End of an Era
Just a quick post to let you know that this will be the last post on the Sitting Courtside Blog.
I have redesigned MRISports.com to hold all of the Sitting Courtside, On the Field, and Ranking data. As a result, anyone who currently subscribes to this site can subscribe to the main MRISports.com site and receive all postings to your site feed.
Thanks for all who have read me through Blogger. Enjoy the new site at MRISports.com
Final MRI Tournament Projection has been posted
The final tournament projection with just minutes to go before the announcement is posted.
Check it out here
The MRI got 20 out of 31 conference tournaments correct and is shooting for 30 of the 34 at large teams.
Six games. That is all that remains between us and the field of 65. Twelve teams, some playing just to get into the field, others playing for a better seed. The winner of the SWAC can pretty much be assured of playing on Tuesday. The winner of the Southland game will know that they have to face one of the top 8 teams in the country, and would have to do something that only 4 teams have ever done. The other games, those are the gravy. Match-ups with teams playing for a banner, a seed a little higher, and the glory that comes with a championship season.
4670 games ago, the players stepped onto the floor, and the season began, and I can't remember a season that has been more dizzying, more heart stopping, more exciting. Teams from the top to bottom of major conferences, all very good. The Top 25 all season was as close as close can be. The MRI has never had more teams vying for spots three through seventeen. Every week, games coming down to the buzzer. Shots flying from half court, some going in, some not. This only intensified in the conference tournaments. Yesterday may have been the greatest day of basketball all season. Every game provided those stand up and cheer moments, and some weren't even finals.
A lot is on the line today for Duke and Oklahoma State. It is entirely possible that the most impressive winner of the two today, if they can even win, will capture a #1 seed. For Illinois, no matter if they win or lose, they will be slotted up at #1. And as for Kentucky and Florida, there would be no more perfect match-up in the finals, especially with the way Florida came back from a shaky start at the beginning of the year to come only a few points away from the regular season conference title.
I sit. I wait. I watch. The bracket is coming...and then the real fun will begin.
Week 10 - Rivalries Expose Pretenders
The emails have started again. You know the ones I am talking about. They are the ones that consistently question how an undefeated Illinois team could possibly be listed below a North Carolina team with 3 losses, including a loss that came this week. There are a couple of responses to this. First, the loss earlier in the week did cause North Carolina to actually lose rating points for the week as a whole. Illinois, therefore, did gain on them in the rankings while pulling even further away from the #3 team, which was Kansas (though that will change again after Monday night's loss to Texas Tech). Second, the performance of Illinois in its wins against Michigan and Wisconsin was not something that shouted out the praises of the team. Sure they came from behind in the Michigan game and yes, they beat a Wisconsin team bent on revenge, yet Illinois was not the dominant team that they had been just a few weeks before which begs the question if they are getting tired.
Another factor in this question is the age old battle about who has the better conference, top to bottom, the ACC or the Big Ten. The MRI has consistently had the ACC as the better conference on average. Looking at the ACC-Big Ten challenge earlier this year, the ACC was the dominant league. The Big Ten has a core of 3 very good teams, and then there are 4 teams which teeter on the edge before you hit the bottom four which have truly been terrible this season. Everyone thought that the ACC would turn in the same mediocre league this year with the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech. Instead, the new additions have shocked everyone and Miami is actually riding its time on the bubble, sitting just out of many predictions for the NCAA tournament with just four weeks to play. The league from top to bottom is better than the Big Ten and with the addition of Boston College next season, the disparity could get even bigger.
So for all of you out there that wonder about the formula and my sanity, let's just wait a few more weeks. The good news for Illini fans is that I did predict that all teams would win a game before the last team lost a game. Well, Savannah State finished their season oh-fer, meaning that for my prediction to hold up, Illinois would need to run the table. Consider me on the band wagon.
The second week of the tournament predictions proved somewhat more difficult than the first though I was able to find some information which made the job a little bit easier. Oklahoma State is able to play in Oklahoma City as the Big XII is the official host at the site. This made the pod system a little easier to assemble this week. In addition, my placement of DePaul in the Chicago Region last week was not allowed as they are the host team. Someone should explain how they still are the host team when they play their home games at the Allstate Arena and the tournament is held at the United Center. The same goes for Davidson, who plays in a tiny gym in North Carolina while the tournament games will be held at the Charlotte Coliseum. Granted, fan base for these teams would be a lot greater than normal in these cities, but tell me that wouldn't be the same truth for Oklahoma City and the Cowboys or Chicago and Illinois.
