Thursday, February 26, 2009

Devastating Blow For Marquette

#2 UConn 93, #10 Marquette 82
Jim Calhoun became the seventh basketball coach in D-I history to collect his 800th victory, but the story of this game was the loss of Marquette's Dominic James with a broken foot. For a team that is so thin and so dependent on its senior trio (James, Wes Matthews and Jerel McNeal), this loss really could destroy their chances at a long Tournament run. Even though James had somewhat plateaued as a pure talent, and has probably been surpassed by Matthews and McNeal in terms of overall ability, it always seemed like James was the leader of the team. Everybody responded to him on the floor, and only time will tell how this team will play now. As for UConn, this win bumped them up into a 1 seed in the newest BP65. Of course, I still have questions about this victory, since Marquette's loss of James is more important than UConn's loss of Jerome Dyson. But a quality win is a quality win, and UConn picks up a big time road victory here.

Rhode Island 93, Dayton 91, OT

This was an essential victory for Rhode Island's chances at a Tournament bid. They really needed another quality victory, and this represents their second (they beat Temple back in January). They are now 21-8, but have done it against a very weak schedule. Also, they're still only fourth in the pecking order of a conference that clearly does not deserve four teams. If Rhode Island is going to make the Tournament, I think they're going to have to pull ahead of either Temple or Dayton. Speaking of Dayton, their Tournament resume is not as much of a slam dunk as it was a couple of weeks ago. They are still 23-5 with a 7-2 record against the RPI Top 100, but they also have lost three of their last five games in the A-10. They've also got a number of bad losses (Saint Louis, Charlotte and UMass) that more or less balance out those good wins (Marquette, Xavier). I still think Dayton is going to make the Tournament, but they've got to win at least three more games (including the conference tournament). Because of their tough remaining schedule they can get away with only two more regular season wins, but only if they take care of business in their first A-10 tournament game.

South Carolina 77, Kentucky 59
While LSU has started getting the national attention that they deserve, South Carolina is still unknown to most casual fans even as they close in on what would only be their second Tournament bid since 1998. Darrin Horn has really proven to be one of the best young coaches in the NCAA, and South Carolina has to wonder how long he's going to stick around. How long until a real big time basketball school offers him big money to leave? But for the time being, South Carolina is actually leading the SEC East all by themselves at 9-4, a full game ahead of Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee. I had them as a Tournament team way back in April, yet even I'm surprised at how good they've played. Devan Downey is just an electric star, and he will become a household name if South Carolina can win a Tournament game or two. Meanwhile, Kentucky is in serious danger of missing the Tournament for the first time since Rick Pitino was cleaning up a scandal-plagued program in 1991. They are 8-5 in the SEC and 11-9 against the RPI Top 200. They have wins over West Virginia, Tennessee and Florida, but they also have losses to VMI, Vanderbilt and both Mississippi teams. The RPI is 63rd, but Sagarin has them 44th and Pomeroy has them 33rd. They're the epitome of a bubble team. Kentucky has a huge home game on Saturday afternoon against LSU. If they fall there then it's going to be an uphill battle to a Tournament bid for the Wildcats.

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