2018-19 RTC16: Week Twelve

Posted by Walker Carey on February 11th, 2019

Throughout a majority of the conference season, it has felt like #12 Marquette and #13 Villanova were the only two Big East teams with a legitimate shot at the regular season title. As the league race hits its home stretch, that feeling has borne itself out. Even though the Golden Eagles had been tripped up by St. John’s earlier last week — their second loss to Chris Mullin’s squad this season — Marquette rode a 38-point performance from star guard Markus Howard to a thrilling 66-65 victory to cut Villanova’s lead to just one game in the Big East standings. The Wildcats will have an opportunity to avenge the defeat when they welcome Marquette to Philadelphia for the rematch on February 27. Wide-open conference races are always enjoyable, but this season’s Big East race has shown two-team races can be just as fine. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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What’s Trending: The NCAA Tournament is Closer Than You Think

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 11th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Saturday marked the initial release of the Selection Committee’s top 16 seeds for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. While the choices lacked much in the way of surprise, the release was followed by five of those teams losing later that day.

Earlier in the week, the college basketball world was reminded of the drama that comes along with NCAA violations, as Arizona decided to place assistant coach Mark Phelps on administrative leave. The Wildcats have struggled both on and off the court this season.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Conference Races Heating Up

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 8th, 2019

Football season is now completely in the rear view mirror and the casual fan is welcomed to a weekend of college basketball highlighted by the #1 vs. #2 Duke/Virginia rematch along with numerous other heavyweight contests. Here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s loaded slate of action.

It’s Part Two of Potentially Four Duke-Virginia Match-ups This Season (USA Today Images)
  1. Which elite team’s defense improves upon a lackluster performance in the first match-up? (Duke @ Virginia, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) In Duke’s 72-70 win over Virginia last month, the two teams combined to shoot 67.1 percent from inside the arc. R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson, in particular, made 20 of their 28 two-point attempts that night. If interior defenses improve in round two, which team wins the three-point contest after the two teams combined for 5-of-31 shooting? This is without question the game of the weekend, and quite possibly the entire regular season.
  2. Can LSU protect its home court against a surging Auburn team? (Auburn @ LSU, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN2) Since losing three straight games in mid-January, Auburn has rallied back with three consecutive double-figure wins. In SEC play, no team has gotten to the free throw line at a better rate than LSU, while no team has put the opponent at the line at a worse rate than Auburn. Which matters more?
  3. Will Mississippi State’s offense show up against Kentucky? (Kentucky @ Mississippi State, Saturday 1 PM EST, CBS) The last match-up between these two teams was very one-sided as Kentucky held the Bulldogs to a season low 0.79 points per possession. Mississippi State could not buy much success either inside the arc (16-of-41) or outside it (3-of-20).
  4. Which Steven Enoch does Louisville get against Florida State? (Louisville @ Florida State, Saturday 4 PM, ESPN2) Since an early January decision to bring Steven Enoch off its bench, Louisville has gone 7-2. The big man transfer has scored 10 or more points in six of those games. On the season, Enoch averages 10.5 points per game in Cardinal wins and just 5.8 points per game in Louisville’s six defeats.
  5. Can Marquette make the Big East title race interesting? (Villanova @ Marquette, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, Fox) Marquette sits two games behind Villanova in the Big East standings heading into Saturday’s match-up. The Golden Eagles are undefeated (14-0) when holding opponents to an offensive efficiency of 100.0 or worse, but just 5-4 when opponents pass that threshold. Last season, Villanova torched the nets against Marquette, posting offensive efficiency totals of 122.2, 132.2, and 142.7 in three games.
  6. Will Ethan Happ be a dominant force against Michigan again? (Wisconsin @ Michigan, Saturday Noon, Fox) Ethan Happ scored 26 points on 12-of-22 shooting, dished out seven assists and grabbed 10 rebounds in Wisconsin’s first win over Michigan. Going back to his sophomore season, Happ is averaging 20.5 points per game on 45-of-87 shooting against the Wolverines.
  7. As bad as the Pac-12 might be, is it time to start taking Washington seriously? (Washington @ Arizona State, Saturday 10 PM EST, ESPN) After starting the season 7-4, Washington has now reeled off 11 straight victories, eight of which have been by 10 or more points. Three of the Huskies’ early season losses were at the hands of top-15 KenPom teams. If the Huskies can get through their desert trip unscathed, it might be time to consider them a dangerous, if not legitimate, Pac-12 team.
  8. What can be made of Nebraska moving forward? (Nebraska @ Purdue, 8:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Just a few weeks back Nebraska sat at 13-4 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Since then, the Huskers have dropped six straight games, four of which came at home. Tim Miles’ squad still sits in the top 40 in both NET and KenPom, so a win at Purdue would go a long way toward saving Nebraska’s free-falling NCAA Tournament chances.
  9. Can Houston take advantage of Cincinnati’s lackluster three-point defense? (Cincinnati @ Houston, Sunday 4 PM EST, ESPN) On the season, Mick Cronin’s Bearcats are ranked among the bottom 100 nationally in three-point defense. Their lack of success guarding the line has continued as American opponents are shooting 40.4 percent from distance against them. Houston’s Corey Davis and Armoni Brooks are both shooting better than 37 percent from downtown in conference play.
  10. Can Princeton stay in control of the Ivy League regular season race? (Princeton @ Yale, Friday 7 PM EST, ESPN+) While Yale has the Ivy League’s best NET Ranking, it is Princeton that is currently the only unbeaten team in conference play. Over its last six games, Princeton’s opponents have shot just 20.5 percent from beyond the three-point line.
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ACC Weekend Preview: February 9

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 8th, 2019

It’s a busy weekend around the ACC, including the #1 vs. #2 rematch we’ve all been waiting for in Charlottesville. Rush the Court ACC writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) gets you prepped. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, February 9

Clemson Needs a Win and Virginia Tech Visits on Saturday (USA Today Images)

#9 Virginia Tech (18-4, 7-3) at #35 Clemson (14-8, 4-5). This feels like the kind of game Clemson needs to win if it realistically hopes to make the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ current resume has no meat on the bone, so an opportunity to beat a top 10 KenPom team is one they can’t squander. They’ll need to take advantage of a Virginia Tech club without much interior size, which means feeding Elijah Thomas (29.6 PER, 65.9% eFG) like they did in their win over Wake Forest last Sunday (23 points on 10-of-11 FG). What cannot happen is that Thomas instead gets into foul trouble, like he did on Wednesday night at Georgia Tech (seven points in 17 minutes). Given the Hokies’ firepower from the outside, it’s difficult to envision a Clemson victory without another monster performance from its big man.

#42 NC State (16-7, 4-6) at #75 Pittsburgh (12-11, 2-8). My, how things can change in just a week. Only 10 days ago, NC State was *this close* to taking down Virginia. After losing in overtime, however, the Wolfpack followed up with embarrassing displays on both offense (24 points in a home loss to Virginia Tech) and defense (allowing 113 to North Carolina in Chapel Hill). So what we have is something that feels like an important game for Kevin Keatts, one in which he really needs a breakout performance from Torin Dorn. The senior shot just 35.3 percent from the field and made only one three-pointer in the last two games, but the bigger issue is that Dorn hasn’t played well since conference play began. In league games only, Dorn (14.3 PER, 41.9% eFG) has been much worse than his overall numbers (20.8 PER, 50.7 eFG%) — if the Wolfpack expect to turn things around, it starts with their small-ball four recovering his groove.

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ACC Stock Report: Volume V

Posted by Matt Auerbach on February 7th, 2019

Saturday’s rematch between Virginia and Duke looked for a while like it would be the deciding factor in this year’s ACC regular season race. Maybe it will turn out to be just that, but let’s not rush so fast on calling it the game for the crown.

Stock Rising

North Carolina is Quietly Waiting on Duke and Virginia to Falter (USA Today Images)

North Carolina’s Backboard Dominance: Don’t look now, but Roy Williams’ bunch has officially made the ACC regular season championship a three-horse race. Since its curious blowout loss to Louisville three weeks ago, North Carolina has ripped off six consecutive wins, including a return-the-favor beatdown of the Cardinals on Saturday. Despite some hiccups, North Carolina has never dropped out of KenPom‘s top 10, and currently rates seventh nationally on the strength of both a top-20 offense and defense. During their recent run, it has been notable how the Tar Heels have gotten back to dominating the backboard, a staple for Williams’ squads in Chapel Hill. Since being outrebounded in the January 12 loss to Louisville, the Heels have averaged more than 10 rebounds per game than its opposition, highlighted by a +17 advantage on Saturday. Now 19th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 15th in keeping jits opponents off of the offensive boards, North Carolina has gotten back its identity as an elite rebounding unit. If the Heels hold serve against Miami at home on Saturday, Monday’s home tilt with Virginia could set up as a battle for the top slot in the conference standings — assuming the Cavaliers can protect their home court against Duke — which will be no easy task thanks to…

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 7th, 2019

Here’s another edition of our weekly view at the current ACC standings with a focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their conference records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to share a few interesting notes on teams, statistics and trends around the conference. This week we evaluate how ACC teams are performing on the road versus how well they play in the cozy confines of their home gyms. Finally, we will forecast how the final league standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Tuesday, February 5.

Current Standings

The ACC has a top tier of four teams in efficiency margin with Virginia still comfortably leading the way. It will be interesting to see how the ACC’s upcoming schedule shakes things up. The Cavaliers start a pivotal three-day stretch with Saturday’s home game with Duke, followed by a quick turnaround trip to Chapel Hill to take on red-hot North Carolina team on Monday night. Louisville is also staring at a difficult two-game slate over the next seven days — the Cardinals visit Florida State on Saturday before taking on Duke at home on Tuesday evening. Syracuse has been the most fortunate squad in the first half of ACC play this season. At 7-3, Jim Boeheim’s team is already four games above .500 despite barely outscoring its opponents. Looking at the bottom of the conference, Wake Forest has been the league’s worst performing team by a wide margin, but the Demon Deacons have managed to post a similar record to the five schools directly above them. That’s because Wake Forest has gone 2-1 in ACC games that were decided by four points or fewer. In their other seven outings, the Deacs have been beaten by double-figures.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Home Sweet Home in the ACC

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2018-19 RTC 16: Week Eleven

Posted by Walker Carey on February 4th, 2019

The calendar has turned to February and several conference races have
heated up, the most intriguing of which might be the Big Ten, where a pair of surprising weekend results have changed the league standings. The action began Friday evening at Iowa when #5 Michigan was unable to overcome early foul trouble to big men Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers en route to a 74-59 defeat. While the Wolverines are still in very good shape at 20-2 overall and 9-2 in conference play, it should be noted that they have shown some vulnerability on the road with two straight losses. #9 Michigan State appeared likely to grab sole possession of first place in the league with a home win over spiraling Indiana on Saturday night, but the Hoosiers rode a strong three-point shooting night to an overtime upset victory. The result is even more befuddling when you consider that Archie Miller’s team was without star senior forward Juwan Morgan for the entire second half after leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Losses are bound to happen in conference play, but you have to think Michigan State is shaking its head about its brutal 8-of-22 performance from the free throw line. Those two upsets set the stage for #15 Purdue to join the Wolverines and Spartans atop the league standings if they were able to notch a home victory over Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. For a portion of the game, it appeared as if the Boilermakers were also going to fall victim to an upset. They trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before putting together a 19-2 run to grab control to cruise to a 73-63 win and a share of the Big Ten lead. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Big 12 Weekend in Review: Leaders Stayed the Course With Kansas Hovering

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 4th, 2019

Concerns about Kansas remain, but all the Jayhawks needed to put the Silvio De Sousa news and Marcus Garrett‘s injury behind them was a home game. As it has for decades, a return to Allen Fieldhouse provided a respite as the Jayhawks blew out Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders missing 80 percent of their three-pointers accelerated the outcome, but yet again, Bill Self made the necessary adjustments to enable the Jayhawks to log their best three-point shooting performance in nearly three weeks. While Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State also won their games to stay ahead of Kansas in the league standings, in my mind, the notion of The Streak coming to an end will not merit serious discussion until Self’s club is two or more games back of the leaders with five remaining.

Baylor’s 90-64 victory over TCU on Saturday was big for a few reasons. As former contributor and friend of RTC Kendall Kaut noted, it marked the biggest loss by final margin of Jamie Dixon‘s career as a head coach at either Pittsburgh or TCU. It also kept the Bears in first place, and a 40-point, 9-of-12 from distance showcase from Makai Mason in that game would make even former Brady Heslip turn red. Seriously. Look where some of these shots came from. The win pushed Baylor’s Big 12 winning streak to five games, marking just the third time the Bears have accomplished such a feat. Six league wins in a row has proven elusive for Scott Drew to this point (exempting a couple cases where the sixth win came in the Big 12 Tournament), but the Bears will have a good chance to reach that apex on Wednesday night against Texas. Looking forward, it remains anyone’s guess how long they can stay hot (40.2% 3FG) from distance. This season has been massive for Baylor in that an NCAA Tournament bid seems like a formality just a few months after being picked to finish ninth in the league, but don’t be surprised to see some regression as the schedule toughens on the Bears down the stretch.

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Washington is Dominating the Bad Pac

Posted by Adam Butler on February 1st, 2019

Washington is dominating the Pac-12. This statement is both true and irrelevant, so we’ll focus on the former and how the Dawgs might be slowed. To validate the statement, Washington is undefeated in Pac-12 play (8-0) with an efficiency margin of +19.6. For context, that kind of margin would rate as a top-25 KenPom team. Speaking of KenPom, the Huskies now rate as the 37th-best team in the country, having improved nearly 20 spots since the beginning of Pac-12 play.

