Friday, December 12, 2014

Morning News: Alex Poythress Done, Bryce Dejean-Jones Arrested, Eastern Washington/San Francisco, And Cullen Neal

Alex Poythress Tears His ACL This is a really unfortunate injury for Kentucky. While there's obviously no team that can absorb a loss like this more than Kentucky with their 37 McDonald's All-Americans, Poythress was unique in his skills. He was their only real pure wing, and their most versatile defender. They could have absorbed an injury to, say, Andrew Harrison much more than Poythress.

It will be interesting to see if Derek Willis moves into a "platoon" now. The reason I think he will is because Calipari is about nothing more than marketing himself and his program, and he got a staggering amount of buzz about the platoons (even though other coaches had done it before). You can't watch a MAC team play an AAC team on ESPNU without one of the announcers going into a digression about Kentucky's platoons. I think Calipari will want to keep that buzz going. Besides, they probably already printed a bunch more white and blue shirts for the students to switch in and out of during games.

Is Kentucky still the nation's best team? Maybe. It's too early to tell. The gap between them and Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona, Louisville and a handful of others was smaller than most people realized. But that said, even if Kentucky is now slightly worse than one of those teams, they will remain the top team in my projected bracket for now. Why? They have easily the least competition to sweep their conference titles of any of those other 1 seed contenders. So they still have the clearest path to that 1 seed.

Bryce Dejean-Jones Arrested, Suspended For now, the marijuana charges appear to have been dropped, so Dejean-Jones isn't at immediate risk of a big legal problem. But even though he might escape with just a one game suspension, it's an important game on the road at Iowa tonight. Iowa State is ranked higher in the human polls, but most computer ratings have Iowa as the slightly better team and the Hawkeyes will be at home, so this was going to be an uphill battle even with Dejean-Jones in the lineup. He was easily Iowa State's leading scorer, pouring in 17.1 per game with a filthy 63.5 eFG%.

Eastern Washington Beats San Francisco It was a really slow night of college basketball, so this was actually the best game on the docket. I feel like I need to talk about some game from last night so it's not just injuries and arrests, and Eastern Washington has been my Big Sky favorite since the preseason. I love how many threes they take and how many shooters they have. It's not a formula for avoiding upsets (they surely will suffer some during the season), but it's a formula for a high variance team that will scare the hell out of a 3 or 4 seed when they're seeded together on Selection Sunday.

Eastern Washington did their thing here, launching 25 threes and hitting 48% of them. Ognjen Miljkovic led the way with 20 points with 4-for-7 three-point shooting, and Venky Jois continued to stuff the stat sheet with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks (he's at 21.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game for the season).

San Francisco might not finish in the RPI Top 100, but road wins against borderline Top 100 teams are the most underrated wins in college basketball. To use the Sagarin ratings as a guide, a road game at San Francisco (#71) is equivalent to a home game against Butler (#14). So this win is no joke. They'll get a chance on Sunday to turn the heads of more casual fans by winning at Washington.

Cullen Neal Could Be Done For The Season Neal was New Mexico's primary scoring option (he scored 26 and 23 points in the two full games he played in this season), but his ankle injury could cost him the rest of the season. That all said, this could possibly be a blessing in disguise for a New Mexico program that wasn't going anywhere this season anyway. If Neal can get a medical redshirt (which isn't assured, but seems somewhat likely) then Neal will get an extra year to play when the rest of the roster will presumably be stronger. There's no reason for Neal to rush back to play in a handful of games after New Mexico has already been eliminated from serious at-large contention.

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