Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Morning News: Brown Upsets Providence, SMU Escapes UCSB, Gaines Injured, And Florida Annihilates Yale

Leland King (#2) led Brown with 16 points.
Brown Upsets Providence When Yale knocked off UConn, I stressed that this Yale team is actually pretty good and that it wasn't as big of an upset as the media was making it out to be. That's not the case for this Brown team, which came in to this game 0-4 against the Pomeroy Top 150. But this was just a bizarre shooting day, where Brown shot 19% on two-point jumpers but 44% on three-point jumpers. Providence was a brutal 4-for-19 behind the arc, and in the tail end of the game they really seemed to panic, just forcing up terrible shots. Providence had a massive size advantage, but a 36-26 advantage in the paint just wasn't big enough.

Providence has really tailed off after getting out to a 6-0 start that included a win over Notre Dame. Their big loss to Kentucky was excusable, but now they've lost to Boston College and Brown, two teams very likely to finish outside the RPI Top 100. This Providence team is just too talented not to start playing better basketball, but they're running out of time to salvage the non-conference portion of their season.

Brown isn't going to contend for the Ivy League title, but this is a great win for a program that hasn't had many in recent seasons. Their last RPI Top 100 win came on February 19th, 2011, against Princeton. Their last RPI Top 100 non-conference win came on January 4th, 2008, against American University.

SMU Escapes UC-Santa Barbara These two teams each have a single dominant star, neither of whom did much of anything in the second half. SMU's Nic Moore suffered a knee injury early in the second half, and after spending some time trying to get it loose on a stationary bike he gave up and spent the rest of the game icing it on the bench. Meanwhile, UCSB's Alan Williams spent the entire game foul trouble and fouled out with just 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Gabe Vincent hit the three late in the regulation for UCSB to send them into overtime (overcoming a 14 point second half deficit), but SMU grabbed an early lead in overtime and hit their free throws down the stretch. SMU really needed this victory, because the idea that they're going to get a pass from the Selection Committee for missing Markus Kennedy during non-conference play is a myth. They have to stand on their own resume, and a loss here would have dropped them to 5-4 with their best win coming over Wyoming. It's still not much, but they can salvage something from non-conference play if they can knock off Michigan on December 20th.

UCSB is just 4-4, but they're better than their record. They lost this game and the Florida Gulf Coast game in overtime, while they lost to Colorado State by 2 points and only lost at Kansas by 10. They're not going to be a serious at-large contender, but at this point (in my opinion) they're the narrow Big West favorite over UC-Irvine and Long Beach State.

Kenny Gaines Injured The junior had started six games this season for Georgia and was tied for second on the team with 11.3 points per game. The good news for Georgia is that they have two weeks for the end of the semester and final exams before they play again, on December 21st. The bad news is that Gaines may not be back after that (his timetable seems fluid at this point), and their first game back is a potentially key game against Seton Hall. If Georgia is going to get themselves onto the Tournament bubble, they need to win home games against other potential bubble teams.

Florida Annihilates Yale This was, quietly, one of the most impressive wins by any team all season long. Yale came into this game having won 8 of 9, including a win at UConn, with only a 6 point loss at Providence. They had slid into the Top 80 of both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. But Florida just could not miss a shot here, shooting 10-for-19 behind the arc. Their 72.4 eFG% was their best shooting day since March 25th, 2008. Their 1.44 PPP were their most since March 16th, 2007.

Yale is a good team, but they were going to need an off day from Florida to pull the upset. This was obviously the opposite of a Florida off day. And the problem for Yale is that the margin for error on an at-large bid out of the Ivy League is just so small. They have a chance to take the Ivy League auto bid, of course, but they'll need a win over Harvard and to almost win out every other game to have any at-large chance. Remember that Ivy League teams must lose a minimum of two conference games to fail to earn the auto bid.

You don't want to overreact to a fluky shooting day like this for Florida, but it comes just three days after a solid performance in a tough, close loss to Kansas, and they're still getting their full roster together. Eli Carter should be back in the lineup soon, and Alex Murphy will be eligible soon as well. It would be a mistake to completely give up on Florida challenging Kentucky in the SEC.

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