Saturday, January 31, 2009

Washington Hangs In There

Washington 84, #14 Arizona State 71
Washington came out really strong in this one, opening up a double-digit lead early, and then held on despite a fierce Arizona State rally late in the game. The back court of Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon just absolutely torched Arizona State's back court, with each guard collecting at least 25 points. Regardless of how they did it, it's nice to see them bounce back from a tough loss to keep pace with UCLA at 7-2 atop the Pac-10. In the end I think they'll fall short of actually winning a share of the conference regular season title, but their at-large bid chances are looking excellent right now. They'd have to completely fall apart down the stretch to fall out of the Tournament now. Arizona State, on the other hand, looks a bit shell-shocked right now. With two straight home losses to the Washington squads they have fallen into fifth place in the Pac-10 at 5-4. The schedule is pretty tough the rest of the way, so the Pac-10 regular season title is looking pretty out of touch. They should still make the Tournament, but they can't keep playing the way they have this week.

Missouri 89, Baylor 72
Leo Lyons torched Baylor for 30 points, just getting to the basket at will. As is typical of Missouri wins they forced a lot of turnovers and collected a lot of layups. Baylor just could not keep up the pace. Missouri is now third place in the Big 12 at 5-2, and have an RPI that has moved inside the Top 40. The Sagarin PREDICTOR at Pomeroy both actually put this around the 10th best team in the country. I don't know if they're that good, but their Tournament chances are looking great right now. At 4-2 against the RPI Top 50, they may not have any huge scalps but they've done a great job of taking care of business against good opponents. They will likely make the Tournament if they get to 10-6, and will be a lock if they get to 11-5. Baylor, on the other hand, is back onto the bubble. They are 3-4 in the Big 12, and all of the computer rankings say that this is somewhere around the 35th best team in the land. They'd probably be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but only barely. They end their Big 12 schedule with some pretty easy opponents, but they've got to end this three game losing streak right now. You can let yourself fall too far below .500 in a conference that will likely only get six teams, and possibly only five to the Tournament.

Maryland 73, Miami (Fl) 68
Maryland stems the bleeding in what was probably a must-win game. A loss here would have dropped them to 2-5 in the ACC with a brutal stretch upcoming, including five games against Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest or Clemson. In must-win games you've got to get big production out of your stars, and Maryland got just that out of Grievis Vasquez, who put up 11 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. With awful numbers they still are barely even on the bubble, but Maryland now has the chance to turn their season around if they can shock North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Tuesday night. They're going to have to beat Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest or Clemson to make the Tournament, so they might as well start now. For Miami, this was by no means a must-win, but this is a pretty tough loss to swallow. They now have four losses in five games, with the last three being in games that they really should have won. You've got to win the games you're supposed to win the ACC, because there just aren't that many of them out there. They now are 3-5 with a truly brutal schedule coming up (Wake Forest, at Duke, North Carolina, at Florida State). They end with some relatively easy games, and they have a decent out-of-conference resume, but they've got to get to at least 7-9 in the ACC to make the Tournament, which means that they really need to at least split the upcoming four game stretch or they're going to have an uphill battle to the Tournament.

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