Friday, January 10, 2014

Morning News: Bill Walton, Memphis Over Louisville, Oregon Falls Again, Gonzaga... Sigh, Marquette A Tourney Team?, Arizona Escapes

Somehow, Dave Pasch made it through the evening without committing a homicide.

Memphis Steals A Win In Louisville Memphis has struggled in close games against quality opponents under Josh Pastner, but this win just goes to show how much luck plays into results like that. Because despite being on the road, Memphis got just about close referee call in the final 30 seconds (including a bad goaltending call and a questionable over-the-backboard call), and it was enough to deliver them a huge road victory at Louisville. Memphis didn't seem to be at risk of falling to the bubble anyway, but this builds on their upset of Oklahoma State.

Louisville seems to be severely shorthanded right now. They obviously greatly miss Gorgui Dieng this season. And they found out yesterday that Kevin Ware is officially done for the season. That said, Russ Smith is somehow playing even better than he did last season. That 5OT game against Notre Dame last season has forever ruined his reputation in the media, and so he will not win National Player of the Year, but objectively he's the best player in college basketball and it might not really be that close. He just does everything for Louisville. And don't forget that we're almost exactly a year since the media all gave up on Louisville, saying that they hadn't beaten anybody yet and weren't that good. How did that season turn out?

Oregon Drops Second Straight California's offense has been up and down all season long. They had a brutal 0.89 PPP against Creighton and below 1.00 PP against Fresno State, Oakland and UC Irvine, yet they put up 1.17 PPP against Syracuse and 1.18 PPP against Oregon. They certainly do have offensive weapons - guys like Richard Solomon, David Kravish and Justin Cobbs. And after a mediocre non-conference performance, California has jumped into Pac-12 play with road wins at Stanford and Oregon.

Now 11-4 without any bad losses, California has a resume that would put them in the Tournament if the season ended now. The question is, will their inconsistent offense regress again. They're going to have to get to 11-7 or better in Pac-12 play to have a good chance of an at-large bid, and that means surviving things like their upcoming road game at Oregon State. Time will tell how they handle that.

We knew that Oregon was very overrated when they were Top Ten in the polls, but there shouldn't be total panic after a couple of consecutive wins. They're 34th in Pomeroy and 30th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. Considering their strong non-conference performance, they should make the NCAA Tournament if they get to 10-8 in Pac-12 play.

Gonzaga... Sigh The WCC woes continued last night as Gonzaga fell to Portland. A couple Gonzaga players don't seem to be totally healthy, and with a thin roster they really struggled with foul trouble. Kevin Pangos had to play the entire game. Gonzaga just hasn't looked that good the last few weeks, and while they're still good enough to make the Tournament (26th in Pomeroy and 19th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR), but they don't have a win against the Pomeroy Top 50, and have to start worrying about their bubble profile. And with the rest of the WCC bubble teams struggling, including Saint Mary's losing again, it would actually be a pretty big surprise at this point if the WCC gets more than one Tournament bid.

The WCC is the deepest it's probably ever been. While the top of the conference is struggling, a big reason is because the bottom of the conference is so much better. It's been 8 seasons since they've had fewer than three teams outside the Pomeroy Top 200 (and even in 2005-06 they still had two), but this season they have none. Every road game in the WCC this season, even for Gonzaga, will be a battle. The problem is, the Selection Committee has not shown the ability to understand this concept, and this is going to harm the WCC's tourney hopes.

Is Marquette A Tournament Team? Marquette's woes continued here, though this one came in a different form. Their offense had been the primary concern this season, but here they scored 1.17 PPP here and still lost. Xavier had a 58.7 eFG% and owned the glass (a 44.0 OR%), and moved to 3-0 in Big East play. Marquette drops to 1-2.

Marquette is now 9-7 overall, with zero wins over the Pomeroy Top 50. There's no question that if the season ended now they'd miss the NCAA Tournament. I'm still not quite ready to drop them out of my bracket projection, however. During the preseason, while the media declared them the obvious Big East favorite, I was very down on Marquette, pointing out how overrated they were last season and how fluky their Tournament run was. But they have stunned even me with how badly they've overperformed this season. I at least thought they'd be close to the Top 25. After a home game against Seton Hall, they head into a difficult part of their schedule, where they're going to need to collect a big scalp to right the ship.

Xavier is 13-3 overall and 3-0 in Big East play, with wins over Cincinnati, Tennessee, Marquette and Butler, along with a bad loss to USC. It's definitely a Tournament resume at the moment. To stay in the Tournament, an 11-7 Big East record will do. At 9-9 or 10-8 they'll have to win a game or two in the Big East tournament.

Arizona Escapes UCLA This was almost an upset. UCLA was only favored by 1.5 points in Vegas. Arizona is undefeated, but they've come close to quite a few losses (they now have five wins by six points or less). The story of this game, though, ended up being Bill Walton doing Bill Walton things. The picture at the top of this blog post basically sums up poor Dave Pasch's decaying sanity as the game went on. All of twitter was pouring out with sympathy to Pasch. America just wanted to give him a collective hug.

The story of this game should have been the continued lack of interior presence on UCLA's roster. They are one of the tallest teams in the country, but everybody in the regular rotation (aside from Tony Parker, really) is a perimeter player. Arizona took 8 two-point jumpers while UCLA took 37, which basically sums up this game. This an extreme version of what has happened to UCLA all season. They have taken 32.1% of their shots on two-point jumpers compared to only 23.1% for opponents.

UCLA's best wins this season have come over Alabama and UC Santa Barbara, so the bubble talk is already starting to heat up. They should be able to heal the holes in their resume in conference play, however. They still get Oregon, Colorado, California and Stanford at home, and should be in good shape if they get to 11-7 in conference play. At 10-8 they'll need to win a game or two in the Pac-12 tournament.

DePaul Upsets Butler In 2OT This was a weird game, with both teams losing a couple of players to foul outs, and DePaul doing what they could to give this game away. It was Jackson Aldridge, pressed into service by the foul outs, who hit the buzzer beater that sent the game into a second overtime. Kellen Dunham had 28 points after halftime alone.

Without Roosevelt Jones, the Butler offense is terribly inconsistent. Kellen Dunham can be an explosive scorer, but he also tends to get into ball hog mode. They don't really have somebody who can create shots for anybody else. And at this point, they look like an NIT team. Butler will probably need to get to at least 9-9 in Big East play to have a real shot at the Tournament, and at 0-3 they now face almost a must-win game at home against Georgetown. After that they head on the road to Creighton.

Florida State Wins An Ugly Jump Shooting Contest Over Clemson This game had a lot of clanging jump shots. The teams were a combined 6-for-30 behind the arc while attempting only 13 total free throws. Clemson finished with a 35.0 eFG% and 0.71 PPP, That makes this the worst shooting and worst offensive game for Clemson since they scored 41 points against Virginia last February. But this Florida State team has been doing that to teams this season. They are so long and athletic that it's awfully difficult to get into the paint and score against them. Teams are shooting 46.6% in the paint against Florida State this season. The only major conference team that is better is Virginia (45.7%).

The issue for the Seminoles, as it's been all season, is offense. Their leading scorer here was actually Ian Miller off the bench (15 points). And it's why they are a borderline bubble team, despite having one of the ten best defenses in the nation. The Seminoles need to get to 10-8 in ACC play to be in good shape for an at-large bid. At 9-9 they'll have work to do in the ACC tournament.

Clemson is 10-4 overall and 1-1 in ACC play, which seems good on the surface, but they don't have a single win yet over a team in the Pomeroy Top 100. They'll get their chances to collect scalps in ACC play, but they're going to need a few of them to make the NCAA Tournament with anything less than a 10-8 conference record.

No comments: