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The Triangle and Two: A Weekly Look at the Ups and Downs of College Basketball

January 30, 2010 under College Basketball, The Triangle and Two

by Terrence Mayrose

Kentucky Basketball Falls From Its perch.  Who’s Next? wildcats_logo

The 75-76’ Indiana Hoosiers can breathe a little easier now that Kentucky, the last remaining unbeaten team this season, has suffered it’s first loss to South Carolina.  Led by an array of tough, clutch, and “how the hell did he hit that” shots from Devan Downey, the Gamecocks made Kentucky’s stay atop the polls very short.

The recent upset of John (“ never actually been to a Final Four”) Calipari, John (“one and done”) Wall and Kentucky as well as the memories of Mario Chalmers trey to beat an undefeated Memphis in 08’ show that even the best of the best can take a loss.  Which makes hoopsters wonder: Will there ever be another undefeated champion ?

Devan Downey dropped thirty in the 68-62 upset, and put himself on the map as one of the nation’s best scorers; although Gamecockdevan_downey faithful will be quick to tell you that he’s no fluke.  The Chester, S.C. native spurned his home state by electing to attend Cincinnati as a freshman. After posting 11.9 ppg in his freshman year,  Downey decided to come home, and it’s been all good since.  After sitting out the ’06-’07 season, Downey’s scored 18.4 ppg (07-08),and 19.8(08-09).  He’s even better this season as Downey’s 22.4 ppg leads the SEC.  With a scorer like this, and a decent record, 12-8 (3-3), The Gamecocks have a shot to be a dark horse in the SEC tournament. After all, they have shown they can play with (and beat) the best.

Now that no unbeatens remain,  who is the  frontrunner for a national title?  With such a crop of great teams atop the polls there may not be just one, but Kansas stands out. Bill Self’s crew is currently 19-1 with their only setback to #14 Tennessee. A January 30th trip to #13 Kansas State, and Feb 8th trip to #6 Texas could yield two wins that would give the Jayhawks the most impressive resume in the country. It should also be noted that Kansas currently ranks 2nd in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency and you know how much we like that.

Speaking of frontrunners… CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish points out that the end of January is a great time to find out who will make the Final Four. Parrish stated that in the past five seasons, at least three of the Final Four teams (all four in ’08) have been in the Top Ten during the last week of January. Remember to refer back to this in March when filling out your sheets. Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, Syracuse, Michigan State, Texas, Georgetown, Duke, West Virginia and Purdue are your current candidates.

The Triangle and Two: A Quick Look at the Ups and Downs of College Basketball

January 23, 2010 under Uncategorized


By Terrence Mayrose

College Basketball Powerhouses UConn and UNC Struggling

As smoothly as things went for North Carolina and Connecticut last year, they’ve been equally as bumpy this season.  UNC .jim-calhoun.apcoasted through its schedule  to a championship, and UConn battled through a tough Big East to reach the Final Four.  However, 2010 is giving every indication that a repeat of each performance is a long shot….a real long shot.

The Tar Heels have dropped three straight, and four of their last five in plummeting to #23 in the polls.  Things got worse for Roy Williams and company last week  when it was reported that seven foot sophomore Tyler Zeller will miss 4-6 weeks with a foot injury.  Yes, the same Zeller who missed most of last season.  That Zeller may be injury prone has raised huge concern about his future in Chapel Hill.

Things aren’t going too well in Storrs these days, either, although the Huskies did take care of lowly St.John’s on Wednesday night with to end a three game conference skid.  Adding  to their problems was the news that  Head Coach Jim Calhoun  is taking an immediate medical leave of absence. UConn officials reported that Calhoun’s absence is not heart or cancer related and is not associated to any conditions he has dealt with in the past (Calhoun is a three time cancer survivor). The Huskies will have an up-hill battle the rest of the season without Calhoun on the sidelines, but the immediate future doesn’t look too bad.  After taking on Texas this Saturday,  they’ll have winnable games against Providence, Marquette, Louisville, and  the conference’s whipping boy, DePaul.   A string of four conference wins under interim coach George Blaney could be the key to get back on track for this struggling squad.   Look at this stretch as  a precursor of UConn’s fate the rest of the way.

Kentucky Basketball Stands Alone

Texas dropped from the ranks of the  unbeaten,  leaving only Kentucky, John “make a mess then quickly flee the scene” Calipari, and John “I will commit to the draft in March so don’t look for me in class the final two months” Wall  as the only remaining team with an unblemished record.  Isn’t it sweet that the ENTIRE nation can now bond to root for that first loss now?

