Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Morning News: Duke Beats Underrated Pittsburgh, Oklahoma St's Slide Continues, Georgetown Loses Another Close One, And The Keith Frazier Scandal

Georgetown fans are getting just a little too used to these looks this season.

Duke Beats Underrated Pittsburgh The media narrative after this game is what you'd expect: Pittsburgh is a "paper tiger" who was overrated by the computers but "hasn't beaten anybody". Blech. First, let's be clear, Duke was awesome here. It was probably the best Duke has looked all season. They shot a white hot 13-for-25 behind the arc, got a big game from Jabari Parker (21 points and 11 rebounds) and a career night for Andre Dawkins (6-for-7 on threes). Duke looked great.

But the thing to remember is that the idea that teams can beat up a bunch of decent teams to inflate their computer ratings but be "unable" to beat elite teams is a myth. Even after this loss, Pitt still has a very strong +0.13 PPP in ACC play, and they've destroyed borderline Top 50 teams like Stanford, Clemson and Maryland. They are a really good team that is still very much in contention for a share of the ACC title.

Duke has been playing some awfully good basketball over the last five games, collecting wins over Pittsburgh, Virginia and Florida State, moving up to 9-4 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI and Sagarin PURE_ELO that have both ticked inside the Top 10. They're quietly starting to make a case for a 1 seed. They'll probably need a share of the ACC title and the ACC tournament title to get it, though.

Oklahoma State's Slide Continues Oklahoma State initially looked like they were handling the Michael Cobbins injury well. They lost by three at Kansas State, but there's no shame there. They then beat Texas and won at West Virginia. But slowly, steadily, their defense has fallen apart. This shouldn't be a total shock here. Cobbins was the best paint defender on the team, and teams have scored much more efficiently with him out of there. Only four teams broke 0.95 PPP in a game against OSU while Cobbins was playing, while six of seven have without him. The 1.17 PPP allowed to Oklahoma here is a new season worst.

Since Cobbins got hurt, Oklahoma State has faded from third to 19th in the Pomeroy ratings. They're not realistically at risk of falling to the bubble, but their projected Tournament seed is starting to drop, and it's not unreasonable to think that they'll finish Big 12 play with something like a 10-8 record. On Saturday they'll get a home game against similarly reeling Baylor.

Oklahoma has won four straight to push their Big 12 record to 6-2, and their RPI is all the way up to 15th. Sooners fans should prepare themselves for a bit of regression, though. They're 5-1 in games decided by five points or less and only 35th in Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They're not on the bubble now, but in my opinion they're going to end up back in the vicinity of the bubble before this season is out.

Georgetown Loses Another Close One This season for Georgetown has gone from bad to excruciating, and as I joked on twitter last night, Georgetown's roster must lead the nation in deep sighs in the final 60 seconds of games this season. They led for much of this game, but once again were done in down the stretch by sloppy offense. They also had three 50/50 referee calls go against them in the final minute, which is pretty surprising for a home team. But that's just the way things have gone for them this season. James Bell was the best player for Villanova, forcing 4 steals and scoring 16 points, including some clutch plays down the stretch.

Georgetown is going to be without Josh Smith for the rest of the season, which is a massive loss. He was their only quality interior scorer, and their most efficient scorer overall this season. They finally got Jabril Trawick back for this game, but he's not the same level of player. The Hoyas have dropped five straight to fall to 3-6 in the Big East. The Michigan State game coming up isn't really the concern (obviously they'd love the upset, but a loss won't matter). The key will be the few weeks after that, when they pile up games against the likes of DePaul, Butler, St. John's and Seton Hall. They absolutely have to take care of business or they'll be NIT-bound.

Villanova moves to 18-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big East with this win, with an RPI that has slid up to 4th. They have to be careful, though. The Big East is underrated this year and not getting a whole lot of respect, and if Villanova loses a couple of games late in the season and falls in the Big East tournament, their NCAA Tournament seed could easily slip to a 4 or 5. They still have some tricky road games (Providence and Xavier) and also still have their rematch against Ethan Wragge and Creighton.

SMU's Keith Frazier Is In An Academic Scandal You can read the details at the link. This certainly seems very shady, and it seems like SMU at least knew what was going on (though there's no clear proof for the latter assertion). The questions are, will Frazier be suspended and will SMU be punished? I doubt highly that SMU will be punished here. A suspension for Frazier could happen, though it wouldn't be the first time that the NCAA basically decided that it was too much effort to investigate and let a case of academic fraud go away. We'll have to just stay tuned to see how this turns out.

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