Sunday, January 22, 2012

UNLV Blows Out New Mexico

#20 UNLV 80, New Mexico 63
This match-up was an absolute blowout in the second half. This was a sloppy game (the teams combined for 33 offensive rebounds to only 30 defensive rebounds, as well as 35 turnovers), but UNLV had 11 steals and 6 blocks, both of which allowed to get out on fast breaks for easy baskets. With the crowd behind them, New Mexico seemed to just get demoralized. Their defense has been picked apart in consecutive games now by San Diego State (1.26 PPP) and UNLV (1.21 PPP). It's the first time New Mexico has allowed greater than 1.2 PPP in consecutive games since February of 2007, part of a season where they went only 4-12 in Mountain West play.

I don't want to overreact too much to just two games. They had held opponents to under 1 PPP in 14 of 17 games this season prior to this two-game performance. 17 games is a much larger sample size than two. New Mexico is still 15-4 with wins over St. Louis, Wyoming and Missouri State, along with bad losses to Santa Clara and New Mexico State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is stuck around 40th, but their Pomeroy and Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings are going to stay near 30th. They're not a Tournament lock by any means, but I still think that they'll be safely in the Field of 68 on Selection Sunday. They will try to bounce back on Wednesday against Colorado State.

UNLV has, in my opinion, really firmed up their spot atop the Mountain West. In the actual standings they're a game back of San Diego State, but their remaining game against the Aztecs will be at the Thomas & Mack Center, and overall I just think they're a much better team. If you buy the mainstream media's argument that San Diego State is better because they won head-to-head, please read my post about that game here. The Runnin' Rebs have a very manageable schedule over the next week as well. They head on the road to play Boise State on Wednesday and Air Force on Saturday.

#15 Mississippi State 78, Vanderbilt 77, OT
This was a pretty surprising upset, particularly after Vanderbilt opened a double-digit first half lead. Both teams shot over 50% behind the arc, and Renardo Sidney probably had his best game at Mississippi State, despite scoring only 9 points. Sidney was very active on both sides of the floor. He was working so hard that Rick Stansbury called a couple of timeouts that looked to me like a chance to give Sidney a rest so he wouldn't have to be subbed out (Sidney is too out-of-shape to play more than few minutes in a row without wearing out). The fact that MSU was able to hit all of those outside shots was a big advantage as well. Festus Ezeli is looking close to 100%, and he would have made it hard for MSU to get easy shots around the basket. That outside shooting meant that the Bulldogs only had to get 43.6% of their points on two-point shots, well under their 54.6% season average.

This is perhaps a reality-check loss for Vanderbilt. They came in here on an eight game winning streak, and only two days ago earned a very nice road win at Alabama. I suppose they were overdue for a loss. I still think that Vanderbilt has proven that with Ezeli back close to full strength they're back to being an elite team. They got upset here, but I still do believe that they and Florida are the top two contenders to Kentucky in the SEC. They are 4-1 in SEC play now, and will play next on Tuesday against Tennessee.

This is a huge upset victory for Mississippi State. It moves them to 3-2, knowing that they still have several tough road games ahead and will need to get to 9-7 to be in a good position for an at-large bid heading into the SEC tournament. They will play LSU on Wednesday and then at Florida next Saturday.

#21 Louisville 73, Pittsburgh 62
You had to figure that if Pittsburgh was going to get out of their slump it would come here. Travon Woodall was back in the lineup (though he was fairly ineffective), Pitt has been playing better the few games (even though it hasn't translated into wins), they had College Gameday in town, and they were playing a reeling Louisville team that had lost five of seven and beaten just one team in the Pomeroy Top 125 since December 2nd (how they've continued to stay ranked is mind-boggling to me). But instead they were just... eh. Their offense was still mediocre (having a 100% effective Woodall would've changed that) and their defense allowed way too many easy baskets against a Louisville team that has struggled badly on offense against the rest of the Big East.

This is Pitt's 8th straight loss, and they fall to 0-7 in Big East play. This is just a lost season for them. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong. Mathematically, Pitt could go and win 9 of their next 11 Big East games and get on the bubble, which is I'm not going to eliminate them from at-large contention when I publish my next bracket in an hour or two, but realistically that's not going to happen. At this point, all they can concern themselves with is trying to get that first win on Wednesday when they get Providence at home. Providence has lost their last 18 Big East road games, so even Pitt should find a way to win that one... you'd think. Their next game after that will be next Saturday at home against Georgetown.

This is a big win for Louisville because of those stats I listed two paragraphs above. Despite that #21 next to their name, a loss here would have dropped them perilously close to the Tournament bubble. Instead they're back to 3-4 in Big East play with a home game against Villanova coming up on Wednesday. A 9-9 Big East record and a win in the Big East tournament should be enough to send them to the NCAA Tournament.

No comments: