Monday, February 03, 2014

Morning News: Is Virginia The ACC Favorite? Also, Michigan Loses To Indiana, Oregon St Beats UCLA, And Brandon Ashley/Travis Bader

Malcolm Brogdon Celebrates His Game Winner

Is Virginia The ACC Favorite? This Virginia/Pittsburgh game was supposed to be competitive, and it certainly lived up to expectations. Down the stretch, though, both defenses really dominated. There was a grand total of one field goal made in the final 6:30, and it was Malcolm Brogdon's three-pointer with less than a second to go for the win. The stats across the board were even, so it's really difficult to say that either team outplayed the other.

At this point I think a really good argument can be made that Virginia is the favorite to win the ACC regular season title. Now note: I'm not saying Virginia is better than Syracuse. So far, the two teams have been very close in ACC play (Virginia is +0.22 PPP and Syracuse is +0.19 PPP). Virginia is one loss behind, of course. But the rest of the way, the strength of schedule gap is just staggering. Syracuse has to go on the road to play Duke, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Florida State. Virginia? Their toughest remaining road game is at Clemson. That schedule difference is one of the most yawning I've ever seen. Syracuse has run up an undefeated record with a combination of being good, being lucky, and having a soft schedule. But they're heading into the gauntlet for the last month of the regular season.

The narrative about Pittsburgh is going to continue to be "who have they beat", which is one of the laziest narratives out there. They've had a soft schedule, but have also had bad luck in close games. They've had three games come down to the final 30 seconds and lost all three. You can argue whether they're really a top 10-12 team in the country, but they're definitely a Top 25 team. The most important game for them the rest of the regular season will be February 12th, when Syracuse comes to town. That's their chance to shut up the critics.

Michigan Goes Down To Indiana We can argue whether the Big Ten or Big 12 conference is the best in the nation, but the Big Ten is challenging the 2009-10 ACC for the deepest conference in recent memory. Every team is solid, and every team is difficult to beat at home. I've been arguing for a while that a 14-4 record is likely going to be good enough for a share of the Big Ten regular season title this season. Everybody's going to lose games.

Yogi Ferrell's 7-for-8 shooting behind the arc was the story of this game, though Noah Vonleh was a beast inside (10 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks). This win pushes Indiana back to 4-5 in Big Ten play with a very reasonable schedule over the next two weeks. Indiana could make the NCAA Tournament at 8-10 in Big Ten play, but their odds will be significantly better if they get to 9-9. Considering how difficult their schedule will be over the final two weeks of the regular season, they need to rack up the wins now.

Michigan was overdue for a close loss after some luck in Big Ten play thus far (even at 8-0, they were only second in the Big Ten in PPP differential, and this loss drops them behind Iowa for third). But like I said, everybody's going to lose games, and Michigan is still in the driver's seat for a Big Ten regular season title. They shouldn't struggle too much with Nebraska on Wednesday, but after that they have road games at Iowa and Ohio State, and will need to find a way to steal one of those games to stay on pace for the Big Ten title (yes, Michigan will very likely be an underdog in Columbus).

Oregon State Knocks Off UCLA Oregon State tried pretty hard to blow this game. Their execution down the stretch was putrid, from dumb shots to poor inbounds passes to four consecutive missed free throws during the final two minutes of the game. The big call came with about 15 seconds left, with UCLA pulling within 1 point and having the ball back, and Jordan Adams drove toward the hoop and was called for a charge. It was a close call, but it should have been a blocking foul (the defender was still sliding sideways). But that's what homecourt is for. Roberto Nelson broke the free throw slump by hitting a pair, and then Oregon State correctly fouled in the #FoulOrDefend situation.

This loss drops UCLA into a tie for second place in the Pac-12 with California. The Bruins are 5-2 against the RPI Top 50, but that's a deceptive stat. Their only win over an RPI Top 40 team is Colorado, and the Buffaloes probably won't stay there. Without any more shots at Arizona, they're going to have to make the NCAA Tournament by plowing through a whole lot of games against the Pac-12 middle class to have a good W/L record. Starting next week, UCLA will play a staggering five consecutive games against teams between 40th and 58th in the Pomeroy ratings (two of the five on the road). So they can lock themselves into the NCAA Tournament during that stretch, or they can throw themselves back onto the bubble.

Oregon State moves into a five-way tie for fourth place in the Pac-12, and it's not a fraudulent record at all. They're 7th in PPP differential in conference play, and are actually slightly outscoring their opponents overall. An at-large bid isn't totally out of the question, but it's a big long shot. More realistically, Craig Robinson will want to finish high enough in the standings to maybe make a little Pac-12 tournament run to save his job.

Brandon Ashley Done For The Season This was the expectation, but the news is now official. I gave my thoughts about this injury yesterday, so rather than repeat myself you can just click on that link and read what I already wrote. But in short, the chief concern for Arizona is depth. They play a seven man rotation, of whom only three are bigs. They now have a six man rotation, of whom only two are bigs. Arizona is the heavy favorite to take the Pac-12 regular season title regardless, but somebody on that bench is going to have to step up for Arizona to preserve their 1 seed and to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament.

Travis Bader Is The All-Time Three-Point King You might want to memorize this one for future games of bar trivia. Oakland's Travis Bader passed JJ Redick for most career three-pointers made in a career. So congratulations to him for an impressive record.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Virginia might be the ACC favorite. Syracuse drew the most difficult conference schedule this year, and it's backloaded. In my mind Pitt and Duke are almost out of the race. Either team would have to run the table to even share the ACC season title. If Virginia beats Syracuse, Virginia most likely isn't going to end the season with more than three in-conference losses. If syracuse beats Virginia, the same applies.
Too many things would have to go perfectly for Pitt or Duke to even share a title at this point. The most important game remaining on the ACC schedule is on March 1 in Virginia.