Some thoughts and remember that there are still four weeks left:
- Only a few teams either gained or lost spots this week though some are definitely trending their way out of the tournament. Minnesota's two losses this week dropped them from a seven seed in the first week to an eight this week. While that seems like a small drop, it moved them closer to a large pack of teams closely ranked in the MRI. This could signal a big drop out of the dance is coming. At-large teams dropping out of the dance this week: Only New Mexico, who was replaced by Pacific from the Big West.
- Pacific, you shout? They are ranked in the Top 25 overall in the polls. How are they a bubble team? Through the magic of the rankings, the MRI still believes that Utah State is the best team in the conference. Pacific has won both regular season meetings between the two teams. There is a cliche that it is very difficult to beat the same team three times in one season. This myth was actually proven false by the folks at ESPN during the football playoffs this year. I would tend to believe the same would hold true for college basketball. The first two meetings were home and home and Utah State battled well on its home court. It remains to be seen what will happen when they potentially meet in the Big West finals, this year held in Anaheim, CA.
- The Missouri Valley conference fills out 4 dance cards again this week. With still plenty of basketball left, I am counting on at least two of these tickets falling to other conferences in the final weeks. SW Missouri State and Northern Iowa are barely clinging to their time on the bubble. All it will take is one impressive win by an ACC or Big East school to knock them out. If they do continue to hang on though, it won't be without precedent. Last season, Wichita State was able to be ranked in the final MRI tournament numbers and was left sitting at home. The Missouri Valley has definitely taken a step up in recent years to warrant a look for more than just 2 bids. This comes at the expense of the Atlantic 10, a once powerhouse conference who has lost its luster. The only hope for a second bid is if George Washington would lose in the conference tournament finals. Otherwise, it may only be the conference winner in the NCAA.
- There is hope for the A-10. Charlotte will move next year and join the conference, adding a team which can compete year in and year out. A couple of more wins on their resume and they are quickly closing on the Top 25 in the MRI. Look for Charlotte to make one of those Sweet Sixteen runs even when everyone else has counted them out.
- Boston University took care of business over the course of the week and took out Vermont. That was Vermont's first loss in the conference and it gives the Terriers the big win that they were looking for. It won't hurt their chances to make a big run and not lose until possibly the conference tournament championship game. Boston University is definitely deserving of the look.
- Just a reminder that the regions will be "seeded" at the beginning of the tournament. That means in my scenario that the regions meeting in the final four would be East vs. West, and Midwest vs. South. This leaves open the possibility that
UNC and Illinois could meet in the final that everyone is looking for.
- I ran my simulation on the brackets as I produced them and once again chose 40 runs as a good representation for the run. The teams to make the final four the most often were the #1 seeds in each bracket. They were not without upsets. North Carolina had the easiest time by far in its bracket. It only missed the Final Four fifteen of the 40 times and those times were split among 6 other teams. This week their main competition was Michigan State who scored a 6. No bracket had 10 teams make the Final Four like last week. The South battled it out among 6 team with a fairly even distribution between Kansas, Louisville, Connecticut, and Florida. The best performance of a non #1 team was by Wake Forest this week. They won the simulation in their conference 11 times to Oklahoma State's 19.
- So who will win? I entered the Top 8 teams based on the 40 round sim that could possibly meet in the Regional Finals. I ran the simulation 50 more times and kept track of just the winners. And the answer: North Carolina. The Tar Heels triumphed 21 times to Illinois's 12, which shows that Illinois is gaining a little from last week on the Tar Heels. All of the eight teams won at least once and the winner of the East-West Final Four game won 29 times, meaning that the toughest test may come earlier in the tournament for those teams.
Week 9 - The Bubble Forms and Tournament Week 1
It has been quite a couple of weeks since the MRI last graced the pages of Sitting Courtside. The one thing I can say is true is that no team is immune to a lapse right now. North Carolina has been beaten, not in the last two weeks, but they have been beaten. Illinois has had some scary moments when they have looked less than the #1 voted team in the land. In the land of the major conference teams, the bottom has consistently been knocking on the doors of the top teams and coming hard at them, winning some, losing some, but playing hard and upsets are bound to happen.
All this means that we are most likely in for one of the best tournaments in the last few years. With all the teams very close, it will become harder and harder to predict the outcome of all, let alone half, of the tournament games.
However, this week, I endeavor on my task as I do each year and attempt to pick the field of 65. This year, it will look a little different. I did not go straight down the numbers this week
, but rather attempted to place the one-bid conference winners a little more strategically. I still placed all at-large winners based on the numbers, but some highly ranked conference leaders were placed lower in the bracket than they would have been when I did this in the past.
And what was I left with are the projections for the first week
. It may look like some teams are getting a real big benefit but that is how the numbers stack up at this point. Right now, there are a lot of teams looking in from the outside and they are all just one big win away from getting over the hump and in.
