Thursday, January 07, 2016

Morning News: Tennessee Routs Florida, Oregon Wins And Loses, George Washington Suffers An Ugly Loss, And More

Dylan Ennis will only end up playing in one Pac-12 game for Oregon.
Tennessee Routs Florida The final score was deceptively close here. Tennessee led by as many as 23 points in the first half and by 30 points midway through the second half, before cruising in to a victory. Florida chopped into the final margin in garbage time by finishing the game on a 24-11 run. Florida is a brutal shooting team (62% of FTs, 29% on threes), and Tennessee physically dominated them inside despite being the much smaller team. They held Florida to 10-for-26 on layups, and won the rebounding battle. Armani Moore had a great game despite only scoring a single point (7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks).

Florida has spent most of this season in the Top 25 of the computers, but they had done it in large part by destroying bad teams. They still have zero victories over likely RPI Top 50 opponents. The Gators have had a little bit of bad luck in close games, but not enough to be sure that they're really an NCAA Tournament team. The lack of quality wins in non-conference play (unless they can knock off West Virginia in a few weeks) means that they will have to earn their at-large bid in conference play.

Oregon Wins And Also Loses Oregon managed to hold off a California team that has been playing very good basketball over the past couple of weeks. After scoring greater than 1 PPP in 14 of 15 games this season, California was held to 0.89 here, in part due to 0-for-12 three-point shooting, and in part due to 18 turnovers. Chris Boucher led the way on both ends of the court, leading Oregon with 18 points while also recording 4 steals and 4 blocks.

This win came at the end of a tough day for Oregon, however, after learning that star transfer Dylan Ennis's injury will require season-ending surgery. It will also likely be career-ending, and Ennis will end up just playing in just two games for Oregon. Oregon has played like an NCAA Tournament quality team without him, but they're far from a sure thing. This win could end up being very important in that regard.

California fans should not be down about this performance. They couldn't hit an outside shot to save their lives, and managed to actually outscore Oregon 46-to-32 in the paint. Considering that the game was on the road against a potential NCAA Tournament team, that's a solid performance. That said, Saint Mary's was the only quality team they beat in non-conference play, and they drop to 2-1 in Pac-12 play with two difficult road games up next (Oregon State and Stanford).

George Washington Suffers An Ugly Loss Coming into this game, George Washington was 20th in RPI with wins over Virginia and Seton Hall and only one bad loss (DePaul). It was a Tournament-quality resume, but the computers are not as impressed with them (a 4-1 record in games decided by six points or fewer is a significant factor there), and this is a bad loss against an awful Saint Louis team. A season-high 18 turnovers were the primary problem, leading to just 0.95 PPP. To put that in perspective, the only team Saint Louis had held below 1 PPP since December 2nd was Alabama A&M.

With this loss, George Washington drops to 64th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR and 73rd in Pomeroy. That Virginia win will be huge on their resume, but they look like the prototypical bubble team. If they can get to 12-6 in Atlantic Ten play, that's probably enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament. At 11-7 or 10-8 they'll be firmly on the bubble.

Ohio State Wins A Bubble Battle In a game between two potential bubble teams, Ohio State pulled away late. They led by only 1 point with 5:30 to go, but they held Northwestern to just 6 points on their final 11 possessions. Ohio State needed to win with defense on a day where their offense wasn't working. They hit just 28% of their threes and 46% of their free throws. This is actually the first time Ohio State has won a Big Ten game when scoring under 1 PPP since February 15th, 2014. They had been 0-7 when scoring under 1 PPP in conference play since then.

This young Ohio State team has improved nicely throughout the season. Their early season losses (Louisiana Tech, UT-Arlington, and Memphis) still count, but they have won 7 straight, including wins over Kentucky and here over Northwestern. They have slid back into the Top 50 both in Pomeroy and in the RPI. Their poor non-conference performance means that they need to go at least 10-8 in Big Ten play, and probably 11-7, to earn an at-large bid. But at 3-0 they're off to a good start.

Northwestern did not suffer any bad non-conference losses, but their terrible schedule means that their RPI is a mess. And now at 1-2 in Big Ten play with only a win over Nebraska, they are looking like an NIT team. Up next, they have to avoid a bad loss at Minnesota on Saturday.

Oregon State Falls To Stanford The weird season in the Pac-12 continued here, with Stanford pulling off another upset, this time on the road against an Oregon State team that had been on a roll. Oregon State, despite being a relatively tall team, is a poor rebounding team, and Stanford made them pay for that here. Stanford rebounded 50% of their missed shots (in contrast, Oregon State rebounded just 26% of theirs), and that helped them overcome another big night by Gary Payton II (22 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists).

Oregon State did not do anything in non-conference play (Tulsa was the only team they beat with a chance to be RPI Top 50), so they will have to pick up RPI Top 50 wins in conference play. They head into an interesting stretch against a slew of other bubble-quality teams in the Pac-12 (California, Colorado, Utah, UCLA, USC, and Arizona State). We'll have a much better idea of where their at-large hopes stand after they get out of that stretch of games.

Stanford has no bad losses this season, though this is their best win of the season, and they're only 9-5. If they can get to 10-8 in Pac-12 play they'll be in the at-large discussion, but I'm skeptical that they're good enough to get to 10-8.

Elijah Thomas Chooses Clemson The former blue chip recruit, and former Texas A&M player, has decided to take his talents to Clemson. He wasn't doing much through eight games of his freshman season, but perhaps a change of scenery will be good for him. He should be eligible to play at the end of the fall semester next season. Brad Brownell is trying to save his job at Clemson, and he's turning to transfers to do it. The Thomas signing comes on the heels of Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed. Only time will tell if it is enough.

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