RPI jumps for February 2, 2015

Not many changes occurred in the top 100 of the men’s rating percentage index this week so the biggest jumper with the best ranking was actually California.
men's RPI 2-2
The Golden Bears came into the week 1-6 in PAC-12 play and was expected to end the week 1-8 with two road games. Yet California came away with wins at Washington State and Washington. The latter was far more unexpected. We’ll see if this was the week Cal needed to turn its season around who have a salvageable 13-9 record. The Bears have a ways to go to get back into NCAA tournament conversation but at least they are still alive for it.
women's RPI 2-2
On the women’s side Seton Hall moved up to No. 32 thanks to a home win against St. John’s, another team who moved up. The Pirates scored their 20th victory of the season tying the program record for fastest to ever reach that mark in a season. Look for Seton Hall to crack the top 25 in the coming weeks.


More Summit League Basketball Photos

IUPUI during player intros.

IUPUI during player intros.

I have more pictures from my first ever Summit League game as a photographer now on my Facebook page.

Here is a taste of what you’ll see there.
D.J. McCall does not let people get in his way.

D.J. McCall does not let people get in his way.

People are literally afraid to guard Carlin Dupree.

People are literally afraid to guard Carlin Dupree.

Climbing to the Summit League

The only place where a Bison could ever meet a Jaguar.

The only place where a Bison could ever meet a Jaguar.

Life in the Summit League is not luxurious nor is it respected by the national media. Teams are scattered across the middle of the country from Indiana to Colorado, making it tough to form a regional identity. None of the nine teams are in the RPI top 100 and only one is in the top 150 (South Dakota State). That doesn’t mean there are not quality teams here. North Dakota State knocked off Oklahoma in the first round of the tournament last year and that NDSU team is looking good this season.

IUPUI homecourt

Nice looking court.

I knew  that traveling to IUPUI, here in Indianapolis, was going to be a battle for them. And this past Thursday ended up being an overtime affair. Thank you to IUPUI SID Edgar Holdaway for the photographer credential to the game this past Thursday.

Jags DJ

Meet a DJ with eyes on the back of his shirt.

IUPUI in its first season of playing in Pepsi Coliseum at the state fairgrounds and it appears to be a good fit. The first thing I noticed is that IUPUI students are the ones who sit courtside here. How many other schools can say that about their student body? This is partly because the Pepsi Coliseum is built more for hockey, leaving space for the band and student body behind the baskets. The cheerleaders also stand by the sidelines like a football game while most schools have them positioned along the baseline. Little things like this make an IUPUI game unique and it gives the Jags support having the young spirited fans close to the court. They also have this type of DJ yelling “Lets go JAAAAGs,” every 10 minutes to keep people awake.

North Dakota State was the favorite and I got the impression they were the better team. The Jaguars were pressing a full-court defense most of the night trying to force turnovers. IUPUI got some but also let NDSU score easy baskets once their guards broke through the initial pressure. The Bison had more blocks and rebounds as the Jaguars had to settle  for jumpers in its half-court offense.

At the same time though the Bison seemed to struggle to finish their drives to basket. Quite a few misses came at point-blank range from offensive rebounds. NDSU also only made 10 out of their 18 free throws.

IUPUI had a chance to win the game in regulation as guard Mason Archie had an open 3 with .8 seconds left but the shot went long. North Dakota State would outscore IUPUI 16-8 in overtime to put the game to bed.

No. 2 for three and the win is guarded by No. 2. This ended up being IUPUI's best chance for victory.

No. 2 for three and the win is guarded by No. 2. This ended up being IUPUI’s best chance for victory.

NDSU would lose two days later to IPFW, who came in 1-5 in Summit League play. That’s how hard it is to win back-to-back road games in any conference within a 48 hour span. IUPUI would win against South Dakota Saturday to move to 4-3 in conference; just a game back from NDSU and 1.5 back from South Dakota State.

The Summit League bid is up in the air but don’t be surprised if these meet again in the conference tournament. Here are more pictures from Thursday.

DSC_1726DSC_1683 DSC_2222

FCS Playoff Preview 2014

It's that time of year. We're talking playoffs.

