Friday, November 28, 2014

Morning News: Wisconsin/Georgetown, UNC Crushes UCLA, Butler's Shooting Woes, And Florida Struggles

Hopefully you were still conscious enough after this to enjoy some basketball.
Wisconsin And Georgetown Put On A Show This was one of the best games so far this season. It was really hard fought and competitive, and was tight for basically the entire 40 minutes. Even in a loss, Georgetown impressed in a big way. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (29 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 5-for-6 behind the arc) was the best player on the court for either team. And with this performance coming after the win over Florida, Georgetown is beginning to establish themselves as a serious Big East contender.

"Woo! We won!... Ow."

As for Wisconsin, I think their relatively poor performance here is encouraging. They got basically nothing from their starting lineup in the second half, got an invisible game from star Frank Kaminsky (1-for-8 shooting with 4 rebounds), had their starting backcourt on the bench with foul trouble (Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson played just 39 minutes combined), and committed a shocking number of dumb turnovers (their 23.3 TO% was their worst since March 16th, 2013), and still beat a very good Georgetown team. They showed their depth of scoring options off the bench, particularly Bronson Koenig (14 points on 6-for-10 shooting with 4 assists). So even on a day where just about everything went wrong, they were still a really good and competitive team. They're going to be awfully hard to take down this season.

North Carolina Crushes UCLA The Tar Heels put on a performance here that was night-and-day relative to their debacle against Butler. There was clearly an emphasis on rebounding here, and they did win the rebounding battle. They also forced 13 steals, leading to a gigantic 31-to-6 advantage in fast break points. Marcus Paige led the way with 21 points, 5 assists and 3 steals.

The difference between these two North Carolina performances is why you don't overreact to a single game, particularly in early season tournaments played outside the contiguous 48 states. Which of these two North Carolina performances is closer to the real North Carolina? Maybe their game against Florida will be the tiebreaker.

UCLA unfortunately has to play UAB later today, which means that they'll get nothing useful out of this trip to the Bahamas. They also still have Gonzaga and Kentucky ahead. Beating Kentucky on a neutral court seems unlikely, so the home game at Gonzaga will likely be UCLA's only real chance for a quality non-conference win. The Pac-12 hasn't looked great in the early going this season, so if UCLA fails to do anything in the non-conference they'll likely have to get to 11-7 in conference play just to go Dancing.

Butler's Shooting Woes This was an ugly game for both teams, but particularly for Butler. Butler finished 6-for-33 on jump shots, including 4-for-23 behind the arc, finishing with a 27.1 eFG%. To put that in perspective, that's Butler's worst eFG% in a game since their loss in the 2011 National Title game to UConn. It was also, at the time the game was played, the worst second worst shooting performance this season by any team from one of the six power conferences, ahead of only Kansas's disastrous performance against Kentucky (later last night, Butler's shooting performance managed to also get outdone by Washington State in their 28 point loss to UC-Santa Barbara).

Oklahoma was 2-for-17 behind the arc as well, but they shot 67% on two-pointers by getting the ball into the paint against Butler's undersized front line. Kam Woods is Butler's only real paint defender, and he struggled with foul trouble for much of the game.

I think a lot of people panicked about Oklahoma after that loss to Creighton. But the reality is, you should never draw conclusions about a team after a single game, and it's not like a road game at Creighton is going to be a walk in the park for anybody. The fact is that the Sooners deserve to be in the Big 12 title discussion with Kansas and Texas (and perhaps also Iowa State). And they'll get a chance to really start the hype going if they can knock off Wisconsin later this afternoon.

Butler can't dwell on this loss. If they can get a win later today against Georgetown then this trip to the Bahamas will still end up a big success. Their remaining non-conference schedule is not particularly impressive, but the Big East is getting a lot more media respect than it got last season, so the Bulldogs will get plenty of chances to build their resume in conference play.

Florida Struggles The Gators won here, but it was very ugly. This UAB team, which had looked pretty bad all season long, led for much of the second half, until past the under-4 timeout. Florida ended up winning primarily because a lid got put on UAB's rim in the final minutes. Over the final six minutes they shot 0-for-6 from the field, scoring 2 points on 8 possessions.

The Gators were a little shorthanded here, as Eli Carter rested his injury, but that was it, and they had their full regular rotation on the court for the Georgetown game that they lost. As always, you don't want to overreact to what happens at these early season tournaments, so Florida could still end up a good team, but so far they're playing like a borderline Top 25 team at best.

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