Welcome to Five College Basketball Questions You Need Answered. Any retransmission of this column without the express written consent of the author is prohibited and punishable by anger management classes with Travis Ford (more on that later).
No. 1 – How many teams does stats guru Ken Pomeroy think are top contenders in 2015-16 so far?
If you’re of the opinion that there isn’t one elite team, Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com) agrees with you. The basketball statistics analyst said there isn’t much separation between his top 11: Virginia, Oklahoma, Purdue, Villanova, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky, Xavier, Louisville and North Carolina.
“There isn’t an obvious favorite,” Pomeroy said.
Michigan State is No.1 in the Associated Press poll and the coaches poll. The Spartans have beaten three ranked teams (Kansas, Providence and Louisville) and edged Florida 58-52 on Saturday. However, Pomeroy rates Michigan State’s strength of schedule No. 208 out of 351. The Spartans have yet to play a true road game.
“I’m still not convinced that they’re the best team in the country,” Pomeroy said.
Virginia is currently rated as the best team, largely due to an improved offense. It is No.7th in the Pomeroy efficiency ratings – compared to No.24 last season. Pomeroy is also impressed by Villanova.
Yes, the Wildcats were crushed by Oklahoma 78-55 in Hawaii. However, Pomeroy points out that the Wildcats are shooting 30.4 percent from three-point range – that is No. 281 out of 346 schools. He believes – based on their personnel’s history – that figure will improve.
When it comes to national player of the year, Pomeroy says it’s a two-person race between Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield.
“He does just about everything well,” he said of Valentine.
— Paul Sadler (@sadlerimages) December 3, 2015
No. 2 – Is the force with Purdue (11-0)?
The most anticipated movie of the year opens this week: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Purdue joined the hype by hosting Star Wars Day for last Saturday’s home game against Youngstown State. The fans dressed up as characters from the movies. (Big props to the student with the sign “Jar Jar Binks is an IU grad.”).
They crushed Youngstown State 95-64 – just like they have force-choked the life out of the rest of their opponents. The Boilermakers are third in the nation in scoring margin (+25.8). They have won 11 straight by double digits for the first time in school history.
They are the second-highest ranked team in the Sagarin Ratings and third by Pomeroy. And yet, Purdue is ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll and 8th in the coaches poll. They haven’t faced a ranked opponent, but have beaten Florida and Pittsburgh. They’ll get their toughest test when to face No.17 Butler on Saturday.
Purdue’s frontcourt is enough to make any opponent think: “I have a bad feeling about this.” The frontline is one of the best in the nation with seven-footer A.J. Hammons, the 7-2 Isaac Haas and 6-9 freshman Caleb Swanigan. The trio combined for 43 points and 22 rebounds against Youngstown State.
What’s the biggest reason for Purdue optimism? Along with size, the three-point shooting is better: 37.3 percent as compared to 32.7 percent last season.
“We’ve got more guys who can make decisions on the perimeter, and I think we’re doing a better job of posting up,” Haas told The Lafayette Journal & Courier. “And of course they have to respect our shooters and they have to extend out and guard those guys, and when they do that it’s one-on-one in the post.”
As Yoda would say: Formidable Purdue is.
No.3 – Can Travis Ford remain calm?
You’re Travis Ford. Your Oklahoma State team is 6-3 (losses to George Mason, Tulsa and Missouri State – two of those at home). You’ve been bounced out of the opening round of the NCAA tournament for three straight seasons. You might have been fired after last season if not for a $9.6 million buyout.
You probably want to be on your best behavior. But oh no…
Ford was ejected last week from his son’s high school basketball game for yelling at a referee. The website newsok.com reported that Ford apologized: “I should have exercised better judgment in not publicly expressing my feelings. I regret the situation, and apologize for the unfortunate and unwanted distraction it has caused.”
Here are some suggestions for Ford to promote serenity:
- Refrain from using the Georges Niang, Perry Ellis and Buddy Hield, kewpie dolls until the conference tournament.
- Sneak a fake moustache and glasses-wearing Marcus Smart on to the court.
- Crank call Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Ask for “Deez” When Bowlsby says “Who?” yell out “Deez Nuts!” and promptly hang up.
No.4 Are there can’t-miss games this week?
No.9 Purdue (11-0) vs. No 17 Butler (8-1) on Saturday in Indianapolis: This will be a neutral site game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Butler’s lone loss is to Miami in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. If Purdue easily beats the Bulldogs, it might be time to take them seriously as a championship contender. Purdue never reached the Final Four under Gene Keady and last made it in 1980.
No.11 North Carolina (7-2) vs. No.22 UCLA (7-3) on Saturday in Brooklyn, N.Y.: North Carolina stumbled against Northern Iowa and Texas. Now it will be without forward Kennedy Meeks for at least two weeks with a bone bruise. UCLA has wins against Kentucky and Gonzaga – but also lost at home to Monmouth.
No.5 – Does West Virginia’s Jevon Carter own college basketball’s most ridiculous shoes?
West Virginia’s Jevon Carter wore a pair of gold kicks that looked like something borrowed from Kanye’s closet. The only things missing were diamond-encrusted shoelaces with platinum trim. The shoes were so ostentatious ESPN analyst Jay Bilas yelled out –just like the kids these days say – “What are those?”