Monday, December 15, 2014

Morning News: Tennessee Upsets Butler, Wofford Beats NC State At The Buzzer, Semi Ojeleye, And Penn St/George Washington

Sorry, NC State, but it was the right call.
Tennessee Upsets Butler Tennessee was down by 12 points early in the second half of this game, but they outscored Butler 42-18 the rest of the way. Butler had 9 turnovers to just 6 made baskets in the second half, while the Vols had a 63.0 eFG%. Butler just seemed lackadaisical, and not a single one of their key players looked good in that second half. Even Alex Barlow, who led Butler with 16 points, shot just 1-for-6 from the field in the second half.

This was Butler's first game against a competitive opponent in the contiguous 48 states. But it doesn't wipe away the good work they did in the Bahamas, where they knocked off North Carolina and Georgetown. They'll play Indiana in Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday, and also have a potentially dangerous game against Belmont before starting Big East play.

Tennessee started the season 2-3 with a loss to Marquette, but Donnie Tyndall got better play out of them in December, knocking off Kansas State and Butler in consecutive game. A road game at NC State on Wednesday is their final competitive non-conference game.

Wofford Beats NC State At The Buzzer Down by a point with 6.3 seconds to go, Wofford ran a beautiful out of bounds play to get a layup for Justin Gordon. But the real story was what happened afterward, when Trevor Lacey hit what seemed to be a miraculous game-winner for NC State. Fans celebrated, but the play went to review. And what made this play controversial is that from the clock on the tv screen he seemed to get the shot off just before it turned to 0.0... but that clock is not official. From the rear view, which you can see below this paragraph, it's clear that the red light around the backboard came on while the ball was still in his hands. And it's the red light that is official. As much as Karl Hess drives us all nuts, he got this call right.

The reality is that Wofford is no cupcake. This is an upset, but Wofford could realistically finish the season in the RPI Top 100. They are (in my opinion) the favorite in the Southern Conference. But it's still a problem for an NC State team that doesn't have a win yet over a likely NCAA Tournament opponent. They now head into a key stretch, with four consecutive games against Tournament/bubble quality teams: Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana Tech and Cincinnati. They really need to win three of four to be in good position for an at-large bid heading into ACC play.

Semi Ojeleye Leaves Duke Once a blue chip recruit, Ojeleye had struggled to see the court for Duke. Now in his sophomore season, he was averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game, and even those stats are deceptive. He did almost all of his work against cupcake opponents. In their three games against quality opponents (Michigan State, Stanford and Wisconsin) he played a total of two minutes and failed to score. But no team besides Kentucky has more McDonald's All-Americans than Duke, so this doesn't mean Ojeleye isn't still a talented player who can produce for another team. He'll be a much sought-after transfer with 2.5 years of eligibility left.

Penn State Upsets George Washington This performance from Penn State kind of came out of nowhere. It wasn't a huge upset for them to win (George Washington only was a 2.5 point favorite), but Penn State took them to the woodshed. Pat Chambers teams consistently have lacked talent at Penn State, but they always play hard, particularly at home. They rebounded 44% of their own misses, blocked 11 shots, forced 7 steals, and held George Washington to 0.84 PPP.

Penn State is now 10-1, but this is their first win over a team likely to finish in the RPI Top 100, and six of their ten wins came by six points or less. So in other words, don't expect them to be anywhere near the bubble. That 10-1 record doesn't mean much. But they're feisty enough that they should pick up a big upset or two in conference play, like they do every year.

Before this game, George Washington had slid into the Top 50 of both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR, but you always have to be skeptical of early season computer ratings for teams that have faced soft schedules. The Colonials had not beaten a team likely to finish in the RPI Top 100. This is their worst loss, so their resume isn't too bad, but they have to prove that they can beat Top 50 opponents. Unfortunately, they probably won't get a chance again until they face VCU on January 27th.

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