WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 1/6/06

Mike Adam looks at the first few days in Big East Conference play and the world of College Hoops.

Before we start bubbling today, I wanted to talk about a few things. First, Marquette's win over Connecticut seems to have struck a sentiment among a few people of, "Oh, no – now Marquette might get one of the BIG EAST's NCAA bids, so now DePaul has to win MORE." Although it may seem that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee apportions x number of bids per conference, that's not how it's done. The best 34 at-large teams get into the NCAAs, regardless of conference affiliation. Did Marquette help its chances of getting into the NCAAs with its win over Connecticut? Absolutely. Did it help those chances at the expense of DePaul's chances? Slightly, since it gives Marquette a leg up on having a better conference record, which is generally a criteria for order of selection. Otherwise, Marquette's win had no more negative effect on DePaul than it did on, say, Arkansas, Iowa State, Georgia Tech or other early "bubble" contenders in other conferences. In fact, since DePaul plays Marquette twice and Connecticut not at all this year, Marquette's win is beneficial for DePaul for RPI rank purposes.

I know it feels kind of strange to root for your rival, but the better Marquette does, the better it is for DePaul. Just think of it like "X-Men 2", when Professor Xavier's mutants had to join forces with Magneto's mutants to stop Colonel Stryker from destroying them all. Not that I'm a 30-year old who knows anything about comic book characters or anything. Um, moving on…

Just out of curiosity, did anyone happen to see the starting lineup for Villanova last night? They started four guys 6'4" and shorter last night, and they still beat Louisville. Sure, Jason Frasor is there and plays useful minutes, but last night, 6'4" Randy Foye had nine rebounds (and is averaging over six a game), and 6'2" Allan Ray had five rebounds. So why is there all of this concern that if DePaul doesn't have Wes Green, they can't succeed? I think many of us had this impression that the BIG EAST is this big, bad league of bangers. So why is Villanova still predicted to win the conference? In my humble opinion, the success of a defense is less about what resources you have and more about how you deploy those resources to play to your strengths.

Don't get me wrong – I don't think any four DePaul players can match up with the four guards that started for Villanova last night in terms of talent, and I would love to have Wes Green healthy and available. But if Wes is gone for an extended period of time, DePaul can either curse their bad luck and use it as an excuse, or they can adjust.

I thought there were two excellent points yesterday on the board. First is that I believe Wilson Chandler should be getting down on the block. Having watched him for a number of games now, it appears that he wants to glide around on the perimeter. He almost seems to have an air about him that he expects the game to come to him, and getting him down on the block would make him work for the ball, rather than passively standing and waiting for the ball to be rotated to him.

The second point is that I think going to a man-to-man more on defense would force players to have individual block-out assignments, which may help with the defensive rebounding. In a zone, without a specific responsibility, some of the DePaul players seem to drift towards the rim, rather than immediately finding someone to block out.

Of course, I'm sure neither of these points are news to Coach Wainwright, but I thought I would dive in with my once or twice a year strategy thoughts. We now return you to your regularly scheduled "Bubble Report".

As of this morning, DePaul's RPI rank (according to kenpom.com) is 22.

BIG EAST

Villanova 76, Louisville 67. And just think what the Wildcats (10-0, 1-0) would be like with a healthy Curtis Sumpter?

Pitt 100, Notre Dame 97 (2 OT). I'm not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but I did notice that Notre Dame (9-3, 0-1) took 47 two-pointers and 36 three-pointers. That might give me some insight into the game plan on Saturday.

Seton Hall 69, St. John's 61 (OT). This game sure seemed exciting with Seton Hall coming back from a 20-point deficit in the second half to win. Then again, it's hard to get too excited when, in the grand scheme of things, this may have decided which team is no longer on the "bubble" and in the "lock" category…for the NIT.

West Virginia 57, South Florida 53. So to recap, Marquette beats Connecticut by 20 in their inaugural BIG EAST game. The perennial doormat of Conference USA, South Florida (6-8, 0-1), plays Elite Eight and "old guard" BIG EAST member West Virginia (8-3, 1-0) to a four-point game. DePaul is NOT outclassed in this league until they choose to believe they are.

Georgetown 72, Providence 62. No real surprise here. The Hoyas (9-2, 1-0) have some work to do to build up that RPI rank, which is currently 82.

Syracuse 69, UTEP 56.

The Good

Northwestern 66, Purdue 53. In a good year, the Wildcats (7-4, 1-0) plant themselves firmly around the RPI 100 line, teasing as to whether they'll be counted as a Top 100 win or not. Where are they as of today? 113. The tide of strength of the Big Ten this year will hopefully help lift their boat into that coveted range.

Old Dominion 85, Towson 71. Good to see order is still intact in the Colonial. ODU (10-4, 3-1) is posting a nice RPI rank (29) early again, and Towson is…being Towson.

Creighton 71, Illinois State 52. Revenge exacted for the Blue Jays (8-4, 2-2) at home.