UTEP Basketball Showing Strong Caracter

Remember this guy ?  Once highly touted as a program-changing, college superstar, future-pro coming out of high school, he spent his time at Louisville struggling with his weight and grades.  Things got so bad, he actually flirted with the idea of entering the NBA Draft until UTEP Oklahoma Basketballhe realized he’d never get picked.  Despite his shortcomings, however, he’s become the best turnaround story of the college basketball season. If you guessed Derrick Caracter, give yourself a gold star.

The big man from Jersey has found himself at UTEP, after two awful years at Louisville finally ran their course.  Between weight issues, grades, and finding it nearly impossible to deal with Rick Pitino (the latter is becoming a common occurrence these days, isn’t it?), D.C.’s time at Lousiville was one to forget. Luckily for him, his career has rebounded. In better shape, minus his entourage, and obviously much happier, Caracter is averaging 13.6 ppg and 8.3 rpg for the 12-5 UTEP Miners. Most recently, Caracter was a catalyst in his team’s 72-67 win over Memphis with 14 points and 7 boards.

The Key to Winning Your NCAA Tournament Brackets

Here’s a stat to look at when filling out your March Madness sheets; Efficiency, specifically Offensive and Defensive Efficiency.  In a nutshell – Points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions. Why does it matter ?  Simply put… it has been one of ,(if not the), leading indicators of  NCAA champions.

Ken Pomeroy is a stat guru who spends hours determining these stats each season, and every year the eventual NCAA Champion can be determined by Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings.  Need Proof ?

’09 Champ – UNC– Off. Eff (1) Def.Eff (16)
’08 Champ-Kansas– Off. Eff (2) Def.Eff (1)
’07 Champ- Florida– Off. Eff (1) Def.Eff (12)
’06 Champ- Florida– Off.Eff (2) Def.Eff (5)

The fact is, that if you want to cut down the nets you must be as good defensively as you are offensively.  Here are 5 teams who rate high in both categories, and offer a big reason to believe in them come March : Kansas– OE (2) DE (3), Duke OE(1) DE(9), Wisconsin OE(16) DE(7), Syracuse OE(4) DE(16), Kansas State OE(14) DE(20).   However, be wary of : Villanova– OE(3) DE(80), Kentucky OE(12) DE(37), Gonzaga OE(25) DE(65).   The T&2 will revisit as March gets closer, but it’s never too early to start dissecting the brackets.

Groundhog Day for Duke Basketball

Well, just as it was hinted in the last  T&2, the Duke Blue Devils are in the historically “hell-ish” part of their schedule. Coach K and the singlerboys fit played to form in losing 88-74 to North Carolina State.  An inexcusable loss given their  high expectations coming into the season.  Here’s a challenge for the boys in Cameron: change yourselves from “good team” to “title contender” over the next weeks.

Tilts @ Clemson, @ Georgetown, Georgia Tech  and @UNC are games where Duke can turn their season around.  A sweep of these 4 quality teams, along with games against mediocre Florida State and Boston College would put Duke at 21-3 and give them a stranglehold on the ACC.  If Duke can do this, they’ll have my faith again…until then, I’m expecting a disastrous stretch over the next month; ultimately leading to a quiet exit in March. It’s unfortunate, but this has become Duke’s trademark over the last few seasons.

The Triangle and Two: A Quick Look at the Ups and Downs of College Basketball

by Terrence Mayrose

Pitt Basketball In Good Hands

It seemed pretty clear entering this season that Pitt would be “rebuilding” after losing a veteranJamieDixon core of Levance Fields, Dejuan Blair, Sam Young, & Tyrell Biggs that was seconds away from the Final Four. It would be hard to blame the Panthers for a mediocre season after losing so many talented players; although it seems as if Jamie Dixon, 2009 Naismith Coach of the Year, had other ideas. Off to a 13-2 (3-0) start behind 17.2 PPG from sophomore Ashton Gibbs  and another 12.2 from junior Brad Wanamaker’s , the #20 Panthers are quietly becoming a force in the Big East, and the nation.

Recently seeded as high as four in ESPN’s Bracketology, the Panthers certainly have the resume to back it.  Aside from an inexplicable loss to 7-8 Indiana, Pitt’s only other misstep is to #1 Texas.

Tonight’s game at #15 UCONN could be the most important of the season thus far. A win over the Huskies would solidify them as an elite team in the nation’s toughest conference. Dixon’s crew has made a case to put them in that discussion with a road win over then #5 Syracuse, but taking down another Top 25 conference foe would end any doubts that they are for real. Don’t think the experienced Pitt leader doesn’t know how much this win would mean for his team in the long run. Look for a tough battle between Ashton Gibbs and Kemba Walker in Storrs tonight.

Something to think about if Pitt does win tonight, though, is whether it’s out of the question to name Jamie Dixon Coach of The Year so far .  How many coaches could lose so much talent from an Elite Eight team, and be 14-2 and 4-0 in the Big East ? So far, just one.  Jamie Dixon.

Time for Purdue Basketball To Sink Or Swim

While Pitt was expected to struggle this season, Purdue was touted as a team on the rise. Seems as if the Boilmakers are reading their own press clippings, as they’ve stumbled to a 2-2 start in Big Ten Conference play. Back to back losses toWisconsin, and Ohio State put Matt Painter’s team in an interesting situation as they travel to overachieving 13-2 Northwestern and an Illinois squad currently sitting atop the conference .   We’ll know soon enough if Purdue is a contender or pretender based on the next two contests.

T&Two NCAA Bracket Busters to Watch

Northern Iowa 15-1 (Missouri Valley) – The veteran team already has a win over pre season top 25 Siena.

Louisiana Tech (16-1) (Western Athletic) – 4-0 in conference play, and wins over Houston and Nevada as resume boosters.

Cornell (14-3) (Ivy)- A recent five point loss at Kansas put them on the national radar. Wins over St. John’s, Davidson, Alabama, LaSalle, and UMass show they’re capable of excelling against the  big conferences.

Crucial Stretch For Duke Basketball

Duke enters a critical section of its schedule that could go a long way to deciding if  the Blue CoachK2Devils can end their five year stretch without a  Final Four appearances . The annual mid-January/early February trek through the ACC has literally been Hell for the Devils. Taking a look at recent years : In 2009-, they were 18-1 on  Jan 28th.  A loss to Wake Forest started a skid that saw  four  losses in a six game span  through Feb. 15th.  The 2007 season found Coach K’s boys at 18-3 before a Feb 1st home loss to Virginia started a four game skein.  Duke went 4-8 from that point to finish the season, including first round losses in both the  ACC and NCAA tourneys.

Coach K has been quick to remind Blue Devil faithful that this year’s team is much older, and bigger than teams of the past. It will be seen very shortly if the 13-2 Dukies will use their age and experience during a stretch of games including Wake Forest, Clemson, and Georgetown in the next few week

Big Fish in a Small Pond

Hats off to Appalachian State’s Donald Sims, who torched Davidson for 44 points last week.

Games to Watch This Week

Wednesday – Pitt @ UCONN- Typical Big East dogfight. Don’t rule out anything amazing…not even  six overtimes.
Thursday– Cal @ Washington State-Preseason top ten Cal is quickly slipping, and needs a win to resurrect its tourney hopes.

Saturday – Syracuse @ West Virginia.  Georgia Tech vs North Carolina.

Head Scratcher of the Week

Got an email from Chris Beermann that informed me that he recently attended a COLLEGE game, where a coach :

  • -Asked for a timeout while the other team was dribbling  the ball
  • -Asked the ref “if he could have the foul on #11”, instead of  his leading scorer who had just picked up his third personal foul.

It’s not surprising that Chris also informed me that the coach’s team lost.

Ahead of the Point Spread: Rife With Opinions NFL Playoffs Edition

January 13, 2010 under NFL, Uncategorized

Gil Lock Returns For NFL Postseason

Back by popular demand, Gil Lock of Ryno Rife Sports Handicappers ventures out of his collegiate ryno rifecomfort zone to bring you his opinions on this weekend’s divisional round.  Those that followed Rife With Opinions during the college football season remember that Gil came under a bit of fire as he struggled for much of the campaign.  He finished with a strong bowl season, however, and is willing to share his thoughts on how this weekend’s NFL playoff games will unfold.  Here we go.

New Orleans Saints – Arizona Cardinals Under 57

(Saturday 4:30 EST-FOX) Classic contrarian pick here, with a little logic thrown in for good measure.  Drew Brees hasn’t played for real in almost a month.  He may take a quarter or so to get going while I don’t think the Cardinals will have as much success once New Orleans gets a look at the Green Bay game film.

