Friday, January 30, 2015

Morning News: UCLA Stuns Utah, Ohio St Runs Over Maryland, Rasheed Sulaimon, Dayton/UMass, And La Tech/WKU

This feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?

UCLA Stuns Utah Utah never seemed right in this game. They fell behind by double-digits early in the second half and never really made much of a charge. Their offense was weirdly passive all night. A full 47% of their shots from the field were three-pointers. Delon Wright disappeared for large stretches, finishing with a quiet 15 points and 2 assists.

Utah's last two road games have been ugly, with this upset following the 18 point drubbing by Arizona. But it would be a mistake to draw too many conclusions from that. Home/road narratives are always dumb and overstated. The statistics say that every team's homecourt advantage is pretty much equal, plus or minus at most a single point. There's no reason to think that Utah won't go on the road on Sunday and easily handle USC. Also, even after this loss Utah is still tied with Arizona in efficiency margin in conference play (+0.25 PPP). So it would be a mistake to think Utah couldn't still come back to take the Pac-12.

This would be a great win for UCLA's resume if they hadn't just lost 7 of 10 games. Even after this win there's still a pretty significant gap between them and the bubble. They're 4-4 in Pac-12 play and will need to finish at least 10-8 to get any bubble consideration, and realistically need to reach 11-7.

Ohio State Runs Away From Maryland Ohio State completed two "upsets" this week, beating ranked teams while they were unranked, though of course they were favored by approximately 8 points in Vegas in both games. This game was also a total Ohio State demolition in every way. They controlled the glass (a 42.1 OR% compared to a 22.2 OR% for Maryland), they shot much better from outside (59% on threes compared to 35% for Maryland) and dominated inside (a 32-to-16 advantage in points in the paint).

As recently as a week ago, Ohio State's resume was looking awfully bubbly, but the reality was that they were better than their resume. Even before this win they had the second best efficiency margin in Big Ten play, and with this rout it's now up to +0.09 PPP, and the Buckcyes are in control of second place in the Big Ten. Can they hold it? They've got some tricky road games coming up, including one at Purdue on Wednesday. Their one game against Wisconsin will come at home, so if they can get through this stretch undefeated then they could still challenge for the Big Ten title.

Maryland has nearly a week to lick their wounds before they play Penn State at home. Any tenuous chance they still have to challenge for the Big Ten title will require a home victory over Wisconsin on February 24th.

Rasheed Sulaimon Booted From Duke This news came out of nowhere. Sulaimon has spent some time in Coach K's dog house, but he had been playing plenty lately. Duke's depth is going to be seriously tested now, as they're down to just eight scholarship players. Certainly we'll see more Matt Jones, but the biggest winner will probably be Grayson Allen, who had been the last scholarship player off the bench for Duke. He hasn't shown much in ACC play, but he'll get his chance now. Duke doesn't have a long time to figure this out, as they head on the road to face Virginia tomorrow.

Dayton Falls To UMass Dayton will feel as if they gave this one away. They were an ugly 6-for-12 at the line with 7 turnovers in the second half alone, and the key play of the game was Dyshawn Pierre missing a layup that was almost too wide open with Dayton trailing by 3 points and around a minute to go. On the other end of the court the Flyers didn't get the benefit of the doubt from the ref after Scoochie Smith got a defensive rebound and was ruled out-of-bounds, though reviews seemed to show he was clearly inbounds.

Depth is going to be an issue for Dayton all season long. All five starters played at least 34 minutes here, and they effectively played a six man rotation (their seventh man, Bobby Wehrli, played only 4 minutes). That said, a road win at UMass was always going to be difficult, so this isn't a terrible performance. Dayton is still 15-4 overall and 5-4 against the RPI Top 100, and they should earn an at-large bid if they get to 13-5 or better in Atlantic Ten play.

This win keeps UMass from dropping to .500 for the season, though their crazy difficult non-conference schedule has them sitting a respectable 55th in the RPI. Realistically, though, they're not in the at-large conversation. They've got some lower-tier Atlantic Ten opponents coming up the next few weeks, and that's going to drop their RPI even if they win every game.

Louisiana Tech Rolls Western Kentucky Western Kentucky came into this game 7-0 in Conference USA play, though I still had Louisiana Tech as my projected favorite. Western Kentucky had beaten Old Dominion and UTEP at home, but they still had to go on the road to face Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, UAB and Middle Tennessee. This was the first of those four tough road games, and Louisiana Tech wiped the floor with them here, leading by double figures for nearly the entire second half despite just 20% three-point shooting and 50% free throw shooting.

Louisiana Tech is now on top of Conference USA in efficiency margin (+0.14 PPP, compared to +0.11 PPP for UAB and UTEP), and they also lead the standings now that they are tied with WKU and own the tiebreak. They've got some tough remaining road tests, though, starting with a game at UAB next Thursday, so they're far from being comfortable atop the league.

Western Kentucky has a pretty soft upcoming schedule. Their next particularly difficult game will be on the road at UAB on February 19th.

Cincinnati Defeats UConn This wasn't the prettiest game, but it was awfully physical. UConn struggled to get jump shots to fall, finishing an ugly 1-for-14 on two-point jumpers and 34% overall on two-pointers. Troy Caupain was the focal point for Cincinnati, scoring 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting and also getting himself ejected on two separate technical fouls for taunting in the second half.

Cincinnati is starting to make the case that they might be the best team in the AAC. They're two games back of Tulsa, though against a more difficult schedule and with a better efficiency margin. SMU has the highest efficiency margin in the AAC (+0.21 PPP, compared to +0.19 PPP for Cincinnati and +0.15 PPP for Tulsa), but they have yet to play a decent opponent since losing Keith Frazier for the season. Cincinnati has a big time test coming up at SMU next Thursday.

UConn has struggled really badly the last few weeks. They've lost three of five and dropped significantly in every computer rating. They do get close to two weeks now to lick their wounds against a soft stretch of schedule, but have some tough games down the stretch, including a home-and-home with SMU.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Morning News: Notre Dame Tops Duke, Purdue Runs Over Indiana, Rhode Island Buzzer Beater, And ACC Stumbles

Jerian Grant informs the Irish student section that they expected to win this game.

Notre Dame Tops Duke This game was inevitably going to have a lot of dramatic runs, as it featured arguably the two most explosive offenses in the nation with two defenses that have struggled mightily in ACC play. The final big run came when Duke led by 10 points with a little over 10 minutes to go, when the Irish went on a 12-0 run to take the lead. Jahlil Okafor had a huge night (22 points and 17 rebounds) but he did miss key free throws down the stretch (2-for-7 for the game), and Duke as a team was an ugly 10-for-20 at the line. But this was Jerian Grant's night. Grant had 23 points and 12 assists and hit some absolutely spectacular shots, as well as this goofy with a minute to go:
This game wasn't really an upset. Duke was a 1.5 or 2 point favorite in Vegas, but both Sagarin and Pomeroy had Notre Dame as the narrow favorite here. But Duke was not done any favors by the ACC schedule-makers, and they now need to pull a huge upset on Saturday at Virginia to avoid dropping to 4-4 in ACC play. Their ACC regular season title hopes are slipping away.

Notre Dame is now 8-1 in ACC play and 20-2 overall, with 5 wins against the RPI Top 50. With a loss already in their only game against Virginia they're likely not going to win the ACC, but they're getting themselves in the mix for a 3 seed in March, or even possibly a 2 seed.

Purdue Runs Indiana Off The Court I've talked about this to death on this blog,  but Indiana has to hit three pointers to beat anybody. They don't score inside reliably and their defense is a mess. And Purdue cruised to 1.24 PPP here, their best offensive performance of the season. In contrast, Indiana went ice cold from deep, hitting just 4-for-19 behind the arc. The Hoosiers aren't going to beat anybody shooting like that.

This Indiana team seems destined for the tourney bubble. They have to avoid a look-ahead loss at home against Rutgers on Saturday, because they're just 5-3 with a road game at Wisconsin coming up on Tuesday. If they can get to 11-7 in conference play that should earn them an at-large bid. At 10-8 it will likely come down to what they do in the Big Ten tournament.

Purdue is now 5-3 in Big Ten play as well, but after a fairly disastrous non-conference performance they are going to need to get to 11-7 to get any kind of at-large consideration. A potential letdown game at Northwestern is up next.

Rhode Island Buzzer Beater It was Gilvydas Biruta who finished off a chaotic final sequence with the game winner for Rhode Island. Watch it all in the video below:
Rhode Island is 14-5 overall and 6-2 in Atlantic Ten play, and hanging in just a little bit off the Tournament bubble. They're just 1-5 against the RPI Top 100, which is why they probably have to get to 14-4 in conference play to earn an at-large bid, but at 13-5 they'll at least be in the discussion. Fordham, on the other hand, drops to 5-13 overall and 0-7 in Atlantic Ten play. It's now been eight seasons since Fordham finished a season .500 or better in Atlantic Ten play.

Miami Stumbles Against Georgia Tech Miami has been an incredibly up-and-down team this season. They beat Duke and Florida and took Virginia to double overtime, but they also have suffered bad losses to Eastern Kentucky and now Georgia Tech. Miami's offense was a disaster here. They were 6-for-26 on threes, as well as 6-for-16 on layups. They scored just 0.82 PPP after scoring more than 1 PPP in every previous ACC game.

At 4-3 in ACC play, Miami is still in reasonably good shape for an at-large bid, but this loss removes a large chunk of the gap between them and the bubble. Their upcoming schedule is pretty soft, but they need to get to 11-7 to be safely in the NCAA Tournament.

This is Georgia Tech's first win in ACC play after an ugly 0-7 start. It also gets them back to .500 overall (10-10), though the odds are that they'll be back below .500 before the end of the season.

Clemson Shuts Down NC State It was a night of goofy ACC results, and NC State's offense was totally suffocated by Clemson's defense.  Brad Brownell's team is built around interior defense, and they don't score much against anybody, but this was ridiculous. NC State hit just 24% of their two-point attempts (compared to 46% of their three-point attempts). Clemson outscored them 34-to-20 in the paint.

Just two weeks ago NC State had beaten Duke and nearly taken out North Carolina and looking like an at-large team, but they've fallen into an ugly three game losing streak and are just 4-5 in ACC play with a difficult two weeks coming up next. The Wolfpack will be in pretty good shape if they can get to 10-8 in ACC play, but at this point that seems unlikely.

Clemson lost to Gardner Webb, Winthrop and Rutgers in non-conference play, but they're now 4-4 in ACC play with a soft week up next (vs Boston College, at Florida State). They could still make a run at an NIT bid.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Morning News: Oklahoma State Shoots Past Baylor, Dorian Finney-Smith Slams Alabama, VCU Annihilates George Washington, And Georgetown/Xavier

Oklahoma State Shoots Their Way Past Baylor Oklahoma State was always going to struggle with the length and athleticism of Baylor's front line, but they minimized the damage on the glass and managed to stay in control of this game all night long with shooting. Oklahoma State shot 9-for-18 behind the arc, while Baylor hit just 28% of all jump shots. Phil Forte was the star, hitting 4-for-7 behind the arc while leading all scorers with 16 points.

This is the first of a stretch of five straight games against Pomeroy Top 20 opponents for Oklahoma State. Despite not doing much of anything in non-conference play, their Big 12 schedule should be plenty for an at-large bid if they can get to 9-9. Now 4-4 they will look for revenge on Saturday at home against Oklahoma.

Baylor drops to 3-4 in Big 12 play with some filthy remaining games (including road trips to Kansas, Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia). So they're not going to win a share of the Big 12 title, but they should still be pretty safe for an at-large bid. Over the next week they're at home to take on Texas and TCU.

Dorian Finney-Smith Delivers A Win For Florida The Gators have had awful luck in close games this season (2-6 in games decided by six points or less prior to this one), but Dorian Finney-Smith didn't get the memo about not knowing how to win close games or how to win road games. Finney-Smith had a monster dunk to put Florida ahead in the final seconds, and he finished it off by getting the block on the other end of the court to seal the win. You can watch the dunk below:
Even though most everybody in the media has eliminated Florida from at-large contention, I've kept them in my projected bracket. They're a good team (24th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR and 36th in Pomeroy). If they get to 12-6 in SEC play they'll likely have an RPI inside the Top 40, which would almost certainly be enough for an at-large bid (only once every two or three years will a Top 40 RPI major conference team finish end up in the NIT). Now 4-3, they can't afford a letdown on Saturday at home against Arkansas.

Alabama seems to do nothing but play close games. Four of their last five games have been decided by exactly two points. For the season they're 4-4 in games decided by six points or less, which means that their luck has mostly balanced out. Realistically, they probably have to get to 11-7 in SEC play to have a good at-large chance, and they're probably not getting there.

VCU Annihilates George Washington VCU is a very good team that simply couldn't close the deal against quality opponents in non-conference play, meaning that they're going to need an extremely gaudy Atlantic Ten record to earn a high seed in March. They took out their frustrations here on a George Washington team that has struggled with turnovers. They forced 16 turnovers and did a good team effort of keeping George Washington off the glass. Of course, the 1-for-17 three-point shooting from the Colonials also helped.

VCU's RPI is 4th, though that's going to fade. Realistically, they'd probably be a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now. I don't think there's a path to a 1 seed or a 2 seed, but a 3 seed could be in the cards if VCU can pull off a 16-2 or 17-1 Atlantic Ten record.

George Washington could have really used a win over VCU for their at-large resume, though they'll get a rematch at home on February 14th. They beat Wichita State, but that's their only win over a likely NCAA Tournament team and they've got bad losses to Penn State and La Salle. They're going to have to got at least 12-6 in conference play to have an at-large chance. A tough road game at Rhode Island on Saturday is up next.

Georgetown Offense Disappears Against Xavier This game wasn't as big of an upset as the media is making it out to be. Xavier is much better than their resume (an unlucky 1-5 in games decided by four points or less), and both Pomeroy and Sagarin had these teams with nearly identical ratings. That said, Georgetown's offense just totally disappeared here. The Hoyas hit just 6-for-22 behind the arc and 54% at the line while committing 17 turnovers. The 0.80 PPP Georgetown scored were their fewest in a game since January 8th, 2013.

This had the feel of a classic letdown game for Georgetown after that important four game winning streak, which included their domination of Villanova. They built enough of a buffer between them and the bubble that they can afford a loss like this, though the margin of error for making a serious run at the Big East title is too small for this.

I've talked before about Xavier potentially ending up the best team not in the NCAA Tournament due to their poor luck in close games. They're up to 5-4 in Big East play with this win, though, including 7-4 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that has slid into the Top 30. If they can get to 10-8 in conference play that should be sufficient.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Morning News: Iowa State Tops Texas, North Carolina Escapes Syracuse, And Robert Upshaw Dismissed

Nobody's going to have to shoot above these long arms again for the rest of the season

Iowa State Tops Texas Texas had one of the greatest gambling backdoor covers in a game where Iowa State nearly suffered an epic collapse. The Cyclones grabbed an early lead in this one and led by 21 points with 8 minutes to go. But a 30-14 run eventually pushed Texas within 3 points with 23 seconds to go. Finally, Texas missed a shot and Iowa State hit free throws to push the gap to an insurmountable 5 points. In the end, Texas took the ball out under their own basket down by 5 points with under a second to go, where Myles Turner earned a tip-in that didn't affect the winner of the game, but was an epic backdoor cover for gamblers who got Texas at the final Vegas line of 5 points.

Iowa State fans sure had some unnecessary heartburn over the final few minutes here, but in the end all's well that end's well. On Selection Sunday, nobody is going to care whether they won by 3 or 23. Coming off the loss to Kansas State, this win helps keep the Cyclones in the Big 12 title race. They now have to avoid a look-ahead upset against TCU before their road rematch at Kansas next Monday.

This loss drops Texas to 3-4 in Big 12 play with a road game looming at Baylor on Saturday. Things will ease up a little bit after that, though, and the reality is that every other team in the Big 12 is going to pick up plenty of losses between now and Selection Sunday also. Texas still has a good shot at a top three finish in the conference standings.

North Carolina Escapes Syracuse Syracuse made a solid upset bid here. North Carolina was sloppy (20 turnovers) and trailed for most of the second half, despite hot outside shooting (9-for-16 behind the arc). A huge referee call really was the back-breaker for Syracuse, when Tyler Roberson was called for an invisible over-the-back foul on a tip-in that would have pulled Syracuse within 2 points with 2:53 to go. Instead Roberson fouled out and Brice Johnson hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to 6. North Carolina probably would have won the game anyway, but that call mentally felt like the dagger. It's good to have homecourt advantage.

Before this game, Syracuse had played just one team in the Pomeroy Top 15 all season long. Starting with this game they will play 6 of their final 11 games against Pomeroy Top 15 opponents. It's a killer back-loaded schedule. Obviously they aren't expected to win on the road at North Carolina, but they need to win at least one of these tough games if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. This loss is a significant missed opportunity. They have a soft couple of weeks ahead (beginning with a home game against Virginia Tech) before a key stretch of back-to-back home games against Duke and Louisville.

North Carolina is hanging around on the periphery of the ACC title race. They play on the road at Louisville on Saturday, but that is really the appetizer for a home game against Virginia next Monday. If North Carolina is going to earn a share of the ACC title they really need to pull that upset.

Robert Upshaw Dismissed This is a huge blow for Washington. This is not Upshaw's first instance of a behavior problem, though. At Fresno State he was suspended twice before being dismissed from the team. After transferring to Washington he had been suspended from practice during his redshirt season. This time it is a vague "violation of team rules" that is doing him in.

Behavior problems aside, Upshaw is a huge talent. He was averaging 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game, and was the primary reason why Washington's 2P% defense had made an astonishing improvement from 327th in the nation last season to 5th in the nation this season. That talent is why Upshaw will probably eventually get a shot at the NBA, even if he doesn't play for another college team.

For this season, this is a killer loss for Washington, and might end their realistic chances of an at-large bid. They were already a bubble team at best with Upshaw in the lineup. And it's a shame, because Upshaw is such a talented basketball player if he can get the off-court issues fixed.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Morning News: Coach K 1K, Ohio State/Indiana, Dez Wells Game Winner, And More

So I don't know if you heard about this game yesterday...

Coach K 1K Hey, did you guys hear that Coach K won his 1,000th game? I didn't either! It's too bad the media didn't cover it, huh?
In all seriousness, there's no reason we have to let the media's annoying coverage and hype of K distract from what an unbelievable accomplishment 1,000 wins is. Jim Boeheim will likely get there, but then it might be a while, even with the increase in the number of games per season. Bill Self is the only other active coach who seems to have a realistic shot of getting there, if he's willing to keep coaching Kansas into his 70s.

St. John's almost spoiled the party here. They led by 10 points midway through the second half, but a 21-4 run blew this game open. Duke was simply more aggressive, attacking the rim and the glass while St. John's settled for long jumpers.

If St. John's ends up in the NIT, we'll look back at this game as their huge missed opportunity. They're just 2-4 in Big East play with an RPI that is 50th. If they can get to 9-9 in Big East play that should be enough for an at-large bid, but that's no guarantee.

Ohio State Takes Care Of Indiana The Buckeyes were an 8 point favorite in Vegas, so it would have been a fairly large upset if they lost, but Indiana's hot outside shooting and serious cramps for D'Angelo Russell were cause for concern. Russell was limited to 32 minutes, part of which he was limping for, otherwise he might have gone for a triple double (22 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds). Indiana, meanwhile, shot 12-for-25 (48%) behind the arc, led by 6-for-11 from Yogi Ferrell.

