Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 1, 2010

Weekend in Hoops: Can KU do even better?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:27 pm

For the second consecutive week your intrepid chronicler finds himself tipping off Weekend in Hoops with a team that will ascend to the number one ranking in a few hours here. Behold Kansas. (Anyway everyone assumes the Jayhawks will be number one in this week’s poll. I guess nothing’s guaranteed. Maybe John Feinstein will start a grass-roots campaign with the voters for Coastal Carolina to get the top ranking.)

KU had a good weekend, journeying to Manhattan, KS, and beating Kansas State 81-79 in OT thanks to some late heroics from Sherron Collins. The senior from Chicago scored “just” 16 points in a 45-minute game (Cole Aldrich had 18) but 12 of those came after the under-12 timeout in regulation, including the proverbial dagger scored on a drive into the lane with nine seconds remaining in OT and KU clinging to a one-point lead. Clutch performer and fellow Illinoisan Sherron Collins, I salute you!

Bill Self‘s team is going to look ostentatiously good on paper–way better than any other major-conference team–when the latest edition of Tuesday Truths hits newsstands early tomorrow morning. But what if I told you this number one-ranked 20-1 team could look even better? It’s true! All they need is for 2009-variety Aldrich to go all Keyshawn on his teammates and say give me the damn ball!

More Cole-fired offense on the way? 
Aldrich, last season vs. this season

                     ORtng  %Poss.  %Shots   OR%   DR%   Blk%  2FG%
Last season          123.9   21.5    22.8    12.5  28.5   9.6  59.8
This season          119.9   20.5    18.2    14.1  26.4  13.3  56.0

Aldrich is a little better on the offensive glass this season, his shot-blocking has been outstanding, and maybe his very slight decline in defensive boards is due in part to better efforts here by his teammates. But overall this year he’s less efficient even though in this wondrous new post-Xavier Henry world he’s actually playing a smaller role in the offense.

I tweeted about Aldrich’s importance previously but I think my point was vitiated by oddly Yoda-like wording. Nevertheless, stand by the substance of my earlier assertion I do, yes! My spidey sense is telling me that Aldrich is about to do that which elite big men often do from year to year: Score more efficiently while using more possessions. If so it’s bad news for the rest of D-I. 

Have-nots gone wild!
What in the world got into previously winless-in-conference teams this weekend? Everywhere you looked, Davids were taking down, um, well, not Goliaths, really, but actual opposing teams. It was mayhem!

Rutgers entered Saturday’s home game against Notre Dame winless in the Big East. Zap! The Scarlet Knights got off that schneid with a thrilling 74-73 win over the Irish, thanks to a notably emphatic block of Luke Harangody‘s shot by Hamady Ndiaye. (Old-school purists please note: Ndiaye kept the ball in play Bill Russell-style!)

Not to be outdone, Rice entered Saturday’s road game at East Carolina winless in CUSA. Pow! The Owls staved off that bagel with a comfortable 69-58 win over the Pirates in Greenville, NC, thanks in no small part to 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting from Trey Stanton. Congrats coach Ben Braun!

Amazingly this weekend meme was just getting started. Next up: Nebraska entered Saturday night’s home game against Oklahoma winless in the Big 12. Biff! The Huskers took care of that lacuna with a merciless 63-46 beat-down on the Sooners and their three McDonald’s All-Americans. OU apparently bids fair to be the Washington of the Big 12, an undeniably talented team that poses a real threat to quality opponents when playing at home but is much less formidable on the road.   

But surely the mother of all upsets took place Saturday in scenic Colorado Springs, where Air Force entered their home game against Wyoming not only winless in the Mountain West but also being outscored by conference foes by an incredible Oregon State-in-2008-like 0.28 points per trip. Wild blue wonder! The Falcons stopped that 22-game MWC losing streak dead in its tracks by taking down the Cowboys 70-63. Big Weekend in Hoops kudos go out to Evan Washington, who scored 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with seven assists.

Upcoming opponents of Penn State, LSUFordham, Evansville, Dartmouth, Toldeo, Coppin StateBryant, Tennessee-Martin, and Alcorn State, you are on notice! Take no game lightly.  

You’d be upset too
Official Weekend in Hoops peep Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports is peeved because he helped his kid sell lemonade to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti and got zip, nada, bupkiss in the way of a phone call from our president! Actually Jeff’s is faux outrage delivered tongue-in-cheek, but over here at the luxe Google-style campus that Prospectus maintains for its hoops analysts I can assure you the tongue is out of the cheek and the pain of unrequited benevolence is quite real.

Why, I myself texted “Haiti” to 90999 and then sat patiently by my iPhone, just waiting to see that magical 202 area code pop up so I could get some quality time with our nation’s number one college hoops fan. One minute goes by. There it is! The call from 202! Oops. Just my brother. (“Hey, Rob. Yeah, kind of busy. Yeah, yeah, your birthday, whatever, go away.”) Two minutes go by. Oh, come on, people. I suppose Barack Obama is too “busy” doing who-knows-what to call me and say, “Hey, John, thanks for the ten bucks. Tell me more about rebound margin being a unicorn stat.” What’s the point in me taking time out from my hectic schedule and weighty responsibilities to tap five whole keystrokes on my phone if I don’t get public recognition? This is an outrage!

In other Jeff Goodman news, he picked Arizona over Cal as his upset special for the weekend, a pick that came true when the Wildcats did in fact defeat the Bears 76-72 yesterday in Tucson. Then again, in words that will be music to the ears of official Weekend in Hoops peep Kyle Whelliston (because he hears them daily when his bot tweets out yet another pre-programmed Red Line Upset Alert): Was this really an upset? Here’s what the top of the per-possession Pac-10 conference standings looked like going into yesterday’s contest.

Pac-10 elite, tallest midget in the circus, etc. 
Conference games only, through January 30
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession    Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                     Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP   EM
1.  Cal              69.7    1.11    0.99   +0.12
2.  Arizona          66.7    1.09    0.97   +0.12

I realize Sean Miller‘s group lost a lot of games in calendar 2009. But when a team that’s outscoring the Pac-10 by 0.12 points per trip wins at home by four against a team that’s outscoring the Pac-10 by 0.12 points per trip, it is pretty much business as tempo-free usual. 

This is why I don’t want my name on a special-edition Nike jersey
As part of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness Week, four teams nationally were selected by Nike to wear specially themed pink-accented jerseys. One such team was the redoubtable Cougars of BYU, who wore their special gear as they easily defended their home court against archrival Utah Saturday night, winning 82-69. Alas, when the jersey for BYU sophomore Charles Abouo arrived the young lad found that his name was spelled as “Adouo.” I feel your pain, Charles! “Gasaway” pretty much already looks like a typo. Imagine what the powers that be in Beaverton, OR, could do with a moniker like that.

In today’s less Charles “Adouo”-ish venues….
The president used time he should have devoted to publicly thanking me to instead watch Georgetown stomp on Duke 89-77 at the Verizon Center….In a game few saw, the struggles continued for North Carolina, as the Tar Heels lost at home last night to Virginia 75-60. Roy Williams‘ team can at least be thankful that everyone was watching either the Grammys or the Pro Bowl….What happens when Kentucky makes its threes and the opponent fouls like a Big 12 team? The Wildcats look really good! UK beat Vanderbilt 85-72 in Lexington on Saturday….We will be discussing this further tomorrow in Tuesday Truths, but Gonzaga caused a rupture in the WCC space-time continuum by losing (!) at hitherto unprepossessing San Francisco in OT, 81-77….UTEP now has a leg up in the wild and fun-to-watch CUSA race after winning in double-OT at UAB on Saturday night, 74-65. Note however that the Miners could have won this game in regulation if Arnett Moultrie had merely decided not to hang on the rim needlessly while teammate Julyan Stone‘s would-be game winner cleared the net….File under “uh-oh-fense”! The Billikens of Saint Louis scored just 36 points in 63 possessions for coach Rick Majerus in losing at Richmond on Saturday….Speaking of A-10 hoops, Xavier was apparently sent onto the floor against Fordham yesterday with the express purpose of rocking the Tuesday Truths world. The Musketeers surgically deconstructed the Rams 108-60….More have-nots gone wild and/or very nearly doing so! The suddenly surprising Bulls of South Florida continued their winning ways, and this time it did not involve OT. Stan Heath‘s men defeated Pitt 70-61 in Tampa yesterday. Dominique Jones did a very good imitation of Tyler Hansbrough, scoring 37 points thanks to 14-of-17 shooting from the line. And have-nots, part deux: DePaul had an excellent chance to knock off Syracuse at Allstate Arena on Saturday but Will Walker‘s open three in the final seconds missed its mark, giving the Orangemen a let’s-get-outta-here 59-57 win….Since the moment late in the Purdue game when Evan Turner of Ohio State came out of a courtside phone booth wearing a cape, the Buckeyes are 5-0 in-conference, including yesterday’s 85-63 dismantling of Minnesota in Columbus. I really thought the Gophers would have a good defense this season. I thought wrong. 

Unfiltered-back!
Don’t just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Keep the outstanding emails coming!
Good stuff in the In box about fathoming the unfathomable enigma that is Kentucky, relative conference strengths, the state of hoops west of Lawrence, etc. Keep sending me the good material and I will get around to posting some of it. No, really, I will. 

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