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.

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