Monday, February 01, 2016

Morning News: Wichita State Locks Up The Missouri Valley, Colorado Beats California, And Boston University's Buzzer Beater

Wichita State is back.
Wichita State Locks Up The Missouri Valley Over the last month, Wichita State has been the team we expected them to be. Unsurprisingly, it took just getting the roster healthy and then a few games for everybody to figure out how to play together. And after some non-conference struggles, they have been downright dominant in Missouri Valley play. They are outscoring opponents by a monster 0.29 PPP in the Valley. Their defense completely locked Evansville out of the paint here, holding them to just 35% two-point shooting and 0.84 PPP.

Wichita State will effectively clinch the Missouri Valley if they beat Southern Illinois at home on Wednesday, a game in which they'll be a double-digit favorite in Vegas. But despite how well they've been playing, and how strong their computer numbers are, they still have just a single RPI Top 50 victory (Utah). As long as they go 16-2 or better in conference play, they should be in good shape on Selection Sunday, but they're still far from a sure thing. Assuming they get into the NCAA Tournament, however, they're going to be one of the scariest 7/8/9 seeds the Tournament has ever seen.

Evansville had a chance to start getting some at-large hype with a win here. Even with the loss here they are a strong 18-5, but their only RPI Top 100 wins have come over Belmont and UC-Irvine, and their RPI is just 77th themselves. With no more chances for RPI Top 100 wins during the regular season, they'd need to go undefeated until Arch Madness to get back into the thick of the bubble mix.

Colorado Holds Off California California actually got out to a 12-3 lead in this game, but a 34-11 run by Colorado blew this one open. This game got ugly down the stretch, as the two teams combined for just six made baskets in the final nine minutes, but Colorado hit enough free throws to hold off the Bears. The absence of star point guard Tyrone Wallace was a factor here, as California had just 7 assists to 15 turnovers. Their offense has been sliding, and is now just 9th in the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency in conference play. They are also dead last in the Pac-12 in offensive turnover rate.

California will have strong computer numbers and a solid number of RPI Top 50 victories if they can get to 9-9 in Pac-12 play. This loss drops them to 4-5 in Pac-12 play, though they have a relatively soft stretch coming up, with three straight home games. Their schedule gets significantly harder after that, but the Bears will hope to have Tyrone Wallace back for at least some of that.

Colorado is now 6-3 in Pac-12 play, though their schedule gets significantly more difficult down the stretch. Next week they have the Oregon road trip, where they'll be happy to escape with a split.

Boston University Tops Lehigh At The Buzzer A battle between two middle-of-the-pack Patriot League teams wouldn't normally get a mention in a Morning News post, but this game had a chaotic, drawn out finish. It ended on one of the uglier buzzer beaters you'll ever see, though I'm sure John Papale doesn't care how ugly it looked. Poor luck Lehigh is now 0-5 in Patriot League games decided by six points or fewer, and that's why they are now 4-5 in conference play despite outscoring opponents by 0.05 PPP.

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