Monday, November 30, 2015

Morning News: Michigan St Tops Providence, Alabama Upsets Notre Dame, Iowa Routs Wichita St, And More

We can't believe how well you're playing either.
Michigan State Tops Providence The difference in this game was Michigan State's depth. Providence only plays seven guys, and by midway through the second half their entire starting lineup was in foul trouble. Kris Dunn picked up his fourth foul with 8:07 to go, and Ed Cooley tried to buy time with him on the bench, but three minutes later their three point lead and turned into a two point deficit. Dunn was rushed back into the game, but the Spartans hit their free throws down the stretch and never again surrendered the lead.

While Providence is going to be vulnerable to foul trouble this season, they have looked really good early on this season. We knew Kris Dunn would be Kris Dunn, but Ben Bentil has taken a leap and become a really good post player. The Friars certainly look like an NCAA Tournament team right now.

The Spartans will get some good competition at the top of the Big Ten from Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa, but for the time being they have to be considered the favorite. I've been very impressed by how much freshman production this experienced, talented team has gotten. Deyonta Davis in particular is a monster in the paint for a freshman. He's a force on both ends of the court. Gavin Schilling has not played yet this season, and at this point he isn't even really needed. Davis is already a better player than Schilling.

Alabama Upsets Notre Dame Mike Brey teams are always going to score points, particularly one as talented as this one. And the Irish scored plenty here, finishing with 1.14 PPP. The problem was that they could not stop Alabama ball handlers - particularly Retin Obasohan - out of the lane. Alabama hit 22 of their 31 shots in the paint (a 44-30 advantage in paint points), and hit 63% of their two-pointers overall. Obasohan had 19 points, including this beautiful drive for the game-winner:
This win for Alabama comes on the back of a win over Wichita State, but that Wichita State team was down Fred VanVleet for the entire game and Anton Grady for a big chunk of it. In contrast, Notre Dame was at full strength here. There are still significant flaws for this Alabama team (their inability to shoot or rebound being the two most blatant), but they're showing some life in Year One of the Avery Johnson era.

Notre Dame leaves Orlando with losses to both Alabama and Monmouth while beating Iowa. It's generally not a good idea to draw narratives from three game samples, but it's worth noting that Alabama and Monmouth are both teams that have quick perimeter players who attack the rim hard while Iowa is a team that likes to have jump shooting contests. It might not be meaningful, but it might be.

Iowa Routs Wichita State Wichita State was very much shorthanded here. They are going to be led later this season by the three-headed juggernaut of Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, and Anton Grady, yet VanVleet and Grady both missed this game with injuries. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this was a very impressive performance from Iowa. The Hawkeyes were up 51-21 at one point in this game. Jarrod Uthoff was strong on both ends of the court, pouring in 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

The media loves to say that the Selection Committee will give teams a discount for games lost without injured players, but the reality is that it's awfully hard to find any examples of it, other than the famous Kenyon Martin case from 15 years ago. The fact is that Wichita State, as good as they are, are now in very serious trouble of needing to win Arch Madness to make the NCAA Tournament if they don't get healthy soon. A game against Utah in a couple of weeks will potentially be their only remaining chance for an RPI Top 50 victory this season.

Iowa quietly looks like a contender to win the Big Ten. It's early, but so far it's been hard to distinguish their level of play significantly from Michigan State, Purdue, or Maryland, the other top title contenders.

Oklahoma Suffocates Wisconsin Oklahoma's defense has quietly been one of the best in the country for a while now. They led the Big 12 in PPP defense last season, and are holding opponents to 0.82 PPP so far this season. Here, they shut off the paint and forced Wisconsin to hit jump shots, finishing with a 34-to-10 advantage in paint points. Wisconsin's young team has struggled to hit jump shots all season, and they were particularly awful here. In the end, Wisconsin finished with a 28.7 eFG%, which was their worst shooting day since they had a 25.0 eFG% against North Dakota State on January 21, 2006.

Off their worst shooting day in almost a decade, Wisconsin is picking a bad time to head to Syracuse to face Jim Boeheim's zone. That said, at some point their shooting gap (they are hitting 30% on threes and allowing 45%) will close somewhat out of pure statistical regression.

The Sooners are again in a position to challenge Kansas in the Big 12. Baylor and Iowa State will be there, too, however. Expect the top of the Big 12 to be a bloodbath, as it was last season. They head off to Hawaii in a week to play what should be a fantastic game against Villanova.

Monmouth Tops USC I hesitate to call this an "upset", even though Monmouth was officially a five point underdog in Vegas. This Monmouth team is good, and point guard Justin Robinson has been outstanding all week in Orlando. Robinson had 25 points here, pushing his season average up to 24.4 points per game. Throw in 20 points from Micah Seaborn, and the Monmouth bench was feeling like:

Iona is a good team as well, but Monmouth is going to push them for the MAAC title. Unfortunately, the two teams don't play the first of their two match-ups until January 15th, so it might be a while before we have some clarity there.

As for USC, they are definitely improved this season, but are not yet at-large quality. They have a very tricky game coming up on Thursday night at UC-Santa Barbara (Pomeroy's ratings have USC as only a 1 point favorite), and then don't see a "quality opponent" until Pac-12 play.

Xavier Annihilates Dayton Dayton managed to hang relatively close in the first half here, but were just run off the court in the second. Xavier's defense has taken a step up from last season, and they forced 9 steals and 22 turnovers here, holding Dayton to 0.79 PPP. All five starters scored in double-figures as well, and by midway through the second half this one was over.

Xavier has quietly been one of the most impressive teams in the nation in the early going. They are 7-0 while outscoring opponents by 0.21 PPP, with three wins already over Pomeroy Top 50 opponents. The addition of Edmond Sumner was highly anticipated, and he has given Xavier another angle offensively. And Chris Mack teams are always well-coached. Throw it all together and you have a team that can legitimately challenge Villanova in the Big East.

Dayton, despite this loss, has had a good start to their season. They have a quality win over Iowa and their only loss has been to Xavier. Their remaining opportunity for a quality win outside conference play will come December 9th at Vanderbilt.

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