Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Morning News: Kansas Takes Down Iowa St, Duke Rides Lucky Bounces, Texas Crushes West Virginia & Spencer Dinwiddie Is Done

Jerami Grant go Kaboom. This also sums up Boston College's defensive rebounding.

Kansas Takes Down Iowa State In Ames As good as this Kansas team is, they needed to finally win a close game. They had played four games all season long that were decided by six points or less, all against Tournament teams, and all that ended up in losses. It's why they had dropped as far as 20th in the polls despite clearly being a significantly better team than that. Finally, here, they pulled out a tight one.

The big Kansas guns were all firing here. Andrew Wiggins had a monster 17 points and 19 rebounds. Joel Embiid dominated the paint with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks (not that Iowa State has an NBA sized big man to counter him). Naadir Thorpe led everybody with 23 points. The only real concern for the Jayhawks were turnovers. Inconsistent point guard play has made turnovers a problem for Kansas all season long, and the 24 turnovers here were a season high.

Iowa State fans really shouldn't feel discouraged after this one. Obviously the loss stings, but the team played awfully well. They took a Kansas team that was firing on all cylinders, were playing without a 100% healthy DeAndre Kane, and still would have won if their three-point shooting was close to their season average. Instead they were done in with putrid 4-for-25 three-point shooting. While the polls have generally said something else, I think deep down most Big 12 fans recognized that Kansas was the team to beat. Iowa State is still in contention for the Big 12 title, and they certainly have a great shot at second place.

Duke Rides Some Lucky Bounces Over Virginia One of the things I constantly talk about on this blog is the luck inherent in results of close games. It's not just bad referee calls or loose ball bounces, but it's also luck on shots. A millimeter on a shot can be the difference between a make and a miss on a shot late in the game, and that is rarely more apparent than it was in this game. Trailing Virginia by a point with under 20 seconds to go, Rasheed Sulaimon's three bounced high off the rim but somehow popped back into the basket. Virginia had a couple of chances on their next possession but couldn't score and had to foul Amile Jefferson. After Jefferson's first free throw went in, the second bricked, but took a funky dead bounce off the backboard and fell into to put Duke up by four to seal the win.

Virginia put up a heck of a fight here, trailing in Cameron Indoor by 13 points with under seven minutes to go. But while social media was panicking for Duke, the reality is that this is a very good Virginia team. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate them as one of the 20 best teams in the country, and Pomeroy only projected a two point win for Duke (before those two final free throws by Jefferson, Pomeroy actually had the final score nailed perfectly). This Virginia team should be in the NCAA Tournament. An 11-7 ACC record should get them in, and it's hard to see them not getting to 11-7.

Coming into this game with a 1-2 ACC record, Duke really needed a big win and they got it. Duke wasn't at their best here, though. They relied heavily on outside shooting (10-for-22 behind the arc) and were again outplayed in the paint. Coach K gave Marshall Plumlee 12 minutes, but the big man was useless (0 points, 1 rebound, 2 fouls). Duke just doesn't have a quality big man aside from Jabari Parker. Coach K is being tight with his minutes, but that's presumably part of a bigger plan for the season. It's hard to see Duke going far in the ACC or NCAA tournaments with Jabari Parker getting under 30 minutes per game.

Texas Crushes West Virginia This game went under the radar opposite the Duke game, but this was far and away the best Texas has looked all season long. This game was never close. The Longhorns led by 14 at halftime, and then led by as many as 21 points in the second half. A 14-5 run for West Virginia over the final four minutes of the game made the final score seem closer than it really should have been. In West Virginia's defense, they shot a putrid 4-for-25 behind the arc, but they've been streaky on threes all season long. This is the third time they've shot 21% or worse behind the arc, and all three of those performances resulted in losses.

Texas is 13-4 overall and 2-2 in Big 12 play, with wins over North Carolina and West Virginia and without a particularly bad loss. That's a very bubbly resume. If they can get to 9-9 in Big 12 play and grab a couple of big scalps along the way, they should be in pretty good shape for an at-large bid.

West Virginia's resume appears to be pretty terrible. They're 10-7 overall and have no quality wins to go with bad losses to Virginia Tech and Purdue. But they're a lot better than their resume, and it would be a mistake to write them off totally. They'll need to get to at least 10-8 in Big 12 play to have a real shot, so their margin of error is shrinking. They have three tough road games over the next two weeks (Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor), and will really need to find a way to steal at least one of them.

Spencer Dinwiddie Officially Done For The Season This was the news that we all expected after Dinwiddie's injury yesterday. The Colorado players and staff were under the impression that he would be done for the season, but he needed the MRI to make it official. It is now official. It's a brutal blow for the Buffaloes, and it means that they're going to be in a major struggle just to make the NCAA Tournament. The big wins they got with Dinwiddie will still count on Selection Sunday, but they're probably going to need to get to 10-8 in Pac-12 play. Currently sitting 3-1, that means they'll need to go 7-7 the rest of the way. Up next is a key home game against UCLA on Thursday.

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