Thursday, January 28, 2016

Morning News: Arkansas Stuns Texas A&M, Utah Pulls Away From California, And Pittsburgh's Offense Is Still Broken

"Perhaps we left our offense over there."
Arkansas Stuns Texas A&M Texas A&M had been off to a nearly perfect start to SEC play, and they were overdue to finally have a game where they played poorly. And they played poorly here, committing 21 turnovers and hitting just 22% of their jump shots. Meanwhile, an Arkansas team that had been 1-6 in games decided by six points or fewer finally pulled off an overdue close win.

If there was one thing that stood out in this game it was Texas A&M point guard Alex Caruso picking up two early first half fouls and being #autobench'd by Billy Kennedy for the final 18 minutes of the first half. It's dumb, yet almost every college coach does it. With Caruso on the bench, the Aggies committed a turnover on 35% of first half possessions while scoring 0.89 PPP. With Caruso playing almost the entire second half, the Aggies committed turnovers on just 22% of possessions and scored 1.03 PPP. It remains hard to fathom why coaches foul their own players out of games. If a guy is going to foul out, so be it: maximize his minutes. Why foul him out before the refs do it for you?

Texas A&M can put this game behind them quickly if they can take out an Iowa State team on Saturday that might be really shorthanded without Jameel McKay (his healthy status is currently uncertain). They also still are the favorites to win the SEC title.

Arkansas, meanwhile, is a good enough team to make a serious run at an at-large bid. They are currently 49th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR and 55th in Pomeroy. The bad luck in close games, however, is why their resume is currently pretty mediocre. They have this win and a win over Vanderbilt to go with bad losses to Mercer, Wake Forest, Georgia, Akron, and Stanford. It took this win just to get their RPI inside the Top 100 for the first time all season long. Realistically, they need to get to 12-6 in SEC play to have a good shot on Selection Sunday. At 11-7 they'll need an SEC tourney run and some help.

Utah Pulls Away From California California had managed to avoid any negative effects from the Tyrone Wallace injury thus far. They had played two games without him, both at home, and both were narrow victories (an average of three points per game). But on the road, their offense fell apart. They had 12 turnovers to just 8 assists, scoring just 0.97 PPP (they have not won yet this season when scoring under 1 PPP).

Utah's computer numbers are really good right now. Their RPI sits 15th. Those computer numbers will likely fade as the season goes along, but they should be an NCAA Tournament lock if they can get to 10-8 in conference play. Now 5-3, they will get to 10-8 if they just win the games they'll be favored in the rest of the way.

California drops to 4-4 in Pac-12 play, though they have nice wins over Arizona, Saint Mary's, Utah, and Colorado. Their RPI sits 38th, and they have five RPI Top 50 victories. That's a Tournament resume at the moment, but they'll be in danger if they fail to finish above .500 in Pac-12 play.

Pittsburgh's Offense: Still Broken Pittsburgh's offense, which was so strong in non-conference play, has continued to scuffle ever since the Louisville game. After scoring below 1.1 PPP only once in their first 15 games, they have averaged just 0.97 PPP over their last five games. More than anything they have struggled to score around the rim, hitting just 44.6% of their two-pointers in ACC play. Clemson is one of those teams with strong defenders in the paint that can make shots near the rim difficult. Pitt hit just 8 of 20 layups here, and were outscored 26-to-18 in the paint.

Pitt is 16-4 overall and 5-3 in ACC play, but with only two wins against teams likely to finish inside the RPI Top 50. Their won/loss record and computer numbers will get them into the NCAA Tournament if they get to 10-8 in ACC play, and even at 9-9 they'll have a decent shot. But their remaining ACC schedule is awfully difficult, and even getting to 9-9 will be an uphill battle.

Clemson continues their rise, up from 101st to 51st in Pomeroy over the last month. They now have five RPI Top 50 wins, though their RPI is still an ugly 88th. Their computer numbers are going to be difficult to salvage, in large part because of terrible non-conference scheduling by Brad Brownell, but if they can get to 11-7 in ACC play with the set of quality victories they have, it's going to be tough to keep them out. Now 6-2, they head into a tricky stretch with three consecutive road games, beginning with a game at Florida State on Saturday.

No comments: