Sunday, January 26, 2014

Morning News: New Bracket, What Does Michigan's Win Mean?, Duke Takes Florida St To The Woodshed, Baylor Falls To Texas, Iowa St Hangs On, And Much More

Coaching is easy, you guys.

New Bracket Projection It's Sunday, so there's a new bracket projection. There wasn't a ton of movement in the bracket this week, though Oregon and Baylor did take tumbles. In the end, only one at-large team changed, with George Washington moving in and replacing Colorado, who just haven't been the same since the Spencer Dinwiddie injury. Two automatic bid projected winners have changed, too. Delaware has replaced Drexel as Colonial favorite and American University has replaced Boston University as Patriot League favorite.

Michigan Beats Michigan State: What Does It Mean? The game of the day was the ESPN College Gameday game, Michigan at Michigan State. What's interesting is that despite Michigan winning, you can argue that the two best players on the court were from Michigan State. Nik Stauskas was 5-for-6 on threes, but otherwise was relatively quiet. Gary Harris, on the other hand, was dominant early en route to a career high 27 points (on 9-for-15 shooting), while Keith Appling had 10 points and 10 assists. The reality was that with two of Michigan State's four best players (Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson) out hurt, those two had to step up, and they did. It just wasn't quite enough.

Does this win put Michigan in control for the Big Ten regular season title? Maybe. They're in first place alone with all the tiebreaks at the moment, but they're also due for a bit of a reality check. They've had three huge wins in the last eight days, but all three came down to the final minute, and this Michigan State win comes with that huge injury asterisk. Michigan is probably not the best team in the conference. In my opinion, the best team is still a fully healthy Michigan State squad.

Michigan's Big Ten regular season title hopes probably come down to their performance in the first six games to start the month of February. Other than the Nebraska game, the other five are all either on the road or against Pomeroy Top 15 opponents. Michigan will go from being the hunter to the hunted, and they'll need to step up. To stay on pace for the regular season title, they need to win at least four of those six games.

Duke Takes Florida State To The Woodshed This Florida State team is underrated. They're arguably one of the 25 best teams in the nation. But they were just annihilated here by Duke. Against a Florida State front line that is one of the biggest in the nation, Duke had a staggering 27 offensive rebounds (61.4 OR%) and earned 43 free throws compared to just 18 for Florida State. And despite not really being able to get a shot to fall around the rim, the Blue Devils cruised to an easy win.

The ACC remains the most underrated conference race. The media has basically handed the title to Syracuse, but the reality is that it's a full four team race, with Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh all in a tight battle. If Duke is going to win the league, it will likely come because they get a big win next week. They head on the road to play Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and really need to win at least one of those two. A sweep would give them four losses, which would force them to win out to have a reasonable shot at a share of the ACC title.

Florida State is only 4-3 in ACC play thus far, but it's come against a nasty schedule. They're probably the fifth best team in the league, and should improve on that won/loss record as their schedule eases up over the next few weeks. At this point, Florida State is not at serious risk of falling onto the bubble.

Baylor Falls To Texas Baylor was badly overrated for most of this season, but their level of play has decayed even further. And it's hard to even point to one specific thing because they've been mediocre across the board. They had a terrible 34.8 eFG% here, allowed a brutal 62.9 eFG% to Iowa State, gave up 1.34 PPP to Texas Tech, and also got crushed on the glass in that latter game. Not only are they not playing like a Top 25 team, they're not playing like a Tournament team. They've plummeted to 45th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR and 55th in Pomeroy.

Despite Baylor's struggles, it has to be noted that Texas has played really good basketball the last few weeks. They have been efficient and getting good performances from a variety of players. Here it was freshman Isaiah Taylor pouring in a career-high 27 points. Texas is now 5-2 in Big 12 play with wins over Iowa State, Kansas State and North Carolina, and without a real bad loss. It's definitely a Tournament resume, and if they get to 11-7 then they'll be in. At 10-8 or 9-9 they'll probably need a win or two in the Big 12 tournament.

Iowa State Hangs On Late Against Kansas State Iowa State came into this game on a three game losing streak, but there was no reason for significant panic. In a conference as good as the Big 12, there's no shame in losing on the road against NCAA Tournament teams, or to lose to an awfully good Kansas squad. They needed a bounce-back win, though, and they got it here. Melvin Ejim was a physical force for Iowa State, scoring 20 points (including 10-for-11 at the line) with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Iowa State's schedule continues to be brutal for the next three games, where they'll go to Kansas, come home for Oklahoma and go on the road to Oklahoma State. If they can even get to 2-1 in that stretch they should be happy. After that, though, they'll get to start padding that conference record. Five of their following six games will be against TCU, Texas Tech or West Virginia. So in the end, Iowa State should be able to improve on their current 3-3 Big 12 record to get to 11-7 or 12-6.

This loss is a tough missed opportunity for a Kansas State team that probably should end up in the NCAA Tournament, but is far from a lock. They're 4-3 in Big 12 play with wins over Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and George Washington, along with bad losses to Charlotte and Northern Colorado. They are 6-5 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 30th. It's a Tournament resume for now, but to stay in they'll probably need to get to 10-8 in Big 12 play. At 9-9 they'll have to win a game or two in the Big 12 tournament.

Wisconsin Beats Purdue This was a "taking care of business" game for Wisconsin. As I said a few days ago, the panic over Wisconsin's three game losing streak was silly. Their defense was not good against Minnesota, but the losses against Indiana and Michigan both came down to the final 30 seconds, and none of these losses were "bad" losses. Wisconsin was still fourth in the Big Ten in PPP differential heading into this game, and still looked like a Top 10 or 15 team in the nation. After this win they're now tied for third in PPP differential in Big Ten play with Michigan, interestingly enough.

The best news for Wisconsin in this game was that their defense settled down after that crazy 1.40 PPP performance against Minnesota, only allowing 0.91 PPP here. Nobody is going to confuse this Wisconsin defense with last year's defense, but the reality is that it's a myth that Bo Ryan teams always play elite defense. In fact, statistically this Wisconsin team is extremely similar to the team three years ago, which didn't get the "Great O/Bad D" tag simply because they played at a slower tempo and had lower scores in their games. On a PPP basis, though, that team was very similar to this one. Right now, Pomeroy rates Wisconsin the 5th best offense and the 39th best defense. Three years ago they were 3rd and 53rd, respectively.

Purdue is not a bad team, but their offense is very mediocre, particularly when AJ Hammons gets into foul trouble. Hammons isn't a great offensive player, but he's productive and he draws the defense away from his teammates. Purdue just takes a ton of jump shots, particularly early in the shot clock, and that's not conducive to efficient offense. In this game, they took a staggering 45 jump shots, hitting just 8 of them. For comparison, Wisconsin took only 31.

Colorado's At-Large Hopes In Trouble This game was never particularly competitive. Arizona State grabbed a 13 point first half lead that they pushed to 24 midway through the second half. Arizona State didn't really have a player stand-out, though Jahii Carson played well (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists). What really stood out was Colorado's offensive playmaking, which has really been a mess since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with that unfortunate injury.

Colorado finished this game with a brutal 10 assists and 19 turnovers, which hasn't really been abnormal. In Pac-12 play this season they are dead last in assist rate (44.2%) and are second-to-last in assist-to-turnover ratio (their 0.91 ratio is slightly ahead of Washington State's 0.90).

The Selection Committee will not dismiss Colorado's early season wins because they came with Dinwiddie, but Colorado is going to have trouble making the NCAA Tournament without getting to 10-8 or better in conference play. And at this point, it's hard to see them going better than 8-10. Unless there's a turnaround in play over the next few weeks, that Dinwiddie injury is going to cost Colorado an NCAA Tournament berth.

Arizona State is 4-3 in Pac-12 play with wins over Colorado, Utah and Marquette along with bad losses to Washington and the University of Miami. They're 50th in RPI and 3-5 against the RPI Top 100. It's a very bubble-ish resume, though at the moment you'd probably argue that they'd one of the first teams out of the bracket right now. That home game against Arizona in a few weeks will be crucial, and they'll also need to get to at least 10-8 in Pac-12 play to have a good shot at an at-large bid.

Providence Wins Their Fifth Straight Big East Game Don't look now, but Providence has won five straight Big East games. And while some of the performances were a little bit statistically odd (like Creighton's poor shooting day against them), the reality is that only one of the five wins came by fewer than nine points, so it's hard to say that they've been particularly lucky. You'd assume that a six man rotation is eventually going to wear out from the grind of the Big East schedule, but it hasn't happened yet.

Bryce Cotton has been just superb, playing a staggering number of minutes and doing absolutely everything for his team. He's playing 39.4 minutes per game, putting up 20.5 points and 5.9 assists per game with a 3.0 A/TO ratio. Doug McDermott will be the Big East Player of the Year, but it's pretty hard to argue for anybody but Cotton as the second best player. Right now, Providence is 5-2 in the Big East with wins over Creighton and Xavier, along with a bad loss to Seton Hall. Their Sagarin PURE_ELO is up to 37th. If the season ended now, that's probably a Tournament resume. But like I said, the risk of them wearing out and slowing down at some point this season are pretty high. Unless they finish 11-7 or better in Big East play, they're going to enter the Big East tournament with work left to do to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Xavier had won 10 of 11 games before losing here. Some of those wins (St. John's, Marquette and Georgetown) don't seem quite as impressive now as they did at the time, though. The wins over Tennessee and Cincinnati are nice, but they're a bubble team. Home games against Creighton, Villanova and Providence will all be very important as they try to collect quality wins.


Sam said...

What does Michigan State's win mean? Whatever something that doesn't exist means, now we're stuck in a quandary.

Jeff said...

Haha, whoops.