Thursday, January 03, 2013

Marquette Wins A Goofy Overtime Against UConn

Marquette 82, UConn 76, OT
This game, as you have probably heard, featured a very odd start to overtime. The officials had the players pointing the wrong directions for the opening tip. UConn won the tip, dribbled down the court and scored. Officials realized what they had done and wiped off the basket and gave the ball to Marquette. Unfortunately, this was a second mistake by the refs. The NCAA rulebook states clearly that in this situation, the play done in the wrong direction should count as if it was done in the correct direction. In other words, UConn should have gotten those two points back. It's impossible to say whether that officiating gaffe cost UConn the game, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt them to have two more points to start overtime.

Marquette got a particularly big game from Chris Otule off the bench (18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks). Shabazz Napier led the way for UConn (29 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists). This win is key for a Marquette team that is playing like a bubble team. I don't think they have a ton of room to spare if they're going to earn an at-large bid, and they can't afford to give away home games like this. They are now 10-3 with a big win over Wisconsin and a bad loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay. They need to get to 9-9 in Big East play to be in a good position to earn an at-large bid. They need to get to at least 10-8 to be able to enter the Big East tournament with their at-large bid sewn up. Their next game will be on Saturday, against Georgetown.

UConn, now 10-3 and with only that one big win over Michigan State to open the season, is continuing to slide. They are reaching the point that they have to worry about player concentration with no postseason play at stake. The Huskies will try to get back on the right track on Tuesday, against DePaul.

St. Louis 60, #20 New Mexico 46
New Mexico has struggled to score from the field all season. They've depended heavily on scoring from the free throw line, and still haven't been particularly efficient offensively (below 1.05 PPP in 7 of their last 9 games). St. Louis has a ferocious defense, and they completely wiped out the Lobos. The Lobos committed 21 turnovers while only hitting 14 shots from the field (with a 35.2 eFG%). In all, the Lobos scored 0.70 PPP.

St. Louis is still trying to find an offensive identity. I don't think they found it here, but it's not like they need to be dominant offensively to win games. Not only have their held their last 7 opponents to under a point per possession, but 6 of the 7 were held to 0.83 PPP or fewer. Jim Crews really has his team playing Rick Majerus basketball, and they deserved this win over New Mexico.

That said, this is the first big win of the season for the Billikens, and they have iffy losses to Washington and Santa Clara. They will probably need to get to 10-6 in Atlantic Ten play to make the NCAA Tournament, though a 9-7 record will put them on the bubble. After playing Savannah State on Friday, they'll open Atlantic Ten play against UMass on January 10th.

New Mexico finishes non-conference play 13-2 with wins over Cincinnati and UConn, as well as a bad loss to South Dakota State. Assuming that they get a nice win or two in conference play, a 9-7 or better Mountain West record should be sufficient to get them to the NCAA Tournament. They will open conference play next Wednnesday, against UNLV.

St. Mary's 70, Harvard 69
After delivering a serious blow to California, Harvard almost finished their west coast trip with a devastating upset of St. Mary's. They actually led this game by as many as 18 points, but a late St. Mary's run sparked by Stephen Holt (10 points) and Mitchell Young (16 points, including the game winning free throws with 1.1 seconds left) was enough for a one point escape for the Gaels. This young Harvard team is continuing to improve on offense. Siyani Chambers was excellent, with 16 points (on 5-for-9 shooting), 7 assists and only 2 turnovers.

St. Mary's enters WCC play with an 11-3 record and no big wins, along with bad losses to Pacific and Northern Iowa. Certainly they wouldn't be a Tournament team if the season ended now, but they can get there if they can beat Gonzaga at least once and if they can get to at least 12-4 in WCC play. Their first conference game will be on Saturday, at Loyola-Marymount. The following Thursday they'll get their first shot against Gonzaga, on the road.

Early this season it was looking like Harvard really might not be the best team in the Ivy League. Both Princeton and Columbia have looked feisty at times in non-conference play this season. But with their improved play the past couple of weeks, I do think that Harvard is again the firm favorite to win the league. They still have to play Rice on Saturday, but then will open up league play the following Saturday, against Dartmouth.

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