Monday, November 23, 2015

Morning News: Duke Escapes Georgetown, Miami Holds Off Butler, Purdue Pulls Away From Florida, Wisconsin/VCU, And More

Duke was one of three ACC schools to win a tournament title yesterday.
Duke Escapes Georgetown Georgetown gave Duke all they could handle here. Duke had made 9 of 10 free throws over the final 1:10, but back-to-back Georgetown threes forced Derryck Thornton to the line for a pair of key free throws with five seconds left. He missed both, and Isaac Copeland got a clean three-point look at the buzzer that he just happened to miss. Grayson Allen was, again, the star for Duke. He poured in 32 points and is now averaging 29 points per game over Duke's four wins compared to just 6 points in that loss to Kentucky.

This Duke team has demonstrated this past week that they do have significant flaws. Their defense is shaky, and their offense gets bogged down when Grayson Allen isn't creating. But the reason why they are still likely a Top 10 team in the country is because of their depth of talent. The fact that they had a 5-star recruit like Chase Jeter (who didn't even play against VCU on Friday) come off the bench to give them a few great minutes of energy to turn the game around in the first half is the type of luxury that only a small handful of teams have.

Georgetown has now lost their three games by a combined 8 points. A home game against Syracuse in a couple of weeks is their last chance to beat a quality opponent in non-conference play, so they're not going to have a great Tournament resume when Big East play tips off, but they certainly look like a Tournament-quality team. They should do well in Big East play.

Miami Holds Off Butler Miami looked fantastic early in this game, pulling out to a 19 point first half lead. But Butler has one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, which means that they're never out of a game. They scored 1.31 PPP in the second half behind an absurd 20 points from Kellen Dunham (Dunham had 23 points for the game, with 5-for-8 shooting behind the arc). Butler pulled within four points with three minutes to go, but Miami hit 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch to hold out for the win.

This result means more about Miami than Butler. The Hurricanes were coming off a 24 point domination of Utah, as well as blowouts of their earlier opponents. Take computer ratings with a spoonful of salt in November, but they currently sit 10th in Pomeroy and 11th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. It's too early to say that they're a true ACC contender, but it's also too early to say that they aren't.

Butler, meanwhile, has a very tough game coming up on December 2nd at Cincinnati. it will be interesting to see how their explosive offense does against the elite Cincinnati defense. So far this season, Butler is scoring 1.28 PPP while Cincinnati is allowing 0.70 PPP. Something's got to give.

Purdue Pulls Away From Florida Florida kept this game close in the first half, but Purdue took over midway through the second half and ended up with the comfortable victory. True freshman Caleb Swanigan was inconsistent, but he was physically dominant, though the underrated key to Purdue's early season success continues to be the development of Isaac Haas (11 points on 5-for-6 shooting here).

Purdue moves to a dominant 5-0 to start the season and has slid inside the Top 10 of the Pomeroy ratings, which is best in the Big Ten. Computer ratings need to be viewed skeptically this early in the season, but it's fair to ask: Is Purdue the best team in the Big Ten? At this point I'd answer "no", because I think it's Michigan State, but it's a fair question, and one where reasonable minds can disagree. The good news is that Purdue still has several quality opponents before Big Ten play, so we will learn more about how good they really are. Butler, Vanderbilt, and Pittsburgh are all on the schedule before they open Big Ten play at Wisconsin on December 29th.

As for Florida, there's no shame in a neutral court loss to Purdue. This has been their only game against a Tournament-quality team, though, so the post-Billy Donovan Gators still are a bit of a mystery. One bright spot has been the energetic John Egbunu (19 points and 7 rebounds here).

Wisconsin Tops VCU At The Buzzer In a one point game there are a million little things that can make the difference. After shooting 4-for-5 on threes in the first half, VCU went 0-for-8 in the second half. They also shot just 17-for-29 at the line. Wisconsin suffered from a combination of VCU's pressure and a tight whistle to end up with 20 turnovers and 21 fouls, both uncharacteristic from the team that led the entire nation in offensive turnover rate and defensive FTRate last season. But the game came down to Bronson Koenig scoring on a beautiful spin move in the final seconds.
The good news for VCU is that the Atlantic Ten looks strong this season. They'll have plenty of options for RPI Top 50 wins in conference play. They certainly seem like the type of squad that is going to end up on the bubble in February and March, so these close losses to Duke and Wisconsin definitely hurt, but aren't crippling.

This young Wisconsin team is going to continue to improve as the season goes along. They're likely a Tournament team, but they're going to have to get significantly better by January if they are going to contend for one of the top two or three spots in the Big Ten.

Ge'Lawn Guyn Takes Out Georgia Tech East Tennessee State had not held a lead since midway through the first half before Ge'Lawn Guyn hit a rainbow three-pointer to knock out the Yellow Jackets with 0.9 seconds left. He was the star all game as well, pouring in 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting, with 7 rebounds. Georgia Tech got a nice game from Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had 20 points (including a monster dunk with 24 seconds left that looked like it might seal the win), but they were let down by a defense that hasn't been nearly as good this season as last season. East Tennessee State scored 18 of their 21 made two-pointers from inside the paint and scored 1.11 PPP overall.
Ge'lawn Guyn's game winner

A single bad loss hardly ends a season, but Georgia Tech isn't showing signs of a team likely to seriously contend for an at-large bid in March. And the question that will arise if they fail to make it for the sixth straight season will be whether Brian Gregory has to go. And this decision is complicated by the fact that they are still paying Paul Hewitt's buyout. In my opinion, Georgia Tech is still showing some forward momentum (the program was in awful shape when Gregory took over), so I don't think they should pull the plug quite yet. But whatever my opinion is, Brian Gregory's seat is definitely getting warmer on the Georgia Tech bench.

Saint Mary's Routs Stanford Stanford has had a shaky start to their season, though this game was entirely about jump shooting. Saint Mary's hit 59% of their jump shots, including 9-for-16 behind the arc. Stanford hit just 18% of their jump shots. It's almost impossible to beat a quality team with that type of shooting differential. Saint Mary's was led by 11-for-15 shooting from Joe Rahon.

Power 5 conference teams are not eliminated from at-large contention in November, but at this point Stanford doesn't look like a team capable of contending for an at-large bid. And with Villanova coming up next (part of the NIT Season Tip-Off), Stanford is likely going to drop below .500 for at least a little while.

Saint Mary's was expected to be in a rebuilding season, with no seniors on the roster and with a lot of playing time going to freshmen like Kyle Clark. But this performance suggests that maybe they'll be a little bit more competitive in WCC play than was expected preseason. Perhaps an NIT bid will be possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SMC is always an underdog. With no seniors this year, SMC should be an even bigger force next year