March Madness 2012 can’t get here soon enough for me, although last Saturday’s action brought plenty of madness on its own.
Interestingly enough though, finding teams for this week’s stock watch was tough because so many teams appear to be locked into win-one, lose-one mode.
Bottoms Line: Stock Up
After beating Chattanooga on Thursday, the Wildcats improved to 9-0 in the SoCon, and they are starting to at least generate some at-large buzz. They are 15-4 overall with a win over Kansas in Kansas City, and losses to Duke and Vanderbilt certainly won’t kill them. Even losing at UMass isn’t terrible, but they also lost at Charlotte who is outside of the RPI Top 100. In the meantime, Davidson is just inside the Top 50, although future league games won’t help their strength of schedule.
The Wildcats have five players scoring at least 9.1 points per game, led by De’Mon Brooks (14.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Jake Cohen (14.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), both of whom play less than 25 minutes per contest.
While they are sure to be favored in all of their remaining conference games, they are also slated to play at home as part of the BracketBusters. Depending on the opponent, it could give them another shot at a profile-enhancing win.
After getting off to a painfully slow start where they lost four of their first six games, the Dragons have now won 14 of their last 15 and are within a game of George Mason for the CAA lead. As was the case last season, Drexel is solid defensively and ranks 26th in adjusted defensive efficiency. They shut down the three-point line and clean the defensive glass as well as anyone, but they actually rank first in the league in offensive efficiency during conference play.
Bruiser Flint has three players scoring at least 11.8 points per game, including Frantz Massenat (12.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.4 rpg) who hits 47.4 percent from deep and Samme Givens (11.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 53.1 FG%) who is a terrific rebounder at 6-foot-5.
The schedule lays out relatively well for the Dragons, as the season finale against Old Dominion is their only game left against the top teams in the league.
Even without Tim Abromaitis, the Irish have managed to get off to a 5-3 start in Big East play with road wins at Louisville and Seton Hall and last weekend’s home upset of Syracuse. Given a few of their losses, Notre Dame is definitely fighting an uphill battle for at-large consideration, but they are working their way into the conversation.
The Irish are essentially using a six-man rotation, and they are getting solid play from Jack Cooley, Eric Atkins, and Jerian Grant. Cooley has 39 points and 30 rebounds over the last three games, including two double-doubles. Atkins’ scoring has been inconsistent, but he’s hitting over 40 percent from beyond the arc and has a solid assist rate. Grant’s assist rate is even better, and he’s averaging 13.3 points over the last 10 games. All three have strong free throw rates as well, with each hitting at least 71.8 percent from the line.
Notre Dame has three tough games up next with road trips to Connecticut and West Virginia and a home date with Marquette.
If you can make heads or tails of the Pac-12, you are definitely smarter than me. However, I do know that the Ducks have played well of late, winning five of their last six games including victories over Stanford and Arizona.
The mid-December addition of Devoe Joseph has been key, as the Minnesota transfer is leading the team with 14.6 points per game and hitting 43.2 percent from deep. Oregon is also getting solid play from E.J. Singler, and they seem to have rebounded from the surprising departure of freshman Jabari Brown.
If you look at Oregon’s profile, they don’t have a horrible loss, which this year is a rarity. The issue is that they don’t have a ton of marquee wins either, and the conference provides more chances for bad losses than signature wins. That means they need to keep winning at home against Oregon State on Sunday followed by a road trip to Utah and Colorado.
Despite a 1-3 start in Big Ten play, it’s no surprise the Badgers have bounced back to win five straight, including a pair of road wins against Purdue and Illinois. While their offense seems improved, they still rank in the middle of the pack for efficiency in conference play. However, their defense still ranks among the best and can keep them close in virtually every game. In fact, they have held all but three opponents to 1.00 points per possession or less.
Jordan Taylor has continued to struggle with his shot, and a number of other players have stepped up periodically. That said, they need one or two other guys to become more consistent contributors from game to game.
Starting with Tuesday’s trip to Penn State, the Badgers play five of their next seven away from home, so it will be interesting to see if they can sustain their level of play during that stretch.
Bottoms Line: Stock Down
At one point, I considered the Gaels to be an at-large contender, but following losses to Hofstra, Manhattan (albeit on a crazy last-second shot), and Siena, that is no longer the case. They are currently just outside of the RPI Top 50 but they also have no Top 50 wins with their best victories both coming in overtime against Saint Joseph’s and Denver.
Iona boasts an elite-level point guard in Scott Machado (13.1 ppg, 10.2 apg, 5.1 rpg) and a terrific big man in Michael Glover (19.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 67.0 FG%), so talent isn’t an issue. That said, there was some concern about how well Arizona transfer Momo Jones would fit into the mix. And while he is averaging 15.3 points, his long-range shooting hasn’t been great, and it’s likely no coincidence that he attempted 20 shots in two of their five losses. Even so, the offense has strong efficiency numbers, but there is room for improvement on the defensive end. Outside of limiting opponents to a low free throw rate, the Gaels rank outside of the Top 100 in the other three key factors on KenPom.
A BracketBusters matchups could give them another shot at a strong victory depending on who they play, but more than likely they will need to win the MAAC Tournament to go dancing.
After beating Central Florida at home, the Herd stood at 4-0 in Conference USA, but they have since dropped three straight games. Losses to West Virginia and Southern Miss are forgivable, but the same can’t be said about Wednesday’s home loss to UAB.
Marshall ranks in the top five nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, but their shooting, particularly from three-point range and the foul line, has been really poor. Guards DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts are both scoring in double figures, but neither guy makes over 42.9 percent from the field or better than 33.1 percent from deep.
Wins over Cincinnati, Iona, and Belmont definitely help their at-large case, but they need to perform well in remaining games against Memphis (who they play twice), Central Florida, and Southern Miss. The Herd also needs to avoid losing to any of the lesser teams left on their schedule.
A home win over Michigan State had people thinking maybe this would be the year for the Wildcats. They have since followed that up with two losses by a combined 43 points, so their status is once again tenuous at best.
Northwestern takes more than 42 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, and since they don’t get to the line much and don’t grab many offensive rebounds, they really can’t survive off shooting nights. So since they hit just 13-of-40 (32.5%) of their three-pointers in the last two games, it’s not necessarily surprising that they got crushed. The Wildcats aren’t strong defensively either, so their ability to succeed during times when they struggle offensively is limited.
Northwestern plays three of their next four games at home, so they can ill afford to perform poorly over that stretch before the schedule gets a bit tougher down the stretch.
The Boilers have now dropped four of their last six games, and they are slowly sliding toward the bubble. The team ranks eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency in Big Ten games, which is a departure from the ability they have shown on that end of the floor in recent years. They have struggled to defend the three-point line but have also allowed opponents to shoot over 50 percent on two-pointers.
Offensively they have an extremely low turnover rate, but their shooting from the field and at the line ranks in the lower half of the league. The Purdue offense is extremely reliant on Robbie Hummel and a banged up Lewis Jackson, neither of whom has been practicing fully.
The schedule doesn’t do them any favors with their next six contests featuring two games against Northwestern, home dates with Indiana and Michigan State, and road trips to Ohio State and Illinois.
After starting out 4-1 in the Atlantic 10, it felt like the Musketeers were finally back on track, but following losses to Dayton and Saint Louis, some of the question marks about the team have resurfaced. When looking at per possession stats, it’s very easy to tie Xavier’s success to their defensive effort. In the eight games where they have allowed at least 1.02 points per possession, the Musketeers are 1-7. In virtually every case, Xavier has allowed a lot of open looks and/or put their opponents on the line a lot.
Offensively, they have played a bit better of late, but they have to get more out of Kenny Frease. The senior big man has just nine points over the last two games and has some pretty ugly efficiency numbers for the season. Even if it’s not Frease, someone needs to assert themselves as a consistent contributor outside of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons.
The Musketeers have three straight road games starting on Saturday, and they have games remaining against Temple, Dayton, and St. Louis as well. They aren’t quite on the bubble yet, but a few more losses could change that in a hurry.