It’s that time of year. We’re talking playoffs.

Most of you will be watching your favorite rivalry game in FBS ball this weekend, but Saturday is also a big day for the FCS level. It’s the first round of the FCS Playoffs. Sixteen of the 24 teams will be in action and it’s time to break the field down.

1. Is New Hampshire really the best team?

The Wildcats went undefeated against FCS foes this year, only losing to FBS Toledo 54-20. While the CAA has three other teams in field, UNH did not play two of them. Villanova, the six seed, and James Madison were not on the schedule. Therefore, it’s hard to justify a CAA crown with that conference slate.

Its toughest opponent, Richmond, was a close three-point win. Last week, New Hampshire survived a 5-5 Maine team 20-12. Doesn’t really sound like the best team in the FCS. The Wildcats are good, you have to be to go 10-1, but the top seed seems generous.

2. What Top 8 Seeds are on Upset Alert?

There is always a team or two who go down in the second round as a top eight seed. The four/five seeds need to look out as Illinois State and Eastern Washington may have tough match-ups. Illinois State shared the Missouri Valley Football Conference (FCS best five teams in the field) with North Dakota State but may have to deal with a dangerous Northern Iowa club. UNI lost to Illinois State by 14 on Nov. 1 but the Panthers did beat North Dakota State and almost shocked Iowa.

Montana should cruise through San Diego and meet conference rival Eastern Washington in the second round. Again, EWU won the first meeting but it was close. Beating a team like Northern Iowa and Montana twice in the same year is not easy. Montana is number one in FCS in turnover margin at plus 16. Eastern Washington better protect the ball in that game.

Chattanooga, the eight seed, would be favored against the Eastern Kentucky/Indiana State winner but it will not be a cake walk. And if you think Villanova is looking forward to the winner of James Madison/Liberty you’re crazy.

3. Will North Dakota State make it four straight championships?

The Bison have the best defense in the field giving up just 255 yards per game. The question for them will be on offense. North Dakota State averaged 429 yards per game so it’s hard to see them struggling, especially at home. Their first two games should be a breeze as the semifinals and championship will be the only places for the Bison to falter. But there is one team I think can beat them.

4. The Dark Horse: Jacksonville State

The Gamecocks are number four in offense and number 14 in defense. That’s a juggernaut folks. Jacksonville State won at Chattanooga in week 2 and should be ready to challenge anyone, including North Dakota State. That’s why I’m picking Jacksonville State to win it all this year.

Now if it loses to Southeastern Louisiana in the second round then you never read this column. Here is my bracket.
FCS top
FCS Bottom

FCS Defenders: Where the Upsets Will Happen

Because Photoshopping logos onto a tank is harder.

Because Photoshopping logos onto a tank is harder.

The first few weeks of the year is the only time college football has a March Madness flavor to it as FCS schools get a crack at the big boys. Fourty-six FCS teams will square off against FBS counterparts this week and roughly half have a chance of pulling off the upset. The big schools can’t recruit everyone and the FCS programs benefit greatly from transfers. FBS schools have a recruiting edge in grabbing the scarcity of quality linemen but skill positions (quarterbacks and receivers) are roughly the same quality in FCS.

Losing to a FCS school carries various degrees of shame. When a MAC school loses to a FCS squad, it is embarrassing, like losing to a 6-year-old at a video game. When a Big Ten school loses to a FCS program, it is crippling, like being interviewed by Chris Hansen on Dateline. See Michigan versus Appalachian State as exhibit A. Here are a few FCS vs. FBS games to look at in the opening week.

Abilene Christian at Georgia State

The season officially starts for FBS schools with a potential upset. The Panthers went 0-12 in 2013 and lost to three FCS programs in the process. Georgia State hopes to snap its 16-game losing streak against Abilene Christian, who lost most of its offense from a year ago.

ACU did finished 18 spots higher than GSU in the Sagarin rankings last season and appears to have a beefier offensive line. This is a 50/50 game but I have to give it to Georgia State. They have been marketing it like it’s their Super Bowl and they’ll need that mindset to end the losing streak.

