Thursday, January 29, 2009

Providence & Cincy Make Their Cases

Providence 100, #15 Syracuse 94
The more people doubt, the more this Providence team wins. They are now tied for fourth in the Big East with a 6-2 record, and with their first RPI Top 50 win they are now a respectable 5-6 against the RPI Top 100. They probably wouldn't make the Tournament if the season ended now, but even with the weak out-of-conference schedule don't they probably make the Tournament if they reach 10-8? If they can get to 10-8 while collecting another Top 25 scalp, and then win at least one game in the Big East tournament, I think that puts them in the Tournament. For Syracuse, this is a time to reflect on how a 15-1 start has turned into four losses in their last five games. More than anything it's just that their schedule got much tougher, but I'm still really surprised by this loss here. They have a home game on February 4th against West Virginia that really is something of a must win, because they follow that up with road games at Villanova at UConn. They're already down to 5-4 in Big East play, and they surely remember how they've managed to just barely miss the Tournament the last two years. If they manage to slip to 5-7 in the Big East, it suddenly becomes a real question whether this team will be Tournament bound. That said, I think Syracuse bounces back with a win over West Virginia, and I currently project them to finish 11-7. I don't think there's much of a chance of missing the Tournament, even if they do slip to 5-7, but I'm sure that some Syracuse fans are starting to get a little bit nervous about where things are heading.

Cincinnati 65, #23 Georgetown 57
Speaking of nervous fans, Georgetown has now lost four straight and six out of eight. And this loss is actually a higher quality loss than their last two (vs West Virginia, at Seton Hall). Obviously everybody talks about Georgetown's lack of depth, but their biggest problem might be ball-handling. Anytime your leading assist man is your freshman center (no Hoyas player other than Greg Monroe had more than two assists in this game) that's a really bad sign. Georgetown can make the excuse that their schedule has been really tough so far (it certainly has) and that their schedule gets a lot easier the rest of the way (it will), but they are still sitting here at 3-5 in the Big East. Both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR believe this is still a Top 20 team, but in the end it's about wins and losses, and Georgetown does not have enough wins. They will almost definitely make the Tournament if they get back to 9-9, but that's not a gimme right now. Cincinnati, meanwhile, slips ahead of Georgetown for ninth place in the Big East standings (they are currently 4-4 in conference play). They are 3-5 against the RPI Top 50 and have an RPI near 50th as well, but their remaining schedule really is pretty brutal. It's hard to see them finishing higher than 9-9, and even 9-9 might not be enough. It's a tough league when you can beat a Top 25 team and actually lose a spot in the pecking order, but I think Providence's win puts them 10th in the league pecking order, and pushes Cincy to 11th. Cincinnati cannot make the Tournament by just taking care of business. They're going to have to pull some more upsets.

LSU 79, Tennessee 73
With five losses in their last eight games, Tennessee now actually drops to fourth in the SEC East standings. I still don't really understand what is wrong with this team, because every time I watch them play they look better than the score. But the score is the score, and Bruce Pearl's boys really need to get their act together soon. With an RPI that has slipped to 33rd, and a 4-7 record against the RPI Top 100, that's not a surefire Tournament resume by any means. If they don't take care of business at home against Florida on Saturday, they really are going to fall too far away from the SEC East leaders to be thinking about SEC titles for a while. They could actually fall out of the Tournament altogether if they're not careful. LSU, on the other hand, collects a really key win here. They collect their first RPI Top 50 win and move to 16-4 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. They are currently tied for first place in the SEC West, which is important when you consider that the SEC West is unlikely to get more than one Tournament team. The computer numbers are all right on the boundary (60th in the RPI, 44th in Sagarin, 43rd in Pomeroy), so the way they finish will be key. They've got to have a good record in their last ten or twelve games, which means just taking care of business. Look at their upcoming games (Arkansas, at Georgia, Alabama, at Mississippi State, Ole Miss). They should be favored in every one of those. They need to take care of business, because anything less than 11-5 in the SEC West probably means a trip to the NIT.

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