South Florida 61, Georgetown 58
Georgetown really needed to get this season back on track, but they fell apart offensively down the stretch here. They hit only one shot from the field in the final 5:25, and failed to score on their final three possessions. How easily would they have won if they could have hit a shot? Georgetown was down by 2 with 6:40 to go, and USF did not hit a shot from the field the rest of the game... yet somehow increased their lead by 1 over that stretch. Considering that Georgetown also lost a game to Marquette by a point when Greg Whittington (who didn't play here because of academic suspension) failed to convert on the third of three free throws in the final seconds, and that they also lost to Indiana in overtime, there has been a lot of basketball heartbreak this season for the Hoyas.
To be fair, the computers are not particularly impressed with Georgetown anyway. Expect them to be outside the Top 60 in both the Pomeroy and Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings when the new numbers come out tomorrow. This offensive futility is not a new problem - they're averaging only 0.94 PPP so far in Big East play. But at 2-3 now in Big East play, they'll have to get to at least 9-9 to earn an at-large bid, and probably need to get to get to 10-8. They've got a tough week coming up, with a road game at Notre Dame on Monday, and a home game against Louisville next Saturday. Unless they at least split the week, their at-large hopes are going to start getting pretty long.
South Florida came into this game 0-4 in Big East play, so this is a big win in and of itself. But this win also typified the one thing USF has been good at all season - taking care of the ball. They have turned the ball over on fewer than 15% of their possessions in seven of their ten wins this season, including this one (only 4 turnovers). Anthony Collins is a strong point guard, of course, but big man ball handling is a big part of cutting down on team turnovers. It's a big improvement from last year's team, which was dead last in the Big East in offensive turnover percentage during conference play (23.8%). USF's next game will be on Wednesday at Seton Hall.
Denver 68, Utah State 57
The final score probably belies how much Denver led by for most of this game. They grabbed their first double-digit lead midway through the first half and led by as many as 22 in the second half before taking their foot off the pedal. The 10-for-19 three-point shooting obviously helped, but I don't think there's any question that Denver was the better team. And this result comes back to what I talked about approximately nine hours ago, which was the wide open WAC race.
In that post I broke the WAC race into three teams with three arguments. Denver is the team that the computers like most and which has the best PPP differential so far in conference play. Louisiana Tech is the team that already beat Denver head-to-head and leads the standings. Utah State is the team that is a little bit back, but which always seems to find a way to win the WAC under Stew Morrill. But I can only have so much faith in a coach to turn around a team. Right now, the reality is that Denver has been the best team in the WAC so far. They lost a close game at Louisiana Tech, but that really just represents the Bulldogs holding serve. And now that Denver has whooped Utah State head-to-head, I think they've done enough to be the new WAC favorites. I'll reflect that in my next BP68, which will be out late tonight, after the final game of the night ends.
Denver's rematch with Louisiana Tech won't come until their regular season finale, on March 6th. Their rematch with Utah State won't happen until February 14th. In the meanwhile, they'll just try to chug along through conference play, avoiding bad losses. They'll play on the road at New Mexico State next, on Wednesday. Utah State will get their first shot at Louisiana Tech a week from today. First they will play Texas-Arlington, on Thursday.
Colorado State 66, UNLV 61
Colorado State led almost the entire night, but just could not put UNLV away. And over the final minutes, they had to nail free throw after free throw, and just kept hitting them. Over the final 4:30 of the game, Colorado State went 12-for-12 at the line, including six consecutive clutch free throws by Dorian Green. Colorado State is a strong free throw shooting team (up to 74.3% for the season after this performance), but that's still some good focus and good fortune.
Colorado State is a team that the computers love (Top 20 in both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR), though a cream puff non-conference schedule really put them into a hole as far as at-large bids go. They had zero quality wins and a bad loss to Illinois-Chicago. This win represents their first quality victory of the season. The good news for them is that the Mountain West is as strong as it's been in a while (perhaps ever?), so they'll have plenty more chances for good wins. If they get to 10-6 in conference play and pick up another two or three quality victories then that will most likely be enough. At 2-1 now they have a tough game on Wednesday, at New Mexico.
UNLV is now 2-2 in Mountain West play and 15-4 overall, with wins over San Diego State and Iowa State, and no bad losses. As strong as the Mountain West is, a 9-7 or better conference record should put them in good shape for an at-large bid. They'll play Wyoming on Thursday, and then Nevada the following Tuesday.