Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jeff Withey Leads Kansas Over Ohio State

#9 Kansas 74, #8 Ohio State 66
There are few things in college basketball as impressive as the Kansas interior defense, led by Jeff Withey, the best defensive player in the nation. Kansas leads the nation in defensive block percentage and is third with a 37.6 2P% against. They held Ohio State a 35.3 2P% here. Withey only had 1 block, but his defensive presence doesn't always show up in the boxscore in blocked shots. Throw in a huge game from Ben McLemore (22 points on 8-for-17 shooting) and some hot Jayhawks shooting (a 56.1 eFG%) and Kansas was able to pull off the huge road victory.

That said, the media over-analysis of games like this is always stupid. Kansas didn't "want this game more" or "show more toughness" or prove that they're the better team. Despite everything I said in the first paragraph, Ohio State would have won if they hadn't gone ice cold behind the arc. They have hit 38.7% of threes this season, but hit only 25.8% here. Hitting their season average would have meant four more made threes and, assuming nothing else changed, the victory.

So while this is a great win for Kansas that will mean a lot on Selection Sunday, I don't think it changes the broader college basketball landscape. Kansas was the heavy Big 12 favorite even before this win. And despite this loss, Ohio State is still one of the three teams that I think has clearly separated itself from the rest of the Big Ten (along with Indiana and Michigan, of course).

The Jayhawks will play American next Saturday, and then will get a home game against Temple before opening Big 12 play. The Buckeyes will play Chicago State next Saturday, and then will open Big Ten play on January 2nd, against Nebraska.

Southern 53, Texas A&M 51
This is an embarrassing home loss for Texas A&M, but it gives me a chance to talk on the blog about some interesting stats I'd tweeted about earlier this week. I've been fascinated by the utter futility of the SWAC. The conference has been terrible for many years - by far the worst of any league that has an automatic NCAA Tournament bid (I don't think it's fair to compare to the Great West, since its membership is made up of teams transitioning to Division I and is constantly changing, though even the Great West has on average been better than the SWAC).

One stat that I brought up was the fact that the last SWAC team to finish a season in the Pomeroy Top 200 was Southern, back in the 2005-06 season. The most amazing stat? The SWAC had been 0-237 in games against the RPI Top 100 in games played over the past six seasons. The most recent win against an RPI Top 100 team was Alabama State taking down South Alabama on December 22nd, 2005. So does Southern now break that streak? Maybe. Remember, the RPI is all over the place early in the season. Right now, Texas A&M is 63rd in the RPI, but neither Sagarin or Pomeroy has them as a Top 100 team (though neither will have them too far out of the Top 100 when the new numbers come out tomorrow). So this could end up breaking the streak, but we won't know for a few months.

Texas A&M doesn't have any good wins this season, and they now have a terrible loss. Their remaining non-conference games will be against cupcakes Army and Houston Baptist (although you'd have figured Southern to be a cupcake, too). But then they'll enter SEC play for the first time with games against Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida and Alabama. So their at-large hopes might be officially doused fairly early in the 2013 calendar year. Southern, meanwhile, plays a non-Division I team next and then will open SWAC regular season play against Texas Southern, on January 2nd.

Indiana State 87, Ole Miss 85, OT
Weird things tend to happen at early season tournaments in places like Hawaii, so it's hard to tell if this upset was as big as it seems on paper. Ole Miss was a 10 point favorite in Vegas, but that's because Pomeroy had them as an 11 point favorite, and that Pomeroy rating was based on Ole Miss destroying cupcakes. Their schedule has been a joke, and they've only played two decent teams - Rutgers and Middle Tennessee. And they split those two games.

This is a pretty bad loss, to an Indiana State team that came in with a 1-3 record against the Pomeroy Top 225. More than anything, they looked like they didn't know what they were doing late in the game. The five step travel that Murphy Holloway took trying to score the game winner in regulation was just one of several comical moments as Ole Miss players showed great effort but were just awfully sloppy. Ole Miss took 83 shots from the field, hitting 34, of which only 11 were assisted. That in itself is pretty bad.

This loss means that Ole Miss gets dumped into the loser's bracket at the Diamond Head Classic. And seeing as how they need a quality non-conference win, that's not helpful. They'll get their chances for quality wins in SEC play, but it's never good to have a total non-conference wipeout when comparing resumes on Selection Sunday.

Indiana State will go to the Diamond Head Classic semifinals, where they'll play the winner of San Diego State vs San Francisco (it's looking at the moment like it will be San Diego State, though that game isn't over yet). They're not really contending for an at-large bid this season, but some good wins could catapult them into a strong Missouri Valley performance.

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