College Hoops 101 (11/21/11)

coach k bob knight

If you are unfamiliar with College Hoops 101, it is a weekly feature here at The Sports Bank that breaks down everything you need to know going on in the world of college basketball.  Every Monday I will look back at the previous week’s action, break down what to expect in the week ahead, and most importantly, update you on the obscene amount of games I have watched.

It’s Feast Week!  Shove your face with some turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing… send your girlfriends/wives out shopping… sit back and enjoy some college basketball preseason tournaments.  None more stacked than the Maui Invitational.

Click here in case you missed my 111 team previews in 111 days to check out the in-depth profiles.

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Five Reasons Gopher Basketball Will Be Alright

tubbysmith

By Mike Gallagher

In a weekend filled with excitement for University of Minnesota basketball, some came out of the third annual 76 Classic a little disappointed.   The Gophers haven’t played in a tournament this publicized and full of big name programs in recent memory, so just being in it at all was exciting.  Two losses, both to unranked teams, wasn’t exactly what Tubby Smith had in mind.

Having played three creampuff programs, there was really no measuring stick as to how good or bad the team can be.  This tournament was going to fuel a lot of speculation about the Gophers possibly being a top three Big Ten program.  While the two losses left a little something to be desired, there’s no need to fret Gopher fans, and here’s five reasons why.

1. The win over Butler. This was the game everyone pointed to in the non-conference season as the one to watch.  This is the only ranked team the Gophers have on the non-conference schedule, and they showed a lot of maturity and poise on their way to an 82-73 win.  The main thing that should be taken from this game is the depth they showed.  All ten guys came to play, and the difference was bench scoring, which the Gophers dominated 46-8.  This is the second year in a row the Gophers have beaten a top ten program in the non-conference season.  Before they beat Louisville last year, they hadn’t even scheduled a top 25 non-conference program since 2002-03.

2. The play of Colton Iverson. While being used off the bench in the first two games of the tournament, Iverson played well.  Specifically his 13 point, 11 rebound effort versus Butler was what earned him the start Saturday against Texas A&M.  He took advantage of the opportunity and looked very solid in the post on his way to a 14 point, 12 rebound effort.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as last year he showed offensive flashes on his way to shooting over 60% from the field.  If he can sustain these kind of performances along with Ralph Sampson III continuing to play consistently (seven points, seven boards per), it would add a very nice element inside for teams to think about on both ends of the floor.

coltoniverson

3. Rodney Williams Jr.’s disappearance. The man hyped to be the #3 pick in the 2011 NBA draft and the 18th best talent in the country according to nbadraft.net, took only three shots the whole tournament and was a non-factor.  So why exactly is this a good thing?  Because he produced absolutely nothing for the team and they still managed to beat a ranked team and play two other solid programs close.  Williams has proven to be an explosive scorer as well as a solid defender on the other end of the floor.  This is the first time he has faced legitimate competition, and now he has a feel for it.  He has plenty of time to adjust to the high level he faced against the three teams this weekend, and can hopefully get acclimated in time for the Big Ten season.  When he comes around, and he will come around, he’ll be yet another great weapon off the bench for Tubby’s squad.

4. The pending return of Trevor Mbakwe. That’s right, it looks like it’s right around the corner.  ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke with Tubby Smith before the start of the 76 classic, and Smith indicated that it looks as if the charges against Mbakwe are going to be dropped.  Some believe that when Mbakwe joins the team he should start right away, supplanting Williams/Paul Carter.  Of course it will take a little time to get him back in the flow of the game, so he’ll probably come off the bench at first.  However, if he is reinstated soon, don’t be surprised if he’s starting by the end of December.  Devron Bostick, who is also currently suspended, is supposedly going to be reinstated in time for the Miami game Wednesday, another tidbit Katz got out of Smith.  Bostick will bring another shooter to the team, and he’ll be able to stretch the floor so the lane will open up for Sampson and Iverson.  As for Royce White, his trial for the Macy’s theft is December 2nd and Smith indicated no timetable as to when his issues would be resolved.

trevormbakwe

5. Defense. Holding three extremely competitive programs under 41% shooting from the floor is very impressive.  Making them turn the ball over a combined 54 times in three games isn’t too bad either.  Damian Johnson is the most complete player the Gophers have and that is especially evidenced on the defensive end.  He is averaging three steals and two blocks, both team highs. Paul Carter and Williams are very opportunistic, lanky, athletic defenders who have quick hands, so they can lock up the other teams best wing.  With Sampson and Iverson patrolling the paint and Nolan locking down the point with 2.5 steals/gm, opponents just don’t get anything easy.  At this point, the Gophers are allowing just 57 points/gm.

Even though the weekend could’ve been a little more lucrative in the wins department, don’t be discouraged Minnesota fans.  It’s still early, and if anything could be learned from this weekend, it’s that, for the first time in a while, the Gophers are a legitimate top 25 program.

For Tubby Smith and company, that’s something to be proud of.

College Hoops 101

old spice swagger

By: David Kay

There is nothing quite like walking into a neighborhood watering hole located in a strip mall at 11:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving to watch college basketball and down a couple Bloody Mary’s and Old Styles before it is even one o’clock.  That is the joy that Feast Week brought me.

Non-stop college hoops last week combined with a five-day vacation allowed me to spend a lot of quality time in front of the boob tube.  There were plenty of entertaining games, interesting storylines, and upsets galore.  It’s all here in College Hoops 101.

Rewind

-Since I am a glass half-full kind of guy, let me start by saying this; prior to the Old Spice Classic, if you would have told me that Marquette was going to finish 2-1 in the tournament, I would have taken it in a second.  With that said, it is still massively disappointing that after holding a 17-point second half lead, MU let is slip away in their Championship game loss to Florida State.  But we did learn a lot about this Marquette team.  They are gritty, play hard, get after it on the defensive end, and despite being grossly under-sized are going to scrap to stay in every game.  Translation: They have sucked me in and I am a believer that this team could be competitive in the Big East.  I also rescind my comment from a week ago that they will only win four games in conference play.

-Remember all that talk about the Big Ten being the toughest, deepest conference in college basketball this year?  Maybe not.  Friday was a rough one for the Big Ten as four ranked teams lost; Michigan State to Florida, Michigan to Marquette, Minnesota to Portland, and Illinois to Utah.  Follow that up with the Illini losing to Bradley on Saturday and the Gophers and Wolverines falling on Sunday, and the Big Ten took a big hit on the national scene.  Northwestern was a saving grace though as they upset Notre Dame and beat a talented Iowa State squad in the Chicago Invitational Challenge (check out Paul M. Banks coverage of Northwestern’s winning the challenge.)

-UCLA… OUCH!  Playing in Anaheim at the 76 Challenge, the Bruins finished in eighth place out of eight teams.  They were embarrassed in their first round game losing by 27 to Portland.  Then UCLA was edged by Butler in a consolation round game and then fell to Long Beach State by 11 in the 7th place game.  The Bruins are now 2-4 on the year and it doesn’t get any easier with top-ranked Kansas coming to town this weekend.

-The Pac-10 is not the best college basketball conference on the west coast this year.  The West Coast Conference is owning the Pac-10.  Loyola Marymount won at USC.  Portland beat Oregon and then smacked UCLA around like Ike slapped Tina.  San Diego beat Stanford earlier this year by 13 and of course there is Gonzaga who beat Wisconsin and Cincinnati to win the Maui Invite.  The Pac-10 might only get two teams in the tourney.

-Play of the week goes to Alabama’s JaMychal Green who secured his team’s victory against Michigan in the 3rd place game of the Old Spice Classic.  (Fast forward to the end of the game.  Sorry, it was the only clip I could find.)


Fast Forward

-This is supposed to be the year the Big Ten claims the Big Ten/ACC Challenge crown having lost all ten match-ups versus Dickie V’s favorite conference.  Two games to keep an eye on including the re-match of last year’s NCAA title game:
Michigan St. at North Carolina: Tuesday 8:00, ESPN
Duke at Wisconsin: Wednesday 8:15, ESPN

-North Carolina at Kentucky: Saturday 11:30, CBS
The Heels follow up their game with the Spartans by heading to Lexington.  Both teams are extremely talented but still young and trying to find a groove.  Expect a lot of offense in this one.

