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.

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