Friday, February 21, 2014

Morning News: North Carolina Upsets Duke, Louisiana Tech's Crippling Loss. Seton Hall Crushes Georgetown & BYU Wins A Must-Win

HOW COULD THESE HORRIBLE STUDENTS RUSH THE COURT! ELITE BASKETBALL PROGRAMS DON'T...... eh, I can't even say that with a straight face. Have fun, guys.

North Carolina Upsets Duke This was a fun game, if not a particularly well played one. Duke, in particular, was a mess offensively. They went away from Jabari Parker for long stretches of the game and seemed far too happy to settle for long jumpers, particularly during the stretches when North Carolina went into a zone. For the game as a whole, Duke ended up with a jump shot on 54 of their 63 attempts from the field, and they went awfully cold in the second half. between the 15:00 and 6:30 marks in the second half, Duke was 0-for-8 on jumpers and had a total of 2 points on 15 possessions (0.13 PPP). In all they shot 22.7% behind the arc, dropping them to 2-3 this season when shooting below 34% on threes. They are 19-3 when shooting 34% or better, and two of those three losses came against Kansas and Syracuse.

As far as team quality goes, there's no reason for Duke fans to sweat this loss. They were on the road (and UNC got the typical homecourt advantage from the refs) and shot like utter crap but still led most of the game and were competitive in the final minute. Nobody could realistically come out of this game thinking North Carolina is the better team. But as far as resumes go, Duke is looking like a bit of a long shot to earn a 1 seed. They'll have to win the ACC tournament to get a 1, and probably can't afford any more losses. It's possible to earn a 1 seed with seven losses (Duke currently has six), but it's rare, and Duke doesn't have the type of resume that makes it likely.

North Carolina has won eight straight games and is now 9-4 in ACC play and 6-3 against the RPI Top 50. The bad losses are why their computer numbers are all still around 20th and why they'd still probably only be a 5 seed if the season ended now, but they have a chance to push for a 4 seed (or even a 3 seed) if they can finish strong. If they only lose one more regular season game, that's probably a success (particularly since they'll be pretty significant underdogs at Cameron Indoor).

Louisiana Tech Suffers A Crippling Loss Louisiana Tech came back to almost steal this game. They trailed nearly the entire night and were down by 11 with just over seven minutes left. They came back to pull within two points, but missed their final eight three-point attempts (all in the final five minutes). It's hard to overcome that in a close game. Poor shooting was the theme of the night, though, as Louisiana Tech finished 7-for-28 behind the arc, compared to 10-for-24 for East Carolina.

Louisiana Tech is 21-6 overall and 2-4 against the RPI Top 100, with a win over Oklahoma to go with bad losses to Louisiana-Lafayette, East Carolina and UTEP. Their RPI has slid to 88th and their Sagarin PURE_ELO is 75th. It's certainly not a Tournament resume, and at this point it's hard to see a realistic path to an at-large bid. They'll have to win every remaining regular season game and hope to get lucky. Their more likely path to the NCAA Tournament is to win the Conference USA tournament.

Seton Hall Crushes Georgetown's Hopes Coming off a loss to St. John's that dropped them to 6-7 in Big East play, Georgetown absolutely could not afford a loss here to Seton Hall. But not only did they lose, they got embarrassed. Georgetown never even trailed by single digits in the final 15 minutes of the game, and were down by as many as 19 points. Seton Hall's offense was staggeringly efficient, putting up a 63.3 eFG% and 1.30 PPP. The 1.30 PPP were their most in a Big East game since scoring 1.35 PPP against Georgetown on February 21st, 2012. Fuquan Edwin was the best player for either team, putting up 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting.

Georgetown now drops to 6-8 in Big East play and 5-8 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin PURE_ELO that has dropped all the way to 63rd. They could potentially earn an at-large bid with an 8-10 Big East record, but they'll need to do really well in the Big East tournament and get a lot of luck. Realistically, they need to get to 9-9, which means a 3-1 finish to a schedule that has home games against Creighton and Xavier, as well as road game at Villanova and Marquette. That will be very difficult.

Seton Hall has quietly played pretty good basketball in Big East play. They're 5-8 in conference play, and are actually now just being outscored by 0.02 PPP in conference play. That's better than Georgetown, and only just barely behind Providence (+0.00 PPP) and Marquette (+0.01 PPP). With a strong finish, they still have a real shot at a top six finish in the Big East standings, and the bye to the Big East quarterfinals that comes along with it.

BYU Wins Must-Win In order to have a good shot at an at-large bid, BYU absolutely had to win this game. They had beaten Stanford and Texas earlier in the season, but with bad losses to Portland, Pacific, Pepperdine and Loyola-Marymount, they were clearly sitting on the outside of the Field of 68 heading into this game. This was going to be their last chance for a premier win until the WCC tournament title game, where a win would of course make an at-large bid unnecessary anyway. And BYU won this game, believe it or not, with defense. Gonzaga only had a 44.4 eFG% and committed 16 turnovers (including 9 forced steals) to only 12 assists. That added up to only 0.90 PPP, which tied for their second worst offensive performance of the season.

BYU is still only 7-6 against the RPI Top 100 with four RPI 100+ losses, but their Sagarin PURE_ELO is up to a very bubbly 51st and their RPI is up to 36th (though remember that PURE_ELO will correlate better with final seed on Selection Sunday than RPI). What does BYU need to do to get in? I think they need to win out and get to the WCC title game. If they can do that, they're probably in. But another bad loss without any more RPI Top 50 wins probably knocks them out.

Gonzaga's resume is a lot weaker than you'd think. Gonzaga's only win over an RPI Top 60 opponent is BYU and their RPI is just 28th with a Sagarin PURE_ELO of 30th. They're not on the bubble yet or anything, but it's not out of the question if they lose two more games. Certainly if they somehow lose three more games between now and Selection Sunday they'll be a team that could miss out.

No comments: