Thursday, December 04, 2014

Morning News: Duke/Wisconsin Overreaction, Iowa Upsets North Carolina, Wichita St Finally Loses, Creighton Falls, And More

Tyus Jones led the best shooting day by a road team in the history of the Kohl Center
Duke/Wisconsin Overreaction I know I'm something of a broken record on this, but early in the season it's just laughable how much the media overreacts to single game samples. And this game is a perfect example. The media narrative after the game was that Wisconsin got shut down by Duke's defensive switching, but they actually scored 1.13 PPP despite getting almost nothing from Nigel Hayes (foul trouble) and Sam Dekker (partially injured ankle).

It was Duke that went nuts offensively, scoring 1.29 PPP, with a 72.8 eFG%. That marks their best shooting day since November 8th, 2013, and their best against a major conference opponent since January 14th, 2007. There hasn't been a team shoot this well at Wisconsin since at least the 1996-97 season (as far as I can find stats). And I say "at Wisconsin" because the Kohl Center has only existed since 1998, so anybody who shot better at Wisconsin did it in the Wisconsin Field House.

But this shooting performance is why it's silly to overreact. Duke wasn't exactly getting easy shots. They hit 59% of their jump shots, when prior to this game this season they had hit only 38% of their jump shots against a relatively soft schedule. This makes the "Duke will only get better from here" narrative silly. The reality is that there's a good chance this will be their best performance of the season. So while "don't overreact to 40 minute sample sizes" is always a smart strategy, it's particularly true when there is a fluky shooting performance.

Wisconsin will try to bounce back on Saturday at Marquette. Duke's next competitive game will be December 18th against UConn.

Iowa Upsets North Carolina Well, Iowa was due to win a close game against a good team eventually, I suppose. After going 1-7 in games decided by six points or less last season, they were 0-1 in those games to start this season. But the difference in this game was North Carolina's stubborn insistence to shoot long two-point jump shots early in the shot clock.

It's not exactly news that North Carolina does this - last season season they were the only Division I team that took greater than 50% of their field goal attempts as two-point jumpers. But here, North Carolina took two-point jumpers on a staggering 42 of their 68 shots, hitting them at only a 29% clip. The possession that summed up this game for me was a North Carolina fast break in the second half where JP Tokoto dribbled up the floor hard and then abruptly stopped to launch an 18 footer that he bricked and Iowa rebounded.

This is a really important win for Iowa just to get this dumb "can't win close games" reputation off their back. They still have problems (they also shoot far too many quick jumpers, though not nearly at North Carolina's rate), but this win will give them confidence heading into their rivalry game against Iowa State on December 12th. North Carolina has just one more cupcake before they head to Lexington to play Kentucky on December 13th. Considering Kentucky's paint defense, we have to assume that North Carolina is going to launch a zillion long jumpers. They're going to have to shoot well above normal to steal that upset.

Wichita State Finally Loses Wichita State hadn't lost a regular season game in 642 days, so they weren't going to go down without a fight. But Utah had the ball and a 7 point with 90 seconds left in this game, before melting down late. Two consecutive turnovers inbounding the ball (one being a five second violation) opened the door, and Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton combined on three consecutive three-pointers.

For the second time in a week a ref was injured on a jump ball.

In overtime, though, it was Wichita State making mistakes late. Fred VanVleet at the line with a chance to put Wichita State ahead missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Evan Wessel missed a putback. Then, when Utah's Chris Reyes missed the front end of his one-and-one, Jakob Poeltl was able to sneak in and grab the offensive rebound and run enough time off the clock that WSU didn't have another real chance.

Utah, like Iowa, had horrible luck in close games last season (1-8 in games decided by four points or fewer), so it's interesting that both teams stole close wins against Top 25 opponents on the same night. Utah has got a tough schedule upcoming, taking on BYU in Provo on December 10th and then Kansas in Kansas City on December 13th.

Wichita State needed this win much more than Utah, because there's a chance that there won't be another RPI Top 50 team in the Missouri Valley. Their final chance for non-conference win over a team likely to finish in the RPI Top 50 will (perhaps) come at the Diamond Head Classic around Christmas (I say "perhaps" because it depends how the bracket plays out).

Creighton Falls To Tulsa This game was well below the radar with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge going on, but it's a tough loss for Creighton less than a week after their loss to Ole Miss. The difference in this game, basically, was that Tulsa forced six more turnovers. Tulsa had a 20-to-7 advantage in points off turnovers, which is an identical margin to the 13 points that they won the game by. This Creighton team just doesn't have the shooters to overcome mediocre defense anymore.