California 77, Oregon 66. There's only one undefeated team left in Pac-10 play, and it's the Bears (9-3, 3-1), whose RPI rank is steadily climbing (61 as of this morning). With their next three games vs. Oregon State, at Stanford and at Arizona State, 6-0 to start the conference season is not out of the question.

The Bad

Fordham 66, Dayton 56. The Flyers (7-7, 0-1) seem poised to do the "Northern Illinois fade", as this is their fourth loss in a row. Fordham has five wins this season, two of them over Dave Leitao and Brian Gregory, which means the Rams are actively seeking to schedule any team Sidney Green coaches.

Drake 75, Bradley 73. Every single game is like this in this conference. Bradley (8-4, 2-2) falls in a close one in Iowa.

Arkansas-Little Rock 55, Florida International 53. Arrgh. So close, yet so far for the Golden Panthers (2-10, 0-1).

The Ambivalent

Clemson 61, Florida State 55. Florida State (9-2, 0-1) is never going to get in the NCAA Tournament if they don't start winning some conference road games. They've won exactly one conference road game since the 2000-2001 season, and that was last year over North Carolina State. Meanwhile, Clemson (11-2, 1-0) took a first step to respectability, but to earn an NCAA berth, they're going to have to prove they can beat an upper echelon team.

Xavier 62, St. Joseph's 58. Hmm. I'm not quite sure what to make of this one, other than it's a nice road win for Xavier. The Atlantic 10 is going to be interesting to watch right now because they don't have a team who could be considered a "torch bearer", so to speak. George Washington is probably the best team, but they have an awful non-conference strength-of-schedule (save a win over Maryland). Temple has a great strength-of-schedule but their typical mediocre record after completing it. Collectively, the conference had a bunch of near-misses for a "big splash" win (both St. Joe's and St. Louis nearly beat Gonzaga, Xavier played Illinois to the wire, etc.), but there really aren't enough impressive wins to go around. It's hard to see this as a one-bid conference, but…it's also hard to make many arguments for NCAA inclusion at this point for anyone outside the Colonials.

George Washington 72, Temple 60. See above.

Southern Illinois 55, Indiana State 49. There's only one team in the Valley who's undefeated right now, and it's the Salukis (10-2, 3-0), who have quietly been doing everything they should do since some missteps in Anchorage. The Valley also boasts EIGHT teams in the RPI Top 100 as of this morning, or one more than the ACC.

Northern Iowa 75, Wichita State 61. Big win for UNI (11-2, 3-1) on the road over the Shockers (10-4, 2-2).

Games to Watch Over the Weekend

Charlotte at Dayton. This lurks as a very important game for both teams, as neither (Charlotte: 8-5, 1-0; Dayton 7-7, 0-1) is really in position for an at-large bid as of today.

Cincinnati at Marquette. DePaul wins either way.

Northeastern at Old Dominion. This is Northeastern's (6-5, 2-1) first year in the CAA, and after a strong start, they've lost five of their last six games. Old Dominion (10-4, 3-1) should win, but you never know.

Seton Hall at Rutgers. The Pirates (9-3, 1-0) are riding a high after their big win over St. John's. A win at Rutgers (9-3, 0-0) would help Seton Hall take another step towards legitimacy.

Northwestern at Minnesota. This is a winnable game for the Wildcats (7-4, 1-0), but it would take a better-than-average effort on the road to do it.

Bucknell at Navy. I don't want to sound confident on another team's behalf, but I would be very surprised if the Bison (8-3, 0-0) finished any worse than 12-2 in the Patriot League this year.

Buffalo at Northern Illinois. Forgive me if I cover my eyes each time I refresh the score on the Internet for this game. Oh, wait – I'll be at the DePaul game at the same time. Good – that saves some aggravation.

Arkansas State at Florida International. Have I mentioned that when I look at Florida International, the only thing I can do is utter the noise, "Arrgh"?

Virginia Tech at Florida State. Two bubble teams go at it in Tallahassee. With Florida State (9-2, 0-1) losing at Clemson earlier in the week, they have more to lose here.

Oregon State at California. No reason the Beavers (7-6, 0-2) should pose a serious threat to the Bears (9-3, 3-0).

Northern Iowa at Missouri State. I'll say it again – there are no breaks in the Valley this year, as two heavyweights (UNI: 11-2, 3-1; Missouri State: 10-2, 3-1) slug it out in the "Show Me State".

Tennessee at South Carolina. Odd record of the year at this point: Tennessee (9-1, 0-0) is 1-0 on the road. Of course, that "1" was a blitzkrieg at then #7-ranked Texas. (Tennessee's game against Oklahoma State is considered "semi-away".)

Bradley at Southern Illinois. What a huge win this would be for the Braves. Win or lose, this game is a measuring stick for Bradley.

Drake at Creighton. The Blue Jays are trying to get some traction to move up the conference standings. Drake is proving to be very pesky.

Duke at Wake Forest. You know, if Comcast hadn't taken over, I'd still have FOX Sports Net on my cable, and I'd be able to watch this game. I may have to visit a local watering hole to check it out.

Let's go, Demons.

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