Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jodie Meeks Scores 54

Kentucky 90, Tennessee 72
As I'm sure all of you know, Jodie Meeks went nuts for a Kentucky school record 54 points. And it wasn't even a fake 54 points, as he was incredibly efficient. He was 15-for-22 from the field, 10-for-15 from behind the arc, and 14-for-14 from the line. I can't remember a player ever scoring 50+ points so efficiently, even in the NBA. I didn't get a chance to watch this game, so the only explanation can be that Tennessee decided to let Meeks get his points while trying to stop everybody else. It didn't work. But nothing Tennessee is trying is working right now. If there's any silver lining to this stretch for Tennessee (1-3 in their last four games) it's that they're getting this out of their system now. When you look at the players they have (Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism, etc) and their coach, they are better than this. It's just a matter of time until they start playing well again. But for Kentucky, this is a massive win for the resume. They move to 2-0 in the SEC, as well as a very reasonable 56th in the RPI. They're actually the highest rated team in the SEC according to Sagarin, which I think is definitely plausible when you consider how atrocious Tennessee has been lately. The key now is just taking care of business in conference. They are 2-0 now, and 10-6 will probably put them into the Tournament. Considering how bad the SEC is, I think that is a relatively easy goal. They are a likely Tournament team at this point.

Kansas 87, Kansas State 71

A nice job of Kansas taking care of business against a rival here, and bouncing back from the demolition by Michigan State last weekend. This game was also about the Big 12 beginning to separate itself out the way it should. The fact is that despite both of these teams entering the game 11-4, Kansas is the clearly better team, and the one likely heading to the Tournament. Kansas doesn't have the greatest resume stats right now (43rd in the RPI, 5-3 against the RPI Top 100), but the computers suggest that they should play better. Sagarin gives them an ELO_CHESS of 46th and a PREDICTOR of 17th. Pomeroy puts them 19th. That said, Sagarin also suggests that Kansas State might be able to get themselves into the thick of the bubble race, with an ELO_CHESS of 88th, and a PREDICTOR of 24th. I have to say that I disagree with the computers here. Jacob Pullen is a decent scorer, but he's not a star by Big 12 standards. They're a deep team, but it's hard to win a lot of games without a go-to star. I don't have an obvious explanation for why they're so highly ranked by Sagarin, but I just feel like this is one of those teams where the PREDICTOR will head towards the ELO_CHESS more than the converse.

#10 Michigan State 78, Penn State 73
Michigan State won this game, but I was disappointed with their play down the stretch. They are such an experienced team that you expect them to squeeze their opponents when the game gets tight, like I saw when they fell behind in the first half. But late in the game I saw a lot of uncharacteristic errors, as the Spartans would have given the game away if it wasn't for an unforced error by Talor Battle in the final minute. Still, a win is a win, and Michigan State is starting to get clear of the field in the Big Ten. In order to get a 1 seed they will probably need to win both the regular season and tournament Big Ten titles. Otherwise they'll likely be a 2 seed. For Penn State, they slip to 2-3 in the Big Ten, and the RPI falls out of the Top 80. More importantly, they miss the chance for a signature win. They've got a tough schedule ahead of them, but they already knew that they needed to pull some upsets to earn their way into the Tournament. They nearly got a big upset here, and they're going to have to figure out how to close the deal soon.

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