Mike Hopkins is Quietly Putting Together a Squad (USA Today Images)

What’s setting the Huskies apart is their defense, improving in year two of Mike Hopkins’ Syracuse-imported zone defense. In conference play, the Dawgs are allowing just 92.7 points per 100 possessions. For context, that’s on pace to be the best Pac-12 defense since Arizona posted an 87.0 defensive efficiency in 2015. For added context (and the less-favorable-to-this-narrative version), the Pac-12 just doesn’t score particularly efficiently, suggesting Washington’s above-average defense is augmented by really poor opponents. In pointing out as much, we’re of course at risk of belaboring the “Pac-12 sucks” narrative. The reality is, however, that Washington is going to lose a game (or two, or more). Who, amongst these poor opponents, is likely to knock them off?

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Ten Questions to Consider: A Super Weekend of Hoops

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 1st, 2019

This weekend’s slate of college basketball from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon will be the perfect lead-in to the “Big Game.” With now under 50 days until Selection Sunday, here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s crucial action.

  1. Can Iowa turn around its porous defense against one of the Big Ten’s best? (Michigan @ Iowa, Friday 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Despite having one of the Big Ten’s most efficient offenses, Iowa finds itself 5-5 in conference play ahead of tonight’s game against Michigan. The Hawkeyes are the only Big Ten team that is allowing at least 1.10 points per possession in conference games.
  2. Is Bowling Green a threat to Buffalo in the MAC’s Eastern Division? (Buffalo @ Bowling Green, Friday 8 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Bowling Green and Buffalo each have just one MAC loss ahead of tonight’s match-up, but the Falcons’ ability to clean up its defensive glass could be the difference-maker. Bowling Green’s Demajeo Wiggins has a defensive rebounding rate that sits among the top five in the nation.
  3. Can Louisville stymie North Carolina’s three-point shooting for a second time? (North Carolina @ Louisville, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN) Roy Williams’ team has shot 40 percent or better from three-point range in six of its past seven games. The single game in which it did not was a 3-of-22 performance in a loss against Louisville. Correspondingly, ACC opponents have shot 30.8 percent against the Cardinals over their last five games.
  4. Will NC State be focused and ready for a feisty Virginia Tech team? (Virginia Tech @ North Carolina State, Saturday Noon, ACC Network) Sandwiched between the disappointment of their overtime loss to Virginia and a Tuesday game against North Carolina, the Wolfpack play Virginia Tech. All three losses by the Hokies thus far have come on the road.
  5. Which Big 12 title contender falls further back in the race for the regular season title? (Texas Tech @ Kansas, Saturday 4 PM EST, CBS) With both teams sitting at 5-3 in conference play, the loser of this game could find itself in the danger zone (yes, even Kansas). After shooting over 40 percent from long-range last season in conference play, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver has missed 24 of his 27 three-point attempts in conference play this season.
  6. Will the three-point line again be the difference in the battle of Mississippi? (Mississippi State @ Mississippi, 3:30 PM EST, SEC Network) In the January meeting between these teams, both sides shot above 55 percent from inside the arc. The Rebels came out on top by four points, however, partly thanks to an 18-point advantage from behind the arc. Ole Miss has beaten the Bulldogs seven consecutive times in Oxford.
  7. Can San Francisco pick up a big resume boost? (San Francisco @ Saint Mary’s, Saturday 4 PM EST) San Francisco has two top-100 KenPom wins on the season, including a win over Saint Mary’s earlier this year. In their win over the Gaels last month, the Dons’ put four players in double-figures.
  8. Which Big East team will end its recent struggles in conference play? (Seton Hall @ Butler, Saturday Noon EST, Fox Sports 1) Collectively, Seton Hall and Butler have lost nine of their last 12 Big East games. In Seton Hall’s one-point win over Butler last month, Butler starters Sean McDermott and Henry Baddley both fouled out.
  9. Will Georgetown be in over its head again with its trip to Villanova? (Georgetown @ Villanova, Noon EST, Fox Sports 1) Villanova has beaten Georgetown seven straight times at home by an average of 17.7 points per game. Jay Wright’s offense is firing on all cylinders now, having shot above 50 percent on two-point attempts and 40 percent on three-point attempts in each of its last five games.
  10. Can Baylor avenge its earlier loss to TCU and stay on top of the Big 12? (TCU @ Baylor, Saturday 8 PM EST, ESPNU) Surging Baylor sits outside the top 30 in the most recent NET Rankings despite sitting atop the Big 12 standings. Scott Drew’s team trailed by as many as 19 points in the loss at TCU, a game in which Baylor’s defense was torched to the tune of 1.2 points per possession.

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