An update on the most important games from the past couple of days. The theme of this blog post is missed opportunities:
#9 Georgetown 64, Syracuse 62, OT
An exciting game before everything bogged down in overtime. Syracuse looked pretty inexperienced in tight situations, and really struggled to get good shots with the pressure on. To go with the theme of this post, this was a win that Syracuse really could have used. This would have given them a win to stand out on their resume, and it would have moved them up near the top of the Big East standings. Instead, their best win remains the squeaker over Virginia a while back. They don't have any glaring bad losses, but the RPI has nearly slipped out of the Top 40. And they are a very disappointing 2-7 against the RPI Top 100. It's impossible to get an at-large bid with those kinds of numbers, so the Orangemen need to find a way to steal a win over one of the Big East powers. To be sure, the schedule-makers have set them up with opportunities. Marquette, Pitt and Georgetown are all heading to the Carrier Dome later this season.
#12 Texas 63, Oklahoma State 61
Not quite last year's classic, but a good game nonetheless. Texas led most of the way, but had to hold off a late OSU comeback. Lucky for the Longhorns, JamesOn Curry wasn't around to spark the Cowboys attack like he did last year. The Longhorns were sparked by DJ Augustin, who was deadly accurate from behind the arc (3 for 4) en route to a game-high 26 points. This was a huge missed opportunity for Oklahoma State to get back in the bubble discussion. A win would have put them at 2-2 in the Big 12 with a huge win over Texas. Instead, they remain with zero wins over the RPI Top 50, an overall record of 9-8 and an RPI outside the Top 100. They're still in the discussion if they can get hot and go on a run, but right now they're so far out of the picture that they're not even being discussed on most bubble watches.
#25 Clemson 80, Wake Forest 75, OT
Clemson saves their spot in the Top 25 in this messy win over Wake Forest. I say "messy" because neither team could hang onto the ball in this one, with both teams hitting the 20 turnover mark. KC Rivers was a monster in this one with 19 points and 11 boards. But the difference was Wake Forest's atrocious shooting, including 22% from behind the arc and 47% from the line. Clemson is now 4th in the ACC standings and has the third highest RPI in the conference (24th, entering tonight). So they're looking pretty good for the Tournament. But Wake Forest is sitting outside the Tournament, and a win here would have really put them right in the meaty part of the bubble. Right now, Wake Forest's RPI sits near 70th, which obviously needs to improve for an at-large bid. But their 3-5 record against the RPI Top 100 isn't that bad at all. And considering that every opponent they play from here on out is in the RPI Top 100, a Wake Forest team that finishes in the middle of the pack in the ACC will end up with a pretty nice record against high RPI teams. But they really need one of those big resume-building wins, and this certainly would have been one.
Kentucky 72, #5 Tennessee 66
In this case, the missed opportunity was for Tennessee. With UCLA's loss, the fourth #1 seed is suddenly available. Considering that the #3 and #4 teams in the country (Duke and UNC, respectively) have to play each other two (possibly three) more times this season, it's very unlikely that both of those teams will get a #1. That put Tennessee in line for a #1... for about two days. They can still put themselves in the mix again if they can upset Memphis, but Tennessee really needed to avoid games like this. The SEC is down this year, and there aren't a lot of quality losses. Their RPI is still #1 overall, but I expect that to drop as their schedule strength drops relative to teams like Kansas and UNC. This game did expose a real weakness for this Tennessee squad, which is that they can rely too much on the three-pointer. They went 7-for-26 in this one. The Vols need to realize that when it's not falling you just have to stop shooting it. Tennessee is so much better than Kentucky, and they didn't need to keep throwing up junk from behind the arc. As for Kentucky, most of us were ready to write them off as an embarrassment when their RPI dropped near 250th in the country. They've halved that, to around 150th as I type this. Still way, way out of at-large consideration. But if Kentucky finishes 11-5 in the SEC, they'd certainly make for interesting at-large discussion, wouldn't they? I still think they're a very, very, very long shot to get an at-large bid. But they're worth paying attention to, so I still have them mentioned in my BP65.