Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Morning News: LSU Crushes Kentucky, Marquette Upsets Providence, Josh Brown Stuns UConn, And More

BREAKING: Late reports suggest there are players other than Ben Simmons on LSU.
LSU Annihilates Kentucky This was the worst performance by any Kentucky team in several years, arguably. Their offense in particular looked listless and lost against a mediocre LSU defense. LSU had an 18-to-10 advantage in layups/dunks, and a staggering 44-to-24 advantage in paint points. That was partially due to LSU being more aggressive, but also due to Kentucky simply not having the type of paint defender that they've typically had in recent years.

It was fitting with the nauseating level of ESPN hype for Ben Simmons coming into the game that Simmons was actually relatively quiet. The star for LSU was Tim Quarterman (21 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists). Kentucky, meanwhile, got nice performances out of Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis (20+ points each), but their front court was a black hole. Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, and Skal Labissiere combined for 7 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 fouls in 47 minutes played.

Kentucky still is the SEC favorite, basically out of default, but they look very vulnerable if any other team can step up in conference play. As for LSU, they are looking much more like an NCAA Tournament team than they were before the additions of Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor. Their RPI is still a mess, but if they can get to 12-6 or better in SEC play then they will be in the mix on Selection Sunday. This win gets them to 2-0, and the Kentucky win gives them their first big scalp of the season. They still have an uphill battle to 12-6, but it's looking far more plausible and realistic than it was a couple of weeks ago.

Marquette Knocks Off Providence Providence shot the ball poorly here and also was uncharacteristically sloppy. Kris Dunn had quite a few of these types of games last season, but he had cut down on his turnovers significantly this season. He regressed in this game, committing 7 turnovers vs only 7 assists. As a team, Providence hit only 4-for-18 behind the arc. Their 0.89 PPP was their lowest of the season thus far. Henry Ellenson was the star for Marquette, scoring 13 points with 10 rebounds and helping to keep the paint scoring even. Ellenson also made the biggest defensive play of the game:
Providence was 7-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer coming in here, which was why the computers were not nearly as impressed with them as the human polls were. Kris Dunn missed a little bit of time, though of course Providence's big win over Arizona came when Kaleb Tarczewski was out, so there's limited meaning there. Providence certainly looks like an NCAA Tournament team, but realistically they're not a Big East contender.

Marquette needed this win after back-to-back double digit losses to Georgetown and Seton Hall. They still have an uphill battle to get into the postseason discussion, though a home game against Xavier a week from Saturday looms as a huge opportunity for a big scalp.

Josh Brown Stuns UConn UConn's jump shooting abandoned them here. They hit just 22% of their jump shots, including 4-for-20 behind the arc. Temple is not a particularly good team, though, and so UConn had a chance to escape, but Josh Brown played the hero on the final possession to deliver the upset for Temple:
Temple has been a weirdly erratic team this season. They won at Cincinnati and UConn, and played very close games on neutral courts against Butler and Utah, but they also got destroyed by Houston and Wisconsin, and nearly lost to a bad Penn team. Overall, they're clearly not an NCAA Tournament team, but they have proven that when they play well they can steal a game from a quality opponent.

For now, UConn is looking like a clear NCAA Tournament team, but the AAC is a tough conference to build a resume in. The Huskies have tricky games coming up over the next couple of weeks against the middle class of the conference, against the likes of Memphis, Tulsa, and Houston. There isn't a lot of upside in those games, as losses will be looked at much more severely than wins will be praised.

Vanderbilt Falls To Arkansas With Kentucky's struggles, the SEC is wide open for a team like Vanderbilt. But instead, this has been a weirdly disappointing season for the Commodores. Vanderbilt's offense was so choppy all game, committing an atrocious 26 turnovers. Their one moment of brilliance came on the play to force overtime:
Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, that would be their final highlight of the game. They had a chance to tie at the end of overtime, but another sloppy possession from Wade Baldwin led to one final turnover (Baldwin had 8 turnovers by himself on the night).

The one piece of good news for Vanderbilt was the return of Luke Kornet, who had been out since December 6th. The team struggled badly without him, and the SEC is still there for the taking if they can turn things around once Kornet is fully reintegrated back into the lineup. But unless they can pull an upset at undefeated South Carolina on Saturday, they will fall to 0-3 in SEC play.

Indiana Wins, But Loses Blackmon Indiana found out not long before the tip that James Blackmon's knee had not healed and that he would need surgery that will likely cost him the rest of the season. As Indiana's best shooting guard, this was a big blow. But Indiana managed to escape out of Assembly Hall with a win by the skin of their teeth here. Nigel Hayes nearly had a spectacular game tying/winning shot, but it came up just a single point short in large part because Indiana shot 10-for-10 at the free throw line during the game.

Wisconsin, yet again, struggled to hit jump shots. They hit just 4-for-16 on threes here, dropping their season average to 33.6%. Their defense has been surprisingly strong in conference play (the 0.93 PPP are second best in the Big Ten thus far), but Wisconsin has to hit some jump shots more reliably to win consistently. Realistically, they aren't earning an at-large bid unless they get to 10-8 in Big Ten play. Now at 1-2, they have a crucial home game on Saturday against Maryland.

If Indiana had lost this game, the NIT talk would have started to bubble up in Bloomington. They didn't do themselves any favors with such a soft non-conference schedule, with Notre Dame being the only potential RPI Top 50 team that they beat. They are off to a quick 3-0 start to Big Ten play, but their schedule is going to start getting more difficult. Their final three weeks or so of Big Ten play are filthy.


Sburke said...

I just read the Webb piece on bloggers and I just wanted to chime in to say that I have been a college basketball fan for almost 40 years, so I am not part of the younger generation, raised on twitter, etc. I have looked extensively for a place to find good college basketball content and I come back to this blog again and again. This is my go-to place to find any and all information related to college hoops, I use the CBS sports app for scores but the content such as recaps, articles, etc., are, in my opinion, really terrible group-think. I have made comments over they years sometimes challenging you and sometimes praising, you reply respectfully typically, but the bottom line is you work hard at this and are better than anyone else I have found yet. Please keep up the good work. SBurke

Jeff said...

Thank you for the kind words!