Friday, December 19, 2014

Morning news: Duke Beats UConn, Branden Dawson Update And Minnesota Adds Diedhiou

Justise Winslow made the defensive play of the game last night.

Duke Beats UConn Duke's shots weren't going down like they have for much of this season. They hit just 24% of their jump shots, compared to 59% in their big win over Wisconsin, and their season average of 39%. But they impressed here defensively, with Justise Winslow in particular making a number of explosive plays. They had 7 steals and 5 blocks and held UConn to just a 45.4 eFG% and 0.82 PPP.

This Duke team is much more well-rounded than previous incarnations, and I think that's going to make them much less vulnerable to upset by inferior foes. Even when their jump shots don't fall they can still beat good teams with paint scoring, rebounding and defense.

UConn is just 1-4 against Pomeroy Top 100 opponents, meaning that their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is an ugly 95th, which is why you're starting to hear a lot of media talk about them missing the Tourney. But they're better than their resume. Two of those losses, of course, came on three-pointers from the far corner of Gampel Pavilion. They're still a Tourney quality team, and they should still get in.

That said, with the AAC being down, the Huskies are going to need a gaudy won-loss record in conference play. They'll need to go 12-6 or better, and perhaps even 13-5 if they can't collect a quality non-conference win. That win over Dayton, unfortunately, is going to be devalued by March with two key players kicked off the roster. UConn fans definitely need to root for SMU and Cincinnati to separate themselves from the rest of the league as well, to give the appearance of quality challengers, so UConn's gaudy conference record doesn't get dismissed with "Yeah, but who did they beat?" like Memphis used to get dismissed in Conference USA.

Branden Dawson To Miss Just Two Games If this turns out to be true, it's a huge break for Michigan State. Their next two games are against cupcakes at home, meaning that Dawson will not be needed. That said, injuries don't always work out as planned, so don't pencil in Dawson as 100% healthy for their Big Ten opener on December 30th quite yet.

Minnesota Adds Gaston Diedhiou Diedhiou has gained his eligibility and will become, if nothing else, depth. The Gophers had been down to just nine scholarship players. Diedhiou is a mystery, because he was a Spanish player with no other NCAA offers. But in Big Ten play, Minnesota is going to end up with some big guys in foul trouble, and Diedhiou will end up on the floor. If he can save even one game that could be the difference between the Gophers making or missing the NCAA Tournament.

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