Monday, February 10, 2014

Morning News: St. John's Knocks Off Creighton, Wisconsin Escapes At The Buzzer, And Marcus Smart Is Suspended

Traevon Jackson has played hero quite a few times for Wisconsin these past two seasons.

St. John's Knocks Off Creighton St. John's seems to have figured something out about Creighton, because just a couple of weeks after nearly winning in Omaha they took down Creighton here. The big story of this game was Doug McDermott being totally bottled up late. He scored 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting, but didn't attempt a single shot in the final 8:40.  A lot of credit has to go to JaKarr Sampson, who was the primary defender on McDermott for much of the game. St. John's tended to double team pretty much anytime McDermott got the ball as well. But still, McDermott was weirdly passive. You would have expected him to try to force some offense when his team needed a basket, but he didn't. And so the key shots were taken, and missed, by Jahenns Manigat, Austin Chatman and Grant Gibbs.

The reality is that there's no reason to panic about Creighton here. They had a brutal shooting day (5-for-22 behind the arc and 56% at the line). They haven't had a single game all season where they shot that poorly from both locations on the floor. Creighton still controls their own destiny in the Big East. The key game will be in Omaha against Villanova on Sunday.

The Johnnies have won 5 of their last 6 Big East games to get themselves back into the bubble picture. They have this win and a win over Providence to go with bad losses to DePaul and Penn State. They're 4-7 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI up to 63rd and a Sagarin PURE_ELO up to 56th. If the season ended now they'd be an NIT team, but they're back firmly in the bubble discussion. To actually get in, they probably need to win 5 of their final 7 games to get to 10-8 overall in Big East play. At 9-9 in Big East play they'll have to win a couple of Big East tournament games.

Wisconsin Escapes At The Buzzer Against Michigan State Every major media outlet is reporting this as an "upset", even though Michigan State actually covered the spread. Depending on where you looked, Wisconsin was either favored by 3.5 or 4 points. And in fact, I do think that the story of this game is how well Michigan State played. They were down Keith Appling and Branden Dawson, and Gary Harris was a brutal 3-for-20 from the field, yet the Spartans hung in and nearly sent this game to overtime. Adreian Payne (24 points on 9-for-16 shooting) was a monster inside.

Wisconsin was overdue to win a game like this. There was a ton of panic in the media about a "collapse" when they lost five of six in Big Ten play, but the reality was that there was no significant decline in the level of Wisconsin's play. They had a couple of disastrous shooting days (highlighted by the Northwestern game, which was their worst shooting day in 8 years), but they also lost a slew of close games. They've only lost two games all season long that didn't come down to the final 30 seconds. It's why even as they dropped in the standings, they never fell below fourth in the Big Ten in PPP differential. With this win they move into a tie for third with Michigan (+0.09 PPP), just narrowly behind second place Iowa (+0.13 PPP).

Tom Izzo said after this game that Keith Appling will likely be out about another two weeks. The reality at this point is that an extra loss or two is worth getting this team finally healthy. Appling and Adreian Payne haven't played in the same game since January 7th, Branden Dawson has been out almost three weeks now, while Gary Harris, Matt Costello and Travis Trice have also missed some time. I've said all season long that I believe Michigan State is the best team in the Big Ten if they can get fully healthy. That's increasingly a big "if".

Marcus Smart Suspended Three Games This suspension isn't surprising. It's about in line with what Smart would have gotten if he had thrown a punch at a player on the court. As I said yesterday, I'm already sick of the "hot sports takes" on this issue, so let's leave it alone. The bigger issue as far as I'm concerned is Oklahoma State, and the fact that they're likely going to be on the bubble at some point in the next few weeks.

Smart will miss a road game at Texas, a home game at Oklahoma and a road game at Baylor. Considering the fact that Oklahoma State will be down to five of the eight guys from the regular rotation that they started the season with, you have to figure that a 1-2 record over those three games is a lot more likely than a 2-1 record. A 1-2 record will drop them to 5-8 in conference play. And keep in mind that they still have a home game against Kansas and a road game at Iowa State, and probably need to get to 9-9 in conference play to have a good at-large case. At 8-10 in conference play they'll have to win at least a game or two in the Big 12 tournament.


Bart Torvik said...

Jeff, how do you get Wisconsin at +.09 ... I have them with +.07 (777 points scored, 726 points allowed, 703 possessions, 51/703 = .0725).

For what it's worth, Wisconsin's efficiency margin is a little deceptive since they've played the softest schedule so far. If you adjust for schedule and venue, they're well behind Michigan and actually slightly behind Ohio State now.

Jeff said...

I guess it depends where you get your numbers from, since "possessions" are not really an official stat yet. When I give conference PPP differential I generally am citing They have Wisconsin at a 1.09 PPP offense and 1.00 PPP defense.

Bart Torvik said...

Aha. I was using Kenpom. Looks like BBState has them at 723 possessions, though, which doesn't really solve the mystery. For a +51 point differential to come out to a .09 efficiency margin, I think you'd need to have just 567 possessions. But I'm probably confused.

Jeff said...

It's possible that there's a rounding issue...

I do agree with you that Ohio State was even more underrated than Wisconsin. I've preached the same thing about them that I have about Wisconsin - the idea that they sucked for a few weeks was really just a bad reinterpretation of some bad luck in close games against a brutal schedule. The idea that some people thought Northwestern was suddenly a better team than Ohio State or Wisconsin just because they were a game ahead in the standings after 9 or 10 games was ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Bbstate does some weird things with possessions. Their formula allows opposing teams to have differing numbers of possessions for the same game

nuclearbdgr said...

For what it is worth, if you are actually counting possessions - Badgers have 696 offensive possessions in B1G play, and 700 defensive possessions. Granted - this may be a smidge lower than calculated b/c I don't count possessions at the end of games where a team is not attempting to score - and that adds up over time a bit.