Monday, December 14, 2015

Morning News: Breaking Down St. John's Upsetting Syracuse And LSU Losing Again

Chris Mullin got his first nice win in Madison Square Garden.
St. John's Upsets Syracuse This is a huge victory for Chris Mullin after an ugly start to the season. They had a loss to Fordham and zero wins against a Pomeroy Top 200 opponent. It finally gives this program something to build on.

That said, St. John's fans need to understand two things about this win. First of all, it was a fluke much more than it was meaningful of anything. The Johnnies shot 12-for-24 on threes while Syracuse was 5-for-26. Syracuse has been the better three-point shooting team this season, and if you believe that 3P% defense is a thing (and there is evidence that it can have a small effect) then Syracuse has usually had an above average 3P% against under Jim Boeheim. In other words, take the 3P% luck in this game and Syracuse likely wins this game easily. In addition, St. John's fans need to realize that this season would be going even worse if not for FT% luck. St. John's is 2nd in the nation with a 58.1 FT% against. For example, Rutgers shot just 5-for-14 at the line when they lost by 2 to St. John's. Niagara shot just 13-for-24 at the line when they lost by 4 to the Johnnies. So St. John's could easily have another bad loss or two.

Those fluky shooting stats don't wash away this Syracuse performance, however, because St. John's exploited the rebounding woes that have plagued Syracuse all season long. Syracuse is now 335th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. They're in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether if they can't become at least a mediocre defensive rebounding team.

LSU Goes Down Again Houston closed as a 2 point favorite in Vegas for this game, so technically it was not an "upset", though is says something about LSU's season so far that this was the case. All season, the hopes for an LSU turnaround have hinged on Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor playing. While Victor still needs another game to get back, Hornsby made an emphatic return, scoring 32 points on 6-for-10 three-point shooting, including the fantastic shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.

That said, LSU's defense continues to be a tire fire. This season they have played five teams in the Pomeroy Top 200 (Houston, North Florida, Charleston, North Carolina State, and Marquette) and allowed a total of 1.12 PPP against them. Houston dominated the glass here, and had a 50-to-42 advantage in paint points.

In March, these non-conference games won't matter nearly as much as what LSU will have done in conference play, so if the return of Hornsby and Victor turns things around then LSU will still be in okay shape. But unless they beat Oklahoma, LSU will likely need to finish at least 11-7 in SEC play just to have a Top 75 RPI. In other words, the margin for error has already shrunk. Their horrible non-conference SOS is not going to help either.

Speaking of horrible non-conference SOS, Houston's schedule is awful. They played Marquette, LSU, and then a bunch of teams with no chance to finish inside the RPI Top 100. For the time being, Pomeroy ranks their non-conference SOS the second weakest in the entire nation. Not that this team was likely going to be good enough to earn an at-large bid anyway, but the Selection Committee would severely frown on this schedule if they were.

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