Sunday, December 04, 2011

Mississippi State Beats West Virginia, But I'm Still A Doubter

#24 Mississippi State 75, West Virginia 64
Mississippi State has been a roll lately. They've won seven straight games, including victories over Arizona, Texas A&M and now West Virginia. They're now 8-1 with only a loss to Akron. Arnett Moultrie led the Bulldogs with 21 points (on 7-for-8 shooting) and 13 rebounds. And as a team they held West Virginia to a 41.4 eFG%. West Virginia shot 2-for-15 on threes, while Mississippi State shot 20-for-24 at the line.

Mississippi State was already ranked 24th in the country before this win, and they'll probably move into the Top 20 when the new rankings come out on Monday, but I'm not at all a believer. I've still got them out of the Field of 68 altogether. Why? Two reasons. First of all, they've won a lot of games closer than a top team should. Their Sagarin PREDICTOR is 68th and Pomeroy has them 61st. And yes, I know that the sample sizes are small, but that's also an argument against believing Mississippi State suddenly got so much better with basically the same lineup they had last year.

But secondly, I think Mississippi State has gotten lucky in ways that Sagarin and Pomeroy won't pick up. For example, their defense is leading the nation in FTA/FGA ratio (19.1%), a stat that will surely head closer to the national average once they play a true road game. Also, after having horrendous perimeter defense last season, they've held opponents to a 29.7 3P% this season. That's another stat I think will trend closer to the mean over time.

I'd really like to see what Mississippi State does when they have to go on the road. Unfortunately, they only scheduled one true road game as part of their non-conference slate, and it will be December 17th at Detroit. Their next game will be against a cupcake, next Saturday against Troy. West Virginia now falls to 4-2, with losses against the two best teams they've played (Kent State and Mississippi State). Their best win was probably the victory over Akron. Their next game will be Thursday night against Kansas State. Two days later they'll play the University of Miami.

LSU 55, Rutgers 50
This game was, euphemistically, a "defensive struggle". LSU scored 0.86 points per possession and still won. If there's one stat that stands out to me it's that Rutgers forced 16 steals and still shot 38.2% on two-point attempts, with a 35.6 eFG%. Somebody is going to have to calculate what the Rutgers offensive efficiency was in the half court - it must have been brutal. I don't think anybody expected too much from this game, considering both of these teams seem to be near the bottom of their respective conferences. I continue to be confused by how poorly Rutgers is playing this season. They're more talented than they were last year, yet they're playing worse. Mike Rice has to find some answers.

Rutgers is now 4-4 without a single quality win, and bad losses to LSU and Illinois State. Their offense has been atrocious. They've only scored more than one point per possession in two of their eight games - against Maryland-Baltimore County and Sacred Heart. Their next game will be on Wednesday against Princeton. LSU improves to 5-3 with a couple of decent wins (Georgia Tech and Rutgers) along with a couple of bad losses (South Alabama and Coastal Carolina). They have a tough home game coming up on Saturday against Boise State.

Murray State 75, Dayton 58
Murray State has been playing well all season, but this was about as good as they've been. Everything was clicking. They had a 63.7 eFG%, had assists on 68% of their made baskets, and held Dayton to 0.92 PPP. Isaiah Canaan led all players with 21 points, though he's expected to lead Murray State in scoring. The bigger news was Latreze Mushatt, the transfer from UMKC. Mushatt averaged 1.7 points per game in his first seven games with Murray State. In his eighth game, on Thursday, he scored 9 points. Here? 14 points, on 6-for-8 shooting. Murray State's offense has been rolling so far this season (1.08 points per possession), so this just gives them another weapon.

Murray State is now 9-0, which ties them with Tulane for the best record in the country. This is their best win of the season so far, but they've also get victories over UAB and Southern Miss. The schedule gets tougher next, as they head to Memphis for a game next Sunday. That's not a game that matters too much for them, though. Murray State is extremely unlikely to make a run at an at-large bid. So far they've definitely looked like the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference, and that's what matters.

Dayton's season so far has been a struggle. They did beat Minnesota, but that might not end up being a quality win by the end of the season, and now they've lost to Murray State, Buffalo and Miami-Ohio. They'll have a chance on Wednesday to get their season back on track with a home game against Alabama. Seton Hall is the only other quality opponent they'll play before beginning Atlantic Ten play.

No comments: