Monday, December 01, 2014

Morning News: Heartbreak For UConn, Kansas Escapes, DePaul Upsets Stanford, Southern Utah's 40 Footer, And More

Villanova basketball fans gonna eat...

Heartbreak For UConn UConn fought hard to pull back ahead in this game after trailing early. They played really strong defensively, holding the Longhorns to a 31.8 eFG% in the second half. And nobody on Texas could stop Ryan Boatright, who led all scorers with 24 points. But after finally pulling ahead, the game ended in heartbreak, with Jonathan Holmes hitting a three-pointer for the victory, and with Ryan Boatright down on the ground clutching his ankle.

Boatright could not really put any pressure at all on his injured ankle as he was helped off the court. He's a baller, but he could miss a few games. They have a potentially tricky game on Friday against Yale, but when they really need to have him back is for the Duke game on December 18th.

The way Texas has barely missed a step since losing Isaiah Taylor has been really surprising and impressive. They have been fortunate that their opponents haven't shot well (UConn was 3-for-16 on three-pointers here), but there's no doubt that going in the paint to try to score against Texas is almost as scary as trying to do it against Kentucky. The Longhorns will have a fascinating test against those Kentucky Wildcats on Friday, at Rupp Arena.

Kansas Escapes Michigan State Michigan State's execution down the stretch here was uncharacteristically sloppy. Michigan State got the ball down by five points with 30.7 seconds to go, where the situation is clear: Attack the basket, get a quick score, and then hope to either force a turnover or get Kansas to miss some free throws. Instead, Michigan State took so long getting into their offense that Tom Izzo had to call a timeout to set up a play, which took so long that the Spartans ended up just getting a fadeaway 23 footer with 6 seconds left. They got the ball right back, only to toss the ball back across the half court line.

How you feel about this Kansas performance depends on what you think about Michigan State. If you really believe that Michigan State is a Top 15/20 team in the nation, then any win over them is impressive. But if, like me, you think Michigan State is overrated and barely even a Tournament team, then this was underwhelming by the Jayhawks. Kansas will play plenty of interesting games in the next couple of weeks, though, with Florida, Georgetown and Utah all on the menu.

The Spartans have played five teams outside the Pomeroy Top 100 and beaten them all, but they've lost to both Pomeroy Top 100 opponents they've played. Their next test comes up on Wednesday, when they head on the road to face a tough Notre Dame team.

DePaul Upsets Stanford Stanford actually put together a strong comeback effort in the second half here. They trailed by 18 points in the second half before charging back with a 21-8 run that got them within five. But it petered out late, helped along by DePaul hitting 14 of their final 16 free throw attempts. But Stanford never should have been down that much to a team like DePaul anyway. They shot 4-for-19 behind the arc, committed 21 turnovers, and their defense was a mess. The 1.19 PPP that DePaul scored were their most against a major conference opponent since they had 1.30 PPP against Oregon State on December 1st, 2013.

Stanford had played like a Tournament quality team prior to this one, so it's possible it's just a one game fluke. But it's a game that is going to drag down their Tournament resume like an anchor all season long. Their next chance to redeem themselves will be December 20th, at BYU.

Southern Utah Wins On A 40 Footer That is AJ Hess from Southern Utah who hits the 40 footer to knock off UTSA. I'll go out on a limb and guessing that the announcers on this clip were not from Southern Utah.

Kentucky Wins An Ugly Game Providence hung in this game for a while, trailing by just six points halfway through the second half, and they did it despite atrocious offense. They shot just 3-for-12 on threes and just 4-for-15 on two-point jumpers. Kris Dunn, meanwhile, was trying way too hard to take on the entire Kentucky defense and committed ten turnovers by himself. Kentucky held them to just 0.70 PPP despite really not having to do that much, though you can argue that the intimidation factor of what Kentucky has done defensively to other teams was a big reason why Providence was so out of sorts offensively. The 0.70 PPP were the fewest Providence had scored in a game since their 49-40 loss to Georgetown on December 31st, 2011.

There's no shame in a loss to Kentucky, but it's a missed opportunity for Providence. Now 6-1 overall, their schedule gets soft for the next few weeks. The only competitive game between now and December 20th is a home game against Rhode Island on December 10th.

Unless Florida turns things around, Kentucky's toughest tests prior to the NCAA Tournament will all come in non-conference play. They still have Texas, North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville ahead. The Texas game is up next, on Friday.

Long Beach State Beats Xavier I've got to give credit to Xavier for not giving up in the final minute of this game. They dragged the final 60 seconds out for about 15 minutes of real time, fighting back from an eight point deficit in the final 30 seconds to actually get a halfway decent shot at the buzzer for Myles Davis to potentially get the game to overtime. But it didn't fall, and Xavier dropped their second straight at the Wooden Legacy.

Defense was a problem for Xavier, as it often is in their losses. They have allowed at least 1.00 PPP in 21 consecutive losses, going back two seasons. Their next chance to get a good result against a likely RPI Top 100 opponent will come on Saturday against Alabama.

Long Beach State is the forgotten third wheel in the Big West Conference race, behind UC-Irvine and UC-Santa Barbara, but they're looking like a good team in their own right. They've beaten Xavier and Kansas State, without a single loss to a team likely to finish outside the RPI Top 100. This should be the strongest Big West Conference we've seen since Utah State was in the league.

Marquette Beats Tennessee Marquette leaves the Orlando Classic with two wins out of three games, taking down Georgia Tech and Tennessee while losing a competitive game to Michigan State. I'm not sure if any of those performances are particularly impressive, but at least Marquette is playing hard under Wojo and they look like they're not going to embarrass themselves. They'll find a way to win five or six games in Big East play.

Tennessee drops to 2-3 overall, without a single win over a non-cupcake. They've allowed 1.12 PPP or more in each of their losses, with struggles in every facet of the game. Donnie Tyndall doesn't have a lot of time to figure out what is wrong, as Kansas State, Butler and a road game at NC State are up next.

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