Saturday, January 05, 2013

Rutgers Upsets Pittsburgh

Rutgers 67, #24 Pittsburgh 62
Coming off of that tough home loss to Cincinnati, and with a road game at Georgetown looming, this was a glaring trap game for Pittsburgh. Also, remember that (as usual), Pittsburgh's offense is underrated and their defense is overrated because of the slow pace that they play at, so they depend on efficient offensive performances to win. And Pitt was playing well on offense (16 assists to only 9 turnovers as a team), but they couldn't buy a shot. They had a poor 44.6 eFG%, their second worst shooting performance of the season. Rutgers deserves some credit for not allowing Pitt to get to the rim, and forcing so many jump shots, but on a normal night Pitt hits enough of those jumpers to win this game relatively easily.

The star for Rutgers was Eli Carter, who scored 23 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Carter is not the most efficient player usually, but he's young, and Rutgers needs a guy like him. Their defense is (normally) not very good, so they need to be able to put up points in bunches. Carter is definitely a gunner.

Pittsburgh is now 0-2 in Big East play and has zero quality wins this season. If the season ended now they'd be on the bubble. But I'm still a believer. Their lack of big wins is due to a terrible non-conference schedule, and not because they're a mediocre team. They've blown their realistic chance at the Big East title, but I still think they have a good chance to finish around fourth place or so. They have that road game at Georgetown coming up on Tuesday, and then they'll get Marquette at home next Saturday.

Rutgers is now 10-3 with this win and just one bad loss (St. Peter's). It's actually not a terrible resume, though I don't think they're good enough on either end of the court to get to 9-9 in Big East play, which is the minimum that they need to be a bubble team in March. Although the fact that I'm even talking about the at-large chances of this relatively young Rutgers team (only one of their top seven minutes earners is a senior) is a success for them, considering preseason expectations. Their next game will be on Wednesday, on the road at St .John's.

#25 Kansas State 73, #22 Oklahoma State 67
The Big 12, and these two teams in particular, have really not been getting much media attention this season. This game was buried on ESPN3 and barely registered on twitter. With a pair of NFL playoff games going on later in the day, it might not even get a mention on Sportscenter tonight. But this game is an important result for both teams.

Oklahoma State is a team that the computers love because they blown out a bunch of decent teams. But a soft schedule has meant that their only quality win came against NC State, and they have a bad loss to Virginia Tech, meaning that their resume is pretty soft at this point. They could have really used a quality win. They shouldn't have any trouble with TCU on Wednesday, and then they will go on the road for a potentially difficult game at Oklahoma next Saturday.

For Kansas State, the story in this game was simple: Rodney McGruder. In the second half of this game he scored 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting, including 5-for-5 behind the arc. Included in that were a pair of monster three pointers on consecutive possessions with around two minutes to go which turned a tie game into a five point Kansas State lead, which they'd never relinquish again. McGruder certainly has this type of performance in him, though he's been underwhelming this season. He hasn't been "bad", but he hasn't been an All-Big 12 type of player either. He struggled in particular in that loss to Gonzaga. So Wildcats fans will have to hope that this type of performance is a good sign for the future.

Kansas State has this win along with a win over Florida, and no bad losses. A 9-9 Big 12 record or better should put them in a good position for an at-large bid. Coming up next, they will try to navigate their way through a couple of winnable road games, at West Virginia next Saturday, and on the road at TCU the following Wednesday.

Marquette 49, #15 Georgetown 48
Marquette has had an interesting start to the Big East season, to say the least. Their game against UConn went to overtime, where the refs lined the players up in the wrong direction and incorrectly applied a rule which cost the Huskies a couple of points. Here, this game was a mess in the final minutes, and also ended with a bizarre officiating goof. Georgetown, down by three, had Greg Whittington get fouled while taking a three with 2.3 seconds left. He hit the first two and then, after being iced by a Buzz Williams timeout, missed the third. After Marquette missed a free throw, Nate Lubick came down the board. A ref, apparently (incorrectly) thinking that the ball hadn't hit the rim and was a free throw violation, blew the whistle and held his hands above his head with several tenths of a second still on the clock. Lubick, confused, launched a full court shot that missed. The refs then pretended that no whistle had been blown and just walked off the court. The odds of Georgetown scoring there were very slim, but still... what a weird start to the Big East season for Marquette.

Marquette really would have been in trouble if they'd gotten unlucky and ended up losing these two games instead of winning them. The computers are not impressed with them at all - heading into today they were 57th in Pomeroy and 55th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. But with these wins they are now 11-3 with wins over Wisconsin and Georgetown, along with a bad loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay. If they can get to 10-8 in Big East play then they'll be in a really good position for an at-large bid. They now have a week to get ready for a road game at Pittsburgh.

Georgetown, despite their lofty ranking in the polls, is the type of team that could still end up on the Tournament bubble. Their resume so far is underwhelming, with just a pair of decent wins over UCLA and Texas. They will get a chance for a big win on Tuesday, against Pittsburgh. Next Saturday they'll play at St. John's.

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