A lot of important basketball went down last night, although you might not have known it from the media coverage. Everything is all about the NFL playoffs now, and the most college basketball coverage that I saw centered on Psycho T dunking on Kenny George. Don't get me wrong, it looked really cool - Hansbrough looked about 5 feet tall next to the 7'6" George. But it's not like that game had any Tournament implications whatsoever. However, considering how much I've talked about anticipating the Rhode Island/Dayton game on this blog, I figured I had to talk about how it actually turned out:
#22 Dayton 92, #23 Rhode Island 83
I've spent a lot of time debating Rhode Island in the comments here and here. And I've said consistently that I'd move Rhode Island into the bracket if they won this game at Dayton, because that would put them firmly in the top two in the Atlantic Ten. I think the A-10 will only end up with two seeds, unless something really weird goes in the rest of the country. Now this game actually improved my view towards Rhode Island. They were on the road, and got down a few points early and just couldn't cut into the deficit. If they had played this game at home, they probably would have won it. Meanwhile, Dayton really played very well. They hit a remarkable 11-for-21 from behind the arc, a ratio that I doubt they'd replicate with unfamiliar rims. If the season ended now, I'm not quite sure if Rhode Island would get in. But in the end, I think they really need to finish ahead of Dayton or Xavier in the standings. Dayton, meanwhile, is in great shape. They can even lose their game at Rhode Island in February and still be on the right path to an at-large bid. With their out-of-conference resume, and the outstanding numbers (the RPI right now is 6th in the country - that's not a typo), a top-two finish in the Atlantic Ten should lock up a bid.
#9 Tennessee 85, #15 Mississippi 83
A great game, and a very impressive performance for the Rebs. I've been talking about Florida and Vandy being in a battle for the second best team in the SEC, but this game proves that this Mississippi team is for real. Ole Miss did a good job in this one of handling the Tennessee pressure (only 10 turnovers), and actually won the battle for the boards (43 to 36). Mississippi really struggled to hit their threes (8 for 25) and still had this game as basically a toss-up in the final minute. And this game was in Knoxville. Homecourt advantage, especially at a school ike Tennessee, is worth a good four or five points. So that means that Mississippi would have won this game on a neutral floor, the way that they played. Those who read this blog often know how much I talk about the way that people mis-rank teams. And I can assure you that this loss will cause Ole Miss to drop in the rankings, even though they should move up. If they were exactly equivalent to Tennessee, a Top Ten team, they'd have lost by more than 2 points here in Knoxville. Too bad rankings are done of the form "They lost, therefore they must drop in the polls" - an irrational system. Sagarin's rankings noticed, though, moving Ole Miss up to 11th in the country. I think I'm under-ranking this team as a #8 seed, especially as the chances rise that this ends up the second best team in the SEC.
Arizona State 64, Arizona 59, OT
Last week I mentioned how Arizona State was sneaking up on everybody, under the radar. Well no more. They're now 13-2, including 3-0 in the Pac-10. The RPI is up to 62nd, and their Sagarin rating is up to 41st. If the season ended now, they would be very, very borderline. But they're in a great position to make the Tournament. They don't have any big wins, and the schedule is weak, so they'll have to win a lot of conference games. But who's to say that they won't do that? I've long talked about how underrated Herb Sendek has been as a coach. And this is probably the most talented team he's ever had, at any school. It's got to be exciting in Tempe right now, as they're not used to elite basketball. Remember, this is a program that has been to the NCAA Tournament once in the last dozen years.