Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Morning News: And Then There Were Three, Arkansas Wins In A Wild Finish, George Washington Impresses, And Kansas St Escapes

Michael Qualls brings the house down

And Then There Were Three With Wisconsin finally losing, we are down to just three remaining undefeated teams. More than anything, Wisconsin just went cold late. After opening the game 6-for-10 behind the arc, the 39% three-point shooting team went just 1-for-13 the rest of the way. But this is what was going to happen eventually. Nobody is going to go anything close to undefeated in the Big Ten - the conference is too good.

This is one of the classic games that has significant resume implications, but doesn't mean a whole lot for telling you how good these two teams are. I don't think anybody watching this game felt that Indiana outplayed Wisconsin or is the better team. Wisconsin is still probably the favorite the win at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title (though I still think Michigan State is the best team, if they can ever get fully healthy). Indiana is still a team likely to finish 8-10 or 9-9 in Big Ten play. They're a bubble team.

Where this game matters is in the resumes. Indiana absolutely, desperately needed to finally get a scalp on their wall. They're going to need two or three more RPI Top 50 wins, but there's no way they can get to 9-9 in Big Ten play without getting at least a few quality wins along the way. If they can get to 9-9 they'll be on the bubble heading into the Big Ten tournament, with a chance to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas Wins In A Wild Finish This was a crazy game, though I don't think we can call it a "great" game. The refs didn't allow that, completely taking over the game. We ended up with 60 fouls, 81 free throw attempts and approximately 17 replay reviews (I can't confirm that last number, but the first two are correct). But the end? Wild. First, a clutch Andrew Harrison three-pointer in the corner sent the game to overtime (following an atrocious defensive possession by Arkansas, but that's another issue). In overtime, it was a put-back dunk by Michael Qualls that won the game for Arkansas (see the video at the top of this post). Kentucky had 0.2 seconds left, and Aaron Harrison proceeded to throw the ball into the jumbotron, where it got stuck. Which is a turnover, I guess.

Trying to draw narratives or meaning out of a game like this is silly, particularly with the way the refs called it. Arkansas was a one point favorite in Vegas and they won by two. Basically, this game was what we thought it would be. This was definitely a game that Arkansas had to have after blowing their home game against Florida. They're such a different team away from Bud Walton, and they needed a quality win for their at-large resume. They have a remaining road game against Kentucky, but otherwise have a chance of not playing another RPI Top 50 team before Selection Sunday (Missouri may or may not end up in the Top 50... they're currently 47th). They'll need to get to at least 10-8 in SEC play to be in a good position for an at-large bid.

George Washington Impresses In Win Over VCU The Atlantic Ten doesn't have the depth that it had before the summer realignment, but the top of the league is again fantastic. And while the league had four teams playing like Tournament teams, George Washington is trying to stick its nose in as a fifth. They took advantage here of VCU's weakness, which is halfcourt defense. VCU's defense, due to how aggressive it is, always struggles on possessions where it doesn't get turnovers, but it was even worse than usual here. GW committed 21 turnovers, but scored 1.41 PPP on possessions that didn't end in a turnover.

Surprisingly, George Washington did this despite a poor game from Maurice Creek. Isaiah Armwood had a double-double, and Patricio Garino poured in 25 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals off the bench. VCU, meanwhile, couldn't hit a jump shoot. They were 2-for-15 on two-point jump shots.

George Washington is 14-3 overall and 2-1 in A-10 play, with wins over Creighton, VCU and Maryland, along with a potentially bad loss to La Salle. If they can get to 10-6 in Atlantic Ten play, they should be in decent shape for an at-large bid heading into the A-10 tournament. At 9-7 they might have to win a couple of A-10 tourney games. VCU is 13-4 overall and 1-1 in A-10 play, with a win over Virginia along with a loss to Northern Iowa. They're better than their resume, but they're going to have to earn their way back into the Field of 68. Like George Washington, they need to get to at least 10-6 in A-10 play to be in good shape for an at-large bid.

Kansas State Escapes With A Win Over Oklahoma You can make a good case that Kansas State got outplayed at home here. They managed to escape with the win, but only because they vastly out-shot a superior shooting team behind the arc. Kansas State finished 52% on threes, compared to 30% for Oklahoma. Ryan Spangler annihilated Kansas State on the glass, finishing with 9 offensive rebounds and 21 points.

Still, Kansas State has played good basketball the past few weeks. They've won 12 of 13, with the only loss coming at Phog Allen. They have wins over Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, George Washington and Oklahoma, along with those early season losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte. They have the quality wins, so now they just need to focus on getting to at least 9-9 in Big 12 play. If they can get to 10-8 then that really should be enough for an at-large bid.

Oklahoma came into this game ranked, but pollsters are never to be trusted. The Sooners actually came into this game ranked 48th by both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They're a bubble team. They have wins over Iowa State and Texas without a bad loss (unless you count Louisiana Tech) and they're 13-4 overall, but they're going to need to find a way to get to 9-9 in Big 12 play to have a realistic chance at the NCAA Tournament. They need a few more RPI Top 50 wins also, but they'll pick those up along the way in Big 12 play.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at the GW VCU game and I dont think that halfcourt defense was VCUs downfall. I dont doubt your 1.41 ppp stat at all but understand that GW got the VAST majority of those just after breaking the press, at the rim and from the foul line. If you looked strictly at possessions where the shot went up after the shot clock was at say 18, I would be shocked if ppp was over 1.1. That said GW played a good game and punished the press instead of just breaking it and that's how you beat a press. Also VCU shooting percentage was well below average from 1, 2 and 3.