Saturday, January 02, 2016

Morning News: Is Utah A Bubble Team?, California Routs Colorado, Washington Upsets UCLA, And Zeus

This big fella is coming back.
Is Utah A Bubble Team? A lot of things went wrong down the stretch for Utah team, from a soft fifth foul eliminating Jakob Poeltl to an incredible six missed free throws in a row by Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor (both at 80%+ for their college careers). In all, Utah (a 74% FT shooting team) hit 11-for-24 at the line. Throw in an ugly 19 turnovers and 5-for-19 three-point shooting, and it's almost kind of amazing that Utah was in this game. This was perhaps the poorest Utah has played in a game in a couple of years.

This is not a good loss to a Stanford team that is not even a sure thing to finish in the RPI Top 100. Utah's overall resume is still strong (wins over Duke, BYU, San Diego State, and Texas Tech), but the computers have not been particularly impressed yet. They are rated 41st by Pomeroy and 36th by the Sagarin PREDICTOR. Pomeroy projects a 9-9 Pac-12 finish, while Sagarin has them at 10-8. That's quite a bit more bubble-ish than Utah fans probably want to admit. Unless they can get to 11-7 or better in Pac-12 play, they will be in the bubble mix when we hit March.

California Routs Colorado This was a battle between two potential bubble teams, but it was never that close. California led by as many as 18 points in the first half, and by more than 20 for chunks of the second half. Cal won with stifling defense, holding Colorado to a 34.1 eFG%, their worst shooting day since February 7th of last season. And Cal did this despite three players fouling out, including Ivan Rabb.

California's resume is soft due to a soft non-conference schedule. They have this win and a win over St. Mary's, and that's more than wiped out by iffy losses to Richmond and San Diego State. But they'll have several chances for quality wins in conference play, and if they get to 11-7 in Pac-12 play it's hard to imagine how they get left out of the NCAA Tournament.

Colorado still only has a single win over a likely RPI Top 100 opponent (BYU), but their non-conference resume was crafted fairly well as far as RPI manipulation goes. Even though it didn't lead to any quality victories, their RPI should be Top 50 if they go 10-8 in Pac-12 play, and might even get there if they go 9-9. They look like a team that will spend the rest of the season on the bubble.

Washington Knocks Off UCLA Trying to draw any conclusions from this game is probably folly. It was ugly, poorly played, and poorly reffed. The refs called 64 fouls which led to 90 free throws, and it actually would have been significantly more if the refs didn't decide in overtime to swallow their whistles, (presumably) because the two teams were at risk of running out of players. UCLA nearly won despite atrocious shooting from Bryce Alford (5-for-21 from the field) and Tony Parker (3-for-14 from the field), and despite nearly as many turnovers (25) as made field goals (26). Washington was led by Andrew Andrews (35 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists).

UCLA now has a couple of bad losses (Wake Forest is the other) to go with their two big wins (Kentucky and Gonzaga). It's the type of resume that will likely get them into the NCAA Tournament if they are on the bubble on Selection Sunday, but they're going to have to go at least 9-9 in Pac-12 play to get there. They need to avoid what would be a brutal 0-2 start in Pullman on Sunday.

Kaleb Tarczewski To Return Zeus, Arizona's star big man, has been out since November 26th. The injury might have cost them the tight loss to Providence the next day, but they managed to steal the win against Gonzaga and have had a relatively soft schedule otherwise. The fear at the time was that a long term Tarczewski injury could imperil their Pac-12 title hopes with three difficult road games to start conference play. But if he truly does return on Sunday then he won't miss a single conference game, and Arizona firms up their spot as the Pac-12 favorite.

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