Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Morning News: Bubble Watch, Kansas Wins A Wild One, Indiana's In Trouble, Kentucky Comes Back, And More

Nice photoshop work by @mweber5 on twitter.
Bubble Watch With their loss, Indiana drops to the bubble. Temple moves off the bubble in the right direction without playing. The bubble remains 18 teams for 11 spots.

Kansas Wins A Wild One The Jayhawks won the outright Big 12 regular season title in style. They were at serious risk of losing their first Senior Night game since 1983, trailing by 18 points at one stage in the game, and still trailing by eight points with two minutes to go. But West Virginia scored just two points over their final seven possessions, including three missed free throws. Tied in the closing moments they still had one last chance to win in regulation but failed. In overtime, Frank Mason was the star, hitting a big layup to put the Jayhawks up by four and then nailing six straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

The question about Kansas earning a 1 seed if the season ended now, I think, misses the point. If Kansas wins out and takes the Big 12 title, they will probably earn a 1 seed. But there's a far greater chance that they're going to lose a game than that they'll win out and fail to earn that 1 seed. They will be underdogs at Oklahoma on Saturday, and then will likely face three difficult tests in the Big 12 tournament. It goes without saying that they need a healthy Perry Ellis, who injured his knee in this game and might have to miss some time.

What West Virginia did in the first half of this game, without Juwan Staten or Gary Browne and without any fluky shooting, was one of the most impressive halves of basketball played by any team in the nation all season long. But it was all for naught, and now there will be real concerns about West Virginia's Tourney seed sliding if those two can't come back soon.

Indiana Is In Trouble Even when Indiana was 5-1 in Big Ten play, the peripherals all said that they were a .500-quality Big Ten team, and their luck has turned late in the season. After going 4-0 in their first four Big Ten games decided by seven points or fewer, they are 1-3 in four such games since. This game wasn't quite so close, of course. Iowa dominated inside here, holding the Hoosiers to an awful 11-for-30 on layups, blocking 6 shots. The Hoosiers hit just 37% of their two-pointers overall.

Now 9-8 in Big Ten play with an RPI that has dropped out of the Top 50, Indiana is in trouble. Their final regular season game will be at home against a Michigan State squad fairly desperate for a win as well. Even a win in that game won't safely put Indiana into the NCAA Tournament. They'll probably need to win at least one game in the Big Ten tournament.

With five straight wins, Iowa appears to have pulled themselves off the bubble for good. They are 11-6 in Big Ten play with four RPI Top 50 wins and an RPI up to 37th. One more win between now and Selection Sunday should be enough to secure a bid.

Kentucky Comes Back Again We've all seen this movie before. Georgia pushed their second half lead as high as nine points, and they still led by six with under five minutes to go. But after that, their offense just fell apart. Over the next five minutes, nothing they shot went in the hoop, including the front end of all three one-and-ones. Some of that is Kentucky locking down and some of it is just bad play by Georgia. They had their chance and just couldn't hit enough shots.

In the end, this game meant far more for Georgia than for Kentucky. The Wildcats are worried about the undefeated season, of course, but they're headed to a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament regardless of this result. Georgia could have really firmed up their at-large spot with a big scalp. The Bulldogs are still 37th in RPI, but they lack a single win over a Top 40 RPI opponent, and they're just 10-7 in SEC play. A win at Auburn might be enough to safely keep them in the NCAA Tournament, but they probably want to avoid a one-and-done in the SEC tournament as well.

Georgetown Beats Butler Sometimes a game is just about hitting free throws. Here, Georgetown hit 13-for-15, while Butler hit only 10 of 22. And that's how Butler ended up losing despite finishing with nearly as many offensive rebounds (17) as Georgetown had total rebounds (18). In fact, even when Georgetown missed free throws it kind of worked out. One of those misses was by Josh Smith with Georgetown up by 2 points with around 12 seconds left. Kam Woods rebounded it, but D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera snuck in behind to swipe the ball away. He hit his two free throws to seal the game.

Neither of these two teams was at realistic risk of missing the NCAA Tournament, so they're just playing for seed at this point. They're also playing for seed in the Big East tournament. If Georgetown beats Seton Hall and Providence loses a game to somebody, the Hoyas will lock up second place in the Big East. Butler is now at real risk of finishing in just fourth place, setting up a potential semifinal game against Villanova.

Texas A&M Goes Down To Florida Florida's season has gone up in flames due primarily to injuries and bad luck in close games, but they're still a good team. They were actually 4.5 point favorites here, so they didn't even cover the spread in winning this game, though they probably should have. The Gators made the end of this game more difficult than they needed to, hitting just 8 of 18 free throws over the final two minutes. The Gators played strong defense all night, though. Only two SEC teams have held Texas A&M to worse than the 41.5 eFG% that Florida held them to here, and one of them was Kentucky.

Texas A&M is still 11-6 in SEC play with an RPI inside the Top 50, but their highest RPI win is RPI #47 LSU. If the season ended now, I think Texas A&M probably would be in the NIT, though they certainly would have an at-large NCAA case. They need to take care of business at home on Saturday against Alabama, and then need to win at least one more game. The target for them is a Top 40 RPI, The lack of quality wins make them the type of team the Selection Committee won't like to take, but history says that major conference teams which get into the RPI Top 40 almost never get left out.

Bubble Watch Heading Into March 4th

Conference tournaments are underway, though none of them have impacted the bubble watch quite yet.

The biggest result in terms of the bubble last night was Indiana losing to Iowa and dropping back onto the bubble. Temple pulled off the bubble without playing, though, as their RPI slipped inside the Top 40. So we're still at 18 teams on the bubble fighting for 11 spots.

Here is how the bubble stands as we head into Wednesday, March 4th:

Tournament locks (16 teams): 
Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia, Villanova, Maryland, Wisconsin, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Arizona, Utah, Kentucky, Gonzaga

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (32, of which 24 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
AAC, America East, ACC, Atlantic Sun, A-10, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Colonial, CUSA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, MVC, MWC, NEC, OVC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, SoCon, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WCC, WAC

Teams that look safe (9):
SMU, Notre Dame, Butler, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Arkansas

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (11):
Dayton, Temple, VCU, St. John's, Xavier, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, Georgia

The Bubble (18 teams for 11 bids):
Cincinnati, Tulsa, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, Davidson, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Texas, Texas A&M, Boise State, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, LSU, Mississippi, BYU

Best of the rest (6):
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Richmond, UMass, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech

Long shots (22):
Memphis, Clemson, George Washington, Seton Hall, Minnesota, Kansas State, UTEP,  Green Bay, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Toledo, Wyoming, Murray State, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt, Wofford, Stephen F. Austin, Saint Mary's

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Morning News: Bubble Watch, Iowa St Comes Back To Beat Oklahoma, Texas Wins A Fight-Marred Game, And Rasheed Sulaimon Allegations

"So who's gonna finish in 2nd place next year?"

Conference tournaments kick off today. Yes, today. It will be officially March Madness in just a few hours. So while yesterday had relatively few meaningful games, tonight is when the fun really gets going.

Bubble Watch No changes to the bubble last night. Still 16 teams locked in, with 18 teams on the bubble for 11 spots.

Iowa State Comes Back To Beat Oklahoma The Sooners actually led this game 48-28 with 15 minutes to go, but a frantic 22-0 run over fewer than six minutes completely turned this game around. At one point, Iowa State hit six straight shots while Oklahoma committed a turnover on four out of six possessions. Overall, Iowa State had a 66.7 eFG% in the second half, compared to 35.7% for Oklahoma. The Sooners offense can go through droughts, but I don't think they've been torched like that offensively for a half all season long. The 59 points in a half were a season high for Iowa State, and they're used to high-scoring games.

Iowa State and Oklahoma are now 11-6 in Big 12 play, which means a couple of things. First of all, Kansas has clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for the 11th straight season, which is perhaps the most incredible streak in college basketball. Second of all, unless Kansas loses at home against West Virginia on Tuesday, the Jayhawks will win the outright conference title. This means that Iowa State and Oklahoma will have nothing to play for but Tourney seed. Both teams are heading for something in the 3-5 seed range on Selection Sunday, most likely. It will all depend on how they finish.

Texas Wins A Fight-Marred Game At 6-10 in Big 12 play, Texas had no choice but to win this game. A loss almost surely would have dropped them to the NIT, despite the fact that they could finish the season in the Top 20 of Pomeroy and Sagarin PREDICTOR.A Jonathan Holmes three and a big time Prince Ibeh block got Texas into overtime, but that's when things got crazy. Isaiah Taylor started a fight that led to players from both benches getting involved and, by rule, ejected:
Texas had four regulars ejected, which meant that they were hit harder. Baylor lost three players, though only two were regulars. But weirdly enough, it was the guy who started the fight (Taylor) who stayed in the game and hit the game-winning shot:
We know that Texas is almost certainly out of the at-large bid hunt if they fall to Kansas State. But what happens if they beat Kansas State and go 8-10? Well, they're very likely going to play in the Big 12 tourney first round against either Texas Tech or TCU. They probably need to win that game. But if they win there and then lose in the Big 12 quarterfinals against a team like Kansas or Oklahoma? They'll be at the mercy of the bubble. It's impossible to see this far out if that will get them in or not.
Baylor drops to 10-7 in Big 12 play, though they still have seven RPI Top 50 wins, no bad losses, and an RPI in the Top 10. So they still have a shot at a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can make a Big 12 tourney run.