- The tough Missouri Valley conference really hasn't gotten the attention that it has in the past few years. Based on the numbers, a whopping four teams would make the tournament field this week, edging out some conference leaders (by record) such as Pacific. I have no beliefs that all four teams will make it in but the Missouri Valley has played well enough as a conference within season and out to have consideration for more than one team in the tournament. It will be a big test to see if they can get three.
- Boston University benefits from the strength of a team like Vermont. It is conceivable that Vermont has played impressively enough that they would be considered for an at-large bid should they lose in the conference tournament. The team that is most likely to pick them off would be Boston University. BU is still playing well on its own and could warrant some consideration from the committee. They need to keep winning though. Their losses have come against some good teams, including a strong Holy Cross team which is looking to make history and warrant consideration for a Patriot league team to win an at-large bid if an upset occurs. Their other losses have been Boston College (undefeated), Massachusetts (upset city), Vermont (conference leader), and an up and coming Northeastern team. The Terriers can definitely do themselves some good with a win against Vermont later this week when they get the Catamounts at home.
- I seem to do this every year. Somehow, I stick Texas Tech and Bobby Knight somewhere where he is going to be at a distinct disadvantage. Some years, they were set to face Indiana in the tournament. Other years, like this one, I have Texas Tech placed to go to Indianapolis for their first round game. Don't get me wrong. There are still people in Indiana that love Bobby Knight. Still, it is difficult to go home again and chances are that if Knight's team plays like it did against Iowa on the road, they are in for a long day that first round against Vandy.
- Just a reminder that the regions will be "seeded" at the beginning of the tournament. That means in my scenario that the regions meeting in the final four would be East vs. West (Potential Duke v. North Carolina Round 4), and Midwest vs. South. This leaves open the possibility that UNC and Illinois could meet in the final that everyone is looking for. It also means that Louisville has the chance to sneak up on everyone and pull a big shocker should they get that far.
- I ran my simulation on the brackets as I produced them. I figured that 40 times would give me a good representation, at least for the first run. The teams to make the final four the most often were the #1 seeds in each bracket. They were not without upsets. North Carolina had the easiest time by far in its bracket. It only missed the Final Four fifteen of the 40 times and those times were split among 5 other teams. That said, the biggest competition then for the Tar Heels were Kansas (5) and Florida (6). Meanwhile, in the South, 10 teams were listed on the Final Four line in the simulation. Louisville was the team only 15 times and met stiff competition from Arizona and Kentucky. Before you rule out a Cinderella, Vermont was able to make the last line in the region twice. The best performance of a non #1 team was by Washington. They won the simulation in their conference 11 times to Duke's 17.
- So who will win? I entered the Top 8 teams based on the 40 round sim that could possibly meet in the Regional Finals (For example, Arizona had 7 wins, but will meet Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen and so was not in the final sim). I ran the simulation 50 more times and kept track of just the winners. And the answer: North Carolina. The Tar Heels triumphed 23 times to Illinois's 11. All of the eight teams won at least once and the winner of the East-West Final Four game won 33 times, meaning that the toughest test may come earlier in the tournament for those teams.
Keep on reading and watching. If you want to complain, just drop a comment or an email to bmiraski at mrisports dot com.
Week 7 - Kansas Falls, Army Victorious
Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, I have been missing lately. No games to watch, no musings. Not that those things haven't gone on. I just haven't had the chance to write about them.
Well, all that is changed. I am back with a vengeance, and the first thing I have for you in my triumphant return is the review of Week 7.
- Kansas lost to Villanova by a huge margin. I am first shocked that Kansas was playing at full strength. If they were going to lose, you would have thought it would have come when Wayne Simien was out hurt. If it didn't come then, you might have expected that when Keith Langford was hurt with a concussion. Yet, none of these things happened. In fact, they looked better playing without Simien than they have since he has returned. The MRI almost foreshadowed the downfall, consistently marking Kansas down, though in the past two weeks, they had begun to make a run for the top. This week changed that with the big loss. At the same time, you have to admire the play of Villanova this year. They handed West Virginia their first loss of the season by a big margin. This sent the Mountaineers into a downward spiral that included a loss to three win Marshall and they have yet to recover. The Wildcats then lost three of four, which almost made the win streak they were having look like a fluke. In those losses, though, they were in every game. Notre Dame is definitely still a contender, despite the last second loss to Georgetown on Saturday. Boston College is undefeated and Nova came close to upsetting them also. Georgetown turned the tables from the 1985 championship loss and won by the same score as the famous Cinderella game. And now, Nova bounces back with a huge win against a Kansas team which has been in everyone's Final Four. Villanova deserves a great deal of credit for hanging in the tough games this season. If they can add two more big victories to their plate and continue this play, they may well return to the dance.
