Sunday, December 06, 2015

Morning News: Arizona Wins At Gonzaga, Georgetown Slices Up Syracuse, Rhode Island Loses Another Heartbreaker, And More

Mike Hopkins probably had a different dream of how his head coaching debut would go.
New Bracket Projection As promised, there was no panic on Kentucky. They're still a projected 1 seed. However, South Carolina and George Washington did move into the projected Field of 68 while BYU and North Carolina St dropped out. More details are at the post.

Arizona Wins At Gonzaga Arizona showed the strength of their roster depth here. Arizona's missing big man (Kaleb Tarczewski) is more important to his team than Gonzaga's missing big man (Przemek Karnowski), and Gonzaga's other two dominant bigs both had field days due to Zeus's absence. Kyle Wiltjer had a monster 33 points while Domantas Sabonis had 18 points and 16 rebounds. But Arizona had the advantage on the wings and in the backcourt, forcing 16 turnovers and allowing only 8 free throw attempts. And Arizona's bench had 14 points in 63 minutes while Gonzaga's bench produced only 4 points in 23 minutes. It was enough for them to pull out the win in the second half.

For some reason, this Arizona roster didn't get credit preseason for just how talented it was. In my opinion, as I've said all along, it's the most talented in the Pac-12, even without Zeus. This win reaffirms my opinion that they're the Pac-12 favorites, even if Zeus has to miss a few weeks of the Pac-12 regular season.

Gonzaga needed this win more than Arizona did. They only have one win over a likely RPI Top 50 team (UConn), and only two teams left on their schedule (UCLA and SMU) that are better than even odds to end up in the RPI Top 50. It's going to be almost impossible for them to make a case for a 1 or 2 seed in March, no matter what they do the rest of the season.

Georgetown Slices Up Syracuse Even though they are no longer in the same conference, John Thompson III has seen the Syracuse zone many times in the past, and his teams are always well prepared for it. And the Hoyas diced up the Orange defense here, scoring1.20 PPP, including a 54.8 2P%. After Georgetown led for double-digits almost the entire half, a late Syracuse rally did briefly get as close as six points in the final minute, but not close enough to really make Hoyas fans sweat.

Somebody is going to make a narrative about this poor Syracuse performance having to do with Jim Boeheim not being there, which is silly. But either way, after two straight poor performance, the Orange now get to have five relatively soft games before ACC play tips off.

Georgetown, meanwhile, has salvaged their non-conference season after the loss to Radford. The win over Wisconsin combined with this win gives them two wins over likely RPI Top 50 opponents. They will be in the mix in the Big East, though at this point both Villanova and Xavier look better.

Rhode Island Loses Another Heartbreaker No team has had a more brutal start to their season than Rhode Island. They had the season ending injury to star EC Matthews, then lost a brutal finish to Valparaiso, and now suffered yet another soul crushing loss:
Providence wins wild-finish with buzzer beater tip-in - ESPN Video
Providence got another "Bad Kris Dunn" game here, as he had 6 turnovers to go with just 5 assists (along with 15 points), but they won yet another close game. They are now 4-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and it's that good luck which has them barely inside the Top 50 in the computers despite what is a pretty good resume. The Friars probably will end up on or near the bubble in March, which means it's worth keeping an eye on a tricky road game at UMass in a couple weeks - their only difficult game between now and the start of Big East play.

Arizona State Upsets Texas A&M Arizona State actually led this game 49-24 at one point, but a 30-13 run actually added some drama in the final couple of minutes. Upsets often involve fluky shooting, and that was the case here, as Texas A&M shot a hideous 19% on jump shots. Danuel House personally shot 3-for-15 on threes. Arizona State got a nice burst from Kodi Justice (10 points and 3 assists) off the bench.

This is probably not going to be a great loss for Texas A&M, though they do have wins over Gonzaga and Texas. They also have good opportunities with home games against Kansas State and Baylor coming up. If they can win those two games they'll be in great shape for an at-large bid heading into SEC play.

Missouri State Holds Off Oklahoma State Missouri State actually led this game by 17 points early in the second half, but needed a DeQuon Miller layup in the final ten seconds to hang on here. Jawun Evans scored all 15 of his points in the second half as the Cowboys charged hard, but again came up short. This is a win that could be one of the highlights of the season for a Missouri State team that went 0-12 against the RPI Top 100 last season and was 0-5 against Division I opponents this season before this game.

Oklahoma State is being crippled by injuries. Phil Forte is still out indefinitely, and now Jeff Newberry picked up a head injury here. The Cowboys are a potential at-large team when healthy, but right now it's hard to know if they'll get healthy soon enough to make that a reality.

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