Thursday night at this time of year always marks the effective beginning of the weekend for a lot of college basketball teams, and we’re nearing the end of January, which means it’s close to a month away from when the conference-tournament scene really gets clicking.
Which means . . . it’s getting late for a lot of teams like Washington, hoping to make enough of a statement to get into the NCAA tournament.
I happened to be looking at one team’s resume outside the Pac-12 this week, and noticed that it has 12 games remaining. Which led me to confirm whether the final 12 is still any kind of metric the NCAA basketball committee uses in judging resumes. Recall, for years, the committee used last-10 as one yardstick in assessing teams. Then — for reasons I never comprehended — it used the last 12 for a couple of years.
Now, as David Worlock of the NCAA staff confirms, last 10 or 12 is no longer any factor in weighing resumes. Which is probably a good thing, and arrived at by the absence of any real evidence that a finishing kick is predictive of success in the big tournament. And why should a late-February victory count any more than the same win in late November?
Still, the home stretch is important on its own merit, especially for several Pac-12 teams yearning to make an impression, finish high in the standings, and remove the need to win the league tournament.
Cal looks to be the most viable team to win the regular season, but there are major depth questions in Berkeley, and there are a lot of doubters about whether it can survive three games in three days at the Pac-12 tournament. There are several other contenders for the regular-season title, among them Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Arizona.
Meanwhile, some other nuggets nationally as we enter the last weekend of January:
Elston Turner, the former Husky wing, is having a strong season at Texas A&M, even as it’s a mediocre year for an 11-8 program. Turner leads the team with a 14.3 scoring average, shooting 42 percent and .396 from three-point range. He’s been particularly good of late; against Kansas Monday night on national TV, he went for 24 points, six rebounds and four assists in a losing, but competitive, effort on the road. Turner has had eight straight games of double-figures scoring, including a 23-point game that helped sink Oklahoma recently.
Best player you might not have heard of is 6-2 guard Damian Lillard of Weber State, whose 25.1-point average leads the nation. Lillard is a junior from Oakland High.
Ricardo Ratliffe, a 6-8, 240-pound forward on Missouri’s 18-2 team, had 25 points and 12 rebounds in a loss at Oklahoma State Wednesday night — and actually damaged his chances of taking down one of college hoops’ oldest individual records. Ratliffe went 10 of 17 from the field and saw his field-goal percentage drop from .772 to .754. The record is held by Steve Johnson of Oregon State — .746 in 1981. I covered that team, and recall well Johnson’s M.O. A 6-10 center, he was devastating around the basket, with a little baby hook and a quick, unstoppable baseline move. He had an ample backside and used it to body defenders deep in the low block. Hard to imagine Ratliffe will chase down that record, just because any sort of off-night just about kills you.
The aforementioned Weber State leads the country in free-throw percentage at a sizzling 80.9. That’s amazing number in this day of klutzes at the line. But the record is 82.2 percent by Harvard in 1984.
Scott Woods of North Carolina State just surpassed the ACC consecutive free throw record by J.J. Redick of Duke, and Woods goes into Thursday night’s game at Carolina with 58 in a row. The national record is 85 by Darnell Archey of Butler from 2000-03.
Virginia’s three losses are by a total of seven points. Of course, there aren’t many points scored in Virginia games.
Miami (Fla.) guard Shane Larkin leads the ACC in steals at 2.06 a game. He’s the son of Barry Larkin, former Reds shortstop and the newest member of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Once-proud programs that have hit hard times: Boston College (7-12), Pitt (12-9) and Wake Forest (11-9). Pitt just got its first Big East victory after seven straight losses, beating Providence.
It’s probably a good thing the basketball committee doesn’t rely too heavily on computer rankings. Colorado State is No. 25 this week in the RPI — and 89th in the Sagarin ratings.
It’s always interesting following the opponents’ results of state teams in the running for the NCAA tournament. It looked like Gonzaga’s best win was at Xavier, but I watched the Musketeers lose to St. Louis Wednesday night, and they continue to look lost. Meanwhile, Notre Dame, which looked clueless when the Zags romped by 20 early in the season (the Irish were dealing with the injury loss of Tim Abromaitis), was winning at Seton Hall, the team ranked No. 8 in the official RPI this week. This, atop Notre Dame’s upset of No. 1 Syracuse last week.