|Vince Hunter played well, but couldn't be on the court for the end of this game.|
To put this in perspective, this was both Miami's worst offense (0.80 PPP) and defensive (1.31 PPP) performance of the season. This was the worst defensive performance for Miami since allowing 1.35 PPP to North Carolina on January 23rd, 2008. This offensive performance was only their worst since scoring 0.72 PPP against Virginia on February 26th. Though I'll repeat... this was Eastern Kentucky.
Now, here's where I walk Miami fans off the ledge a little: We can say pretty confidently that this will be Miami's worst performance of the season. A team is never as bad as they look on their worst day. The Hurricanes were a bit overrated in the Top 25 polls (I never had them higher than an 8 seed in my projected bracket) and they're regressing to the mean somewhat. Also, Eastern Kentucky isn't that bad of a team. For all the jokes that I made in the last two paragraphs, the reality is that Eastern Kentucky is one of the favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference, and they are actually in the RPI Top 100 for the time being (though the odds are that they'll eventually drop out).
The Hurricanes will take on Providence at the Barclay's Center on Monday. Win that game and take care of business against the College of Charleston and they end non-conference play with a solid resume (11-2 with wins over Florida, Illinois and Providence to go with losses to Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky). Even at 9-9 in ACC play they'll have a pretty good chance to get in, and they should be close to a lock at 10-8. So if Miami can burn the game tape from this one and get back to the team they had been, they'll be fine.
Arizona Survives UTEP It shouldn't be too surprising that UTEP kept this game close. There is nothing that the college basketball media world underrates more than homecourt advantage, and UTEP was at home here. Via the Sagarin ratings, a road game at UTEP is approximately equivalent to a home game against Villanova, and nobody would be surprised at all to see any team in the nation struggle with a home game against Villanovaa. And UTEP played tough, refusing to give up late. Despite being down by ten points with just over three minutes to play they actually made a game of it to the final seconds. Lew Stallworth had a three-pointer with around 15 seconds left that would have pulled UTEP within a single point, but he missed.
This could have potentially been a coming out game for Vince Hunter, who has quietly become one of the better big men in the entire nation. He was the one UTEP player with the ability to go toe-to-toe with Arizona's front line. But he was saddled with foul trouble, fouling out with more than eight minutes to go, though he did still manage to put up an impressive 18 points and 12 rebounds. For Arizona, Stanley Johnson was again a menace on both ends of the court, finishing with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
Arizona continues to win close games against quality opponents. They are now 12-0, but four of their five wins over likely RPI Top 100 opponents have come by five points or less. This Arizona team is still very good, of course, but they've also been lucky. They're obviously in the driver's seat for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can sweep the Pac-12 titles. Utah will likely be their top rival.
UTEP could have made some at-large noise with the upset here, but realistically they're going to need to win Conference USA's automatic bid. In my opinion they're the current favorite, but not by a wide margin. Louisiana Tech, Charlotte, Old Dominion and others will all provide tough tests.
Historic Defensive Futility In Denver To say that neither Denver or Colorado State could stop each other is an understatement. Denver shot 17-for-31 on threes and committed only 7 turnovers yet still lost. Colorado State piled on with a 67.0 eFG% while also rebounding 63% of their own misses. Denver nearly pulled this one out in the final minute, but Colorado State hit enough free throws to stay ahead. But what makes this game fascinating, besides the fact that Colorado State is a potential bubble team that avoided a loss, are the offensive statistics.
If we look at games just between Division I opponents, Denver and Colorado State had the third and fourth highest PPP performances of the entire season. In fact, if you go back to last season, only six teams all season long scored more than the 1.53 PPP that Denver scored in a loss here. In fact, I can search efficiency stats back through the 1996-97 season, and I could not find another team that scored as many PPP in a loss. The next best that I could find was TCU scoring 1.49 PPP while losing an 89-88 game to UNLV in the 2008 Mountain West tournament.