Saturday, January 05, 2013

Arizona Gets A Controversial Win Over Colorado

#3 Arizona 92, Colorado 83, OT
The result of this game, as is well known and digested by fans by now, was controversial, to say the least. It seems pretty clear the refs screwed up the call. After Arizona mounted a huge second half comeback, they had the game tied up in the closing seconds when Colorado's Sabatino Chen appeared to hit the game winning three-pointer. The refs looked at the replay and waived it off, and the Buffaloes fell in overtime. While the general consensus online was that the ball was clearly out of Chen's hand with the clock still at 0.1, I actually disagree with that. I stared at as many pictures and replays as I could, and I don't think you can say conclusively that the ball was out of his hand. But at the same time, there's no way that you can say conclusively that the ball wasn't. The refs should have the let the play "stand", at the very least.

Games like this are yet another reminder of how much luck is involved in close games, and why results in games like this are not repeatable. Even putting aside the buzzer beater, you have all of the points that Colorado left at the free throw line (58.6% made here). Anybody who thinks Arizona "gutted out this win" or "just wanted it more at the end of the game" can just shut up. And coming on the back of big comebacks and one-point victories over San Diego State and Florida, the luck the Wildcats have enjoyed this season is pretty staggering. They are only 50th in the Pomeroy Luck rating, but the nature of the rating is to bias toward really bad teams (there's only so "lucky" a really good team can be relative to their expected record), and Arizona is the "luckiest" team among the Pomeroy Top 40 (second luckiest is NC State, at 76th).

This win is big for, among other things, Arizona's chances to win the Pac-12. Colorado and UCLA are the only two teams that can realistically knock them off, and now they have a home win over the Buffaloes. Arizona will play Utah later today, and then will go on the road to face the two Oregon schools.

Colorado is a team that has played well this season. They're up to 32nd in the Pomeroy ratings and 26th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. But they'll probably need to get to 11-7 in Pac-12 play to avoid being on the bubble heading into the Pac-12 tournament. Now 0-1, they'll try to avoid a loss later today at Arizona State. Next week they'll come home to face the two Los Angeles teams.

Miami (Fl) 76, La Salle 59
La Salle actually led this game by six at halftime, but a 16-2 run sparked by some hot shooting (including back-to-back threes from Shane Larkin) blew things open for Miami. Kenny Kadji was a monster defensively with 4 steals and 3 blocks, and also poured in 14 points. The biggest change in the second half, though, was bottling up La Salle's Ramon Galloway. Galloway poured in 12 points in the first half, but in the second half failed to score, totaling 0-for-4 shooting and 4 turnovers.

La Salle's offense has been a bit over-reliant on individual players to generate all of the scoring all season long. Galloway, when on the floor, takes 29.0% of La Salle's shots. And since becoming eligible, Tyrone Garland (the transfer from Virginia Tech) has taken 32.7% of La Salle's shots while on the floor (he had 20 points here). That sort of offense is vulnerable, as we saw here, to a good defensive team taking out one or both of these players and forcing guys unaccustomed to creating their own offense into those roles.

La Salle is rated one of the 65 best teams in the nation by both Pomeroy and Sagarin, but their strong play has not been converted into quality wins. They also have a bad loss to Central Connecticut State, meaning that they need to go on a little winning streak in Atlantic Ten play to get into the Tournament bubble discussion. They have to play Pennsylvania later today, and then will open league play on Wednesday, at Charlotte.

Miami, now 9-3 with a win over Michigan State along with iffy losses to Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State, will open ACC play later today at Georgia Tech. As well as they've been playing with Durand Scott, they will need to get to at least 10-8 in ACC play or they're going to enter the ACC tournament with a lot of work left to do.

#2 Michigan 94, Northwestern 66
This game was never competitive. Ten minutes into the game, the Wolverines already led 33-13, and the rout was on. Northwestern just didn't have anybody who could guard Trey Burke (23 points, 5 assists) or Tim Hardaway, Jr (21 points on 6-for-8 shooting) though, to be fair, not many teams do. Northwestern actually played fairly efficient offensively (19 assists to 12 turnovers as a team), but they could do nothing to stop the Michigan offensive onslaught.

Watching this game, as I remarked on twitter at the time, was the first time this season I really thought seriously about switching out Indiana as the Big Ten favorite. Michigan's offense has so much balance, that it's really just so difficult to stop them. Indiana's offensive can get a little clogged up against teams that can slow the pace and limit turnovers and transition opportunities. Michigan's defense isn't great, but it's sound and fundamental, and it's not like Indiana is a defensive juggernaut either. Ohio State is the third team that has to be in the Big Ten title discussion, but I think they're just not well-rounded enough offensively. They struggle to score at times, and their defense, while good, is not as great as it was last season. Indiana is still my pick to win the Big Ten just because I don't want to overreact to one Big Ten game by each time, but I certainly don't feel like Indiana is a heavy favorite.

The Wolverines come home to play Iowa on Sunday, and then Nebraska, before a big game at Ohio State on January 13th. That will be the first serious test for Michigan's Big Ten title hopes. Northwestern will play at Minnesota on Sunday. And unless they pull that upset, they'll head to Penn State on Thursday trying to avoid falling to 0-3

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