Saturday, January 05, 2013

Illinois Rips Ohio State

#11 Illinois 74, #8 Ohio State 55
The concern with Ohio State this season has been consistent offense. DeShaun Thomas is really the only good, consistent offensive weapon. Lenzelle Smith and Shannon Scott are both good shooters, but both are really just jump shooters who need somebody else to create offense for them. Once things started getting difficult in this game, the Buckeyes started playing way too much one-on-one basketball. The Buckeyes ended up with a putrid 0.72 PPP here, their worst offensive performance since putting up 0.71 PPP in a 65-43 loss to Wisconsin on December 31, 2009.

That said, I'm not going to overreact to one really bad Ohio State performance. This is the same Buckeyes team that put up 1.22 PPP against Washington, and that came into this game rated the 13th best offense in the nation by Pomeroy. This result is definitely a huge red flag and a warning that they might be overrated, but let's see how they do in their next few Big Ten games. They'll play at Purdue on Tuesday, and then will come home for a massive home game against Michigan on January 13th.

Coming off of three consecutive poorly played games, this was a very welcome result for the Illini. It's certainly their best performance of the season. And they also, of course, won that road game at Gonzaga. But this team also lost to Purdue and Missouri, and beat Hawaii and Auburn by a combined three points. There's not an obvious reason for them to be an inconsistent team, other than that they seem to be a streaky shooting team, but it bears watching. Certainly they're a dangerous team, but even after this win I think that #11 ranking is way too high. They're a borderline Top 25 team at best. The Illini will play Minnesota on Wednesday, followed by a road game at Wisconsin next Saturday.

Baylor 86, Texas 79, OT
Scott Drew was missing the first of two games here for a suspension due to impermissible contact with recruits, which I'm not sure really matters for Baylor. It's not like anybody has ever accused him of being a tactical genius. Also, I only turned this game on with around seven or eight minutes left in the second half, so I can't be sure if there was homecourt-biased reffing for Baylor... but the foul numbers seemed a bit one-sided. In all, Texas committed 26 fouls (and had two players foul out) to only 12 fouls for Baylor. Considering that Texas has actually done the significantly better job this season at drawing fouls, those are suspicious numbers, to say the least.

That said, Baylor won the battle on the glass and dominated the paint, as they usually do. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin combined for 43 points on 13-for-23 shooting, with 22 rebounds. The highlight for Texas was Javan Felix, the talented but raw freshman who had the best game of his young career, putting up 23 points and 9 assists.

Texas is now 8-6, with a win over North Carolina, along with bad losses to USC and Chaminade. They're going to have to reach at least 10-8 in conference play to be on the bubble, which means that their home game against West Virginia on Wednesday is a quasi-must win. Their schedule gets tougher over the next two weeks, and they really can't afford to fall to fall too far below .500 in Big 12 play. They need to take care of business against West Virginia.

Baylor has to avoid slipping up next week against bottom-feeders TCU and Texas Tech. The Texas Tech game is up first, on Tuesday.

St. John's 53, #24 Cincinnati 52
I've said this repeatedly this season, but I'll say again that this Cincinnati team is built perfectly to be consistently inconsistent. They are going to pull more than their share of big upsets, but they're also going to suffer more than their share of big upsets. Their defense is very strong, and will always keep them in games against anybody. But their offense is very sloppy and streaky, and very reliant on Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright. Wright played well here (23 points on 9-for-16 shooting), but Sean Kilpatrick was terrible (7 points on 3-for-14 shooting).

This game was, secretly, a terrible offensive game. Fans and announcers tend to be confused by fast paced games, and this game featured a quick 72 possessions, which was why both teams managed to score 50+ points. But that means that the two teams combined for a putrid 0.73 PPP. Cincinnati has yet to allows 1.00 PPP or more this season, which is why they are tied for second in the nation with 0.79 PPP (the Pomeroy ratings, which adjust for schedule strength, had Cincy at 0.85 PPP coming into this game - 6th best in the nation). But like I said, the offense can leave them at times. This season they are 13-0 when reaching 0.88 PPP or more. When scoring 0.87 PPP or less they are 0-2.

The battle for third place in the Big East is wide open. Cincy has to be considered a contender for that spot, but like I've said before, I don't think they're going to be consistent enough. More likely they'll finish around fifth or so. They'll play Notre Dame on Monday, followed by a road game at Rutgers next Saturday.

The Johnnies are not realistically going to contend for an at-large bid, but Steve Lavin will be looking for improvement from his young team. This is a great win, and they'll look to keep the momentum up at home on Wednesday against Rutgers. Next Saturday they'll play Georgetown.

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