Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Wichita State At Their Best, Rolls UNLV

Wichita State 89, #20 UNLV 70
What goes around comes around. UNLV was firing on all cylinders in that terrific victory over top-ranked North Carolina. And here? It was Wichita State. The Shockers hit 12-for-23 behind the arc, for a toal effective field goal percentage of 70.4%, their best shooting since a 73.4% performance against Bradley nearly five years ago. UNLV's defense isn't the best in the land, but it's the worst shooting defense they've allowed since getting rolled by Kansas State 95-80 two full years ago. In other words, take this game with a grain of salt - a statistical fluke. That said, even with more ordinary shooting, Wichita State probably wins this game. They were the better team on the floor.

The fact is that Wichita State is a quality team that has to be in the at-large Tournament discussion right now. In the last three games they've shredded UNLV, UAB and Cal State Fullerton. Their only losses this season came on a neutral floor against quality opponents Alabama and Temple (the latter loss came in overtime). It's still early, but both their Pomeroy ratings and Sagarin PREDICTOR are inside the Top 30. They have a couple of tricky games up next, though, playing at Tulsa on Wednesday and then at home on Saturday against Utah State.

This was UNLV's first loss of the season, and it comes after a tough early schedule. They have wins over North Carolina, USC, Nevada and UCSB. They'll play a non-DI team tomorrow, but then it's back on the road to play at Wisconsin on Saturday. They also will play Illinois and California before starting Mountain West play.

Stanford 76, NC State 72
In their game immediately prior to this one, NC State looked in position to pull the upset of Indiana, but choked down the stretch. They were winning most of the way, and still had a three point lead with five minutes to go. Indiana finished the game on a 22-8 run. Did NC State learn a lesson? Well they led almost the entire game here, including double-digit leads for significant portions of the second half. They led by eight with six minutes to go. Over the next 5:30? Stanford went on a 16-1 run that featured a pair of turnovers, 0-for-5 shooting from the field and 1-for-5 shooting at the line by NC State. The Wolfpack also committed seven fouls over that stretch, leading to ten points for Stanford at the line. It was just an epic collapse.

I've said this before, but somebody needs to explain to me how NC State fans can be convinced Herb Sendek is the worst coach in the history of college basketball while they still believe in Mark Gottfried - a retread who's never had a whole lot of success (83-82 in SEC play at Alabama). There's no question that Gottfried inherited enough talent to make a run at an NCAA Tournament, but they haven't shown it so far. They have that upset victory over Texas that happened because of a fluke technical foul that ended J'Covan Brown's game with Texas winning by nearly double-digits, but besides that they have played three quality teams (Vanderbilt, Stanford and Indiana) and lost all three. They have a home game against Syracuse on December 17th. Other than that they pretty much only play cupcakes before starting ACC play (although I'll make an exception for a neutral court game against St. Bonaventure on December 20th, which could be a tough one).

This is a very young Stanford team. They have five players earning more than 20 minutes per game, and four of the five are freshmen or sophomores. There's no question they're playing very well, though. Besides this win they've also beaten Oklahoma State and Colorado State. Their only loss was by six points to Syracuse. At some point these young players will go through some growing pains, but for now they look like an NCAA Tournament team. They will play San Diego on Saturday. Their final quality opponent before beginning Pac-12 play will be a home game against Butler on December 22nd.

South Carolina 58, Clemson 55
I guess sometimes you really do have to throw out the records when rivals play, because this was a pretty big upset. South Carolina had been playing awful this season up until this game, with losses to Elon, Tennessee State, Providence and USC. Their best win prior to this was against Western Carolina. Even after this win their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 208th in the nation. Anthony Gill had the shot that put South Carolina ahead for good, and tied for the team lead with ten points, but the fact that nobody scored more than ten points tells you what won this game: defense. The Gamecocks forced six steals and five blocks, and held Clemson to a 43.0 eFG%, their worst shooting performance of the season thus far.

This might end up being the best win South Carolina has all season. They still will play Ohio State on December 17th, but then will not play another quality opponent until the SEC regular season begins.

Clemson is a team I think is pretty good, but the losses are starting to pileup. They now have losses to Charleston, Coastal Carolina and South Carolina. There's a real chance that all three of those losses will end up being RPI 100+ losses. When you consider the fact that they don't have any big wins yet (they did beat Iowa - a team that could push their way into the Top 100), and that the ACC is down this year, it's going to be a big uphill slog for Clemson to even get near the Tournament Bubble. Their last chance for a quality win against a non-conference opponent will be on Saturday at Arizona.


Rainmaker203 said...

So, was this win enough for you to put Wichita State in the field? JMO, but I don't see any way the MVC doesn't get 2 or more bids with how well they've played so far.

Personally, I think the MVC gets two bids this year, and at this point I'm inclined to believe those teams will be Creighton and Wichita State.

If Northern Iowa makes the tournament, which is definitely possible, I think that means 3 bids for the MVC instead of two.

Jeff said...

It's close. I agree that the conference is likely going to get either two or three bids. Right now I've got Creighton and Northern Iowa in the field, with Wichita State right on the border.

Northern Iowa had a pretty impressive win themselves tonight, so there's no reason to take them out of the field. I have to decide if I'm going to put in a third team.

It's a tough call. I'll see if anything happens the rest of this week to change my mind.