- While the Big East is all bunched up, they may want to look down the East Coast to the ACC to get a glimpse of what life will be like next year. When the Big East expands, adding Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Marquette, and Depaul, they will become the new basketball powerhouse in America. Sure, they will lose a Boston College team, which over the past few years has been as good or better than both Connecticut and Syracuse. In return, they are adding some of the top teams, and most overlooked teams, in the country. Just look at where Cincinnati and Louisville are in the MRI, both in the Top 15. DePaul is now consistently putting together tournament caliber ball clubs, and Marquette is finding ways to win, even without the talent they once had. Add in that teams like Villanova and Georgetown will get older and even better and scrappier than this year's version and you are looking at a conference which will field at least 8 teams which can compete for the championship. They best watch that ACC though. Virginia Tech and Miami, both picked to finish at the bottom of the standings, are hanging in every game. They are getting wins and finding ways to make the ACC conference appear that every team could be 8-8 at the end. The teams at the top beat each other up, and the teams at the bottom are picking off what they can. No one is safe in the ACC this season, and no one will be safe in the Big East or ACC next year.
- When Illinois takes to the floor tomorrow to face Wisconsin, they will be looking to end the longest home winning streak in the country. Ohio State couldn't do it. They were plagued by cold shooting all game. Michigan State almost did it. Somehow, they thought the game ended about four minutes earlier than it actually did and they gave up the big lead at the end. Now Illinois gets its chance. Don't expect it to be easy, but they may have the best shot so far to do it. The real question will be if some combination of James Augustine and Nick Smith can contain Mike Wilkinson inside while Illinois's guards chip away at the Badgers from the outside. One of the biggest keys may be getting the Wisconsin big man out of the game and hoping that the Wisconsin shooting can't compete with the tough Illini defense. Illinois will need to hope that Badger leading scorer Alando Tucker doesn't return to the form he was displaying before he went down with the injury that kept him out of the Ohio State game. He hasn't been the same since his return and a big game against the #1 team in the country may be just what he needs. Right now, give the Illini a 67.37% chance of staying undefeated and ending the Wisconsin hold on their home court.
- I have already mentioned how Cincinnati and Louisville will take their Conference USA dominance to the Big East next season. Left behind in all the movement is a very good Charlotte team. With each game, the 49ers continue to make their case for a tournament berth by adding wins to their resume. Earlier this week, they were soundly defeated by Cincinnati, but this can be forgiven. On Saturday, they bounced back to win against a ranked Marquette team, who continues to win without the talent of previous seasons. In that win, Charlotte looked nothing like the team that was embarrassed earlier in the week. The loss to Cincinnati ended a nine game win streak which stretched back to their last loss, a one point, three overtime thriller against Alabama. Charlotte has what should be two easy games against TCU and East Carolina before they get a chance at revenge on the Bearcats, this time at home. A win against Cincinnati in the rematch should secure a dance ticket for Charlotte. The rest of their season is such that they only have two potential losses after the Cincinnati game, those coming against DePaul and Louisville. Look for the 49ers to cause some havoc in the conference tournament and then in the big dance that follows.
- Whether Mike Davis gets to keep his job at Indiana beyond this season may depend on the performance of his team over the next two weeks. While the Hoosiers have tuned up against the bottom of the Big Ten, they now face their toughest challenges. This week, they take their show on the road. The first stop is against a surprisingly good Minnesota team which is looking for their first chance at the dance since an academic scandal ended what looked like a return to glory for the Gophers. After that, a trip down the road to Iowa greets them to face a Hawkeye team which almost dethroned Illinois. They get to return home to face Penn State the next week before traveling to Champaign and taking on Illinois. It is not hard to believe that Indiana could go 1-3 through this four game swing. If they can somehow change that into a 3-1 record, Davis might be safe, provided he can at least get Indiana into the NIT. Should anything worse than that find its way into their record books, Mike Davis better start looking for a home buyer in Bloomington.
In other news, I am hard at work on a new look for the site which will allow you to get all of Sitting Courtside, On The Field, and the MRI rankings at one site. Stay tuned, I promise it will be worth it.