Was that win over Oklahoma a fluke? Perhaps. You never want to overreact to any one game, but over the whole season (for what the computer ratings are worth at this point in the season) they are just 59th in Pomeroy and 72nd in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. The Oklahoma game seems to the outlier. They'll get a chance to bounce back on Sunday at Nebraska.

Tulsa is now 4-3, though against a pretty tough schedule. They only have one bad loss (Oral Roberts). They're very unlikely to make a bubble run, but don't be surprised to see them near the top of the AAC standings.

Virginia Crushes Maryland This game was never in doubt. Virginia grabbed a 12 point first half lead, and never led by fewer than double-digits in the final 18:37 of the game. This was also Virginia's type of game, played at a slow tempo (60 possessions), with Maryland prevented from getting any second chances (a 10.3 OR%). The refs took over, with 63 total free throws taken, though in the end the fouls and free throws were pretty much a wash between the two teams.

Virginia is in what is looking increasingly like a three-way battle atop the ACC. Their defense is just incredible. Pomeroy has them rated the 3rd best defense in the nation, but the two teams ahead of them (Kentucky and Texas) have NBA front lines with incredible size and athleticism who block a zillion shots. Virginia does it with perfect, sound defensive rotations. They're a living, breathing defensive clinic. One concern is that Justin Anderson rolled his ankle and Darion Atkins took a hard fall, with both coming out of the game. Neither injury appears to be serious, but they're worth keeping an eye on.

Maryland was playing without Dez Wells, of course, which gives this game a huge asterisk. I still think they're a Tournament quality team. The question is, will Wells be back in the lineup for their next game against a Tournament quality opponent, on December 21st at Oklahoma State? We don't know yet.

Notre Dame Wins A Tight One Over Michigan State This game was really close the entire way, although it wasn't exactly the highest quality game of the day. Both teams looked pretty ugly on offense, particularly down the stretch. Both teams finished with over 1.2 PPP, but that's a bit deceptive. Michigan State rebounded 50% of their misses and shot 53% behind the arc, while Notre Dame committed only 3 turnovers and shot 20-for-25 at the line.

Down the stretch, this game turned into hero ball from both teams, primarily Jerian Grant for Notre Dame and Denzel Valentine for Michigan State. Valentine hit a couple of threes down the stretch, including one that took a very friendly bounce, but he also had a bad turnover. Jerian Grant wanted a foul at the end of regulation, but I thought the no-call was a fair one. Late in overtime, Michigan State had the same problem they had against Kansas: Needing a quick basket they panicked and ran the clock down on offense instead, launching a terrible Travis Trice three with the shot clock running down. It's bizarre to see a Tom Izzo team show such poor offensive execution late in consecutive games.

I continue to not be convinced that this Michigan State team is good. I think they're a Tournament team, but I think they'll still be on the bubble in February and early March. They've lost to all three Tournament quality teams they've faced. They won't face another Tournament quality team until Big Ten play. The Irish also look to be in the vicinity of the tourney bubble in March, so this win could make the difference on Selection Sunday. Their next competitive game will be their ACC opener against Florida State on December 13th.

Shep Garner Scores The Easiest Bucket Of The Season The fact that Penn State won this game won't mean much for two teams that won't finish too close to the Tournament bubble, but Shep Garner won't ever have an easier basket in his life than the time he was the only guy on the court who realized that they were in the 1-and-1. Since this was a three point game, this shot really mattered, too.

So... Colorado State I don't want to spend too much time talking about this game, but Colorado State was one of my sleepers preseason (I've currently got them projected as a 10 seed). They're now 7-0 with three wins over teams Sagarin projects to finish in the RPI Top 100. They lack a resume-defining win, though. A road win at Colorado on December 10th would go a long way toward that. Any chance for a better win will have to come in conference play. The problem is that with the Mountain West down, San Diego State might provide their only chance for an RPI Top 50 win. They'll need one of those.


DMoore said...

"The reality is that there's a good chance this will be [Duke's] best performance of the season."

Maybe, maybe not. If Jahlil Okafor isn't in foul trouble the whole game, and if Justise Winslow has a better offensive night, maybe Duke doesn't need to shoot so many jump shots to begin with.

Jeff said...

Justise Winslow was the only player on Duke who hit fewer than 50% of his shots from the field. The odds are that Duke is going to have at least one guy shooting under 50% in every game the rest of the way.