Thursday, January 5, 2012

Morning Wood: January 5 (Temple of Doom Edition)

Some notes on last night's college hoop action:

  • Perhaps this is why Duke doesn't play true non-conference road games. The No. 3 Devils traveled to Philly and got the No. 2 surprised out of them with a 78-73 loss to Temple. Whether Duke deserved their lofty ranking or not, this is a huge signature win for the Owls, and barring a clunker of a conference campaign, mark them down for an at-large spot if they don't claim the Atlantic 10 title. More on that later today. Duke, for their part, still doesn't have a point guard, and that will cost them in March. From Bobby Hurley to Jay Williams to Jon Scheyer, Duke's title teams have all had a steady hand on the rudder, and Austin Rivers' hand (1-8 from 2-point range, 2 assists and 3 TOs against Temple) is far from steady.
  • Syracuse showed that if guard play wins championships, they won't be ignored in March. Their 87-73 win over Providence was a function of sizzling shooting (70.4 eFG%) and some of that steady point guard play that Duke would kill for (Scoop Jardine 11 assists and only one turnover). Between Scoop, Brandon Triche, and Dion Waiters, Syracuse's backcourt is demanding its due as one of America's best. Providence was within one possession early in the second half, but playing only six guys is no way to spend your evening against the nine-deep Orange. Six of the nine scored in double figures last night. Syracuse is a bit size-deficient, and if Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas are going to get into foul trouble against the guard-heavy Friars, then what are they going to get up to against Georgetown, for example?
  • Speaking of the Hoyas, they went on an absolutely insane shooting spree after halftime to rally over Marquette 73-70. They went 50 percent in the first half, but shot a blistering 16-21 in the second. Of course, Marquette also held up their end of the transaction with 6-17 shooting in the second half. One of their last shining moments came with 13:12 left, when Todd Mayo drained a three-pointer to make the score 56-39. For some reason (and contrary to what ESPN's play-by-play will tell you), Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams decided it would be a fine time to call timeout. Help from bonehead timeouts notwithstanding, this is the kind of game that Georgetown should be able to build on and add to all season, and if they get dropped early in the Tournament again (aka "getting VCU'd"), it's time to examine John Thompson closely.
  • Kansas State fell behind 23-5 early and took a 50-26 whipping on the boards. Both of those are surefire ways to forgive an opponent for 20 turnovers, which is just what they did in a 67-49 loss to Kansas. The Jayhawks rolled a 57.6% on the offensive glass, which may not be all that much of a surprise, considering that K-State has never ranked inside the top 240 in America in defensive rebounding percentage all season (and is now sagging close to #300). Still, this is embarrassing. Kansas is still a six-man team, and one of those six often seems to be playing for the other side. Tyshawn Taylor committed another eight turnovers last night, and is up over four per game on the season. He uses a ton of possessions, which keeps his percentage down, but he's hard to trust against quality opposition (11 giveaways against Duke, seven against Ohio State, and now this). Missouri ranks eighth in the nation in steals per game. Wonder what his line will look like against them?
  • Yesterday, I made mention of how Florida State can't score. Then, they go out and hang 85 on Auburn. Enjoy it, Noles fans. Auburn is #139 defensively according to Ken Pomeroy, and this is against a schedule that ranks 336th nationally in offensive efficiency. Translation? Auburn won't stop anyone remotely good. They gave up 83 to UTEP, for cryin' out loud.
  • In the preseason, I was touting Xavier for the Final Four. Ever since throwing bones with Cincinnati (and the Little General, Tu Holloway, touting his team as "gangstas"), the Musketeers have looked more bound for the First Four. Now the A-10 title isn't even a certainty, with Temple, Saint Louis, St. Joseph's, and even LaSalle (?) floating around. As of last night, we already know that LaSalle can take down X. What we don't know is where the hell Tu's long stroke went after he singlehandedly assassinated Purdue. He's 6-28 from deep since that game, and four of the makes came in the loss to Hawaii. X also has struggled with the perimeter defense since the Crosstown Throwdown. Only one of their first eight opponents cracked 33.3% from deep, but since the brawl, four of six have done it. All of those games were losses.
