team in scoring at 10.6 a game and is first in rebounds with 6.9 per contest.
In a conference with the North Carolina’s duo of Jon Henson and Tyler Zeller, as well as Duke’s combo of the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly, Miami will miss Johnson’s size when the ACC-tournament begins next week.
Miami will move F-C Kenny Kadji to the center position. Kadji is second on the team in both points and rebounds, averaging 13 and 5.7 a game. The Hurricanes don’t have much depth with their big, and with Miami already having a guard-heavy roster, they are now faced with literally no one to anchor the middle with Kadji.
Raphaeal Akpejiori started on Sunday in their game against Florida State, but was not much of a factor, totaling four rebounds and zero points in just seven minutes of action. He has only scored more than five points on two occasions this year, never going above seven.
Miami will play 6-foot-8 guard-forward DeQuan Jones a little more, but I’m not sure if he is the answer. There really isn’t an answer. Miami will just have to rely more on their guards and hope for solid play with no foul-trouble from Kadji.
They were still able to beat Florida State on Sunday, moving them to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s ‘Last Four In’ in today’s Bracketology, but Miami still needs some wins to feel more comfortable come Selection Sunday. A big game at North Carolina State on Wednesday could bring the victorious team near a lock-status .
Miami will close the season with a very winnable game against Boston College. If they lose that NC State game, one and maybe two wins in the ACC Tournament will be a must for the Hurricanes. The season isn’t totally lost for the Hurricanes. It may just make them play even harder, or who knows, an unsung hero may emerge to carry them to the Big Dance.
We are in the Final Countdown of the regular season, so that means the final what to watch for because if you don’t know what you’re watching next week, well you need to turn in your fan card.
Monday: Notre Dame @ Georgetown (7pm ESPN) – The last Big Monday game of the season, always hate to see this happen since they have one of the best announcing crews. Back to the game the 3rd place Irish and 4th place Hoyas have the coveted double-bye, for now, at Madison Square Garden but can still drop to a single-bye so expect this to be a great game. If you wanted to the Daytona 500 may be on (I really need to invent a tarp for NASCAR) to flip to during the media timeouts.
Tuesday: Michigan St at Indiana (7pm ESPN) – Sparty comes to Bloomington where the Hoosiers have had some success (cue the Kentucky video) against ranked opponents.
Wednesday:The first conference tournament starts with the Atlantic Sun on ESPN3. Marquette visits Cincinnati (7pm ESPN), the Bearcats have played well ever since the fight vs Xavier earlier this season including wins over Louisville, Connecticut, Pitt and Georgetown. USF will be looking for a resume building win as they visit the KFC Yum! Center (can’t forget the !) to take on Louisville (7pm Big East Network). 8pm Iowa State travels to Missouri (Big 12 Network).
Thursday: Michigan takes on Illinois (7pm ESPN), in what could be Bruce Weber’s last game as head coach of the Fighting Illini. The Missouri Valley and the West Coast Conference tournaments appear on the screen.
Friday: Murray State is playing in the Semifinals of the OVC Tournament (7pm ESPNU). If you want to find me I’ll be watching a great college baseball series of Pepperdine vs Louisville (two weeks in a row with a baseball plug, sue me).
Saturday: The first tickets are punched as the Big South, OVC and Atlantic Sun all determine a champion. Memphis @ Tulsa (Noon CBS) in a C-USA match-up of the top teams in the league, Louisville travels to Syracuse (4pm CBS), who knows what Louisville team will show up.
Sunday: The last day of games for the regular season and Kentucky travels to Florida (Noon CBS) and in state rivals Purdue @ Indiana (6pm Big Ten Net). A champion will be crowned for the MVC (2pm CBS).
March madness is here! The OVC Tournament will get a leap on things on Leap Day (bad pun, I know) in Nashville, TN. Of course the favorite will be the 1 seed, Murray State, who as the 1 seed are in the semifinals as well as Tennessee State, the only team that defeated the Racers this season.
A team that could give Murray State a scare would be the last team that they faced, Tennessee Tech. Murray State was able to beat the Racers by five points Saturday, but the lead was one point with a minute to go in the game. The win gave the Racers their best season on record (28-1, 15-1), and finished undefeated on the road for the first time in school history. It’s safe to say that an automatic bid is a given for the Racers if they don’t win the OVC Championship, but I’m sure coach Prohm won’t let his team think that, and will be playing for a better seed come Selection Sunday.
A team to watch out for would be the 3 seed, Morehead State. The Eagles will play the winner of Austin Peay / Jacksonville State. The winner of that game will advance to face Tennessee State.
The First Round and Quarterfinals will be streamed online at OVCSports.TV. The Murray State Semifinal game will be live on ESPNU at 6pm on March 2nd while the other semi will be live on ESPN3 and aired tape delayed on ESPNU. The automatic qualifier for the OVC will be determined on March 3rd at 1pm on ESPN2.
What happened to the Fighting Illini? Whatever it is, it’s pretty certain that Bruce Weber will not be there next year.