Rasheed Sulaimon Sexual Assault Allegations The story broke yesterday that Rasheed Sulaimon, already gone from Duke, was at the center of a sexual assault scandal before he left. As with all explosive stories like this, my only advice this early on is to save the hot takes until we all know what happened. At some point, hopefully soon, Duke and Coach K will come public with what happened and what they did, and hopefully they behaved properly. If not, then feel free to use your hot takes once they are justified.

Bubble Watch Heading Into March 3rd

The second day of the daily bubble watches turned out to have no changes. So that was poor planning.

We had fun games, but they almost entirely involved teams either locked into the NCAA Tournament or already eliminated. As such, nothing significant has changed. We still have 16 Tourney locks, and the bubble is still 18 teams for 11 spots.

Here is how the bubble stands as we head into Tuesday, March 3rd:

Tournament locks (16 teams): 
Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia, Villanova, Maryland, Wisconsin, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Arizona, Utah, Kentucky, Gonzaga

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (32, of which 24 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
AAC, America East, ACC, Atlantic Sun, A-10, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Colonial, CUSA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, MVC, MWC, NEC, OVC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, SoCon, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WCC, WAC

Teams that look safe (9):
SMU, Notre Dame, Butler, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Arkansas

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (11):
Dayton, VCU, St. John's, Xavier, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, Georgia

The Bubble (18 teams for 11 bids):
Cincinnati, Temple, Tulsa, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, Davidson, Illinois, Purdue, Texas, Texas A&M, Boise State, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, LSU, Mississippi, BYU

Best of the rest (6):
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Richmond, UMass, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech

Long shots (23):
Memphis, Clemson, George Washington, Seton Hall, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas State, UTEP,  Green Bay, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Toledo, Wyoming, Murray State, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt, Wofford, Stephen F. Austin, Saint Mary's

Monday, March 02, 2015

Morning News: Bubble Watch, UConn Knocks Off SMU, Oregon Wins A Bubble Battle, And More

The NPOY favorite won a conference title last night

Bubble Watch Today marks the first of the daily bubble watches that I'll be doing between now and Selection Sunday. We start off with just 16 NCAA Tournament spots locked in and a bigger bubble than usual (18 teams for 11 spots), but that's not too far out of the ordinary for being 13 days out. By Selection Sunday we should have somewhere between 60 and 64 safe NCAA Tournament teams.

UConn Knocks Off SMU This isn't the upset that the media is making it out to be. Depending on where you looked, UConn was either a 1.5 to 2 point underdog here. And the difference here, really, was jump shooting. The Huskies hit 49% of their jump shots, including 45% behind the arc. Ryan Boatright hit 4-for-8 on threes, while Rodney Purvis led all scorers with 28 points. SMU's star Nic Moore had a tough day, scoring just 9 points on 3-for-13 shooting.

For UConn, this game is a reminder that with the AAC tournament on this very court they will have a legitimate chance to steal an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Depending on how the bracket finally ends up, they could potentially have a rematch with SMU in the semifinals.

SMU drops out of first place in the AAC with this loss, though they still control their own destiny. A home game against Tulsa next Sunday will decide the AAC title. Winning that game and taking the AAC tourney title will put them in decent shape for a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon Wins A Bubble Battle Over Stanford Chasson Randle is going to want the end of this game back. In a key bubble battle for both team, Stanford had the ball in a tie game with under 30 seconds to go. But in a weird confused play, Randle threw the ball away to Dwayne Benjamin and then fouled him on the other end. After Benjamin hit one of two, Randle tried hero ball on the other end and got an awful shot that never had a chance.
Jordan Bell. Wow.

Stanford's RPI has dropped out of the Top 50 and they are just 9-7 in Pac-12 play with their road trip at the two Arizona schools to go. They're going to have to win at least one of those two games (and obviously that road game at Arizona will take a near-miracle to win). They have just a single RPI Top 50 win, so if the season ended now they'd very likely be NIT-bound.

Oregon also only has a single RPI Top 50 win, though they do have nine RPI Top 100 wins and are now 12-5 in Pac-12 play with an RPI up into the Top 35. They were due to finish the regular season with three straight difficult road games, but they've somehow already taken the first two. If they can win at Oregon State on Wednesday then they'll be in great shape for an at-large bid.

Ohio State Comes Back To Beat Purdue If Purdue fails to make the NCAA Tournament, they're going to look back on blowing a 12 point halftime lead here. Their offense was a mess in the second half, committing 8 turnovers and scoring just 0.79 PPP. A big problem was their inability to get their bigs the ball on the block. Ohio State kept pushing them away from the basket. D'Angelo Russell didn't have a great shooting day for Ohio State, but he did everything else, leading all scorers with 28 points.

Purdue is now 11-5 in Big Ten play, with another tough road game up next (at Michigan State). Unless they win those final two regular season games (unlikely) they're going to have to win a game or two in the Big Ten tournament. Without any RPI Top 25 wins, they really need to get their RPI back inside the Top 50.

This win pushes Ohio State's RPI back inside the Top 40, and they'd certainly be a Tourney team if the season ended now. Two more wins between now and Selection Sunday should lock them in.

Pitt Loses To Wake Forest This isn't a terrible loss for Pitt in a vacuum. Wake Forest is not a terrible team, and they were only 1.5 point underdogs in Vegas. But Pitt entered this game just narrowly out of the Field of 68, and desperately could not afford a loss here. But after being in control the entire second half, Pitt's stats in the final six minutes of this game (until a meaningless three at the buzzer) were 0-for-5 shooting from the field with 4 turnovers. And down the stretch, some of those turnovers were just comically bad. Jamie Dixon looked about as distraught as I've ever seen him.

Pitt is 8-8 in ACC play and 5-8 against the RPI Top 100 with three RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 49th, but if the season ended now they'd be in the NIT. That home game against Miami on Wednesday is a crucial one for both teams. Even with a win there, Pitt probably has to beat Florida State and then get to the ACC tournament semifinals to earn an at-large bid.

Wisconsin Routs Michigan State The final score makes this game seem a lot closer than it really was. Wisconsin led by 22 points midway through the second half, and Michigan State went on an 8-0 run in the final 45 seconds of garbage time to make the final score much more respectable. Frank Kaminsky had a monster game, scoring 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting despite it only being a 57 possession game. To put that in perspective, that's like scoring 41 points in a 75 possession game. The fact that slow tempos have lowered Kaminsky's raw "counting stats" is pretty much the only reason at this point that Kamsinky isn't a lock for the NPOY award. He's clearly been the best player.

Michigan State has now lost two straight with two more difficult games to go in the regular season. And they do need to win one of those two games, or they will slip onto the bubble. They're not safely in the NCAA Tournament yet. They'd certainly be in the Tourney if the season ended now, though.

Wisconsin very likely would be a 2 seed if the season ended now, but they can get their way back up to the 1 seed line by winning out. They close the regular season with two tough road games, though, at Minnesota and Ohio State. Odds are that they'll lose at least one more game between now and Selection Sunday.

Bubble Watch Heading Into March 2nd

For the final two weeks of the regular season I do a daily bubble watch. Don't look for a lot of analysis in this post, but you will see teams moving up and down daily. Every team below is in black print, but from here on out the teams that move up each day will be colored green while teams that drop will be red.

Unlike my bracket projection, this is a measure of where teams are now, rather than a projection. So it won't perfectly overlap with my projected bracket.

Something to keep in mind, which something causes confusion, is what these categories mean. Remember that weird things can happen the final week of the regular season. What happens if UConn wins the AAC title, or Florida State wins the ACC title? What happens if Illinois gets to the Big Ten title game? Tournament bids can be stolen.

So, a team doesn't become a "lock" unless they can lose out and have a crazy and chaotic final week of the bubble and they still don't have to worry about sweating out Selection Sunday. Similarly, teams that are "safe" are just that... safe. Unless all hell breaks loose, they'll be in as well.

The bubble is larger than usual for two weeks out from Selection Sunday. Right now I've got 18 teams for for 11 spots. But by Selection Sunday last season the bubble was 9 teams for 5 spots, so things will clear up and thin out over the next two weeks.

As always, teams are listed alphabetically, by conference and then by team within conference.

Here is how the bubble stands as we head into Monday, March 2nd:

Tournament locks (16 teams):
Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia, Villanova, Maryland, Wisconsin, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Arizona, Utah, Kentucky, Gonzaga

Automatic bids yet to be awarded (32, of which 24 are not projected to be won by teams currently locked into the Tournament):
AAC, America East, ACC, Atlantic Sun, A-10, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Colonial, CUSA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, MVC, MWC, NEC, OVC, Pac-12, Patriot, SEC, SoCon, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WCC, WAC

Teams that look safe (9):
SMU, Notre Dame, Butler, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Arkansas

Teams definitely in the Tournament... for now (11):
Dayton, VCU, St. John's, Xavier, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, Georgia

The Bubble (18 teams for 11 bids):
Cincinnati, Temple, Tulsa, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, Davidson, Illinois, Purdue, Texas, Texas A&M, Boise State, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, LSU, Mississippi, BYU

Best of the rest (6):
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Richmond, UMass, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech

Long shots (23):
Memphis, Clemson, George Washington, Seton Hall, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas State, UTEP,  Green Bay, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Toledo, Wyoming, Murray State, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt, Wofford, Stephen F. Austin, Saint Mary's

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Morning News: New Bracket, BYU A Tourney Team?, Arizona Takes Out Utah, Wichita St Wins The MVC, And Much More

Yikes.

