Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend Forecast

Last Night's GOI
--at George Mason 85, Drexel 38. I trust Jerry Palm at as much as anyone when it comes to accurate data, but I must admit that I verified this score from a second source. Whoooooooooo doggies. A double up +9 more score in a college hoops game between two teams that expect to be pretty darned good? It was 40-15 at half.
--Gonzaga 70, at Saint Joseph's 65 (OT). Hawks let a big fish get away. There will be many NCAA teams without a road win like this one come March 16. Zags are once again piling up a nice non-conference profile with plenty of meat left.
--at Southern Cal 66, Oklahoma 55. Trojans have been strong since their opening loss to Mercer.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Oregon 80, at Kansas State 77 (OT). Beasley got his, but K-State fell short...a scenario that could be frequent against quality competition this season.

Weekend Forecast
--Washington State at Baylor. Bears (5-0) can burst onto the national scene with a big home win here.
--Providence at Boston College. Old Big East buddies hook up for a meaningful non-conf game.
--Texas Tech at Centenary. Raiders have already lost at Sam Houston. The Gents are probably not as good as the Bearkats, though.
--South Carolina at Clemson. In-state rivalry alert!
--Duke vs Davidson. Tall order for the Wildcats, but a gigantic opportunity.
--Creighton at Drexel. This would have been a lot more interesting if the Dragons had not been chopped into kindling by Mason.
--UConn vs Gonzaga. The Zags look to collect another valuable road (techinically, neutral) pelt on their East Coast trip.
--Michigan at Harvard. Crimson coach Tommy Amaker hosts his old team.
--Dayton at Holy Cross. Crusaders get a decent team on their home court.
--North Carolina at Kentucky. It would appear that this is a total mismatch, but there will be a throng in Rupp to try to help this flailing Kentucky team right the ship.
--New Mexico at Mississippi. These two are a combined 12-0.
--Indiana at SIU. Salukis have been licking their wounds for a few days after USC crushed them into a fine powder. They have been nearly unbeatable in Carbondale for several seasons now.
--Seton Hall at St. Mary's. Two of the seasons nicest early surprises (10-0 combined).
--Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt. Vandy is unblemished and GT is need of a big win.
--Winthrop at West Virginia. Winthrop continues to battle BCS teams in the non-conf.
--Belmont at Xavier. Beware of the ursine ones, XU!
--St. John's at Miami-FL. Both are unblemished and the Canes have already handed Providence their only loss.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Arizona State at Nebraska. Both are 4-1.
--Kansas at Southern Cal. Pretty fat game for Dec 2.
--Texas at UCLA. Ditto.
--Texas A&M at Arizona. Aggies have looked strong...Zona? Not so much.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A real, live Lockbox will not be born until about a month from now, but there are a few teams that most folks agree are going to be in the NCAA Tourney this season. If any of these teams miss, pretty much everyone is wrong about them.

ACC: North Carolina, Duke
Big East: Georgetown, Louisville
Big Ten: Michigan State, Indiana
Big 12: Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas
Pac-10: UCLA, Oregon, Washington State
SEC: None
CUSA: Memphis

There are lots of other teams that are probably confident in their position, but we judge teams based on performance here at TBB. The above teams had the weight of preseason expectations and have validated those lofty expectations to some extent on the court. We do not do polls here, but rather judge teams based on their NCAA resume. No team will have a truly meaningful one until about New Year's Day, but the above teams certainly look to be on the right track. Obvious? Yes. But, this illustrates how few teams can feel comfortable at this early stage.

Does everyone expect USC to be in the Dance? Sure. But, with a blowout loss to a bad Mercer team, some rugged sledding in the Pac-10 ahead, and tremendous reliance on a freshman superstar, there is reason to take a wait-and-see approach with the Trojans. Surely Tennessee is comfy? Well, they have a not-that-impressive 2-point win over West Virginia and were ravaged by Texas on a neutral court. I fully expect both of these teams to be there...but I would have said the same thing about Syracuse last year and Louisville the year before that.

Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 94, Missouri 91. These two runnin' teams did not disappoint. The pace of this game was a brisk 84.
--UMass 107, at Syracuse 100. Good win for the Minutemen, but realize that the 'Cuse had a Def Eff of 132.4 in this game on their home court! UMass might be pretty good, but a lot of that has to be on the Orange defense.
--at Texas A&M 76, Alabama 63. Bama (along with Syracuse) is on my "no confidence" list.
--Georgetown 66, at Old Dominion 48. This may not be ODU's 2007 NCAA team, but this is still a fairly impressive win by G'town.
Big 10/ACC Challenge
--at Maryland 69, Illinois 61. Illini are going to need more from Brian Randle to be a tourney team.
--Boston College 77, at Michigan 64. BC is turning into one of the more consistent programs in the country.
--at Michigan State 81, NC State 58. Sparty looked more like the Big Televen fave in this one than they have in a few other early games.
--North Carolina 66, at Ohio State 55. Buckeyes were game, but UNC will be ever scarier when Lawson returns.
--at Penn State 66, VA Tech 55. Not a terribly promising start to the season for the Hokies (2-3).

Tonight's GOI
--Drexel at George Mason. The CAA kicks it off right with this tasty match up (both are 5-1).
--Gonzaga at Saint Joseph's. The Hawks' biggest home game of the year. Golden opportunity for a quality non-conference win.
--Oklahoma at Southern Cal. One of those early season games that will make one of these teams much more optimistic about their tourney hopes.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Oregon at Kansas State. The Ducks invade Michael Beasley U.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Daily Grind

Last Night's GOI
--Northern Iowa 61, at Iowa State 48. Panthers win this in-state tilt.
--Sam Houston 81, at UW-Milwaukee 77. We will be keeping a close eye on the Bearkats (3-0, with wins over Texas Tech, Fresno State, and now UWM on the road).
Big Ten/ACC Challenge
--at Clemson 61, Purdue 58. Tight game pulled out by K.C. Rivers and the Sunshine Band.
--at Duke 82, Wisconsin 58. Duke is often overhyped, but they looked awfully good last night. Wisconsin? Not so much. The Badgers looked tentative and less physical than usual.
--at Florida State 75, Minnesota 61. Oh, FSU. How you tease every season. The 'Noles are perpetually on the Bubble it seems. Also, Tubby Smith has tasted defeat for the first time as Gopher coach.
--at Indiana 83, Georgia Tech 79. Another tight one goes to the home team (they all did last night).
--at Virginia 94, Northwestern 52. I knew it would be bad,

Tonight's GOI
--Missouri at Arkansas. Should be fun time of rip and run hoops.
--UMass at Syracuse. Both were at-large hopefuls that missed last season.
--Alabama at Texas A&M. Bama needs to make a statement other than, "Yes, we are overrated...again."
--Georgetown at Old Dominion. Georgetown won at Ball State and now faces a better non-power conference for on their home court. Kudos to the Hoyas for going into "smaller" teams' gym.
Big 10/ACC Challenge
--Illinois at Maryland.
--Boston College at Michigan.
--NC State at Michigan State
--North Carolina at Ohio State.
--VA Tech at Penn State.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

State of the Sun Belt: Early Edition

We will look at the state of Sun Belt about once per month during the season. This seems like a good time given the Belt's 0-4 performance last night. In the preseason, I took an optimists' view of the league: the Belt returned 11/15 of the all-conference team and the bad teams looked to be improved. I should have known that it is always a bad idea to be optimistic about the Belt.

First, the good news: league favorite WKU has lived up to the hype so far. The Toppers are 5-1, losing to Gonzaga on a neutral court, but beating Michigan on an NC. They also pasted perennial OVC power and local rival Murray State by 24. UNO has actually been better than advertised with big road wins at NC State and Tulane. The Privateers have yet to lose. North Texas, last year's NCAA rep, has continued their solid play. South Alabama and UALR have been solid, too. The jury is still out on FIU (1-1) and UL-Lafayette as they have only played two games, but neither has been impressive.

