Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Quick Look Back

Oregon 67, Arizona State 61
A must-win game for the Ducks - and they won. I always give Oregon credit for good hustle and smart play, but they did an unreal job in this one of just not fouling. Arizona State has a couple of very good slashers, most notably James Harden. The Ducks managed to only foul 12 times the entire game, and at the cost of only seven free throws. As I said, this was a must-win for Oregon, because a loss would have dropped them to 16-13 and 7-10 in the Pac-10. Now at 8-9, they remain in position to finish .500 in conference. What they need is a home victory over Arizona today. The RPI is 56, although the Sagarin is 38th and Pomeroy has them 44th. The 3-8 record against the RPI Top 50 is a tough pill to swallow, so they could use a couple more Top 50 wins. And today would be a great day to start. Arizona State, on the other hand, is not in very good shape despite what you hear from a lot of analysts on tv. It's not just the RPI of 71st, which is pretty bad of course. Assuming they're not the first Pac-10 team to fall to Oregon State this season, they'll finish 9-9 overall in conference. They do have home victories over Xavier and Stanford, although they also have a couple of mediocre losses (Illinois, Washington). Assuming they beat Oregon State they will get a bye to the Pac-10 Quarterfinals, where they'll face USC or Washington State. I think Arizona State will really need an upset win there to feel good about their at-large chances there. A loss and they'll need some help to sneak into the bracket.

St. Joseph's 71, #11 Xavier 66
I've said it before, but teams always play well on Senior Day. Throw in the emotions of the closing down of an arena, and past greats on the sidelines and in pre-game ceremonies, and you have the mix for an emotional start and win. And that's just what St. Joe's got, at an absolutely essential time. Unlike some of the other teams in the A-10, St. Joe's simply won't be part of the at-large discussion if they fall to 9-7 in conference. Their best out-of-conference win was over Siena, which is nothing to brag about at all. The one thing that they have going for them is that sweep over UMass, the team fighting with them for the second at-large bid out of the conference. You'll certainly hear some analysts argue that St. Joe's must get in over the Minutemen because of that sweep, but that's just not how the Selection Committee thinks. Remember in 2006, when Hofstra swept George Mason yet got left out of the Tournament? And I doubt anybody on the Selection Committee will be discouraged by how the decision to put George Mason into the Tournament turned out. In what might be an absolute first, St. Joe's has an identical rating in the RPI, Sagarin & Pomeroy rankings - 55th. Obviously a bad number, so I think St. Joe's still has another must-win at Dayton today. Unfortunately for them, Dayton has played a little bit better as of late, it will be their own Senior Day, and they are going to play this game under the belief that they're still alive for an at-large if they can string a few wins together in a row. So I'd bet on Dayton to win today, and that will really put the Hawks in a hole. As for Xavier, they're obviously only playing for seeding. This loss hurts their chances for getting a #2 seed, but they still have a shot. They certainly need to win the A-10 Tournament if they're going to be in contention.

#2 UCLA 77, #7 Stanford 67, OT
Kevin Love is probably the only player in the Pac-10 capable of dealing with the Lopez twins, and so his playing 39 minutes in this one by steering clear of foul trouble was an absolute key for the Bruins. The Lopez twins combined for more stats than Love (32 points and 16 rebounds vs. 17 points and 10 rebounds), but it was close enough. The Bruins obviously have far more talent on the wings, and Darren Collison led the way yet again. He must be absolutely frightening to try to guard in an isolation set, as he might have the quickest first step in the country. The Bruins are probably a Duke win away from the #1 slot in the final regular season poll, although the real issue is the #1 seed. Let's recall that UCLA entered the Pac-10 Tournament #1 in the country last season, and walked out a #2 seed in the Tournament. If the Bruins win out and take the Pac-10 Tournament they'll be a lock for a #1 seed. If they fall in the Finals, that will probably be enough, too. If they fall earlier than that, then it will come down to what happens in other conference. Texas winning the Big 12 Tournament, for example, would probably move them ahead of a UCLA team that loses early in the Pac-10 Tournament. Stanford, on the other hand, is not in the #1 seed discussion. But they can still earn a #2 seed if they can take the Pac-10 Tournament.

Northern Iowa 54, Southern Illinois 49
A shocking result, and a devastating loss for the Salukis. While their defense has been solid all year, the offense has been hit-and-miss. They put up 80+ points on Western Kentucky and Indiana State, and then got held to 41 points by Western Michigan. And today was a "miss", with only 39% shooting from the field, including an atrocious 6-for-24 from behind the arc ("atrocious" in that a team shooting 25% from 3-point land shouldn't be taking 24 shots). SIU entered Arch Madness with a great shot to earn an at-large bid. But this loss bursts their bubble. There is practically no chance of getting into the Tournament now. Although I would certainly consider them a threat to go far in the NIT.

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