Indianapolis Colts – 6 1/2 over Baltimore Ravens

(Saturday 8:00 EST-CBS) The Colts have put themselves squarely behind the eight ball by forfeiting their last two games.  If they don’t win it all, they’ll never hear the end of it. Baltimore’s secondary isn’t what it used to be, even at full strength, let alone with Ed Reed nursing a sore groin.  Peyton Manning should devour the Ravens’ blitzes while Joe Flacco struggles to keep up.

Dallas Cowboys + 2 1/2 over Minnesota Vikings

(Sunday 1:00 EST-FOX) This one will break the heart of my good friend F-r-a-n-k Tufano, but I don’t see the Vikings recovering from their stumbling finish.  Dallas may be the hottest team in football right now and absolutely has the better QB.  Look for a big day from Jason Witten.

New York Jets +7 1/2 over San Diego Chargers

(Sunday 4:30 EST-CBS) Now, before Fireman Ed offers to take me out to dinner, let me say that San Diego wins this one.  I just don’t think they have the firepower to run away and hide from the Jets’ defense.  The Chargers incredibly tall receivers will force the Jets into adjustments that should open up the running game for San Diego.

The View from the Cheap Seats

January 13, 2010 under Cheap Seats, College Basketball, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL

By Eddie Mayrose

New York Jets Both Lucky and Good

The Jets went into Cincinnati last Saturday having spent as much time defending their Wild Card position cheap_seats_3_owumas they had preparing for the game, itself.  Blasted for having punched their ticket through the generosity of the Bengals and Indianapolis Colts; two teams with nothing to play for that had virtually rolled over and played dead for Gang Green in the season’s final two games, the Jets took the field with a little something more at stake than just a playoff game.  They wanted to prove they belonged.

And prove it they did, behind Mark Sanchez’s best contest of the season.  They sent the Bengals home for the winter in a performance that, while not as dominating as the previous week’s, saw them control every facet of the game from start to finish.  Head Coach Rex Ryan had raised more than a few eyebrows with some of his pre game statements; like calling his Jets the Super Bowl favorites, but his charges made him look like a prophet, for the first round at least, and have some thinking that maybe Ryan is crazy like a fox.

While the Jets are still the longest of long shots, there is a budding sense among players and fans alike that something special could actually happen.  Cursed for most of their existence by some of the most excruciating losses and disappointments the NFL has seen, these Jets have actually had the breaks go their way over the last month.  Their late season matchups with Indy and Cincy could not have been better timed, the myriad of teams that needed to lose in order for the Jets to advance did just that, there could not have been a better first round matchup than the one they drew with the Bengals and, finally, Baltimore’s rout of New England brought a second round tilt with San Diego; a daunting foe, indeed, but a far more favorable opponent than Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Are these guys really the Jets?

The one thing Big Rexy and his boys need to guard against, however, is the idea that they’re now playing Jets Patriots Footballwith house money; as if last week’s win validated a successful season and whatever happens next doesn’t matter.  While each of those points is true, to a degree, the NFL offers a very small window for teams chasing a title.  No matter how young, no matter how talented, franchises can never be sure how many opportunities they’ll get for championship glory.  The Jets should know this better than any as their Super Bowl drought is longer than every team but the Detroit Lions and is marred by missed field goals, snapped Achilles tendons and muddy fields.  Ryan has given every indication that he’ll keep his foot on the gas pedal and his team’s confidence seems to be growing because of it.  Now, let’s see how much of the newfound good fortune they can transport to San Diego.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

In the aftermath of the Jets’ first round victory came the post game comments of SNY commentator Adam Schein and WFAN host Mike Francesa.  Schein, on the SNY post game show Saturday night, came BrownFrancesa02smtdown very hard on punter Steve Weatherford, who was held out of the game due to illness, according to the team.  Schein, who gives no impression of ever having worn a football helmet, questioned Weatherford’s character; stating that the illness had better be serious.  The Jets would later reveal that Weatherford had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, something he’ll need to have surgically corrected in the off season.

That revelation did nothing to dissuade Francesa, who went down the same path Sunday morning, only to be corrected by a colleague.  That he was unaware that the punter’s condition had been made public the night before is not surprising as his indifference is exceeded only by his arrogance.  Each of these gas bags missed what was obvious to most: that since Weatherford was, in fact, on the sideline and in uniform, his condition must have been very serious for the Jets to hold him out of the game.  But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of sounding like a big, tough ballplayer?