The problem is that the other six teams have not just been bad, they have been horrendous. Most puzzling in UL-Monroe. The Warhawks won the West last year and returned five starters, yet have gone 0-4 to start the season. Granted, those losses are to teams that are a combined 14-2 and all have been on the road, but ULM has not even been close in these games. They play just ONE non-conference home game against a D-I school. That is recipe for failure in a big way and most of these games are money games. FAU (1-5) was a bit of a dark horse pick in the East, but they have yet to play a home game. They lost to Cleveland State on a neutral court and at UMKC last night. Troy is winless vs DI teams and needed OT to beat Paul Quinn. Denver has actually been a little better than expected.

Most disappointing are Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State. These teams were expected to challenge in their divisions and have simply been terrible. A-State has lost at home to Utah Valley State and have not been competitive in any of their road games. MT has lost home games to San Jose State and Appalachian State, and were absolutely dismantled by Tennessee (109-40!!!) and Belmont (by 23 last night). There is simply too much talent on the Blue Raiders' roster for these ridiculous results.

Granted, many of the struggling teams are playing a lot of road games, but that is part of the problem. Scheduling is tough as a Sun Belt team, but we have to do better than this.

The early read is that WKU, UNO, North Texas, South Alabama, and UALR need to keep it up. The rest need to step it up.

Last Night's GOI

--Davidson 71, at Appalachian State 60. Yeah, they have lost two games early, but make no mistake about who is the heavy favorite in the SoCon. It's the Wildcats.
--Wake Forest 56, at Iowa 47. Some nice reflection on Skip Prosser (RIP) during this broadcast.
--at Holy Cross 62, Ohio 60. Ralph Willard has yet another fine club this year. They have home games against Yale and Dayton this week, then go on the road for five of six games including tests at Saint Joseph's, Siena, and Maryland.

Tonight's GOI
--Northern Iowa at Iowa State. In-state rivalry alert!
--Sam Houston at UW-Milwaukee. The BearKats have beaten Texas Tech and Fresno State at home. Let's see how Sam plays on the road.
Big Ten/ACC Challenge
--Purdue at Clemson. We've seen this fiery start from Clemson before only to see them collapse in a heap, but the Tigers have already possess a road win at Miss State. This is the Boilers' first road game and first real test.
--Wisconsin at Duke. Both unblemished and both have looked strong.
--Minnesota at Florida State. Tubby Smith's first test as Gopher coach.
--Georgia Tech at Indiana. Did you know that 7 of GT's first 8 eight games are away from home?
--Northwestern at Virginia. Cavs are smarting from a recent loss to Seton Hall. This does not look good for the Wildcats.
Sun Belt Slate
--Colorado at Denver. State vs City.
--Troy at Mississippi. Troy: 0-3. Ole Miss: 4-0.
--UALR at Rice. Rice is winless.
--UAB at UL-Lafayette. ULL is winless.
--Alcorn State at UL-Monroe. Both winless.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On the Radar

Even at this early date, there are a few teams that most folks agree are going to the NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, Georgetown, Duke. They consumed their Thanksgiving vittles with little worry about their status on Selection Sunday.

So, what TBB looks for at this early stage are some teams flying a bit under the radar that have reason to hope this season. These are just the teams I find intriguing. Have a suggestion? Send it may way.

--Miami-FL (5-0). Canes have neutral court wins over VCU and Providence, and no losses to date.
--Rhode Island (6-1). Only loss is at BC by 4. No signature wins yet, but URI is likely going to factor into the A-14 race.
--Baylor (5-0). Bears have neutral wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop.
--Seton Hall (5-0). Yes, the SHU needed OT in home games to beat Monmouth and Robert Morris, but they just waxed Virginia on a neutral court and have yet to lose.
--George Mason (5-1). Wins over Dayton, Kansas State, and South Carolina will likely help the old resume.
--Miami-OH (3-1). Defeated Xavier, South Alabama, and Mississippi State. All three of those teams will win their fair share of games this season.
--New Orleans (3-0). Defeated Northwestern State, NC State, and Tulane...ALL on the road. And, not in some faraway tourney, either. The Privateers have won in opponents' gyms.
--St. Mary's-CA (5-0). The Gaels have yet to leave the friendly confines, but they whacked Oregon by double digits at home. They have Seton Hall coming in next weekend, then they will have 7 of 9 away from home.
--New Mexico (6-0). I have no idea how good the Lobos are, but they are absolutely annihilating inferior teams with staggering consistency. Granted, all have been at home save one (at Colorado), but they do deserve watching...for now.
--Texas-Arlington (4-0). Wins over two decent Belt teams, including one at UALR that is currently the Trojans only loss. They also took out North Texas, who figures to be a pretty good club. Let's keep an eye on the other Mavericks from the Dallas area.
--Duquesne (5-0). No huge wins, but some GAUDY Efficiency ratings. We will know more after they play Pitt and West Virginia the first week of December.

Tonight's GOI

--Davidson at Appalachian State. The biggest conference game of the year to date...and a MAJOR game in the SoCon.
--Wake Forest at Iowa. Big Televen/ACC Challenge gets underway.
--Ohio at Holy Cross. Neither team has a mark in the loss column.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hoopy Thanksgiving

Sorry for the terribly corny title.

I will be in full Thanksgiving travel mode starting today, so this could be it until Sunday or Monday. At that point, we can probably put together an "at-large watch" board comprised of some teams who have done some early season resume building.

Last Night's GOI
--at St. Mary's 99, Oregon 87. The Gaels led throughout and put up a staggering 61 points in the second half. Attendance: 3,500. Last year's avg: 2,474.
--Missouri 84, Maryland 70. Tigers have made folks take notice in KC...and there is reason to be concerned about the Terps.
--UCLA 68, Michigan State 63. This one will sting Sparty for awhile. They led nearly the entire game before the Bruins dug it out in the waning minutes. A neutral court win over UCLA is the kind of win that makes hay on Selection Sunday.
--Duke 79, Illinois 66. Illini had a good start, but it was all Duke for the last 3/4 of the contest.
--Marquette 91, Oklahoma State 61. Marquette played a stellar game, but it's time for honesty: the Cowboys are not good right now.

Turkey GOI
--Georgetown at Ball State. No one expects the Fighting Lettermans to win, but we will check attendance here.
--Rhode Island at Boston College. URI is good (5-0). They can show the nation with a win here.
--Louisville at UNLV. Huge home game for the Rebels.
--Michigan vs Butler. The Great Alaska Shootout tips off tonight.
--Duke vs Marquette. For all the Maui marbles.
--Syracuse vs Ohio State. Both have a lot to prove, and can do so in the PNIT.
--Texas A&M vs Washington. Ditto for these two.
--Western Kentucky vs Gonzaga. Both have dominated early competition. Zags are a pretty heavy favorite going into this one.
--George Mason vs Kansas State. Both have high hopes and both need to win these kind of games if they have at-large hopes.
--Villanova at UCF. Attendance watch.
--Florida State at Florida. In-state rivarly alert! Tebow will prove to be too much.
--MASSIVE Early Season Tourney action!
--Nebraska at Creighton. In-state rivalry alert!
--New Orleans at Tulane. In-city rivalry alert!
--Nevada at UNLV. In-state rivalry alert!
--More massive tourney action!
--Air Force at Washington State. Sludgy pace, beautiful offense.
--Final games of the T-giving tourneys.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ursine Upwardness

Bears. Or, as Stephen Colbert refers to them: godless, marauding, machines of death. They are large, strong, and fast. The fastest humans cannot outrun them and the strongest of our kind cannot overpower them. One species (Chicago) assembled one of the greatest footballs teams of all-time. They ran. They passed. They shuffled. One bruin species (UCLA) ripped off the most dominant run in NCAA hoops history a few decades back.

Two friends of Katow-Jo are off to encouraging starts this season. The mid-southern variety of bruins, called Belmont, have taken quite well to migration around the region in November. Belmont is 4-2 and has yet to play a home game. These Bruins have clawed out wins at Cincinnati (BearCATS? Pfffft. That's an insult to real bears), Samford, and last night at Alabama. They still have a game at Xavier on the docket. Belmont only has three non-conference home games, but if they keep up the road wins, they can build a nice profile. Also, the media is gaga over the A-Sun, but there is some serious dead weight at the bottom that will hurt the league's overall strength: Campbell, North Florida, Stetson and Kennesaw State do not figure to be very good, and newcomer Upstate South Carolina is 0-4 so far in their first go-around. Mercer got a lot of pub for that big win over USC, but they have lost three straight since, including a pasting at the hands of Harvard.

The other Bear club is of the Waco, Texas variety, the Baylor Bears. The ugly days of the Dave Bliss era in some ways seem long ago, but the ramifications reverberated through the last few seasons. However, at this writing, Baylor is 4-0 with neutral court wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop. Both ND and Winthrop expect to Dance this year, and there is room in the Big 12 for Baylor to make a huge jump. Baylor now has six of their next nine at home, including a home date against Washington State. They also have a neutral game vs Arkansas, and road games at South Carolina and Southern U.

Last Night's GOI
--Belmont 85, at Alabama 83. See above.
--Auburn 89, at Charleston Southern 59. Even 3,817 in the house could not help the Bucs in this one. They averaged 1,187 last season. But, this game was not the the CSU Fieldhouse. It was crosstown at the North Charleston Coliseum.
--Michigan State 86, Missouri 83. Sparty holds on, but Missouri looks to be going in the right direction under Mike Anderson.
--UCLA 71, Maryland 59. These other Bruins were impressive...without Darren Collison.
--Oklahoma State 83, LSU 77. LSU has been in freefall since their F4 appearance in 2006.
--Baylor 62, Winthrop 54. Good win for Baylor, and I doubt we have heard the last from the Eagles this year.
--Georgia Tech 70, Notre Dame 69. Important win for Jacket morale.

Tonight's GOI
--Oregon at St. Mary's. Attendance watch.
--Maryland vs Missouri. Should be a rip and run affair.
--Michigan State vs UCLA. Should be a smashmouth affair.
--Duke vs Illinois. Illinois beat Hawai'i on their home court, so this should be an interesting one.
--Oklahoma State vs Marquette. Cowboys could use a confidence win and Marquette is prone to some early season puzzlers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


From the Weekend Attendance Files
--Auburn 63, Alabama State 60. The Tigers slipped past the Hornets after A-State shot a pitiful 28% in the second half. A full 4,663 were on hand to witness the brickfest and near upset. The Hornets averaged 2,599 last season.
--at Siena 79, Stanford 67. Attendance: 6,274. Siena saveraged 5,834 last season, and did not quite sell out Pespsi Arena (8,000+). The telling stat: the Saints shot 32 free throws to Stanford's three. Now THAT is what I call home court advantage!
--Oregon 85, at Portland 61. The Pilots clicked 4,881 through the turnstiles, and they only avergaed 1,941 last season. That was not enough to stop the Quack Attack. I wonder how many of the nearly 5k were wearing Duck yellow and green?

Tonight's GOI
--Belmont at Alabama. Bruins already have road wins over Cincinnati and Samford.
--Auburn at Charleston Southern. The Tigers barely escaped Alabama State with a win. Watching attendance here.
--Missouri vs Michigan State. Resurgent Tigers looking to make national noise with a win here.
--Maryland vs UCLA. Both of these teams figure heavily into America's March travel plans.
--LSU vs Oklahoma State. Both of these programs have been high recently, but suffered trying time last season...and OK State's continued at North Texas in their last outing.
--Winthrop vs Baylor. The Eagles have proved their mettle. Is this the year Scott Drew and Baylor break through? Notre Dame is convinced.
--Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame. No one likes losing two in a row in these faraway tourneys, but one of these teams is going to do just that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekend Forecast

Last Night's GOI
Attendance Watch
--Southern Cal 74, at The Citadel 47. I guess USC got the message after their loss to Mercer. The C averaged 1,688 attendance last season. Last night: 4,023. The fans did show, but the team was severely overmatched.

2k Sports Classic

--UConn 78, Gardner-Webb 66. Too many long, lively bodies for G-W to handle.
--Memphis 63, Oklahoma 53. AASAA rolls on.
--at Georgetown 74, Michigan 52. Never a contest.
--Clemson 84, at Mississippi State 82. Tigers get a precious early season road pelt.

Weekend GOI
--Memphis vs UConn. For all the 2k marbles.
--Illinois at Hawai'i. Things are usually tough for visitors on the island.
--A gaggle of early season tourney games are in action, too.
--Virginia at Arizona. Cats looking for payback after last year's loss at UVA.
--Oregon at Portland. Checking attendance here.
--Stanford at Siena. Ditto.
--USC at USC. Heehee. It's at South Carolina.
--Murray State at WKU. Great rivalry renewed after a two-year hiatus.
--More tourney games.
--Mucho tourney action.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mean Green Come Through

Last Night's GOI
--at North Texas 82, Oklahoma State 73. The Mean Green come through! More evidence that these are sunnier days in the Sun Belt. Oh yeah, the attendance was 6,793. NT averaged 2,063 last year, so this more than tripled that average.
--North Carolina 72, Davidson 68. The Wildcats were in position to take down UNC, but it slipped away. Rest assured, this is not the last we will hear from Stephen Curry and the Cats.
--at Sam Houston 56, Texas Tech 54. The BearKats nipped Bob Knight's boys in another non-power win over a Big 12 team. Lo, and behold, another attendance anomaly: 4,842. This was the third largest crown in Johnson Coliseum history. SHSU averaged 1,967 last year, so this was more than double that average.

Tonight's GOI
Attendance Watch
--Southern Cal at The Citadel. No one really expects The Citadel to pull this off, but fans should show up in droves nonetheless and give them every chance to do so.

2k Sports Classic

--Gardner-Webb vs UConn. Some folks in Kentucky are going to watch this one with great longing for the Big Apple.
--Oklahoma vs Memphis. The Tigers are a heavy favorite to win this tourney.
--Michigan at Georgetown. Big early test for new-look Wolverines. G'town is primed for another monster year.
--Clemson at Mississippi State. Two teams that could easily be Bubble Boys come March. Both need games this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Strike Four

Well, not one of our "upset" alerts were able to pull it off last night.

--Alabama 90, at Mercer 83. The Bear's University Center had 3,280 packed into its 3,200 seats. A golden opportunity was lost in Bama's Richard Hendrix's 28 and 14 monster night.
--Nevada 77, at UC-Irvine 68. Come on, Anteater fans! Your guys get a team that has been a Top 25 team and a perennial NCAA club for a few seasons, and only 1,007 of you show up! Your gym holds 5,000! Considering UC-I only lost by nine, it makes one wonder what a packed house would have done for them. Guess we'll never know.
--Vanderbilt 77, Toledo 70. Savage Hall holds 9,000, but only 4,061 showed up for this one in Toledo.
--Washington State 86, Boise State 74. Taco Bell Arena holds 12,380, and 6,718 came out for this one. The Broncos led by six at halftime, but WaSU ripped off a 33-12 run from which BSU would not recover.

Also, Xavier lost on the road at Miami-OH last night. Despite the misses by the big underdogs last night, it's still tough on the road.

Tonight's GOI
--Oklahoma State at North Texas. Come on, Mean Green fans. Your team is coming off its first ever NCAA trip and you have a Big State U coming into the Super Pit.
--Davidson at North Carolina. Davidson was good last year. They return all five starters and are should be VERY good this season.
--Texas Tech at Sam Houston. Another chance for a big attendance game for a non-power team. Sam figures to be one of the best teams in the Southland, so Knight's team will have to come to play.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Upset" Alerts

We have a few candidates for our little experiment tracking abnormally large crowds at non-power schools on the slate tonight:

Washington State at Boise State
Alabama at Mercer
Vanderbilt at Toledo
Nevada at UC-Irvine

Of course, it is unknown how the attendance at these games will stack up to the average season attendance until later, but these are good "upset" candidates. Most intriguing is Alabama at Mercer, as the Bears are coming off a HUGE road pasting of Southern Cal. They will be riding high and the buzz surrounding them should help them pack University Center (3,200) tonight.

The "big" schools will be favored in all of these games. But, a win or two (I'm thinking Mercer is most likely) by the underdogs would not surprise TBB one bit.

Tonight's Other GOI
--Xavier at Miami-OH. The X always have NCAA hopes, but games like this one are necessary for the at-large profile.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hawai'i's Lament

There is a triple-header on ESPN2 tonight, so all is right in the world. As football fans try to sort out the haystack of one-loss teams, we merely watch our much more game-dense, much more democratic season begin to pick up the pace. By the way, Hawai'i, if you go undefeated in hoops, I guarantee that you be the national champion.

Soon, it will be turkey, time off, and the yawning chasm between the end of the football regular season and the BCS title game. Literally hundreds of basketball games will occur between the end of football's regular season and its national championship contest. Whether the reasons are valid or not, this is preposterous.

Thankfully, there is no such great divide in college hoops. In fact, the season consists of four parts:
1. Non-conference. This time is made for Gardner-Webbing and Mercering of much ballyhooed "major" teams with resumes built on nothing more than reputation and anticipation.
2. Conference season. This is where a lot of winnowing occurs. Teams are sifted and the wheat and chaff are separated.
3. Conference tourney. Good teams from power conferences jockey for seeding, good teams from non-power conferences battle for the right to rest easy on Selection Sunday, Bubble Boys look to jump to the good side of the fence, and teams mired in mediocrity or teams that are downright stinkeroos look to make a last-gasp run to an automatic bid.
4. NCAA tourney. 64 games in three weeks and we get one champion decided on the court.

While much energy is focused on #4, let us take time to relish Turkeyball. November has already offered up surprises from various A-Sun teams and the upcoming tourneys have more in store, to be sure. Enjoy phase one to it's fullest this November/December.

And, know that if Hawai'i or anyone else does not lose a game this season, they WILL be crowned the champion.

Tonight's GOI

--New Mexico State at Duke. The Aggies are smarting after opening the season with a loss at Ohio, but the WAC faves have a chance to make amends in a big way tonight.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Full Swing

Games that count come hot and heavy this weekend, and there are a few to keep an eye on. Hence, I give you the season's first GOI (Games of Import).

--Butler at Ball State. What will the Bulldogs do for an encore this year?
--DePaul at Creighton. Big East travels to an MVC power.
--Vermont at George Mason. Two premier non-power schools in recent times.
--Drexel at Penn. See above.
--Albany at Bucknell. Maybe the best game that talking heads will be not talking about this weekend.
--Missouri State at Toledo. Cannot call this a must win this early, but these kinds of games are where At-Large hopes are made and unmade.
--UMass at Northern Iowa. See above.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bluegrass Bombshell

Most know that I am a native Kentuckian. Born and raised here (Hudson, KY), and went to school and now work here (WKU). It's a hoops-mad commonwealth. UK is the big gun in this territory and historically they expect to waltz through their non-conference home slate with little resistance. Not so last night.

