Monday, January 25, 2016

Morning News: Providence Stuns Villanova, SMU Finally Loses, Gary Payton II Leads Oregon State To A Big Win, And More

So what does SMU play for now?
Providence Stuns Villanova This game isn't getting the hype of a massive upset because Providence came in ranked in the Top 20 of the human polls, but Vegas had the spread at 12.5 points, which was in line with Pomeroy (13 points) and Sagarin (14 points). Why? Providence came in with a 9-1 record in games decided by eight points or fewer.  Providence's previous two wins were decided by Kris Dunn banking in a straight-on jump shot... this type of luck tends to regress over time. But it didn't regress here. 46% of the shots Villanova has taken this season have been three-pointers, so they tend to live and die by the three, and they died here, hitting just 29% (9-for-31). Once again, Ben Bentil was a monster for Providence, pouring in 31 points and 13 rebounds.

Villanova still has a 1 game lead in the Big East, but they have to head on the road to face Xavier, so their margin for error for a Big East title is significantly smaller. But there's no reason to panic over one upset. They weren't going to go 18-0 in the Big East, so they were due to lose eventually.

As for Providence, their fans are going to continue to be surprised by the Vegas lines, but in March your wins are your wins and your losses are your losses, and Providence has a whole bunch of nice wins. They have four RPI Top 50 wins and an RPI up to 21st. Luck in close games generally regresses to the mean, but even with a slight decline down the stretch the Friars are still likely going to end up somewhere in the range of a 5-7 seed.

And Then There Were None We're out of undefeated teams now that SMU has finally lost a game. They've played with fire a few times, and the odds were tiny that they would go undefeated the rest of the way (their schedule gets significantly tougher down the stretch). This is an upset win for Temple, but not a huge one. Vegas had the spread at 6.5 points and Pomeroy had it at 5. What put Temple over the top? A 31.4% three-point shooting team for the season, they hit 48% (14-for-29) here. Devin Coleman was the star with 7-for-7 shooting behind the arc.

Temple is hardly a great team, but they've played a ton of close games, and with some better luck in close games might be in the mix for the NIT. But in the wide-open AAC, they have the potential to be in the mix for one of the top two or three spots in the league standings. The AAC auto bid has to be considered a reasonable objective, and so Temple's play the rest of the way could make that AAC tourney path easier.

Gary Payton II Leads Oregon State To A Crucial Win Oregon State had lost four of five games, and had the Arizona road trip looming, so they were desperate to pick up the win here to stay in the thick of the bubble discussion. Payton has been a stat stuffer all season long, and he poured in 22 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals here, including this:
This win still only gets Oregon State to 3-4 in Pac-12 play with that tough road trip coming up. In all, 7 of their final 11 games are on the road, which will make it tough to get back to 9-9. But if they can get to 9-9, the strength of the Pac-12 will put them in good shape on Selection Sunday.

USC drops to 4-3 in the Pac-12, but they're still within a game in the standings of the serious conference contenders, and they have the Washington homestand up next. They are still firmly in that title race.

Iowa Handles Purdue Purdue played Iowa tough here, in a game that basically played out as expected. Purdue's backcourt struggled offensively (more turnovers than assists) while their dominant front line controlled the paint (a 33% to 16% advantage in offensive rebounding rate, and a 32-to-24 advantage in paint points). In the end, Iowa games tend to come down to how well they hit their outside shots, and for the last few weeks those shots have been falling. They hit 11-for-20 behind the arc here, led by 4-for-5 from Jarrod Uthoff. They are now hitting a ridiculous 43.7% of their threes in conference play, best in the Big Ten and up from 36.1% last season.

At some point, Iowa is going to have a cold shooting day and lose, but at this point they've built up a significant buffer in the Big Ten title race. They have to be considered the favorite at the moment.

Purdue has some significant concern with Kendall Stephens out indefinitely, but otherwise I still think that this is a very dangerous team. They remain 9th in the Pomeroy ratings and 4th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. I would still expect a strong finish to 12-6 or 13-5 in Big Ten play and then a Tourney seed in the 3-5 range.

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