Sunday, January 13, 2013

No Undefeateds Remain As Ohio State Knocks Off Michigan

#15 Ohio State 56, #2 Michigan 53
In the modern era, it's basically impossible to have a team go undefeated all season. So the discussion of "the last undefeated" that the media wastes a lot of time on every January is always dumb. Though with Michigan being the last undefeated to go down, I'm not sure if that improves media air-filling, since now we're going to transition early in to the "the bubble is terrible this year!" talk, which doesn't get replaced until the brackets come out on Selection Sunday and the media tells us which NIT teams were deserving of an NCAA bid and were robbed.

Anyway, the difference in this game was the fact that Michigan came out of the gate very sluggish and sloppy. Ohio State forced eight turnovers in the first ten minutes and blitzed to an early 29-8 lead. Ohio State's offense has struggled to score consistently in the half court against quality defenses this season, and that continued here. Once Michigan stopped giving them free layups, their scoring stalled. Ohio State only scored 18 points in the first 19:45 of the second half. With the ball and down by only two with around 15 seconds left, Trey Burke rushed a three that bounced on every corner of the rim but popped back out. If that one had dropped, Michigan probably would have won the game. But it didn't, and they didn't. Goes to show that "luck" in close games isn't just about referee calls or your opponent hitting or missing a key jumper. It's also that a millimeter can mean the difference between a game-winning or game-losing shot.

While this game matters for the Big Ten standings and Selection Sunday seeding, I don't think it really matters too much in evaluating these two teams. Michigan is still one of the two main contenders for the Big Ten title (along with Indiana). The panic about Ohio State after that big loss to Illinois was dumb - they're still a very good team that will contend for third place in the Big Ten and a 2-4 seed on Selection Sunday.

Michigan has a brutal road game up next, at Minnesota on Thursday. Their schedule will ease up for a little while after that. Ohio State also has a tough road game up next as well, at Michigan State on Saturday.

#16 San Diego State 79, Colorado State 72, OT
Colorado State has been a really tough team to put away in the second half all season. Here, they came all the way back from an 18 point deficit, and Colton Iverson sent the game to overtime by scoring in the paint with under 15 seconds left in regulation. Iverson had another big game for the Rams (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Wes Elkmeier had 22. Pierce Hornung, as he always does, dominated the glass (6 offensive rebounds, 14 total rebounds). Jamaal Franklin led San Diego State with 23 points, though Chase Tapley's 19 points while suffering with the flu was the story postgame. Some nice outside shooting (13-for-29 behind the arc) was a key for the Aztecs.

It's always a mistake to try to draw too many conclusions from an overtime game that easily could have gone either way. But where this result matters is for Colorado State's resume. With a bad loss to Illinois-Chicago and zero quality wins, they could have really used a win here. The good news for them is that as strong as the Mountain West is this season, there will be plenty more chances for good wins. They'll play Air Force on Wednesday, but then will take on UNLV and New Mexico. A couple quality wins and a 9-7 conference record should be sufficient for an at-large bid.

San Diego State, now 2-0 in Mountain West play, will play UNLV on Wednesday, and then will head on the road to face Wyoming on Saturday.

Evansville 71, #23 Wichita State 67
Evansville won this game a lot more than Wichita State lost it. The Shockers actually shot the ball really well (42.9 3P%, 60.9 eFG%, 84.6 FT%), but Evansville did a great job with their pressure defense. They forced Wichita State into 22 turnovers. Evansville actually had more steals (10) than committed turnovers (9). On the offensive end, Colt Ryan was superb, leading all players with 24 points and 8 assists.

Colt Ryan had a little injury earlier this season that cost him two full games and pieces of two others. And in general, he just wasn't playing well in November and December. Evansville's results suffered - they lost to Buffalo and Murray State, and failed to earn a single quality non-conference win. But in the past few weeks Evansville has really started to pull things together. They've now won four straight games, including this win and a win over Northern Iowa, and at 4-1 they are now in second place in the Missouri Valley.

Is this just a hot streak, or a sign that Evansville really will play this well the rest of the season? That's probably impossible to say at this point. They have a pair of road games coming up next, at Drake on Wednesday and at Indiana State on Saturday. I'll be particularly interested to see how they do against an Indiana State team that also has been coming on strong the past few weeks.

Wichita State is 15-2 with this loss, with wins over VCU, Iowa and Southern Miss, along with bad losses to Tennessee and Evansville. They'll be in good shape for an at-large bid if they can get to 12-6 or 13-5 in conference play. They'll play Illinois State on Wednesday, followed by a huge home game against Creighton on Saturday.

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