WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 1/9/06

Mike Adam takes a Monday look at the weekend in College Hoops.

Eventually, DePaul is due to play a new opponent in BIG EAST play, but I'll take the win over Notre Dame as the first conference win. The game has been analyzed, so I don't need to do any of that. Instead, what impressed me the most was that it was clear a concerted effort was made to thank the students for their support and keep them in the game all the way through. And they were out in good numbers on Saturday. The question is whether this sort of student turnout will be evident for weeknight games, or games against lesser opponents, but it was really nice to see a sea of blue into the game behind the basket.

I want to talk about a couple of off-topic things before we go bubbling today. Marcus Vick, you are officially the early leader for "Idiot of the Year" in 2006. Your brother paved so much goodwill at Virginia Tech for you, it took quite a bit to blow it. And yet you did. No need to summarize young Marcus' litany of transgressions, but he's officially been kicked out of school because of them. He seems unaffected by the whole situation, cavalierly declaring for the NFL Draft - as if he had another option at this point. And someone will waste a draft pick on him because of his surname and his "potential". After all, this is a league where people like Maurice Clarett and Lawrence Phillips were drafted, and Leonard Little (who was convicted for involuntary manslaughter after driving drunk and killing another motorist, then got caught driving drunk in another incident AFTER this one) is allowed to play freely for the Rams. I just hope and pray it's not the Bears who give in to the temptation.

Sean Taylor, you would have been an honorable mention if Washington had lost that game on Saturday.

Speaking of the Bears, is anyone else nervous that they drew Carolina? The Panthers demolished New York. They have an experienced playoff quarterback. They were humbled in Chicago in the middle of the season about the same time everyone had anointed them as the team to beat in the NFC. They're reading about Lovie Smith as Coach of the Year and Brian Urlacher as Defensive Player of the Year. John Fox has made a living out of confounding young quarterbacks.

It's a typical Chicago sports fan mentality, I suppose, but I really want to get these visions out of my head of an exasperated Rex Grossman standing at a podium Sunday evening saying things like, "They gave me some looks I haven't seen before." "I just didn't make the plays I needed to make to win." "The defense played great, we just needed to give them some more support…"

Finally, there were two notable deaths of pseudo-celebrities that I didn't see mentioned over the past couple of weeks. Neither of them you'd remember by name but both you'd recognize instantly, given context. The first was Michael Vale, who was the actor who portrayed the pastry chef in the Dunkin' Donuts commercials where he's constantly saying, "Time to make the donuts". Everyone remembers those commercials years later, showing the success of the campaign. Rest in peace.

The second passing was of Patrick Cranshaw. Who's he? You probably know him better as Joseph "Blue" Palansky from the movie "Old School". And if you haven't seen "Old School", what are you waiting for? I thought it was appropriate to mention his passing on a site that salutes blue. Say it with me one more time, everyone: "You're my boy, ‘Blue'!"

As of this morning, DePaul's RPI rank (according to kenpom.com) is 19.

BIG EAST Games

West Virginia 91, Villanova 87. Looking at box scores can be so interesting sometimes. The Wildcats (10-1, 1-1, RPI: 7) shot 58% from the field AND from three-point range, not to mention 93% from the free-throw line, yet still lost. It has to be the magic of Kevin Pittsnogle who, as much as he is a cult figure, is a pretty good scorer as well, pouring in 22 to lead the Mountaineers (9-3, 2-0, RPI: 85).

Cincinnati 70, Marquette 66. Cincinnati (12-2, 2-0, RPI: 13) is getting close to playing for NCAA Tournament seeding, rather than inclusion. Marquette (10-4, 1-1, RPI: 64) is in the bubble conversation, but their RPI rank is going to need a little work.

Rutgers 82, Seton Hall 78. It's still hard to fathom that these two schools are in the same conference as DePaul. Rutgers (10-3, 1-0, RPI: 71) holds serve on their home court, defeating the Pirates (9-4, 1-1, RPI: 70).

Louisville 72, Providence 67. This game went pretty much as expected, as now all the Conference USA refugees except South Florida have notched a BIG EAST win. Louisville (12-2, 1-1, RPI: 46) begins their ascent up the standings. Providence (7-6, 0-2, RPI: 84) begins its descent down the standings.

Connecticut 67, LSU 66. Consensus national opinion after the Huskies got crushed by the Golden Gold earlier in the week was that LSU was going to be taken to the woodshed in this game, because Connecticut (12-1, 0-1, RPI: 41) was going to be so mad about being thoroughly embarrassed. So…what happened? This certainly doesn't look like a woodshed beating to me.

Syracuse 63, South Florida 57. Give the Bulls (6-9, 0-2, RPI: 234) the nod for hanging in against both West Virginia and the Orange (13-2, 1-0, RPI: 31). We're going to find out really quickly how meaningful Syracuse's 13-2 is. Next five games: at Notre Dame, at Cincinnati, vs. Connecticut, at Villanova, at Pitt. Wow.