Gardner-Webb shellacked Kentucky 84-68 last night on UK's home court. Most of the state is currently suffering an apoplectic meltdown of Biblical proportions. Blame is being launched in every direction with no regard for human life (somehow, this is STILL Tubby Smith's fault in many UK fans' minds).

The nice part for TBB is that we have a heaping pile of evidence that this is November. TBB always takes an opportunity to remind folks of this each season. Things tend to get wild and crazy in November. Santa Clara beats national champion North Carolina teams (2005). Butler rips through the preseason NIT field to take a title (2006). Michigan State and Ohio State lose exhibition games while UK loses by SIXTEEN in Rupp to G-W (2007). Some of these things are early indicators of unexpectedly fantastic teams (Butler) and some are merely lessons learned by future March juggernauts (North Carolina, 2006). Is G-W that good? Is Kentucky that bad?

Hard to tell. It's NOVEMBER, and most wonderfully, games like these remind us that it is basketball season. Soak up this wild mess while it lasts. Games like G-W over UK are exactly why I posted the early season event guide a few posts down. Although the Bulldogs managed to smack UK in Rupp, these early season events often put non-BCS schools against BCS teams in lots of neutral court games. This usually makes for interesting hijinks and so-called "upsets" which are often not upsets at all. Often, they are merely games between fairly even teams on a neutral court.

So, we have a smattering of games tonight that will give way to a tidal wave of contests this weekend. And, rest assured, there will be some wild results ticking across the bottom of the screen. We will take a closer look at the weekend tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No Preseason Bracket

Hmmm. Somehow my post about no preseason bracket disappeared. I will try again.

There are oodles of preseason picks and brackets out there. Some are willy-nilly, flip-a-coin-between-the-historically-best-conference-teams kind of picks, and some are majestic models of completeness (thanks, Blue Ribbon!). But, picking a preseason bracket just does not do it for me anymore. My focus here is on what teams actually do on the court. Then, I evaluate teams based on the selection criteria. I cannot possibly do that until we have a somewhat meaningful RPI and teams have played at least a dozen games. So, I will wait until early January.

That means more time for me to batter you with my often unpopular opinions. Bully for you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Home Court: Part II

Earlier, I posted on the impact of big crowds on game performance and outcomes. I asked these three questions:

1. Does playing on the road on Saturday (presumably facing larger crowds than weeknight games) increase a team's chance of losing a road game?
2. Ken Pomeroy has demonstrated that home court advantage in a broad sense is often overblown. But, I'm not sure his data shows us that spiked attendance at "big games" does not matter. Of course, Duke and Kentucky and several other teams are almost always going to have a big crowd on hand. We already know it's tough to win there on any night. I am more interested in...
3. Do teams perform better statistically when the crowd is bigger? Do they "pull the upset" with a bigger crowd on hand? For example, does San Francisco "overperform" when Gonzaga comes to town and a big crowd is on hand?

I still want to track this, but proving statistical significance is probably beyond my capability. I have posed my question to Ken Pomeroy, and hopefully he will take me up on it and give us some answers.

What I have done is probe my USF vs Gonzaga question a bit. Last year, USF averaged 2104 attendance in their home games (not including GU). When the Zags came to town, 4500 folks ventured into War Memorial Gym. Season numbers:

Gonzaga: 113.9 OffEff, 95.8 DefEff, #55 Pythag Win%
USF: 103.0 OffEff, 102.6 DefEff, #153 Pythag Win%

GU managed to pull it out in OT. This is merely one game and is meaningless in proving anything. My point is that these are the kinds of games that I wonder about. I will try to flag similar type games as the season progresses.

That said, this kind of stuff is not really what I do here, and I do not want to get too far away from my focus here: evaluating teams by the selection criteria regardless of polls, conference, star power, TV contracts, or any other factor outside of the criteria. That is somewhat of a subjective process, but that is the system we have.

Therefore, while I do use efficiency rankings from time to time, I deal mostly with predicting what the committee will do. And, I thrive in the subjective. Hopefully, Mr. Pomeroy can help with the numbers.