Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ohio State Very Sharp In Win Over Wisconsin

#11 Ohio State 58, Wisconsin 49
I've been uncertain whether Ohio State is a true contender for the Big Ten title, but they sure looked like a contender here. DeShaun Thomas played like a legit National Player of the Year contender, and the Buckeyes offense was almost flawless in the second half, where they had a 71.4 eFG% against a very tough Wisconsin defensive performance. Wisconsin committed only 7 turnovers, allowed only 4 offensive rebounds, allowed only five Ohio State three-point attempts, and allowed the Buckeyes to only take about three shots all game without a hand right in their face. But they didn't have DeShaun Thomas, who finished with 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting.

While Wisconsin is always known as a team that plays ugly defense-first basketball, it's almost never the case. Bo Ryan's teams are usually better offensively than defensively, and only get the other reputation because most television analysts don't understand the concept of tempo-free statistics. But this year the stereotype is actually basically right. They put on a defensive clinic here, and also in their win over Minnesota, but their offense really can be ugly at times. Traevon Jackson is confident, but inconsistent, and Ryan Evans is just a mess. Both played superb defense in this game, but Wisconsin needs to find a way to get more shots for their more efficient scorers. Of the players in Wisconsin's regular rotation, Jackson and Evans have the two worst ORtgs.

Ohio State is one game back in the loss column in the Big Ten. They have a game at Nebraska at Saturday, but more importantly will play at Michigan next Tuesday. A win there would put them firmly in the Big Ten title race. Wisconsin will try to bounce back on Sunday with a road game at Illinois.

#12 Louisville 64, Pittsburgh 61
This was one last game from last night that I wanted to talk about. Both of these teams are very underrated. Considering that Pittsburgh is way overdue for a big win, I thought they'd actually come through here with Louisville shorthanded. Wayne Blackshear missed the game with a shoulder injury while Kevin Ware is out indefinitely for some undisclosed off-the-court issue. And with Blackshear out, Pitt was able to really aggressively on the offensive glass (a 48.6 OR%).

Pitt was undone by two things. First, Gorgui Dieng was spectacular - he shot 5-for-7 from the field, blocked 5 shots, had 4 assists and 12 rebounds. Second, Pitt shot themselves in the foot with 3-for-12 free throw shooting. They had their chance and just didn't make it happen. And so Pitt still only has two RPI Top 50 wins (UConn and Georgetown), despite being ranked 6th by Pomeroy and 8th by the Sagarin PREDICTOR. I don't think they're actually the 6th best team in the country, but they're definitely a Top 20 team or so. The Pomeroy ratings are never off by that much.

Pitt is like Kentucky in terms of being a really good team that just hasn't managed to pull off a "big win" yet. But the season is long, and at some point they will, and they'll go on a little winning streak. And look forward to the media over-analyzing "adjustments" and "improvements". It probably won't be true. As I said on twitter last night, Pitt has passed Minnesota and Wisconsin as the most underrated team in the country.

The Panthers have until Saturday before they play again, against Syracuse. With Syracuse very short-handed on their front line, and as a team that already struggles with the defensive glass, look for Pitt to finally pull off that big win. Louisville's next game will be on Sunday, against Marquette.

Virginia 58, #19 NC State 55
Count this as another non-upset "upset". Virginia actually didn't cover the spread - they were a 3.5 point favorite in Vegas. And NC State played this game so close despite losing Lorenzo Brown to injury after playing only ten minutes. The reason they played so well was because of a monster game from CJ Leslie (20 points, 14 rebounds). Virginia also didn't do themselves any favors with 4-for-16 three-point shooting. And then in the final three minutes, NC State shot 0-for-4 from the field and committed a turnover.

Virginia has one of the goofier at-large resumes. They are 5-0 against the RPI Top 100 but only 10-5 against the RPI 100+. They have wins over Wisconsin, NC State and North Carolina, along with bad losses to Old Dominion, Delaware, George Mason, Wake Forest and Clemson. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should be around 40th when the new numbers come out, but with all of those bad losses they'd be right on the fat part of the bubble if the season ended now. At 5-2 in ACC play, I think they need to get to 11-7 and then need to win a game in the ACC tournament to feel about their at-large chances.

NC State is not a Tournament certainty yet, but they're in better shape than Virginia. They are 5-3 in ACC play and have wins over Duke, North Carolina and UConn, along with a bad loss to Wake Forest. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should remain in the Top 25. They should be safe for an at-large bid if they get to 10-8.

NC State will play next against Miami on Saturday. Virginia will play at Georgia Tech on Sunday.

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