Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michigan Back On The Bubble

Michigan 87, #16 Purdue 78
For a while there it did seem like Michigan's big early season wins were truly flukes for a team destined for mediocrity. They just didn't seem consistent enough to win a majority of their games in a wildly underrated Big Ten. But three wins in their last four games have them all the way back to 8-8, and firmly in the bubble discussion. We know the way that Michigan plays, which is streaky shooting, and they were hot in this one. They shot 63% from the field and 50% from behind the arc. They even overcame one of the best Robbie Hummel performances of the season. That said, they still have quite a bit of work left to do. They are only 11-11 against the RPI Top 200, and that's not good enough for a Tournament bid. Their RPI is 46th and their Sagarin is 42nd, but those numbers are inflated by the early wins, and the Selection Committee weights later games more than earlier games. They also have a very tough end to the season, with road games at Wisconsin and Minnesota. They've got to win at least one of those games, because it's very hard to see an 8-10 Michigan team earning an at-large bid. As for Purdue, they just ran into a buzz saw. They still have an outside shot at a share of the Big Ten title, but at this point their top priority has to be just getting healthy for their Tournament run.

#20 Illinois 52, Minnesota 41
Bruce Weber has been giving the Big Ten a bad reputation with all of his low scoring games, but his teams sure are very tough to beat. They play tough defense, and they do a good job of working the ball throughout the shot clock on offense. They haven't scored more than 70 points in a game since January 10th, but they're now 11-5 in Big Ten play with an RPI that is up to 13th. In fact, if they can beat Michigan State at home tomorrow afternoon they'll have a real shot at a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Minnesota, on the other hand, has now lost five of their last seven games to fall nearly out of the Tournament altogether. They're 8-8 in the Big Ten, but only 6-8 against the RPI Top 100. The computer numbers all have them right around 40th in the nation, and they're probably barely in the Tournament if the season ended now. They end with two home games, against Wisconsin and Michigan. They've got to win at least one of those or they're going to need a heck of a run in the Big Ten tournament.

#21 Washington 73, #11 Arizona State 70, OT
It was a tight battle all the way, but in the end it was Washington grabbing sole possession of first place in the Pac-10. I still don't believe that Washington is as good of a team as their numbers suggest they are, but those numbers do look pretty good right now. They're 12-4 in the Pac-10, and the RPI is up to 14th. If they can find a way to sweep both the Pac-10 regular season and tournament titles then I think the ceiling for Washington is actually a 2 seed. Arizona State, meanwhile, is still looking pretty good even with this loss. They probably blew their chance at a share of the Pac-10 title, but they're still pretty safe for the Tournament. Their remaining schedule is pretty easy, so they should have a nice seed heading into the Pac-10 tournament. At this point, the only way Arizona State does better than a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament is if they win the Pac-10 tournament, so that Pac-10 seeding will be important.

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