This will probably be my last post before Christmas. Like many Americans, I find it hard to get motivated on the last day before break. Many other teams find themselves in that predicament tonight, when they will be playing their last game before a holiday vacation. Hopefully, Illinois will be one of those teams tonight in the "Braggin’ Rights" game. I’d like to see them look human pretty soon.
Not only have they blown everybody out so far, but four of the teams they beat still have just one loss (Arkansas, Wake Forest, Oregon, and Gonzaga). Of course, with Missouri as the opponent, looking human means being up by five at the half, and winning by 15. But still, it would be reassuring to know they will not be ’91 UNLV (whose toughest regular-season game was also at Arkansas. Coincidence? Well, yeah).
The place I’d go if I could go anywhere tonight? The Pit in Albuquerque. New Mexico hosts Wake Forest. It would be especially useful to be there since the game isn’t on TV.
The Lobos are fourth in the nation in shooting percentage. If there’s one officially sanctioned NCAA stat you want to be near the top of, it’s that one. Of course, New Mexico hasn’t played a particularly difficult schedule. In their only loss, at Oregon, they couldn’t break 40% from the field, although they did hoist 29 threes in that one. This is New Mexico’s weakness offensively – they rely on the three a lot – 40% of their field goal attempts are threes (national average is 32.6%). This is fine when you’re playing Arkansas Pine Bluff, but against opponents with quickness on the perimeter, that shiny field goal percentage has a tendency to nosedive.
New Mexico is ninth nationally in offensive efficiency (points per possession) and Wake is 25th. Wake is also 47th in tempo. So this game figures to be high-scoring, and possibly close.
If you want even more about this game, you could read the short preview I wrote five months ago. It’s not often I say something that ends up being partially true five months later, so I encourage you to check it out.
Instead of being in Albuquerque, I may end up at the Washington State/Wyoming game, which could be the lowest scoring game on tonight’s schedule.
Have a Merry Christmas everybody. When I return, I plan to post adjusted efficiency and tempo data – numbers that take the basic efficiency stats and account for the level of competition – for all 330 teams in the land.