Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Morning News: Another Ohio St Loss, Another Ben Simmons Wasted Performance, Smashed Backboard, And More

It was just that kind of day for UCLA.
Ohio State Loses Again So maybe that Texas-Arlington win over Ohio State wasn't as much of a fluke as we thought it was? Texas-Arlington went on to beat Memphis, while Ohio State looked awful again here. This marks the first time Ohio State has lost consecutive home non-conference games since 1963. The biggest thing you notice watching them is a bit of a cliche, but they simply have nobody who can get to the rim and score. JaQuan Lyle is the one Buckeye player capable of getting to the rim, but he isn't much of a scorer or shooter. None of the other players demand the ball, create their own offense, or do much of anything at all. This young Buckeyes team will get better as the season goes along, but there's only so large of a hole they can dig out of during Big Ten play to earn an at-large bid.

Louisiana Tech is no cupcake. They are a contender in Conference USA, and could also get themselves into contention for the first at-large bid for the conference since 2012. It's going to take a gaudy won-loss record to earn an at-large bid out of Conference USA, but 4-0 with a win over Ohio State is a good start.

Another Big Ben Simmons Performance In A Loss LSU does have Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor coming later this season, but these games in November still count, and Ben Simmons continues to have to do everything himself. He had another monster game (14 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals), though he again was afraid to shoot (just 1-for-6 from the field). For the season, Simmons is hitting 18% of his jump shots and 77% of his shots at the rim, so his play is understandable. Both teams had plenty of chance to win this game, but NC State just happened to make more plays in overtime. The Wolfpack were led by a 20 point, 7 rebounds, 7 assists performance from Anthony Barber.

LSU doesn't play another "quality" opponent until SEC play, though they do have some tricky games (including road games at Houston and College of Charleston). This means that LSU will likely pick up another bad loss or two (or more) without a quality win. In other words, LSU is going to have to do significant work in the SEC to make the NCAA Tournament. It's impossible to see how they get in unless they get to 11-7 or better in conference play.

NC State picks up their first win of the season against a likely RPI Top 100 opponent. They have an interesting opportunity on December 1st with Michigan coming to PNC Arena.

Hulk Go Smash The UMass-Lowell/Wheelock game probably won't have any NCAA Tournament implications (Wheelock College is a Division III school, in case you're wondering). But it did feature a backboard smash courtesy of Dontavious Smith:
Kansas Annihilates UCLA The final score doesn't do this dominance justice. Kansas actually led by as many as 29 points in the first half. The final stats in this game don't even really matter since the entire second half was "garbage time". However, what has impressed about Kansas so far in Maui has been how efficient the offense has been even without Cheick Diallo and Brannen Greene. They have so many guys who can shoot, and so many who can get to the line. They're not the best team in the country right now, but Diallo and Greene would (in my opinion) make them that.

As for UCLA, they weren't going to get many chances for a resume-building win like a shorthanded Kansas team on a neutral court. Still, they do have Kentucky, North Carolina, and Gonzaga coming up, so they will have multiple shots at a big win.

Valparaiso Shuts Down Oregon State Oregon State is a Tournament-quality team, yet Valparaiso won this game despite a poor shooting day both from outside (4-for-16 on threes as a team) and from star Alec Peters (3-for-12). They did it with suffocating defense, holding Oregon State to 0.86 PPP, despite a stat-stuffing 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 steals from Gary Payton III. Valparaiso's defense has been great all season long (Pomeroy currently ranks it 6th in the nation).

Valparaiso is a team that would be good enough to earn an at-large bid in a tougher league. Unfortunately, it will be almost impossible for them to pull it off out of the Horizon League when their best non-conference wins will be over Oregon State and Rhode Island. The Selection Committee just does not properly value road games. Via the Sagarin ratings, a road game at Horizon League foe Milwaukee is approximately equal to home games against Georgetown, Wisconsin, or Florida State. We can be damn sure the Selection Committee won't see it that way, though. A home win over Georgetown would be an RPI Top 50 "quality win", while a loss to Milwaukee will be an RPI 100+ "bad loss".

Oregon State, in contrast, will get plenty of chances to pick up quality victories in conference play. They still look like a team destined to be in the bubble mix in February and March.

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