Thursday, February 10, 2011

Georgetown Wins Their Seventh Straight

#11 Georgetown 64, #13 Syracuse 56
Georgetown turned Rick Jackson into a non-factor in this one. He was called for a bunch of early fouls and got out of his game. He ended up playing 31 minutes in the game but was utterly ineffective. In fact, Syracuse went on a nice run with him on the bench, and fell apart down the stretch after he came back into the game. Georgetown's extra aggressiveness in the paint led them to actually win the rebounding battle (Both teams had 10 offensive rebounds, but Cuse had more chances and only had a 35.7 OR% compared to a 47.6 OR% for Georgetown). So after that 1-4 start to Big East play Georgetown has now won seven straight to get to 8-4. What's the difference? In fact, the difference is not dramatic. Three of those four early Big East losses were by 6 points or less. Meanwhile, six of the seven wins in this streak have been by single digits, including a trio by 3 or less. So they're winning close games now after losing close games earlier. But that's not entirely it. Georgetown's offense has really picked things up after a very slow start to the season (0.95 PPP during their four losses). They're getting the ball into the paint, and are now second in the nation with a 56.7% two-point shooting percentage.

Georgetown now has eight wins against the RPI Top 50 with an RPI all the way up to 4th. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 8th, and both their Sagarin PREDICTOR and Pomeroy ratings are 14th. If the season ended now they're obviously looking at a 2 or 3 seed. It's very unlikely that Georgetown can earn a share of the Big East regular season title, even if they win out, but a 1 seed is still in play if Georgetown continues to roll down the stretch and wins the Big East tournament. Syracuse falls to 7-5 against the RPI Top 100 with this loss. But they have zero bad losses and do have nice wins over Notre Dame, UConn and Michigan State. They're probably a 4 seed if the season ended now, but a 2 or 3 seed is definitely still possible with all of the big opponents Syracuse has left. They're going to have to tighten up their defense, which has really struggled over the past month or so.

#7 Notre Dame 89, #15 Louisville 79, OT
It's jarring when announcers make ignorant points about a basketball game, particularly when one of them is Bob Knight, a coach who I really admire and who was a fresh of breath air when he started announcing. But there must be something about that job that turns otherwise intelligent people into cliche machines, and Knight has been awful in the booth this year. And in this game he tried to argue that Louisville lost this game because of a technical foul on Kyle Kuric for a spectacular dunk at the end of the first half that cost Louisville two points. Yes, it did cost them two points in a game that ended up tied, but let's keep in mind that Louisville had the ball with the game tied with a minute to go. They took the shot clock down and took a shot, missed, got the offensive rebound, and then took the clock down to the buzzer before trying a final attempt that also missed. Even if we don't accept the fact that the game would have been played differently if Notre Dame had two fewer points the entire second half, surely we can all accept that Notre Dame would have played different defense in that final minute? Anyway, a win's a win, and this is a very nice win for Notre Dame. But here's a stat for you: Notre Dame is 10-0 this year in games decided by single digits or in overtime. They are 10-4 in blowouts. In other words, it's not a surprise that their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 7th while their Sagarin PREDICTOR is only 21st. If the season ended now they'd be a 2 or 3 seed, but there's still very much a chance that their luck will begin to even out and they'll fade a little bit.

Louisville falls to only 7-4 in Big East play after this loss, but second place is still very much in play. Notre Dame is currently in second place, at 9-3, and the third place team (Georgetown) already has four losses. And the three ranked teams Louisville still has to play (Syracuse, UConn and Pitt) all will have to play at the Yum Center (I refuse to type "Yum! Center", it's too stupid). The Syracuse game is up next, on Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame will play simultaneously, on the road at USF. Don't sleep on that being a close game. USF has been much tougher at home than on the road this year and haven't been blown out there all season. Their last game at home was a one point loss to Marquette, and they'll be fired up to finally close the deal against a top team.

Michigan 75, Northwestern 66
Michigan has had a tremendously successful freshman class this year. In addition to Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Jr they've also gotten a lot of offensive production from Evan Smotrycz. And now? Jordan Morgan, who scored 27 points to deliver a crushing loss to Northwestern. This is now four losses in Northwestern's last five games, and they now head into what is probably a must-win game for them at Penn State on Sunday afternoon. They are now 4-8 in Big Ten play, and cannot finish worse than 8-10 or they will be NIT-bound. Even with an 8-10 finish they'll have a weak resume heading into the Big Ten tournament: 18-11 overall with an Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will very likely be in the 50-60 range. They are currently 2-9 against the RPI Top 100, with the two wins coming against Illinois and Michigan. They'll probably have to win two games in the Big Ten tournament at that point to avoid the NIT. Keep in mind that they still have to head to Wisconsin, a team that beat them by 32 in their own building and almost never loses at home.

Michigan is still something of a long shot at-large team, but their hopes still are alive with this win. They are now 5-7 in Big Ten play and 7-9 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Michigan State, Clemson and Northwestern, along with a bad loss to Indiana. Their RPI is 59th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS has moved inside the Top 50. They will still have at-large hopes if they can get to 8-10 in Big Ten play, but their best way to an at-large bid is probably a 9-9 finish and a win in the Big Ten tournament. Their remaining schedule include road games at Minnesota and Illinois, as well as home games against Michigan State and Wisconsin. That's a pretty brutal schedule. But if they can pull an upset or two they really can keep those at-large hopes alive into March.


Anonymous said...

I'm a new to your website, but love it. I'm a big fan of your emphasis on statistics to evaluate teams. I'm also a Notre Dame fan and while I'm excited about the season so far, I am wary that they are not really as good as the record and ranking show. I agree that ND being 10-0 in close games is an indicator of luck, but would you put any weight behind that when the game is close at the end, they are a better team than most in pressure situations. Maybe this is because they are a veteran team or because they have clutch players or for whatever reason, but I wanted to get your thoughts on the possibility of such intangibles.

Jeff said...

Absolutely it's possible for some teams to pull out more than their share of close games. I actually talked about this very issue a couple of weeks ago here. And it's something I do want to write into a longer post at some point.

The point is - definitely there are some teams that are "clutch" and will win more than their share of close games. And I do think Notre Dame should be one of those teams, if nothing else because of Ben Hansbrough. Notre Dame should expect a close loss or two at some point (as I said in this post - watch out for USF), but they are a team I'd expect to finish the season with a better ELO_CHESS than PREDICTOR.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff, I appreciate the response. Love the site. Can't wait for March.