Saturday, November 21, 2015

Morning News: Bad Day For The Big Ten. Also, Miami Routs Utah, Duke Tops VCU, And More.

"Wasn't this game supposed to be easy?"
Miami Routs Utah Utah was outplayed across the board here. Miami outrebounded Utah, they forced more turnovers (a 23-to-4 advantage in points off turnovers), they shot better, they scored more points in the paint... It was just a nightmare game all around for Utah. I think if there's one area that is more of a concern for Utah than any other it's their defense, which was so strong last season (rated 6th best in the nation by Pomeroy). This season they are allowing an ugly 1.10 PPP. Jacob Poeltl is still a dominant interior force, but Utah's perimeter defense has been very shaky. This Miami team is good, so a loss isn't the end of the world, but Utah's defense will have to be better for them to contend in the Pac-12.

As for Miami, you don't want to react to a small sample size, but there's no question that thus far they've played like a Top 25 team. If they can knock off Butler in the Puerto Rico title game on Sunday then they really might start getting some dark horse buzz in the ACC.

Xavier Takes Down Michigan Xavier took the lead late in the first half here and never let it go. They exploited a Michigan defense that was very porous, particularly in the paint. Xavier had a monster 34-to-14 scoring advantage in the paint, led by 15 points and 9 boards from Jalen Reynolds. Michigan got 29 points from Caris LeVert, but it wasn't enough to overcome the 1.25 PPP that Xavier scored.

The good news for Michigan is that this probably is not how bad they really are. Every team is going to have some bad days, and this was a bad day for Michigan. Fans should never panic over single game performances. That said, this Michigan team is simply not getting good production from their young big men, and if they have to play small (as they did here) then they are going to be over-powered by the bigger teams in the Big Ten. Players like Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal (a combined 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 7 fouls here) simply have to play better.

Meanwhile, this Xavier team might just be good enough to contend for the Big East title. The same skepticism of not overreacting to 40 minute sample sizes applies to them, too, but I already had Xavier projected as a 5 seed. We'll see how they look in Orlando next week.

Georgetown Outshoots Wisconsin Sometimes basketball is easy to analyze. It doesn't matter what you do if you don't make shots.  And here, Georgetown got hot while Wisconsin was ice cold. Georgetown hit 40% of their jump shots, including 50% behind the arc. Wisconsin, in contrast, hit just 22% of their jump shots. Reggie Cameron was the catalyst for Georgetown, knocking down 4-for-6 behind the arc. Wisconsin, in contrast, got a putrid 2-for-12 shooting performance from Bronson Koenig.

Wisconsin will have an interesting test in the consolation game on Sunday against VCU. Historically, Bo Ryan teams would have been krypton to VCU's press because of the lack of mistakes, but this Wisconsin team is so young and raw. They're not your typical Bo Ryan team at all. Georgetown, meanwhile, will get a chance in the 2k Classic title game to steal a big win over Duke. After that game, Syracuse is their only remaining quality opponent before Big East play tips off.

Duke Holds Off VCU VCU absolutely had their chances to win this game. Their tempo and pressure caused significant problems for Duke. Superfrosh Brandon Ingram (8 points and 5 rebounds), in particular, seems unsettled. Duke was able to settle down in the second half by going with a smaller, more mobile lineup. While Grayson Allen was the star (30 points on 9-for-15 shooting), I was really impressed by Derryck Thornton's ball handling. As a young player, he held out against VCU well.
Everything was going in for Grayson Allen

VCU fans will feel unjustly done by the reffing (Duke had a 27-14 advantage in foul calls), and it certainly did seem like Duke got the lion's share of the iffy calls. But VCU had chances to hit big shots in the second half and just missed. They finished just 26% on jump shots for the game. VCU will attempt to collect their first quality win of the season on Sunday when they take on Wisconsin.

George Mason Pulls Another Upset Coming off a win over Ole Miss, Dave Paulsen's squad collected another nice win here. Once again, shooting was a factor, as George Mason hit 46% of their three-pointers, including 5-for-7 from Jaire Grayer. But at the same time, they got another nice game from Shevon Thompson (20 points and 17 rebounds), and will get a chance to pull a staggering upset if they can knock out Virginia in the Charleston Classic title game on Sunday.

As for Oklahoma State, the "don't overreact to a 40 minute sample size" thing applies here, too. But this is an Oklahoma State team I wasn't high on preseason. Being without Phil Forte was obviously a big factor, but their offense didn't look great with him this season either, and the Cowboys defense and rebounding both look shaky. And if the Tournament bubble is where they find themselves in March, this loss to George Mason could end up being very important. The good news is that their upcoming schedule is pretty soft, so they will have some time to get Forte healthy before Big 12 play ramps up.

UT-Arlington Stuns Ohio State We've seen some weird upsets in the early going this season, but this is one of the stranger ones. What makes it particularly bizarre is that UT-Arlington didn't have a goofy shooting day. In fact, they hit just 26% behind the arc. Ohio State gave away a lot of points at the free throw line (48%), but UT-Arlington outrebounded them (a 42.9 OR% compare to a 31.7% for Ohio State) and kept turnovers even.

Ohio State is young, and they seemed to really struggle with the UT-Arlington press. They'll play better as the season goes along, but at this point it's hard to have any confidence in Ohio State as a contender in the Big Ten. They look more like a bubble team than a Top 25 team. That said, JaQuan Lyle and Daniel Giddens have both showed flashes of real talent early on in their freshman seasons, and if they can figure out how to play more consistently then the Buckeyes could improve significantly as the season progresses.

Brannen Greene Suspended With Cheick Diallo's situation still unresolved, Kansas is suddenly looking short-handed. Greene averaged just 5.7 points per game last season, but he has the ability to really light it up from deep (he hit 40% behind the arc last season). But if he's not going to behave off the court, as it seems he isn't, Bill Self has to get him under control. The non-cupcake games affected will be their games in Maui next week. In the end, if Greene and Diallo are both playing for this team during Big 12 play then none of this matters, but for the time being it certainly has Kansas fans on edge.

Hofstra Upsets Florida State Joe Mihalich has done an incredible job building up Hofstra out of utter rubble into the Colonial preseason favorite (the media picked them, as did I). And that's why this upset probably wasn't as much of an upset as most fans think it was. Xavier Rathan-Mayes had a rough day at the office (4-for-14 from the field), while Florida State had nobody who could slow down Brian Bernardi (24 points on 8-for-10 shooting).

Is it possible Hofstra is good enough to make a run at an at-large bid? It's probably a bit earlier to suggest something like that. The Colonial hasn't had an at-large team in five years, back when George Mason and VCU were in the league. But Hofstra has proven that they're good enough to scare their Round of 64 opponent if they can earn the CAA's auto bid.

Florida State fans shouldn't panic over a single game, but in the early going their returners have not shown any real improvement over last season. Malik Beasley has been a good newcomer, but the Seminoles have struggled as a team, particularly on the defensive end. They need to beat DePaul later today or else the warning lights will really start to fire.

Butler Survives Temple Butler's offense was basically unstoppable against cupcakes to start the season, but their shooting disappeared against Temple.  They hit just 23% of their jump shots on the day. What was impressive was that it kind of didn't matter. Butler just got to the rim, poured in 15 layups and dunks, and still ending up with 1.14 PPP. There's no question that they are going to be one of the most explosive offenses in the country this season.

A few questions remain about Butler, however. First, how well will these offensive stats hold up once the level of competition gets ramped up? How well will their defense hold up? And will their lack of depth prove a problem? Butler played only seven players here, and only six scored. They are certainly going to be very vulnerable if any of their key players gets hurt. So only time will tell if they are able to contend near the top of the Big East or not.

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