Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Morning News: Iowa State Beats Kansas, Is Duke Actually A Bubble Team?, And A Wild Georgia Southern/Appalachian State Finish

Defenders have been scoring in the paint with ease against Duke.
Is Duke... A Bubble Team? Trying to draw new narratives about these two teams from this result is a bit silly. With neither team doing anything out of the ordinary or having fluky shooting, this game basically played to expectations. Pomeroy had this game as a 6 point spread, and Miami was up by 6 with 30 seconds to go. The standout performer for Miami, unsurprisingly, was Angel Rodriguez, who had 13 points and 11 assists. Once again, Duke basically played with a 6 man rotation, as Sean Obi and Chase Jeter combined for 0 points and 0 rebounds in 2 minutes. The two players have combined for all of 0 points and 2 rebounds in 11 minutes over the last five games, during which Duke has lost four.

Now 5-2 in ACC play, Miami is still probably a long shot to win the ACC regular season title, but they could very plausibly be in the mix for a 2 or 3 seed on Selection Sunday. Their remaining schedule is conducive to picking up big wins, including home games against Virginia and Louisville.

So let's ask the question that is being asked: Is it possible Duke is a bubble team if Amile Jefferson doesn't return? Right now, Duke is 4-4 in ACC play, and both Sagarin and Pomeroy project them to finish 10-8. But those computer ratings have some of the play with Jefferson baked in, and so let's say Duke has a tough close loss or two and ends up 8-10. Now let's say they have a disastrous ACC tournament where they go 1-and-done (I'll assume Pittsburgh as a plausible opening opponent for an 8-10 ACC team). In that case, Duke ends up 19-13 overall with a projected RPI of 43. They've already banked wins over Indiana, VCU, and Georgetown, and with home games remaining vs UNC, Louisville, Virginia, and Florida State will likely pick up another quality win or two. Does that get in? I think it does, but it's damn close. If Duke actually fell all the way to 7-11 in ACC play, then that really might be an NIT resume. But even if Amile Jefferson doesn't return, a 7-11 ACC record is still a very unlikely possibility. So at this point, my answer is still "no", Duke is not a bubble team. But they could reasonably drop to something like an 8 or 9 seed.

Iowa State Pulls Away From Kansas Kansas had a seven point halftime lead here, but the second half was a nightmare. Kansas had as many turnovers (10) as made field goals. Meanwhile, Iowa State was 5-for-9 behind the arc and had an 11-to-5 assist/turnover ratio. In all, Iowa State outscored Kansas by 0.54 PPP in the second half. The best player for either team was the always-efficient Monte Morris (21 points, 9 assists, and 0 turnovers).

A couple weeks ago, Iowa State had lost three of four and the narrative was filled with panic. Now they've won four straight including wins over Oklahoma and Kansas. This is why you cannot overreact to small sample size results in the Big 12, particularly when it's the home team winning the game. Every team is going to lose games in this conference.

The Big 12 now has six teams within a game of first place, including both Kansas and Iowa State. Considering the remaining schedules (among other things, that Oklahoma's remaining game against Kansas will come in Norman), Oklahoma is probably the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season title, but it will be a close three-team race. And I still think that the best team in the conference will end up being Kansas in March.

Georgia Southern Wins A Wild Finish Everybody watching college basketball last night was watching Duke/Miami and Iowa State/Kansas, but the craziest finish of the night (and one of the craziest of the season) came when Georgia Southern's Mike Hughes hit a wild four-point play with 0.8 seconds to go to knock off Appalachian State. Neither of these teams have much to play for in a conference dominated by UT-Arlington and Arkansas-Little Rock, but this result is a reminder that college basketball craziness can happen in the strangest of games:

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