UT-Martin at Kentucky

I know it’s a popular to pick an underdog over Kentucky but the Wildcats are 10-0 all-time vs. FCS programs. The only chance the Skyhawks have is hoping for complete incompetence from the Cats at quarterback. Kentucky is going with redshirt sophomore PatrickTowles who has little game experience. This opens the door for UT-Martin but don’t bet on it. Kentucky should win this one by at least a couple of touchdowns as Kentucky returns most of its defense.

Youngstown State at Illinois

Illinois went 4-8 last season and will be breaking in a new quarterback. The Fighting Illini also lost most of its receivers. In terms of size on the line of scrimmage Illinois is bigger but not by much. No. 21 FCS Youngstown State also lost its starting quarterback from last season so the QB position is a wash.

Looking at common opponents, Youngstown State lost to Michigan State last season by 38. Illinois lost to Michigan State in 2013 by 39. Uh Oh! These teams are close to even and that is not a good sign for Illinois. I’m picking the Penguins because I always wanted to stay that.

Delaware at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh went 7-6 last season and lost some big pieces on defense and its quarterback. Is that enough for the Delaware Blue Hens to capitalize on? Senior quarterback Trent Hurley returns after throwing 22 touchdowns in 2013 to only seven interceptions. That’s a big problem for the Panthers.

However, Delaware will be severely undersized at the line of scrimmage and this team was blown out by Navy a year ago. A team Pittsburgh defeated. I expect Delaware to stick around but I can’t pick the upset.

Montana at Wyoming

Wyoming is rolling the dice playing the No. 5 FCS team in Montana. The Cowboys return most of its team but will have a new starter a quarterback along with a new coach (Craig Bohl). For the Griz, quarterback Jordan Johnson returns after throwing 32 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Montana will have to overcome a moderate size difference up front but this will be a close one. I’ll pick Montana because of the coaching transition at Wyoming.

Plus how can you go against a school that has a hype video with a Batman style soundtrack.

Montana State at Arkansas State

Arkansas State won a bowl game last season and welcomes No. 17 FCS Montana State on Saturday. The Red Wolves lost a big chunk of its offense including quarterback. Montana State nearly took down FBS SMU last season and have a decent chance here too. It does not help that the Bobcats will be giving Dakota Prukop his first start at QB. The Bobcats are larger at offensive line and the Red Wolves went through a coaching change. Arkansas State’s defense will have to hold on to prevent the upset and I think they will against a new quarterback. I predict the Bobcats will come up short again.

Northern Arizona at San Diego State

Our third FCS school from the Big Sky on this list is No. 25 Northern Arizona. San Diego State was crushed by FCS Eastern Illinois last season 40-19 and lost most of its defense. However, the Lumberjacks don’t have an amazing quarterback like Eastern’s Jimmy Garoppolo. I’m calling the Aztecs to survive this one.

New Hampshire at Toledo

Toledo is a favorite to win the MAC but CAA New Hampshire is No. 4 in FCS. The Rockets have a new starter at quarterback but return most of its defense. The Wildcats have two quarterbacks that are experienced. I look for Toledo to hold on as New Hampshire barley lost to MAC foe Central Michigan last season. A team Toledo crushed. Plus, if these fans show up then the Rockets should feel safe.

Chattanooga at Central Michigan

Speaking of Central Michigan, it plays No. 16 Chattanooga in what should be a tight game. Central returns most of its team and is predicted to have a breakout year in the MAC. That doesn’t mean losing to a talented FCS program is out of question. Junior quarterback Jacob Huesman had 25 total touchdowns last season compared with five interceptions for the Mocs. They also want to get the bad taste of the Alabama beating they took at the end of last season 49-0. Huesman was unable to play much in that game due to injury. Central does not appear to have much of a size advantage on the line. I think it will come down to skill positions and that’s why I’m picking Chattanooga. http://www.gomocs.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205178820

Bethune-Cookman at FIU

No. 23 Bethune-Cookman beat Florida International last year 34-13. While FIU returns most of its players from its disastrous 1-11 campaign in 2013, the Panthers are going to be challenged to make up three touchdowns. Bethune-Cookman is 3-0 all time against FIU and that will probably be 4-0 after Saturday. FIU is giving away food and tuition to bring out fans. Good luck with that.

Cal-Poly at New Mexico State

New Mexico State went 2-10 last season and lost its top passer, rusher, receiver and six of its top seven tacklers. I don’t know if Cal-Poly, 6-6 in 2013, can take advantage though. The Mustangs will be undersized and that might prevent them from having much rushing success in its triple option. Not sure if their two quarterback system will work well in this one. Have to give the edge to the Aggies.

North Dakota State at Iowa State

Save the best for last and that’s the Bison, who have won three-straight FCS titles. They shocked Kansas State in 2013 and play a weaker Big 12 team this season in Iowa State. Did I mention Iowa State lost to FCS Northern Iowa last season 28-20?

But the Cyclones have experience on offense now as the defense is the question. No one has a clear size advantage on the line of scrimmage making quarterback play pivotal. That could be a problem for NDSU as new starting quarterback Carson Wentz is unproven. However, the two quarterback system for Iowa State cost them 14 interceptions last season and you can bet at least one more will come Saturday. That should be all NDSU needs as I’m picking them to extend its 24-game winning streak.

That means I’m picking five FCS programs over FBS teams this week with a few more tight contests. Here are other FCS vs. FBS games with some upset potential this week. Villanova at Syracuse; Liberty at North Carolina; Portland State at Oregon State; Nicholls State at Air Force; Morgan State at Eastern Michigan

Nine Overlooked Details of March

Here are some things you might have missed while paying attention to all of the March Madness awesomeness.

No. 9: The Big-12 fails to boast
It’s very common for conferences to talk themselves up with postseason success and here is the Big-12’s attempt.

The more you know.

The more you know.

On the surface, this is impressive. However, the Big-12 has fewer teams than the other leagues on this list with only 10. Everyone else has 12 or more, hurting their percentage.

With that taken into account the chart doesn’t really say much at all. It doesn’t help that none of the seven Big-12 teams made it to the Elite Eight.

No. 8: NIT upsets

While there were several upsets in the NCAA tournament, there were quite a few in the NIT too. Robert Morris took down a No. 1 seed for the second straight year in St. John’s. Conference USA was able claim success having Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech reach the quarterfinals. Belmont was the victim of a court storming at Clemson. I guess beating Belmont is like beating Duke in the eyes of Clemson fans.

No. 7: Best fan photo ever

There have been some amazing photos of fans and players celebrating in the tournament. The best has to go to two rival coaches eating popcorn together. I’m biased being born in Kentucky, but Denny Crum and Joe B. Hall is just too good to pass up. Hard to believe they host a radio show together now.

No. 6: Year of the Bison

North Dakota State has to have the happiest athletic department this year. With a FCS championship and a basketball team that won its first ever NCAA tournament game, things are pretty darn good.

No. 5: Women’s NIT
There actually is a women’s NIT and unlike the men’s it is 64 teams. That’s a lot of postseason basketball that receives little to no media attention. This tweet confirms that.

That’s the best crowd for round 2? That’s 10 percent of the attendance for some of these men’s NCAA Tournament games.

No. 4: CBI team with a losing record

If you can’t get into the NCAA Tournament or the NIT there is always the College Basketball Invitational. The CBI has attracted some power conference teams in the past and got Penn State and Texas A&M in this year. So it’s sort of legit.

Problem is Siena is in the championship final. The Saints were the only team in the field to have a losing record and they might win it all. Kind of looks bad for the CBI but it’s not its fault. Other teams turned down their CBI bid like Indiana, allowing lesser schools to get in. Siena is making the most of their opportunity as it should. Postseason basketball should never be taken for granted.

No. 3: A women’s CBI exists too.

The Women’s Basketball Invitational has already crowned their champion as Illinois-Chicago defeated Stephen F. Austin in the title game. While attention is scarce, it is still a meaningful event to the team’s fans.

