Saturday, January 12, 2008

Now Things Get Confusing

It's like Godfather III - just when you thought they were out... quite a few bubble teams pulled off big wins. Let's get to the most important games:

Oklahoma State 74, Texas Tech 55
With Texas, Kansas & Texas A&M all locks to make the Tournament, and Oklahoma in pretty good shape, there isn't a lot of space for new bubble teams in the Big 12. The fact is that the conference hasn't been all that great this season, and it's hard to see it getting six bids. This win clearly establishes OSU as higher in the Big 12 pecking order than Tech. Baylor is obviously in the mix, as is Missouri (see below). Don't get me wrong, Oklahoma State still has a ways to go. The RPI is still around 100, which is obviously unacceptable for a Tournament team. The LSU and Washington wins just don't look that special. I'm going to guess that 10-6 in conference probably won't be enough for the Cowboys. They probably need to get to 11-5 for an at-large bid. But 1-0 is a good start.

Missouri 97, #13 Texas 84
Speaking of Missouri, this win clearly puts them back in the thick of things. They are probably ahead of both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech after this one. The wins over Purdue and at Maryland are nothing to sniff out, but a win over Texas will go a long way on Selection Sunday. Also, the RPI is getting close to acceptable. With this win and the decent computer numbers, Missouri might be able to get in the Tournament at 10-6 out of the Big 12. As for Texas, they need to not get too down about this one. Missouri just played out of their minds. Teax was able to handle the press, so it's not like a loss here means that Texas will be unable to beat Kansas and their high tempo game later on. Mizzou simply shot 56% from the field and 46% from behind the arc. Sometimes that just happens. Missouri is a good team that relies heavily on energy, so they're tough to beat at home when they can feed off the crowd. The Longhorns are still competitors to win the conference.

Kentucky 79, Vanderbilt 73, 2OT

I hate to say I told you so, and it's not just because I talked about this as a possible upset earlier today. The fact is that there is randomness in sports - sometimes a ball just rolls in or just rolls out. Some things are out of your control. So the fact that Vandy had all of these close wins meant that they were due for some close losses. I got some grief on the Vanderbilt message boards for talking about this, because they're all convinced that Vanderbilt is just a "very clutch" team. I'm sorry, but in the end the numbers work themselves out. I've compared it to the Pythagorean Expectation for baseball. Back in the golden days for the Yankees they had the best closer and the clutchest players in the league. And even they would only finish about 5 games ahead of their Pythagorean Expectation. So every year during baseball you see a team that has a great record at the All-Star break despite a poor runs scored/runs allowed ratio. Those teams always go on long losing streaks in the second half of the year where they lose a bunch of close games. It's like clockwork. The "clutchness" of team (and I'll give you that Vanderbilt is clearly a clutch team this year) will help you pull out of more of these close games. But if you play enough close games, you're going to lose some. Sometimes the ball just isn't going to roll your way. Still, Vanderbilt remains a real threat to finish second in the SEC. Although Ole Miss's tough loss at Tennessee probably moves them ahead of Vanderbilt in the conference pecking order. And for Kentucky... they're still a long way from at-large consideration. This win just puts the RPI inside 200. But if this win can give them some confidence back, it could go a long way towards a moderately successful season. On a lighter note, how great was it that Gus Johnson was doing this game? Gotta love him.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Awhile ago you said Villanova was really good. 1-2 in conference play with losses to Depaul and Cinci. Good call on that