Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Morning News: Historic Kansas Futility, Duke Handles Michigan St, Wichita St Crushes Memphis, Manhattan's Buzzer Beater, And More

Stephen F. Austin fans sum up how we all feel about ESPN's 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon

Historic Kansas Futility The offensive performance for Kansas in this game was staggeringly bad, and obviously Kentucky was the dominant reason why. Kansas finished with 0.68 PPP, which is their worst offensive efficiency in well over a decade, and the fewest by any Power 5 team in a game so far this year. It's the fewest points they've scored in a game (40) since January 20th, 1982.  Their 22.3 eFG% is the second lowest by any Division I team so far this season. And to put that shooting futility into perspective, the previous worst shooting performance Kansas had in the last ten years was a 32.0 eFG% in their loss to TCU a couple of years ago. But the stat that stands out more than any other was the 3-for-23 that Kansas was on layups and dunks. I don't know a good way to look up historic layup/dunk stats, but in my life I can't recall ever seeing a team do that poorly.

Obviously, Kentucky's defense deserves a ton of credit coming off a very sloppy, lazy defensive performance against Buffalo. They had as many blocks (11) as Kansas had made field goals, and they must have redirected at least a dozen more shots. They absolutely dominated the paint. And it goes without saying that the way to try to score on Kentucky is to spread the floor with outside shooters, and to have perimeter creators who can beat their man off the dribble and force Kentucky's defense to rotate. Right now, Kansas doesn't have either.

Let's not overreact to this game too much. Kentucky just lost a half to Buffalo, of course. They'll have nights where they look like this, and they'll have nights where they look much worse. Small sample sizes are small sample sizes. There's a bit more concern for Kansas, because the problem we saw here (perimeter offense) is a problem that we knew they'd have preseason. They just don't have much proven talent out there. This will be worth keeping an eye on next week when they head out to Orlando.

Duke Handles Michigan State Michigan State looked shaky against Navy, and they didn't do much to allay those worries here. Once again, their go-to scorer and creator was Travis Trice (15 points and 8 assists), and they saw very little production from their bench (10 points and 8 rebounds in 59 minutes). They're going to need to find more balanced scoring, and also more of a defensive presence, if they're going to contend near the top of the Big Ten. They'll head next week to Orlando, where they'll see their next quality opponent.

Duke's offense was sharp here, led by the dominant Jahlil Okafor (17 points on 8-for-10 shooting). Perhaps the player who stood out most, though, was Justise Winslow, who continues to impress with his talent but who also continues to take way too many bad shots (he finished 4-for-11 here, with 9 free throw attempts). When he eventually learns to play within himself, he's going to be an awfully good player. That said, Duke's interior defense is once again iffy. Michigan State finished 62.5% on two-pointers, including 16-for-22 on layups and dunks. If they eventually want to topple Kentucky, they're going to need to find more of a paint presence.

Wichita State Crushes Memphis As I explained last week, do not draw conclusions from the results of exhibitions. But as I also explained, there's just no reason to think Memphis is going to be a particularly good team this season, or even a Tournament team. And they didn't look like a Tournament team here, getting absolutely run off the court by Wichita State. The final score is, if anything, a bit deceptive, as Memphis finished the game on a 10-2 run in garbage time.

Wichita State, interestingly, played well without getting a huge game from their preseason All-American, Fred VanVleet (15 points on 5-for-14 shooting and 3 assists). Ron Baker led the way with 21 points and 6 assists. The Shockers have a really good team yet again, and they're serious about earning a good seed on Selection Sunday. They still have yet to face Utah, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and Alabama before heading off to the Diamond Head Classic.

Memphis heads out to Las Vegas next week, where they'll play Baylor in the first game and then either Illinois or Indiana State in the second game. Memphis has to win at least one of those two games or the NCAA Tournament will become a difficult task. It's going to be hard to climb uphill in a mediocre AAC.

Manhattan's Buzzer Beating Dunk In the end, Manhattan lost to UMass in overtime. But the way they got to overtime is one of the most well-executed end-of-game plays you'll ever see:

Ohio State Eases Past Marquette Marquette is going to be better after Luke Fischer becomes eligible (after the fall semester ends), and they're going to be a lot better when their 2015 recruiting class shows up. But until then, they're going to get blown off the court by quality opponents. The final score was actually deceptively close here, as Marquette closed the game on a 12-3 run in garbage time. Marquette did get nice play out of Steve Taylor (20 points on 9-for-14 shooting), but that was it.

Marquette's next chance for a quality win will come in Orlando next week. After that they'll have home games against Wisconsin and Arizona State. But there's a decent chance that by the time they're midway through their Big East schedule that their at-large bid chances will already have been dashed.

The question for Ohio State is just how meaningful this win is. This early in the season, wins have to be calibrated. It's possible that this is a really good win, but it's also possible that Marquette just stinks. Unfortunately, quality opponents are a bit few and far between for Ohio State in non-conference play this season. They'll have a big time game at Louisville on December 2nd, but other than that will not play a quality opponent until they take on North Carolina on December 20th. They'll play plenty of quality opponents in Big Ten play, of course, but the Buckeyes might still be a bit of a mystery when conference play gets underway.

San Diego State Wins Ugly Over Utah This game was not exactly a shooting clinic. Utah ended up finishing up with a 38.0 eFG% and 0.82 PPP, while San Diego State's 0.88 PPP came with a 35.7 eFG%. The fact that San Diego State shot a little bit worse but scored a little bit more makes sense when you consider that they finished with 7 fewer blocked shots but 8 more steals. The most impressive individual defensive presence in this game was probably a Ute, freshman Jakob Poeltl. The 7-footer finished with 7 blocks and 12 rebounds.

Utah had historically bad luck in close games last season (1-8 in games decided by four points or less), and an early four point loss might worry fans that "more of the same" is on the way. But, first of all, winning or losing close games is much more about luck than "clutch". And second of all, San Diego State was pretty clearly the better team here. They led by around 4-8 points almost the entire second half. Utah got close enough in the final minute to foul intentionally, but it never really felt like they had a good chance to win.

Utah has mostly cupcakes ahead, but a real key game to look for will be December 3rd, at home against Wichita State. That's a real chance for the Utes to shift the narrative about them against quality opponents and in competitive games. San Diego State has one more cupcake before they head out to the Maui Invitational, where they'll open with BYU.

Northeastern Upsets Florida State The Seminoles are not a great offensive team, so it wouldn't be a shocker if they got upset by a bad team in a low scoring, ugly affair. But what was stunning about this result was that it was actually high scoring. Both teams finished with more than 1.05 PPP. Northeastern's 9-for-15 three-point shooting was fluky, but they were also an impressive 14-for-26 on layups and dunks against the massive Florida State front line, which only finished with 4 blocks. 7'3" Boris Bojanovsky, for example, managed to play 23 minutes while collecting a single block and only four rebounds. That's just not good enough.

Florida State heads to the Mohegan Sun this weekend to play Providence and UMass, where they'll have a chance to right the ship. They don't have many more quality non-conference opponents, and it's going to be tough sledding for this team to get over .500 in a deep ACC this season.

At least in the early going, Northeastern is playing like the strongest team in the Colonial. It's been a while since that league made a serious run at an at-large bid, but if Northeastern can continue to up their game then they do have UMass, Harvard, Saint Mary's and Richmond still ahead.

Stephen F Austin Loses In Agonizing Fashion This Stephen F Austin/Northern Iowa game sums up why the ESPN 24 hour marathon is great. It was two mid-major teams tipping at 9am eastern time, and it was high intensity, and really close and competitive the entire way. And in the end, this is how it was decided:

While both Stephen F Austin and Northern Iowa are currently in my projected bracket, the reality is that Stephen F Austin needed this win more, and that's what makes this loss so agonizing for them. While the Missouri Valley isn't exactly the Big Ten, Northern Iowa will have more opportunities to build up their strength of schedule than Stephen F Austin will in the Southland. And perhaps more importantly, Northern Iowa represents the best opponent Stephen F. Austin will get at home this season. Their other quality non-conference opponents (Xavier, Baylor and Memphis) will all face them on their own home courts. This was SFA's best chance for an RPI Top 100 win, and it didn't happen.

VCU Survives Toledo This wasn't a great VCU performance by any means, but Toledo is a good team, and at the end of the day VCU comes out of this game with a solid win over a team likely to finish in the RPI Top 100 (and perhaps the RPI Top 50). #Havoc was certainly in operation, as VCU forced 16 steals. The concern, as it often is, is VCU's half court defense (they allowed 1.44 PPP on possessions that did not end in turnovers). Also, a slight concern is just how dependent they are on Briante Weber, who at 18 points, 9 steals, 8 rebounds and 7 assists came fairly close to the first ever DI-vs-DI quadruple double (Tennessee-Martin's Lester Hudson had the only quadruple double in Division I history back in 2007, but it came against non-Division I Central Baptist College). VCU has other shooters, but Weber so far looks like their only true offensive creator or defensive weapon.

Toledo gets something of a moral victory out of this game. They had a real chance to win a road game at a very good VCU team. As they only really played a seven man rotation, it's possible that they wore out a bit. Nathan Boothe deserves attention for the quick start he has had to the season. He led Toledo with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting here, along with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.


ervinsm said...

What site do you use to find the layups/dunks stats for each game?

Jeff said...

There are a few websites that track it over the season. During in-game (when I tweet it out) I tend to use

When in doubt for a single game, you can count it yourself in the official play-by-play.