Thursday, November 15, 2012

Duke Knocks Off Kentucky In The Georgia Dome

#9 Duke 75, #3 Kentucky 68
Seth Curry was very impressive for Duke, scoring 23 points despite barely practicing with a foot injury. Mason Plumlee took advantage of a very inexperienced Kentucky front line as well, scoring 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Kentucky, meanwhile, very much missed Ryan Harrow, who was ill and missed the game. Jarrod Polson, the walk-on, had a great cameo against Maryland. But the Duke players actually knew who he was for this game. In 12 minutes he ended up with 0 points, 0 assists, 1 rebound and 3 fouls. In other words, reality hit.

I felt Kentucky was overrated preseason at #3, and I have Florida as the SEC champion. I have Kentucky as a 2 seed. But people trying to jump off the "Kentucky bandwagon" need to settle down. The reality is that this is a very young team that will play much better later in the season. And also, getting Ryan Harrow back will help in a big way. Archie Goodwin is just too much of an inconsistent, hit-or-miss player to handle the point for significant lengths of time.

Kentucky's freshmen will surely gain a lot from the experiences of these past two games, and they'll get to find their rhythm against some soft upcoming opponents. Their next tough game will be November 29th on the road at Notre Dame. Duke's next game will be Sunday against a feisty Florida Gulf Coast team. After that they will head off to the Battle 4 Atlantis where they will open against Minnesota on November 22nd. Their second game will be against either Memphis or VCU.

Albany 63, Washington 62
Early in the season, I always enjoy the waves of grand over-reactions to limited sample sizes. A couple days ago the Pac-12 as a conference was something like 15-0 overall with Arizona and UCLA overrated in the polls. Sure the conference hadn't beaten anybody, but it didn't stop the "Pac-12 is back, baby!" talk. But a couple of bad results the past couple of days brought back the "Pac-12 sucks, guys!" talk. This was definitely a bad loss for the conference, of course. Washington was considered a bubble team preseason, and Albany just is not that good. Washington, led by Aziz N'Diaye, was pretty dominant on the offensive glass (a 50.0 OR%), but they missed a whole lot of easy shots. A 15-for-26 performance at the free throw line didn't help either.

Washington heads to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut next, where they will play Seton Hall as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. With a win they can start to brush off the Albany loss as a fluke, but with a loss their season could really start to spiral out of control. As for Albany, this is a nice win but I don't think it means that they're a serious contender in the America East Conference yet. They need another couple of good performances before we can view this game as more than just a fluke upset.

#10 Florida 74, #22 Wisconsin 56
One of the biggest misconceptions that casual fans have is that teams have much more influence on opposing shooting percentages than they really do. 2P% defense is obviously a skill, and some teams are better at it than others, but there are going to be nights where your opponent is hitting contested shots and there's nothing else you can do. And 3P% defense is basically luck. Advanced statistics have shown relatively convincingly that the way to judge three-point defense is by looking at the 3PA/FGA ratio - 3P% defense is basically just luck. And so because of that, it's a mistake to draw too much into a white hot shooting performance from Florida at home. At one point in this game they were 18-for-22 from the field, including six three-pointers (a 95.5 eFG%). They also hit their first 15 free throws while an ice cold Wisconsin team finished only 7-for-14 at the line.

Putting aside the fluky shooting, there was good news and bad news for Florida. The good news is that they badly outrebounded Wisconsin. Wisconsin had three more offensive rebounds, but that's because they had far more opportunities for offensive rebounds. Florida had a 50.0 OR% compared to a 28.6 OR% for Wisconsin. The bad news for Florida is that their offense was very sloppy, and they finished with 20 turnovers. By my calculation that's a 32.3 TO% against a Wisconsin team that only forced turnovers on 18.2% of possessions last season. Obviously Florida is going to be pretty unbeatable when they have a 69..0 eFG%, but when they have a more typical shooting performance they're going to struggle to be elite when they're turning the ball over at that rate.

For Wisconsin, I thought true freshman Sam Dekker looked great (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists). But at the same time, it looked like their young backcourt of George Marshall and Traevon Jackson looked a bit overwhelmed by the Florida crowd. I'm sure they'll be better with experience, but they looked inexperienced and sloppy, which is something you don't usually see on a Bo Ryan coached team. Obviously the Josh Gasser injury will hang over that backcourt all season long.

Wisconsin shouldn't have trouble bouncing back against a pair of soft home opponents coming up. Next week they will head to Las Vegas where they will open against Creighton on November 23rd. Their second game will be against either Arkansas or Arizona State. Florida's next game is a potential trap game on Sunday against Middle Tennessee. Their next tough game after that will be November 23rd against Central Florida.

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