New Bracket Projection The BYU/Gonzaga game created two significant changes. First, Gonzaga is no longer a projected 1 seed, replaced by Villanova. Second, BYU moves into the projected Field of 68, along with Boise State, replacing Miami and NC State. Valparaiso also moves in, replacing Cleveland State. Click the link for all the details.

BYU A Tourney Team? BYU is a Tournament quality team, they have a strong won-loss record and pretty good computer numbers. What they didn't have was a big time win, until last night.  Though they almost blew this one, despite leading by double digits for most of the second half, including a ten point lead with under six minutes to go. Finally heading to the line up by 3 with under 10 seconds to go and a chance to ice the game, 88% free throw shooter Tyler Haws inexplicably missed both free throws. BYU then chose to foul rather than allow a three to tie, but after Eric McClellan hit the first, he tried to miss the second but accidentally made it. After Ryan Andrus made two free throws for BYU, Kyle Wiltjer actually got a reasonable look for the tie from midcourt, clanking off the rim.

BYU still has just this as their only RPI Top 50 win, but they're up to 35th in RPI. If they can avoid a bad loss in the WCC tourney, their computer numbers should be enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament. If they fall on their face in the WCC tourney, though, they'll be in trouble.

The media was mostly clamoring for Gonzaga to not be a 1 seed, and now they have their excuse. Gonzaga probably doesn't have a 1 seed resume at the moment anyway, but it's hard to see how anything they do in the WCC tournament is going to convince anybody to move them back to the 1 seed line.

Arizona Takes Out Utah This was an "upset", believe it or not. Utah was a 2.5 point favorite. The Utes were at home and looking for revenge for an embarrassing loss in Tucson. And Utah led early, but Arizona locked down defensively in the second half, just as they had in Tucscon. Arizona blocked five shots in the second half alone, where Utah also shot just 2-for-11 behind the arc. For the game, Utah only had a 37.3 eFG% and scored just 0.93 PPP. Still, Utah led in the final two minutes, before they missed their final five shots of the game and came up short.

Arizona is still just 7th in RPI, but they have clinched the 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and will almost certainly earn a 1 seed to the NCAA Tournament if they win out. If Utah finally gets revenge in the Pac-12 tournament, though, they could potentially drop to a 2 seed.

Utah probably blew whatever chances they had at a 2 seed by losing here, though they'll have a case to make if they win the Pac-12 tournament. Still, it would be a mistake to draw too many conclusions from their sweep at the hands of Arizona. They're still going to be something in the 3-5 seed range with a real chance to make an Elite 8 or Final 4 run in the NCAA Tournament.

Wichita State Wins The Missouri Valley Title This was the most hyped game in the Missouri Valley in years, and it delivered. The Wichita State crowd was great, and all of the best players on both teams showed up to produce a high quality basketball game. Seth Tuttle (16 points on 6-for-8 shooting with 6 assists and 7 rebounds) had a big game despite constant double and triple teams. Wichita State had all five starters in double-figures, but none was better than Fred VanVleet. VanVleet finished with 13 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and this killer crossover:
Wichita State's resume has lacked big wins, but this win pushes their RPI up to 11th. A 1 or 2 seed in March will not be available to them, but if they win Arch Madness they'll have a strong case for a 3 seed. Northern Iowa's RPI is still 14th, but they have an even larger dearth of quality wins than the Shockers. They beat Wichita State, and their best non-conference win came over Iowa. If they fail to win Arch Madness, their fans could be pretty disappointed by their Tourney seed. Something like a 7-9 seed is not out of the question.

Kansas State Knocks Off Iowa State We all borrow Rasheed Wallace's "Ball don't lie" after foul calls we don't with, but this game had the first "Inbounds pass don't lie" I can recall seeing. What happened was that Naz Long fell on a loose ball and called timeout as he was skidding across the court, even as replays showed he never had control of the ball. Bruce Weber nearly lost his mind with the refs. But on the ensuing inbounds pass, this happened:
On the following possession, Nino Williams did a good job of using the foul to give. Iowa State then botched the final play, ended with a bad shot, and missed.

I feel like most of my Big 12 game recaps involves me pointing out that the conference is really good from top to bottom and the fans of losing teams should not panic. These two straight losses for Iowa State severely damage their chances of earning a 3 seed in March, but with nine RPI Top 50 wins they're still in good shape for a 4 or 5 seed, and there's no reason to panic about two close losses in difficult games. Any chances of share of the Big 12 title are effectively over, but the Cyclones are still a very good team

VCU Loses Another Heartbreaker VCU had two great chances in the final ten seconds here. Down by two points, Treveon Graham (a 39% three-point shooter) had a great look at the three but missed. Mo Alie-Cox muscled for the offensive rebound, somehow ending up with a wide open layup for the tie that was almost too open - he missed it. Jordan Sibert got the defensive rebound and then hit two free throws on the other end. Coming on the back of that insane double overtime loss to Richmond, it's been yet another brutal week for VCU basketball.

The media is driving a "VCU is falling apart" narrative over two straight losses, but the reality is that VCU has been playing just fine since Treveon Graham came back. They lost two bad games when both Graham and Briante Weber were out, but since Graham has been back they are just a couple of shots away from winning five straight against a very tough schedule. Don't overreact to luck in close games.

That said, this loss means that VCU no longer controls their own destiny in the Atlantic Ten. Dayton is tied for first with Rhode Island, with Rhody coming to town for a game on Tuesday. If Dayton can win that game and take care of La Salle to secure the A-10 title, they will be safe on Selection Sunday. VCU should be safe also, but these late losses are causing their projected seed to slide.

Texas Loses Another Heartbreaker It was something of a controversial finish in Lawrence, though Texas has to expect to have at least some referee calls go against them when they're on the road. It happens to every team everywhere. In this one, Isaiah Taylor drove with Texas down by two points in the final seconds when he appeared to get fouled hard but with no call. You make the call:
As a lot of Kansas fans pointed out, you can make a good case that Frank Mason was fouled on the previous possession. And of course, there were plenty of other referee mistakes and lucky bounces throughout the game. This is why you don't draw meaningful narratives from a single game.

The problem for Texas is that they've had more than their share of bad luck in close games, and despite being 22nd in Pomeroy, they are in trouble. They're now just 6-10 in Big 12 play, with just two RPI Top 50 wins. If they get to 8-10 in Big 12 play they'll make the NCAA Tournament most likely, but if they finish 7-11 they're in trouble. It's awfully rare for a team four games under .500 in conference play to earn an at-large bid, even from the nation's best conference. So they close with home games against Baylor and Kansas State, and really need to win both.

Kansas will now win the Big 12 regular season title unless they lose out, and are likely headed to a 2 seed on Selection Sunday, though a 1 seed is possible if they win out. Cliff Alexander's suspension is a problem, though, if it lasts into the Big 12 tournament or beyond. That needs to be figured out quickly.

St. Johns Crushes Georgetown The Johnnies are playing very good basketball right now, and they were in no danger at all here in running through Georgetown. They led by as many as 15 points in the first half, and by around 15 points for most of the second half. The final score makes this game seem closer than it really was. Sir'Dominic Pointer (24 points on 8-for-13 shooting) was again great, and he got assistance from Phil Greene IV going 6-for-7 behind the arc. Mikael Hopkins had 12 offensive rebounds for Georgetown, but aside from those offensive rebounds the Hoyas struggled to create offense against the St. John's defense.

St. John's looked to be heading to the NIT a month ago, but they've won 6 of 7 to really firm up their position in the Field of 68. They're now 9-7 in Big East play and 10-7 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that has slid up to almost 30th. If they beat Marquette and win at least one Big East tournament game, that should be enough to lock them in as an at-large team.

Georgetown doesn't have a single RPI 50+ loss this season, but they've struggled to close the deal against quality opponents, and they're just 4-9 against the RPI Top 50. And that's why, if the season ended now, they'd probably just be something like a 7 or 8 seed. They still have plenty of chances to improve their resume, though.

Villanova Wins At Xavier Villanova was outscored in the paint, and was forced to hit jump shots in this game, but they're used to chucking a lot of threes. They finished 13-for-29 behind the arc, and it was enough to win relatively comfortably. Kris Jenkins was a spark off the bench, shooting 4-for-7 with all of his attempts coming from behind the arc.

Villanova is slowly moving up the bracket as the teams above them lose. They've still got a bunch of tricky games to go, but if they can get to Selection Sunday with only two losses and both the Big East regular season and tournament titles, it's going to be very difficult to keep them from a 1 seed.

Xavier drops to 8-9 in Big East play, which means they need to take care of business next Saturday at Creighton. They have five RPI Top 50 wins and their RPI is still 35th, so if they can avoid a sub-.500 conference record they should be safe on Selection Sunday.

Oklahoma State Falls To Texas Tech Outside shooting put Oklahoma State into a significant hole here. Texas Tech hit 6-for-10 behind the arc in the first half while Oklahoma State was 1-for-8. The Cowboys trailed by 14 points at halftime. Oklahoma State came in strong in the second half, scoring 1.55 PPP, but after Jeffrey Carroll hit a three-pointer to put them ahead, Devaugntah Williams replied with this game-winner:
With four straight losses, Oklahoma State is suddenly in bubble trouble again. They have six RPI Top 50 wins and their RPI is in the Top 40, both of which are firmly "In the Tourney" stats, but they're just 7-9 in conference play. Anytime you're under .500 in conference play, things get dicey. If the Cowboys split their final two games and then win at least one Big 12 tourney game, they should be fine.

Kentucky Annihilates Arkansas This game was a complete destruction. Kentucky led by 30 points with 7:15 to go, and it was only a huge run by Arkansas in garbage time that allowed them to almost pull off the backdoor cover of the year (Arkansas was a 15.5 point underdog in Vegas). It's a very impressive result against a team that is arguably one of the 25 best in the nation.

There are some games like this, where Kentucky comes out quickly and blows teams off the court like they don't belong, and others where they struggle for a half or more before taking control late. But I'm not sure I believe the narrative that this is proof that Kentucky "flips a switch" when it's a big opponent and just struggles to focus with lesser opponents. It creates a game of special pleading fallacies, where people pick out certain games and pronounce those the "big games". Kentucky played the College Gameday game at Florida, arguably their biggest game in SEC play this season, and it came down to the final minute. So they don't blow out their opponent in every big game. In other words, the Wildcats are the nation's best team, but I totally disagree with this sentiment:

No Juwan Staten, No Win On Selection Sunday, nobody on the Selection Committee is going to know or care that Juwan Staten didn't play in this game due to injury. On top of that, Gary Browne, Jr (Staten's replacement as starting point guard) was knocked out with his own injury after just three minutes. Throw in hot 8-for-15 three-point shooting from Baylor and West Virginia never had a chance in this game.

Baylor is absolutely rolling right now, and they're now 10-6 in Big 12 play, with a home game against Texas Tech still to come on Senior Day. If they can also win that game at Texas they will start to really make a case for a 3 seed on Selection Sunday. At worst they will be a 4 or 5.

West Virginia is also 10-6 in Big 12 play, though with two more difficult games remaining than Baylor does, and also with a significantly weaker non-conference schedule. This means that they're not going to be in the mix for something like a 3 seed, but they are still very safely in the NCAA Tournament.

Boise State Shuts Down San Diego State You can make the case that no team has "come out of nowhere" like Boise State has this season. At one point in mid-January they were 10-6 overall and 0-3 in Mountain West play with three bad losses and zero quality wins. But they've won 12 of 13 now, are suddenly in first place in the Mountain West, and in strong position to earn a potential at-large bid.

Boise St is just 11-7 against the RPI Top 200, which isn't great, but they have a sweep of San Diego St and a win over Colorado St, and their RPI is up to 28th. If they lose one of their two remaining games their RPI will pop right back out into the 40-45th range and they'll be in trouble, but if they can sweep those two games and then perform competitively in the Mountain West tourney, they really should get into the NCAA Tournament.

San Diego State scored just 0.78 PPP here, the fourth time in Mountain West play that they've been held below 0.90 PPP. Offense has and will remain a problem for them. They've also lost control of the Mountain West. If they win out they'll earn a share of the title, but unless Boise State loses the Broncos will take the 1 seed in the MWC tourney. San Diego State is not realistically going to end up in bubble trouble, but their seed will slide a few lines if they don't win the Mountain West tournament.

North Carolina Handles Undermanned Miami Angel Rodriguez tried to give it a go for Miami in this game, but he ended up giving up after just 3 minutes of zero-impact playing. Without their star point guard, Miami struggled to get good shots, and they finished with just 0.90 PPP, tying their worst offensive performance of the month of February (they also scored 0.90 PPP against Louisville). Brice Johnson was the star for North Carolina, pouring in 22 points (on 11-for-15 shooting) with 11 rebounds.

A loss to North Carolina isn't a bad loss, of course, but it's a huge missed opportunity. Miami drops to 8-8 in ACC play with just road games ahead, at Pitt and Virginia Tech. They still have just a single RPI Top 50 win, are 10-11 against the RPI Top 200, and their RPI has dropped out of the Top 70. If the season ended now they'd be in the NIT. Unless they win those final two ACC games they're going to need to go on a run in the ACC tournament, to at least the semifinals, to earn an at-large bid.

UNC broke a streak of 5 losses in 7 games here. They're still a game back of Louisville for fourth place in the ACC (top four teams get a bye to the ACC tourney quarterfinals), but they'll get a chance to move up, and also to collect a huge scalp, against Duke next Saturday.

LSU Beats Ole Miss In a battle between two bubble teams, LSU got three big second half three-pointers from Keith Hornsby to power to victory. Hornsby's teammates combined to hit just 1-for-10 behind the arc in the game. Ole Miss played sloppy, committing 17 turnovers and getting just 3-for-16 shooting from star Stefan Moody.

This win pushes LSU to 10-6 in SEC play with an RPI inside the Top 40. They're 11-5 against the RPI Top 100, though with three RPI 100+ losses. If the season ended now, that's definitely a Tournament resume. If they can win those final two regular season games they should be in good shape, but with a loss they'll have work to do in the SEC tournament. Ole Miss is also 10-6 in SEC play, but they're just 7-7 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that has slid close to 50th. To be safe for the NCAA Tournament they might have to win a pair of SEC tournament games.

NC State Goes Down To Boston College It feels like NC State does this every season. They have beaten Duke, North Carolina and Louisville, but also lost to Wofford, Wake Forest and now Boston College. So they have five RPI Top 50 wins, but also are just 17-12 overall with an RPI that has slid out of the Top 50.

If the computer numbers are all equal on Selection Sunday, the Selection Committee always prefers teams with big wins and bad losses over teams with neither, so the Wolfpack will get the benefit of the doubt, but they're probably going to need at least two more wins between now and Selection Sunday to be in good shape.

W-2 BP68

It's March, and this is the last bracket projection before the conference tournaments tip off, so things are really going to start moving and changing in the brackets. It's that time of year we all love.

With Gonzaga going down last night, that opens up a new 1 seed line, which is being taken by Villanova. Gonzaga drops to a 2 seed. Realistically, I don't think Gonzaga can get back to that 1 seed line, as they'd have way too many teams to pass. Duke, Wisconsin and Kansas will all be in good shape for a 1 seed if they can win out, though winning out will be very difficult for all three.

Among the at-large teams this week, Boise State and BYU move in with big wins, while Miami and NC State drop out. Among the auto-bids, Valparaiso is the new Horizon League favorite, replacing Cleveland State. Though once the conference tournament season kicks off, those 1-bid league favorites will start changing quickly. A lot of favorites will end up losing, as it's the nature of the beast for one-and-done tournaments.

In addition, four teams were eliminated from at-large contention since Wednesday: Sam Houston State, Tennessee, TCU and Washington. That leaves just 31 teams currently out of the bracket that still have a chance for an at-large bid. That number will be down to close to a dozen in two weeks.
Remember, this is a projection of what the bracket will look like on Selection Sunday, and not a measure of where teams would be if the season ended now.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday:

1. KENTUCKY (SEC)
1. ARIZONA (PAC-12)
1. VIRGINIA (ACC)
1. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)

2. GONZAGA (WCC)
2. WISCONSIN (BIG TEN)
2. Duke
2. KANSAS (BIG 12)

3. Oklahoma
3. Utah
3. North Carolina
3. Baylor

4. WICHITA STATE (MISSOURI VALLEY)
4. Iowa State
4. SMU (AAC)
4. Louisville

5. Notre Dame
5. Maryland
5. Northern Iowa
5. West Virginia

6. Arkansas
6. Butler
6. Georgetown
6. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)

7. Michigan State
7. VCU (ATLANTIC TEN)
7. Providence
7. Dayton

8. Colorado State
8. Xavier
8. St. John's
8. Ohio State

9. Georgia
9. Oklahoma State
9. Temple
9. Iowa

10. Cincinnati
10. Davidson
10. Indiana
10. LSU

11. Mississippi
11. Stanford
11. Texas
11. Texas A&M
11. Boise State

12. Purdue
12. BYU
12. LOUISIANA TECH (CONFERENCE USA)
12. IONA (MAAC)
12. MURRAY STATE (OVC)

13. HARVARD (IVY)
13. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
13. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (MAC)
13. UC DAVIS (BIG WEST)

14. VALPARAISO (HORIZON)
14. WOFFORD (SOCON)
14. EASTERN WASHINGTON (BIG SKY)
14. GEORGIA STATE (SUN BELT)

15. WILLIAM & MARY (COLONIAL)
15. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (MEAC)
15. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (SUMMIT)
15. NORTH FLORIDA (ATLANTIC SUN)

16. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)
16. ALBANY (AMERICA EAST)
16. HIGH POINT (BIG SOUTH)
16. TEXAS SOUTHERN (SWAC)
16. ST. FRANCIS-NY (NEC)
16. COLGATE (PATRIOT)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Tulsa, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Oregon

Decent resumes, but not good enough:
Illinois, Old Dominion

Long shots, but still in the at-large discussion:
Connecticut, Clemson, UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond, Minnesota, Saint Mary's

Still alive, but pretty much need a miracle:
Memphis, George Washington, Seton Hall, Michigan, Kansas State, Green Bay, Buffalo, Toledo, UTEP, Wyoming, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt

Friday, February 27, 2015

Morning News: What's Ahead, Minnesota Wins A Wild Game, Kevin Stallings And Jordan McLaughlin



Utah had more blocks (10) than ASU had points in the 1st half.


