Monday, January 20, 2014

Morning News: Oregon Loses Their 4th Straight, Southern Miss Takes the C-USA Lead, Iowa Takes Care Of Business

It's been a tough two weeks for these guys.

Oregon Loses Their Fourth Straight Oregon trailed for essentially the entire game here (Oregon State grabbed the lead less than three minutes in and never gave it up again), and actually trailed by double-digits for much of it. Their defense had been falling apart during this losing streak, and it didn't get much better here. Their only three games allowing 1.18 PPP or more this season were the first three games of this losing streak. They held Oregon State to only 1.07 PPP here (not that that's particularly impressive), but squandered even that by shooting 4-for-19 behind the arc.

I think we all knew that Oregon was overrated when they were 13-0. But with Dominic Artis back in the lineup, it seemed like the worst case scenario was a borderline Top 25 team. This slump seems inexplicable - there's no way they can be this bad, can they? And really, they probably aren't. When a pendulum swings this hard from one direction to the other for a basketball team, it usually regresses closer to the mean over time. In my opinion, the real Oregon is somewhere between these two streaks. They're better than this. That said, they're now 1-4 in Pac-12 play and have an at-large bid to worry about. They need to get to at least 9-9, which means that they can't afford a loss on the road against the two Washington teams this coming week.

Oregon State has now beaten Pomeroy Top 50 teams in two of their last three games. They're playing better basketball, and might be able to sneak into the NIT if they can continue to improve. Could that save Craig Robinson's job?

Southern Miss Takes The C-USA Lead Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech have run away from the rest of the field in the Conference USA race. Both teams are also in contention for an at-large bid should they fall short in the C-USA tournament. So if you wanted to tune in for some Conference USA action, this was the game. The problem is, these teams only get to play once in the regular season. Playing at home, Southern Miss had the advantage, and they capitalized. Southern Miss managed to win despite 2-for-18 three-point shooting, and they did it by dominating the glass (a 47.5 OR% vs a 14.7 OR% for Louisiana Tech).

So what does this mean for who is the favorite to take the league's auto bid? That's a hard question that I'm not sure I can answer at this point. Louisiana Tech got outplayed here, but it's a one game sample and they were on the road, so you don't want to overreact to that. Certainly this is a nice win for the Southern Miss resume. The Golden Eagles are now 16-3 with this win to go with bad losses to Western Kentucky and Tulsa. The fact that they're not going to have any big scalps on Selection Sunday means that they probably can only afford one more regular season loss to have a real chance for an at-large bid. They're going to need a very gaudy record.

Iowa Takes Care Of Business Against Minnesota This final score was deceptive. Minnesota led by ten points late in the first half and this game was competitive for most of the second half. Iowa finished the game on a 16-2 run in the final five minutes, which turned a 7 point lead into a 21 point lead and made this game look like a blowout. Iowa deserved to win the game, of course, but I don't think anybody who watched this game felt like they were viewing a 20 point blowout.

In this year's Big Ten, where basically every game is tough, taking care of business is always a good result. Iowa continues to chug along, but they head into a crucial part of their schedule. They have a tough game at Michigan on Wednesday, but the real test will be the two weeks after that. Three of their next four games after Wednesday will be at home, against Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. If Iowa is going to win the Big Ten regular season title, those are the games they need to take care of business in. They certainly don't need a sweep, of course, but they need to go 2-1 to feel good about their chances.

Minnesota is back to 3-3 in Big Ten play. As I've been saying for a while, they really just need to get to 9-9 in Big Ten play to be in pretty good shape for an at-large bid. They don't have any bad losses yet and they have wins over Ohio State and Florida State, and there's no way to get to 9-9 without picking up a few more RPI Top 50 wins. So they'll have the scalps they need - they just need to avoid a sub-.500 conference record.

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