Games to Watch - January 12th
Performed a little better last night in the predictions. Still, not a grand week so far for the MRI. I have to remain positive though. Conference season is sure to provide a number of games that will prove to be upsets. You have to factor in rivalries which are not as common during the non-conference slate. This will cause more upsets than you would figure. Hopefully after this week, things will even out and the MRI will continue its stellar performance so far this year. Gonna be a short night because of the top games of the year will be tonight, though you can say that about any match-up at the top of the ACC.Wednesday Night
MRI Performance yesterday: 12-6, 66.67%
MRI Performance this week: 33-23, 58.93%
MRI Performance for the year: 970-304, 76.14%
MRI Performance all time: 3782-1367, 73.45%
Georgia Tech at North Carolina - When you look at a game between the #2 and #4 team in the MRI, you wouldn't expect there to be this much of an advantage for one team. Still even on paper and through watching both these teams play so far this year, you can see why North Carolina should dominate the game, especially with Georgia Tech lacking the offensive skills of B.J. Elder. When Elder went down in the game against Kansas, Georgia Tech looked like a different team. Jarrett Jack attempted to do what he did when the same thing happened in the NCAA tournament last year. In that game, Jack was the driving force in the victory over the Jayhawks. He was impressive again this year, but wasn't able to quite take the Jackets to the win this time as Kansas and Keith Langford got hot near the end of the game to send it to overtime and to victory. Georgia Tech has been able to bounce back with great wins against Miami and Virginia to keep them undefeated in conference play. The shorthanded Georgia Tech will be taking on the amazing three pronged attack of the Tar Heels. Sean May will be quite a test for Luke Schenscher inside. Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants will have Jack's and Will Bynum's heads spinning as he tries to keep up. With the way that North Carolina was able to pull ahead and then put away Maryland on Saturday, they should be riding a high that it seems unlikely that Georgia Tech can stop. Schenscher will need to turn in the game of the year for his team and keep Sean May out of synch. Most importantly, he will need to move better without the ball, something that he was not doing well in the game against Kansas. Anthony Morrow will again need to be able to shoot well and give the Jackets another option on offense. Last, they will need to generate chances on the break and protect the ball. They don't have a lot of chance to match up well with North Carolina in a set game. They will need to keep running and hope that the Tar Heels get sloppy with the ball while protecting it themselves. MRI Predicts
: North Carolina Confidence factor
Kent State at Western Michigan - Tonight's game in the MAC matches the top team in the East with the top team in the West. Seniors Ben Reed and Levy Rost lead a Western Michigan team which is looking to return to the NCAA tournament to avenge their loss to Vanderbilt. Both players have been very consistent. They are the top two players in both scoring and rebounding for the team. Reed hasn't been held under 10 points yet this year and went for a season high of 36 in the Broncos' last game against Akron. Rost is no slouch himself, scoring 31 against a Buffalo team which is also expected to contend in the very difficult MAC. Look for point guard Rickey Willis to feed these two consistently throughout the game. The Kent State Flashes will counter with a very balanced offensive attack including point guard DeAndre Haynes. Helping the all-MAC team candidate will be Kevin Warzynski and Jason Edwins. Both Edwins and Warzynski have been key in the previous two wins for the Flashes when Haynes has not shot as well. This will be a great guard battle between Haynes and Reed, one driving the offense through his ball handling skills, and the other through his dead eye shooting. If you want an advantage, there really isn't any definitive one for either team. The Broncos get the nod at home. MRI Predicts
: Western Michigan Confidence factor
UTEP at Nevada - The two top teams in the WAC face off tonight in the first of their two meetings. Given the state of the league, only the winner of the conference tournament may get a chance to dance at the end of the season. Therefore, this game becomes even more important. Should one of these two teams establish itself as the strong leader now and then get upset in the tournament, this game could go a long way towards determining if they will get a shot at a second bid. Don't think that I am counting out Fresno State, Hawaii, and Rice just yet, but currently UTEP and Nevada are the only two teams who have the numbers to get to the dance. Sophomore Nick Fazekas and Kevinn Pinkney lead a strong inside attack for the Nevada Wolfpack. This will be countered by the equally good shooting attack of the Miners. Nevada is not a very good shooting team from beyond the arc. If UTEP gets ahead early, they may have a tough time catching them. If Nevada gets the lead though, look for UTEP to turn to their deep shooters like Miguel Ayala. He is 13-17 in the last three games from deep. This one comes down to which team's game get stopped early, the inside presence of Nevada or the perimeter shooting for UTEP. MRI Predicts
: UTEP Confidence factor
Wilkinson Badgers Buckeyes
When you win 36 games in a row and 51 out of 53, you have to have some breaks go your way. When Wisconsin took to the floor on Tuesday night, they were hoping for just that. Earlier in the day, it was decided that leading scorer and second leading rebounder Alando Tucker would be sitting out the game against Ohio State after an ankle and foot injury he suffered on Sunday during practice. Without Tucker, they were losing almost a quarter of their offense.
Instead of Alando Tucker, the Badgers had Mike Wilkinson. Wilkinson was the second leading scorer for the team going into the game and left it after scoring 29, a new career high. Wilkinson was repeatedly fed the ball inside and was very effective thanks to the foul trouble by Ohio State's Terence Dials. With Dials on the bench, Matt Marinchick was unable to contain the faster and more aggressive Wilkinson.
