Friday, January 29, 2016

Morning News: Oregon Grabs A Hold Of The Pac-12, Maryland Knocks Off Iowa, Syracuse Routs Notre Dame, And More

Nothing is better than sports.

Oregon Grabs A Hold Of The Pac-12 Oregon has been sneaking up on people in the Pac-12, and they are now pretty clearly the regular season title favorite after going into Tucson and coming out with a win, the first team to do so since February 10, 2013. Arizona jumped out to a 26-13 lead here, but their defense couldn't do much all night. Arizona actually lost despite a 68.3 eFG%, their best shooting day since November 28, 2012. They gave up an ugly 1.24 PPP, in large part because Oregon was able to get to the rim at will. Dillon Brooks led the way with 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Oregon had a 44-to-28 advantage in paint points. Arizona was also undone by mistakes, committing 19 turnovers.

Oregon is now tied for first place in the Pac-12 with a Washington team that won't have that gaudy record for long. They're a game ahead of the other serious Pac-12 contenders and two games clear of Arizona. I still believe that Arizona is the best team in the league when fully healthy, but the losses of Kaleb Tarczewski and Allonzo Trier for long stretches of this season have had a major impact on their Tournament resume. If Arizona can get fully healthy by March, they will be a team you won't want in your region.

Maryland Knocks Off Iowa Iowa came into this game shooting an unsustainably high 44% on three-pointers in Big Ten play, and as a team that is heavily dependent on hitting jump shots they were bound to have a disappointing result when their shooting numbers regressed. And so in some ways it's kind of impressive that they only lost by 6 on the road at Maryland despite 5-for-24 three-point shooting. Maryland's shooting wasn't much better (6-for-25 on threes), particularly in the second half, but they are normally not nearly as dependent on jump shooting as Iowa. Iowa managed to fight to a draw on rebounds, turnovers, and getting to the line. In the end, it's a great win for Maryland and a disappointing loss for Iowa, but I don't think this performance can change how we feel about either team too much.

Maryland is now just a game back in the loss column of Iowa and Indiana, and Indiana's schedule is about to get far more difficult. With the tiebreak over Iowa, Maryland is very much in the mix for the Big Ten title. But Iowa's remaining schedule is a bit softer, and I think Iowa is the slightly better team, so at this point Iowa remains the favorite for the Big Ten title.

Syracuse Routs Notre Dame You would have assumed that a big Syracuse win over Notre Dame would mean that the Irish went ice cold on their threes, but they actually shot 10-for-24. Demetrius Jackson being out was a significant factor, certainly, but this result was more about the Syracuse offense being absolutely on fire than anything else. The 1.31 PPP that Syracuse scored was their best offensive output since they knocked off Duke on February 1, 2014. The 23-1 run that blew this game open was powered primarily by Trevor Cooney (22 points) and Tyler Lydon (15 points and 10 rebounds).

This was a crucial win for Syracuse. They get back to 4-5 in ACC play with wins over Duke, Texas A&M, UConn, and Notre Dame to go with a bad loss to St. John's. This win also gets their RPI inside the Top 50 for the first time since very early in the season. If they can get to 9-9 in ACC play and then win a game or two in the ACC tournament, that probably gets them into the NCAA Tournament.

The Irish are still 5-3 in ACC play, but their schedule was very back-loaded. Those big wins over Iowa and Duke will look great on Selection Sunday, but their computer numbers will be dicey if they slip to 9-9 in ACC play. Sunday's game against Wake Forest is nearly a must-win before they head into four weeks of death.

Richmond Beats George Washington In 2OT This was a wild game that both teams had many chances to win. George Washington was saved by Paul Jorgenson's three in regulation, but then it was Jorgenson who missed the potential game winner at the end of the first overtime. In the second overtime, George Washington's offense fell apart (5 points on 9 possessions), and Richmond escaped with an important victory. The play of the game was the Jorgenson shot to force overtime, despite eventually leading to a loss anyway:
GW forces overtime with 3-point bank shot - ESPN Video
George Washington had spend December and early January sitting around 20th in RPI, but the computers felt that they were overrated and due to decline, and they have. They are just 4-3 in Atlantic Ten play and still only have a single RPI Top 50 victory (the Virginia win from November). They realistically need to get to at least 11-7 in A-10 play to earn an at-large bid, and this loss makes that significantly more difficult.

Richmond is still outside the Top 100 in RPI, but they're better than their record, and are now 3-4 in A-10 play with a soft schedule coming up after Sunday's game at St. Bonaventure. They should finish with a pretty solid league record.

UConn Loses A Heartbreaker The Huskies led this game for most of the second half, but their offense fell apart down the stretch. Over the final six minutes they were 1-for-11 from the field with 3 turnovers. It was Gary Clark who drove into the lane for the three-point play that put Cincinnati ahead, and then UConn had three chances on their final possession but couldn't hit any of them:
UConn misses three shots to end the game. - ESPN Video
Cincinnati needed this win more than UConn. Despite strong computer numbers (30th in Pomeroy and 28th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR), their resume lacked big wins. Wins over VCU and George Washington are their only victories against RPI Top 50 opponents. Their RPI is up to 58th, which for the time being would be a ticket to the NIT. Home games against UConn and SMU remain as chances to build on their resume.

UConn is actually an ugly 73rd in RPI at the moment, though they have better wins than Cincinnati (Michigan, Texas, Georgetown, and Ohio State). Those computer numbers will improve down the stretch, but Selection Sunday will be stressful unless UConn can get to 12-6 in AAC play and avoid going one-and-done in the AAC tourney. Now 4-3, they need to try to go 8-3 or better the rest of the way.

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