Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Morning News: Tennessee Stuns Kentuky, Providence Loses To... DePaul?, Iowa State Goes Down At Home, And More

This was the look plastered on John Calipari's face the entire second half.
Tennessee Stuns Kentucky Remember that "Rick Barnes teams always collapse in the second half" narrative that was everywhere when Tennessee was falling apart to TCU on Saturday? Well that was fun while it lasted. Kentucky led this game by 21 points before Tennessee came back with a 43-20 run. Kentucky fans did not enjoy the reffing, and there certainly were quite a few dicey calls that went Tennessee's way, but nothing too far out of the ordinary for a home team. What made those fouls hurt more was that Tennessee wasn't missing their free throws: they hit 30 of 34 (88%).

This is a clunker for Kentucky, but it comes after a series of strong performances, so it's not worth panicking too much. They just took Kansas to overtime at Allen Fieldhouse, of course, and also had a double digit win at Arkansas. They're still a borderline Top 25 team with the potential to be improved in March.

Tennessee isn't going to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT this season, but they're showing nice improvement under Rick Barnes. He needs to upgrade the level of talent, but they will get back to the NCAA Tournament sooner rather than later.

Providence Loses To... DePaul? Despite what you may think about DePaul, and despite the fact that Providence came in ranked 11th in both human polls, this wasn't really the huge upset that it's being portrayed. Vegas had Providence as 8 point favorites, but Pomeroy only had it at 6. Then, throw in the fact that Ben Bentil was hobbled and was mostly ineffective (6 points and 0 rebounds in 14 minutes), and suddenly this is barely looking like a surprise at all. With Bentil out, DePaul was able to have their way on the glass. They rebounded 55% of their missed shots compared to just 23% for Providence. On top of that, Kris Dunn played poorly (5-for-20 from the field).

Providence's luck in close games has been well-documented. Even after losing this game, they are still 8-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer. But their resume is starting to fade a bit. They still have just two RPI Top 50 victories (compared to two RPI 100+ losses), and their RPI has slipped to 28th. It's not inconceivable that they slide to an NCAA Tournament seed in the 7-10 range. Obviously the health of Bentil is a serious concern, and we should know more about that today or tomorrow.

Iowa State Goes Down At Home West Virginia's propensity for forcing turnovers is well-known, but they also lead the entire nation in offensive rebounding rate. It was the latter attribute that won them this game. Iowa State actually had a 21-to-18 advantage in points off turnovers, but West Virginia rebounded 49% of their missed shots and had an 18-to-6 advantage in second chance points. Iowa State also was shaky from the free throw line (58%).

West Virginia is proving this season what they couldn't prove last season: That they can win with a reasonable regularity against elite opponents, and on the road. They are not going to go away in the Big 12 title race. Their home game against Oklahoma on February 20th is their most important remaining game for that chase.

Iowa State drops to 1-4 in Big 12 games decided by six points or fewer. That's why they are just 5-4 in conference play despite outscoring opponents by 0.06 PPP (third best in the Big 12, and only narrowly behind West Virginia's +0.08 PPP). But as strong as the Big 12 is, they still already have 6 wins against the RPI Top 50, and are going to pick up some more. So they are still in line for a strong seed on Selection Sunday.

South Carolina Is In Trouble South Carolina came into this game ranked in the Top 25, for some reason. The reason, presumably, was their 19-2 record. Of course, Arkansas-Little Rock has gone 17-2 against a similar strength of schedule and has a better set of quality wins than South Carolina (the best win the Gamecocks have came over Clemson), So why wasn't UALR ranked? South Carolina was already barely Top 50 in the computers before this loss. South Carolina's offense was ugly here, as it has been throughout most of SEC play. They hit just 31% of their two-pointers (Georgia blocked 9 of those shots), and finished with 0.82 PPP. They are now scoring just 0.99 PPP in conference play, which is only 11th best in the SEC.

South Carolina's resume, considering how soft their schedule is, will basically be a mid-major resume. If they go 11-7 in SEC play they'll be 24-7 overall, but with an RPI close to 50th and with likely only 0 or 1 wins against the RPI Top 50. Realistically, that's not an at-large resume without a strong SEC tournament performance. Now 6-3 in SEC play, they really need to find a way to get to 12-6.

This win pushes Georgia to 5-4 in SEC play, and it is also their first win against an RPI Top 50 opponent. They are probably not heading to the NCAA Tournament, but they'll at least have to be in the discussion if they can get to 11-7 or better.

Indiana Annihilates Michigan Indiana went on a 28-0 run at one point in this game, and led by approximately 25 points for most of the second half. And Indiana did this despite below average jump shooting. They simply faced a non-existent Michigan defense. The Hoosiers hit 64% of their two-pointers and had a 44-to-30 advantage in paint points. Indiana hit all 11 of their layups. Michigan's defense has been shaky for much of this season, but the 1.19 PPP they allowed here would have even been much worse if Indiana had gotten hot behind the arc.

Caris LeVert should be back soon, and Michigan will play better than this another day. The real story here is Indiana looking dominant again after back-to-back dicey performances against Wisconsin and Minnesota. I'm still skeptical that they can seriously contend for the Big Ten regular season title, but they provided evidence here that they are a true Top 25 team.

1 comment:

Robert Blain said...

No Duke-GTech recap? Blue Devils' offense in the 2nd half was scorching.