Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Morning News: Pacist Media Rips Pitt, Florida Escapes Memphis, New Mexico St Stuns New Mexico & Wichita St Avoid A Letdown

The media's characterization of slow tempo basketball games.

Pacist Media Rips Pittsburgh If you follow me on twitter, you knew that a mini-rant was coming about the Pittsburgh/Cincinnati game. This game was low-scoring (87 total points), and twitter was blowing up with every member of the media complaining how horrible the game was and how they wanted the refs to put everybody out of their misery. The game was single-handedly ruining their love for basketball. Pittsburgh was putrid, and this game proved that they aren't any good and they were an overrated fraud that haven't beaten anybody.

Of course,  as I've explained before, if a game has an extreme score it's much more likely to be due to tempo than to offense or defense. And that was the case here. Pittsburgh/Cincinnati had 48 possessions, which adds up to 0.91 PPP. So the offenses were below average, but not particularly awful. There will be more than 1000 Division I games this season with worse offense. A few weeks ago, Duke and Alabama played a 74-64 game in the same arena that was worse offensively (0.86 PPP). The difference was Duke/Alabama had 80 possessions, while Pittsburgh/Cincy was tied for the fewest possessions of any Division I game all season long. In fact, it's surely the slowest game almost anybody has watched this season, since the only two games with 50 or fewer possessions in Division I this season both involved Delaware State (vs Clemson, vs Dayton).

Was the media whining that Duke/Alabama was the worst offensive game they've ever seen? That the refs should cancel it? That it was ruining their love for basketball? That it proved Duke was a fraud that couldn't score against a decent defense? They didn't? Huh. I guess they're Pacist.

Anyway, to get briefly back to Pitt here... are they a fraud? No. They remain under-ranked. They've already crushed a team that is basically as good as Cincinnati in Stanford (I don't understand why playing Cincy on a neutral floor is "playing somebody" while playing Stanford on a neutral floor in the same city is not), and remain 12th in Pomeroy and 17th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. Are they the 12th best team? I don't think so. I currently have them as a 5 seed in my bracket, and they're at risk of falling to a 6 next week. But more likely than not they're a Top 25 team. But the Pacist media is going to keep them out of the Top 25 as long as they can. I wouldn't be surprised if it's February before they finally get into the Top 25.

Florida Escapes Memphis Once again, Florida got off to a really nice start against a good team that started clawing its way back. Memphis had a chance in the final minutes, but just couldn't quite get over the hump. Patric Young was able to physically control the paint, but Memphis was able to get back into the game by forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. These second half collapses are a bit worrying for Florida, though. They're mostly winning close games this season after being unable to win a close game last year (always weird how a random statistical event like luck in close games doesn't correlate from one season to the next, huh?), but Florida would be a real juggernaut if they could maintain these high levels of play for 40 full minutes.

This is a tough missed opportunity for Memphis, but they impressed again. You can make a case for Memphis being a Top 10 or 15 team in the nation. With home games remaining against Louisville, UConn and Gonzaga, they'll have plenty of chances to add onto their win over Oklahoma State.

New Mexico State Stuns Ice Cold New Mexico New Mexico struggled to find their shooting stroke all night, failing to hit a three-pointer while falling 67-61 to in-state rival New Mexico State. Coming off a blowout loss to Kansas, it's a continuation of a disappointing non-conference season for the Lobos. A win over Cincinnati is their only against a likely RPI Top 50 opponent, and now they have a potentially bad loss. New Mexico is still a team good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but they're going to need to earn it in a down Mountain West. There won't be the big margin for error in that league that there was the past couple of seasons.

New Mexico State is a team that really has no chance at an at-large bid primarily because the WAC is so incredibly awful. It's like playing in the Big South Conference - there are no quality wins, and every loss is a bad loss. This is a nice win, but it will be their only quality win before Selection Sunday. That said, New Mexico State should cruise to the WAC title, and Sim Bhullar And Friends will be a mystery team that is going to be a scary Round of 64 opponent in March.

Wichita State Avoids A Letdown Vs Alabama After a 10-0 start that included recent victories over Tennessee, St. Louis and BYU, Wichita State would have been forgiven for a letdown game on the road against a feisty Alabama squad. And this game was close throughout, but Wichita State locked down defensively in the final couple of minutes to escape with the five point victory. Ron Baker was relatively quiet, and it was Cleanthony Early leading all scorers with 26 points.

I've talked many times about how much of a ridiculous long shot it is for any BCS conference team to go 40-0. Wichita State isn't going 40-0 either. But they're not in a BCS conference, and they're the one team now with a plausible hope of going undefeated for the regular season (31-0). While Arizona is the second most likely team to get to 31-0 (0.4%), Wichita State's odds are now at 7.2% according to Pomeroy and 8.1% according to Sagarin. Both ratings project only two regular season losses as the most likely scenario. Wichita State is a really good team that is going to have a really shiny won-loss record in March. They are much, much better than the squad that made the Final Four last season, and it's time to start talking about them as a plausible 2 or 3 seed in March.

As for Alabama, they just cannot get over the hump against a quality team. They have had a number of close losses, and the result is that their resume is horrible even though they're a bubble quality team. A run for an at-large bid is still not out of the question, but unless they beat both Xavier and UCLA over the next two weeks, they're going to need to get to at least 11-7 in SEC play.

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