Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More Game Recaps

Louisville 78, Providence 63
A big win for the Cardinals as they as they try to corner an at-large bid. The Big East won't get more than eight bids. Figure that Pitt, UConn, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette and West Virginia have likely bids. That means that Syracuse, Providence, Louisville, Villanova and perhaps even more teams are fighting for two bids. It's okay to lose at Pitt or at Marquette, but these games with other bubble teams are the most essential to win. What's interesting with this game is that usually Louisville wins when they rebound well. They struggle when they can't control the boards. In this case, however, Providence ripped down 43 rebounds to only 31 for Louisville. What happened in this one was that Louisville played extremely aggressive defense, forcing a remarkable 15 steals. In all, Providence turned it over 26 times. Louisville does have better athletes, and they could get away with that in this one. They obviously weren't faster than Marquette, which is why they lost that game two days later.

Marquette 81, #21 West Virginia 63
This game was a re-adjustment of sorts. West Virginia had over-achieved, while Marquette had under-achieved recently. Since the game was at Marquette, they should have been favored regardless. So even this 18-point win isn't a huge surprise. It doesn't change the fact that if the season ended now, West Virginia would still be a surprise at-large Tournament team. Also, as usual, Marquette goes as Dominic James goes. He's been playing at an all-Big East caliber for the past few weeks, with 17 or more points in seven of his last ten games, including 21 in this one. In this one they also benefited from a poor shooting night by West Virginia.

#25 Maryland 92, #14 Clemson 87
Well, Clemson had to lose eventually. It's nothing to really worry about. If anything, it's good for them to get it out of their system before North Carolina comes to town tomorrow night. They'll have less pressure and they'll play more loosely. Honestly, there's not much else to say here. Moving on:

Virginia Tech 94, #1 North Carolina 88
I don't know why Sportscenter didn't play this game up, because it was nearly one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports. Virginia Tech had a 20 point lead with 3:48 to go. With under a minute to go, North Carolina had the ball with the lead down to four. Two blown possessions near the end ruined the comeback, but it was still a thing to watch. What surprised me in this game was the lack of hustle by North Carolina... until the last 4 minutes. The Tar Heels had a huge size advantage, but it seemed like Tech always came up with the key offensive rebounds in the second half that kept the lead large. I'm sure that a lot of bubble teams aren't happy with Virginia Tech's victories over North Carolina and Duke in the same week. Before this week, I don't think anyone considered them a serious at-large candidate. But at this point, they can't be ignored. They're 3-0 in conference, and 10-6 might be enough.

California 77, #24 Washington 69
I know that there's a #24 next to Washington's name, but at this point they actually have a low probability of making the Tournament. This is especially shocking to anyone who saw the Huskies beat up on LSU a month ago. Despite their size they have struggled to beat teams on the inside, and their ball-handling and shooting haven't been nearly enough to cope. Now they're 1-5, knocking on the basement of the Pac-10. And with so many good teams in that conference, it's too hard to imagine Washington even getting back to a winning record. California, on the other hand, is doing what they have to do. They probably need to finish fifth or better in the conference to nab an at-large bid. They're currently at 3-2, and tied with Stanford and USC for fifth. With Oregon taking out Arizona, the conference is really a mess. There could be a slew of teams at 12-6 and 11-7. Every game will matter a lot.

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