|Things are not going to plan for Frank Haith so far this season.|
Valparaiso Goes Down Valparaiso was bound to lose a few games this year like this, and this is precisely why any at-large hopes for them were unrealistic. There was nothing fluky in this game. It was just a road game against a solid mid-major, and it was close in the closing minutes. Ball State just happened to make more plays down the stretch, including hitting 8 of their last 9 free throws. Valparaiso star Alec Peters had a monster 28 points (including 5-for-9 behind the arc), but it wasn't enough.
In the end, Valparaiso is still the heavy Horizon League favorite, and they're likely heading to an 11 or 12 seed in March if they take the Horizon title, but they can only afford one or two more losses like this if they're going to have any at-large hope. As for Ball State, this is easily their best performance of the young season. As wide open as the MAC is, there's no reason Ball State can't contend for one of the top spots. They're not really in the class of a team like Akron, but this is a nice victory for a team picked to finish in last place in the MAC West preseason.
Cincinnati Holds Off George Washington George Washington was white hot here, hitting 11-for-22 behind the arc, but Cincinnati's defense shut them down otherwise. The Colonials hit only 29% of their two-pointers, and were held to 0.93 PPP despite the hot shooting. Cincinnati had shown some explosive offense to start this season, but it had mostly come against soft competition. This felt more like one of last year's games, where Cincinnati ground out quite a few close wins with suffocating defense.
Offensive efficiency will be the difference between Cincinnati winning the AAC or falling short. At this point it looks like like a two-way battle between them and UConn. George Washington, meanwhile, looks to be in the thick of a very deep Atlantic Ten race. The Colonials could easily find themselves on the Tournament bubble in February and March, and a win here would have looked nice alongside the upset of Virginia.
Tulsa Falls To UALR This probably isn't as big of an upset as many might think it is. UALR is no cupcake - they're a contender to win the Sun Belt. And the fact was that they just got hot here, hitting 8-for-15 behind the arc (compared to 9-for-31 for Tulsa), allowing them to overcome Tulsa's advantage in rebounding, turnovers, and getting to the line.
While Tulsa's performance here was not that awful, the fact is that they have underperformed expectations early on this season. They are the most experienced team in the entire nation, and this was supposed to be the year that Frank Haith took them to the NCAA Tournament. They did upset shorthanded Wichita State, but that's more than balanced out by losses to UALR and South Carolina. Considering the disrespect the AAC got from the Selection Committee last season, Tulsa is going to need to play significantly better the rest of the season to avoid the NIT. They have an interesting (and difficult) road game at Oklahoma State on Wednesday.