|Is this the coach of the 2016 Big Ten champ?|
There's no reason to overreact too much to this result. The final margin was large, but it was due almost entirely to three-point shooting. Iowa deserved the win, but the final score was deceptively large. At the same time, with a sweep of Michigan State in the books, you can make a good case that Iowa is the current favorite to take the Big Ten regular season title. The biggest hiccup remaining might be that their only game against Maryland will be on the road. Assuming that Michigan and Indiana linger as sleepers near the top of the league, Iowa still has a home-and-home against both of those teams, too. The home game against Michigan is up next, on Sunday.
Louisville Shuts Down Pittsburgh Pitt had one of the most astonishing statistical games I've ever seen. They entered this game with the #1 raw offensive efficiency in the nation (1.24 PPP), having finished with below 1.10 PPP just once all season long. Yet at the under-8 timeout in this game, they were scoring just 0.55 PPP. A late flurry got them up to 0.65 PPP, but that is still the second worst that they have posted in 20 years of efficiency data. Anytime things go this wrong it's always a combination of reasons. Pitt was ice cold shooting the ball (1-for-11 on threes, and a 29.6 eFG%), but Louisville also forced 19 turnovers (a season-high 30% turnover rate for Pitt) and blocked 6 shots.
With stumbles by Virginia and Duke, Louisville is moving up the projected ACC standings. North Carolina is still probably the favorite, but Louisville's only game against the Tar Heels will be at home (February 1st), so they'll get a chance to make up a gap.
Pittsburgh, as well as they have played (up until this game), did it against a Charmin soft schedule. A win over Notre Dame is their only against a likely RPI Top 50 opponent. One bad game isn't worth jumping off ledges over, but it's worth being skeptical of the good computer numbers Pitt had put up so far this season.
Gonzaga Nears The Bubble There was a chaotic finish to this one, with neither the teams or the referees executing well. There was a blown out-of-bounds call that gave the ball to BYU, then a bizarre traveling call against BYU, followed by the refs swallowing the whistle on the wild final play:
This is BYU's first quality win of the season, to go with bad losses to Long Beach State and Harvard. They're still looking like an NIT team at the moment, but with home games remaining against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga they have the ability to claw their way back into the bubble discussion as well.
The AAC A 1-Bid League? UConn actually led by 6 points with 8 minutes to go, but they hit just 2 of their final 14 shots from the field during Tulsa's 22-7 run to close the game. UConn has actually shot the ball significantly better this season than last season, but they were cold here, finishing with just a 38.2 eFG%, their lowest of the season. They are now 0-4 when their eFG% has been under 50%, and 11-1 when their eFG% has been over 50%. You can usually tell how well UConn is playing by how well Daniel Hamilton shoots, and he was just 2-for-12 here.
UConn had wins over Texas, Michigan, and Ohio State, with no bad losses in non-conference play, which built a buffer between them and the Tournament bubble. But they're off to a rough 2-2 start in AAC play with this loss and a bad loss to Temple. They are still 41st in Pomeroy and 35th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR, but their RPI has slipped to 87th. The way the AAC is cannibalizing itself, and the fact that SMU is ineligible for postseason play, is making it increasingly plausible that the league only gets one team into the NCAA Tournament. To earn an at-large bid, UConn might need to get to 12-6 in conference play (they might get in at 11-7, but it'll be tough). A 12-6 record would mean a 10-4 finish against what will be a more difficult conference schedule than they've faced thus far.
Tulsa now has a second quality win to go with their win over Wichita State, which helps make up for their bad losses to Oral Roberts and Arkansas-Little Rock. Not having as many quality non-conference wins as UConn means that 12-6 is probably the worst they can finish in AAC play while still earning an at-large bid. Now 3-2, they have to avoid a bad road loss on Tuesday night at East Carolina.
Utah Continues To Fade Utah drops to 1-3 in Pac-12 play after another ugly performance. Larry Krystkowiak chose to auto-bench Jakob Poeltl with 2 fouls for a large chunk of the first half, but then in the second half Poeltl failed to score in 14 minutes on the court. As a team, Utah scored just 0.89 PPP, and they have now failed to crack 0.92 PPP in any of their four Pac-12 games. That puts them in dead last in the Pac-12 at 0.91 PPP. In contrast, last season they finished second in the Pac-12 at 1.13 PPP.
Some of these Utah struggles will regress. Guys like Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge are shooting significantly worse than last season, and one would expect that to improve somewhat. But Utah is just not a great team outside of Jakob Poeltl, and they are looking increasingly like a potential NIT team. With wins over Duke and Texas Tech, they should be in decent shape for an at-large bid at 9-9 in Pac-12 play, but they are now 1-3 with the hardest part of their schedule still to come. A home game against Oregon State on Sunday is almost a must-win to stop the bleeding.
Oregon is now third in efficiency margin in Pac-12 play at +0.09 PPP, just behind Arizona (+0.15) and USC (+0.10). As long as they keep up this level of play, the NCAA Tournament will be a given, and they look to be in the range of a 5-8 seed.
California Loses Again California got off to a quick 12-3 start to this season, including 2-0 in Pac-12 play, but they had a tough three game road stretch looming, and they proceeded to lose all three games. Cal is now 1-6 in games away from Haas Pavilion. They didn't do themselves any favors here by auto-benching Jaylen Brown for nearly 17 minutes of the first half because of two quick fouls. As usually happens when players get auto-benched, Brown did not foul out, pouring 11 points in the second half, and making California fans wonder why he couldn't do that in the first half, too. The other primary advantage for Stanford was a constant march to the free throw line. They ended up attempting 38 of those, compared to just 17 for California.
California's only good non-conference win came over Saint Mary's, and their schedule was relatively soft, so they might need to get to 10-8 in Pac-12 play to make the NCAA Tournament. A home stretch against the two Arizona schools up next is a great chance to pick up a quality win and move closer to 10-8. Stanford, considering their non-conference struggles, almost certainly needs at least 10 Pac-12 wins to be in the mix on the Selection Sunday. Now 3-2, they also have a good opportunity with the two Arizona schools coming to town.