Quick update: Pios struggle, Bears soar
I apologize that this blog has been so quiet since mid-December. I’ve still been tweeting up a storm on Twitter at @MileHighMids, including live-tweeting Air Force’s upset of Utah State on New Year’s Day — which I attended with Mid-Majority #TMMX lead writer Ray Curren, and of course Golden Bally — and Northern Colorado’s awesome blowout of Weber State on January 9. But with the holidays, and then a busy couple of weeks at work, I haven’t had time for full-fledged blog posts.
In the four weeks since I last blogged here — about Denver’s 90(!) to 62 rout of Belmont in the December 17 G! O! T! N!, which, coming on the heels of big wins over Wyoming and at Colorado State, seemed to suggest that Joe Scott’s team had finally put things together — the Pioneers have gone 2-4. They romped over two sub-300 teams in Alcorn State and St. Francis (Pa.), but lost at home to UC Irvine (a Top 100-ish team and a Big West contender, but still an opponent Denver should have beaten at Magness), and on the road in heartbreakers to UTEP (in double-overtime), St. Joseph’s, and finally, RPI #210 South Dakota in a disastrous Summit League road start that has Ken Pomeroy now projecting a mere 8-6 league record and third-place tie for the Pios, who were once considered co-favorites in their new conference alongside North Dakota State. Ouch.
(Full projection: North Dakota State 10-4, Fort Wayne 9-5, Denver and Nebraska-Omaha 8-6, South Dakota State 7-7, South Dakota and Western Illinois 6-8, and IUPUI 2-12.)
On the bright side, the Pioneers got to meet Golden Bally during Ray Curren’s visit:
— The Mid-Majority (@midmajority)January 1, 2014
Northern Colorado didn’t get a visit from Curren, alas. But the Bears may be the Centennial State’s best Big Dance hope at this point (especially with the devastating injury to the star player of local non-mid Colorado). UNC, whose stunner at Kansas State on opening night is still the best win among any of the five “Mile High Mids” teams, has been soaring over the last several weeks. The Bears lost 72-59 at Wyoming on December 22, but they’ve won four straight since then — which also happens to mean they’re 4-0 in Big Sky play, and the clear favorites in that league at this early date.
I should note that UNC’s four wins have all been at home — meaning 10 of their next 16 will be on the road — and Pomeroy’s robots don’t think they’ll exactly cruise through the conference schedule. The Bears are projected to go 15-5, beating out 14-6 Weber by just one game. But hey, that’d be enough to get the conference tournament back in Greeley. Keep your calendars clear on the Ides of March!
(FWIW, KenPom has Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona at 12-8; Montana, Montana State and Idaho State at 11-9; North Dakota at 9-11; Portland State at 8-12; Sacramento State at 7-13; and finally Southern Utah, currently ranked as the worst team in Division I with a .0210 pythagorean winning percentage — just behind Grambling State’s .0231; the third-worst team, Cornell, has a comparatively huge .0810 — at 1-19.)
For the Front Range’s Mountain West teams, it’s been a mixed bag. Colorado State is 2-2 in the league (11-6 overall, KenPom #128, RPI #154), with losses to San Diego State (home) and New Mexico (road) and wins over San Jose State (road) and Fresno State (home). The Rams still have yet to beat anyone truly of note all season, with their only KenPom Top 150 wins being over New Mexico State and Northern Colorado, both at Moby Arena, both in November.
Air Force is also 2-2 in MWC play (8-7 overall, KenPom #232, RPI #228), having followed up the big Utah State upset with a surprising road win at, to be fair, a surprisingly mediocre UNLV team, but having then lost at Fresno State and at home vs. San Diego State.
Finally, Wyoming is 1-2 in the MWC (10-6 overall, KenPom #90, RPI #88), with losses to Nevada (road) and New Mexico (home, in OT) but a big win at Boise State.
(KenPom projects the Cowboys to go 10-8 in league play, the Rams 8-10, and the Falcons 6-12. San Diego State is projected to win the league at 15-3, followed by 13-5 New Mexico, 11-7 Boise, 10-8 Nevada and Wyoming, 9-9 Utah State, 8-10 CSU and UNLV, 6-12 Air Force and Fresno, and 4-14 San Jose State.)
- San Jose State at Air Force, today (AFA 66% KenPom win odds)
- Colorado State at Utah State, today (Utah State 76%)
- Fort Wayne at Denver, tomorrow (Denver 72%)
- Northern Colorado at Montana State, tomorrow (UNC 64%)
- Air Force at Colorado State, Saturday (CSU 83%)
- San Jose State at Wyoming, Saturday (Wyoming 88%)
- IUPUI at Denver, Saturday (Denver 93%)
- Northern Colorado at Montana, Saturday (UNC 50%)
I will probably be at the IUPUI game with my 6-year-old on Saturday. It’s also conceivable I’ll attend the second half of Denver-Fort Wayne tomorrow (leaving after putting the girls at bed, arriving hopefully around halftime), but as of now, I doubt it.