Quick Hoops Notes FTC:
Boy, I hope Rick Barnes has a few minutes to show his team what happened at MSG today.
He doesn’t have to show them the whole game, or even more than the last five minutes of the first half. What they will see is a St. John’s team tearing up Duke, making them look like, oh, I don’t know, South Florida? A ton of energy, running good plays, getting to the right spots for easy shots, and getting just about every rebound. Meanwhile, Duke looked nailed to the floor and clueless about how to attack. Curiously, Mike Krzyzewski did not call a timeout in the first 20 minutes, and Duke walked off the floor down 21.
Why does all this matter? First, it’s more specific than Barnes talking about how many ranked teams got beat on the road yesterday, although that’s not a bad point, either. Second, it reminds me of what Texas A&M brings to the table when it plays Texas at home, something that seems to escape Texas every single year.
The Aggies have won six in a row against Texas, starting with an upset over a 2005 team that just learned that PJ Tucker was about to flunk out. Five of the wins have been by double digits and the other is known in BCS as “The Shot,” because of Acie Law’s game-winning three against UT’s 2006 EE squad. Even in 2004, the Melvin Watkins 0-16 disaster, the Aggies made Texas work for a 10-point win.
As Trips notes, the Horns are rolling like few other UT teams have, but there is now something about playing at Reed Arena that puts the Aggies into overdrive and also causes the Longhorns to turtle as if they represented the University of Texas at Galapagos.
I honestly don’t expect that sort of effort tomorrow, even though Barnes has brought in more talented squads and got spanked. It’ll be interesting to see how Mark Turgeon reworks the plan to take away a good chunk of Tristan Thompson and also keep Jordan Hamilton in check, as that’s pretty much what has to happen for the Ags to make up 20 points.
If you’re looking for a key, you could do a lot worse than track free throw shooting. If the Horns shoot it like they have in the first three games of this five-game stretch, they probably hold off the Ags and break the streak. If they shoot like they did Saturday night, they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot as well. The second number might be fouls, as Turgeon picked up a T in Austin over the issue and A&M has played a more physical brand of ball at home.
I’ve mentioned Ken Pomeroy’s site a lot, and I think it’s hard to be a serious hoops fan without understanding some of the concepts upon which his analysis relies. Last year he added something called Game Plan, which charts a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency (basically, points scored or allowed per possession) for each game. He’s just modified the data to show how a team’s OE and DE performance ranks numerically compared to each of the other D-I teams the opponent has played. It’s probably easier read than explained, but the point is that since losing to UConn, Texas has been destroying people, especially on the defensive end.
In the current six-game win B12 streak, Texas has posted four defensive 1s – that is, the best defense that opponent has faced this season. They had a 2 against Oklahoma State. They had a 7 against the Aggies, but offset that with a 1 by a huge margin on the offensive side (scoring about 1.4 points per possession).
Big 12 Update
Starting from the bottom, Iowa State appears to have found its level, having lost home games to the two previous worst teams in the league, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. It would be easy to say that there is no recovering from this, but Tech appeared to have hit bottom and commenced to dig and instead bounced back by beating Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
Meanwhile, Colorado played credible games against Kansas and at Baylor but lost both and now has lost four straight. CU does have five league home games left, including A&M and Texas. The Buffs will be a problem for both.
While Tech may yet end up near the bottom on merit despite winning three straight, the new candidates for the lower tier are Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats got hammered at KU last night and are battling Michigan State for worst fall this season, although even MSU may find it hard to match what is looking more and more like a six-win league season for KSU. That’s a battle that could be waged throughout February.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has lost five of six and has Missouri, Nebraska (at Lincoln – ask the Aggies about that trip), Texas, A&M and KU as five of its next six. Three wins probably make the season look at lot better, but that won’t be easy. Since OU still sucks, Nebraska has a shot at a first-day bye at the B12 tournament. If it weren’t for the job Rick Barnes has done, Doc Sadler would be the coach of the year.
Baylor had a status quo week, losing at K-State and beating Colorado in Waco. Frankly, looking at the schedule – how is Wayland Baptist on there? – it could be a status quo rest of the season. They just have an 8-8 look about them, which also puts them in the running in terms of unfulfilled expectation.
Bottom line is that teams that were thought to be contenders are backing up, and it’s at least possible that Texas will have to go undefeated to be certain of winning the conference outright.