Illinois has now lost six straight games (and nine out of 10) in conference, falling to 5-10 in the Big Ten. This was a team with high hopes to finish in the top third of the conference, and that looked like a good bet after wins against not only Ohio State, but Michigan State as well. They are one of two teams in the nation (Michigan being the other) to beat those two Big Ten powerhouses.
Right before their big win against MSU back on Jan. 31, the Fighting Illini had lost three games by single digits coming off of the OSU win. Instead of that big win over the Spartans giving them confidence, it appeared to do just the opposite. In their current six-game losing streak, they have lost three of the games by double figures, including an 83-67 loss to the Buckeyes back on Tuesday. The defense has been especially bad during this stretch, as they have given up 80+ points three times. We knew the ‘S’ was silent in ‘Illinois’, apparently the ‘D’ is too.
There is still time for them to get on track, with games against Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin to end the year. The bubble has burst for this squad, but winning a couple of those games, most notably the latter two against ranked competition, could give them the momentum they need going into the tournament.
But no matter if they make a run in the conference tournament, Illinois will likely not be going to the NCAA’s, meaning Weber should be gone. Since Weber brought the 2005 Fighting Illini to the NCAA Championship game, he has failed to get his team past the first weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Simply put, they have choked. Also, they are just 60-56 in the Big Ten since that year — definitely unacceptable for Illinois.
Following a loss last week, Weber publicly said he has “coached not to lose all year.” The frustration is there from Weber, and that has carried over to his players.
Let’s not forget that Illinois has a new Athletic Director in Mike Thomas, who fired football coach Ron Zook soon after he was hired. Thomas appears to want to start fresh.
Weber did amazing things at Southern Illinois before he came to Champaign, maybe he’s just better at the mid-major level. He’s a class-act guy, but it’s time for him to pack up.
Five games you should’ve watched, and five games you still have a chance to see. All while your wife makes you run around for two hours, including a trip to Sephora that I’m pretty sure qualifies as some sort of misdemeanor kidnapping.
No. 1 Kentucky-83, Vanderbilt-74
-Kentucky (28-1, 14-0 SEC) clinched the overall SEC title with the win over the Commodores (20-9, 9-5), and got one of the best performances of the season out of National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis. Davis dropped in a career-high 28 points, pulled down 11 boards and also had six blocks. Coach John Calipari said after that he thought about letting his team take it on the chin, but said he couldn’t. He’s a brilliant basketball mind…but also a notorious BS’er. Nonetheless, UK with a good win.
No. 4 Duke-70, Virginia Tech-65, OT
-This Duke (25-4, 12-2 ACC) team makes everything close this conference season. The Hokies (15-14, 4-10) have had Duke’s number in recent years, but hey, this season there isn’t even talk of VaTech being On The Bubble, so the final was a bit surprising. Cadarian Gaines missed a jumper that would’ve won the game for VT with time running out, and the Blue Devils kept hitting shots in the extra period. Austin Rivers had 23 points in the win and Miles Plumlee showed off his best Ben Wallace with 15 rebounds and only 5 points for the Dukies.
St. John’s-61, No. 18 Notre Dame-58
-Whoa. Any see this coming? (Put your damn hand down). The Redmen (13-16, 6-10 Big East) — it’s more fun to say that than Red Storm, it sounds like a VD — led 31-25 at halftime and an Alex Dragicevich three went begging at the buzzer to give the Johnnies their most relevant win this season. Big hit to Mike Brey’s Irish (20-9, 12-4) squad, who are still probably in the Dance, but might take a seeding hit for this one.
Iowa State-65, Kansas State-61
-Can anyone figure out this K-State (19-9, 8-8 Big 12) team? Beat Mizzou (granted, at home) then get beat by, in fairness, a solid Iowa State (21-8, 11-5) squad that probably will make the Tournament. But damn, this one would’ve helped a lot for the Wildcats, Frank Martin obviously is losing all sorts of heat on his laser-like stare. It doesn’t help when you let Scott Christopherson go for 29 on 10-of-13 shooting.
GAMES TO COME (All times eastern, home teams first)
No. 5 Kansas (23-5, 13-2 Big 12) v. No. 3 Missouri (25-3, 13-2 Big 12) (4 p.m., CBS)
-It’s a travesty, really. This is the last battle in the Border War in the known future. But at least we get a great one between two top-5 teams in a venue that just might implode in Allen Fieldhouse with the tension as high as it is. Look for the biggest match-up to be a streaking Jeff Withey, averaging nearly a double-double recently, against Mizzou big man Ricardo Ratliffe, who leads the nation in field goal percentage.
Virginia (21-6, 8-5 ACC) v. No. 7 North Carolina (24-4, 11-2 ACC) (4 p.m., ESPN)
-The last time these two teams played, both were ranked. The Cavaliers are close to that now (like it matters?) but Tony Bennett’s squad needs to put together a solid second half this time around. The Tar Heels only led 35-32 at halftime in the first meeting between the two before outscoring the Wahoos by 15 in the second half to pull away.
No. 13 Michigan (21-7, 11-4 Big Ten) v. Purdue (18-10, 8-7 Big Ten) (6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
-This one is more about the Boilermakers than Go Blue. Purdue is most definitely on the wrong side of the bubble right now, and need another solid Big Ten win — and probably need to beat Indiana on the road after that — to get back on it. Robbie Hummel is averaging 26.5 points over the last two games.
VCU (24-6, 14-3 CAA) v. George Mason (23-7, 14-3 CAA) (6 p.m., ESPN2)
-Winner leaves with the Colonial Athletic Association crown, it’s that simple. A Sherrod Wright 3-pointer at the horn was the difference last time in a 62-61 win for the Colonials. Shaka Smart won’t let the Rams forget that.
Harvard (24-3, 10-1 Ivy) v. Penn (16-11, 8-2 Ivy) (7 p.m, ESPN3)
-Harvard can essentially lock up the Ivy League with a win, which will put them three wins and two losses ahead of the Quakers with two games left. After being less than a second from their first NCAA Tournament berth last season, you can bet Tommy Amaker has this squad prepared.
No. 23 St. Mary’s (24-5, 13-2 WCC) v. San Francisco (18-11, 8-7 WCC) (11 p.m., No TV)
-The only reason this one is intriguing is because the Dons defeated Gonzaga last week, and could have their minds on another upset against the Gaels.St. Mary’s demolished Portland, and a win over USF could earn a lot of respect for them after being dominated in their Bracketbuster loss at Murray State.
–PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES
-Iowa State is the poster child for the one-year tournament push.
The Cyclones have eight transfers (six eligible, two redshirting) on their roster, and not only do they play, they produce. With five of their top scorers starting their careers on a different campus than the one they’re currently on in Ames.
What’s more interesting is that these aren’t mainly freshman transfers that have spent the last few years with the Cyclones. Michigan State guard Chris Allen is a one-year hired gun for coach Fred Hoiberg, with two other transfers — another Michigan State transfer in Korie Lucious and former Utah guard Will Clyburn — waiting in the wings for their final victory laps next season.
Iowa State’s biggest contributor, redshirt sophomore Royce White, spent a non-playing semester at Minnesota before deciding to take his game to Ames.
This proverbial Noah’s Ark of new faces came with the hiring of Hoiberg, now in his second season at the helm of his alma mater. Dude likes his experience, even if that experience came on a different home floor before last season.
It’s almost comical how Hoiberg stacked this team for a one-year run at glory, with White, Allen and already-on-campus redshirt senior and Marquette transfer Scott Christopherson all leading the way for Hilton Magic and a run at the Big Dance. It’s already helped the ‘Clones to a 20-win season, a no.34 ranking in the KenPom and a no.36 ranking in the Sagarin Ratings.
I can see the infomercial for a team like this. A current high-major Division-I player, contemplating his future at his current university, flips through the channels at 2 a.m. after a summer’s night of Busch Light and XBox and….
“Current program gotcha down? Need a fresh start but don’t want to feel like “that transfer” on your new team? Well there’s a place for you….IOWA STATE!
You’ll feel right at home in scenic Ames, IA, not only does coach Fred Hoiberg embrace the transfers, he’s made it a practice in only one season!
Not convinced? The Cyclones — who currently sit at 20-8 overall and 10-5 in the Big 12 — have not one, not two, not three, BUT EIGHT junior college or four-year program defections currently on their roster!
And after your year-in-residence, not only will you play under the seemingly god-like majesty of Hilton Coliseum, YOU’LL GET RESULTS! Just ask our many satisfied transfers.
Previous school: Minnesota
2011-12 stats: 12.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, leading the team in both categories.
Previous school: Michigan State
2011-12 stats: 12.5 points, 82-percent from the free throw line.
Previous school: Marquette
2011-12 stats: 11.5 points, 45.5 percent (51-for-112) from 3-point range.
Previous school: Crowley County Community College
2011-12 stats: 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds.
Previous school: Penn State
2011-12 stats: 8.4 points, 4.3 rebounds.
If you’re keeping score at home — and we know you were — that’s five of the top six scorers on the team, and they’re all, you guessed it, TRANSFERS!
So if you’re looking for a place to start over, fit in and produce in whatever amount of eligibility you have left, c’mon down to Iowa State. Where we not only take whatever transfers we can, WE TAKE THEM TO THE NEXT LEVEL!”
…So maybe Hoiberg has a future in sales if the whole coaching thing doesn’t work out. But while the success is coming in droves now, it’ll be more interesting to see if he can maintain this next season. White could very well turn pro, Allen and Christopherson are gone, and insert Lucious, Clyburn while Babb will get his shot as the resident senior transfer.
It’s some that’s enamored this blog all season. It’s working, and sounds like a formula that Hoiberg is having short-term success with, but not one he should fall in to.