NCAA Basketball Shill Vitale Loses Credibility

After thirty years, it’s time for ESPN’s lead hypocrite, Dick Vitale, to pack up his self-proclaimed “one eyed ziggy” act and go away forever.  While it’s always been difficult to stomach the superfluous nonsense he spews during his network’s broadcasts, he now regularly ignores and, in fact, rewrites the history of the dick_vitale_1coaches and programs whose fannies he chooses to smooch.

During Tuesday’s matchup of Florida and Kentucky, Vitale went into a rant about Mark McGwire, repeating what he’d said that morning on “Mike and Mike”.  He used the term “cheater” numerous times, referring to how sick he was of the steroid mess in baseball and how he sought refuge by talking up the game between the Wildcats and Gators.  A game that, incidentally, featured one of the college game’s more infamous cheaters, John Calipari, who’d been identified as such just weeks before by Vitale’s ESPN colleague, Bob Knight.  Not surprisingly, Vitale chose to ignore the issue. Not only was much of the telecast filled with Vitale’s praise for Calipari’s coaching ability, a graphic soon popped up naming the Kentucky coach as Vitale’s selection as Coach of the Year through this point in the season.  Finally, he mentioned that Calipari is attempting to become only the second coach to take three teams to the Final Four.  A complete rewriting of the facts, actually, as both of Calipari’s previous trips to the Championship round with UMass and Memphis have been vacated due to NCAA infractions.  According to the NCAA’s own records, Calipari’s never been to a Final Four.  I guess Vitale didn’t get the news.  Regardless, until he’s told by ESPN to take his ball and go home; something that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be imminent, any game that he works will be an extremely difficult and annoying listen.

New Jersey Devils Star Toils in Virtual Anonymity

If Devils’ goalie  Martin Brodeur  had been as dominant over the course of his career in any other sport or for any other New York area team, there’d already be a statue of him standing in front of a stadium.

New York Knicks Haunted in Oklahoma

During their two day stay in Oklahoma City, New York Knicks forwards Eddy Curry and Jared Jefferies complained that they were unable to sleep due to the fact that their hotel, The Skirvin, is haunted by ghosts.   I’ll leave you to your own punchlines.

Mark McGwire’s Weak Apology Does Settle One Score

Why would we have expected anything different from Mark McGwire?  Why would we think that, unlike all of the other steroid cheats who have come forward, sort of, that he’d be the one to completely open up mark-mcgwire-congressabout his own use?  Sorry, wasn’t going to happen.  Despite the earnest attempts of MLB Network’s Bob Costas to guide him to the full disclosure necessary for forgiveness, McGwire resisted throughout.  As a result, he looked like someone who came forward only because it was a requirement for his employment with the St. Louis Cardinals.  However, despite the fact that we learned very little that we didn’t already suspect, McGwire inadvertently settled one major debate about himself.

Forget his ridiculous assertions that the steroids were low dosage, that they did nothing to improve his performance or that he always wanted to come forward about his use of PED’s. It’s all nonsense.  Focus, instead, on his admission that, due to his frustration with chronic injury, he decided against retirement and started using steroids in 1996 to help him overcome his physical woes and get back on the field. By that very statement, he is also confirming that in no way does he deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Prior to the ’96 season, McGwire had posted 220 HR and 657 RBI over his first ten seasons; a far cry from consideration for the Hall.  He had appeared in just 74 games over the previous two seasons, prompting his thoughts of retirement.  In 1996, however, McGwire embarked on a four year slugfest that saw him launch an inhuman 245 home runs. So, if we connect the dots, what McGwire actually told Costas was that, had it not been for steroids, he’d have retired with the 220 dingers that would have left him off of every voter’s ballot.

Baseball is a game in which cheating has long been revered.  Hitters cork their bats while teams grow the grass high to aid slow infielders and water down the dirt to foil basestealers.  The 1951 Giants won a pennant aided by an employee in the scoreboard stealing the other team’s signs, journeyman pitcher Mike Scott won a Cy Young by scuffing the ball and spitballer Gaylord Perry has a plaque in Cooperstown.  Oddly, fans and players alike look at these indiscretions with a kind of twisted admiration.  To that end, baseball got exactly what it asked for with these steroid cheats.  I just wish they’d have a little more respect for our intelligence when they come forward and not hand us the ridiculous crap that we saw from McGwire on Monday.


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