Sunday, November 23, 2014

Morning News: New Bracket, Duke Handles Stanford, Wyoming Whips Colorado, Rhode Island "Upsets" Nebraska, And More

Larry Nance, Jr puts Josh Scott on a poster.
New Bracket Projection It's that time of the week. There were three changes to the Field of 68 this week, with Creighton, Providence and Northeastern moving in, and with Kansas State, Richmond and Drexel dropping out.

Duke Handles Stanford Duke's defense impressed in the Barclay's Center here. They only blocked three shots officially, but they redirected at least a dozen others in the paint. Stanford finished only 8-for-25 on layups and dunks, and 40% on two-pointers in total. Paint defense has been the achilles heel for Duke for several years now, and so this was a very encouraging effort. It wasn't just defense for Duke, either. Quinn Cook was 4-for-9 behind the arc to lead the Blue Devils with 18 points.

Justise Winslow is kind of athletic.

It's too early in the season to say with too much confidence which team is the best in the nation. I'd argue for Kentucky, but Duke has to be in that conversation, along with Wisconsin and a few others. The Blue Devils have done nothing to dissuade any of us of the idea that they're a National Championship contender. One of the early season tests between these top teams will come in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when Duke will head to Madison to face Wisconsin.

Stanford struggled with a lack of depth here, particularly in the paint after Stefan Nastic got into foul trouble. But most teams Stanford faces will not have players like Jahlil Okafor, and so this loss shouldn't be too discouraging for the Cardinal. For the next few weeks they have to take care of games they're supposed to win, before they head on the road the week of Christmas to face BYU and Texas.

Wyoming Whips Colorado This was actually a two point game at halftime. But in the second half, Josh Adams single-handedly outscored the Buffaloes 10-9. Colorado shot a staggering 2-for-20 from the field in the second half. For the game, Colorado was unable to get the ball in the paint, scoring just three layups and dunks (compared to 11 for Wyoming). A big part of that was Larry Nance, Jr, who had a stat-stuffing, 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals and 4 assists. Derek Cooke, Jr had no blocks here, but he also is a big body who protected the paint and redirected shots.

The question for Colorado is how big of an outlier this result is. Their two previous games had been dominations of Drexel and Auburn, neither of whom is particularly good. And it's not like Colorado's offense was great in those games anyway, which they dominated with defense. A key game coming up in a couple of weeks is their road match-up at Georgia.

Wyoming hadn't played any team but a cupcake prior to this one. They've got a couple of cupcakes up next, so their first chance to validate this win will be next Saturday, against a solid New Mexico State team.

Rhode Island "Upsets" Nebraska Rhode Island fans celebrated by storming the court with this win, which you could understand considering the fact that Rhode Island had lost 26 straight games against ranked opponents, going back to December 21st, 1998, when Lamar Odom was on the roster. That said, the Vegas spread was only 1 or 1.5 points, and one could make a good case that Rhode Island actually should have been favored. Nebraska is a weak Top 25 team that (in my opinion) was overrated preseason. Rhode Island, at the same time, is a legitimate at-large bid contender.

I believe this qualifies as the first court-storming of the season.

EC Matthews was the best player on the court for either team, finishing with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Nebraska, on the other hand, got a very underwhelming performance from star Terran Petteway (15 points on 5-for-18 shooting, with 8 turnovers).

Rhode Island has a chance to really start the hype machine by beating Kansas in the Old Spice Classic, but even a loss there followed by a couple of wins in the Consolation Bracket would build on this nice early season win. Nebraska will have plenty of chances to recover from this game as well. Tim Miles has built a solid non-conference schedule. Up next, after a couple of cupcakes, is a road game at Florida State.

Marquette Falls To Nebraska-Omaha Obviously Marquette has brighter days ahead, but this season is going to keep getting worse until Luke Fischer shows up in mid-December. Certainly Marquette shot poorly here (6-for-27 behind the arc), but their defensive effort here was just bad. Nebraska-Omaha poured in 1.26 PPP, featuring 64% two-point shooting and 87% free throw shooting.

Without a lot of scoring talent right now, Marquette has to play good defense to beat good opponents. Their next serious test will be Georgia Tech, in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic. In their second game they'll face either Michigan State or Rider.

Notre Dame Slices Up UMass This UMass defense was coming off strong performances against Manhattan and Boston College, particularly in the paint. But Notre Dame destroyed them here, particularly after Cady Lalanne had to go to the bench with foul trouble in the second half. They shot 65% on two-pointers, led by a dominant Jerian Grant (24 points, including 9-for-10 on two-pointers, with 8 assists).

Notre Dame is 4-0, but this is their first win over a decent team. Their game later today against Providence will be a good chance to validate this performance. UMass will also play later today, against a reeling Florida State team.

Providence Rocks Florida State This was a disaster for Florida State in every facet of the game. They didn't shoot well (4-for-26 on all jump shots), they didn't handle the ball well (15 turnovers to only 6 assists), they were outrebounded (a 30.3 OR% vs a 37.9 OR% for Providence) and they couldn't get a stop (Providence scored 1.27 PPP). That's what it takes to lose by 26 points.

It's unclear why Florida State is off to such a terrible start. The bigs certainly have not advanced the way that was expected, including Kiel Turpin's struggle to stay healthy. And they're at risk of dropping to 1-3 overall if they fall to UMass later today.

This was the first game Providence has played this season against a decent opponent. LaDontae Henton led all scorers with 24 points, but the real story for the Friars early on this season has been Kris Dunn finally becoming effective in his third season in the program. He finished with 15 points and 9 assists here, and is now averaging 7.7 assists per game. The test will be if they can maintain this level of performance against a Notre Dame team that is looking strong in the early going this season.


Anonymous said...

I know this is a CBB page. But in CFB, which metric is better in terms of ranking resumes in your opinion, "Strength of Record" or "Sagarin Elo Score"? Both have similar ranking but there are vast differences (Florida State: SOR-2, ELO-8/ Georgia: SOR-10, ELO-5).

Jeff said...

Sagarin ELO is a true measure of resume, so it's a very good one. It's the one I prefer.

The "strength of record" metric that ESPN uses is not well defined, so I don't know how much of it is a true measure of resume vs measure of team strength. It's why those ESPN black box metrics are so frustrating.