Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Georgetown Bounces Back, Crushes Notre Dame

Georgetown 63, #24 Notre Dame 47
With a 2-3 start to the Big East season, coming off a terrible loss to South Florida, and with Louisville looming, Georgetown desperately needed a win here. Their defense was strong in this win, of course, holding Notre Dame to a season-low 0.85 PPP. But what really stood out to me was Georgetown's office, which has been so atrocious this season but which looked surprisingly strong here. The Hoyas just looked confident and upbeat on offense, which was a huge change of pace from their past few games.

Otto Porter was Georgetown's primary scorer (19 points on 7-for-10 shooting), as he often is, but the Hoyas also got a nice spark off the bench from freshman D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (14 points on 6-for-12 shooting). As a team, Georgetown had 19 assists on 24 made baskets. Good passing is always a hallmark of JTIII's offenses, even when they're struggling to shoot. This team has assisted on 64.2% of made baskets this season, which is 15th best in the nation.

With this win Georgetown moves to 3-3 in Big East play with wins over Notre Dame and UCLA, along with a bad loss to South Florida. This win pushed their RPI to 45th, but more importantly pushed their Sagarin ELO_SCORE up to 30th. They'd be a Tournament team if the season ended now, but probably need to get to 9-9 with a win in the Big East tournament to stay there. They will play Louisville on Saturday, and then Seton Hall the following Wednesday.

The Irish fall to 3-3 in Big East play with this loss, which is particularly a concern when you consider that they haven't really had the toughest schedule so far. They still have to play Louisville twice, and will also play road games at Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Marquette. Even with the win over Kentucky, they probably need to get to 9-9 in Big East play to make the Tournament. Considering those five very difficult games, they really can't afford to lose the lower half of the league any more. They have one of those dangerous games coming up next, at USF on Saturday.

#3 Syracuse 57, Cincinnati 55
After CJ Fair put Syracuse ahead by two, Cincinnati had around 22 seconds to hit a shot to tie or win. I don't think a fadeaway three-pointer by Cashmere Wright was how they wanted to draw things up. It didn't fall and that effectively ended the game. Brandon Triche missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Cincy was too far from the basket to get a good shot at the buzzer.

Syracuse has now won 28 of their last 29 regular season Big East games, which is a pretty remarkable streak. Eventually their luck will eventually even out (they are 8-0 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime over that stretch), but it's a testament to the consistency of Jim Boeheim's coaching consistency.

Cashmere Wright had a tough day all around. He hit only 2-for-13 from the field. Sean Kilpatrick didn't have a great game, but he was shouldered the scoring load, pouring in 21 points with 6-for-14 shooting behind the arc. The star for Syracuse, without question, was Michael Carter-Williams (16 points on 6-for-10 shooting with 7 assists). Carter-Williams has proven passing ability, but he showed some real explosiveness and athleticism around the rim. It's easy to see why he's a likely NBA lottery pick.

Syracuse will go on the road to play a suddenly feisty Villanova on Saturday. After that they'll have a week to prepare for a very important road game at Pittsburgh. At some point the Orange are going to lose a game, and Pitt might actually be favored in Vegas for that one. Cincy drops to 4-3 in Big East play with this loss. They have wins over Oregon, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Marquette, along with a bad loss to St. John's. They won't play another game until January 30th, when they'll take on Rutgers.

Baylor 64, Oklahoma State 54
Le'Bryan Nash played a heck of a game for Oklahoma State here, and almost dragged the Cowboys to victory. He scored 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting. His teammates combined for 30 points on 12-for-44 shooting (a 29.5 eFG%). Baylor's defensive length can definitely give teams trouble. Baylor's big problem on defense, as it always is, is defensive rebounding. But the only Oklahoma State player who can get after the offensive glass is Philip Jurick, and he spent the entire game in foul trouble (only played 14 minutes total).

Pierre Jackson tends to get the attention from the press, and he led Baylor with 18 points here, but the best player on the court for Baylor was Isaiah Austin. The freshman had 10 points, 14 rebounds (4 offensive) and 5 blocks. Cory Jefferson (6 blocks, 2 steals, 11 rebounds) was a force as well.

I don't think Baylor was ever really at risk of falling onto the bubble, but this win helps give them some cushion regardless. They are now 4-1 in Big 12 play with wins over Kentucky and Oklahoma State, along with bad losses to Northwestern and College of Charleston. A 10-8 Big 12 record will probably be enough to put them in the NCAA Tournament, and 11-7 will clinch it.

Oklahoma State drops to 2-3 in Big 12 play with this loss. They have a bad loss to Virginia Tech and are still looking for a quality win. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is still 44th, though I think they'd be NIT-bound if the season ended now. The good news for them is that I do think they're better than their record, and I also think that Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash are both playing a lot better than they were early in the season. They probably need to get to 10-8 in Big 12 play to make the Tournament, but I think they'll get there. They'll play West Virginia on Saturday, and then Iowa State the following Wednesday.

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