What's Ahead On a slow night of college basketball, I wanted to give you all some quick words on what the plans are for this blog over its busiest part of the year: the next six weeks or so. First, I've decided that I don't quite have the time to pump out previews for all of the conference tournaments, so I won't be posting those this year. But I will start the daily Bubble Watch again on Sunday, continuing it for the two weeks through to Selection Sunday.

In addition, I am going to start working on my 2015-16 conference previews today. Yes, today. They take a ton of work, and I hope to start rolling them out on March 23rd or 24th, just before the Sweet 16 games tip off. In the past, I have always posted my preseason bracket projection one week after the title game, which this year would be April 13th. I'll try to get it done even earlier this year, though I can't promise it. If you're new to the blog this season, you can click on this past season's conference previews which are still on the upper right hand corner of this page to see what is ahead.

Minnesota Wins A Wild Game This game was just wild down the stretch, and Michigan State fans surely can't understand how their team blew this one. Minnesota entered this game 2-7 in Big Ten games decided by six points or fewer, so everybody was firing up their "Minnesota can't win close games" narrative, but it was Michigan State that messed up late. First, up by three points in the closing seconds they fouled Carlos Morris in the process of hitting a three-pointer. Morris missed the free throw that would have won the game in regulation, and they went to overtime. In overtime, Travis Trice, normally a good free throw shooter, missed four of six at the line. Minnesota was able to grab the early lead and hit enough free throws down the stretch to hang on.

Minnesota is now 6-10 in Big Ten play with this win. Last season, an 8-10 Big Ten team would have had a strong bubble case, but not this year. Unless Minnesota wins out all the way to the Big Ten tournament game, it's hard to see any scenario where they're in the bubble mix on Selection Sunday.

Michigan State drops to 10-5 in Big Ten play with a tough finishing stretch, including a road game at Wisconsin on Sunday. It's worth noting that they still only have two RPI Top 50 wins, so Michigan State isn't a complete Tourney lock yet. They need another win or two to be fully safe.

Kevin Stallings Berates Wade Baldwin This was a "controversy" where it felt like everybody was just going through the motions. I don't think anybody was actually really bothered by what happened. In short, Wade Baldwin was taunting some Tennessee players late in this game fairly blatantly. Stallings shouted at him in view of the camera, with the offending line being "I’ll ****ing kill you". Those words are a bit too strong, but anybody who has played high level college sports has been called pretty bad things by a coach, and if anything you respect Stallings for getting angry about his own team taunting and wanting them to respect their opponent.

Jordan McLaughlin Done For The Season This isn't the first injury problem for Andy Enfield's star recruit at USC. It's not that this season is going anywhere anyway, but this is the sort of injury where you wonder if it might impact him next season as well. The Andy Enfield Media Honeymoon appears to have ended this season, and if the Trojans don't become a competitive middle-of-the-pack Pac-12 team next season, the whispers will start to call for Enfield's job.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Morning News: New Bracket, Richmond Wins A Thriller, Baylor Wins At Iowa State, Northwestern Knocks Off Indiana, And More

Um.

New Bracket Projection Virginia moves up to a projected 1 seed, replacing Wisconsin. There were also four changes to the Field of 68 itself. Purdue, Cleveland State, Central Michigan and North Florida move in, while Illinois, Green Bay, Toledo and Florida Gulf Coast drop out. For all the details, click the link.

Richmond Beats VCU In A Thriller This was easily the game of the night. Just a really fun, hard fought game. Trying to say which team "deserved" to win a game like this is an exercise in futility. In regulation, Treveon Graham hit a deep three-pointer to tie up the game, and then Richmond came oh so close to winning at the buzzer:
In overtime, it was VCU that led by three points in the closing seconds and they chose to intentionally foul. Shawndre' Jones did a good job of hitting the first and getting a long bounce while missing the second, knocking the ball out of bounds off VCU. Richmond then ran a great baseline out-of-bounds play to get a layup for TJ Cline for the tie. In the second overtime, Treveon Graham tried to hit a jumper to send the game to a third overtime, but Deion Taylor got the block to seal it.

The Atlantic Ten is now plugged up with a four-way tie atop the standings, including VCU. VCU's next two games will be against two of the teams they're tied with (Dayton and Davidson), and they still control their own destiny for the 1 seed in the Atlantic Ten tournament if they win out.

Richmond is now 9-6 in Atlantic Ten play, with an RPI that has slid up to 65th. They're not realistically going to earn an at-large bid, but it's a solid season, and they're going to return everybody from their regular rotation but Kendall Anthony next season.

Baylor Wins At Iowa State It's going to take a good team playing really well to win at Iowa State, and Baylor shot the lights out here. They hit 14-for-26 (54%) behind the arc, compared to just 39% on two-pointers. The key stretch started with around 8 minutes to go, when Baylor hit six consecutive three-pointers, including three by Taurean Prince, who led Baylor with 20 points. Iowa State was also limited in the easy baskets that they tend to rely on, getting just 2 fast break points.

Iowa State had a chance to tie Kansas atop the Big 12 standings here. Kansas will likely lose again, though, so if Iowa State can win out then they will still have a good chance for that share of the conference title.

Baylor has won three straight games to get to 9-6 in Big 12 play and 6-5 against the RPI Top 50, with an RPI up to 11th. They are very much in the conversation for a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament,

Northwestern Knocks Off Indiana Welsh-Ryan is a house of horrors for Tom Crean, who dropped to 4-8 in his career against Northwestern with this loss. Indiana is now 7-3 against Pomeroy Top 20 opponents when hitting above 40% behind the arc while just 3-7 when shooting 40% or worse. They are heavily dependent on the three (31 of their 63 attempted shots here were from behind the arc), and their defense is the worst in the Big Ten (Northwestern cruised to 1.24 PPP here). Northwestern was led by Tre Demps, who had 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Northwestern has won four straight Big Ten games now for the first time since 1967, which seems an almost impossibly long streak.

Indiana drops to 9-7 in Big Ten play, with five RPI Top 50 wins and this as their first loss to a team outside the RPI Top 75. Their RPI itself is sitting 36th. So Indiana would certainly be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but they'll be in trouble if they lose one of these two remaining home games (against Iowa and Michigan State). If they lose one, then they're going to need to win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament or they'll need some help to miss the NIT.

Iowa Holds Off Illinois This was a battle between two potential bubble teams desperately in need of a win. But more than anything, it was a frustrating shooting day for Illinois, particularly in the second half. In that second half they hit just 25% of their three-pointers as well as just 25% of their two pointers, scoring just 0.88 PPP. Iowa never could pull away, but Illinois did not have the firepower to catch up either. Aaron White led the way for Iowa with 29 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

Iowa is closing in on a Tournament bid, but they have work to do. Now 9-6, they'd be in good shape if they get to 11-7, but not a lock. They'd want to avoid a one-and-done performance in the Big Ten tournament.

Illinois is in a more precarious situation, now 7-8 in Big Ten play and 5-10 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that has slid to 59th. They have some good wins (Baylor, Michigan State and Maryland), but it's going to be tough to get in with a 9-9 Big Ten record and an RPI outside the Top 50. So really, that road game to close the season at Purdue will be absolutely crucial for Illinois to strengthen their resume and also to damage a rival bubble team from their own league.

Georgia Wins At Ole Miss Georgia and Mississippi both have a chance to be stuck on the bubble on Selection Sunday, but Georgia went a long way toward lowering the stress levels of their fans on Selection Sunday with this road win. Their victory was driven primarily by outside shooting, where they hit 11-for-23 behind the arc. Kenny Gaines was 4-for-7 himself, and he also led all scorers with 22 points. Mississippi, in contrast, had only a 31.0 eFG% in the first half, creating a double-digit hole that they were unable to dig out of.

Georgia's RPI (30th) is obviously inflated, as they're just 8-5 against the RPI Top 100 with four RPI 100+ losses and zero wins against the RPI Top 30. But still, no team from a major conference is realistically going to miss the NCAA Tournament if their RPI is that high. Obviously if they beat Kentucky they'll be safe, but if they lose to Kentucky and win those other two games, I think winning a single game in the SEC tournament should be enough.

This loss dropped Mississippi's RPI from the low-30s all the way to 43rd. Their resume is similar to Georgia, including a few bad losses and zero RPI Top 25 wins. It's the type of soft resume that requires a really good RPI to get in. And unless they win their final three regular season games (unlikely, considering the schedule), Mississippi will have to win a game (or possibly two) in the SEC tournament to get back inside the RPI Top 40.

W-2.5 BP68

The last few days have had a slew of important results, and that has led to changes up and down the bracket.

Starting from the top, we have a new projected 1 seed in Virginia, who played incredibly well against Wake Forest despite being down two starters. Wisconsin drops to a 2 seed.

Further down, there is one new projected at-large team, and it's Purdue. They replace fellow Big Ten team Illinois. In some sense, the bubble got a little bit larger this week. Teams like Indiana and Texas suffered tough losses while teams like Boise State and UCLA kept on winning.

Three projected auto bids changed as well. Cleveland State is the new Horizon favorite, replacing Green Bay (I'm fairly certain, unless I'm reading the rules incorrectly, that Cleveland State will get the #1 seed in the Horizon tourney if they beat Valparaiso at home on Friday). In addition, Central Michigan is the new MAC favorite, replacing Toledo. And North Florida is the new Atlantic Sun favorite, replacing Florida Gulf Coast.

In addition, six teams were eliminated from at-large contention since Saturday: Evansville, Florida State, La Salle, Nebraska, South Carolina and Washington State. That leaves 36 teams currently out of the bracket that still have a chance for an at-large bid.

Remember, this is a projection of what the bracket will look like on Selection Sunday, and not a measure of where teams would be if the season ended now.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday:

1. KENTUCKY (SEC)
1. GONZAGA (WCC)
1. ARIZONA (PAC-12
1. VIRGINIA (ACC)

2. WISCONSIN (BIG TEN)
2. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)
2. Duke
2. KANSAS (BIG 12)

3. Utah
3. Oklahoma
3. North Carolina
3. Iowa State

4. WICHITA STATE (MISSOURI VALLEY)
4. Baylor
4. Northern Iowa
4. SMU (AAC)

5. Louisville
5. Notre Dame
5. Georgetown
5. Maryland

6. Arkansas
6. West Virginia
6. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)
6. Butler

7. VCU (ATLANTIC TEN)
7. Michigan State
7. Xavier
7. Ohio State

8. Providence
8. Oklahoma State
8. Colorado State
8. Cincinnati

9. Temple
9. Dayton
9. St. John's
9. Georgia

10. Mississippi
10. Davidson
10. Indiana
10. Iowa

11. Texas
11. LSU
11. NC State
11. Stanford
11. Miami-Florida

12. HARVARD (IVY)
12. Purdue
12. Texas A&M
12. LOUISIANA TECH (CONFERENCE USA)
12. IONA (MAAC)

13. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
13. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
13. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (MAC)
13. UC DAVIS (BIG WEST)

14. EASTERN WASHINGTON (BIG SKY)
14. GEORGIA STATE (SUN BELT)
14. CLEVELAND STATE (HORIZON)
14. WOFFORD (SOCON)

15. WILLIAM & MARY (COLONIAL)
15. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (MEAC)
15. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (SUMMIT)
15. NORTH FLORIDA (ATLANTIC SUN)

16. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)
16. ALBANY (AMERICA EAST)
16. HIGH POINT (BIG SOUTH)
16. TEXAS SOUTHERN (SWAC)
16. ST. FRANCIS-NY (NEC)
16. COLGATE (PATRIOT)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Illinois, Boise State, UCLA, Oregon, BYU

Decent resumes, but not good enough:
Old Dominion, Saint Mary's

Long shots, but still in the at-large discussion:
Connecticut, Clemson, UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond, Minnesota, UTEP, Alabama

Still alive, but pretty much need a miracle:
Memphis, George Washington, Seton Hall, Michigan, Kansas State, TCU, Green Bay, Valparaiso, Buffalo, Toledo, Wyoming, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Washington, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Sam Houston St

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Morning News: Maryland Knocks Off Wisconsin, NC State Earns A Massive Win, Texas Falls To West Virginia, And More

Nothing like the fun of a court storming.
The anti-court storming School Marms can shove it.


Maryland Knocks Off Wisconsin Wisconsin dug themselves a hole here with some awful first half shooting. They hit just 3-for-20 on jump shots in the first half, falling behind by 11 points. They shot 9-for-18 on jump shots in the second half, pulling within 3 points in the final minute, but couldn't get over the hump. The Badgers got just 2 points in 22 minutes played by their bench, which is going to get a lot better when starting point guard Traevon Jackson comes back. Maryland was powered by Dez Wells, who scored 26 points on 9-for-17 and seemed like a match-up nightmare no matter who Wisconsin put on him.

Maryland is now 11-4 in Big Ten play with an RPI all the way up to 9th, which is starting the hype machine. Yet their Pomeroy rating is still 35th, and their Sagarin PREDICTOR is 34th. Why are the computer ratings so out of whack with public perception? Because Maryland is now 9-0 in games decided by six points or fewer. Via the Pomeroy ratings, they are the second luckiest team in the entire nation, behind only High Point. They are just 7th in the Big Ten in efficiency margin, at +0.01 PPP. In other words, Maryland could earn themselves a 4 or 5 seed (or even a 3, maybe) on Selection Sunday, but they're the perfect candidate for an early upset.

Wisconsin was inevitably going to lose a game with this killer closing stretch. They still control their own destiny for a 1 seed if they win out, but winning out is unlikely. Unless they get significant help, it will be difficult for the Badgers to earn a 1 seed without a Big Ten tournament title.

NC State Earns A Massive Win North Carolina has had some bad shooting days this year, and their half court offense can get very stagnant, but this was the worst they've been plugged up all season. NC State held them to a season low in possessions (60) and in offensive efficiency (0.77 PPP). The Tar Heels had just a 37.3 eFG%. The 46 points North Carolina scored were their lowest ever in the Dean Dome.
NC State fans, uh, celebrated their win last night.

This was obviously a nightmare game that North Carolina will want to forget. They're not going to score 46 points in a game again this season. But a direct impact of this game, besides just the hit to their Tournament resume, is that it drops them a game behind Louisville for 4th place in the ACC with a tough finishing schedule. Remember that the top four teams in the ACC standings will earn double-byes to the quarterfinals.

For NC State, this is the type of win that could put them into the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. They also have that win over Duke and are 8-7 in ACC play and 8-10 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that has moved into the Top 40. If the season ended now they'd certainly be a Tournament team. If they can win two of their final three ACC games and then one game in the ACC tournament, that really should make them fairly safe.

Texas Falls To West Virginia Texas started fouling early and aggressively to try to overcome a significant deficit, just as they had done against Iowa State on Saturday. It's a smart strategy to increase the number of possessions and random variance. But West Virginia wouldn't play along, hitting 11 of 12 at the free throw line over the final 3 minutes, despite only being a 66% free throw shooting team for the season. Texas unsurprisingly found themselves in trouble due to turnovers (17) against West Virginia's aggressive press and trap.

Texas is now just 6-9 in Big 12 play and 1-10 against the RPI Top 50, with an RPI that is only 43rd. If they can't get to 8-10 in Big 12 play (not easy considering that their next game is on the road at Kansas) then they're going to need to win at least a game or two in the Big 12 tournament to avoid the NIT. But that said, this Texas team will be awfully scary if they can sneak into the NCAA Tournament. They're 22nd in Pomeroy and 18th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They'd be favored by 2-3 points on a neutral court against a Maryland team many think will earn a 3 seed. So if they earn an 11 seed, they'd be comparable to the Tennessee team last season that had similar computer numbers and made an Elite 8 run. Definitely not a team you'd want in your region.

West Virginia is no longer worried about bubble concerns. They are 10-5 in Big 12 play and playing for NCAA Tournament seed only. If the season ended now they'd be right around a 6 seed, but they could potentially play their way into a 4 seed with a strong finish.

Notre Dame Falls To Syracuse The Irish had their worst outside shooting day of the season here. They hit just 14% of their three-pointers, which was easily a season low. Their 37.8 eFG% was also their first game this season with an eFG% under 40%. Jerian Grant, for one, was just 2-for-9 from the field. Syracuse has, interestingly enough, been playing their best basketball of the season since announcing that they were forgoing their postseason eligibility. They've now beaten Louisville and Notre Dame in two of their last three games. Their Pomeroy rating has risen from 78th to 58th over the last two weeks.

Notre Dame has an interesting road game up next Wednesday on the road at a shorthanded Louisville team that is going to be easier to defeat than they looked a few days ago. If they can steal that one, they will keep alive their hope of a share of the ACC regular season title. Syracuse gets a chance to play spoiler for both Duke and Virginia over the next week. The way they're playing, don't be surprised if they win at least one of those two games.

Villanova Routs Providence This game was briefly competitive around halftime, but Villanova pushed their lead up to 25 points by midway through the second half, and the rout was on. Darrun Hilliard (6-for-11 behind the arc) had another big shooting day for Villanova, while Kris Dunn was totally shut down (2-for-10 from the field with 7 assists and 6 turnovers). Villanova as a team hit 52% behind the arc. This was pretty much the Villanova Wildcats at their best.

The momentum is growing for Villanova as a 1 seed. They lack really big scalps (VCU, Providence, Georgetown or Butler is their best win), but their RPI is up to 4th and they're going to be really hard to keep off the 1 line if they reach Selection Sunday with only 2 losses. They've got a long way to go, though. A road game at a surging Xavier on Saturday will be tough, and the Big East tournament will have multiple pitfalls.