Georgetown 79, St. John's 65. Looking for road win candidates for DePaul? St. John's (7-6, 0-2, RPI: 158 ) is starting to look like an appealing one. Meanwhile, Georgetown (10-2, 2-0, RPI: 73) won the first road game of its three-game swing. The next two are at West Virginia and at Connecticut and likely won't be this easy.

The Good

Northwestern 57, Minnesota 49. Well, look at this, would ya? The Wildcats (8-4, 2-0, RPI: 76) score a very nice road victory and put a small dent in Minnesota's (9-3, 0-1, RPI: 107) bubble chances in the process.

Northern Illinois 84, Buffalo 82 (OT). DePaul fans are living right when even the Huskies (6-4, 2-1, RPI: 55) come up with a big win over a previously 10-1 Buffalo squad. If this keeps up, I may have to change the name from the "Northern Illinois fade" to the "Dayton fade" (see below).

Old Dominion 85, Northeastern 79. Keep doing what you're doing, ODU (11-4, 4-1, RPI: 24). Northeastern actually had a 13-point lead at halftime, and the Monarchs came storming back with 56 points in the second half. That second-half barrage sounds familiar…

Bucknell 74, Navy 50. Get used to seeing scores like this for the rest of the year for the Bison. (9-3, 1-0, RPI: 18 )

Creighton 82, Drake 69. The Blue Jays (9-4, 3-2, RPI: 48 ) get a relatively easy win at home to move to above .500 in the conference.

Nebraska 59, Oklahoma 58. Oklahoma (9-3, 0-1, RPI: 54) as part of the "Bubble Report"? Surely I jest? Not at all. As a conference, the Big XII is in the worst shape of the majors – not a single team has an RPI rank better than 23. The Sooners' two other losses are nothing about which to be ashamed (at Villanova, West Virginia), but quick – find a good win for them at this point. Alabama? Eh. Oral Roberts. Don't think so. This conference as a whole had some very poor showings in non-conference games, and it may come back to bite them come Selection Sunday.

The Bad

Oregon State 72, California 64. Ouch. Oregon State is going to struggle to qualify for the Pac-10 Tournament, much less the NCAA Tournament, and this game was in Berkeley. Hopefully, Cal (9-4, 3-1, RPI: 100) can regroup as they start a three-game road trip at the end of the week.

Charlotte 73, Dayton 65. Remind me again why Brian Gregory was such a hot candidate for the DePaul job? This result makes five losses in a row for the Flyers. (7-8, 0-2, RPI: 171) While four of them were against good competition (Cincinnati, Northern Iowa, Vanderbilt, Charlotte), would our fan base be happy going 0-4 against that gauntlet? Didn't think so.

Southern Illinois 67, Bradley 55. The Braves (8-5, 2-3, RPI: 53) hung right in the game at Carbondale at halftime, then got blitzed in the second half. While I know a couple national websites were on the Bradley bandwagon for an NCAA Tournament bid before the season, they can't go .500 in this conference and expect an invitation. In other words, the kids in Peoria need to kick it in gear soon.

Duke 82, Wake Forest 64. Guess this was ambitious dreaming that the Demon Deacons (11-3, 0-1, RPI: 69) would knock off the #1 team. They're still better than most of the rest of the ACC.

Arkansas State 81, Florida International 71. Arrgh.

The Ambivalent

Virginia 74, Clemson 68. Despite the RPI ranks, Clemson (11-3, 1-1, RPI: 81) seems more of a threat to the bubble right now than Virginia (7-5, 1-1, RPI: 74). The Tigers have lost three in a row, and we'll see if they're for real or not this week as the host Wake Forest and Duke.

Northern Iowa 72, Missouri State 62. The Valley is still trying to sort itself out, but Northern Iowa (12-2, 4-1, RPI: 9) has been making quite a few early statements. Of course, Missouri State (10-3, 3-2, RPI: 22) hasn't really been knocked out of the bubble running, either.

St. Joseph's 59, Temple 57. I think when we look back at this game two months from now, it will mean something, but right now, I'm not sure what. Both teams have RPI ranks better than initial glances at their records would indicate (St. Joe's: 6-5, 1-1, RPI: 44; Temple: 6-6, 0-2, RPI: 62), but neither is really in a position just yet to explain their cases to the Selection Committee.

Games to Watch Over the Next 48 Hours

Cincinnati at Connecticut. Is Cincinnati's a legitimate threat to the top tier of the BIG EAST? Did Connecticut just have a two-game lull, or has the past week been an omen of things to come? Tonight's game may answer these questions.

Texas at Iowa State. The two best teams in the Big XII to date tangle in Ames. While both of these teams are solidly "locks" at this point, the loser of the game may bear some watching on here over the next week or so.

Wisconsin at Minnesota. A home win by the Gophers (9-3, 0-1, RPI: 107) over Wisconsin (12-2, 2-0, RPI: 3) was likely the win that propelled them to an NCAA Tournament bid last year. A win in this game is more necessary to get Minnesota on track right now.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky. The Commodores (10-2, 1-0, RPI: 32) are hovering around the bubble range with their RPI rank. Their only losses are to Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, but they're really lacking a signature win. Winning at Rupp Arena would certainly qualify.

Let's go, Demons.

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