Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wake Forest Stuns NC State

Wake Forest 86, #14 North Carolina State 84
As this game was ending I tweeted about how Wake Forest fans should appreciate more how much better this team has gotten under Jeff Bzdelik and got, as expected, a bunch of angry tweets from Wake Forest fans. I honestly haven't talked to one yet who doesn't want Bzdelik fired. And I have to say, I just don't get it. I understand that the team had more success under Dino Gaudio, but Gaudio's final roster was full of a whole bunch of knuckleheads, and Bzdelik spent his first year suspended players and kicking them off the team. About half of the starting rotation had to be purged. And so naturally that first year's team stunk. They were bad last year, but definitely improved from Bzdelik's first year. And now in year three his team is far improved. Not only will their Pomeroy rating move up to around 125th after this win, but this team is very young. Six of the nine players in their regular rotation are freshmen. This core will be around for years to come.

So what was the difference in this game? Nothing, really. Wake Forest only hit four three-pointers, neither team could hit a free throw or get a defensive rebound, and turnovers were basically even. NC State had multiple chances in the final 30 seconds - they had three shots from the field and a pair of CJ Leslie free throws while losing by either one or two points... and none of them went in. But that's how it goes when you get stuck in a close game against an inferior team - there's a decent chance that you won't hit those shots in the final seconds and you'll lose.

This loss knocks NC State to 4-2 in ACC play, with wins over Duke and UConn along with this bad loss to Wake Forest. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should still be inside the Top 30, so they're still pretty safe from the bubble, but there's no way that they're the 14th best team in the country. I think NC State is more in the 6-8 NCAA seed range right now. Their next game will be on Saturday against North Carolina, and then they'll be at Virginia next Tuesday.

Wake Forest moves to a respectable 3-3 in ACC play with this win. Their schedule gets tougher over the next few weeks, though. Three of their next four games will be on the road, and the one home game in that stretch will be against Duke. A road game at Georgia Tech is up first, on Saturday.

#13 Michigan State 49, Wisconsin 47
This was a very ugly game, particularly for Wisconsin. The Badgers were short-handed with Frank Kaminsky out and George Marshall suffering with the flu, and their shooting deserted them. They hit fewer than 30% of their shots from the field (a 37.0 eFG%) and only 7 of 18 free throw attempts. They had a remarkable stretch from 11:50 to 0:20 left in the game when they shot 1-for-12 from the field. Over that stretch they scored 0.36 PPP. For the game these two teams combined for 0.83 PPP.

The highlight for Michigan State was the play of Keith Appling and Branden Dawson. Dawson, in particular, was able to take advantage of the absence of one of the only two Wisconsin regulars over 6'7". He was constantly being guarded by somebody smaller than him, and he poured in 18 points (on 7-for-14 shooting) and 13 rebounds. I can't find any bright spots for Wisconsin - nobody had a good game.

Wisconsin drops to 4-2 in Big Ten play with this loss. Despite the strength of the Big Ten, the Badgers probably need to get to 10-8 to assure themselves an at-large bid since they didn't get any quality non-conference wins. They shouldn't have too much trouble getting there, but that might change if they don't beat Minnesota on Saturday. Next week they'll go on the road to face Ohio State and Illinois.

Michigan State moves to 6-1 in Big Ten play, and suddenly might be a sleeper contender to finish as high as second in the conference standings. It's worth noting that their schedule will get tougher than it's been thus far, but a 13-5 finish is really not that unreasonable. Their next game will be a brutal one, on the road at Indiana on Sunday.

#14 Ohio State 72, Iowa 63
This had the feeling of an efficient "taking care of business" win at home for Ohio State. They were the better team, they knew that Iowa was coming off a huge emotional win, and they calmly did what they needed to do. DeShaun Thomas led all scorers with 16 (on 6-for-11 shooting) and Amir Williams was a monster defensively (6 blocks in only 17 minutes).

The one bizarre problem for Ohio State here was rebounding. They allowed 19 Iowa offensive rebounds (a 47.5 OR%), which stands out when you consider that Ohio State came into this game 17th in the nation with a 73.3 DR%, and that Iowa has been one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the Big Ten. Aaron White led the way with six offensive rebounds. By the way, Aaron White is quietly putting up a monster season. At this point, he has to be seriously considered for First Team All-Big Ten. I think the fact that he looks like the whitest guy to ever play basketball is held against him - he just doesn't look like a great basketball player. It's the same problem John Shurna had.

The Buckeyes are 4-2 in the Big Ten with this win, and will play at Penn State on Saturday, followed by a home game against Wisconsin next Tuesday. Iowa falls to 2-4 in Big Ten play and needs to make up ground next week with a road game at Purdue on Sunday and a home game against Penn State the following Thursday.

1 comment:

DMoore said...

"So what was the difference in [the Wake/NC State] game?"
Foul trouble. NC State's front line was in foul trouble most of the game, and they played VERY tentative defense in the second half (on top of being a weak defensive team to start with). Four of their five starters either had 4 fouls or fouled out. A team that normally only goes 6 deep, and regularly struggles with fouls, will have some baffling losses.

BTW, Wake's freshman Devin Thomas led his team in EVERYTHING -- 25 points, 14 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. Maybe that's more common than I think, but I don't recall ever seeing it before.