Wilkinson added 10 rebounds to his total but by far, the most important board of the game was grabbed by Clayton Hanson with less than a minute remaining in the ball game. On Wisconsin's previous possession, Zach Morley drew a foul, but missed both shots from the free throw line. On the second shot, Hanson grabbed the rebound as Wilkinson blocked out the bigger Dials. Hanson was fouled and went to the line where he hit both shots. The next possession for Ohio State resulted in a turnover as Brandon Fuss-Cheatham threw the ball over the head of the running Dials. Wisconsin made 5 more free throws in the last thirty seconds while Ohio State was only able to counter with one basket of its own.
Despite leading for most of the first half, Ohio State was consistently cold shooting the basketball, especially from three point range. The Buckeyes started the game 2 for 10 from the arc and finished 7 for 23. Tony Stockman, who hit 5 of 7 from three in the Ohio State win against Iowa was especially off from long range and the rest of the floor. He finished 4 for 17 shooting including only 1 of 9 from long distance. Bo Ryan commented after the game that "it was a combination of both" Ohio State missing the open shots they were given and good pressure by the Badger defense.
Still, the best thing that Wisconsin did all night was to take Dials out of the game. He still managed 15 points and 8 rebounds, but it came in only 24 minutes as he repeatedly had to go to the bench, including the last six minutes of the first half when Wisconsin was able to grab the lead from Ohio State and extend it to 5 by the break. Dials picked up his third foul a little over a minute into the second half and was a non-factor on defense especially after he received his next one just 3 minutes later. Without Dials, and given the poor shooting of the Buckeyes, they continued to fall behind. When the shots finally did fall, they were down by 11 and Wisconsin was able to keep ahead just enough to outlast them. J.J. Sullinger and
Matt Sylvester were big in the run that Ohio State tried to make, but it was just not enough.
Not everything Wisconsin did worked. When Wilkinson went out of the game, he was replaced by red shirt freshman Brian Butch. Butch had sat out last season to get stronger and was effective in keeping the Buckeyes in check at the defensive end. Where he still needs to work is in his shot selection. He took two three point shots late in the first half while Dials was sitting on the bench. This was the time when he should have been getting the ball down low as he had the advantage over the Ohio State players. You can be sure that Ryan reminded him of this during a time out after the second shot refused to fall.
With the win, Wisconsin extended its home winning streak to 37 games. Asked about the streak after the game, Ryan was nostalgic for a bit, referring to streaks he had while at Wisconsin-Platteville earlier in his career. Still, Ryan was all business. "I really haven't talked about [the streak]," said Ryan. "This right here, when you have a team coming in the next night...that's all we concentrate on." Ryan will need to have the team concentrating. Their next game is Sunday against Michigan State, who will try and counter Wilkinson with Paul Davis. Wisconsin will be looking to extend the winning streak to an NCAA-leading 38.
Ohio State's next game is a non-conference match against 6-5 LSU.
Couch Musings (1-12-05)
I am seriously thinking that I will need to buy two more television sets at some point and place them all in my living room with their own cable boxes. Trying to flip between the Arkansas-Alabama, Missouri-Oklahoma State, and the end of the Villanova-Providence games, was quite a feat. At least when Louisville played like the Globetrotters against Southern Mississippi doing their best Washington Nationals impression, it left me free to watch the Ohio State-Wisconsin game in its entirety. Musings for last night:
- If you are a coach trying to show young kids the importance of making free throws, or even how to make free throws, there were a number of exhibitions put on last night. The best game for them to watch would have been the Missouri-Oklahoma State game. The two teams combined to go 44 of 49 from the free throw line for an unbelievable 90%. This included Joey Graham making all 13 of his attempts and his twin brother Stephen only missing 1 of his 8 attempts. Linas Kleiza, a 66% free throw shooter, matched Joey G's feat by also hitting all 13 of his from the charity stripe. His performance almost willed Missouri to a win in this game but the Graham brothers and John Lucas were too much for the Tigers who didn't get double digit scoring from any other player.
- Tuesday night should have been called the night of the Second Option. Missouri didn't have one and went down. Providence also struggled to find one beyond Ryan Gomes and lost to a Villanova team missing their best player, Curtis Sumpter. In his place, the next best players all stepped up to fill the hole. Allen Ray scored 27 and Jason Fraser, who was averaging a little over 6 points in his previous 10 games, went off for 25 points and also grabbed 13 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end. The big games turned in by Ray and Fraser were key to the Wildcats victory, along with a tenacious pressure defense which pushed the Friars into 29 turnovers.
