Saturday, March 08, 2008

Evening Update

#21 Drake 75, Creighton 67
Drake continues to play well in the games that matter. They have occasionally played down to their opponent, but they have played better against the top teams all season. In situations like this, you almost have to wonder if this takes away from the legacy of Dr. Tom Davis - how could this team have played so poorly last season? So many of the same players are getting key minutes. Anyway, today's victory also meant a costly loss for Creighton. The Bluejays entered Arch Madness with a chance to earn an at-large bid, but I think this loss will seal their trip to the NIT. The RPI is 49th, and the Sagarin will be right around there when the new numbers come out tomorrow morning. The most damning number: 0-6 against the RPI Top 50. Considering all of the basketball left to be played, I just can't see a realistic scenario for Creighton getting into the Tournament.

Syracuse 87, #20 Marquette 72
Once again, Senior Day + backs against the wall = victory. Syracuse really needed to close their regular season with two straight victories to get back to 9-9, and they did it. This is a nice win to go with the Georgetown win, not to mention other solid victories over Villanova and St. Joe's. The 19-12 record is weak, but they do have the 6th ranked schedule in the country. The 8-10 record against the RPI Top 100 is okay as well. Syracuse enters the Big East Tournament needing to do some work to earn a bid. There's a decent chance that they'll get matched up with Villanova in the 8-9 game, which could end up being a play-in game to the NCAA Tournament. Whoever the opponent, Syracuse definitely needs to win at least one game in the Big East Tournament to earn an at-large bid.

#6 Kansas 72, Texas A&M 55

A pretty bad dud for Texas A&M on a day where they really could have punched their Tournament ticket. They shot 32% from the field and still had a chance to win late in the game. Texas A&M is 22-9, which normally would be very impressive, but the schedule has been pretty weak. And this loss drops them to 8-8 in the Big 12, which is very dangerous territory. They have the win over Texas, but overall are just 7-9 against the RPI Top 100. Which means you can do the math and determine that they played 15 of 31 games against teams outside the Top 100 - one of them actually being against some school called Ouachita Baptist (apparently it's a D-II school). That weak schedule could come back to bite them. If the season ended now, I think you have to put the Aggies in. But several teams will earn their way into the Tournament with strong performances in conference tournaments, and that could leave a bubble team like Texas A&M out in the cold. So they need to take care of business by winning a game or two in the Big 12 Tournament. They will most likely get Iowa State in the first round, which will obviously be a must-win for the Aggies. After that A&M will most likely draw Kansas State for a spot in the Big 12 Semifinals. To me, Texas A&M will have to win that game as well if they really want to feel good about their chances on Selection Sunday.

Mississippi 79, Georgia 62
A strong performance by Ole Miss in a must-win game for them. The Selection Committee always has to debate whether we put more focus on recent performance or on the overall resume. And if Kentucky is on one side of that debate, then Ole Miss is clearly on the other. Do we give them credit for the 13-0 start, or are we unable to look past the 7-9 SEC record? The Rebels have a slew of nice wins, part of a sterling 5-3 record against the RPI Top 50. The 2-7 record in true road games will certainly be an albatross, though. In the end, I think a lot of people will have trouble seeing past the 7-9 record and the poor ending to the season. But Ole Miss does still have a shot to earn a bid with a strong SEC Tournament performance. Their first game will actually be a rematch with Georgia, which should be an easy victory. After that Ole Miss draws Kentucky, in what will be a must-win game for the Rebels (and possibly a must-win for Kentucky, depending on what they do tomorrow against Florida). If Ole Miss loses there then we can forget about them in bubble discussion. But if they win, I'll definitely re-visit their chances.

Villanova 73, Providence 63
A must-win game for Nova, and they took care of business. This one puts them back to .500 in the Big East, at 9-9 overall. They are also only one win short of their 20th, which they can earn in the first round of the Big East Tournament. The RPI is still 55th, and the Sagarin is in the same range. They have a couple of good home wins, but have really struggled on the road (4-7 in true road games). They end up a solid 8-8 against the RPI Top 100, and there are a couple of other decent statistics as well. The fact is that their resume is a whole lot of "okay, that's nice", but nothing that really screams at-large team. And that's why Villanova enters the Big East Tournament with work left to do. Somebody will have to figure out the tie-breaking procedures for the Big East, but without a doubt Villanova will end up with a tough-but-beatable opponent in the first round of the Big East Tournament. And it will be a must-win game for them.

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