Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Morning News: Virginia Falls, Oregon Defeats Baylor, Utah Holds Off San DIego St, LIU Crazy Finish, And More

First court storming of the season!
Virginia Falls To George Washington Virginia is going to want the end of this game back. There were just a series of offensive mistakes, from bobbled dribbles to poor jump shots. They scored just once on their final four possessions and finished with just 1.00 PPP against a George Washington team that finished in 10th in defensive efficiency in A-10 play last season. Despite the media narrative, Virginia's offense was actually one of the best in the nation last season (Top 5 nationally before the Justin Anderson injury caused them to finish just 24th in Pomeroy adjusted offensive efficiency). They're going to need to stop settling for so many long jump shots, though. 69% of their shots in this game were jumpers, compared to just 51% for George Washington.

The fact is that this type of game is a nightmare game for a top tier Power 5 team. For Virginia, this is a game that they could easily lose (Vegas had the spread at only 6.5 points), yet they'd get basically zero credit for winning while a loss would look bad to the Selection Committee in March. Until the Selection Committee properly evaluates the difference between road and home games, road games against quality mid-majors are scheduling land mines. The fact is that this really isn't that bad of a loss for Virginia. George Washington is a bubble-quality team.

Oregon Defeats Baylor In The Wee Hours We're in the middle of ESPN's awesome 24 hour kickoff marathon, so this game didn't finish until close to 2 AM on the east coast, but perhaps Baylor will be able to blame "body clocks" for their lackluster performance. They struggled with Oregon's defensive pressure (18 turnovers, with Lester Munford finishing with 6 turnovers to 1 assist), and were also lazy defensively (allowing a 30-to-18 free throw advantage). Baylor's bench showed some fight late in the second half, going on an 11-2 run and eventually pulling as close as three points, but they couldn't execute when they had a chance to tie up the game.

In the end, games like this don't say much about these two teams. Baylor was only a 2 point favorite in Vegas, and so a narrow loss doesn't really change our projections. However, Oregon now has their first quality win of the season. As impressive as Baylor's 42 point blowout of Stephen F. Austin was on Friday night, the fact is that it won't impress the Selection Committee. Baylor's next chance for a quality win will come December 6th against Vanderbilt.

Utah Holds Off San Diego State Both of these teams were rated among the six best defenses in the nation by Pomeroy last season, but this game was an offensive show, with the two teams combining for 1.14 PPP. And while Utah appeared to be pulling away late, San Diego State would not give up, hitting four consecutive shots to pull within two points in the final 30 seconds. Utah was forced to hit nine of ten free throws down the stretch to finish the game off.

This is a good win for Utah that will give them confidence heading into Puerto Rico, but they're going to need to play better defense to live up to preseason expectations. As for San Diego State, this is a tough missed opportunity. The Mountain West isn't what it was a few years ago, so they need to collect big non-conference wins to have a strong resume on Selection Sunday.

LIU Stuns Loyola-Maryland At The Buzzer You probably weren't watching this game, but it had a hell of a finish. It's a reminder that even mid-November games with zero impact on the NCAA Tournament bracket can be a ton of fun.
BYU Loses To Long Beach State BYU gave this game away in so many ways. Among other things, they committed 24 turnovers and shot an awful 8-for-21 at the free throw line. And down the stretch, as Long Beach State kept giving them a chance to score a basket to take a lead, BYU kept failing. Long Beach State led by four points with 3:20 to go and proceeded to score just a single point on their final seven possessions, but BYU only scored four points themselves.  After Kyle Collinsworth corralled a rebound with around six seconds to go, he lost it to Nick Faust. Nick Faust then missed both free throws, but BYU failed not once but twice to inbound the ball without Long Beach State knocking it away, and the Cougars never got a shot off.

The silver lining for BYU fans is that they really can't play this poorly again. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Unfortunately, there isn't much margin for error for an at-large bid out of the WCC, and they can only afford two or three "bad" losses all season long. They've now got one already.

Georgia Tech Escapes Tennessee Georgia Tech went 3-14 last season in games decided by six points or fewer or in overtime, but they're off to a 1-0 start in such games this season. This was honestly an ugly game. Georgia Tech hit just 32% of their jump shots while Tennessee hit just 24% of theirs. There were a lot of bricks and a lot of long rebounds, leading to a combined 43 offensive rebounds. 40 of the 55 made baskets came in the paint. But in a game decided in the paint, Georgia Tech had the two most dominant physical performers in Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs. Tennessee is one of the smaller teams in the country, and that lack of size and length could cause them significant problems in SEC play.

Alex Robinson Leaving Texas A&M Alex Robinson averaged 5.2 points, 2.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game off the bench as a freshman last season. This is obviously a significant blow for a program that had an excellent chance to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2011. That said, the Aggies do have several other backcourt options this year, including the newly acquired Anthony Collins, and so the loss of Robinson might actually hurt them more next season than this season. Admon Gilder is now the only scholarship guard on the current team who will be back next season.

Southern Knocks Off Mississippi State The SWAC is off to its best start in perhaps two decades, with an SEC win coming right on the heels of an ACC win (Alabama State beat Virginia Tech). Mississippi State can't even blame fluky shooting here, as the difference was an ugly 19-to-8 turnover advantage for Southern. It's possible that Mississippi State was looking ahead to a game against Miami in Puerto Rico on Thursday, but that's no excuse for getting outplayed by a SWAC team. At this point, they look like one of the worst teams in the SEC yet again.

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