Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Morning News: Kansas Tops Oklahoma In A Classic, Virginia Tech Stuns Virginia, And Brice Johnson Goes Off

Kansas Tops Oklahoma In A Classic Anybody who watched this game doesn't need me to tell you how ridiculous it was. So many stunning plays, so many crazy moments. And in any game like this, trying to credit or blame any one thing for the result is folly. Oklahoma would have won at the end of regulation if Khadeem Lattin hit a free throw, though of course Frank Mason was probably fouled on the previous drive. At the end of the first overtime it was Wayne Selden missing a wide open three pointer at the buzzer. The two teams combined to miss eight consecutive shots at the end of the second overtime. And in the third overtime, Kansas finally won on a steal that should have been called a technical foul on Kansas for touching the inbounder before the pass came in.

Coming out of this, who is the favorite in the Big 12? On one hand, Kansas won the game (it's a trite point, but it has to be said). On the other hand, fighting to triple overtime on the road is reasonably good evidence that you are the better team. Homecourt is worth around four points, so a tie on the road is worth approximately an eight point win at home. Then again... Kansas in the Big 12 is a zombie.

The rule in Big 12 projections is that you pick Kansas as the favorite until they prove otherwise. And so as well as Oklahoma played here, they have not proven that they are the better team. Kansas has to remain the Big 12 favorite for now.

Virginia Tech Stuns Virginia Lost in the shuffle because it was played at the same time as the Kansas/Oklahoma classic, Virginia Tech pulled one of the upsets of the season by knocking off Virginia. Virginia Tech did shoot 9-for-17 behind the arc here, but their defense also caused big problems for Virginia's offense. Virginia committed turnovers on 25% of possessions (compared to a season average of 14.7%). Virginia doesn't die easily, though, and they had a furious comeback in the final minute that was ended on a controversial call. I thought it was a foul, and it certainly made Tony Bennett furious. What say you?
Z. LeDay Block. - ESPN Video
The ACC is such a tight conference at the top, that any single bad loss could be the difference between winning or losing the league. It can also be the difference between a 1 seed and a 2 or 3 seed in March.

This win will probably be the highlight of Virginia Tech's season, though if they're going to make any kind of run at the NIT this would be a nice start (the NCAA Tournament seems implausible regardless).

Brice Johnson Leads North Carolina In another game lost in the vacuum caused by Kansas/Oklahoma, Brice Johnson had one of the most impressive games you'll see from any player all season long. He had 39 points (on 14-for-16 shooting) with 23 rebounds. That's mind-boggling efficiency and production, and in a single game puts him right in the thick of the ACC Player of the Year discussion. And this performance helped overcome an uncharacteristically strong shooting night from Florida State (10-for-20 on threes). Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has had quite a few very quiet games this season, exploded for 30 points (including 7-for-9 on threes).

This North Carolina team is still without Kennedy Meeks, of course. They've been playing like a borderline Top Ten without him, so how good will they be when they get him back? The ACC is the most wide open major conference at the top, with five legitimate contenders, with North Carolina being one of them. It should be a great race all season long.

Florida State had a short-handed North Carolina team at home and they hit 50% of their threes. That should be the formula for a quality win. And that makes this a big missed opportunity for a team likely to end up in the vicinity of the Tournament bubble. The Seminoles are now 0-2 in ACC play with a gauntlet up next: at Miami, at NC State, vs Virginia, at Louisville. They'll need to play really well to avoid a 1-5 start to the season. If they play poorly, 0-6 is possible.

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