Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Morning News: Iowa State Survives Cincinnati, Denzel Valentine's Injury, Purdue Wins Ugly, And More

This is not where Michigan State fans want to see Denzel Valentine.
Iowa State Survives Cincinnati At The Buzzer This one went back and forth throughout the second half, and we probably would've gotten a "Hilton Magic" narrative if this game had been in Ames. Iowa State had little trouble with the normally fearsome Cincinnati defense, finishing with 16 assists to just 7 turnovers, and a sharp 1.19 PPP. Only one team in the last past three years has scored more than that against Cincinnati (Temple, on February 10, 2015). Still, Cincinnati hit enough shots of their own to actually take a four point with with around two minutes to go. In the end it was Abdel Nader who hit the three-pointer to put Iowa State ahead with 11 seconds left, and none of the zillion chances Cincinnati had in the final flurry managed to fall. In all, the Bearcats scored just a single point on their final four possessions:
Iowa State escapes after Cincinnati misses buzzer-beater - ESPN Video
This win will be a nice one for Iowa State's resume and is a missed opportunity for Cincinnati, but outside of those practical implications I don't think it tells us too much about these two teams. We know Iowa State can score and we know that they're a good team. We know Cincinnati is a contender in the AAC. Nothing on those two fronts changes with this result.

Denzel Valentine To Miss 2-3 Weeks It's probably worthwhile to be a little skeptical that a player can come back 100% from arthroscopic knee surgery in two weeks, but for now Michigan State seems confident that he will. The frontrunner for National Player of the Year, he is obviously a huge absence for the Spartans. Their first game without him, last night, hinted at that worry, as they needed overtime to overcome Oakland. If there's a winner from this injury, it's Iowa. If we consider Purdue, Iowa, and Maryland to be the other teams in the Big Ten's Top Four, Michigan State plays Iowa twice before they play either Purdue or Maryland. They head to Carver-Hawkeye for a game next week.

Purdue Wins Ugly Over Vanderbilt Purdue shot an atrocious 2-for-19 on threes, and hit just 19% of their jump shots overall. How did they win with such ugly shooting? For one, Vanderbilt wasn't much better, hitting just 28% of their jump shots. And Purdue's front line dominated inside. They had only a 30-to-26 advantage in paint points, but had a 31-to-11 advantage in free throw attempts. AJ Hammons in particular was a monster: 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 blocks.

Purdue finishes non-conference play 12-1 with wins over Vanderbilt, Florida, Pittsburgh, and New Mexico, with only that one loss to Butler. It's a solid performance, and it will be sufficient to put them in the 1 seed discussion if they take the Big Ten title.

Vanderbilt is now 0-4 against likely RPI Top 50 opponents, but dismiss them at your own peril. Their 1-4 record in games decided by 7 points or fewer suggests that they're better than their record. They're still Top 20 in both the Pomeroy and Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings. Kentucky is still the SEC favorite, but Vanderbilt is in the second tier with Texas A&M, ready to pounce if the Wildcats slip up.

London Perrantes Saves Virginia Against California Virginia came into this game rated the #1 offense in the nation by Pomeroy, but they struggled badly with their jump shot here, hitting just 26% of them. Their offensive struggles put them in an 11 point second half hole, but they pulled out of it, and got to overtime on a spectacular Malcolm Brogdon defensive play. Then, in overtime, Tony Bennett called up a beautiful final play for London Perrantes:
CAL vs. UVA - ESPN Video
This game meant more for California than Virginia, of course. The Cavaliers are likely going to end up a 1 or 2 seed in March regardless of this result. Cal, however, seems likely to be on the Tourney bubble in March. A win over Virginia would have been huge for that resume. Instead, Saint Mary's remains the only likely RPI Top 100 team they have beaten so far. Their game against Davidson on Monday will be significant for getting something out of non-conference play.

DePaul Routs George Washington Sometimes it's just not your day. George Washington hit just 3-for-21 behind the arc, and just 18% of their jump shots overall. Their defense was also a mess, allowing 1.26 PPP to a DePaul team that didn't score that efficiently all of last season (they did score 1.28 PPP earlier this season against Norfolk State).

It's an ugly loss for a George Washington team that was probably due for a little bit of a reality check after moving into the Top 25 in the polls. They were not one of the 25 best teams in the nation, and with this bad loss have actually dropped out of the Top 60 of both Pomeroy and Sagarin. The Colonials have to watch out for a dangerous road game at UCF on Tuesday. A loss there would undo much of the good that they did for their resume by beating Virginia.

Dyshawn Pierre Set To Return For Dayton Dayton has been the top-performing Atlantic Ten team thus far, and they are going to get even better with the return of Dyshawn Pierre, who averaged 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game last season. The Flyers already have wins over Iowa, Vanderbilt, and Monmouth as well, so they are in good shape to earn an at-large bid even if they fall in the A-10 tournament.

Amida Brimah Out 6-8 Weeks Brimah has blocked 16.7% of two-pointers attempted by opponents while on the court this season, which is second best in the entire nation. That tells you how significant this loss is, despite the fact that Brimah doesn't do much offensively. Presumably, we will see significantly more playing time for Kentan Facey and Steven Enoch, though they can conceivably play Shonn Miller as the center against smaller opponents. UConn remains a likely NCAA Tournament team, but this injury is going to make it significantly more difficult for them to win the AAC title.

Northern Iowa Falls To Hawaii This was no "upset", as Hawaii was actually a 3.5 point favorite in Vegas. And herein lies the problem for this game, and for Northern Iowa's chances of an at-large bid, as I warned a few days ago. They have those two great wins (Iowa State and North Carolina), but now have a few dicey losses (Colorado State and Hawaii, and then perhaps Richmond and/or New Mexico), and any loss they suffer in conference play other than Wichita State will be a "bad" loss as well. They are going to need to avoid any more losses in Hawaii, and then they're going to need to go at least 14-4 in Missouri Valley play to earn that at-large bid.

Meanwhile, Hawaii is staring at a postseason ban for next season, so they need to make this season count. Now 8-1, and up 77th in the Pomeroy ratings, they are looking like the potential Big West favorite and perhaps something like a 13 seed if they can win the Big West tourney.

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