Thursday, December 11, 2014

Morning News: Kansas Beats Georgetown, Incarnate Word Stuns Nebraska, Tulsa Loses To SE Oklahoma State, And More

Just as we all expected, this was the hero of Kansas/Georgetown.
Kansas Beats Georgetown This was a really well played game that was tight the entire way. Joshua Smith was a menace for Georgetown, scoring 20 points (on 8-for-13 shooting) and occupying much of the Kansas defense all night. The hero for Kansas was an unexpected one: Brannen Greene, who led the team with 19 points and was 5-for-5 behind the arc, including a killer one with around 2:30 to go after Georgetown had pulled within 2 points.

Kansas can't expect that 10-for-17 three-point shooting to be sustainable, but this is an awfully nice road victory, and they've now won three consecutive games against Pomeroy Top 25 opponents (Michigan State and Florida were the other two). They can complete this big stretch in their schedule by taking out Utah on Saturday.

Georgetown is now 1-3 against likely RPI Top 100 opponents, but they feel like a sleeping giant. Those three losses have all been by six points or less, and all came against likely Tournament teams. And it feels like they have so many good, new pieces that are still trying to find a way to fit together. This has the feel of a team that will be significantly better in March. Villanova is, of course, the heavy Big East favorite, but Georgetown remains their top challenger (in my opinion).

Incarnate Word Stuns Nebraska We always see goofy upsets in college basketball during the middle of December, when kids are focused on final exams, but things are just getting nuts in the Big Ten. Incarnate Word is honestly even less established than NJIT. This is only their second season in Division I basketball. And before this game they hadn't beaten a team in the RPI Top 200, let alone a team in Nebraska that has a good chance to finish in the Top 50.

Nebraska gave this game away, of course. In the final 30 seconds they fouled a three-point shooter twice, as well as a couple of turnovers, including a terrible pass by Terran Petteway out of bounds that set up Kyle Hittle for the game-winning jumper.

Kyle Hittle's game winner.

I talked earlier in the season about why I thought Nebraska was overrated preseason. They should never have been ranked in the Top 25. But they at least be a Tournament team, and right now they don't look like anything of the sort. They're 0-2 against the Pomeroy Top 100 and now have a bad loss to Incarnate Word. A home game against Cincinnati on Saturday is their last real non-conference test. Even with a win there and a 10-8 Big Ten record they still could end up in the NIT.

Tulsa Loses To SE Oklahoma State Speaking of bad losses by potential bubble teams, SE Oklahoma State isn't even a Division I team. Heck, they weren't even a >.500 Division II team, and they had never in their history knocked off a Division I opponent. Tulsa almost salvaged this game with a furious finish. They trailed by 12 with under 2:30 to go, but a 16-6 run pulled them within 2 points with five seconds left. Shaquille Harrison had a shot at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, but missed.

Tulsa beat Creighton, but they also lost to Oral Roberts and now here to SE Oklahoma State. This loss won't drop their RPI, but with the AAC looking weak they're going to have to finish with a really nice conference won-loss record to earn an at-large bid. Nothing less than 12-6 will get them in, I don't think. They will get a chance for a huge win at home on Saturday, against Oklahoma.

Utah Hangs On Against BYU We knew this game was going to be intense and fun, but we also thought there wouldn't be much defense. But Utah has more size than most people realize, and they made it very difficult for BYU to score the type of 5-to-8 foot shots that they love. BYU finished just 9-for-36 on two-point jumpers (they're making 45% of their two-point jumpers for the season), and they scored just 0.90 PPP, their first game under 1 PPP all season.

BYU has lost nine straight games when failing to score 1 PPP, with their last win coming over Pepperdine on January 31st, 2013. It's not a surprise that a team known for not playing defense doesn't win if they don't score a lot of points, but that's still quite an amazingly long streak. More importantly, BYU has come up short in all three games against Pomeroy Top 50 opponents so far this season. With only Gonzaga looking like a big scalp to be collected in WCC play, it's just going to be really tough for them to prove that they're a Tournament team.

Utah was so much better than their resume last season due to horrible luck in close games. But with two consecutive close victories (over Wichita State and BYU) they are getting attention as a real contender in the Pac-12. They've got a chance to really put themselves on the national map if they can knock off Kansas in Kansas City on December 13th.

Colorado State Beats Colorado Colorado State's bandwagon still has a few seats left, if you want to get on. The Rams are 9-0, and none of the wins are over Top 25 opponents, but they have beaten UTEP, Colorado, Georgia State and UCSB. At this point I have them projected as a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they need to avoid any bad losses to stay there. They have a couple of tricky road games upcoming, at Denver and New Mexico State. But if they can survive those and get to 12-6 in conference play (which will get them to 25 wins total)? I think that has to get them an at-large bid.

Colorado is off to a brutal start this season, with losses in all three games vs Pomeroy Top 100 opponents. And it's hard to blame luck on this early start, because their shooting stats aren't particularly out of whack. They just haven't played well. But the season is long, and plenty of teams in recent memory have washed away a poor non-conference performance by doing well in conference play. So there's still time for the Buffaloes to turn this around, but Tad Boyle has to figure out how to get their offense playing more efficiently.

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