Friday, November 30, 2012

Duke Beats Ohio State; Should They Be #1?

#2 Duke 73, #4 Ohio State 69
Mason Plumlee had a career night (21 points and 17 rebounds) as Duke knocked off Ohio State despite trailing most of the night. The key stretch came with around 6-7 minutes left, when the Blue Devils hit threes on three consecutive possessions to turn a four point deficit into a three point lead that they would never relinquish. Duke also did a really good job as a team denying the ball from DeShaun Thomas, who only scored 16 points, on 6-for-14 shooting.

This Duke win sparked conversations nationally both about the top team in the country, and the National Player of the Year. I'll get to both of them in this post. First, as for the top team, it comes down to what I say all the time about the difference between the best resumes and the best teams. Duke has the best resume in the country - they have wins over Ohio State, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota and VCU. In fact, they were #1 in the Sagarin ELO_CHESS even before this win over Ohio State. But the team with the best resume is not necessarily the best team, and Duke is not the best team. All four of those wins have been close, and they easily could have lost one or two of them if luck had gone the other way. That's why they're only 5th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR and Pomeroy ratings. So what do you want polls to be about - the best teams or the best resumes? Your answer to that question will determine whether Duke deserves to be #1 or not.

As for Player of the Year, it's not absurd to pick Mason Plumlee as the early favorite, but I definitely disagree with picking them. The reality is that Player of the Year hype always biases toward guys with huge NBA lottery potential (such as Anthony Davis last year) and stars on top ranked blue chip programs (like Mason Plumlee on Duke this year). In addition, there is a clear bias against high efficiency players who don't put up spectacular Sportscenter highlights and who play in medium-to-low tempo offenses. Mike Scott and Jordan Taylor were examples of two players drastically underrated last season for these reasons. This season it appears to be DeShaun Thomas who can't buy the respect he deserves. He was awesome last season, but his stats this season are ridiculously good. He's taken 33.5% of Ohio State's shots while on the floor, shooting with a 61.7 eFG%, only turning the ball over on 8.6% of the possessions he uses and hitting 94% at the line. If he somehow keeps that up for the season it would be one of the greatest offensive seasons we've ever seen. He's my NPOY so far, even with this loss to Duke and Mason Plumlee.

Ohio State will play Northern Kentucky tomorrow and shouldn't be seriously tested again until they play Kansas on December 22nd. Duke will play Delaware on Saturday, followed by Temple next Saturday.

Notre Dame 64, #8 Kentucky 50
Notre Dame had everything working in this game... other than their uniforms, of course, which were hideous. The Irish hit 8-for-15 from behind the arc, and also seemed to come down with all of the loose balls. I generally find the argument that more experienced teams are stronger/tougher unconvincing, so I'm not going to try to draw those conclusions here. It was just a good day for Notre Dame and a bad day for Kentucky. That's how it goes sometimes.

Kentucky is a team that is still finding themselves. Ryan Harrow has been sick and playing badly, but appears to finally be getting his act together. And despite all of their troubles, they're still 9th in the Pomeroy ratings and 10th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They're still a Final Four contender, even if they don't improve dramatically between now and March. They will play Baylor tomorrow, and then will take on a series of cream puffs before their big game at Louisville on December 29th.

The Irish have this win to go with a win over BYU. With a decent chance that their loss to St. Joseph's will end up an RPI Top 50 loss, their resume is in pretty good shape. Their one real test remaining before Big East play will be December 15th against Purdue.

#7 Florida 82, Marquette 49
Florida's a really good team, but I was surprised by how they wiped the floor with Marquette. Florida shut down Jamil Wilson (1-for-8 from the field), though that was at least partially made up for by a really nice night for Vander Blue (20 points on 8-for-14 shooting). This game was a blowout because Marquette could not in any way slow down the Gators offense. Florida had 16 assists to only 8 turnovers, along with a 61.3 2P%. Overall, Florida scored 1.38 PPP. The Gators are 10th in the nation with 1.18 PPP overall, but this was still their best offensive outburst of the entire season.

The Marquette defense is definitely a concern. They are allowing 0.96 PPP this season, compared to 0.93 PPP. That doesn't sound like a lot worse, but consider that five of their seven games this season have been against RPI 100+ opponents, with four of them being outright "cream puffs". Pomeroy rated their defense 14th in the nation last season, compared to 66th so far this season. The biggest reason for the decline has to be the graduation of Jae Crowder, who was a monster inside both on defense and on the defensive glass. Defensive rebounding, in particular, has been a mess for Marquette so far this season.

Florida was my pick to win the SEC preseason, and they're certainly looking like the conference favorite so far. They definitely deserve to be ranked higher than 7th, too. Florida is a legitimate National Title contender. Their next game will be on the road, at Florida State on Wednesday. Marquette has more than a week to lick their wounds before they take on Wisconsin a week from tomorrow. After that, their schedule is pretty manageable before Big East play begins.

No comments: