Sunday, December 02, 2012

San Diego State Adds Insult To UCLA Injury

#23 San Diego State 78, UCLA 69h
This game wasn't an "upset", of course. San Diego State is the better team, and was favored. But while this wasn't a true home game for UCLA, it was a quasi-home game, and the way the San Diego State fans dominated the arena was flat out embarrassing. Enjoying their team's lead and the sparse UCLA crowd, San Diego State fans could be heard loudly on television chanting all sorts of biting insults at the Bruins and their fans. My personal favorite was "You should transfer!", directed at various UCLA players, and a reference to the transfers of Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith over the past couple of weeks.

I was surprised by one of the common reactions to the transfer of Joshua Smith, which was that UCLA would be better by subtraction because now they could play small ball and run. And UCLA has played at a faster pace since the transfers, but how much can they push it? They have seven healthy scholarship  players right now, of whom only two are true guards. UCLA definitely has a ton of talent, but right now Ben Howland doesn't seem to know how to get them to play with a coherent style.

San Diego State's defense has been dominant this season, holding every opponent they have played to under 1 PPP. There is a warning sign here, however. Opponents are hitting only 53.0% of free throws and 24.0% of three-pointers against. The reality is that 3P% against is almost entirely luck, and FT% against most certainly is entirely luck. San Diego State's defense is excellent, but it's also been a little lucky. So these stats probably won't completely hold up throughout the length of the season.

San Diego State's schedule is pretty easy for the next few weeks. They shouldn't be seriously tested again until they head off to the Diamond Head Classic. There they will open against San Francisco on December 22nd, followed by either Ole Miss or Indiana State on the 23rd. UCLA will play Texas next Saturday in a game that television presumably thought would be a bigger game when it was scheduled. Instead it will be an opportunity for two struggling giants to find some redemption and prove that they are still Tournament quality squads.

Wyoming 76. #19 Colorado 69
Even before this game tipped off, jokes were being made on twitter by me and some of the other statistically-competent basketball analysts on twitter. Here is one of my comments. The reality was that both Sagarin and Pomeroy had Wyoming as the favorite here, and Vegas (which is always within 1 point or so of Sagarin and Pomeroy) had Wyoming as a 2 point favorite. But because the legacy media is obsessed with the horrible human polls, this result was an "upset". Click on the score of this game above to see a link to the Associated Press recap on ESPN which, of course, calls this game an "upset". Nope.

There are two reasons why Wyoming was favored, and neither of them have anything to do with their strong homecourt advantage (believe it or not, none of the computer ratings or Vegas ever treat one homecourt advantage different from another). First, Colorado was overrated at #19. They were 6-0 with three decent wins (Butler, Dayton and Murray State), but had been lucky achieving that (all three wins came by ten points or less, and they needed double overtime to get past Texas Southern). Second, Wyoming is a good team, as they were last season. Their 7-0 start came against a soft schedule, but with this win they move up to 77th in the Pomeroy ratings, and 65th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR.

Now that it looks like there will be a vibrant battle for fourth place in the Mountain West (and perhaps a fourth NCAA Tournament bid?) between Colorado State, Wyoming and Boise State, a key match-up next week will be a Wyoming road game at Illinois State. It will be a great opportunity for a potential RPI Top 50 win for the Cowboys. As for the Buffaloes, they will take on Colorado State on Wednesday, and then will be at Kansas on Saturday. Obviously they'll be quite happy with a split from those two games.

Mercer 61, Florida State 56
Florida State's defense has certainly not been what it had been the past few years. In addition, they're really struggling to defend the boards. Here, they basically fought to a rebounding draw against a Mercer team that entered 259th in the nation in OR% and 247th in DR%. Florida State's offense hasn't improved this year, either. Okaro White is the only reliable offensive weapon that they have. These offensive woes were easier to forgive when FSU had a suffocating defense. Now it's a major liability.

Preseason, Mercer was my pick to win the Atlantic Sun. They were a very underrated team last year, and I thought they would be a pretty strong team this season. They struggled to start this season, though, falling to Illinois-Chicago and Wake Forest. But a big part of that struggle was missing Langston Hall, who averaged 11.4 points and 4.2 assists per game last season. This was his third game since recovering from an ankle injury, and he looked good, with 10 points, 5 assists and 5 steals. As a team, Mercer assisted on 14 of 18 made baskets here.

Florida State falls to 4-3 with this loss, with only a win over St. Joseph's to go with a pair of bad losses - South Alabama and Mercer. They will get a massive opportunity on Wednesday when the Florida Gators come to town, but unless they pull off that upset they will enter ACC play without a single big time win. And if that's the case then it's hard to see them making the NCAA Tournament unless they get to 10-8 in conference play. Mercer's next game will also be on Wednesday, on the road at Denver.

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