- Second options might also be called unsung players. One of those plays for Wake Forest. We hear a lot of about Chris Paul and the impact that the sophomore has had on the team. We hear a lot about the disappointment that Vytas Danelius was last year after a great sophomore year. But through all of that one man goes unseen and unsung, Justin Gray. Gray led the Demon Deacons in scoring last season at 17 points a game. While he was a first team all conference selection last year, he didn't get the press that everyone else in the ACC normally does. Maybe he was a little upset at this as, this year, he is back on top at 17.7 points per game. This was helped by his big performance against Maryland on Tuesday. Gray went off for 25 points including 6 of 9 from three point range. Despite Maryland shooting almost 50% from the field, Wake Forest easily cruised to victory by 15. It might have something to do with Maryland shooting only 1 for 14 from beyond the arc. Or it might have something to do with Maryland being terrible getting rebounds. Wake Forest was able to bring down 22 offensive rebounds and no one on Maryland's team had double digit numbers in that area. If Maryland doesn't do better at grabbing boards, they will be in trouble. In the last two games, both of which Maryland was embarrassed in, they have been outrebounded 100-64. Even in their lone conference win against Florida State, they were beat on the glass, 56-44. This was not the way that the Terps wanted to start in the ACC.
- Will the real West Virginia please stand up? If it wasn't bad enough getting their first loss in the Big East opener against Villanova in blow out style, imagine how they feel after last night. Playing Marshall in the battle for the Mountain State in Charleston, you would have thought that West Virginia would have easily handled the two win Herd. Instead, the Herd took down the Mountaineers for their second embarrassing defeat in two weeks and Marshall's third win of the season. Couple this with a close win against a St. John's team which wasn't expected to win very many conference games and you are looking at a team about to crumble to dust after a 10-0 start. West Virginia's next test comes against undefeated Boston College on Sunday.
Games to Watch - January 11th
I will have to look under the couch. I think I dropped the real MRI back there. Last night, the MRI had its worst single day performance of the year. And yet, it had the Oklahoma win over Connecticut correct. Somehow Oklahoma had been under the national radar until this past week, just breaking into the polls this week and they performed like the very good team they had been all year in that win. I can look to the little conferences such as the Southwest Athletic Conference for the blame. Lots of poor playing teams were on the court last night, and some of the them played better than the other bottom feeders. So tonight, I look to turn this around.Tuesday Night
Current MRI performance for the year: 958-298, 76.27%
MRI Performance this week: 21-17, 55.26%
MRI Performance all time: 3770-1361, 73.47%
Ohio State at Wisconsin - Wisconsin fell under the bus that has been Indiana lately on Saturday. Shooting just 35% from the field for the game and less than 30% in the half, they went down to the Hoosiers who have now won four of their last five. The Badgers were on a five game win streak at the time and Bo Ryan had them looking like they were the second best team in the Big Ten, not Michigan State. They will look to regroup tonight against a surprising Ohio State team. Wisconsin will count on Alando Tucker to continue his hot shooting. He has averaged 18.8 points per game over his last five and failed to score in double digits only one during that time. What Wisconsin will have to improve over the Indiana game is the third option. Mike Wilkinson down low gives them their second option in the post. Someone will have to contribute from outside so that the Badgers will shoot better than 16.7% from beyond 3 point range. That person had been Sharif Chambliss but he went stone cold on Saturday and scored a goose egg, dooming the Badgers. Kammron Taylor, who came off the bench to score 21 against Indiana will also be expected to contribute, but he is not the three point shooter that Chambliss is. While Wisconsin was losing, Ohio State was shocking everyone by beating Iowa, who had looked very good during non-conference games and has fallen twice now that Big Ten play has begun. The Buckeyes will be looking to keep the run going. Led by Terence Dials and Tony Stockman, Ohio State can continue to hang near the top of the Big Ten standings and frustrate everyone with a win tonight. Dials will need to be strong player he has been all season and it will all depend on them getting him the ball. He leads the team in scoring and rebounds but only had five shots against Illinois. Without him leading the team, Ohio State would struggle. If Wilkinson and the other Badger big men can keep a big body on Dials in Bo Ryan's defense, Wisconsin has a great chance of winning should their shooting improve. MRI Predicts
: Ohio State Confidence factor
: 50.60% MRI Result
Villanova at Providence - It is sad to say that the story of a promising season may have turned on Friday, especially this early in the season, but it may just have. Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter injured his knee on in practice before the Notre Dame game and sat out that game. Without their leading scorer and rebounder, the Wildcats were unable to play like they did against West Virginia a few days earlier when they rolled to hand the Mountaineers their first loss of the season. Now they take their game, missing a large piece against a scrappy Providence team who, despite early season struggles, have rebounded to win 5 of their last seven and gave Boston College a run on Saturday. Ryan Gomes will need more help from his teammates though to help the Friars to a win. Given Villanova's loss, they may have an easier time contributing, especially Dwight Brewington. He needs his shots to fall or else he tends to disappear on the court. Without Nova's main inside threat, Brewington should be able to cut into the lane more like he did against Michigan earlier this season and play better. The winner of this one will continue to be look like a contender in the Big East and a team that could squeak in at the tail end of the tournament selections. The loser will have their work cut out for them, even this early in the conference season. MRI says Villanova, but with Sumpter's injury, this one may be an easy steal for Providence. MRI Predicts
: Villanova Confidence factor
: 64.44% MRI Result
Missouri at Oklahoma State - Ok, its so cliche. "Maybe all they needed was a little confidence." It might be true in Missouri's case. After barely playing to a victory against Indiana, the Tigers faced an Illinois team which hadn't won by less than double digit margins all season. They played the Illini tough and almost pulled off what would have been the shock of the year. A loss by 6 points giving confidence? Against Illinois, it sure can. Since that loss, Missouri has looked like a different team on the floor. They have won three in a row, knocking off Gonzaga, American, and Iowa State. They have opened up the offense more and no longer need to run the ball through Linas Kleiza to score now that Jason Conley has found his shot. Tonight they take on Oklahoma State, who was unable to beat Gonzaga and had their troubles with Texas Tech before putting them away. Joey Graham will be looking to continue his amazing offensive output so far this season and he has proven that he can shoot from everywhere on the floor. John Lucas and Daniel Bobik will contribute with him. The Cowboys have tons of weapons and it will most likely be too much for Quin Snyder and the rejuvenated Missouri offense. MRI Predicts
: Oklahoma State Confidence factor
: 93.82% MRI Result
Maryland at Wake Forest - After a dismal performance on Saturday against North Carolina, it became apparent that Maryland is nothing without Ekene Ibekwe contributing with rebounds. Maryland is going to need him tonight when they face Wake Forest. He played only 14 minutes in the game against the Tar Heels and will need to stay out of foul trouble tonight. Wake Forest may try and get into his head and have Chris Paul repeatedly feeding their big men inside to see if they can entice Ibekwe into foul trouble again tonight. The Demon Deacons are not a feared inside team but a strong performance by the big men against Clemson may have given them confidence. Wake Forest was originally pegged as one of the favorites for a National Title this season. While playing at a high level, they are not to the height that both the Illini and North Carolina have set the bar at right now. Don't expect a blow out like both these teams saw this weekend, one on the winning end and one on the losing side, but Wake is playing well enough to handle whatever Maryland chooses to bring. MRI Predicts
: Wake Forest Confidence factor
: 84.76% MRI Result
Alabama at Arkansas - Alabama, they confuse me. They play well against weak teams, yet struggle to wins against most of the good teams they have played. Lately though, they have been struggling against those good teams. Losses to Wisconsin and Vanderbilt have dropped the SEC title talk that surrounded this team after their amazing performance last year in the tournament when they knocked off Stanford. Arkansas has meanwhile been rolling, albeit against weak competition, until they tripped against Florida this weekend. Neither team has shown me enough to get me to believe that either one deserves to have a ranking next to their name. Bama continues to be ranked in the national polls, while the MRI loves Arkansas, even if they are slightly riding a bubble right now that could pop at any moment. Look for the turnover battle to be key in this one as Alabama has had trouble handling the ball lately. They also have a short bench which could haunt them, much like it has all season when it hasn't produced. MRI Predicts
: Arkansas Confidence factor
: 84.76% MRI Result
Air Force at St. Mary's - Raise your hand if you know who Paul Marigney is. Or how about Daniel Kickert? They play for the St. Mary's Gaels and were the two top scorers for the team when they did something that no one in the conference had done since February, 2003, beat Gonzaga. The Gaels had been hoping for a victory even longer than that, having lost the last 17 to the Zags. The mighty Gonzaga hasn't been as strong this year as they have in the past despite some big name victories earlier this season. The Gaels hope that they begin a trend in the West Coast Conference and more teams will take down Gonzaga. St. Mary's was touted with Santa Clara at the beginning of the season as the two hopes to unseat Gonzaga. The whole conference came out and played well, though some have fallen off recently. St. Mary's hopes to not see any fall-off when they go out of conference tonight to take on Air Force. The Falcons were the talk of the town last season and have yet to play up to what everyone though coming into the year when there were hopes they would repeat as the conference champs. Nick Welsh will lead the Falcons inside, but as the only big man getting minutes on the team, he has big shoes to fill. St. Mary's beat a tougher stronger team in Gonzaga. This one may come down to how well the Gaels can hold onto the ball, something that Air Force should be able to take advantage of. MRI Predicts
: St. Mary's Confidence factor
: 73.15% MRI Result