Monday, February 23, 2015

Morning News: Oregon Stuns Utah, Tulsa Smokes Temple, Michigan Holds Off Ohio State, And More

Hey, a court storming!
Oregon Stuns Utah Dillon Brooks was the star here, scoring 11 straight points for Oregon to hold off a furious Utah run late. Brooks was able to attack the paint, against arguably the best interior defense in the nation (the 48% shooting Utah allows at the rim is identical to Kentucky). They fought to a 22-to-22 draw in points in the paint.

This is a big win for an Oregon team that has been surprisingly feisty considering all of the offseason turmoil and roster losses. Dana Altman has probably done his best coaching job at Oregon. And they're now 10-5 in Pac-12 play, with an RPI all the way up to 44th. They close the season with three road games, but if they can somehow win two of three then they will have a legitimate case on Selection Sunday.

Utah can forget about this loss by sweeping their home series against the Arizona teams next week. Their home game against Arizona will be particularly crucial for them making the case for a 2 seed on Selection Sunday.

Tulsa Smokes Temple This was a nightmare game for Temple offensively.  They shot a staggering 8-for-49 (16.3%) on jump shots, including 1-for-14 behind the arc. Temple's shooting (25.4 eFG%) and offensive efficiency (0.60 PPP) were both their worst in a game in at least 17 years. When you have your worst offensive day in a couple of decades or so, you're probably not going to win.

Tulsa has been a team getting too much at-large love from the media considering their resume. This is a big win for them, but they still are only 4-5 against the RPI Top 100 with two awful losses. Their RPI (39th) doesn't include that non-Division I loss to SE Oklahoma State. Now that said, history says that the Selection Committee isn't going to properly punish Tulsa for that non-DI loss (it's one of many reasons why teams should replace cupcakes on their schedule with non-DI opponents), so Tulsa could sneak into the Tourney, but only if they finish the season strong. Their schedule is really backloaded. That road game at Memphis on Saturday could make the difference.

Temple is quietly just 9-9 against the RPI Top 200, and their RPI (31st) is clearly inflated. But that said, those losses in non-conference play will be significantly less important than what they've done in conference play. Unlike Tulsa they have a very soft closing schedule. If they can take care of business in those final three games then they should be in good shape.

Michigan Holds Off Ohio State Ohio State has had a rough stretch in Michigan. Their last two games have been road losses at Michigan State and now Michigan. The Buckeyes fought back from 31-11 here, but just couldn't hit enough jump shots. They hit just 5-for-19 behind the arc. Michigan was led by a 16 point, 5 assist, 0 turnover performance from Spike Albrecht.

Ohio State is just 8-6 in Big Ten play despite outscoring opponents by 0.09 PPP in Big Ten play, which is hard to do. A 2-5 record in games decided by six points or fewer will do that. But their closing stretch of games is ideally set up for a strong finish. That home finale against Wisconsin is a huge chance to slide a couple of seed lines.

Illinois Comes Up Short Michigan State melted down the stretch here. They committed six turnovers in eight possessions at one stretch. But Illinois was 0-for-11 on jump shots over the final 5:35 of the game. For the game they had a 30.8 eFG%, which was their worst shooting day since January 6th, 2007.

If Illinois misses the NCAA Tournament, they'll look back on this loss. They're now just 7-7 in Big Ten play and their RPI has fallen back out of the Top 50. Unless they can get to 10-8 (which would mean winning at least one of two tough road games at Iowa and Purdue) they're going to have significant work to do in the Big Ten tournament.

Michigan State has won four straight to get to 10-4 in Big Ten play and to push their RPI into the Top 30, though they have only two RPI Top 50 wins and no really big scalps. So their resume isn't as strong as you might think it is, but they still should be pretty safe.

Chris Jones Dismissed It's been quit a week for the Chris Jones saga, but it appears to finally be over. He was suspended indefinitely, then reinstated, and now dismissed. Chris Jones is a frustrating player to watch, because he has so much talent and looks so great in brief stretches, but he also takes terrible shots that just kill Louisville. He had a 44.4 eFG% this season. Louisville was already short on offensive options, and it's hard to see how this news doesn't make them worse, but it would be a mistake to give up on this team's potential to get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Their defense will remain ferocious.

Tim Miles Locks His Team Out Tim Miles is trying something new to get through to his struggling team: locking them out of the locker room and practice facility. I suppose it can't hurt. The stats said that Nebraska was significantly overrated with that Top 25 rating preseason, but nobody had any idea their offense would be this awful. Miles had to try something to change things up.

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