Providence's RPI (22nd) is inflated, but they're still safely in the NCAA Tournament after this loss. One more win will probably be enough to keep them safe for Selection Sunday. But that said, they're just sixth in the Big East in efficiency margin (+0.01 PPP), so the computers don't think they're likely to make an NCAA Tourney run.

Arkansas Holds Off Texas A&M Texas A&M could not control the ball in the first half, committing a staggering 16 turnovers (a 44% turnover rate) and trailing by 23 points. Yet in the second half, they attacked the Arkansas press as well as the glass, scoring 1.49 PPP. But it all added up to coming up just barely short in the final minute. It turns out it's tough to dig out of a 23 point halftime hole. Texas A&M actually rebounded 63% of their missed shots for the game, which is the most by a major conference team this season against another major conference team (the most in any D1 vs D1 game was 69% by New Mexico State against Stetson). But Arkansas parlayed 12 steals into 27 points off turnovers, and that made the difference.

Texas A&M needed this win much more than Arkansas. They are 10-5 in SEC play, but 0-6 against the RPI Top 50. Their RPI (31st) is obviously inflated. History says that major conference teams inside the RPI Top 40 almost always get in, so that is the mark the Aggies have to aim for. They can get there by winning their final three regular season games, but if they lose one more game then they'll have to win a game or two in the SEC tournament.

Arkansas is up to 23-5 overall with an RPI that is all the way up to 16th. The lack of big wins (SMU is their best) means that they'd be a 5 or 6 seed if the season ended now, but they could work their way up to a 4 seed with a strong finish. If they can somehow pull the massive upset at Rupp Arena on Saturday that will completely transform expectations for their NCAA Tournament potential.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Morning News: Kansas State Knocks Off Kansas, St. John's Beats Xavier, Louisville Holds Off Georgia Tech, And LJ Rose Is Done

Georgia Tech lost, but this was still the play of the night.

Kansas State Knocks Off Kansas Kansas State had lost 7 of 8 and almost certainly will fail to qualify for even the NIT, so this game was their Super Bowl, and they played like it. Nino Williams couldn't get jump shots to fall, but he attacked the rim without fear. Nigel Johnson was a spark off the bench, hitting 4-for-5 behind the arc. But more importantly, their defense shut down Kansas, holding them to a 41.1 eFG% and 0.95 PPP. Bruce Weber teams historically are known for their defense, yet this Kansas State team has been an exception. Via Pomeroy, this is the worst defensive team Weber has coached since he took the Illinois job more than a decade ago. But they turned back the clock with a stellar performance here.

While this was an upset, this isn't exactly Texas Southern over Michigan State. Kansas State was only a 6 point underdog in Vegas. And it was partially because they're a decent team stuck in the best conference in basketball, but also because Kansas is a bit overrated. Their resume speaks for itself, of course, but they also entered this game 6-3 in games decided by six points or fewer. They could easily have two or three more losses if some luck went against them.

To be clear, I still think Kansas is the best team in the Big 12. But they're a step below the Kentucky/Duke/Virginia/Wisconsin/Arizona/Gonzaga tier of teams, and they weren't as far ahead of the pack in the Big 12 as the conference standings suggested ten days ago. If Kansas ends up tied for the conference title with Oklahoma or Iowa State, it wouldn't be a terribly unjust result.

St. John's Beats Xavier This game was fun for the entire second half, really. These two teams went back and forth, never able to separate from each other. But more than anybody, it was Sir'Dominic Pointer making the big plays down the stretch for St. John's, on both ends of the court. He finished with a stat-stuffing 19 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 steals and 3 assists. I've said this before, but I think you have to find a spot on First Team All-Big East for Pointer. Still, Xavier did have a chance on their final possession, but they executed poorly and ended up with just a tough, off-balance, contested jumper for Myles Davis which missed.

St. John's needed this win more than Xavier did. Xavier is still in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Johnnies had to get at least one win in this home stretch against Xavier and Georgetown or they'd be staring the NIT in the face. They now have that win. If they can beat Georgetown on Senior Day on Saturday they'll have their ninth Big East wins. That won't put them safely in the NCAA Tournament yet, but it'll put them in really good shape.

Xavier is 8-8 in Big East play and 5-5 against the RPI Top 50, with an RPI that is still 30th, though that RPI is a bit inflated (they've only played two RPI 200+ opponents). If they can beat Villanova on Saturday they'll be safely in the NCAA Tournament. If they fail to, though, they'll need to win at Creighton the following weekend to avoid serious trouble.

Louisville Holds Off Georgia Tech I wouldn't normally use a Morning News post talk about a team like Louisville beating a 3-12 team in their conference, but it's worth pointing out that this was an impressive win, and it put to bed a lot of ridiculous panic on social media during this game. The reality is that Georgia Tech is much better than their record (they are now an incredible 0-11 in ACC games decided by seven points or fewer), and their ability to get after the glass was always going to cause troubles for Louisville. Considering that the Pomeroy ratings only projected this a three point spread without taking into account Chris Jones being kicked off the team, this was really a toss-up game when it tipped off.

So, while social media was talking about Louisville being a bubble team with Georgia Tech winning this game, I was already preparing a "Don't panic about Louisville losing this game" paragraph in this Morning News post. But down the stretch, Louisville started hitting shots (they hit 5 of their final 7 three-pointers) and Georgia Tech didn't (they were 0-for-10 on three-pointers before Tadric Jackson hit one at the buzzer).

Louisville is not the same team without Chris Jones. But they're still, in my opinion, one of the 25 best teams in the country. The test in the final week of the regular season will be winning at home against either Notre Dame or Virginia. If they fall in both games, that will cause them to drop a few seed lines on Selection Sunday, and it will give their fans zero confidence for their chances of a long NCAA Tourney run.

LJ Rose Done For The Season As Houston's only real point guard, this is a significant blow to Houston. The silver lining is that their season wasn't going anywhere with him anyway. They are 1-13 in AAC play. Kelvin Sampson knew he was walking into a total rebuild, and this season will mercifully be over for him soon enough. We'll see what he can do in Year #2.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Morning News: Oregon Stuns Utah, Tulsa Smokes Temple, Michigan Holds Off Ohio State, And More

Hey, a court storming!
Oregon Stuns Utah Dillon Brooks was the star here, scoring 11 straight points for Oregon to hold off a furious Utah run late. Brooks was able to attack the paint, against arguably the best interior defense in the nation (the 48% shooting Utah allows at the rim is identical to Kentucky). They fought to a 22-to-22 draw in points in the paint.

This is a big win for an Oregon team that has been surprisingly feisty considering all of the offseason turmoil and roster losses. Dana Altman has probably done his best coaching job at Oregon. And they're now 10-5 in Pac-12 play, with an RPI all the way up to 44th. They close the season with three road games, but if they can somehow win two of three then they will have a legitimate case on Selection Sunday.

Utah can forget about this loss by sweeping their home series against the Arizona teams next week. Their home game against Arizona will be particularly crucial for them making the case for a 2 seed on Selection Sunday.

Tulsa Smokes Temple This was a nightmare game for Temple offensively.  They shot a staggering 8-for-49 (16.3%) on jump shots, including 1-for-14 behind the arc. Temple's shooting (25.4 eFG%) and offensive efficiency (0.60 PPP) were both their worst in a game in at least 17 years. When you have your worst offensive day in a couple of decades or so, you're probably not going to win.

Tulsa has been a team getting too much at-large love from the media considering their resume. This is a big win for them, but they still are only 4-5 against the RPI Top 100 with two awful losses. Their RPI (39th) doesn't include that non-Division I loss to SE Oklahoma State. Now that said, history says that the Selection Committee isn't going to properly punish Tulsa for that non-DI loss (it's one of many reasons why teams should replace cupcakes on their schedule with non-DI opponents), so Tulsa could sneak into the Tourney, but only if they finish the season strong. Their schedule is really backloaded. That road game at Memphis on Saturday could make the difference.

Temple is quietly just 9-9 against the RPI Top 200, and their RPI (31st) is clearly inflated. But that said, those losses in non-conference play will be significantly less important than what they've done in conference play. Unlike Tulsa they have a very soft closing schedule. If they can take care of business in those final three games then they should be in good shape.

Michigan Holds Off Ohio State Ohio State has had a rough stretch in Michigan. Their last two games have been road losses at Michigan State and now Michigan. The Buckeyes fought back from 31-11 here, but just couldn't hit enough jump shots. They hit just 5-for-19 behind the arc. Michigan was led by a 16 point, 5 assist, 0 turnover performance from Spike Albrecht.

Ohio State is just 8-6 in Big Ten play despite outscoring opponents by 0.09 PPP in Big Ten play, which is hard to do. A 2-5 record in games decided by six points or fewer will do that. But their closing stretch of games is ideally set up for a strong finish. That home finale against Wisconsin is a huge chance to slide a couple of seed lines.

Illinois Comes Up Short Michigan State melted down the stretch here. They committed six turnovers in eight possessions at one stretch. But Illinois was 0-for-11 on jump shots over the final 5:35 of the game. For the game they had a 30.8 eFG%, which was their worst shooting day since January 6th, 2007.

If Illinois misses the NCAA Tournament, they'll look back on this loss. They're now just 7-7 in Big Ten play and their RPI has fallen back out of the Top 50. Unless they can get to 10-8 (which would mean winning at least one of two tough road games at Iowa and Purdue) they're going to have significant work to do in the Big Ten tournament.

Michigan State has won four straight to get to 10-4 in Big Ten play and to push their RPI into the Top 30, though they have only two RPI Top 50 wins and no really big scalps. So their resume isn't as strong as you might think it is, but they still should be pretty safe.

Chris Jones Dismissed It's been quit a week for the Chris Jones saga, but it appears to finally be over. He was suspended indefinitely, then reinstated, and now dismissed. Chris Jones is a frustrating player to watch, because he has so much talent and looks so great in brief stretches, but he also takes terrible shots that just kill Louisville. He had a 44.4 eFG% this season. Louisville was already short on offensive options, and it's hard to see how this news doesn't make them worse, but it would be a mistake to give up on this team's potential to get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Their defense will remain ferocious.

Tim Miles Locks His Team Out Tim Miles is trying something new to get through to his struggling team: locking them out of the locker room and practice facility. I suppose it can't hurt. The stats said that Nebraska was significantly overrated with that Top 25 rating preseason, but nobody had any idea their offense would be this awful. Miles had to try something to change things up.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Morning News: New Bracket, West Virginia Runs Past Oklahoma St, Iowa St Holds Off Texas, Louisville Comes Back, And More

In a competitive game with an at-large bid on the line? Damn.

New Bracket Projection It was a slow Saturday of games, and so there weren't too many changes to the bracket. I talk in the bracket projection about the 1 seed debate. In addition, there was one change to the Field of 68, with Texas A&M moving in and BYU dropping out.

West Virginia Runs Past Oklahoma State In a weird scheduling quirk, this was actually the only game between two ranked team yesterday. But it was an ugly one for Oklahoma State fans. In a lot of ways, West Virginia is a nightmare opponent for them. The Mountaineers lead the nation in defensive turnover rate and are 6th in offensive rebounding rate, but their offense gets ugly if they don't get easy transition baskets and second-chance points. Oklahoma State is a team that plays right into their hands, with a small front court that struggles to rebound and only one real point guard (Anthony Hickey). Oklahoma State committed 15 turnovers and allowed West Virginia to rebound 53% of their misses. West Virginia had 39 points that either came off turnovers or were second chance points, compared to just 18 for Oklahoma State.

A week ago, West Virginia was looking like a potential bubble team, but a win over Kansas and a road win over Oklahoma State have put all of that to bed. They're 9-5 in Big 12 play, and unless they lose every game between now and Selection Sunday they should be safe.

Oklahoma State is just 7-8 in Big 12 play, but they have a road game at Texas Tech up next, followed by a home game against TCU, and they have 6 wins against the RPI Top 50. If they can take care of business in those Texas Tech and TCU games, they should be safe.

Iowa State Holds Off Texas In general, teams wait far too long to start fouling when they're down by six to twelve points late in a game. The goal should be to use all of the one-and-ones by fouling guys who shoot poorly, increase the number of possessions, and give yourself a chance. And despite the ESPN2 announcers dumping on the Texas strategy of starting to foul down by ten points with four minutes to go, Texas did give themselves a real shot down the stretch here. They pulled within four points with around a minute to go, but ended up missing their last four three-point attempts. They put themselves in a position to win, they just couldn't hit the jump shots.

Iowa State was powered by hot 12-for-21 three-point shooting here, which allowed them to overcome the 34-24 scoring advantage Texas had in the paint. And they're now hanging in just one game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings with an easier closing schedule. They could still steal a share of the regular season title.

Texas is now 6-8 in Big 12 play with a brutal road trip up for next week, at West Virginia and Kansas. The Longhorns are also just 1-9 against the RPI Top 50, though that Iowa win could sneak into the Top 50 as well. If Texas drops those two road games next week, they're likely going to have to win those final two home games to avoid falling into the NIT. Texas could potentially go 7-11 in Big 12 play while still earning an at-large bid, but they'll need to go on a run in the Big 12 tournament and they'll need some help.

Louisville Comes Back To Beat Miami A peculiar play happened in the first half here, when Montrezl Harrell launched a rebound off the face of Tonye Jekiri, picking up a technical foul, but sending Jekiri to the locker room where he ended up missing the first few minutes of the second half. You can watch the play below. And while Jekiri came back, the undersized Miami front line coughed up a ten point lead. Louisville locked down defensively in that second half, holding Miami to 0.80 PPP. The Hurricanes had two chances in the final 30 seconds to get a game winner, but both possessions were poorly executed.
This game is a relief to Louisville fans after losing three of four. I actually saw some talk on social media about them falling to the bubble. But with Chris Jones back, they should be in a good position to finish the season strong at home against Notre Dame and Virginia. They should win at least one of those two games, and I'd be pretty surprised if they end up lower than a 5 seed.

This was a huge missed opportunity for Miami. They have that win over Duke, but it's their only big win and they're just 11-10 against the RPI Top 200, with an RPI that has slipped to 67th. If the season ended now they'd very likely be in the NIT. To get into the NCAA Tournament, they probably need to win three of their final four regular season games plus a game or two in the ACC tournament. The home game against North Carolina next Saturday will be a key opportunity for a second big win.

Xavier Routs Butler Xavier was in a tight battle for weeks with Florida for the title of the best team to miss the NCAA Tournament, but Florida seems to have that locked up now. Xavier has won 4 of 5 to pull themselves firmly into the NCAA Tournament and clear of the bubble. Xavier dominated inside here, blocking 9 shots and holding Butler to just 36.6% two-point shooting.

Xavier is now 9-6 against the RPI Top 100 (though with four RPI 100+ losses), and their RPI is up to 28th. If they can win two of their final three regular season games that should lock them into the NCAA Tournament. A home game against Villanova next Saturday is a big chance to improve their seed. Butler, meanwhile, has been struggling a big since losing Andrew Chrabascz, though they hope to have him back as early as the final week of the regular season.

Gonzaga Holds Off Saint Mary's This was a really fun late night game, for those of you who went to bed early. Saint Mary's is always tough to beat at McKeon Pavilion, and they gave Gonzaga their best shot. They led by 17 points at one stage, and still led by two points with under three minutes to go. But the Zags closed on a 12-0 run, with Przemek Karnowski in particular coming up big defensively. Brad Waldow had led St. Mary's all night with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but he was stopped twice in that final closing stretch.

I've been banging this point all season long, but this is a game that is a perfect demonstration of why Gonzaga's resume is underrated. Road games in a conference as good as the WCC need to be equated to home games in other conferences, to put them in perspective. In this case, if you use the Sagarin ratings, a road game at St. Mary's is approximately equal to a home game against Iowa State or Notre Dame. A home win over Iowa State would be seen by the media as proof that Gonzaga had justified their 1 seed by knocking off a premier opponent. Yet because St. Mary's probably won't finish in the RPI Top 50 (they'll likely be just outside, somewhere in the mid-50s), this game won't even be a "quality win". Gonzaga's schedule hasn't been as good as the schedule faced by Virginia or Wisconsin, of course. But what they've done by going 28-1 is really impressive.

What about Saint Mary's? Well this loss just about does them in for the NIT. It's not impossible for them to be in contention on Selection Sunday if they win out to the WCC title game and lose a close game to Gonzaga there, but realistically they're going to have to win the WCC auto-bid.

Dayton Falls To Duquesne Dayton hadn't really suffered a "bad" loss all season long. Their worst loss was to UConn. But this is truly a "bad" loss, coming to a 9-16 Duquesne team that will likely finish the season outside the RPI Top 200. Dayton was an ugly 9-for-18 on layups while Duquesne's Micah Mason nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists.

Dayton is still 35th in RPI and 44th in Sagarin ELO_SCORE, and they're a strong 5-5 against the RPI Top 100, though without a real premier scalp. If the season ended now that would be enough for an at-large bid, but only barely. If they can go 3-1 down the stretch to get to 13-5 in Atlantic Ten play then that should be enough, but they do have two difficult road games ahead, at VCU and at La Salle, not to mention a home game against Rhode Island.

Old Dominion Routs Louisiana Tech Conference USA is very unlikely to earn an at-large bid, but the top of the league has been impossible to figure out. Louisiana Tech had pulled a game clear in the loss column and led the conference in efficiency margin, while Old Dominion had been falling apart with four losses in their last eight games, yet it was Old Dominion absolutely dominating here. Louisiana Tech was done in by awful shooting. They hit 3-for-26 behind the arc, finishing with a 34.2 eFG% and 0.85 PPP. That marks both their worst shooting day and worst scoring day of the season.

Louisiana Tech still remains, in my opinion, the Conference USA favorite. They're tied in the loss column with UTEP and they get UTEP on their home court on Thursday (they already won at UTEP by 13 points back on January 8th). But they could potentially be on pace to face Old Dominion in the Conference USA semifinals (ODU is likely to finish in fourth or fifth place in the standings). The Conference USA tournament is going to be wild and wide open. Any of five different teams will have a great shot.