Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Morning News: Kansas St Upsets Kansas, West Virginia Smokes Iowa St, And Georgetown Continues To Roll

The Octagon Of Doom.

Kansas State Upsets Kansas This was certainly a fun game. Kansas State was scoring almost at will in the second half (more on that in a moment), and it was good to see Andrew Wiggins attempt to put his team on his back down the stretch. The big story out of this game was Joel Embiid, who was unable to play effectively or for much of the game at all due to lingering injuries. With him on the bench, Kansas State was able to attack the rim with impunity. The Wildcats ended up making 17 layups and dunks, including 11 in the second half. Kansas State managed to score 40 points in the second half without hitting a single two-point jumper.

For Kansas, the injury to Embiid is obviously a significant concern. We saw here what happens when he can't protect the paint. But assuming that he will be fully healthy in a week or two, Kansas should be encouraged by this performance. They were only 3 point favorites after all (Kansas State is a very good team that was at home), and the Jayhawks had a disastrous three-point shooting day (3-for-17 on a day that their opponents were 8-for-15). Certainly nobody can say that Kansas played particularly poorly here. But with the losses that they picked up in non-conference play, Kansas might be costing themselves a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas State wasn't even really a bubble team before this game tipped off, but they're certainly not a bubble team now. That doesn't mean that they're a Tourney lock. But at 7-4 in Big 12 play, even a 3-4 finish to get to 10-8 should be sufficient for an at-large bid.

West Virginia Smokes Iowa State The story of the Big 12 the last month has been the decline of Oklahoma State and Baylor, but more attention should go to the dramatic improvement in West Virginia's play. On January 20th, they were 1-7 against Pomeroy Top 150 opponents, and that didn't even include the loss to Virginia Tech (who are well outside the Top 150). Since then? They're 5-2, all against Pomeroy Top 100 opponents. And this was basically a perfect game for them, finishing 59% behind the arc, with an eFG% of 63.8%. Four different players scored at least 16 points, with Juwan Staten nearly putting up a triple double (19 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds).

One of the things to consider after this game is PPP differential in Big 12 play, because right now West Virginia has a better one (+0.02 PPP) than Iowa State (-0.01 PPP). That's right, Iowa State is being outscored in conference play. Now... a couple caveats here. First of all, that's not a big difference. Considering the sample size and different schedules, it wouldn't be fair to say WVU has outplayed ISU in conference play. Second of all, Iowa State's strong non-conference performance means that they still have a significantly stronger resume.

West Virginia is still only 4-8 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that is 66th and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 54th. They're playing well enough now to be an at-large team, but they have a whole lot of work left to do to actually earn an at-large bid. They just dug themselves a really difficult hole to get out of. It's hard to see them getting an at-large bid unless they go 4-2 (to get to 11-7 in conference play) or better down the stretch.

Iowa State was over-ranked, and they're only 6-5 in conference play now, but their remaining schedule is very manageable and their top conference competition has mostly fallen to the wayside as well. So the Cyclones still can get to second place in Big 12 play. At this point there's no reason to worry about Iowa State being on the bubble.

Georgetown Continues To Roll The Hoyas season is on a roller coaster, or so it seems. They have followed up five straight losses with four straight wins. Offensively they were sharp here, committing only 5 turnovers and hitting 67% on two-point jumpers. Bryce Cotton was a monster for Providence (31 points on 8-for-14 shooting), but he didn't get much help from his teammates (a combined 33.3 eFG%).

Georgetown is now 6-6 in Big East play and 5-7 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that is 53rd and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is now 43rd. They have enough big wins, so their top priority now is getting a strong enough won-loss record. They'll need to get to at least 9-9 in Big East play to earn an at-large bid.

As Georgetown has been rising, Providence has been sliding. They've lost four of five to drop to 6-6 in conference play, with computer numbers that have dropped out of the Top 50. Like Georgetown, a 9-9 or better Big East record is probably necessary for an at-large bid. Keep an eye on next Tuesday's home game at Villanova. That could be the game that determines their fate.

No comments: