Saturday, December 15, 2012

Butler Stuns Indiana

Butler 88, #1 Indiana 86, OT
This was just an awesome, awesome game. Butler won this game despite a pretty overwhelming pro-Indiana bias from the refs. In all, Indiana took 38 free throws to Butler's 16 (and four of Butler's 16 were intentional, at the end of regulation). Butler also lost Andrew Smith and Roosevelt Jones to a foul out in regulation, and then lost Erik Fromm early in overtime. Indiana barely had any foul trouble at all. How did Butler stay in this game? They actually didn't dominate the boards as much as I thought they would. But they hit 11-for-24 behind the arc and really locked down the paint defensively. Tyler Zeller was a non-factor (a very quiet 18 points). Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 13 shot attempts, which is a stat that surely makes Brad Stevens happy.

Roosevelt Jones was the star for Butler here. He was a tremendous mismatch for Indiana's defenders, and ended up filling up the box score with 16 points (on 6-for-10 shooting), 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 blocks. Alex Barlow, who scored the game winner, is a very underrated player as well. He's not particularly athletic, but he's a very smart player who never seems to make mistakes. He made a name for himself with his big shot, but we'll hear a lot more of him over the rest of his career. He's going to be a good one.

As usual, the media is going to draw far too many conclusions from how one or two shots fell in a single game. If Indiana had pulled out this game in overtime they'd have been the overwhelming #1 team in the polls on Monday. But now it's a given that they'll drop, probably to 3 or 4. Indiana probably will remain #1 in Sagarin and Pomeroy, but that's due to how much they ran up the score against bad opponents at home. They haven't played a true road game all season, but they have struggled in neutral games (they needed overtime to get past Georgetown). They still need to prove that they're not going to cave against quality teams on the road in Big Ten play like they did last season. They have three more cupcakes before they open Big Ten play at Iowa on December 31st.

As I said on twitter during this game, Butler really has to be the poster child for the argument against advanced computer stats. Like last year, they have scuffled against mediocre teams this season, but they always come to play against top opponents. It's hard to explain, honestly. They have a couple of tricky non-conference games left before opening Atlantic Ten play (at home against Evansville and on the road at Vanderbilt), and also have a home game against Gonzaga in late January. They will open A-10 play at St. Joe's, on January 9th.

Georgia Southern 78, Virginia Tech 73
The media tends to be unable to differentiate between low-major schools. There are plenty of no-name mid-major schools that could beat Virginia Tech without it being a stunning upset. Georgia Southern isn't one of them. Georgia Southern came into this game 1-5 against Division I opponents, with the one win coming over 1-7 Kennesaw State. They were rated 280th by Pomeroy. This was a pretty shocking upset, no matter which way you look at it.

That said, Virginia Tech was overrated. Their 8-1 record was inflated by a soft schedule. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy had them around 60th in their ratings. Their defense is terrible, and that continued here with 1.10 PPP allowed to a Georgia Southern that had only broken 0.90 PPP in one of their six previous games against Division I opponents. Two other stats I hadn't noticed until this game - Virginia Tech came into this game 5th in the nation with a 23.1 3P% against and 19th in the nation with a 62.3 FT% against. They were the only team in the nation in the Top 20 of both stats. Seeing as we know that both 3P% and FT% against are luck, that says that Virginia Tech's defense has been awfully lucky just to achieve the stats they have. They have some serious work to do to not get blown off the court in ACC play.

Virginia Tech heads to the Las Vegas Invitational next, where they will open against Bradley. Georgia Southern's next game will also be against Bradley, on the road at Carver Arena on Monday.

Oklahoma 64, Texas A&M 54
Neither of these two teams has played particularly well to start the season, and neither was particularly impressive here. Romero Osby led all scorers with 19, but the spark for Oklahoma was Cameron Clark's 8-for-12 shooting off the bench. Clark hadn't scored in double-digits all season prior to this one. Texas A&M's offense was a mess, meanwhile. They committed 19 turnovers in only 65 possessions, leading to only 0.83 PPP.

Texas A&M came into this game 8-1, but they had feasted on cupcakes. Their best win came over Washington State. They now head home to play four cupcakes, so they will likely open SEC play 12-2, but it'll be a very soft 12-2. 20 wins is not going to be sufficient for an NCAA Tournament berth - they're going to need a minimum of 22, and probably closer to 23 or 24.

Oklahoma has this win and a win over West Virginia, as well as a potentially iffy loss to Arkansas. In other words, it's a pretty "blah" resume - no big wins, no terrible losses. They still have intriguing home games against Stephen F Austin and Ohio coming up. If they can win those two games then we might have to start taking their at-large chances more seriously.

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