No. 2: CIT is still meaningless

Meaningful is the opposite of the College Insider.com Tournament or CIT. Unlike the CBI, the CIT field is composed of nothing but mid-majors, most of which are from conferences with low RPIs. The CIT does not have a set bracket making it a tournament that’s constantly in flux and difficult to follow. Check out how many people attended a game at Eastern Michigan. Less than 400!

So what does the CIT do to validate themselves?

Rookie of the Year from CollegeInsider.com 4 on Vimeo.

Because claiming Damian Lillard is going to make people care? Sorry, but finding the one or two guys from small schools who made it big in the NBA is not compelling enough. The other tournaments have more NBA prospects. Good luck with that.

No. 1: Central Missouri shows dedication

The University of Central Missouri won the division II basketball title Saturday and congratulations. UCM goes with the Mules for its men’s teams and Jennies for its women’s. I guess the Philadelphia Phillies are a softball team then.
The main story here though is how UCM reacted to the championship title. Whoever runs their Twitter account was updating a softball game for the “Jennies” while the “Mules” won the championship game on the hardwood.

This has to be the most dedication to a job I’ve seen by an athletic department. Most would have solely focused on the basketball game but here is UCM weaving it in and out with regular season softball coverage.

Props to Central Missouri to making sure the Jennies get the same amount of respect as the Mules. Feminists better rejoice.

Are teams shooting too many 3s in the NCAA Tournament?

No wonder they miss. They're wearing Nikes.

No wonder they miss. They’re wearing Nikes.

A stat I keep seeing over and over in the NCAA Tournament is the sheer volume of 3-pointers some teams are taking. I used to see the three-pointer as an equalizer for the smaller schools. A way for schools lacking in size to stay competitive against the basketball elite. Yet it’s the basketball elite that are launching the 3s in this tournament. And the underdogs start a dance circle every time those 3s go up. Literally.

Oklahoma shot 30 3s against North Dakota State and made 12 of them. The Bison only took 14 and made six for a higher percentage. Why would a Big-12 team good enough to make the tournament settle for so many jumpers against a mid-major?

Ivy League schools like Harvard are expected to be filled with finesse jump shooters. Yet in its upset vs. Cincinnati, Harvard shot 12 more free throws because it attacked the rim more.

Manhattan nearly pulled off the upset over Louisville even though it only attempted five 3s. In comparison, Louisville went 4-13 from deep.

And then of course there’s Duke, a member of basketball’s royalty. Yet against underdog Mercer, Duke attempted 37 3s! Duke even made 15 of them and still lost. That’s because it gave away 22 free possessions to Mercer with all those misses from deep. The Bears went to the free throw line 15 more times the Blue Devils. Two days later against Tennessee, Mercer only attempted nine foul shots. The correlation is evident.

Even the best 3-point shooting teams in the country are clanking left and right. Creighton, the No. 1 3-point field-goal percentage team in the country, shot 5-24 from behind the arc in its embarrassing 85-55 defeat to Baylor.

Gonzaga, a top 10 3-point percentage team, shot 6-16 in its loss to Arizona in a game that was never competitive.

One team even won last week while not hitting a single 3 at all. Stanford defeated Kansas 60-57, despite going 0-9 from 3. It helped that Kansas went 5-16.

Dayton defeated Ohio State but only went 3-13 from 3. The Buckeyes didn’t do any better going 3-12.

Syracuse went 0-10 in its loss to Dayton. After a 0-7 start you would think the Orange would get the hint to attack the basket.

St. Louis was the worse among all of them against Louisville, going 0-15 from 3. Might as well have been 15 turnovers.

The first weekend of the tournament validated all the people who say you must attack the basket. In six games against above average defenses, no team is going to be hot from 3 all the time. You have to have multiple ways to score.

Now the pressure falls to schools like Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Baylor, UConn, and Dayton. All are top-50 teams in 3-point field goal percentage but will now be shooting in large NBA and even NFL venues this weekend. These larger venues are not to kind to shooters who are trying to gauge their range.

We’ll see if the feast and famine trend from the 3-point line continues. For those who rely on the 3, I sure hope they have a contingency plan.