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.

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