Saturday, March 09, 2013

BYU Goes Down In Flames To San Diego

San Diego 72, BYU 69
Any list of the top five disappointments in college basketball this season has to include BYU. In their defense, they had some bad luck and were better than their record, but their level of play just wasn't good enough. The whole was less than the sum of the parts, so to speak. BYU is loaded with offensive talent - Tyler Haws is turning into the next Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Davies has been elite for several years now, Matt Carlino and Brock Zylstra have both shown really nice offensive flashes, and Craig Cusick is a sharpshooter from outside. But while BYU's national reputation tends to be that of a gunning team that doesn't play defense, the reality is that their offense let them down as much as their defense. They finished the season third in both offensive and defensive efficiency in WCC play, and Pomeroy rates their offense and defense 71st and 88th, respectively, in the nation. They don't shoot the ball as well as you'd think they would (Carlino, in particular, tends to be a brick machine), and they don't get after the offensive glass at all.

Now about that luck... BYU lost to St. Mary's on the "Dellave-Dagger", fell to Gonzaga by 5 and lost here by only 3. A win in any of those three games could have totally turned their season around. But in the end, their Pomeroy rated plummeted to 75th, and so they really just didn't play well enough to make the Tournament. In all, BYU went 0-6 against the RPI Top 50 and 2-8 against the RPI Top 100, with their best win coming over Weber State (I kid you not), and with bad losses to Florida State, San Francisco and San Diego (twice). Honestly, they're a bubble team for the NIT, at best. They might have no postseason at all, unless they want to play in the CBI.

San Diego is a 15 point underdog tonight against St. Mary's in the WCC semifinals, and their mathematical odds of beating both St. Mary's and Gonzaga back-to-back to win the WCC title are less than 0.5% (close to 1-in-300, depending on whether you want to use Pomeroy or Sagarin). So you're sayin' there's a chance!

Kent State 68, Akron 64
This is one final game from yesterday that I wanted to talk about. The big news with Akron yesterday was the arrest of guard Alex Abreu for marijuana possession with the intent to sell. It's certainly a tough loss, as he might be the second most important player on the team (Zeke Marshall obviously is Akron's superstar). The thing is, blaming Akron's falter down the stretch on Abreu is going to be a bit of a stretch. The reality is that Akron, while a good team, was not nearly as good as the media made them out to be. Coming into this game, Akron was 6-2 in games decided by five points or less, and even when they jumped into the Coaches Poll Top 25, they were still sitting nearly 50th in both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR.

I don't mean to be too negative to Akron here. I have enjoyed watching Zeke Marshall play for several years now and viewed Akron as the type of mid-major that could really scare a BCS team in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64. But I feel the same way about Belmont, Middle Tennessee and Stephen F Austin. Akron is not significantly better or worse than any of those teams, in my opinion. And the lack of big wins - their only RPI Top 60 win came at home against Middle Tennessee - meant that they were very unlikely to earn an at-large bid no matter what.

The good news for Akron is that even without Abreu they are a co-favorite for the MAC tournament with Ohio, and will have a 1 seed and a bye to the semifinals. So they still have an excellent chance to go Dancing.

Due to the fact that Toledo is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, Kent State will have the 4 seed in the MAC tournament. That means that they have a bye to the quarterfinals, where a win will give them a rematch against Akron.

#5 Georgetown 61, #17 Syracuse 39
Syracuse has struggled with offensive creation at times this season, and particularly over the past few weeks, and that's a bad thing to have happen against a defense as stout as Georgetown. Syracuse also tends to thrive on transition offense off of turnovers, and Georgetown only gave them 9 turnovers all game long. Throw in some cold shooting by Syracuse (1-for-11 behind the arc) and you get this debacle, where Syracuse only scored 0.67 PPP. Of course, Syracuse only scored 0.75 PPP when these two teams played a few weeks ago, and Syracuse has now been held below 0.85 PPP in three of their last five games.

The formula for the Syracuse struggles has been a lack of transition offense, but also a shoot-first attitude from Michael Carter-Williams. This season, Syracuse has broken 1 PPP in 13 Big East games, during which Carter-Williams has 6.7 assists per game. In the five Big East games in which Syracuse has failed to break 1 PPP, Carter-Williams is averaging only 3.2 assists per game. Here, he launched 13 shots and had only 2 assists. And yes, he hit 8 of those 13 shots, but when he is in shoot-first mode the rest of the offense suffers. He has to understand that he won't beat a team like Georgetown by himself.

Syracuse has lost four of their last five and will finish the season only 11-7 in Big East play. That collapse has multiple implications. First of all, they will be stuck playing in the Big East tournament second round as either the 5 or 6 seed. More importantly, their Sagarin ELO_SCORE has slid to around 15th and their RPI is 19th, with only a 10-8 record against the RPI Top 100. If the season ended now, I don't see how you could argue for anything better than a 4 seed for Syracuse, and they'd most likely be a 5 seed (or possibly even a 6 seed). Consider that a few weeks ago they were a serious contender for a 1 seed.

Speaking of contenders for 1 seeds, Georgetown will earn a share of the Big East regular season title and will have the 1 seed in the Big East tournament. Their overall resume doesn't necessarily scream "1 seed" (11th in RPI and narrowly inside the Top 10 in Sagarin ELO_CHESS), but they'll have a very strong case for a 1 seed if they win the Big East tournament. If they win a game or two but then fall in a close game to an elite team in the Big East tournament, they'll probably earn a 2 seed.

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