Saturday, March 01, 2008

Another Update

#10 Georgetown 70, #21 Marquette 68
A heartbreaking loss for a Marquette team that seemed to have this game in hand. They had the speed and the athleticism, but in the end what they really needed was a Patrick Ewing Jr. As usual, he didn't show up in the box score (9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal), but he was the glue guy who made all of the hustle plays. The Hoyas are going to be a really seasoned squad when the Tournament comes along, with all of the close games that they've had to play and win. This win also assures that the Big East title will probably end up going to the winner of the Louisville-Georgetown game next weekend (unless Louisville loses a home game to Villanova tomorrow). As for Marquette, this loss more or less locks them into fifth place in the Big East. At this point, they're kind of playing with house money. They have no chance at a #1 or 2 seed, and they have no chance of slipping to a double-digit seed either. So they're just playing to slide up or down a little bit in the bracket. The RPI should take a hit against Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, of course, and I don't really understand that scheduling. I heard Tom Crean say that he scheduled the game because the Selection Committee cares about the final ten, or twelve games. But does he really think that they're going to be dumb enough to pretend that a win over a team with a 300+ RPI is worth something? All it will do is hurt the computer numbers.

Arkansas 78, #14 Vanderbilt 73
I really should be charging money for the gambling advice I'm offering here. In all seriousness, this game really didn't mean all too much for Vandy, who are just playing for seeding at this point. This win meant a lot more for Arkansas, as this helps firm up the resume quite a bit. They are now 19-9, including 8-6 in the SEC. The computer numbers are pretty nice, and this win also locks the Razorbacks into second place in the SEC West. Interestingly enough, this sets them up to be on pace to face Vandy yet again in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals. Arkansas next heads to a slumping Ole Miss, followed up by a home game over Auburn. They really should win both of those games. If they drop one then they might need that SEC Tourney win over Vandy. If they can sweep these final two regular season games, they can probably afford that loss in the SEC Quarterfinals while still sneaking into the Tournament.

Mississippi State 68, Florida 59
A devastating loss for a Florida team that is playing their way out of the Tournament. They are still 21-8 overall, and 8-6 in the SEC, but that's all inflated by their incredibly easy schedule. With five losses in their last eight games, the RPI has slipped out of the Top 60. And the Sagarin will be well into the 40s tomorrow, meaning that it won't bail the Gators out either. The worst stat for them right now is the 3-7 record against the RPI Top 100. At this point, I think we need to consider Florida out of the Tournament, with a chance to play their way back in. They get Tennessee at home on Wednesday, followed up by a trip to Kentucky. They obviously need a minimum of one of those games to stay in the at-large conversation. And, honestly, they really need to take care of both of those. Otherwise they're going to head into the SEC Tournament with a lot of work to do. A team that doesn't have a lot of work left to do is Mississippi State, which moves to 11-3 in the SEC. Even if they lose at Vanderbilt, they end with a very winnable home game versus LSU. A win in either of those two games will lock them up for a Tournament bid. They're still only 4-8 against the RPI Top 100, but they've done a great job of just taking care of business. The fact is that you don't need wins over Top Ten teams to earn an at-large bid. You just need to consistently take care of business, and avoid losses to the likes of LSU. So far this season, Mississippi State has done that and Florida has not.

Minnesota 71, Ohio State 57

We are suddenly looking at the real possibility of both of last year's finalists missing the Tournament altogether. This loss drops Ohio State to 8-8 in the Big Ten, with the RPI dropping out of the Top 50. The Buckeyes have played a very tough schedule, but they haven't won any of them. They are 0-9 against the RPI Top 50. Honestly, they're like the Davidson of the Big Ten in that they've been in every game against elite opponents, but they just haven't pulled any of them out. Even with this loss, their Sagarin PREDICTOR will probably not drop below 30th - so they've had a ton of very close losses. Now, Ohio State finds themselves with two key home games, against Purdue and Michigan State, to end the season. For sure, Ohio State needs at least one. And I honestly think they need to win both to feel good about their at-large chances. If they split those two games they will still head into the Big Ten Tournament with work left to do to towards earning an at-large bid.

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