  • Northwestern's still never made the NCAA Tournament, and games like last night's 57-56 squeaker loss to Illinois are the main reason why. The Illini tried their damndest to give the game away, shooting 9-23 (39.1%) in the second half. Northwestern saw their ineptitude and raised it, going 6-25 from the floor, including 4-17 inside the three-point arc. That's hideous any day, and sort of atypical for the Cats so far this year. They rank #28 in Pomeroy's adjusted offense leaders, while playing the #33 defensive schedule. But, Illinois is #21 in defensive efficiency, so perhaps we shouldn't be all that surprised. This would have looked pretty good for the Cats' tourney resume.
  • St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson is one of the best players you might not have heard of, but this season, he's having a hard time playing like it. He dropped 15 on George Washington in both teams' A-10 opener, but by his standards, the game was a yawner. His 14.3 ppg would be solid for most, but it's closer to his freshman average (12.5) than last year's 20.8. His minutes have dipped, he's posting his worst shooting percentages ever, and he committed nine fouls in 24 minutes against St. Francis and Niagara. If he can get back in gear, the Bonnies are a dark horse in the A-10 tournament. If not, he can forget All-American honors and will struggle to make all-conference.
  • Cincinnati finally got back to full strength after the Xavier suspensions, not that they really missed Yancy Gates all that much. Their win over Notre Dame said more about the Irish than it did about the Bearcats. ND simply struggles to score against quality opposition. For every 61.4% against Sacred Heart, there's a 38.1% against Indiana (or a 33.3% vs. Cincy, for that matter). Eventually, Mike Brey's going to have to start benching kids for taking too many goofy threes. A 5-28 night from deep was the biggest hurdle they had to fight against Cincinnati. Cincy holds teams to 29% from three, so you'd think that attacking the rim (and possibly wearing out/fouling out Gates quickly) would be an option. So you'd think.
  • Georgia State sprung one on VCU, throwing the Colonial wide open. Perhaps "sprung one" isn't the right phrase, because that makes it sound like a massive upset. GSU's #11 in the nation defensively, so they're never out of the game. Granted, their RPI's not hot, since VCU was only their second Top 100 opponent (they lost big to Washington), but that 0.68 defensive efficiency is 26% better than anyone else in the CAA. They'll play some dull games, but it'll be a surprise if anyone buries them.
  • Respect to Dayton for losing their second-leading scorer and rebounder, Josh Benson, to a torn ACL and then surviving a tough OT game against a Saint Louis team that's becoming a sexy Cinderella pick. The Flyers got 23 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks from Benson's erstwhile backups, Luke Fabrizius and Alex Gavrilovic.
  • Iowa only loses by three to Purdue, then knocks out both Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road? This is the same team that lost to Campbell and Clemson by 16 each? I call shenanigans. They've already got the reincarnation of Roy Marble out there. If someone's channeling B.J. Armstrong and Ed Horton, too, that's gotta be some kind of violation.
  • Finally, pour some out for those poor bastards at Towson. A 60-27 loss to Drexel tied the NCAA Division I record for consecutive losses, serving as No. 34 in the epic streak. They went 0-for-the 2011 calendar year, and 2012 isn't off to a hot start, either. They're at Old Dominion on Saturday for the likely record-breaker.
The fun ones coming up today:
  • Purdue should be a lot more comfortable at Penn State without Talor Battle there to drag the Lions into the game singlehandedly;
  • My newly minted alma mater, Middle Tennessee, gets to tee it up with Troy, a team that will bomb from deep all night. Just to be fair, the Trojans let the other team do the same.
  • Michigan and Indiana get to show who's more for real;
  • Fordham tries to follow up beating Georgia Tech and Harvard with a conference win over UMass;
  • Pitt tries to avoid hitting rock bottom (aka losing to DePaul);
  • Two of the Pac-12's favorites try to avoid stumbling over Beaver State roadblocks: Stanford at Oregon and Cal at Oregon State;
  • And Long Beach State gets settled in for Game 2 of a Big West schedule that has to feel like an extended vacation after that non-con meat grinder they put themselves through.
Happy ballin'.

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