After several relatively slow days in smaller conferences, the BCS Conference Tourneys showed up in a torrent today. A slew of quasi-elimination games for teams like Stanford and West Virginia. Without further ado, let's go into the most important:
Florida State 67, Clemson 66
The closest to a true elimination game, with both teams facing likely NIT trips without a win here. Coming in, FSU had the better resume, simply because they've finished stronger. Looking at their overall records, conference standings, RPI and records vs. top teams, both teams look relatively similar. But Clemson has been in a free-fall, while FSU has played relatively solid ball lately. Surprisingly, Clemson gave it a real good effort, losing only on a very questionable foul call. But in all honesty, Tigers fans can complain about nothing. They've had a slew of opportunities to wrap up an at-large bid, and they've dropped the ball entirely. You can't be relying on a close call in the final seconds of an ACC Tourney game. Not to mention that a win might not have been enough for a bid anyway. The loss, of course, sends them straight to the NIT. FSU is looking pretty good for a bid, but without an upset victory over UNC they'll have to sweat it out until Selection Sunday. And that's even if they continue getting help, like they did today. Speaking of help for bubble teams:
Kentucky 79, Alabama 67
Another devastating loss for an Alabama team that is so much better than their record. But their record is their record, and they've probably played themselves out of the Tournament. All year as they struggled with their SEC record, their resume was buoyed by a strong strength of schedule and RPI. But the RPI has almost dropped out of the Top 50, to the point that it now hurts rather than helps their resume. And without the computer numbers, all Alabama has is a 7-9 record in the easy half of the SEC, and a lot of "what if Ronald Steele was healthy" talk for the next 8 months.
#16 Notre Dame 89, Syracuse 83
Another good win for a surprisingly good Notre Dame team. You watch them play, and you don't see the great star, you don't see a lot of great talent. But they just win, and they're going to have a nice single-digit seed regardless of the rest of the Big East Tourney. But this is all a topic for discussion during the new BP65 after Friday night's games. The more important issue in this game is Syracuse's Tournament status. They didn't make it as easy on the Selection Committee as they did last year, and are definitely going to have to sweat it out. The RPI is a very mediocre 50, and the 3-6 record versus the RPI Top 50 is more of the same. I know that a lot of analysts consider the Orange a lock or near-lock. But from where I'm sitting, Syracuse needs to keep rooting for the favorites the rest of this weekend, or they might find themselves very disappointed on Sunday evening.
#15 Louisville 82, West Virginia 71, 2OT
A great game that just went back and forth until Louisville finally pulled away in the second overtime. Just a little bit more in the way of elite and experienced talent. They didn't shoot well from behind the arc today (6 of 25), but when those shots fall they can really beat anyone. As for West Virginia, they've surprised a lot of people this year. No matter what happens, they have a season to be proud of. But I'm just not seeing the Tournament resume. RPI of 59. No RPI Top 100 wins out of conference. Only 2-7 against the RPI Top 50 overall. Only three road wins all year. They'll certainly be in the discussion on Selection Sunday, but right now I can't see myself putting them in.
USC 83, Stanford 79, OT
Speaking of great finishes, how about that block by Taj Gibson at the end of regulation? Both of these teams are oozing with talent and potential, and it remains to be seen how many of these guys will stick around for another year. This is especially true for a USC program that may have the top recruiting class in the nation this year. For now, USC will be enjoying a trip to the NCAAs with an outside shot at a Sweet 16 run. Stanford, on the other hand, will probably be waiting for the NIT. They have the big wins, but don't have a consistent enough resume to overcome the loss here. The RPI has dipped to 62, with a Sagarin rating outside the Top 50. The only chance Stanford has is for the Selection Committee to realize that there isn't much else to look for. With teams like Syracuse and West Virginia and Georgia Tech falling early in Conference Tourney play, there are so many teams playing their way out of the Tournament that there have to be some teams sitting at home that will work their way back in just by sitting idle. Today's mess is good for Stanford's hopes, as well as for teams like Georgia and Drexel. We'll see what happens over the final three days of games before Selections are made.