Saturday, December 10, 2011

West Virginia Wins A 2OT Thriller Over Kansas State

West Virginia 85, Kansas State 80, 2OT
Kevin Jones was one of the key cogs in West Virginia's run to the Final Four two seasons ago. And honestly, last season was something of a disappointment for him, other than that epic 25 point, 16 rebound performance to deliver a two-point win over Louisville late in the regular season. But he flipped a switch in this game here, with arguably the best performance in his entire career. He scored 30 points on 12-for-17 shooting with 12 rebounds, and also hit the game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime. In the second overtime it was Jones that scored the basket to put his team ahead for good, and then he hit a pair of free throws with a few seconds to go to ice the game. Truck Bryant had 24 points himself, and Deniz Kilicli had an efficient game despite limited touches (6-for-9 from the field). Kilicli had a bunch of those games last season but had struggled in the early going this season (only 44% from the field), so it's good for them to get him going again.

Once again Kansas State was undone by free throws (53.8%). They're at 63% from the line this season, and considering that four seasons ago was the last time they hit better than 67%, I don't expect that to improve much. I really don't understand how a team can constantly have this much trouble with free throws. Most Division I coaches could hit better than 70%. This is one of many games in the Frank Martin tenure where incompetent free throw shooting was the difference between a win and a loss.

This is West Virginia's first real quality win of the season. With losses to Mississippi State and Kent State, their resume is still lacking. They're a quality team - they just haven't had the results yet this season. They will play the University of Miami tonight, and also have games against Baylor and Missouri State before starting Big East play.

This is Kansas State's first loss of the season, but they also only have one decent win (Virginia Tech). A game against Alabama next Saturday is their only remaining quality non-conference opponent. Without an upset victory there they'll have a very soft non-conference resume, and will probably need to get to at least 10-6 in Big 12 play to earn an at-large bid.

Wyoming 65, Colorado 54
Wyoming came into this game with a very soft 8-1 record. Their best win had been over Bradley. Their loss had been on the road at Wisconsin-Green Bay. And that's why I was interested to see how they played here at Colorado. Colorado is not a good team this year, but a road game at their place is still by far the toughest game Wyoming has had so far this season. And their defense was tremendous. Colorado was completely confused by the zone in the second half. That's particularly impressive when you consider that Colorado had been carried by their offense in the early going this season. It's been their defense (1.05 PPP against this season) that has been holding them back, for the most part.

Wyoming will play UC Irvine on Tuesday. Their best opponent remaining before Mountain West play will be Denver, a team that they'll play in Denver on December 19th. I still have my doubts about whether Wyoming will be able to handle the best teams in the Mountain West Conference athletically, and whether they have the offensive weapons to keep up. But at this point, it's fair to say that they're in a battle with Boise State to determine the fourth best team in that conference. Keep in mind that Wyoming hasn't finished higher than fifth place in the Mountain West in nine seasons.

Colorado has a win over Georgia, but they now also have losses to Colorado State, Wyoming and Maryland. They're just another Pac-12 team picking up bad losses right now. On the plus side, not only do they only have cupcakes ahead before beginning Pac-12 play, but they also begin conference play at home against an atrocious Utah team on December 31st. Colorado will be favored by double-digits and should open the season 1-0 in conference play. After that things probably won't be so hot, though. Their next four games will be against Washington, Washington State, California and Stanford.

Idaho 74, Oregon State 60
Speaking of more bad losses for Pac-12 teams.... I don't even know what to say about this one. Oregon State had this game at home, but just couldn't do anything right. They had a 35.8 eFG% compared to 60.4% for Idaho. It's worth noting just how bad things have gotten for the Pac-12. Pomeroy now has the conference rated behind the Mountain West, and Sagarin has them behind the Atlantic Ten, as well as the MWC. The RPI is pretty meaningless right now, but the Pac-12 is actually tenth in that metric. Yikes. The Pac-12 isn't just the worst BCS conference this season, but it's the worst BCS conference in more than a decade. Even the 2008-09 SEC and 2009-10 Pac-10, both of which were considered to be potential one-bid leagues for parts of the season, still managed to finish the season rated better than any non-BCS conference. The only season I can think of that comes close to this level of futility is the 1985-86 Pac-10, which finished with only a 9 seed and a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon State had actually been the lone bright spot for the Pac-12 this season, with a win over Texas and only a quality loss to Vanderbilt. They now have a bad loss, and have only cupcakes left before starting Pac-12 play. Considering how soft the conference is, the reality is that Oregon State can't afford to finish worse than 11-7 to have a shot at an at-large bid. They'll probably need to finish 12-6 or better.

This is Idaho's first quality win of the season. They have losses to Eastern Washington, Montana, Washington State and Long Beach State. They're obviously not contending for an at-large bid, but the top of the WAC is a lot softer than it's been the past few years. Utah State is way down, and neither New Mexico State or Nevada has stepped up and taken command. It's not totally implausible to think that Idaho could get into that conversation as well. Their next game will be tomorrow at Seattle, a team that will be joining them in the WAC next season.

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