Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Morning News: UNLV Stuns Arizona, Stanford Knocks Off Texas, And George Washington Wins Ugly

Not a ton of games last night, but we did have a court storming.
UNLV Stuns Arizona Stanley Johnson has been the hero for much of this season, but he had a final minute to forget here. With Arizona down by a point in the final 40 seconds, Stanley Johnson missed a tough layup, and then on Arizona's final possession dribbled off his foot. In between, Brandon Ashley had a chance for a potential game-winning three-pointer that bounced around and missed (there was a possibility that UNLV interfered while it was bouncing, though I didn't get a conclusive look at it). Anytime a game is this close it's going to come down to a ball bouncing around in and out, though, which is why media narratives are so fluid. We were one bounce of the ball away from "Arizona always finds a way to win close games", but instead we went with "Stanley Johnson made freshman mistakes". So it goes.

If there's one worrying thing that came out of this game for Arizona it's that their depth isn't great. With Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fouling out and Kaleb Tarczewski saddled with four fouls (which turned him into a very tentative and passive player), Arizona's defense took a huge step back. But please, don't overreact to a single game on the road against a decent mid-major. Arizona is still a very good team and the clear Pac-12 favorite.

UNLV has had some ugly performances in the early going this season, and this performance kind of came out of nowhere. That said, this is an extremely young UNLV team, and it's not crazy to think that they'll get better as the season goes along.

Stanford Knocks Off Texas This game was tight almost the entire way, though Stanford did have more chances down the stretch in regulation. The Anthony Brown offensive foul was questionable, and Stanford still had the chance to hold for the final shot of regulation but missed. Anthony Brown and Chasson Randle came up big in overtime, though, and Stanford collected a massive victory.

What really stood out for Stanford was their ability to win the paint battle against the massive Texas front line, which is something that would have been impossible to predict. Stanford fought to a draw in the rebounding battle and held Texas to just 7-for-14 shooting on layups and dunks (both teams had 20 paint points). Stanford is a really big team, but prior to this game they hadn't really shown themselves to be a great rebounding or paint defensive team. It's possible that this game is a sign of something to come, though it could also just end up another weird Finals Week result.

The reality for Texas is that a result like this, while bad, doesn't mean a whole lot. They'll play so many games against quality opponents in Big 12 play that this game won't matter much in March. This game means a lot more for a Stanford team that has a decent chance to end up on the Tournament bubble. It's their first quality win of the season and it will go a long way toward cancelling out that DePaul loss. They still have a home game against UConn coming, though it won't be until January 17th. They'll open Pac-12 play at home against the Washington schools.

George Washington Wins Ugly Over Colorado Barely a week after a bad loss to Penn State, George Washington was really in need of a win here, and this one will fall into the "I guess we'll take it" category. It was ugly, but it was a win. The two teams combined to hit 10% of their threes and to have a 38.5 eFG%. George Washington needed just 0.91 PPP to win.

It's impossible to find much reason why one team won or loss this game, but the win is crucial for GW. It gives them their first win against a likely RPI Top 100 opponent and gives them a chance for a real big win on Christmas Day against Wichita State. Colorado, on the other hand, is now 0-4 against Pomeroy Top 100 opponents. They just don't generate easy offense ever. Askia Booker isn't good enough to play hero ball all game long. The Buffaloes should hang around close to the bubble all season long, but there's no way at this point that you can project them as a Tournament team.

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