Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oklahoma Beats Kansas State In Manhattan

Oklahoma 63, #24 Kansas State 60
This was a horrible loss for Kansas State. Particularly considering how bad they tend to play on the road, they absolutely could not afford a bad loss like this in Bramlage Coliseum, which is normally a fortress for them. They played extremely sloppy basketball (20 turnovers) and couldn't find anybody that could stop Steven Pledger (30 points on 11-for-17 shooting). Kansas State, because of the turnovers, scored only 0.87 PPP, their second worst offensive performance of the season (the debacle at Kansas was the only game that was worse).

With this loss, Kansas State falls to 4-4 in Big 12 play with road games at Baylor, Missouri, Texas and Iowa State still to go. In other words, it's unlikely that they'll finish better than 10-8. They have wins over Missouri, Texas and Alabama, and just a pair of bad losses to Oklahoma, so even if they finish 9-9 in Big 12 play they should still be a Tournament team. But it's now looking more and more likely that Kansas State will be on the bubble for much of the rest of the season. Their next game will be Tuesday at Iowa State.

Lon Kruger, in his first year at Oklahoma, has definitely figured out Kansas State. But besides his season sweep of the Wildcats, the Sooners don't have any quality wins and are only 13-7 overall and 3-5 in Big 12 play with a road game at Kansas up next, on Wednesday. They only need to go .500 the rest of the way to get to 8-10 and to have a shot at the bubble, though I doubt they'll get there. Their remaining schedule is pretty rough.

Rutgers 61, Cincinnati 54
Speaking of bad losses... this was not what Cincinnati needed coming in with a two-game losing streak. Cincinnati has some good shooters, but the problem is that their guards struggle to score in the paint. This has been the case all season long (their 45.2 2P% is worst in the Big East). Yancy Gates hit 7-of-10 here, but his teammates combined to hit just 6-for-26 (23.1%) of their twos. Rutgers was led again by true freshman Eli Carter (17 points, including 4-for-7 on threes).

This is a bad loss for Cincy's resume, but there's no question that Rutgers is playing a lot better now than they were earlier in the season. They've been feisty at home in Big East play so far, beating UConn, Notre Dame and now Cincinnati. They're actually up to 4-5 in Big East play now with a winnable road game coming up on Wednesday at Providence. There's no plausible path to the bubble, but it would be a great achievement if Rutgers could get into the top half of the Big East standings.

Cincinnati falls to 5-4 in Big East play with this loss. They have wins over Georgetown and UConn, along with bad losses to Presbyterian, St. John's and now Rutgers. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will actually fall out of the Top 60 after this loss. Considering the fact that Cincy played so poorly in non-conference play and the fact that the Big East is down this season, even a 10-8 Cincy team probably wouldn't make the NCAA Tournament unless they win a game or two in the Big East tournament. If they fall to 9-9 in Big East play then they're really in trouble. They have a week to get ready for a home game against DePaul, and also will play St. John's and Providence in the next two weeks, but their schedule over the final couple of weeks of the regular season will be very difficult. They can't afford any more bad losses.

Southern Miss 78, Central Florida 65
A week ago, Central Florida was 5-1 in Conference USA, coming off wins over Memphis and UAB. But on Wednesday they lost to Tulsa, and they went down pretty easily here to Southern Miss. Not a good way to back up that early success. Darnell Dodson had an efficient 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting for Southern Miss, and Neil Watson had the game of his life with 23 points, including 4-for-7 behind the arc. It was the second straight poor defensive performance for UCF, after defense had carried them through much of that successful stretch early in Conference USA play. That's a sign of a young team that lacks the proper concentration to win consistently.

UCF is now 5-3 in conference play with wins over UConn and Memphis, along with bad losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and Tulsa. They are 7-6 against the RPI Top 200, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is going to fall into the 70-75 range. Any run at an at-large bid is unlikely. If they make the NCAA Tournament it's more likely going to happen because of a run in the C-USA tournament. This loss drops them to 4th in the conference standings. Their next conference game will be a week from today, at SMU.

With this win, Southern Miss moves to 19-3 overall and in a tie for first in C-USA with a 6-1 conference record. They don't have any great wins, but they don't have any awful losses either (a loss to Denver isn't that great, though). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is inside the Top 20, but the lack of big wins means that their computer rating is tenuous. One or two bad losses is all it will take to bump them back to the Tournament bubble. Considering their remaining schedule, I think they need to get to 11-5 in conference play to feel good about their at-large hopes. That would mean a 5-4 finish, which seems manageable to me. Their next game is a huge one, on Wednesday at home against Memphis. The winner of that game will move into first place alone.

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