Oklahoma State Cowboys (17-5, 7-3 Big 12) Current RPI #22
Noteworthy Performance: Wins vs. Baylor & Texas
A week after dismantling the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, the Cowboys continued their current hot streak by knocking off the Baylor Bears and Texas Longhorns respectively. During its current five game winning streak, Okie State has lived at the charity stripe. The team is averaging an impressive 25.8 free throw attempts per game (connecting on 18.6), compared to just 16.6 attempts for their opponents. This has helped make up for mediocre shooting from the field, especially last week in which the Cowboys shot a combined 36.8% from the field in their wins over Baylor and Texas.
The team’s up tempo style has finally translated on both ends of the court, as they are averaging nearly five more points (71.6-2013 vs. 66.9-2012) while surrendering a full seven points less over last season’s average (60.5-2013 vs. 68.2-2012). Much of the Cowboys success this season has to be attributed to freshman sensation Marcus Smart. The former two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year in Texas has shown star like qualities for much of the year, evident by his statistical output (14.6 PPG 5.9 RPG 4.6 APG 3.0 SPG). You could argue that the Cowboys have the best trio of guards in the nation with Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash.
Miami (FL) Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0 ACC) Current RPI #2
Noteworthy Performance: Wins vs. Boston College & UNC
The Hurricanes continue to be unstoppable during league play. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Tar Heels of North Carolina. On Saturday, Miami knocked down their first four shots of the game, while UNC misfired on their first four. It translated into an early 9-0 lead, a deficit that Carolina never recovered from. Much like they’ve done all season long, the Hurricanes dominated the Tar Heels in nearly every statistical aspects of the game, including:
- +15.9% from the field (54.4%-MIA vs. 38.5%-UNC)
- +27.7% from beyond the arc (57.7%-MIA vs. 30%-UNC)
- +8 on the boards (33-MIA vs. 25-NC)
- +7 in assists (17-MIA vs. 10-NC)
The Hurricanes breakthrough season is a simple reminder of just how significant upper echelon coaching can be at the collegiate level. Let’s not forget, that before Jim Larranaga arrived in Miami, the program only had four tournament wins to their credit. Since 2006, Larranaga has reeled off 5 tournaments wins while at George Mason. In year two at Miami, he appears destined to notch a couple more victories under his belt.
Middle Tennessee St. Blue Raiders (22-4, 14-1 Sun Belt) Current RPI #32
Noteworthy Performance: Wins vs. Arkansas State & Troy
After storming through the Sun Belt conference last season (14-2), only to lose in the tournament opener to Arkansas State (which denied them an automatic bid on Selection Sunday), the Blue Raiders are hoping not to make the same mistake this season. Having said that, they find themselves in a eerily similar situation this season, as they currently sit atop the conference standings at 14-1. Last week, they dismantled their opponents (Arkansas State & Troy) by an average of 32.5 points per victory, all while shooting an absurd 59% from the field. Head coach Kermit Davis is hoping that his senior laden lineup of players like Bruce Massey, Marcos Knight, and Raymond Cintron can help avoid another late season disappointment this go around.
There are a couple factors that could help the Blue Raiders once they start their conference tournament. Number one, the program scheduled a pretty formidable non-conference slate of games which included matchups versus Florida, Central Florida, Akron, Ole Miss, Belmont, and Vanderbilt (those teams have a combined record of 102-36). All things considered, a 3-3 split with those teams isn’t anything to hang your head about it. And finally, this team is an exceptional defensive unit. They are currently holding their Sun Belt opponents to just 59.1 points per game, while limiting them to just 38.2% from the field. Their 9.8 points per victory currently leads the conference.
Honorable Mention: Arkansas Razorbacks (beat # 2 Florida), California, (beat #7 Arizona), Illinois Fighting Illini (beat #1 Indiana & #18 Minnesota), Notre Dame (beat #11 Louisville), Wisconsin (beat #3 Michigan), Indiana State (beat #16 Creighton).
Creighton Bluejays (20-5, 9-4 MVC) Current RPI #45
Uninspired Performance(s): Losses to Indiana State & Illinois State
It was a rough week for the Bluejays, as they went cold from the field in losses to the Sycamores and Redbirds. After shooting just 41.7% in their loss to Indiana State, Creighton followed that up with a season low 37.9% against Illinois State. That is very uncharacteristic for a team that shoots well above 50% on the season (they actually lead the nation in FG%-51.0%). Doug McDermott was just 10 for 26 from the field in the losses. Typically a very good assist/turnover team, the Bluejays struggled last week dishing out just 22 total assists compared to 24 turnovers. They’ll look to get back on track Wednesday versus Northern Iowa.
Kansas Jayhawks (19-4, 7-3 Big 12) Current RPI #9
Uninspired Performance: Loss to TCU
Some things are just tough to figure out. The Jayhawks loss at TCU last Wednesday certainly fits that description. I mean, we’re talking about a Horned Frogs team that entering the matchup was 0-8 in league play. They were averaging 50.3 points per game (336th worst in college basketball), and shooting 40.6% (291st worst). Well, it’s not that TCU played out of their minds during their upset win. It had more to do with Kansas playing one of their worst games in recent memory (seriously, maybe ever). They shot just 29.5% from the field, 13.6% from beyond the arc, and looked flat from the opening tip. They followed up their loss on Wednesday, with yet another defeat on Saturday (@ Oklahoma). Listen, I am sure Bill Self will right the ship and get this thing straightened out. What I am unclear about at this point is whether or not the Jayhawks belong in the discussion of the nation’s elite.
Louisville’s Peyton Siva
Let me preference this by saying that I think Siva is a very good player. He is a smart point guard who, at times, shows flashes of greatness. Still, for a player who received as much preseason hype as he did, Siva has looked downright dreadful in certain games this season. Saturday’s loss at Notre Dame was one such occasion (for the record, 4 out of his last 5 games have been questionable in my opinion). Siva looked lost out on the court, connecting on just 1-6 field goal attempts for 2 points, all while fouling out during the Cardinals gut-wrenching five overtime loss in South Bend. Performances such as these are really head scratchers for a senior with as much talent as Siva possesses. He’ll need to get his confidence back quickly if the Cardinal expect to do any serious damage in the next couple weeks.
Honorable Mention: Virginia Tech (Suffered 6th straight conference loss), Cincinnati (dropped games vs. Providence & Pitt), Florida State (lost by 25 points @ Wake Forest), Arkansas (followed win vs. Florida with 18 points loss vs. Vanderbilt).
The Crazy (Performance(s) of the Week)
Nothing like some Buzzer Beaters to get us prepared for what will take place in little over a month:
UCLA PG Larry Drew hits a game winner against UW last Thursday
Great OSU defense translates into Game Winner vs. Baylor
Marist 65 footer to force OT vs. Iona last Thursday
Illinois upsets #1 Indiana with a Griffey layup as time expires
The Badgers’ Ben Brust forces OT vs. Michigan with a half court miracle
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