Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Morning News: Walking Kansas Fans Off The Ledge, Georgetown Knocks Off Xavier, Providence Escapes Butler, And More

Undoubtedly an earned court storm for Oklahoma State.
Walking Kansas Fans Off The Ledge This was a poor performance from Kansas. No way around that. But I want to offer two caveats to talk Kansas fans and the media off the ledge here. First of all, home/road matters. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate a road game at Oklahoma State as more difficult than a home game against Iowa State. That doesn't justify a 19 point scoring margin, but much of that comes down to fluky jump shooting. Oklahoma State shot 11-for-21 (52%) on threes while Kansas shot 6-for-22 (27%). Of course, even if you normalize that jump shooting, Oklahoma State still wins. Kansas was an ugly 6-for-16 on layups (finishing around the rim has continually been an issue in recent seasons when Kansas hs struggled), but this result isn't as crazy as the final score makes it seem.

How much of a "slump" is this for Kansas? Not much. There's no shame in a competitive road loss at West Virginia, and the close game against TCU wasn't a great performance, but hardly worth panicking about. The only really poor performance is this one, and you just can't jump off the ledge over a single poor performance. Kansas is still one of the two favorites in the Big 12, along with Oklahoma.

What about Oklahoma State? A win like this single-handedly starts the at-large hype. But it's their first win over a likely RPI Top 100 opponent and they have bad losses to Missouri State and George Mason. They've been doomed in part by bad luck in close games (2-5 in games decided by five points or fewer). This win pushes their RPI up from 159th to 138th, and that number will naturally improve as their SOS improves in conference play, but they still have a long way to go. Even if they somehow get to 9-9 in Big 12 play, they'd still be a long shot on Selection Sunday.

Georgetown Knocks Off Xavier A Georgetown team that has had a disappointing season picked up a huge road victory here. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is maddeningly inconsistent, but when he's on he's one of the most explosive offensive players in the nation. He was the star for Georgetown here, pouring in 20 points and 7 assists. Tre Campbell had 21 points with 5-for-7 shooting behind the arc.

As good as the Big East is, and Georgetown is now in second place, the fact is that Georgetown did a ton of damage to their resume in non-conference play. Even if they get to 10-8 in Big East play, they'll be just 17-14 overall with an RPI in the mid-60s when the Big East tournament kicks off. So realistically, they've got to get to at least 11-7 in Big East play to go Dancing. They have some key toss-up games up next, so they'll have a chance to climb closer to the bubble.

Xavier drops to 4-2 in Big East play, which means it's going to take a nearly perfect performance the rest of the way to catch Villanova. Still, even without a Big East title, and even with this loss, they are still in line for a strong NCAA Tournament seed, somewhere in the 2-4 range.

Providence Escapes Butler For the second time in a week, the difference in a game for Providence was Kris Dunn banking in a straight-on jump shot. Dunn actually had a relatively quiet game besides that late three-pointer, finishing with just 9 points, 7 assists, and 4 turnovers. The player who got Providence back into this game when they trailed in the second half was Ben Bentil (20 points and 7 rebounds). 

Providence moves to 9-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer. But on Selection Sunday it doesn't matter how good you are, and Providence's luck in close games has allowed them to build a strong resume. Despite a Pomeroy rating of 47th, their RPI is up to 30th. Now 4-2 in Big East play, they should lock up an at-large bid at 10-8. After that they'll just be building their seed.

Butler is into a bit of a danger zone as they drop to 2-4 in Big East play with a road game at Creighton up next. They have wins over Purdue and Cincinnati, but still probably need to get to 10-8 in Big East play to avoid the NIT. Their schedule does ease up after the Creighton game.

Tyrone Wallace Out 4-6 Weeks For a California team that looks likely to end up on the bubble in March, this is a crucial and poorly timed injury. For all the attention that the star freshman duo of Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb gets, Wallace is the team's primary ball handler, and he leads the team in both points (15.4) and assists (4.5) per game. The Selection Committee is not going to give them a pass for games without Wallace, and now at 2-3 in Pac-12 play they head into a crucial stretch at home against the Los Angeles schools and then on the road at the Arizona schools. It's going to be hard for them to make the NCAA Tournament if they don't get to 10-8 in Pac-12 play.

Uh... Pittsburgh? So, who broke Pitt? They managed to make this result a little more respectable in the second half, but they were just atrocious in the first half here. Just five days after they posted their second worst offensive efficiency over the past 20 seasons against Louisville, they scored an abysmal 0.51 PPP in the first half here, going into the locker room down by 25 points.

In large part, this Pitt loss came down to awful jump shooting (27% as a team), but there's no question overall that they haven't performed as well in ACC play as they did in non-conference play. You have to wonder if those really strong computer numbers that they put up in non-conference play were in part inflated by just out-athleting inferior opponents. Their non-conference SOS was very weak, and that poor schedule also means that their at-large resume is soft, with Syracuse and Notre Dame being the only teams they've beaten with a good chance to finish inside the RPI Top 50. They don't have a lot of time to scuffle, as they head on the road next to face Florida State and Clemson.

NC State desperately needed a win after an 0-5 start to ACC play. They did beat LSU, which might be worth something eventually, but they have losses to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. This win pushes their RPI inside the Top 100, but they'll need to get to 10-8 in ACC play to get back into the RPI Top 50, and I doubt that they're getting there. If they're going to make a run, though, they have good opportunities with Duke and Miami coming to Raleigh in the next couple of weeks.

Texas A&M Pulls Away From LSU Texas A&M is also pulling away with the SEC regular season title as they continue to chew through their schedule. The Aggies have been the best defense in the SEC this season, and they completely bottled up LSU here. The Tigers committed 19 turnovers, hit just 40% of their two-pointers, and scored a season-low 0.73 PPP (their lowest since getting Victor and Hornsby in the lineup had been 0.88 PPP against Florida). Offensively, Danuel House only scored 5 points, but he was able to repeatedly break down LSU's soft defense. He finished with 6 assists, and the Aggies as a whole assisted on 75% of their made baskets.

Now 6-0 in SEC play, Texas A&M has Missouri next, but they then get into the most difficult stretch of their schedule, with road games at Arkansas and Vanderbilt sandwiched around their game against Iowa State. Sweep that stretch, and they'll start getting hype for something like a 2 or 3 seed.

LSU drops to 4-2 in SEC play. Their RPI is still outside the Top 100, though it will improve as the season goes along. That Oklahoma game looms as a chance to really turn their at-large resume around. The fact that they were short-handed in November/December and the fact that they have Ben Simmons on their roster means that they'll likely get the benefit of the doubt on Selection Sunday. But they have to get significantly closer.


Anonymous said...

Jeff when you say, "Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate a road game at Oklahoma State as more difficult than a home game against Iowa State." can you explain how exactly you come up with that calculation? I've always wondered how those numbers are determined.

Jeff said...

Sure. In that case, Kansas had a road game at Oklahoma State and a home game against Iowa State scheduled, and KenPom had Kansas favored by two fewer points against OSU than against Iowa St. In the case of Sagarin, which does not take tempo into account, I simply looked at the raw Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings, where the difference in home vs road is approximately 8 points, and OSU/ISU were fewer than 8 points apart.