Thursday, January 16, 2014

Morning News: Texas Tech Pummels Baylor, Georgetown Collapses, UNLV Wins In The Pit, Chaz Williams Leads Late Comeback

Toledo channels Bryce Drew to defeat Buffalo

Texas Tech (Yes, Texas Tech) Pummels Baylor We know that Baylor was wildly overrated at #12 in the polls, but I don't think anybody expected this. Texas Tech opened up a 22 point lead in the first half and didn't lose their double-digit lead again until the final 30 seconds of the game (when Baylor briefly pulled within nine). This game just was never even close. As usual with Baylor, when they're bad it's due to bad fundamentals. They allowed Texas Tech a 50% offensive rebounding rate, had only 6 assists, and allowed Texas Tech to get to the rim at will (Tech hit 60.5% on two-pointers).

I don't think Baylor is a bubble team, but this is the type of result that makes you think that I might be wrong about that. They're certainly a class below Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and won't finish any higher than fourth in the Big 12. To stay firmly in the NCAA Tournament, they'll need to get to at least 10-8 in conference play.

This Texas Tech team is very well coached and they play smart basketball. Tubby Smith has done a great job. But the problem is that the talent is severely lacking. So they're not going to contend for the NCAA Tournament, but they should continue to improve throughout the season, and they're going to be a tough team to beat in Lubbock.

Georgetown Suffers A Brutal Collapse Against Xavier Georgetown led this game by 17 points with under 15 minutes to go. Xavier outscored them 44-14 the rest of the game. In the final six minutes of the game, Georgetown didn't score a single point. Georgetown is down two starters, but it would be lazy and inaccurate to blame fatigue for this. Georgetown just seemed to panic and got increasingly upset and shell shocked. The shots of their bench in the final 60 seconds told you everything you needed to know.

The question for Georgetown is the status of Josh Smith and Jabril Trawick. Trawick shouldn't be out too much longer, but Josh Smith's ambiguous "academic" problem could cost him the season. Since Smith has been out, Georgetown has gone 1-2, with the one win coming in overtime over Butler. They've plummeted 15 spots in the Pomeroy ratings just during those three games. They absolutely need to get him back or they really might be a bubble team.

Xavier's strong six week run continued here. They've won 9 of 10, with the only loss coming at Creighton. They're 4-1 in the Big East and 7-4 against the RPI Top 100. If they can just go 7-6 down the stretch (to get to 11-7) that should seal an at-large bid.

UNLV Topples New Mexico In The Pit New Mexico certainly had plenty of chances late in this game, but they just couldn't get a big shot to fall. To be fair, they were due for a close loss after shaky wins over Wyoming and San Jose State. The problem for New Mexico has been defense, which has taken a nosedive this season. They have held only four teams below 1 PPP, and three of the four were cupcakes (Cincinnati, not exactly an offensive powerhouse, was the fourth). UNLV lit them up for 1.21 PPP here.

New Mexico is 12-4 overall and 3-1 in Mountain West play, with a win over Cincinnati to go with this loss and a loss to New Mexico State. You can make a good case that they'd be an NIT if the season ended now. With the Mountain West down, they really need a win over San Diego State, and at least a 12-6 conference record, to earn an at-large bid.

UNLV needed this after back-to-back losses to Air Force and Nevada. This is a big win for the program, and could signal improved play in the second half of the season.

Chaz Williams Leads The Late Comeback Over George Mason George Mason seemed to have this game in hand, leading by five with just over 35 seconds to go. But they committed a turnover on their final three possessions, and Chaz Williams must be the greatest player in college basketball at "we're down with 30 seconds left so let's hurry and get a quick layup" plays. Chaz scored five straight points before forcing the final steal to set up the winning basket. It's just been that kind of season for George Mason, who have had 9 of their 17 games be decided by five points or less. They are only 3-6 in tjose games.

UMass has been living an exciting existence lately. They've won five straight games, but four of the five were decided by five points or less. It's why their Sagarin PURE_ELO is 8th while their PREDICTOR is 34th. The other ratings agree (if you understand what they each measure), as their RPI is 5th and their Pomeroy rating is 32nd. In other words, UMass has the Tournament resume of something like a 3 seed right now, but you should expect them to fade a bit down the stretch as their luck normalizes. They do certainly look safe for an at-large bid, though.

Purdue Wins Ugly Over Illinois This game was pretty much what a lot of people expected between two teams that have struggled lately, particularly on the offensive end. Both teams were passive offensively and sloppy, with nobody standing out. AJ Hammons led all scorers with 17. Illinois was led by Tracy Abrams' 13.

The peril of being a team significantly better on defense than on offense is that you're probably going to end up suffering some ugly losses against teams that you think you should beat. And that's been the case for Illinois since they (for some odd reason) moved into the Top 25 polls. They got destroyed by Wisconsin and then lost to Northwestern and now Purdue. It's a three game losing streak for a team that probably needs to get to 9-9 in Big Ten play to go Dancing. They now have a home game against Michigan State that is almost a must-win, because after that they will head to Columbus facing a five-game losing streak. If Adreian Payne is still out injured, that will be an opportunity that Illinois absolutely has to take.

Purdue is now 12-5 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play, though they have a couple of mediocre-to-bad losses (Washington State and Butler) and their best wins come over Illinois and West Virginia. Like Illinois, they'll be on the bubble if they get to 9-9 in Big Ten play, but it's even harder to see them somehow getting there. They have to play better to become a more serious bubble team.

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