Thursday, February 13, 2014

Morning News: New Bracket, Tyler Ennis Buzzer Beater, Texas Tech Topples Oklahoma, UMass/George Mason And More

This is what happens to Dick Vitale when you cancel UNC/Duke. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS.

New Bracket Projection Starting with five weeks before Selection Sunday I switch to twice-weekly bracket projections. The regular one after Saturday night's games remains, and I also do one after Wednesday night's games. So... here we are. The at-large teams didn't change here, though two auto bids did. Iona replaces Manhattan as the MAAC favorite, while Vermont replaces Stony Brook as the America East favorite. Plenty more happened, and you can read about it in the post.

Syracuse Beats Pitt On A Tyler Ennis Buzzer Beater It was fun seeing so many in the media freaking out about the "huge upset" that was brewing when Pitt was leading this game late. The reality was that Pitt was actually a 1.5 point favorite, and it was deserved. This Pitt team is really good, and a road game at Pitt was the toughest match-up the Orange have faced so far this season (Duke is better than Pittsburgh, of course, but that Syracuse/Duke game was at the Carrier Dome).

The question coming into this game was Lamar Patterson's health, and he wasn't totally himself. He was 5-for-16 from the field and struggled down the stretch both offensively and defensively. Talib Zanna picked up the load, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds and scoring every point that Pitt got in the final five minutes. The star for Syracuse was, of course, Tyler Ennis. Jim Boeheim really shortened up his bench, though the slow tempo of this game really helped. This isn't new, of course, Syracuse has played 60 or fewer possessions in 10 of their 11 ACC games so far this season, which is just staggering.

Syracuse has been living on the edge as far as their undefeated record goes. 5 of their 11 ACC wins have been by six points or less, and they now have the same PPP differential in conference play as Duke (+0.17 PPP), with Virginia leading the ACC at +0.22 PPP. And now I know that it seems like I criticize Syracuse a lot this season, but the reality is... they're just hitting the brutal part of their schedule, and they've been really lucky to make it this far undefeated. One of these days that 30 footer at the buzzer won't go in, and I still think Syracuse is going to pick up three or four more losses before Selection Sunday.

This is a really tough missed opportunity for a Pitt team that has come up agonizingly short time and time again. Their two losses to Syracuse have come by a combined 7 points and they lost to Virginia by 3. It's why despite being ranked one of the 20 best teams in the country by most computer ratings, they are only 1-5 against the RPI Top 50, and are in real danger of something like a 7-9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And pity the poor 1 seed that gets a team like Pitt in their 8/9 game. That would just be cruel.

Texas Tech Topples Oklahoma At home, you'd expect Oklahoma to win this game, but this isn't the total shocker that a lot of people are making it out to be. This Oklahoma team is overrated (they're basically a bubble-quality team) and Texas Tech is underrated. Oklahoma is +0.02 PPP in Big 12 play while Texas Tech is -0.02. The gap between these teams just isn't that big. Oklahoma would have won this game at home if they'd played well... but they didn't. They were a brutal mess in the first half, trailing by as many as 17 points. They played better in the second half, but just dug too deep of a hole against this well-coached, sound Texas Tech squad. Foul trouble that limited Ryan Spangler and Cameron Clark was also a big problem for the Sooners.

This loss doesn't drop Oklahoma to the bubble yet, but they're very close. They are 7-5 in Big 12 play and 6-6 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI and Sagarin PURE_ELO that are both 33rd. Considering their tough remaining schedule, a 3-3 finish (to get to 10-8 in Big 12 play) should get them to the NCAA Tournament. Anything less than that they'll need to win a game or two in the Big 12 tournament.

UMass Drops To George Mason This is the first loss UMass has had at home this season, and it was a bit statistically fluky. George Mason hit 7-for-13 behind the arc while UMass was 7-for-25. UMass turns to Chaz Williams when they need an important basket, and it usually pays off, but he was a brutal 3-for-15 from the field here (though he did have 6 assists to only 1 turnover). That said, these were two teams that had had their luck go in opposite directions early in the season, so it's just balancing out a bit now.

George Mason started the season 0-8 in A-10 play, but they were brutally unlucky. Six of those eight losses were by six points or less, and some of them were just painful to watch. This is still a significant upset, of course, but this George Mason team is significantly better than their record would suggest.

UMass is only 49th in the Pomeroy ratings now, but for the time being they're still in the Field of 68. They're 19-5 overall with wins over New Mexico, Clemson, BYU and LSU to go with this bad loss to George Mason. They're 11-4 against the RPI Top 100, thought obviously they don't have any really premier scalps. Their Sagarin PURE_ELO is 25th. Home games against VCU and St. Louis the rest of the way will be key. If they can win one of those two games and go 4-2 down the stretch, that should get them into the Tournament. At 3-3 or worse down the stretch they'll be on the bubble.

Boise State Beats New Mexico This was a clean, well-played game where Boise State was at home and simply got to take advantage of their strengths. They're the best rebounding team in the Mountain West, and they owned the glass here, finishing with a 12-to-2 offensive rebounding advantage. New Mexico's big front line shut down the paint defensively, and Boise State was reliant on jump shots, but they were able to hit 44% behind the arc.

This wasn't an upset, of course. New Mexico actually slid up from 48th to 47th in the Pomeroy ratings for only losing by 1. But it's a win that Boise State needed to have to stay in the vicinity of the bubble. The Broncos are 6-6 in Mountain West play but only 2-8 against the RPI Top 100, with a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is still only 81st. They'll need to go at least 4-2 down the stretch, and realistically need to go 5-1, to have a good at-large case.

New Mexico drops to 9-2 in Mountain West play, but with a home-and-home still remaining against San Diego State they're going to get their shot to win the league. The home game is up first, on February 22nd. With a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is still 27th, they aren't at too much risk of falling onto the bubble at this point.

Duke And UNC Postponed Duke and North Carolina did what they could to play this game, and held out until just a few hours before tip. Obviously the weather was terrible, but the issue was finding a new date. There was no date that could be chosen that wouldn't force at least one of the two teams to play four games in eight days. They chose February 20th, which actually forces both teams to play four games in eight days, with both playing another game two days later. I suppose that's equally fair to both teams. The other big team impacted by this is Syracuse, as they'll play Duke just two days after Duke plays at UNC.


Anonymous said...

I love how you say the Orange have been lucky to win some of their games. Bottom line, they didn't lose and you give them zero credit for that. Keep hating on Cuse, they'll keep winning!

Anonymous said...

It's almost like you never read this blog before at all. But yeah I would say a freshman hitting a 35 footer with 2 defenders houdning him as time expired to win the game is pretty much the definition of "lucky".

Jeff said...

He willed it in because he wanted it more than Lamar Patterson did.