Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 24, 2008

The Big 12 North Needs a Government Bailout

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:06 am

Here at Basketball Prospectus, we hard-working lab-coat-sporting hoops analysts work tirelessly to stay a meme or two ahead. Take last night. For being so close to the holiday, the evening featured a good deal of momentous happenings. But, hey, we’ve already foreshadowed all of it! Dang we’re good!

For instance, Portland State beat Gonzaga 77-70 last night on the Bulldogs’ home floor in Spokane. In the 13 days since I nominated Mark Few‘s team for potential consideration as a national number 2 behind North Carolina, the Zags have gone 1-3. I hasten to add, however, that I hustled to get in on the ground floor where nay-saying my own nomination was concerned, pointing out that outstanding perimeter shooting enabled Arizona to defeat Gonzaga by five in Phoenix. Hold on to that “outstanding perimeter shooting” buzz when looking at the Bulldogs’ opponents. Few’s team has actually remained remarkably steady in many ways during their current skid–except for their perimeter defense. Over the last four games opponents have made a ridiculous 43 percent of their threes.

Or consider Butler‘s 74-65 win at Xavier last night. We were so all over that! This team’s more than just Matt Howard, of course. Gordon Hayward is good, Shelvin Mack is good, blah, blah, blah…You’ve heard it all before, if you’ve been reading along with us here.  

One meme we haven’t yet broached this season, however, involves the Big 12 North, that forlorn and beleaguered outpost of middling “power”-conference hoops. It has come to our attention that this particular division is proving starkly and stubbornly resistant to rebuilding projects. Take last night….

Iowa State lost at home to South Dakota State 65-58. The 6-8 Jackrabbits are in their first year as a D-I program and entered this game with a 17-game road losing streak. But they won in Ames last night. The Cyclones are now 1-3 over their past four games, the lone win being a six-point victory at home against Jacksonville State.

Not to be outdone, Nebraska lost at home to Maryland-Baltimore County 66-64. Deploying a six-player rotation, the 6-5 Retrievers led by 20 in the first half and held on for dear life. It worked.

And in the near-miss category, Colorado rallied from five down with four minutes left to record a 65-62 win at home against 3-8 Louisiana-Monroe. Even the division’s top tier had a bad night, as Kansas was blown out at Arizona 84-67, and Missouri dropped a not-as-close-as-it-sounds 75-59 decision to Illinois in their annual Bragging Rights game in St. Louis.

Greg McDermott, Doc Sadler, and Mike Anderson are in their third seasons at Iowa State, Nebraska, and Missouri, respectively. Jeff Bzdelik is in his second year at Colorado. (Bzdelik was reportedly suffering from flu-like symptoms last night and had to receive intravenous fluids after the game. Get well, Coach.) They’re all trying to rebuild (or, to be candid, build) their Big 12 North programs. It’s proving to be a strangely difficult proposition.  

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