The issue for Indiana is just how reliant they are on three-point shooting. It's why this game seemed to have so many 6-0 or 10-3 type spurts. When the Hoosiers get hot for a couple minutes they pile up points in bunches, but when they get cold they lack a consistent inside scoring option and they are awful defensively. Ohio State cruised to 1.32 PPP here without even shooting that well.

Indiana drops to 5-2 in Big Ten play, knowing that they probably have to get to 11-7 to make the NCAA Tournament. They have a very tricky road game up next, on Wednesday at Purdue. Ohio State has a crucial game coming up on Thursday against Maryland. In my opinion, the winner of that game has the inside track for second place in the Big Ten, and to have the best shot at challenging Wisconsin for the Big Ten title.

Dez Wells Game Winner Maryland overcame a 14 point deficit to avoid what would have been a terrible home loss to Northwestern. It finished in a wild sequence brought to us by the lack of timeouts for the Terps, which you can watch below:
The Terps were perhaps looking ahead a little bit to their massive road game at Ohio State on Thursday. The winner of that game will have the inside track to be Wisconsin's top challenger in the Big Ten.

Notre Dame Escapes NC State This was a massive missed opportunity for NC State. They led by 18 points at one stage, and looked primed for the type of win that could put them firmly into the Field of 68 and off the Tournament bubble. But their offense fell apart in the second half and the Irish slowly clawed their way back into the game. Still, the Wolfpack had the ball and the lead with under 20 seconds to go, but an ill-advised inbounds pass (when they still had a timeout left to call) set up Notre Dame to tie up the game and send it to overtime. In overtime, Jerian Grant actually blocked the attempted game-tying three-pointer with a few seconds to go.

This might have been NC State's last good chance for a big scalp. They still get Virginia, but that will be awfully tough, as will a road game at Louisville. They beat Duke, but they're 4-4 in ACC play and if they go 9-9 they'll only be 18-13 overall. That seems very bubblish.

The Irish are still just a half game back from first place in the ACC, though they already lost at home to Virginia and don't get a rematch. But they have a home-and-home with Duke coming up, starting with the game at Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Butler Runs Away From Seton Hall Seton Hall fought back from a 13 point deficit to actually take a 3 point lead in the second half of this game, but that's when the floodgates opened. A 33-7 Butler run turned this one into a laugher. And it was a team-wide impressive effort from the Bulldogs, who had five players in double-figures.

Seton Hall being ranked the past few weeks has been somewhat comical, and it will surely end today. Now just 3-4 in Big East play, the bigger concern is staying in the Field of 68. They'll be in decent shape if they can get to 9-9, though they'll need more RPI Top 50 wins (only one so far), but even 9-9 will be difficult. First up, they need to survive a tough road game at Marquette on Wednesday.

Butler, meanwhile, has begun to separate themselves from the pack in the Big East. They're 15-6 overall and 5-3 in conference play, with wins over North Carolina, Georgetown, Xavier, St. John's and Seton Hall (twice), with a loss to Tennessee being their worst loss of the season. They're looking very safe for an NCAA Tournament bid, and more like a 5-7 seed than something closer to the bubble. They have a reasonable shot at finishing in second place in the Big East.

Kuran Iverson To Rhode Island Iverson hadn't done much over a season and a half at Memphis, and he was averaging just 4.5 points and 1.6 rebounds per game this season before transferring out, but he was a highly touted recruit who will get a chance for a basketball career reboot at Rhode Island. It looks like he should be eligible at the start of the next spring semester, where he could be joining a Rams team fighting for an at-large bid.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Morning News: New Bracket, Kansas Takes Control Of The Big 12, Texas Tech Knocks Off Iowa St, And Much More

These aren't your father's Wisconsin Badgers.

New Bracket Projection There were two changes to the Field of 68 this week. Davidson and Indiana came in, while Minnesota and Pittsburgh dropped out. In addition, Kansas is the new Big 12 favorite, replacing Texas after beating them in Austin. For all the details, click the link.

Kansas Grabs Control Of The Big 12 Every year of the Bill Self era we've ended up at the end of the season feeling dumb for doubting that Kansas would end up winning the league. And we might be there again, because Kansas looked awful impressive in taking this win at Texas and grabbing a full game lead over all of their contenders. This was a near-perfect performance from Kansas, with just 3 turnovers along with an encouraging performance from Brannen Greene (4-for-5 behind the arc) off the bench.

The difficult thing in the Big 12 will be earning a 1 seed, because every team is going to lose so many games. I've said all season that I don't think any team will go better than 13-5 in conference play, But Kansas and Texas should both end up 2 seeds or 3 seeds at worst. There will be a whole lot of Big 12 teams near the top of the bracket.

Kansas has a potential letdown situation on the road at TCU next, and then has their home re-match against Iowa State looming on February 2nd. Texas heads into a nasty weeek, with Iowa State and Baylor on the road.

Texas Tech Knocks Off Iowa State There's some stupid overreaction to this game, as there will be in the media after just about every Big 12 game. Every team is going to lose a bunch of games, as I said in the Kansas/Texas recap above. You can't freak out after every result. Why did Iowa State lose this game? Outside shooting. Texas Tech hit 11-for-24 (46%) behind the arc while Iowa State hit 6-for-31 (19%). Considering the fact that the Vegas spread was 9.5 points, you'd expect a close game here with outside shooting like that.

Kansas has certainly grabbed control of the Big 12, but Iowa State can grab it back if they can pull the upset in Lawrence on February 2nd. They can't worry about that yet, though, with a home game coming up against Texas on Monday. Texas Tech, meanwhile, is pretty clearly the worst team in the Big 12, but they're not a terrible team. They'll probably pull another upset or two like this before the season is over.

Kansas State Knocks Off Oklahoma State Kansas State was a brutal 7-6 in non-conference play, with no quality wins to go with bad losses to Texas Southern and Long Beach State. But all of a sudden they're 5-2 in the best conference in the nation after knocking off Oklahoma State. The star was Nino Williams, who was 6-for-6 from the field in the first half alone.

So is Kansas State making an at-large case? They now have four RPI Top 50 wins to only one RPI 100+ loss. That said, their RPI is only 79th and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is 58th. If they can get to 11-7 in Big 12 play then they'll have to be considered, but their remaining schedule is just ridiculously difficult, and I still think that's pretty unlikely.

Oklahoma State heads into a key week. They're taking on Baylor and Oklahoma at home. Now 3-4 in Big 12 play, they could really use a sweep.

Iowa Loses Game, Aaron White Aaron White has been easily Iowa's most important player this season, and he deserves at least some consideration for First Team All-Big Ten, but that assumes he plays in every game the rest of the season. That is now in doubt, as White suffered a rough shoulder injury early in this game that kept him out the rest of the day. After the game, Iowa called the injury a "stinger" and kept open the possibility of him playing against Wisconsin next week, though at this point it's impossible for any of us to know if that's true.

Either way, Iowa actually put on a really impressive performance in the second half here. Purdue was a 1 point favorite in Vegas, yet without Aaron White the Hawkeyes were able to overcome a 10 point second half deficit to actually grab a lead in the final minute. It was with 50 seconds left that Raphael Stephens, a 27% three-point shooter coming into the day, hit a three-pointer with the shot clock running down for Purdue. And that turned out to be the game winner after both Mike Gesell and Peter Jok missed on the other end of the court.

If Aaron White misses significant time, Iowa suddenly is at real risk of ending up in the NIT. They're 4-3 in Big Ten play with no really bad losses but with only one quality win (North Carolina). Their two best chances for a quality win will come the next two weekends, when they face Wisconsin and Maryland at home. That's why it's essential for White to be available. Purdue, meanwhile, moves to 4-3 in Big Ten play themselves, though they're not really a realistic at-large team unless they get to 11-7 or better.

West Virginia Wins In A Wild Finish TCU was closing in on a huge road upset when Trey Ziegler hit a runner with 1.8 seconds to go. But West Virginia had not timeouts so they just hurled the ball down the court and got the ball to Jevon Carter, who was fouled and hit the two free throws to give West Virginia the win. It's amazing how much more fun basketball is when there are no timeouts and players just play in the final seconds. Here's the wild sequence below:
Poor TCU is now 1-5 in Big 12 with a nasty schedule upcoming. West Virginia, meanwhile, probably won't contend for the Big 12 title, but they're increasingly looking like a 3 or 4 seed in March with a real chance for a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 if they get the right draw.

Oklahoma Loses Again The Big 12 is a brutal place. Two weeks ago Oklahoma looked like the potential Big 12 favorite, but they've now lost four of five to fall to 3-4 in conference play. This Oklahoma team is still very good, but their offense can be spotty, and they've been held below 1 PPP in three of these four losses, including 0.92 PPP here. Baylor bounced back from their own tough loss to Kansas State to get back to 3-3 here, though they're back on the road on Tuesday for a tough road game at Oklahoma State.

It's kind of hard to find new things to say at this point at this middle of the pack in the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and perhaps others). All of these teams are good, but they all have flaws which keep them from being one of the top tier contenders in the nation. They're all likely to end up with solid seeds in the NCAA Tournament, and they're just playing to slide up or down a seed line or two in the final Tournament bracket. I'm not sure what else to say but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Minnesota Tops Illinois Illinois came into this game with the best defensive rebounding percentage in Big Ten play, but Minnesota dominating them here with 14 offensive rebounds (a 48.3 OR%). Maurice Walker in particular was a monster, with five offensive rebounds in the second half alone. At 1-6 in Big Ten play, this was practically a must-win for Minnesota. Now at 2-6, they need to pile up some wins against a soft upcoming schedule, including games against Penn State and Nebraska next week. They need to get to at least 9-9 in Big Ten play to earn an at-large bid.

Illinois really needs Rayvonte Rice back before this season spirals out of control. They're 3-5 in Big Ten play and 3-8 against the RPI Top 100. Their next two games are at home against Penn State and Rutgers. It's needless to say they can't afford to get upset in either of those.

Ohio's Buzzer Beating Dunk Ohio had one of the prettiest game-winning plays you'll ever see to knock off Buffalo. Maurice N'Dour had the winning dunk, which you can see below:
Ohio isn't likely to contend for a MAC title, but Buffalo is, and this loss drops them a full two games back in the MAC East. They'll try to bounce back with a couple home games next week.

Michigan State Is Staring At The Bubble This was an ugly loss for Michigan State.  All year we've seen Nebraska's offense bog down with a bunch of Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields hero ball (the two took 76% of Nebraska's shots here), and Michigan State was weirdly inspired by that, allowing Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine to combine for 62% of their shots here. The two combined for 48 points, but it came on 17-for-41 shooting, so it wasn't particularly efficient.

This isn't a shocking loss for Michigan, but it's a bad loss for their resume, and they already have that loss to Texas Southern without any wins over teams likely to finish in the Top 25 polls. Their only game against Wisconsin is on the road and they're done with Maryland, so their only good chance for a win against a team with a realistic Top 25 chance is Ohio State on February 14th. They're now 3-6 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that has fallen out of the Top 40. They're still likely to make the NCAA Tournament, but they're cutting it close.

Larry Nance Steals A Win Over New Mexico Larry Nance is having a hell of a season, but he might not have a sequence all season long quite as impressive as this steal and score at the end of overtime to deliver a victory over New Mexico:
Wyoming is now alone in first place at 6-1 in Mountain West play, though despite their 17-3 overall record their soft strength of schedule means that they're a long shot at-large team. But in a wide-open Mountain West, they're a contender for the conference title and automatic bid, at least. New Mexico is now two losses back in the standings, though they head into a relatively soft stretch of schedule. They should still be a contender in the Mountain West tourney.

Colorado State Holds Off San Diego State Colorado State seemed to have this game in hand, leading the entire way and still holding a 10 point lead with under 10 minutes to go. But San Diego State got hot, hitting 7 of 8 shots, including three straight behind the arc. Malik Pope was the catalyst during that stretch, and he led San Diego State with 22 points off the bench. But JJ Avila was the steady rock all night for Colorado State. Avila led all scorers with 29 points and was 12-for-16 from the field, including the jumper that pretty much iced the game with around 20 seconds to go.

Both of these teams are now one game behind Wyoming in the Mountain West standings. Colorado State already lost at home to Wyoming, though they actually lead the Mountain West in efficiency margin (+0.16 PPP). San Diego State lost to Wyoming also, though the loss came at Wyoming and was competitive. San Diego State is also, in my opinion, the most talented team in the conference. The summary of this paragraph? The Mountain West is wide open. But the smart bet is that one of those three teams ends up winning it. For now, my money is still on San Diego State.

Miami Hangs On Against Syracuse Miami nearly blew a 12 point second half lead here. If this game was a minute or two longer, Syracuse would have had a great chance of pulling it out. But it wasn't, and Syracuse is now staring at the Tournament bubble. They're 5-2 in ACC play, but against a completely back-loaded ACC schedule. They only have a single RPI Top 50 win to go with bad losses to California and Clemson. If they can get to 10-8 in conference play they should get an at-large bid, but that's going to be tough. 6 of Syracuse's last 11 games will come against Pomeroy Top 15 opponents, starting with a road game at North Carolina on Monday.

Miami was led by the physical play of Tonye Jekiri, who had 13 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. And Miami, in contrast to Syracuse, heads into a really soft stretch of ACC schedule, starting with Georgia Tech and Florida State next week. They're only 4-2 in ACC play, but shouldn't have much trouble getting to the 11-7 record they need to basically seal up an at-large bid.

Stephen F Austin Grabs Control Of The Southland Stephen F Austin is an awfully good team. They're now up to 40th in Pomeroy and 53rd in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They don't have any "quality" wins, but they did beat Memphis and Long Beach State in non-conference play. The lack of quality wins is going to make it really hard for them to earn an at-large bid, but they'll be a scary 11-13 seed if they go Dancing.

The one challenger to Stephen F. Austin in the Southland is Sam Houston State, another team in the Top 100 of pretty much every computer rating. And so by winning this road game at Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin is now the heavy favorite to take the Southland regular season title.

W-7 BP68

We're firmly in the thick of conference play now, and there was quite a bit of movement in the bracket this week.

The bubble is starting to shrink and clear up. We now have a pretty good idea of the 10-15 teams that we'll be debating in early March. And for this new bracket projection, I have flipped four of them. Indiana and Davidson move into the bracket, while Pittsburgh and Minnesota drop out. Also, this isn't a change to the membership of the Field of 68, but Kansas is the new Big 12 favorite, replacing Texas.

All of the teams in the "Seriously Considered" category out of the bracket have, by definition, been considered for one of those last few at-large spots. But if you're curious, it's Georgia that is the "first team out". They'd be an at-large team if the season ended now, but I just have some suspicions about them regressing at this point. Another good week and they might be in, though.

As for the Full Bubble, we're still in the early stages of eliminating mid-majors. This week, seven teams were eliminated from at-large contention: Ball State, Charlotte, High Point, Eastern Michigan, Lafayette, Missouri State and Northern Illinois. That leaves 78 teams currently out of the bracket that still have a chance for an at-large bid.

Remember, this is a projection of what the bracket will look like on Selection Sunday, and not a measure of where teams would be if the season ended now.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday:


2. Virginia
2. KANSAS (BIG 12)

3. Texas
3. North Carolina
3. Louisville
3. Utah

4. Iowa State
4. Oklahoma

5. West Virginia
5. Notre Dame
5. Maryland
5. Georgetown

6. SMU
6. Ohio State
6. Oklahoma State
6. Baylor

7. Northern Iowa
7. Stanford

8. Arkansas
8. Butler
8. Michigan State
8. Cincinnati

9. Providence
9. Xavier
9. Dayton
9. Miami-Florida

10. Iowa
10. Colorado State
10. St. John's
10. Seton Hall

11. Florida
11. Syracuse
11. NC State
11. Illinois
11. Indiana

12. BYU
12. Davidson





Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Tulsa, Pittsburgh, George Washington, Minnesota, Washington, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi

Decent resumes, but not good enough:
Temple, Michigan, Kansas State, TCU, Old Dominion, Wyoming, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Saint Mary's

Long shots, but still in the at-large discussion:
Memphis, Clemson, Rhode Island, Richmond, Marquette, Nebraska, Purdue, UTEP, Western Kentucky, Valparaiso, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Evansville, Illinois State,  New Mexico, Arizona State, Colorado, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

Still alive, but pretty much need a miracle:
Tulane, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, George Mason, La Salle, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, Creighton, DePaul, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers, Texas Tech, UC Davis, Long Beach St, Northeastern, William & Mary, Yale, Akron, Kent St, Western Michigan, Indiana St, Loyola-Chicago, Boise St, UNLV, Utah St, California, USC, Washington State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, Sam Houston St, Pepperdine,

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Morning News: Green Bay Escapes Valparaiso, Treveon Graham's Buzzer Beater, Theo Pinson And Isaiah Zierden

Treveon Graham came up huge for VCU last night.

Green Bay Escapes Valparaiso In a battle for first place in the Horizon League, this game ground down into a physical, sloppy game. Valparaiso managed to nearly win this game despite 5-for-27 (19%) shooting in the second half. Green Bay won despite 2-for-13 three-point shooting, and despite a tough 4-for-17 shooting performance from star Kiefer Sykes, who Valparaiso was double and triple teaming all night. Over the final 30 seconds, Green Bay missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw twice, but Valparaiso was unable to score after either miss and Green Bay managed to hang on.

Neither Green Bay or Valparaiso is out of contention for an at-large bid, but both are long shots. So realistically, these two teams will be dueling for the Horizon League's auto bid to avoid the NIT. And the regular season matters since the higher seeded team will get to host the Horizon League title game, assuming these two teams get there (Cleveland State is obviously a real contender as well). Both teams have lost a close game on the road at Oakland. Green Bay now picks up this win at home, and they'll head to Valparaiso on February 13th.

A one point home win is anything but definitive, but Green Bay entered the game as the conference favorite. They're ahead of Valparaiso in both Sagarin and Pomeroy, and Green Bay has the better efficiency margin in conference play (+0.17 PPP vs +0.09 PPP). So for now, Green Bay held serve at home. But Valparaiso is an awfully good team (borderline Top 50 in the nation) and they'll be a scary 11-13 seed if they do get into the NCAA Tournament.

Treveon Graham's Buzzer Beater Treveon Graham was questionable for this game with an injury, but VCU was happy that he was able to play. He led all scorers with 21 points, including this game-winner:

With the Atlantic Ten down this season, VCU's margin for error is small. They're going to make the NCAA Tournament, but their only chance for something like a 3, 4 or 5 seed in March will be to go nearly undefeated in conference play. Their only quality non-conference wins came over Northern Iowa and Cincinnati, and Dayton is the only other Atlantic Ten team with a reasonable chance of being ranked in the Top 25 on Selection Sunday. A loss here would have been bad.

Theo Pinson Breaks His Foot North Carolina has been dealing with multiple injuries on their bench, but Theo Pinson is probably the most serious. Pinson wasn't a huge contributor, but he was seventh on the team in minutes (14.6), fourth in rebounds (3.7) and fourth in assists (1.9) per game. So it's not like Marcus Paige is hurt, but the Tar Heels will have a short bench for a while. They shouldn't have any problems at home against Florida State later today, but they're barely a week away from their killer stretch of a road game at Louisville followed by a home game against Virginia. They're going to need to avoid foul trouble, for sure.

Creighton's Isaiah Zierden Done For The Season Creighton's rebuilding season has been difficult. They're off to an ugly 0-7 start in Big East play. And now their one remaining outside sharpshooter, Isaiah Zierden, is done for the season with a knee injury. This isn't the type of injury that should impact his ability to play next season, and it's not like Creighton was going to make the NCAA Tournament anyway, but this injury just about seals their fate in last place in the Big East. That November victory over Oklahoma feels like it happened a decade ago.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Morning News: Indiana's Hot Shooting, Is DePaul Good?, Bobby Portis Buzzer Beater, And Much More

"Pay attention to us! We're kind of relevant now!"

Indiana's Hot Shooting Tops Maryland Indiana hit 15-for-22 (68%) behind the arc here, finishing with a 75.0 eFG% and 1.39 PPP. To put that three-point shooting into perspective, the 15 three-pointers made were the most Indiana has made in a game since January 8th, 2012. The 68% three-point shooting was their most in a Big Ten game since February 24th, 2001. And that shooting outburst allowed them to overcome a Maryland team that had a respectable 1.09 PPP, their second biggest offensive outburst in Big Ten play.

Indiana was already in the Top 25 and this win moves them into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Wisconsin, so the media hype is starting to rev up. But the reality is that this Hoosiers team is still just a bubble-quality team. They have a realistic chance to be a double-digit road underdog in Vegas on Sunday against unranked Ohio State. Their defense is still a mess, and they're a lucky 4-0 in games decided by six points or less in conference play. If they can get to 11-7 in Big Ten play that should earn them an at-large bid, but that's far from a sure thing. Even after this big win, Indiana is just 40th in Pomeroy and 44th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR.

Maryland doesn't want to lose any more ground on Wisconsin. If they can knock off the Badgers in College Park, they'd like to be close enough for that to win them the conference title. They probably won't struggle with Northwestern on Sunday, but they have a tough test next Thursday at Ohio State.

Is DePaul Good? The media went a little wild with DePaul fever when they jumped out to a 3-0 start in Big East play and first place in the league. Two straight losses put that to bed, but they followed that up with an overtime win over St. John's and then this stolen victory over Seton Hall here. And Seton Hall really did give this game up. They led by 8 points with 5:30 to go before hitting just 1 of their final 10 shots from the field (with two turnovers as well). Over the final 70 seconds, DePaul went to the free throw line five times and hit one of two every single time, but Seton Hall simply could not hit a basket on the other end.

So is DePaul good? In a word, no. Despite the 5-2 record they are outscoring opponents by just a single point, and they had an atrocious performance in non-conference play. They have a bizarre 4-3 record against the RPI Top 50 with a 7-6 record against teams outside the RPI Top 50. They seem to be immune to the quality of their opposition. They are still well outside the Top 100 in every major computer rating, including 130th in Pomeroy and 133rd  in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They now have a plausible chance to reach .500 in conference play, but realize that even with this 5-2 start that Pomeroy still projects them to finish 8-10 and Sagarin projects them to finish 7-11.

Seton Hall is in an ugly stretch, dropping three of four to fall to 3-3 in Big East play. And this was a game that they absolutely had to take care of business in, because it was the oasis in the middle of a brutal stretch of schedule. They head off on the road again next to take on Butler and Marquette. It's going to be tough for Seton Hall to earn an at-large bid unless they get to 10-8 in conference play.

Bobby Portis Buzzer Beater When coaches don't call timeouts late to set up play it's certainly a much more enjoyable viewing experience, but it might actually increase their odds of scoring. The defense doesn't have a chance to set up. Arkansas didn't get a great shot before the buzzer here, but Bobby Portis was able to put in the putback to salvage the win for Arkansas. You can watch the play below:
The SEC isn't getting a lot of respect this season, so Arkansas probably needs to get to 11-7 just to earn an at-large bid. This win keeps them from falling to 2-3. It's Alabama, instead, who fall to 2-3, with a road game at Kentucky looming in a little over a week. Unless they pull that miracle upset, it's hard to see the Crimson Tide avoiding the NIT.

Arizona Won A Foul-Marred Game Over Stanford Pac-12 refs took over this game early on. There were 51 fouls compared to 55 made field goals, with the teams combining to attempt 67 free throws. Matt Korcheck, who had seen nothing but garbage time while scoring 32 total points in two seasons with Arizona, tied a career high with 4 points off the bench in the middle of the second half to help buoy the Wildcats while the rest of their bigs were fouled out or sitting with four fouls.

This was a tricky game for Arizona, and an important one to get through, particularly after having to dig so deep on their bench with the foul trouble. With their big win over Utah, Arizona has regained the appearance of the clear favorite in the Pac-12, though they still have their road game at Utah on February 28th.

Stanford drops to 13-5 overall and 4-2 in conference play, with wins over Texas and UConn to go with bad losses to DePaul and UCLA (if you count UCLA as a "bad" loss). It's a Tournament-quality resume, but only barely. To stay in they'll probably need to get to 11-7 in Pac-12 play.

Gonzaga Pulls Away From Saint Mary's This game was close most the way, with Gonzaga's lead only at 3 points midway through the second half. But some turnovers and easy baskets snowballed into a 12-0 run, and the Gaels were defeated after that. Kevin Pangos was the catalyst during that run, assisting on two of the baskets and hitting another himself. He led Gonzaga in both points (14) and assists (5) in this game.

The Zags are in a similar position to Kentucky in that they'll be a significant Vegas favorite in every conference game, though the odds are still against them going undefeated. Their road game at St. Mary's on February 21st will be their toughest game. Though if they go undefeated the rest of the way, the odds are looking increasingly good that they'll earn a 1 seed in March. So that means we're only about 2-3 weeks from the whining starting in the media about how Gonzaga doesn't earn a 1 seed because they didn't play in a major conference. That'll be fun, I'm sure.

St. Mary's is 15-4 overall and 7-1 in WCC play, but an at-large bid is a long shot. Even if they do knock off Gonzaga later in the year, BYU is the only other realistic RPI Top 50 team they've beaten and they have a bad loss to Northern Arizona. Their only chance for an at-large bid is to put up a really gaudy conference record, like 16-2.

Western Kentucky Moves To 6-0 Western Kentucky nearly lost this game in heartbreaking fashion. They had grabbed a 2 point lead with a little over 3:30 to go, and then nobody could make a basket down the stretch. UTEP failed to score on their next four possessions, but Western Kentucky failed also, including four straight missed free throws. Finally, on their last chance, UTEP took a three with 1.2 seconds left that was missed, but the shooter was fouled. Earvin Morris missed the first free throw, though, before hitting the latter two and sending the game to overtime. Western Kentucky only hit 3 of 6 free throws down the stretch in overtime, but that was enough to avoid a repeat.

Western Ketnucky had an ugly non-conference performance, going 7-5 with only a win over Ole Miss to go with bad losses to Belmont, Stony Brook and Murray State. But they're now 6-0 and in first place in Conference USA. The league is likely to be a one-bid league, but Western Kentucky is now in first place. Are they the favorite? Unfortunately, I think the answer is still "no". They've beaten UTEP and Old Dominion, but both games were close and at home. They still have to play Old Dominion on the road, and their one game this season against Louisiana Tech will come on the road as well. The computers still all have Western Kentucky as the fourth best team in the conference, and while that might be low (they're obviously playing better basketball now than they were in November), I do think that the road games later on in the year will drag them back down. If they can win at Louisiana Tech next Thursday, however, they will become the clear favorite to take the regular season title.

Alex Wintering Buzzer Beater Portland has had a tough, frustrating season, but they broke a three game losing streak in style on an Alex Wintering three-pointer as time expired against Pacific. You can watch the video of the shot below:

Providence Wins An Ugly Game Over Xavier This game wasn't a shooting clinic. The two teams combined to hit just 5-for-37 (14%) behind the arc. But in the end, Xavier put on a demonstration of just why "clutch" execution is more random chance than an actual skill. In regulation, Xavier trailed by 10 points with just over 3 minutes to go, but hit their final four shots from the field to force overtime. In overtime, however, it was Xavier that was forcing bad shots, allowing a key offensive rebound and committing a late turnover.

Providence is 5-2 in Big East play and now has wins over Notre Dame, Xavier, Georgetown, Butler and Miami to go with bad losses to Brown and Boston College. The big wins more than balance out the bad losses, so if they can get to 10-8 in Big East play they'll be in pretty good shape.

Xavier drops to 1-5 in games decided by four points or less, and that bad luck in close games is what might make them the best team to miss the NCAA Tournament. They're 3-4 in Big East play and have as many RPI 100+ losses (2) as RPI Top 50 wins. Unless they win at Cincinnati, they're not going to earn an at-large bid with anything less than 10-8 in conference play.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Morning News: Tulsa Moves To 6-0, Aaron Cosby Injury, And Baylor's Pointless Game

Kentucky's secret? It's not McDonald's All-Americans. It's pedicures.

So I strongly considered passing on a Morning News post this morning. This just weren't any results with much meaning last night. The top teams that played all took care of business against significantly lesser opponents. But there were a few minor things worth discussing, so enjoy this abbreviated Morning News:

Tulsa Moves To 6-0 Tulsa had a horrible non-conference performance, going 7-5 with zero quality wins and two terrible losses (Oral Roberts and SE Oklahoma State). But they've become a different team in conference play, moving to 6-0 now with this easy handling of Memphis. With nobody in the AAC looking particularly good, Tulsa is being generally perceived as the AAC favorite. Are they really? And can they possibly salvage an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after that disastrous non-conference performance?

I'm more skeptical than most on the "AAC favorite" argument. They're in first place, but they've faced a soft schedule and been relatively lucky in close games. Their conference schedule is back-loaded, and it will be interesting to see how they react to going from the hunter to the hunted against teams like Cincinnati, UConn and SMU, all of which probably have more talent on their roster. As for the at-large bid, the lack of RPI Top 50 wins (none so far) is a problem, and they're going to need to go at least 14-4 in conference play to have a realistic chance.

Memphis is playing surprisingly respectable in AAC play. Their offense is still awful, but they are playing good defense and they can get after the offensive glass. They're not going to win the league or compete seriously for an at-large bid, but don't be stunned if they finish in the top four of the final AAC standings.

Aaron Cosby Out 1-2 Weeks Cosby has started 13 of the 19 Illini games thus far, and he's fourth on the team in minutes while scoring 7.8 points per game. Losing him isn't significant in and of itself, but with Rayvonte Rice still out and with Illinois teetering around the Tournament bubble, they really don't need any more reduction in backcourt depth. Illinois snuck past Purdue at home last night, but the key game without Cosby will be a road game at a desperate Minnesota team on Saturday. After that they have relatively easy home games against Penn State and Rutgers.

Baylor Played A Pointless Game Are you wondering why Baylor played an NAIA team in the middle of January? Well, I could have given you a thousand guesses and you'd never have come up with this one:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Morning News: Wisconsin Destroys Iowa, Davidson Gets Hot Against Dayton, Florida Falls To LSU, And More

Bob McKillop plotting the destruction of Dayton's defense pregame.
Wisconsin Destroys Iowa Wisconsin will have games where they shoot better (they hit 41% of their threes here), but it's hard to imagine them otherwise playing much better. Everything they did was right all night. They committed a grant total of one turnover, and it came on a shot clock violation. They had a 16-to-1 assist/turnover ratio and scored 1.52 PPP. And it wasn't just on offense that they played well. Defensively they prevented easy baskets for Iowa, allowing them just four layups+dunks and holding them to 12 points in the paint. The majority of Iowa's shot attempts were two-point jumpers.
Adam Woodbury embraces his inner wrestling heel.

The silver lining for Iowa is that they only have to play a single game before they get their rematch shot in Iowa City. I think we all know that the game is going to be far more competitive the next time these two teams play. Iowa is now 4-2 in Big Ten play, and if they can knock off Wisconsin and get to 11-7 in conference play, that will certainly be good enough to go Dancing.

Even without Traevon Jackson, and despite the fact that Wisconsin's only regular season match-up with Maryland will be in College Park, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten regular season title. But there's now serious doubt, and we can talk plausibly about Maryland stealing the title. A road win at Iowa on January 31st would go a long way toward insulating them against a possible road loss at Maryland.

Davidson Gets Hot Against Dayton Davidson looked to be inching into the tourney bubble conversation before an embarrassing 26 point loss at Richmond. But they bounced back in a big way, putting on an almost perfect offensive performance against Dayton here. They hit 12-for-23 behind the arc, finishing with a 62.1 eFG% and 1.24 PPP. Both of those are season highs allowed by Dayton's superb defense (Dayton hadn't even allowed an Atlantic Ten team to break 1 PPP before this game). Tyler Kalinoski led the way with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting with 6 assists and only 1 turnover.

Davidson is 13-4 and 4-2 in conference play, with this win to go with no particularly bad losses. Take RPI for what it's worth this early in the season, but Davidson's is now 38th. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is 33rd. To earn an at-large bid, Davidson will need to go 13-5 or 14-4 in conference play while finishing strong and doing well in the A-10 tourney.

Dayton slips to 15-3 and 5-1 in conference play, and like Davidson they mostly lack both good wins and bad losses. And similarly, a 13-5 or 14-4 conference record should be sufficient to earn them an at-large bid. They have a key home game coming up on Saturday against Richmond.

Florida Falls To LSU Florida couldn't hit a shot, and LSU couldn't miss a shot, here. Florida was 3-for-16 behind the arc while LSU went 8-for-13, the second straight opponent to hit over 50% of their threes against the Gators. Florida actually outscored LSU in the paint (34 to 30 points), but when outside shooting percentages are that disparate it's almost impossible to win.

The general impression in the media now is that Florida is not just out of the Field of 68 but they're dead in the water. I strong disagree. All they need to do is to get to 12-6 in SEC play and then win a game or two in the SEC tournament to get their RPI inside the Top 40, where they'll be almost a certain to earn an at-large bid. They're 3-2 in SEC play right now. Their upcoming schedule is tough, but it'll ease up in mid-February. They have a tough road game at Ole Miss up next.

LSU is 3-2 in SEC play with wins over West Virginia, Georgia and Florida to go with bad losses to Clemson, Missouri and Texas A&M. They're hanging in the vicinity of the tourney bubble, but they're going to have to win at least 11 SEC games, and might need to win 12. They need to avoid looking ahead with a tricky road game at Vanderbilt up next.

Nebraska Suffocates Minnesota As bad as Nebraska's offense is, their defense is arguably the best in the Big Ten. Minnesota was totally cut off from easy baskets here. A staggering 47 of their 52 attempted shots went into the scorebook as jump shots, and they scored a total of 0 fast break points and 10 points in the paint. Their 0.74 PPP was their lowest total since February 20th, 2013.

Minnesota is better than their 1-6 Big Ten record, of course. Five of their six losses have come by five points or fewer and they're only being outscored by 0.06 PPP. They're not playing well, of course, but they're not one of the worst teams in the conference. But they're going to have to get to at least 9-9 in conference play to have a real at-large chance, and even though their schedule is going to ease up that's still quite the hole to dig out of. They really can't afford another loss before they head on the road in mid-February to face Iowa and Indiana.

Nebraska is now 3-3 in Big Ten play, though their schedule is really tough the next two weeks. They're not a realistic at-large contender.

Southern Miss "Self-Imposes" Postseason Ban The Donnie Tyndall scandal has been festering for a few months now, but I doubt this self-imposed postseason ban will satisfy the NCAA. Because let's be honest, it's a bit rich for a team to pretend that their postseason ban is "self-imposed" when they're 324th in Pomeroy. They can't even use the "maybe they could've gotten hot in the C-USA tournament" argument since the C-USA tournament will only take the top twelve teams this season, and Southern Miss is awfully  unlikely to finish in the top twelve.

Doc Sadler is a good hire for Southern Miss, but the cupboard was left entirely bare for him. He might salvage the program, but it's going to take a minimum of a few years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Morning News: Kansas Wins A Thriller, Georgetown Smokes Villanova, Texas/TCU And Albany/Stony Brook

Have to agree with JTIII here.

Kansas Wins A Thriller Over Oklahoma This game seemed over... twice. Kansas hit their first eight three-pointers of the game, opening up a 36-16 lead, and they led by 19 points at halftime. But Oklahoma reversed things in the second half, jumping out to a 32-9 run to grab a 4 point lead, and making Kansas look dead in the water. But Kansas showed fire down the stretch, particularly with aggressive work on the glass by Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander, and they managed to escape with the victory. But this game truly was a game of two halves, and it's why crafting narratives about focus/effort/preparation in the first half of games will tend to make you look stupid:
It's hard to know what to make of these two teams after this wild game. But in general, the smart play is not to overreact to stretches of poor play in Big 12 play. The conference is so deep this season that absolutely every team is going to look bad at times. I've predicted for a while that every team will lose at least five games. Killing teams after every loss is dumb.

Kansas is, of course, the champ until they are knocked off. They have dominated the Big 12 for decades, or so it seems. This win pushes them to 4-1, though with a tough road game at Texas up next. Surely they have already circled February 2nd on their calendar, because that's their rematch with Iowa State.

Oklahoma has had a rollercoaster ride of a Big 12 season so far. They whipped Oklahoma State and Texas, got whipped by West Virginia, had a disastrous loss to Kansas State and then this insanity in Allen Fieldhouse. Their defense is consistently great, but their offense can be inconsistent. They were getting similar shots in the first and second halves here, but they were all clanking off the rim in the first half and going in during the second half. That inconsistency seems likely to continue. They don't have long to lick their wounds because they head on the road next to face Baylor on Saturday.

Georgetown Smokes Villanova It seemed as though the only real hope for a competitive Big East title race was for Georgetown to knock Villanova off here. And they did, in style. Georgetown led by as many as 23 points in the first half and were never at all threatened in the second half. They shut off easy offense options for Villanova, holding them to just 10 paint points and 2 fast break points.Villanova has now finished with an eFG% under 43.0% and fewer than 0.90 PPP twice, and those were their two losses.

This win was necessary but not sufficient for a competitive Big East race. Villanova is still the heavy favorite. They're just 4-2 but are on the way into an awfully soft stretch of schedule. Don't be surprised if they start a fairly long winning streak.

This win will, for the time being, pull Georgetown off the tourney bubble. They need to get to 11-7 in Big East play to be confident of an at-large bid, though even at 10-8 they'll be in decent shape. They're now 5-2 with a road game at Marquette up next.

Texas Handles TCU TCU's return to reality after their 13-0 start has been quick but merciless. The Texas defense frustrated TCU's offense all evening, and the Horned Frogs finished with just 0.76 PPP. Texas blocked 9 shots and held TCU to just 10-for-23 shooting on layups.

Texas is now 3-2 in Big 12 play and over the next week will get a chance to make themselves the Big 12 favorites again. They'll take on Kansas at home an then Iowa State on the road. TCU, on the other hand, is now 1-4 in Big 12 play with a filthy upcoming schedule (at West Virginia, vs Kansas, at Iowa State, at Baylor). Things are going to get worse before they get better.

Albany Surges Past Stony Brook Albany started the season 2-6, including an ugly home loss to Holy Cross, and looking nothing at all like a contender in the America East Conference. But they've won 8 of 9 since, including this awfully impressive road win at Stony Brook. Stony Brook's problem here, as it has often been, was shooting. They dominated the glass, as they always do, but they had a 35.6 eFG%. For the season they are now 0-6 when their eFG% is under 43% and 10-2 when it's better than 43%.

Stony Brook is now two games in the standings behind Albany and Vermont, thoroughly throwing the conference race into disarray. Vermont beat Stony Brook at home, though they still have the return trip on February 7th. Albany won here, but it's just a 40 minute sample size. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy still rate Stony Brook as the best team in the league, though the gap has obviously closed over the last few weeks. This three-team race could come down to the final week.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Morning News: DePaul Upsets St. John's, Indiana Over Illinois, Caris LeVert Done, And St. Francis Buzzer Beater

Caris LeVert is done for the season.

DePaul Upsets St. John's The Johnnies couldn't hit a jump shot all day, finishing 6-for-32 (19%) for the game. DePaul, meanwhile, hit 14 of 16 free throws down the stretch and in overtime. St. John's also wasn't done any favors by the quick referee whistle (a combined 49 fouls for the two teams), as they're a team with a few stars and a short bench. DePaul was significantly less impacted by foul trouble.

After reaching 15th in the AP Poll, St. John's has gotten off to an ugly 1-4 start in Big East play. This is their first bad loss of the season but they don't have any great wins either. Unless they knock off Duke, they need to get to 10-8 in Big East play to be in good shape on Selection Sunday. At 9-9 they'll have a lot of work to do in the Big East tournament.

DePaul moves to 4-2 in Big East play, though they head into a nasty stretch of games. They go on the road to face Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence, and then come home to face Villanova. If they win even one of those four games it'll be a surprise.

Indiana Beats Illinois Despite still missing Rayvonte Rice, the Illinois offense put up a respectable 1.10 PPP, though it came against a soft Indiana defense and included 12-for-27 three-point shooting. It's a mistake to draw too many conclusions from a game that had a one point margin in the final minute, but it's just another mediocre result for Illinois since the loss of Rice. They've gone 2-2 without Rice against a soft stretch of their Big Ten schedule, dropping from 56th to 69th in the Pomeroy ratings.

The Selection Committee is not going to give Illinois a pass for the games without Rice, so they need to start piling up wins against the likes of Penn State and Rutgers, because their schedule gets nasty in mid-February.

Indiana, meanwhile, is now 4-1 in Big Ten play despite being outscored by a net of 3 points. They head into a tough stretch of schedule, though, with road games at Ohio State, Wisconsin, Maryland and Purdue among their next seven. It's still not clear that Indiana is actually a good team, rather than just a little lucky in close contests, so it will be interesting to see how they handle this stretch of games.

Caris LeVert Done For The Season Michigan's nightmare season has hit a new low, as star Caris LeVert will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury. LeVert was leading the team in points (14.8), rebounds (4.8), assists (3.5) and steals (1.9) per game. Michigan had stabilized their season after that ugly four game losing streak in December, and were up to 4-2 in Big Ten play, but the loss of LeVert probably dooms their NCAA Tournament chances. They just don't have another player who can regularly create offense both for himself and his teammates.

St. Francis Buzzer Beater Tops St. Francis The Brooklyn St. Francis knocked off the one from Pennsylvania at the buzzer. And it's a result that could decide the NEC regular season title, since these are probably the two best teams. It's an odd announcer call below since the refs initially called off the final shot, but rest assured that on replay review they gave them the basket.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Morning News: New Bracket, Iowa St Topples Kansas, Duke Cruises, Arizona Controls Utah, Texas Dominates WVU, And Much More

Bill Self didn't have a good stay at Hilton yesterday.

New Bracket Projection With just 8 weeks until Selection Sunday, the Full Bubble makes its first appearance. From here on out, potential at-large teams get eliminated one by one until we have our final Field of 68. As for the current projected Field of 68, North Carolina State and South Dakota State move in, while Michigan and Denver drop out.

Iowa State Topples Kansas This is an odd game to talk about, because in a way it meant a ton, but in another way it didn't. First, for Iowa State fans, it's a huge accomplishment to finally take down Kansas, and they did it on national television with everybody watching and with College Gameday in the house. If they were going to win the Big 12 regular season title they had to win here, and they did.

But as for judging how good these teams are? I don't think anything really changed here. Kansas was a 4 point underdog in Vegas, and they managed to take this game down to the final ten seconds despite the refs totally falling under the sway of the Hilton crowd. If just those two bad charge calls in the last few minutes went the other way, maybe Kansas wins. In the end, Iowa State had a nearly 2-to-1 advantage in foul calls, and a nearly 3-to-1 advantage in free throws. The narrative on ESPN was that Iowa State was getting to the basket and earning transition buckets while Kansas was stuck taking jumpers, but the statistics don't bear that out. Kansas ended up with 20 layups+dunks while Iowa State finished with 17. Iowa State had a 21-to-10 advantage in fast break points, though that would have evened up if you reversed some of the 50/50 referee calls that went Iowa State's way. Points in the paint were pretty even (a 40-to-34 advantage for Iowa State). But as I said on twitter, the reality is that Iowa State was owed one of these. They've had some famous screw-jobs by the refs in Lawrence. Last night was referee payback.

Kansas fans are frustrated by the lack of playing time for Cliff Alexander, and I share their frustration. He plays well in short bursts but can't seem to get on the court for more than 20 minutes in any game. He had 6 points and 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes here. For the Jayhawks, the reality is that there's a pretty good chance that no team in the Big 12 loses fewer than five games. So a competitive loss on the road at Iowa State isn't a bad loss. They have to get right back on track and take care of Oklahoma in Lawrence.

Iowa State heads into a soft week, with a home game against Kansas State followed by a road game at Texas Tech. Things will get much tougher when February comes around, though. Their return trip to Lawrence, for example, comes up on February 2nd.

Duke Cruises At Louisville The story coming out of this game was Duke's zone defense, and Louisville's resultant 6-for-37 shooting outside the paint. Louisville is certainly going to see a ton of zone all season, though they've proven to be a pretty poor shooting team against all types of opponents this past season. I doubt you'll see Duke break out the zone against a team like Virginia that shoots the ball well from outside. But Louisville's defense was also not its usual self here, perhaps impacted by their offensive frustration. Duke scored 1.05 PPP, and did it with a parade of layups (13-for-14 on dunks and layups).

There was a lot of over-reaction to Duke after NC State and Miami shot the lights out, and there's going to be an over-reaction in the other direction after Louisville couldn't hit a shot to save their lives here. The most meaningful outcome of this game is that Duke needed this win to stay in realistic contention for the ACC regular season title. They're still probably going to need a road win at Virginia on January 31st, though.

Louisville's hopes for a regular season ACC title are pretty much dashed, but they could realistically end up anywhere between a 2 seed and a 6 seed on Selection Sunday. They're pretty much just playing for seed line at this point.

Arizona Controls Utah This game was Utah's chance to wrest control of the Pac-12 from Arizona. Their defense has been great all season long, and the reality over the past few weeks is that they've been the better basketball team. But when they finally took the court together, it was surprisingly Arizona that slowed the game down to a slog and completely shut off the paint defensively. Utah was a brutal 7-for-22 (31.8%) on two-pointers, and were outscored by 20 points in the paint. Jakob Poeltl was neutralize by Kaleb Tarczewski, and Arizona's length on the wings was able to contain Delon Wright (10 points and 7 assists).

For Utah fans, the reality is that this was just a 40 minute sample size. Arizona dominated this game, but that doesn't change the fact that Utah has really been their equal overall this season. Utah will have a chance to hold serve against Arizona on February 28th in Salt Lake City, and they still have a chance to win the Pac-12 regular season title. For Arizona fans, they just have to avoid upsets the next few weeks. Their schedule opens up, and the only game where they potentially won't be favored the rest of the season will be their rematch at Utah.

Texas Dominates West Virginia West Virginia has been winning games in large part by winning the glass against physically inferior opponents, but Texas has perhaps the most imposing front line in the nation and they dominated the paint here. Texas actually controlled the glass (a 43.4 OR% compared to a 32.6 OR% for West Virginia), marking the first time since December 4th that West Virginia lost the rebounding battle against an opponent. Texas also had a 30-to-14 advantage in points in the paint, and also fouled out three Mountaineers en route to 37 free throw attempts.

West Virginia was coming off a 21 point win over Oklahoma, so the moral of the story is to not overreact to 40 minute sample sizes. This is a good West Virginia team, but not one that is going to contend for a Big 12 title. Texas, on the other hand, still harbors hopes of a piece of that Big 12 title, though they needed the win here to avoid dropping to 1-3. If they can navigate a road game at TCU on Monday then they'll have a chance next weekend to get back in the title race by beating Kansas in Austin.

Kansas State Knocks Off Baylor Baylor led this game by 12 points in the second half, but their offense bogged down late. Baylor had more second half offensive rebounds (10) than made baskets (9). The star for Kansas State was Nino Williams, who shot 6-for-9 from the field in the second half. Baylor might have had a chance in the final minute, as Kansas State is not a good free throw shooting team, but they made the classic mistake of allowing a possession to play out when trailing by three when only around 13 or 14 seconds were the difference between the game and play clock. Kansas State ran the clock down and missed, but got their own rebound and were fouled, effectively ending the game. There's just so much that has to go right for a team when they let the clock run down like that. Fouling earlier increases the potential variance and gives you more options.

Kansas State moves to 4-1 in Big 12 play,  though that record comes with the caveat that it's includes home games against TCU and Texas Tech, which will be their two easiest conference games of the season. They're still unlikely to reach .500 in conference play or to make a run at an at-large bid. Their schedule gets nasty over the next two weeks as they'll take on four straight ranked teams, beginning with a road game at Iowa State on Tuesday. Baylor drops to 2-3 in Big 12 play, though with three of their next four conference games coming at home, beginning with an important one against Oklahoma next Saturday.

Maryland Smokes Michigan State This game was something of a coming out party for Melo Trimble,  the freshman who has transformed Maryland into one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and perhaps a real contender to take the conference. Trimble hit 5-for-7 behind the arc in the first half here, finishing with 24 points for the game. His early flourish pushed Maryland to a 14 point halftime lead, and Michigan State never pulled within single digits again.

Maryland is 17-2 overall and 5-1 in Big Ten play, and quite a few people have already noticed that their one game in the regular season against Wisconsin will be in College Park. Is it possible that Maryland can steal that game and take the Big Ten regular season title? It is, particularly since Wisconsin may not yet be at full strength when that game is played. Michigan State, meanwhile, drops to 3-2 in Big Ten play, but with a soft schedule coming up the next few weeks. It's quite possible that they won't be an underdog in Vegas again in a game until March, so they should be able to run off a nice won/loss record.

Oklahoma Shuts Down Oklahoma State Oklahoma State's offense has struggled against quality opponents this season. They've cracked 1 PPP in just one of five games against Pomeroy Top 50 opponents. The problem has been that against good defenses they can't get enough easy baskets, and they just don't shoot the ball well aside from Phil Forte. Here they shot 7-for-31 (22.6%) on all jump shots outside the paint. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has quietly become one of the best defenses in the nation. They're now ranked 5th best in the nation according to Pomeroy.
It was this kind of day for Oklahoma.

Oklahoma needed to have this win after having lost two straight and with road games at Kansas and Baylor up next. If they can survive this stretch then their schedule will ease up up February. Oklahoma State is now 12-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play, with a win over Texas and no bad losses. It feels like they're destined to end up something like 10-8 or 11-7 in Big 12 play.

Notre Dame Comes Back To Beat Miami Zach Auguste's "season long suspension" turned out to be misreported as he returned here, though he wasn't particularly productive. Mike Brey took a chance against a Miami team that doesn't get after the glass and he went with a small lineup, with 6'5" Pat Connaughton being the closest thing to a big man for much of the game. Miami simply didn't have the personnel to counter, pulling down just 9 offensive rebounds, including just 3 in the final 30 minutes of the game. Miami still had an 11 point lead with 13:30 to go, but Jerian Grant took over, scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with 4 assists and 0 turnovers after that point.

Notre Dame is a weird team to figure out because they are so incredibly explosive offensively, but their defense, rebounding and depth are all so mediocre, but they have found a way to put together a really nice resume and are on pace for a possible top three finish in the ACC. Miami, meanwhile, missed a chance to add a second big scalp after that Duke upset. I think they're going to need another one to be able to earn an at-large bid with anything worse than a 10-8 ACC record. Their next chance for a big win will be February 3rd, when Louisville comes to town.

Iowa Beats Ohio State After two straight ugly second halves, Iowa fans were getting nervous when their 17 point second half lead was pared down to 6. But Aaron White put the team on his back and scored 5 straight, and it was enough for the Hawkeyes to hold on. And it's a particularly impressive win when you consider what I had pointed out last week, which is that the Buckeyes have been living and dying with the performances of their star freshman D'Angelo Russell. Russell had a big game here (27 points on 10-for-22 shooting with 14 rebounds) but Iowa still beat them.
D'Angelo Russell had the pass of the day.

Iowa needs to get to 11-7 in Big Ten to be sure of an at-large bid (though they'll still be in pretty good shape at 10-8). This win gets them to 4-1 with two of their next three games coming against Wisconsin. Their schedule gets pretty soft in February, so a split of those two games against Wisconsin would probably pull them off the Tournament bubble at least temporarily.

Ohio State is 14-5, but only 3-3 in Big Ten play and without any wins over opponents certain to finish in the RPI Top 50. They're a good team, and as a high variance team they'll be a scary opponent in March, but their resume for the moment is a lot weaker than most realize. If the season ended now, the Buckeyes would be a bubble team, though they should be plenty good enough to extricate themselves from the bubble over the next few weeks.

Ole Miss Upsets Arkansas The Arkansas defense did not put on a clinic here, to say the least. Ole Miss had a 63.6 eFG% and 1.39 PPP. Meanwhile, Arkansas couldn't get the easy transition points that they thrive on. They forced only four steals and had 0 transition points. It's a disappointing all-around performance from Arkansas coming right on the heels of a loss to Tennessee. They're in the Field of 68 at the moment, but they're far from safe. They don't get a home game against Kentucky this season, so unless they pull a miracle in Lexington they're not going to collect a big scalp in conference play.

Ole Miss is now 11-6 overall and 2-2 in SEC play, with wins over Arkansas and South Carolina to go with bad losses to Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky. It's not a bubble resume yet, but they're getting there. If they can get to 11-7 in SEC play and win a game or two in the SEC tournament they'll have a real shot.

Florida Goes Down To Georgia The Gators got off to an ugly start, trailing 19-4 at one point. They pulled within 4 points in the second half, but then proceeded to commit turnovers on four of their next six possessions. Sloppy offensive play was the theme of the day for Florida, who finished with 19 turnovers to just 10 assists.
This sums up the day for Florida offensively.

Florida was missing so many players in the first half of the season that they seemed obviously primed for a second half resurgence, but we're waiting and waiting for it and it hasn't come yet. They're better than their record (2-4 in games decided by six points or less), but they're now just 10-7 with a win over South Carolina along with a bad loss to Florida State. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is an ugly 76th. They might need to get to 12-6 in SEC play just to earn an at-large bid.

Georgia is a team that the computers have loved all season long, though they hadn't done themselves favors with the way their non-conference schedule was constructed, and this is only their second win against a likely RPI Top 50 opponent (Seton Hall is the other) to go with a couple of iffy losses (Georgia Tech and LSU). They're going to need to go at least 11-7 in conference play to earn an at-large bid, and this win gets them to 2-2. They need to take care of business next week with a home game against Ole Miss and then a road game at Mississippi State.

Georgetown Escapes Butler Roosevelt Jones had a monster game for Butler, pouring in 28 points on 12-for-19 shooting, including the shot that put Butler up by 1 with 12 seconds to go. But Isaac Copeland played hero on the other end, and then D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera blocked Butler's potential retort, and Georgetown escaped with the victory. You can watch the Copeland game-winner below:

It seems like half the Big East is just barely inside the Field of 68. Any of these teams will be safe with a good seed if they can put a winning streak together, but all of them are vulnerable to dropping out to the NIT with a losing streak. Now 4-2 in Big East play, Georgetown has that chance to elevate themselves if they can take out Villanova on Monday. It's also probably the only chance for some team in the Big East to challenge Villanova for the title. Butler is now just 3-3 in Big East play, though it's come against a difficult schedule (by Pomeroy it's been easily the toughest in conference play so far). They should be able to improve their W/L record against a softer schedule the next three weeks.

Slow Start Dooms Syracuse Rakeem Christmas has been the star for Syracuse offensively this entire season, but to say that his teammates didn't help him out here was an understatement. In the first half, his teammates shot a combined 2-for-21 from the field, including 1-for-11 behind the arc. At halftime, Syracuse was down by 21 points. Things got better in the second half, but it was just too big of a hole to dig out of.

Jim Boeheim is clearly not going to force Chinoso Obokoh into the regular rotation, so with the loss of Chris McCullough he's playing a seven man rotation. So when a couple starters are having off nights, Boeheim just doesn't have a lot of options to turn to. Syracuse is 13-5 and 4-1 in ACC play, but Iowa is the only likely RPI Top 50 team they've beaten. Next Saturday they'll take on Miami at home, and if they don't care of business there they will start have to worry about the NIT. As for Clemson, they're playing better in ACC play after a disastrous non-conference performance. But realistically, even the NIT is probably an uphill battle for them.

UConn Struggles At Stanford It would have been natural to expect UConn to be the better team in the paint against a shorthanded Stanford front line, but instead it was Stanford that dominated the paint. A quick foul out for Amida Brimah (after only 9 minutes) was part of the problem, as was foul trouble for much of the rest of the UConn front line. But Stanford had an impressive 47.4 OR% (compared to an 11.8 OR% for UConn), leading to an 18-to-4 advantage in second chance points.

The AAC doesn't have a clear best team, particularly with the suspension of SMU's Keith Frazier. So UConn still looks like the best all-around team in the league. But if they fall short in the AAC tournament, the NCAA Tournament is anything but a sure thing. The Huskies probably have to get to 12-6 in AAC play to have a good shot. Stanford moves to 13-4 overall, and they're also 4-1 in Pac-12 play with wins over Texas, Washington and UConn to go with a bad loss to DePaul. They get a huge chance to pull themselves off the bubble with Arizona coming to town on Thursday.

BYU Falls At St. Mary's St. Mary's has struggled for big chunks of this season, but late last night they did harm to their conference rival, as the WCC teeters closer to being a one-bid league despite being arguably stronger than it's been in well over a decade. Kyle Collinsworth went to the bench early in the second half with four fouls, and that made BYU even weaker in the paint than normal, and they simply couldn't handle the size of Brad Waldow, or even Garrett Jackson. Saint Mary's pulled down 17 offensive rebounds (Waldow's 7 single-handedly tied all of BYU), and they scored the majority of their offense (42 points) in the paint.

BYU is 15-6, but with just a win over Stanford to go with some iffy losses (Purdue and Pepperdine). They can't afford more than one or two more losses in conference play or the lack of quality wins will drop them into the NIT. The good news for them is that their schedule eases up the next few weeks. Saint Mary's, meanwhile, has followed up a mediocre non-conference performance by a 7-0 start in WCC play. Most likely that undefeated run is going to end in Spokane on Thursday, but if they can somehow pull that upset then they'll suddenly look like the WCC favorite.