Friday, January 22, 2016

Morning News: Saint Mary's Wins A Classic, USC Falls To Oregon, Daniel Dion's Buzzer Beater, And More

Is Saint Mary's legit? They looked so last night.
Saint Mary's Wins A Late Night Classic If you stayed up late, you were in for a treat, as Gonzaga and Saint Mary's played their umpteenth classic from the last 15 seasons. This one had a goofy finish, too, as Joe Rahon thought Saint Mary's had a foul to give and committed a dumb intentional foul with a one point lead and three seconds to go. But Eric McClellan missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Saint Mary's held on. Gonzaga fans will feel that the reffing was not fair down the stretch, and Saint Mary's certainly seemed to get all of the 50/50 calls, but that's what homecourt advantage is for. Gonzaga will get their chance at home on February 13th.

So the question is: Who is the WCC favorite? Saint Mary's has the better computer ratings, but I've talked about why it's worth being skeptical of those. They entered this game leading the nation in 3P% and eFG%, which are stats likely to regress to the mean over the course of the season, and have also played a very soft schedule almost exclusively at home. This marks the first win for Saint Mary's against a likely RPI Top 50 opponent, and they still have played only a single game outside the Bay area (a loss at Pepperdine).

A three point home win is holding serve, it is not proof of superiority. In my opinion, I need to see Saint Mary's continue to win consistently once they have to go on the road in WCC play. A road game at BYU on February 4th will be a good early test. And the road to the WCC title still goes through Spokane.

USC Falls To Oregon USC came into this game with a chance to pull back into a tie for first place in the Pac-12, and also to build on the increasing hype they have been getting as the potential league favorite. I have stuck with Arizona as my pick for the Pac-12, but USC's three game winning streak was certainly impressive. If there's a real sleeper in the Pac-12 title race at this point, it might be Oregon. The Ducks have quietly slid up to 25th in Pomeroy, and are third in the Pac-12 in efficiency margin at +0.07 PPP, just narrowly behind second placed USC (+0.08 PPP).

Oregon moves to 4-2 in Pac-12 play with a home game against UCLA up next. The problem for seriously making a run at the Pac-12 title is that their one game against Arizona will come on the road, on January 28th.

There's no shame in a competitive road loss at Oregon, of course, and USC played very well despite losing. They committed just 9 turnovers, and were done in by cold 8-for-28 three-point shooting. They are still very much in the Pac-12 title race, though they still have five difficult road games to get through, including Oregon State up next, and their road trip to Arizona. In my opinion, Arizona remains the favorite.

Daniel Dions Buzzer Beater It wasn't a game that had any importance outside the America East, but it had a hell of a finish, as New Hampshire's Daniel Dion did this at the buzzer:
Stony Brook is, of course, the class of the America East, with Albany as their top challenger, but New Hampshire is in the thick of things near the top, now at 3-2 in conference play.

Purdue Pulls Away From Ohio State Purdue's shooting was awful in the first half here (0-for-8 on threes), and they trailed by as many as eight points. But the shots started to fall in the second half (4-for-9 on threes), and that opened things up in the paint, allowing AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas, Caleb Swanigan, and Vince Edwards to all finish in double figures. The Buckeyes got 17 points and 10 rebounds from Jae'Sean Tate, but freshman playmaker JaQuan Lyle was completely stifled (0-for-4 shooting, 2 assists, 4 turnovers).

A lot of people gave up on Purdue after their home loss to Iowa and the shocking upset at Illinois, but this win pushes them back to 5-2, and they remain on the periphery of the Big Ten title race. If they are going to have a chance, though, they are going to need to get revenge against Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye. That game is up next, on Sunday.

The Buckeyes are 4-3 in Big Ten play, but their win over Kentucky remains their only win against a team likely to finish inside the RPI Top 50. They're going to need to pick up some more big wins, and then they'll need to get to at least 10-8 in Big Ten play, to have a real shot on Selection Sunday. They still have home games against Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa, so they'll have their chances to build an at-large resume.

Monmouth Loses It is just so difficult to earn an at-large bid out of a mid-major/low-major conference, where "quality" wins do not exist and "bad" losses are a realistic possibility every time you go on the road. Monmouth just was not at their best here, committing 17 turnovers and shooting just 5-for-17 from behind the arc. Calvin Crawford went off for 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks for Manhattan.

Monmouth has those wins over Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, and Georgetown, but they also now have bad losses to Canisius, Army, and Manhattan. Their RPI is still 29th at the moment, but that is going to drop over time as their strength of schedule softens. They can probably afford one more regular season loss, but two more will dump their RPI out close to 50th, and their at-large hopes will start getting very shaky.

No comments: