Monday, January 06, 2014

Morning News: San Diego St Topples Kansas, Wisconsin Wins Impressively, Oregon Goes Down, Wake Forest Is Better Than You Think

Relax, Fran. Fran. Relax. Come on, Fran. Chill out.

It was an NFL playoff Sunday, but we had four fantastic games involving seven NCAA Tournament teams. I hope you got to watch at least some of these. Let's get to them:

San Diego State Topples Kansas In Phog Allen I'm not sure you can say anything about this game other than "Kansas misses Jeff Withey". Withey was the best interior defender in the nation the past two seasons (and arguably the best of the century in college basketball so far), but this year's team has struggled at times to defend the paint. Joel Embiid is good at blocking shots, but San Diego State did a good job of drawing him away from the basket with screens. San Diego State was able to take 28 layups while only shooting 8 three-pointers, which is just staggering.

There is a lot freaking out about Kansas, but they're still ranked 13th in Pomeroy. They have four losses, but they've been by a total of 17 points, and all against NCAA Tournament teams. At the same time, they've beaten Duke, Georgetown and New Mexico by a combined 50 points. So while the media is saying that they might drop to a 7 seed, I still think they're the Big 12 favorite.

San Diego State is making a good case for being the Mountain West favorite. The only other team in the debate is New Mexico. With big non-conference scalps (Kansas, Creighton and Marquette) they can make a run at something like a 3 seed if they win the conference title.

Wisconsin Wins Impressively Over Iowa This was a fantastic game that reaffirmed (in my opinion) the idea that these are two of the ten best teams in the country. The game-changer might have been Fran McCaffery melting down and picking up two technicals and getting ejected. This isn't the first time he's melted down on the sidelines, and he really need to do a better job of keeping his composure. While the narrative hype about the ejection giving Wisconsin "momentum" is stupid, I'm guessing that Iowa would like those four Wisconsin free throws back in a game that they lost by four.

This Wisconsin team impresses me with their attitude and focus. With a 14-0 record, against a tough Iowa team, with really bad foul trouble and star Sam Dekker having a brutal game (2-for-12 shooting), this was supposed to be the game that they lose by four points and I spend the Morning News post telling everybody not to overreact to. This is a great win. Considering their favorable schedule (no road games at Michigan State or Ohio State) you can make a good case that they're now the favorites to win the Big Ten regular season title.

Iowa fans should come out of this game encouraged. Obviously they wanted this win for their resume, but their team is playing really, really good basketball right now. Their only problem is that they're in the deepest conference in the country, and they could end the season ranked near 10th in the country in the computers while still compiling something like an 11-7 conference record. I still think Iowa is heading for a 3 or 4 seed in March, but if they slip to a 5 or 6 seed they're going to be a really scary one.

And Then There Were Six... (Oregon Goes Down) Every team is going to be dreading the Utah/Colorado road trip in the Pac-12. Even a team like Arizona is going to have a really tough time getting a sweep, and the Selection Committee isn't going to give you a lot of credit even if you get it because neither of the teams will likely be Top 25 in March. This was a fun game, too. Colorado was down by double-digits in the second half but turned things around with a 43-22 run. And they ended up being the first team to drop 100 points on Oregon in regulation since 2009.

Some Colorado fans are probably upset about me saying that they likely won't be a Top 25 team in March since they'll probably be ranked around 16-17 in the polls tomorrow, but they're overrated. If that miracle shot doesn't go in against Kansas, they're probably not ranked right now. They definitely are playing like an NCAA Tournament team, but I think they're a step behind the top 10-20 teams in the country. In my opinion, they're somewhere in the 6-9 NCAA Tournament seed range.

Oregon had already won three games in overtime this season, so they were overdue to lose a close game. But there's no reason to panic. They got out of the toughest road trip in the Pac-12 with a 1-1 record. It's not the end of the world. They've got a big week coming up with a pair of home games against bubble teams (California and Stanford).

Wake Forest Is Better Than You Think This Wake Forest win over North Carolina isn't the upset people think. The Vegas line was 6.5 points, and even that was only due to public perceptions about these two teams. The computers had the line closer to 3-4 points.

I wasn't a huge fan of the original Jeff Bzdelik hire, but at this point I'm basically the only person left on the Bzdelik bandwagon. It's impossible to overestimate how much Wake Forest fans hate him. It's the most toxic coach-fan base relationship I've seen since NC State with Herb Sendek. But the fact is, Wake Forest has gotten significantly better each year he's been there. That first year the program was a total mess - they stunk and had a whole bunch of bad character players. Bzdelik cut three players for bad off-court behavior and others transferred out, and the roster had nothing left. But after being ranked 271st in the country by Pomeroy that first year, they were 217th in year two, 134th and year three and are now 75th in year four. And this roster is still young (eight of their top ten minute earners are freshmen or sophomores). So they're not a realistic NCAA Tournament team this season, but they might be next season.

Those three huge wins from earlier in the season (Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky) should keep North Carolina from having to worry about the bubble this season, but don't be shocked if they fall to something like 10-8 in ACC play. Their offense is simply very inconsistent outside of Marcus Paige, and this is the third time this season they've been held below 0.90 PPP.

Luke Fischer Is Going To Marquette Indiana transfer Luke Fischer agreed with Tom Crean not to transfer to any Big Ten schools, so being a Wisconsin native he only had one real choice. This is a big get for Marquette with Chris Otule and Davante Gardner graduating at the end of the season.. He could be eligible for Big East play next season. Fischer is a really talented big man with NBA potential if he develops right.


Anonymous said...

Kansas also has the 6th stingiest free throw percentage defense in the country. In their four losses, Kansas has held it's opponents (who combine for a 71.1% free throw average for the season) to a combined 61% from the line. I hear Kansas practices intense staredowns and putter smelliest player on the block next to their opponents free throw shooter.

But seriously, if these teams would have just hit their average like Kansas did (68% for the year, 67.4% in their losses) then those four losses by a combined 18 points would look more like four losses by a combined 30 points. And don't even get me started on the outlier performances that Duke and Georgetown had at the line!

Jeff said...

Kansas does have a stingy FT defense. Though adding 12 more points allowed over the course of the season wouldn't dramatically impact their computer ratings. They'd still be around 15th-17th, and they are still a young team that should get better as the season goes along.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but 12 points over the course of four games would dramatically impact their computer ratings.

Kansas' opponents have left behind about 1.5 points at the free throw line per game. 10 of Kansas' 13 opponents have shot worse than their season average vs Kansas. That's very good luck for Kansas.

Kansas' adjusted defense number would increase by about 2.2 points if their opponents had shot at their season average vs Kansas. That translates to a defensive rating of 41 instead of their current rating of 19. This adjustment would move Kansas' current KenPom rating of 13 to somewhere around 22. That's a pretty big shift.

I beleive free throw % defense is an important stat because it is something that is completely out of the defense's control, yet it can greatly influence a team's defensive rating if opponents consistently have one-direction outlier games.

You Are Nuts said...

There is no way Kansas will be the #1 overall seed.

Here's the historical records of the overall #1 seed over the last 10 years heading into the NCAA tournament:
2013: Louisville 29-5
2012: Kentucky 32-2
2011: Ohio State 32-2
2010: Kansas 32-2
2009: Louisville 28-5
2008: North Carolina 32-2
2007: Florida 29-5
2006: Duke 30-3
2005: Illinois 32-1
2004: Kentucky 26-4

The most losses the overall #1 seed ever had is 5.

Kansas is currently 9-4 and they have the entire Big 12 season ahead of them, including 6 games against Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor.

It's not realistic to expect Kansas to only lose one game the rest of the season, which is probably what they'd have to do to even have a chance at the #1 overall seed.

Jeff said...

I didn't say that they're going to be the #1 seed overall. I've said quite a few times that I think they're the most likely 1 seed, because I think they're more significantly likely to sweep their conference titles than the other teams on the 1 seed line.