Friday, January 11, 2013

Undefeated No More, Wyoming Falls To Boise State

Boise State 63, Wyoming 61
The obsession with the final few undefeated teams each January is always silly. All of these teams are going to lose, out of randomness if nothing else. Even the best teams in the nation require luck to stay undefeated this long. And the only realistic chance of evening making it into February undefeated is a weakened conference, which only Duke has this year. Michigan is the only other remaining undefeated team, and the Big Ten is far too strong from top to bottom for them to avoid some losses in the near future.

That all said, this is a pretty shocking way for Wyoming's undefeated season to come to an end. Boise State is a good team, but they were on the road without four players suspended for breaking rules. Those four players included three from their regular rotation, including leading scorer Derrick Marks (16.3 per game). Facing a shortage of talent, Boise State's only chance was to get lucky shooting the ball.... and they did. They hit 11 of 19 three point attempts. The 57.9 3P% was their best three-point shooting since a 14-for-22 performance against Drake on November 30, 2011. They were led by Jeff Elorriage, who was 6-for-10 behind the arc and who hit the game winner at the final buzzer.

Even after this loss, Wyoming is 13-1 with a Sagarin ELO_SCORE that is 21st. But their place in the NCAA Tournament is precarious due to a soft schedule. Their best win came over Colorado, and for the time being they're only 1-1 against the RPI Top 100. If they go 9-7 in conference play without a big win, they'll have a really interesting resume. The Mountain West is really good this season and will get respect on Selection Sunday, but Wyoming's cupcake non-conference schedule could still come back to haunt them. They have a couple of road games up next, at Nevada tomorrow and at Fresno State on Wednesday.

Boise State is generally considered the sixth best team in a nine-team "mid-major" conference, which you'd assume would mean that they're not even contending for an at-large bid. But the Mountain West is one of the three or four best conferences this season, and Boise State is now 13-2 with wins over Creighton and Wyoming, and only one bad loss to Utah. They'd be very much in contention for an at-large bid if the season ended now. They have a huge home game coming up on Wednesday, against New Mexico.

Wake Forest 55, Virginia 52
Virginia is one of seemingly a dozen teams vying for second place in the ACC behind Duke. But after a big victory over North Carolina, they fell here in a terrible loss to Wake Forest. When Virginia has a bad game it's always for the same reason - their offense, which isn't great to begin with, completely bogs down. They had a 39.1 eFG% here, along with 17 turnovers in only 61 possessions. This season, their tremendous defense has allowed only three teams to score more than 1.00 PPP. And because of that, the Cavaliers are 9-1 when breaking 1.00 PPP themselves. But when falling short of that mark? They are only 2-3.

As for Wake Forest, I continue to be interested in the development of the Jeff Bzdelik era at Wake Forest. I was originally down on the Jeff Bzdelik hire not because he isn't a good coach - he definitely is - but because I didn't think Wake Forest fans would give him a chance. He had to clean out a roster full of knuckleheads, and that just plain stunk. More importantly, Bzdelik isn't going to sign real blue chippers and he doesn't play an exciting brand of basketball. So there were not going to be a lot of Sportscenter highlights, and the turnaround wasn't going to be quick. Fan response has been as expected, and it's no secret that most of the fan base wants him fired.

But the reality is, Wake Forest is steadily improving. They were perhaps the worst BCS conference basketball team in the nation during Bzdelik's first year, and pretty bad in his second year, but in his third year they have a chance to finish close to the middle of the pack in the ACC. And this year's team is very young - not a single senior in the rotation. So will the fans give him a chance to get Wake Forest all the way back to the NCAA Tournament? That remains to be seen.

Virginia has a tough road game at Clemson tomorrow. If they can win that one then they'll be in decent shape with an easy part of their schedule coming up. They can't afford to finish worse than 10-8 in a down ACC. Wake Forest will try to move above .500 in ACC play tomorrow, when Boston College comes to Joel Coliseum.

West Virginia 57, Texas 53, OT
This was... not a well played basketball game. These teams combined to shoot 32.5% from the field and 52.9% from the line. The two teams combined for 0.81 PPP. And this continues to be a trend with this Texas team, which has efficiently stats that are flat out jarring. Right now, Pomeroy rates their defense 5th best in the nation, and their offense 252nd. Don't trust Pomeroy's opponent adjustments? The raw numbers are even worse. Texas is 4th in defensive efficiency and 296th in offensive efficiency. It's a tough thing to research, since it's somewhat subjective, but I can't recall ever seeing a team anywhere near that good on one end of the floor and that horrible on the other.

Texas fans continue to hold out hope that Myck Kabongo will save them. He'll certainly help but, as I've said before, his legend grows just because the Longhorns offense stinks so much. He's not going to magically transform them into an elite team.

As for West Virginia, Bob Huggins has a pretty young team, but it's a team lacking a clear star or go-to scorer. And so their offense, while not rivaling the Texas ineptitude, continues to struggle as well (below 1 PPP in 7 of 14 games so far this season).

Texas is still in contention for an at-large bid, but they need to get to at least 10-8 in conference play. Now 0-2, they have a tough stretch coming up. They'll be at Iowa State tomorrow, and then will play Kansas the following Saturday, followed by a road game at Oklahoma. They'll be underdogs for all three games, meaning that they'll need an upset to avoid falling to 0-5. Their schedule will get a lot easier as we move into late January, but they can't fall too far below .500 or else risk slumping morale sinking the season.West Virginia's next game will be tomorrow, against Kansas State.

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