Monday, February 19, 2007

BracketBuster Update

Winthrop 77, Missouri State 66
One of the more underrated games during BracketBuster weekend. Missouri State is unquestionably a good team, and they're still looking pretty good for a bid. The RPI has slipped to 42nd, but they're third place in the MVC, a conference sure to get atleast three bids. The key for them will be staying ahead of Bradley in the standings and not going out early in the conference Tourney. The only way the Bears are missing out on the Tournament is if the Selection Committee can rationalize giving Bradley a bid before Missouri State. As for Winthrop, they will be an incredibly interesting case if they lose in the Big South Tourney Finals. Their RPI stinks (72nd) because their conference stinks - only one team (High Point) is inside the RPI Top 200. They have a strength of schedule of 253 despite the fact that they played a very rough out of conference schedule, including games at North Carolina, Mississippi State, Maryland, Wisconsin, Old Dominion and Texas A&M. They have now won at Mississippi State, Old Dominion and Missouri State, as well as the conference sweep. Their only losses all year have been at North Carolina, Maryland, Wisconsin and Texas A&M. And they even had a good shot at winning some of those games, including leading UNC at halftime and coming within a last-second three-pointer of taking Wisconsin to overtime at the Kohl Center. The RPI be damned, this team deserves to be in the Tournament. And I don't care who they're playing in the first round, I'm going to have a hard time not picking them to pull the upset.

Missouri 75, #20 Oklahoma State 64
Another big win for a Missouri team that is going to be very, very dangerous next year. Readers of this website know how much I love Mike Anderson, and he will have a Big 12 force for years to come. For now, however, Missouri's resume isn't good enough for a Tournament bid. So they are going to spend their time playing Tournament spoiler, including this damaging blow to Oklahoma State. Without a doubt, the Cowboys have struggled lately, losing 6 of their last 10 and falling to 5-6 in the Big 12. The RPI is still 36th and they have a solid eight wins over the RPI Top 100. I still think this team is in, and it would take a pretty big collapse to fall all the way to the NIT. But considering how good this team was looking in early January, the fact that their Tournament bid is still in doubt in late February has to be a major disappointment.

#5 Pitt 65, Washington 61
A good performance by a Washington team that has played much closer to their potential lately. They are a strong, halfcourt power team - the type of team that would probably thrive more in the Big East than the Pac-10. The good performance here is a moral victory, proving that they're good enough to be in the Tournament. But the hour is too late for moral victories. Washington is a really good team, but they have lost too many games at this point. They need to pretty much win out the rest of the regular season to be taken seriously on Selection Sunday.

Wyoming 80, San Diego State 71
Everyone jumped back on the San Diego State bandwagon after the win over UNLV, but this loss will probably put that to bed. The RPI has dropped out of the Top 60, with a 16-8 record and a 3-5 record against the RPI Top 100. All pretty decent stuff, but nothing that is going to knock out the Selection Committee. This loss drops them to 7-5 in the Mountain West, a conference that has had a very good season, but not good enough to get four bids. Winning out would push them to 11-5, and likely atleast a tie for third place, and that would give them a good shot. But with games at Utah, at home against BYU and others, that's not all too likely. Still, this is an outstanding team that will be a real force in the NIT if it comes to that.

Michigan 58, #19 Indiana 55
A good win by Michigan to keep their at-large hopes alive. Playing with emotion, with their backs against the wall, the Wolverines showed up to play against a Hoosiers team that has really looked immature and out of control away from Bloomington this year. Michigan now has their record up to 18-9, 6-6 in the Big 10, with an RPI of 58 and a 4-8 record against the RPI Top 100. They're a good team with a halfway decent chance at the Tournament. But let's be honest, doesn't this feel like every other year in the Tommy Amaker era? Their destiny seems obvious: 20-11, 8-8 in the conference, and a nice seed in the NIT. Every year this team plays well, and just comes up a little bit short.

#15 Southern Illinois 68, #12 Butler 64
Pretty sure there's never been this much hype over a game involving a Horizon League team, but this game lived up to the billing. An outstanding game that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I hope all of you saw it as well. SIU plays incredibly tight defense that makes it very tough to score from inside, so Butler wisely tried to light it up from outside. They only took 21 two-pointers in the entire game. The strategy worked as well as it could have, as Butler performed better than I had expected. Butler is grossly overrated, and is still living off their November/December resume. If they get anything like a 5-7 seed, I'm likely going to recommend picking them to lose. Still, another interesting aspect of this game was the differing psychology between these two teams. As the announcers commented, Butler views itself as a perennial Cinderella team, an underrated team that can knock off anyone. Southern Illinois, on the other hand, views themselves as past that attitude. In their mind, they have been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament for nearly a decade. They are an elite team that others are trying to upset. They don't beat elite teams because they're pulling an upset, but because they're better. And without a doubt, this view on the college basketball world has some merit. They have an outstanding defense that can hold anyone to a low-scoring struggle. The only thing keeping me from seeing the Salukis as a potential Final Four team is that they lack an elite scorer. They need someone to get hot and put some points up. If they can get that, they can beat anybody.

Stanford 88, #17 Oregon 69
The Lopez Brothers are really starting to become elite players. This Stanford team as a whole has a very bright future, as their top four scorers are all freshmen and sophomores - none of whom are very likely to go pro after this season. Even better for the Cardinal, this team doesn't have to wait until next year to see the fruit of these good recruiting classes. With this win, they've further strengthened a resume that was already pretty good. With a 9-5 Pac-10 record they've moved their RPI into the Top 40, with wins over Texas Tech, Virginia, UCLA, USC and now Oregon. If they can stay fourth in the conference, it's hard to see them get denied. As for Oregon, they certainly are still looking safe for the Tournament, but their recent slide is really hurting their seed. Luckily, they finish with three home games, in decreasing difficulty, against Wazzu, Washington and Oregon State. I think they win all three, finish 11-7 and end up with a pretty good seed. This is a good team, they've just been in a little bit of a slump.

Louisville 61, #13 Marquette 59
A huge week for a Louisville team that has gotten hot at a perfect time. I had talked a week ago about Louisville really needing to steal a win over Pitt or Marquette on the road. I never would have expected that they'd win both. As of now, Louisville has an incredibly strong resume that is hard to ignore. The RPI is up to 50, but they have 18 wins, including a 9-4 record in the Big East. The conference has been down this year, but there's no way that the third place team is going to get denied. Looking at their remaining schedule (vs. St. John's, at Uconn, vs. Seton Hall) it's hard to see them finishing worse than 11-5. And these two wins at Pitt and Marquette give them the marquee wins that will impress on Selection Sunday. Hard to see this team getting kept out now.

Drexel 64, Creighton 58
A huge win for a Drexel team that is suddenly on everyone's at-large radar screen. Honestly, they're an interesting case. They have an outstanding 20-7 record, an RPI of 53, and wins on the road at Villanova, Syracuse, Hofstra and now Creighton. All of that sounds pretty good. but on the flipside you can't ignore the fact that they're still sitting fourth in a conference that won't get more than two teams into the Tournament. They also will have trouble explaining away losses to Rider and William and Mary. With two pretty easy games to go, the Dragons definitely have to take care of business to finish with a 13-5 conference record. They need to hope that's enough for third place in the Colonial. After that, they still probably need a trip to the Colonial Tournament Finals for me to feel good about this bid. Drexel isn't the kind of glamor team that is going to steal a Tournament bid from a team like Michigan State or Syracuse unless they really blow away the Selection Committee.

No comments: