Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Midweek Update

A quick look at Monday and Tuesday's games as a few more conferences open up their tournaments:

Syracuse 72, #10 Georgetown 58

Certainly the most talked about game over the past two days. Especially since Jim Boeheim feels it necessary to go on the sports show circuit every year around this time to complain about how bad the RPI is, typically because he's campaigning for an at-large spot himself. I complain about the RPI all the time, as any regular reader here knows, but I couldn't help but wince at his awful explanation of what is wrong with it. Moving to the game itself, this goes to another issue I always stretch: Never ever bet against a team playing at home on Senior Day. You could just feel the different levels of emotion between these two teams. This is without a doubt a huge win for the Orange, although I'm not jumping on the "lock" bandwagon. College basketball analysts have a bad habit of calling tons of teams "locks" that aren't actually a lock for the Tournament. In my mind, a lock should never stop being a lock, even if they lose every game the rest of the way. And if Syracuse loses out they're not going to the Tournament. Their resume is good, but not great. The RPI is a very mediocre 47, with a decent 9-7 record against the RPI Top 100. The 10-5 Big East record is solid, because 11-5 will actually lock the Tournament. But I think they are going to lose their finale at Villanova, because Syracuse has been pretty bad on the road this year and it's Nova's own Senior Day. The 10-6 Big East record should still be enough to get Syracuse in with their strong finish, but they still need to spend Championship Week rooting for teams like Old Dominion, Xavier and Butler to roll through their conference tourneys.

Michigan 67, Michigan State 56
Another good performance by a home team with its back against the wall in late February. It's not just Senior Day that generates performances like this. The Wolverines still have a mediocre 8-7 Big 10 record and an RPI of 50. The 3-8 record on the road will also be held against them. If they want to get in the Tournament they absolutely need to beat Ohio State in their home finale. Considering that their best out-of-conference win was over Davidson, an 8-8 conference record is an NIT resume. Meanwhile, Michigan State's RPI of 22 is outstanding, but I don't understand why some people are considering them a darkhorse team to run deep in the Tournament. The RPI is good because they've beaten a bunch of RPI Top 50 teams at home, but they are an atrocious 1-7 on the road. And even at home, they only beat good teams when Drew Neitzel goes off. When he only has so-so performances, like this game at Ann Arbor, State really has trouble scoring enough points to win. Assuming that they get creamed in their season finale at Wisconsin, where the Badgers are guaranteed to be ready to exact revenge, they will drop to 8-8 in the Big 10 with a potential loss in the Big 10 Quarterfinals looming. Despite the high RPI, Michigan State doesn't deserve a high seed unless they pull off another big upset - away from home, this time.

Oklahoma State 84, Kansas State 70
As I talked about a while back, this is one of the games that Oklahoma State had to win if they want an at-large bid. At 6-8 in the Big 12, though, the Cowboys absolutely have to win their last two games on the road as well if they want to have a chance. After losing 6 of 7 leading into this one, Oklahoma State needs to get hot quickly, because their resume as is will not be enough. Speaking of resumes that aren't enough, this loss probably does it for Kansas State. They had that great seven game winning streak that got everyone excited, but in all honesty they weren't exactly beating the cream of the crop. The only Tournament team they beat was Texas, by one point. The RPI has dipped to 57, and I'd say that they need to make it all the way to the Big 12 Finals to make the Tournament (a run that would likely have to include a win over Kansas in the conference Semis).

Utah 74, San Diego State 68
A bad loss for a San Diego State team that was already on the outside of the Tournament anyway. They are a talented team that had the potential to make the Tournament (I had them picked in the preseason), but the margin of error is too small when you don't schedule enough tough opponents. Going 4-6 against the RPI Top 100 is a decent record, but it's not enough games. You've got to schedule more difficult teams out of conference. Or you can't lose to Utah in late February. San Diego State has some good wins in conference, but the top of the Mountain West has become quite the mess. Everyone is beating everyone else. A couple good wins and a couple bad losses don't add up to a Tournament resume. The Aztecs still have an at-large shot, but they have a lot of catching up to do. With teams like Syracuse on a roll, and some at-large bids presumably getting eaten up by Championship Week, the Selection Committee is going to look for reasons to eliminate some potential teams early on in the process. San Diego State hasn't given them a good reason not to be eliminated.

No comments: