Thursday, January 24, 2013

Drake Shocks Creighton

Drake 74, #17 Creighton 69
We saw a number of court stormings tonight, but the most surprising result had to be this one. Creighton was a ten point favorite in Vegas. The difference in this game was horrific first half shooting by Creighton. They were 0-7 for behind the arc in the first half, trailing by 16 at the break. In the second half they shot a little better and did manage to briefly grab the lead, but they still finished only 5-for-21 (24%) on threes. Remember, Creighton came into this game with the highest three-point percentage (45.2%) in the nation.

The play of star Doug McDermott was odd here. His 17 points were the only things that kept Creighton in the game in the first half at all. Yet in the second half, as his team was making a comeback, he was basically invisible. He scored only one basket, a quick turnaround in the paint, in the entire half. Creighton just wasn't going to him with the ball. Grant Gibbs played really well in the second half (he finished with 18 points, 8 assists and 4 steals), but it's hard to imagine that Creighton wouldn't have been better off if McDermott got some more second half shots.

This was not the way Creighton wanted to bounce back from that Wichita State loss. They fall to 6-2 in conference play with this loss, and are also sliding down the NCAA Tournament bracket. If the season ended now they'd probably be a 5 seed, and they'll need to go on a winning streak to get back in contention for a 3 seed. I don't think they have a realistic path to a 2 seed any longer. Their next game will be on Sunday, at Southern Illinois.

This will almost certainly be the season highlight for Drake. It is their first win all season over an RPI Top 100 team. They are now 3-5 in Missouri Valley play and will play next on Sunday, at Missouri State.

#15 New Mexico 66, Colorado State 61
There are very few teams in the nation tougher to put away with Colorado State. This is at least the fourth or fifth time this season that they have overcome a huge second half deficit to make a game competitive in the final moments. Here, they trailed by 22 points with under 12 minutes to go. A 29-10 run, finished off by a Wes Elkmeier three-pointer, pulled the Rams within three with just under ten seconds to go. But Tony Snell hit a pair of free throws and Elkmeier couldn't hit on the other end of the floor.

Tony Snell was the difference for New Mexico, pouring in 23 points and helping with some very strong New Mexico defense. Colorado State turned over the ball 16 times, which helped wipe out their typical rebounding advantage (a 43.8 OR%). Colorado State also really struggled with foul trouble. Everybody in CSU's starting lineup other than Wes Elkmeier was in foul trouble, with Greg Smith actually fouling out. So with that and New Mexico's homecourt advantage taken into account, I don't think Colorado State fans should feel bad about this loss at all. Their team played very well.

The Mountain West continues to be a confusing four-team race. New Mexico has grabbed a two game lead in the standings, but in no way have they been clearly better than anybody else. Here are the standings in terms of PPP margin in conference play:

+0.13 New Mexico
+0.11 Colorado State
+0.06 Wyoming
+0.02 San Diego State
+0.00 UNLV
-0.01 Boise State

So New Mexico has been the best so far in conference play, but not by a whole lot. The league is still wide open. And now New Mexico is the hunted, with a brutal upcoming week: at San Diego State on Saturday and at Wyoming on Wednesday.

Colorado State will try to bounce back at Fresno State on Saturday. Next week they'll be at home to face Boise State and Wyoming.

Texas Tech 56, Iowa State 51
As the saying goes, these are college kids and not robots. You expect teams to occasionally not show up. But this was a putrid effort by Iowa State. What stood out more than anything was this Iowa State team, which lives off of 13.8 offensive rebounds per game, only brought down three offensive rebounds against a poor Texas Tech rebounding team. In all they had an 8.8 OR%, their worst offensive rebounding performance since at least 2003.

One of my running jokes on twitter is "they just wanted it more", which is making fun of the classic media narrative to explain a close result. I got a kick out of Rutgers coach Mike Rice a few days ago saying "They wanted it more, and that usually wins Big East basketball games"... as if DePaul could suddenly become an 11-7 Big East team by just "wanting it" enough. But while effort doesn't explain results in close games, effort does matter overall from night to night. Sometimes teams just sleepwalk through games, and there's no other way to describe this performance from Iowa State. Texas Tech was playing harder all night. Iowa State could have hit three extra shots and still won this game, but then they just would have been lucky.

Iowa State is now 13-5 overall and 3-2 in Big 12 play, with a win over BYU along with this bad loss. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is 53rd. If the season ended now they'd be NIT-bound. They're better than their record, though, so I expect them to be on the bubble until the very end, even after this bad loss. If they go 10-8 in Big 12 play then they'll be the protypical bubble team and will have work to do in the Big 12 tournament. They probably need to get to 11-7 to feel good about their at-large chances. Their home game on Saturday against Kansas State is crucial. A loss there and they might fall out of the next BP68.

This has been a long, difficult season for Chris Walker. This nice win pushes them to 2-4 in Big 12 play and 9-8 overall. It's hard to see them staying above .500 for too much longer, though. They'll play next on Saturday, at Texas.

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