-Miami (FL) at Boston College, Sunday 2:00, FSN
Isn’t it way too early for the first conference game to be played?

The Drive
Games watched through 11/29: 53

Games watched this past week (home teams in CAPS): 20

#10 Tennessee 57, DePaul 53
A year ago, the Blue Demons went oh-for in Big East play.  This year, they hang with Tennessee and are 3-1 so far.  DePaul will be no pushover in conference play.

Cincinnati 67, Vanderbilt 58

Finally Jay Bilas is on color for a game I watch.  Cincy was very active on the defensive end but I was just happy to here Bilas’ sweet voice calling a game.  (Now is about the time Bilas files a restraining order against me.)

#6 Purdue 73, #9 Tennessee 72

Very entertaining game.  Both teams played really hard and got after it on both ends of the floor and should be major factors this season nationally.

Wisconsin 65, Arizona 61
Dear officials, way to ruin what should have been a very intriguing match-up by calling 54 fouls resulting in 66 free throw attempts.  The only thing we learned from this game is that ‘Zona freshman Derrick Williams has stud potential.

#3 Texas 85, Iowa 60
Tied at the break, the ‘Horns out-scored the Hawkeyes 47-22 in second half.  Remember the name Jordan Hamilton, a freshman swing player on Texas.  He could be special in a year or two.

Arizona 91, Colorado 87 OT
Very entertaining game to watch.  Nic Wise came up huge for ‘Zona down the stretch while the Buffs proved they are ready to make some noise in the Big 12.

MARQUETTE 93, South Dakota 68
I am really okay with teams wanting to zone MU this season.  They have shooters who can knock down three’s and Lazar Hayward can set up shot in the middle of the zone.

Gonzaga 74, Wisconsin 61
Despite welcoming ten new players, the Zags are still one of the top mid-majors in the country and can hang with any team from the power six conferences.  Of course it also helps that the Badgers were 5-26 from three in this game.

#3 Texas 78, Pitt 62
The ‘Horns are apparently a second half team.  They were tied with Iowa at the half and then trailed Pitt at the break before turning it on for the final twenty minutes.

Wisconsin 78, #21 Maryland 69

I kept getting interrupted and watched this game over three different sit-downs, so I didn’t get a feel for it at all.

Vanderbilt 84, Arizona 72
An off-night for Nic Wise = ‘Zona loss.

Gonzaga 61, Cincinnati 59 OT
Zags win the Maui Invite and show that despite being without four of their top players from a year ago, they are still one of the best mid-major programs in the country.

#15 Michigan 83, Creighton 76 OT

I am still trying to figure out if Michigan did not impress me or if Creighton really impressed me.  Manny Harris was one rebound shy of a triple-double.

Marquette 71, Xavier 61

Not gonna lie, I was already chalking this one up in the loss column for Marquette.  Thankfully, Xavier went on a late five-and-a-half minute dry spell without a field goal as MU went on a 16-2 run.  Big confidence building win.

#16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73
There were 81 free throws attempted in this game.

Marquette 79, #15 Michigan 65
Nothing like going to the bar at 11:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, order a couple Bloody Mary’s and Old Styles, and watch your team knock off a ranked team.  That’s called a good start to the day.

Florida State 60, Alabama 51
With this win, FSU advances to meet Marquette in the Old Spice Classic Championship.  The ‘Noles are 7-1, 6-9, 6-8 in their frontcourt.  I have no idea how MU can guard them.

#7 Duke 68, #13 UConn 59

Neither team played very well in what was pretty much a letdown game to watch.

Florida State 58, Marquette 57

Read the Rewind section of this article for more on this game.

#8 West Virginia 84, Portland 66
Portland’s Cinderella-run in the 76 Classic comes to an end at the hands of a Mountaineer team that is as good as advertised.