Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Morning News: San Diego St/BYU Controversy, Villanova Runs Over VCU, Eastern Washington Beats Indiana, And Much More

Believe it or not, Savannah State did not come back to win this game.
San Diego State Wins Controversial Finish In any game that goes two overtimes, it's always the case that both teams had a chance to win, so you don't want to draw too many "this team is better because they won" conclusions. But the crazy end to the first overtime period is where the controversy came from that is going to keep BYU fans angry for a few days. First, down by 3 points, San Diego State's Aqueel Quinn had his three-pointer blocked. He caught the ball with both feet well inside the three-point line and managed to walk behind the three-point line without dribbling and hit a three to tie up the game. Then, BYU decided to go right back to the other side of the floor to score without calling timeout, but Tyler Haws was mugged - repeatedly - by Trey Kell, including getting thrown to the ground and then grabbed again when he tried to get up. But the refs didn't pay attention, and Kyle Collinsworth ended up taking the final shot and missing.

In the end, this is a huge missed opportunity for BYU to build a tourney resume, particularly since they're now stuck playing Chaminade in their second game, and either Missouri or Purdue in their third game. Their only remaining chances to get non-conference wins over teams with a decent chance to make the NCAA Tournament are Utah, Stanford and UMass. The Utah game will be up first, on December 10th.

Only BYU can make San Diego State's defense look mediocre, while also making San Diego State's offense look pretty good. In general, expect more of the ugly, low scoring games from the Aztecs. But this win and a win over Utah are an excellent start to the season. I don't think they're yet a contender for a 1 or 2 seed, though. Their shooting is just too poor so far (26.3 3P%, 44.1 eFG%), and they're going to end losing some games by really ugly scores. The Mountain West just isn't that strong this season, and so they're going to pick up a couple of bad losses without too many opportunities for quality wins.

Villanova Runs Away From VCU VCU is a team that can be streaky in games. Neither their half court offense or half court defense are particularly good, so if their opponents avoid turnovers and prevent fast break opportunities, VCU will get in trouble against any decent team. But at the same time, VCU can start turning teams over on 25-30% of possessions and run over just about any team in the nation. Here? It was the former. Villanova committed only 9 turnovers. Only once in all of last season did VCU force turnovers in fewer than the 14.8% of possessions that they did here. Villanova actually had a 12-2 advantage in fast break points.

This result is a big missed opportunity for VCU's resume, but I don't think it tells us too much about them. When they only get two fast break points in a game, they're probably going to lose. Particularly when they shoot only 2-for-17 on threes. They will get a chance to bounce back tonight, though, taking on Oregon.

It was important for Villanova to get something out of the Legend's Classic, and they now have. It's unclear just how the Big East will be viewed in March. There isn't another obvious Top 25 team in the conference, so if Villanova wants to make a run at a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, it will really help to have these quality non-conference scalps on their resume.

Eastern Washington Upsets Indiana Eastern Washington had just lost to an SMU team that had lost to Indiana, so naturally they completed the transitive property circle by beating Indiana here. On one hand, this isn't the huge upset that it might seem. Indiana is down this year, and this is a very strong Eastern Washington team. I think that by March the Indiana win over SMU will be more surprising than the Eastern Washington win over Indiana.

But that said, the way this game was won is odd and should be disconcerting to Indiana. Eastern Washington is a high variance team because they usually chuck a ton of threes and have the ability to get hot (they actually came into this game leading the entire nation in 3PA/FGA ratio). But here? The Eagles only attempted 16 three-pointers, hitting only six. They shot 57% on two-pointers instead, kept the turnovers even, and outrebounded an Indiana team that is small and is likely going to struggle on the glass in Big Ten play. This would have been an easier loss to swallow for Indiana if Eastern Washington had just gone nuts behind the arc but the Hoosiers had outplayed them in the other aspects of the game.

The Hoosiers have an interesting game coming up on December 2nd, at home against Pittsburgh. A win there will suggest that the Eastern Washington loss was a fluke. But a loss will be more evidence that it was actually the upset of SMU that was the fluke.

Sterling Gibbs Scores 40 Whatever LaDontae Henton can do, Sterling Gibbs can do better. Gibbs was impossibly hot in this game, shooting 7-for-9 behind the arc and 13-for-13 at the line. And Seton Hall needed it all, as they only escaped Illinois State by four points here. And this was the title at the Paradise Jam for Seton Hall, but it wasn't exactly a loaded field. Illinois State was easily the best opponent Seton Hall faced.

Michigan Beats Oregon This game was closer than most expected. And Michigan's struggles were primarily on the defensive glass, where they actually entered this game #1 in the nation (a 90.0% defensive rebounding rate). Here, Oregon had 18 offensive rebounds (compared to just 7 for Michigan), which allowed them to score 34 of their 63 points in the paint. Caris LeVert couldn't find his shot all day (3-for-13), but he did take a leadership role and force himself to the line (11-for-13) and he managed to finish with a solid 18 points.

This was the first game for either of these two teams against foes likely to finish in the RPI Top 100. So it's worth keeping an eye on both of these teams tonight, when Michigan takes on Villanova and Oregon takes on VCU, to see whether this result is a fluke or a sign of things to come for each of these teams.

A real concern for Oregon tonight will be Dwayne Benjamin, who suffered what looked like an ankle injury late. Dana Altman is playing an eight man regular rotation this season, and that depth will be tested against #HAVOC, particularly if Benjamin can't go.

Maryland Escapes Hot-Shooting Arizona State Arizona State shot a very impressive 14-for-27 (52%) behind the arc here. Maryland, in comparison, shot only 38% on all jump shots combined (including two-pointers). But Maryland is a big, physical team, while Arizona State isn't. And the Terps dominated the glass (a 41.9 OR% vs a 22.2% OR% for Arizona State) and the paint (42 to 20 point advantaget).

This was a breakout game for freshman Melo Trimble (31 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 4-6 for behind the arc). This victory sets the Terps up for a big opportunity against Iowa State in the final game of the CBE Classic. The Cyclones are a much more physical team than Arizona State, and a much better defensive rebounding squad, and they should also have most of the crowd on their side. So it'll be an uphill battle for the Maryland.

Arizona State will play Alabama next. After that, they have the misfortune that a couple of the teams on their schedule (UNLV and Marquette) are playing well below their normal standards and might not end up as RPI Top 100 opponents. So the last real chances for the Sun Devils to collect quality victories before conference play will come against Texas A&M and Harvard.

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