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Five Thoughts: Illinois vs. Ohio State, Kentucky’s freshmen ‘woes’

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League standings have nothing to do with NCAA tournament seeding: I spent 16 hours over the course of two days last week locked in a room with 19 other writers as we traversed our way through the NCAA tournament selection process. And one thing that I can tell you with utter certainty is that league records don’t mean a single thing to the committee. It’s not just that we don’t mention what the record for a team is in conference play, it’s not even available on the nitty gritty profiles used to compare teams.

Illinois and Ohio State are a perfect example of this. The Illini currently trail the Buckeyes by two games in the Big Ten standings, but if the season were to end today, Illinois may actually have a higher seed in the NCAA tournament than Ohio State.

Why?

Well, Ohio State’s resume is bolstered by the simple fact they have played a lot of good teams. They did beat Michigan and they do have a win over Wisconsin at home, but their best road win is at Nebraska. Illinois has won at Gonzaga and won at Minnesota. They beat Indiana at home and they have wins over Butler and Ohio State, the latter of which was a 19 point victory to kick off Big Ten play.

Sure, those losses to Northwestern and Purdue are ugly, but is that really enough to outweigh the fact they have four wins over the RPI top 20, three of which were away from home? It’s worth arguing, but I’d probably seed Illinois higher.

Kentucky’s struggles should only emphasize just how impressive last year’s team was: This is what a team filled with freshmen and newcomers is supposed to do. They’re supposed to struggle to find their roles and they’re supposed to have issues with leadership and playing consistently. The transition from high school and AAU ball to playing at the highest level of collegiate hoops isn’t supposed to be easy.

And just because it was for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis last season doesn’t mean it will be for any other crop of freshmen that John Calipari brings in.

All things considered, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have had decent freshmen seasons. If they were on any other team or in any other programs, they wouldn’t be considered failures as much as they would be thought of as freshmen that are being freshmen. So Goodwin shoots to much and has a bit of a temper. So Poythress struggles with consistency and gets overwhelmed by the moment. So Willie Cauley-Stein is raw. They’re supposed to be.

Don’t let the fact that Coach Cal landed a series of players that never should have set foot on a college campus blind you to the fact that this year’s freshman class looks an awful lot like what freshmen are supposed to look like.

Eli Carter fractured his fibula, and came away lucky: The Rutgers guard will be out the rest of the season after fracturing his right fibula in an ugly fall against DePaul on Saturday. He isn’t expected to need surgery — and he even tried to convince the Scarlet Knight medical staff to let him back into the game — but the sophomore won’t be suiting up again this season.

But watch how he fell:

source:

He’s lucky that his leg is still attached. That could have been so much worse.

(GIF via @bubbaprog)

NC State played it right, but got robbed by the refs: Up by three with just eight seconds left, NC State decided to foul Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green. Green made the first free throw and missed the second, and Jarell Eddie was there to tip-in the miss and send the game to overtime.

NC State made the right call, because if the officials had made the right call, the game never would have made it to overtime. Watch Eddie’s feet:

He’s well past the three point line before the ball hits the rim. That’s a clear violation. The basket should have been waived off.

The bigger issue is that this was the third last-second bucket that was scored on NC State because of the lack of a box out. It cost them against Maryland, when Richard Howell and CJ Leslie both tried to block Pe’Shon Howard’s shot and no one boxed out Alex Len. It cost them against Miami, when Richard Howell missed a box-out on Reggie Johnson. Luckily for Wolfpack fans, all this shot did was force overtime.

Johnathon Loyd has played well of late: Oregon lost three games in a row because of their point guard play. We noted that fact. So we should also not that that point guard has played much better of late. With Dominic Artis out with a foot injury,  Loyd struggled in his first couple of games running the show. But in the last three, he’s scored 22 points, handed out 11 assists, and, most importantly, turned the ball over just four times. It’s no surprise that Oregon won games at Washington and Washington State this week.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.