Friday, November 21, 2014

Morning News: Iowa Loses Ugly, California Dispatches Syracuse, Indiana Beats SMU, And More

We feel you, Jim.
Iowa Loses Ugly Vs Texas It's certainly not unheard of for Fran McCaffery teams to struggle defensively, but it's been a while since we've seen them look this bad offensively. In a sense, with the gigantic Texas front line, this game reminded me of the Kansas debacle against Kentucky on Tuesday. Iowa has a tendency to shoot too many two-point jumpers normally, and they varied between unwilling and unable to score in the paint here. Texas outscored Iowa 36-16 in the paint, and the Longhorns shot 50% on two-pointers compared to just 30% for Iowa.

As I always stress with early season games, you should not overreact. Iowa's offense isn't likely to be this bad again (their 0.85 PPP were their fewest since April 4th, 2013). They'll have to wait only one day for another chance for a good win, with a game tonight against Syracuse. Texas also will play tonight, of course, against California. The concern for them, as well as they played against Iowa, was the late fall by Isaiah Taylor. It's unclear if the wrist injury will keep him from playing tonight, but if it does then Texas's lack of backcourt depth will really be put to the test. Maybe they should run the offense through Connor Lammert?

California Dispatches Syracuse California grabbed a 12 point lead at halftime, and Syracuse proceeded to commit a turnover on five of their first seven second half possessions. And from there, the hole the Orange dug was just too large to get out of.

California was really well prepared for the Syracuse zone, attacking it all game and finishing with 20 assists on 26 made baskets. Syracuse, on the other hand, was hamstrung by foul trouble for Rakeem Christmas, who ended up fouling out with only 8 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes. With Christmas on the bench, the Syracuse offense really lacked weapons. Kaleb Joseph should be the primary playmaker, but he hasn't been good enough. The Syracuse offense wasn't even particularly potent against Hampton.

Syracuse will have a chance to bounce back tonight against Iowa. After that, their next quality opponent will be Michigan, who they'll face in Ann Arbor on December 2nd. Meanwhile, California will try to prove this offensive performance wasn't a fluke when they take on a Texas team tonight that looked awfully impressive against Iowa.

Indiana Beats SMU While SMU worked hard to get the ball into the paint on every possession in this game, Indiana was happy to just launch jump shots all game and pray. SMU finished with 19 layups and dunks, compared to just 6 for Indiana. SMU had 42 points in the paint, compared to just 14 for Indiana. But the Hoosiers took 57% of their shots behind the arc, hitting 36% of them, and they also managed to commit only seven turnovers (Yogi Ferrell deserves a lot of credit for that latter stat), and it was enough to escape with the victory.

Obviously SMU is going to be a different team after Markus Kennedy gets back at the end of the fall semester, but he'll only be on the court for the Michigan game before conference play. He'll miss the Arkansas game, SMU's only other remaining quality non-conference opponent. Despite the Top 25 ranking, SMU's closer to being a bubble team than their fans probably want to admit. And while it's unlikely, is it really that implausible that the AAC ends up a 1-bid league this year? Which AAC team looks like a certain Tourney team right now?

As always, don't overreact to a single game, but this is a very nice win for Indiana. You have to wonder how well they'll be able to get away with a lack of post presence in Big Ten play, but Yogi Ferrell looks fantastic and this is the type of win that could matter on Selection Sunday if they can get themselves onto the bubble.

Conference Play Is Underway Wait. What? The MAAC seems to do this every year, and I don't get it. But congratulations to Niagara for being the first team in the nation to win a conference game this season. It seems goofy to make teams play conference games this early considering how different many teams look in January relative to November. St. Peter's was without Desi Washington due to injury, too (Washington was second on the team with 13.5 points per game last season). But so it goes. Both of these teams will play another conference game in early December, before continuing conference play in early January.

Miami Validates Their Florida Win The Miami Hurricanes had no letdown from their Florida win here, taking Drexel to the woodshed. The 11-for-21 three-point shooting certainly helped, but they also had 15 assists to just 9 turnovers, and held Drexel to an ugly 37.3 eFG%. Angel Rodriguez again was all over the place, finishing with 15 points, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

The Hurricanes will take on a short-handed Akron team tonight, and then will take on either Charlotte or South Carolina on Sunday. After that, they've got a fairly reasonable schedule, including home games against Illinois and Green Bay. In late December, the Hurricanes could find themselves undefeated with pretty solid computer numbers.

Drexel is perhaps the most disappointing team in the country so far. They had high expectations in the Colonial preseason, but are off to an ugly 0-3 start. They take on another reeling team, USC, tonight. A loss there could really send this season into a death spiral and make it tough for them to even get back to a .500 record.

Villanova Struggles Villanova managed to avoid the ugly loss, but only barely, and perhaps only due to a couple of big referee calls. With just over a minute to go, with the game tied, Bucknell's DJ MacLeay seemed to get hacked, but didn't get the call, and on the other end a really soft foul got called when Daniel Ochefu went up. If those calls get reversed, Villanova fans might be in panic mode. The story of this game, without question, was Bucknell's Chris Hass. Despite Villanova doing everything they could to even deny him the ball, he finished with 32 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 3-for-6 behind the arc and 11-for-12 at the line.

Villanova is often a team that gets overly reliant on three-point shooting, and their 5-for-22 shooting here was ugly. As always, there's no reason to overreact to a single game, but Villanova takes a step up in talent on Monday when they take on VCU.

This is a moral victory for Bucknell in the end, but it's an encouraging performance with the Patriot League looking so wide open. Chris Hass didn't even make first team All-Patriot League preseason, and I'm thinking that looks like a mistake.

Charlotte Wins A Wild Game Over Penn State Charlotte had a chance to foul up three late in regulation but passed, and John Johnson hit the three for Penn State to send the game into overtime. Both teams had chances to win in overtime, but Charlotte's 8-for-10 free throw shooting in the second overtime period put this one away.

This game was expected to be competitive (Penn State was only a four point favorite in Vegas), not because Charlotte is expected to be elite but because Penn State once again just isn't a particularly talented team. They're certainly nowhere near "Rutgers-bad", but it's hard to see them being particularly competitive in the Big Ten. It's going to be another season where they steal a couple of big upsets at home but end up nowhere near .500 in conference play by the end of the season

This is a good win for Charlotte but, as is always the case this early in the season, a big win needs validation with a second win to prove it's not a fluke. Charlotte takes on South Carolina tonight. Conference USA is wide open if Charlotte can build on this win.

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