Monday, January 05, 2015

Morning News: Stanford Beats Washington, Utah Annihilates UCLA, And California Loses To Washington State

Not enough people know who #42 is.
Stanford Beats Washington This game involved so much ugly shooting that I was worried the rims would be damaged by all the bricks. Over one stretch, Washington went nearly 14 minutes of game time without hitting a shot from the field, missing 15 straight. Both teams finished below 40% from the field and finished with an eFG% of 42%. Both finished below 1 PPP. The best player for either team was Stanford's Chasson Randle (24 points and 5 assists), and at the end of regulation it was Randle who took the ball straight at Robert Upshaw and scored the basket that forced overtime. Rosco Allen's three was the big shot in overtime, but Washington also committed four ugly turnovers, putting them at 19 total for the game.

Washington will drop out of the Top 25 later today, but they never should have been there to begin with. They got to 11-0, but they did it against a soft schedule, without a single road game, and with good luck in close games. They've now lost three straight, including their first two road games of the season. They're a bubble quality team that probably needs to get to 10-8 in Pac-12 play to go Dancing. Now at 0-2, they absolutely have to run up some wins over the next couple of weeks with three relatively easy home games (Washington State, Oregon State and Oregon).

This is a nice win for Stanford without Reid Travis. It's clear that keeping Stefan Nastic on the court and out of foul trouble is crucial, particularly against teams with big front lines. And that's really going to be tested as they now head for less friendly referee whistles on the road, with three straight road games. Stanford beat Texas, but they also lost to DePaul, and probably need to get to 11-7 in Pac-12 play to be in good shape for an at-large bid. If they can win two of those upcoming three road games they'll be on a good pace.

Utah Annihilates UCLA One of the most undereported things in college basketball this past season has been how utterly dominant Utah's interior defense has been. They're 6th in the nation in 2P% defense (37.5%), and one of the teams ahead of them (TCU) is certain to drop once their schedule gets tougher. They absolutely are in the conversation with Kentucky, Virginia and Texas for best interior defense in the nation. The biggest improvement has been the addition of 7-foot freshman Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a guy that, at this point, I'd project as a future Top 10 NBA Draft pick. Throw in Delon Wright's ability to be an elite playmaker on both ends of the court and you've got a sleeper Final Four team.

At this point, it seems clear that Utah is the top contender to Arizona in the Pac-12. Arizona remains the favorite, but Utah could push this to the last week of the season. They're also in the mix for a 3 seed on Selection Sunday, or even a 2 seed, even if they don't take the Pac-12. They head on the road to face Arizona on January 17th.

UCLA is in the middle of an ugly five game losing streak that including losses to Colorado and Alabama and a pair of 30+ point thrashings (to Kentucky and Utah). I just dropped them out of my latest bracket projection, and it goes without saying that this game isn't going to convince me that I was wrong in that decision. Next week they come home for a pair of winnable games against Stanford and California, and then they go on the road to face USC and Oregon State. To start changing the momentum of their season they need to find a way to win three of those four games.

California Loses To Washington State California was coming off a win over a ranked Washington team, but all evidence suggests that Washington never should have been ranked, and the rest of California's performances suggest that they just are not a very good team. They did beat Syracuse early in the season, but they have lost to Cal St Bakersfield and Washington State, while struggling to beat Fresno State, Montana and Nevada. They've slipped to 83rd in Pomeroy and 74th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR.

California's offense just isn't dynamic enough right now. They spend too much time standing around and waiting for Tyrone Wallace to do something. They're going to have to go at least 10-8 in Pac-12 play to earn an at-large bid and they sit at 1-1 with an interesting game up next on the road at USC. A loss there will be a "bad" loss, but expect the Vegas spread to be very small. Their Pac-12 schedule is backloaded, so they can't afford to lose to a team like USC early on.

Washington State got a coaching upgrade in Ernie Kent, and this probably won't be the last decent team that they take down this season, but for now the talent levels are just too low for them to seriously contend in the top half of the Pac-12. This result seems like a fluke more than something meaningful.

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