Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sunday Recaps

#14 Villanova 89, #25 Syracuse 86
Syracuse could have pulled themselves completely off the bubble if they could have pulled off the victory here, but they just could not get over the top. I've said it before, but it's amazing that anybody could be underrated in the incredibly over-hyped Big East, but Villanova continues to be under the radar. Nobody is talking about them as a potential Final Four team, but when they turn up the defensive pressure and stay out of foul trouble (they're pretty thin on the bench) they're a very tough team for anybody to beat. Villanova now has the RPI up to 9th, and are still in the discussion for a 2 or a 3 seed. As for Syracuse, they slip to 8-7 in the Big East and 7-8 against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Kansas, Florida, Memphis and West Virginia, an RPI of 23rd, a Sagarin of 24th and a Pomeroy of 24th, so there's no doubt that they'd be in the Tournament if the season ended now. But they've still got a little bit of work left to do. They will be favored in their next two games (against Cincy and Rutgers at the Carrier Dome) before closing at Marquette. If they take care of those first two games to get to 10-8 they will almost definitely be a Tournament team. One win in the Big East tournament should lock it up. If they can somehow win their final three regular season games then they'll be in the Tournament regardless of how they play in the Big East tournament.

#9 Duke 101, #8 Wake Forest 91
This was a crazy game where Duke actually led by as many as 22 points in the first half, and then let the lead get down to two before pulling away late. Duke did a good job of finding a starting five that worked and sticking with it throughout, letting five players get more than 30 minutes. Gerald Henderson has to lead this team, but there's no question that Duke has been better since Elliot Williams has been getting extended time. There's a reason why he was such a blue chip recruit. Amazingly with all that has happened, Duke still has a shot at a 1 seed. But unless they win at North Carolina in their regular season finale, their ceiling is a 2 seed. As for Wake Forest, they're amazingly down to only 7-5 in the ACC. They still have excellent numbers all around (for example, they're 7-2 against the RPI Top 50), so they can still get a good seed. But more importantly they just have to rediscover the magic they had in January. If they play like that then they'll be a Final Four team regardless of their Tournament seed. But the way they've been playing lately they won't even make the Sweet 16.

#11 Arizona State 72, Arizona 70
This was a pretty exciting game, although that was partially due to the fact that both of these teams play really bad team defense. I emphasize the word "team", because there are a number of good individual defenders, but both teams really struggle to rotate defensively, and offensive players were constantly getting open shots on the weak side. In the end, the difference was two stretches in the game when Arizona State got hot from behind the arc (they ended up 13-for-30 overall). Arizona State remains in a de facto tie for first in the Pac-10, and get their chance to grab the lead all by themselves when they head to Washington tomorrow night. As for Arizona, it's hard to feel bad about a tough loss after a seven game winning streak. They are a solid 8-6 in the Pac-10 and 8-8 against the RPI Top 100, but they've got a tough end to the season. Arizona fans need to hope that their team didn't peak too early, because you do not want to go into Selection Sunday on a losing streak. If they can split their final four regular season games they'll be in excellent shape for an at-large bid.

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