Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

One-on-one with Jay Bilas

In a conversational sense. Not on the basketball court, thankfully.

One-on-one with Jay Bilas

Freshman center Isaiah Armwood has helped Villanova to a perfect 7-0 start in Big East play this season. (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Freshman center Isaiah Armwood has helped Villanova to a perfect 7-0 start in Big East play this season. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

(In a conversational sense. Not on the basketball court, thankfully.)

Say what you will about ESPN's Jay Bilas, but he gets to see some pretty good games this week. After calling Georgetown-Syracuse last night, Bilas will be courtside at the Wachovia Center for Notre Dame-Villanova tomorrow. Then he'll head west to join the College GameDay crew at Bramlage Coliseum for Kansas State-Kansas on Saturday.

I spoke with Bilas for a few minutes this afternoon to get his thoughts on Villanova, Temple and some of the other big stories across the nation. I even got in a question about some mid-majors.

After the interview, you'll find the weekly rankings compilation. I was going to post it last night, but decided to watit until after St. Joe's-Penn.

More coverage
 
'Nova third in AP poll, Temple 15th
 
UConn's Auriemma gives nod to local links

Bilas' view of Villanova and its backcourt depth:

I'm not surprised. Before the season I picked them to be a Final Four team, so I think they're very good. Their guards are the strength of their team and the identity of their team. But without solid play from their big guys, they aren't going to go as far. They have to continue to improve and to be key contributors. Last year's success, they led in scoring by one of their big guys [Dante Cunningham].

On whether Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood have been better than expected:

They're maturing and improving. Isaiah was a heavily recruited player - a lot of people wanted him. He's a good athlete with a good skill level and he's playing off the guards very well. He's going in there and doing dirty work. They don't need somebody who's going to get his own shot, they need someone who's going to go in and guard and get loose balls and play off penetration. He's done a very good job when he's been in there.

On the strength of the Big East as a whole:

They're playing well. The league isn't as strong at the top as it was last year. You had three teams that were number one seeds and then Villanova makes it to the Final Four. The strength of that conference was off the charts - I don't remmeber a year like that.

This year, is it as strong? No. I don't remmber any league being that strong in the last 10 years. But it may be more competitive 1 through 14. The bottom of the league is pushed up against the top a little bit better.

On Syracuse:

I think Syracuse is one of the teams that has a chance to be elite at the end of the year. Nobody's there yet, nobody's great this year. We had several great teams last year, we don't have any great teams this year yet. But there are a few that have a chance. Last year, I don't care how well you played nobody was going to beat [North] Carolina. This year, I think there's more room to compete.

On Georgetown and its inconsistency in conference play:

I don't know anybody that's been clicking all the time. They've got three truly outstanding players. They don't have a lot of depth and they play a unique style. But they're going to be heard from - that's a very good basketball team. But I think they're probably an element short of being among the top rung.

You're talking about a team that wasn't in the NCAA tournament last year, so the jump that they've made - they're a much better team than they were last year.

On Temple:

I've seen a lot of Temple. They're very good. That's another team that's made a big jump from last year. They are a much more consistent and mature group this year. Having Fernandez in the lineup has been a big boost to them. He wears the same number as Pepe Sanchez, but he's a much beter shooter than Sanchez was.

I'm a big fan of Ryan Brooks, he's a very good player. And there aren't many guys that are as productive on the glass as Lavoy Allen. They're one of the better defensive teams I've seen all year long, and there are a lot of teams they could beat.

On Kentucky:

They're very good. They're probably the most talented team overall. They've got - if you played count the pros, they would win. They've got more pros than anybody else. That usually translates into some pretty darn good success in tournament play.

But it's their first year together. And their schedule is really impressive on paper, but the teams they've played this year aren't as good as they were last year. Louisville, Connecticut - North Carolina's not close to the same team they were last year.

If this [Kentucky] team had played last year's teams [above], they would have lost each one of them decisively. But it's not last year. They work hard and they continue to get better and better, and theyv'e got a very high ceiling. Their defense can continue to improve, and they could be tougher to beat as we go forward.

On John Calipari:

I don't presume to tell anybody how they should perceive things. But facts are facts, and the fact is that John's not been named in any NCAA finding. Not once. And it's not like these things were within the control of the coach. They just weren't. I respect the opinions that have been stated, but I'm one of those guys that thinks that proof is necessary, and right now there isn't any.

On Kansas:

They just haven't played their best yet. They've played a couple games really, really well. But they've also been - I don't want to say uninspired, but you can tell that they haven't hit their stride yet. So I think they are potentially the best team, but they haven't played their best basketball. that's going to have to happen. But it's kind of nice when you can be 19-1 and you haven't played your best yet and you have a lot of room for growth.

Plus one of their two best players, Cole Aldrich, has been struggling - his grandmother just passed away and that's been a real weight on his shoulders, and you can tell. His grandmother was very ill in Minnesota, and he was going back and forth. You could tell he wasn't playing his best and I was wondering what the reason was, and that appears to be it.

On whether Aldrich is the best big man in the game:

He has not played his best. He is very, very good - I would certainlyu put him up there with Luke Harangody of Notre dame and Patrick Patterson of Kentucky. There are a number of guys that have done a good job. Cole potentially is the best, but he has not played as well as he's capable of playing this year.

On North Carolina, and whether the Tar Heels could miss the NCAA Tournament if they keep struggling:

I don't think so, but you never know. Nobody can lose the majority of their games in January and February and make the Tournament. As of now they've got some really good wins. They beat Ohio State, they beat Michigan State. I think they'll come out of this. They aren't playing well right now and they've had some guys out in games.

They don't have as much margin for error. The team they were in Decenber isn't the team they are right now, and a lot of that has to do with confidence. I think they can come out of this.

On Cornell and Harvard:

I've seen them both a fair amount. I did Cornell's NCAA Tournament game two years ago against Stanford, and they're very good. [Ryan] Wittman is one of the best shooters in the country, and I think Louis Dale is a really good player. And Jeff Foote - not many mid-major teams have a legit big guy. That's usually where mid-major teams get beat. He gives them a legitimate defender in the post and he can score.

Jeremy Lin [of Harvard] can play anywhere. He's one of the most productive guards in the game. He scratches in every category of the stat sheet. For Harvard to go from having never won to being competitive for an Ivy League title in just a couple years is just remarkable. 


Now for the stats. As you read through, consider this question: does Drexel have a shot at winning the CAA? The Dragons have two huge road games this week, Northeastern tomorrow and William & Mary on Saturday. Drexel is already 6-3 in conference play, and an 8-3 record would look pretty nice.

City Six rankings table

Team
Record
Conf.
Big 5
Drexel
11-10
6-3
1-2
146 (165)
119 (117)
140 (150)
153 (175)
126 (78) 
La Salle
10-9
2-3
1-1
126 (131)
111 (102)
124 (123)
137 (134)
82 (42)
Penn
1-13
0-0
0-4
324 (317)
316 (305)
332 (330)
321 (317)
122 (69)
St. Joseph's
8-11
2-3
2-1
174 (194)
139 (167)
166 (193)
156 (180)
35 (21)
Temple
17-3
5-0
2-0
30 (27)
12 (11)
15 (18)
25 (27)
28 (20)
Villanova
18-1
7-0
3-1
14 (19)
4 (5)
5 (6)
7 (11)
40 (44)

Schuylkill 16 NCAA Tournament teamsheets

Team
Top 50 wins
201+ losses
Avg. win
Avg. loss
0
5
314
172
0
4
225
114
Delaware St.
0
1
159
146
1
1
224
82
0
1
235
55
Lafayette
0
2
296
147
0
2
279
149
0
3
269
181
0
5
347
156
Penn State
0
2
248
106
Princeton
0
1
214
125
Rider
0
0
238
105
Rutgers
0
0
224
55
St. Joseph's
1
0
202
71
Temple
4
0
144
22
Villanova
4
0
126
11

Selected other teams

Team
Top 50 wins
201+ losses
Avg. win
Avg. loss
Georgetown
4
0
126
30
Syracuse
4
0
118
17
West Virginia
3
0
117
27
2
0
168
37
1
0
150
24
Richmond
2
0
166
61
Xavier
4
0
119
29
0
0
171
18
Harvard
1
1
205
76
Kentucky
2
0
134
n/a
Kansas
6
0
122
15
Texas
3
0
146
12
Michigan State
2
0
151
48
Northwestern
1
0
171
35
Purdue
3
0
136
37
Wisconsin
3
0
138
48

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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