Saturday, December 08, 2012

Kansas Eviscerates Colorado

#9 Kansas 90, Colorado 54
Coming off an emotional victory over Colorado State, Colorado just didn't have it here. They fell behind early and just seemed to mentally give in. Spencer Dinwiddie summed up the Buffaloes performance - after scoring 24 or more in each of his previous three games (including 29 against Colorado State) he scored 4 points here, with 2 points and 0 rebounds. Meanwhile, Ben McLemore looked for the first time like he's ready to be "the Man" in the Kansas offense. He got to the rim at will and finished with 24 points on 6-for-16 shooting and 10-for-11 shooting at the free throw line.

Jeff Withey leads a Kansas defense that is leading the nation in 2P% defense and block percentage. They don't need a ton of offense to be the best team in the Big 12, but with McLemore growing into the role as primary playmaker they really are starting to get it. At this point, Kansas is far and away the Big 12 favorite, and they're a real contender for a 1 seed in March.

It's always a mistake to try to draw too many conclusions from a game like this for Colorado. They stunk, they gave up... it was a terrible game in every way. Now, I do think that they were overrated coming in. They came into this game rated 51st by the Sagarin PREDICTOR and 57th Pomeroy. They're a bubble team. They now have nice wins over Baylor and Colorado State, along with a potentially iffy loss to Wyoming. They will play on the road at Fresno State on Wednesday. If they can survive that game then they shouldn't be tested again before starting Pac-12 regular season play.

The Jayhawks continue along in a very tough stretch. They will play Belmont next Saturday, followed by Richmond and then a road game at Ohio State. That Ohio State game will be particularly important since there aren't any elite teams in the Big 12. It will give Kansas their only opportunity to win a game against a likely Top 10 team - something that would be very helpful as they fight for a 1 or 2 seed on Selection Sunday.

Iowa 80, Iowa State 71
I wanted to talk briefly about this game from yesterday. Iowa jumped out to an early lead in this game, and the rest of the night the lead ended up yo-yoing back and forth between around 0 and 10. Aaron White led the way for Iowa with 18 points (on 7-for-13 shooting) and 7 rebounds. Meanwhile, Iowa State lacks a quality go-to guy. Korie Lucious seems to think he's that guy, but he's too inconsistent. He had 7 assists here, and also 7 turnovers while shooting 3-for-13 from the field. That's who he has been his entire college career.

This is Iowa's best win of the season. They don't have any bad losses, though, so they're really just treading water with their resume. They have an important game on Saturday against Northern Iowa. If they can win that game and then avoid any losses against cupcakes prior to Big Ten play and then get to 9-9 in Big Ten play then that will at least get them on the Tournament bubble.

Iowa State drops to 6-3 with this loss, though none of the losses are bad and they do have a decent win (BYU). Their only potentially challenging game left before the Big 12 regular season will be next Saturday against Drake. The Big 12 isn't nearly as strong as the Big Ten, so Iowa State will probably need to get to 10-8 to get onto the bubble. Their most important game will February 25th at home against Kansas - their one remaining chance for a truly marquee win before Selection Sunday (they'll also play Kansas at Phog Allen on January 9th, but... they're not winning that one).

#3 Michigan 80, Arkansas 67
I was impressed with the way Arkansas played here. Going on the road at a place like Michigan and falling behind (Michigan led 30-18 at the 7:30 mark in the first half), it would have been very easy for them to fall apart the way that Colorado did against Kansas. But they fought back and actually pulled within 1 point midway through the second half. Michigan was able to run up the score in the final minutes, but Arkansas deserves credit for how well they played.

One key for this Arkansas team is that despite playing Mike Anderson's uptempo style, they're actually very safe with the ball. They are fourth best in the nation with turnovers on only 14.4% of offensive possessions. They do lack size, though, and they've been getting pushed around on the boards all season long. Michigan continued that dominance here with a 51.6 OR%. Jordan Morgan led the way, with more offensive rebounds (6) than the entire Arkansas team (5).

The Wolverines will play West Virginia next Saturday, and otherwise are just playing cupcakes prior to Big Ten play. And considering their soft schedule to start conference play, they should be 16-0 when they head to play on the road at Ohio State on January 13th. That will be a huge game, and should play a large role in determining the Big Ten regular season championship.

Arkansas is now 4-4 without any good wins, though they only have one bad loss (Arizona State). A home game against Robert Morris is their only real chance to lose again before SEC play. If they can win the rest of these non-conference games then go at least 10-8 in SEC play then they will be at least in the conversation for an at-large bid. I would bet against it, though Mike Anderson teams tend to get better as the season goes along.

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