Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arizona, Kansas State and UNLV All Go Down

#23 Arizona State 68, Arizona 56
Arizona State wins what is now their fifth straight over archrival Arizona. Even sweeter, they very likely ended Arizona's NCAA leading streak of 24 consecutive Tournament appearances. Arizona finishes 19-13 with an 8-12 record against the RPI Top 100. They did beat Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State out of conference, as well as Washington and UCLA in conference play. But they also lost to Stanford and Washington State. More importantly, they lost in five of their final six games. If they had closed with that seven game winning streak, instead of that this big losing streak, they'd be in excellent shape. But the Selection Committee wants to see teams that finished well, and Arizona did not. That said, they can still make the Tournament, but they're going to need some help. As for Arizona State, they looked to be plummeting in the bracket after that bad three game losing streak, but they're back with two straight solid victories and seem to have stabilized themselves around a 5-8 seed. We'll be able to narrow down their seed after we see how they play against Washington tomorrow night.

Texas 61, Kansas State 58
You had to know that Texas was going to get a battle from a tough Kansas State team desperate to keep their Tournament hopes alive. And they took Kansas States's best punch, and managed to hang on for a tough victory that will do a lot to prepare them for the NCAA Tournament. Not only that, but with Kansas and Oklahoma going down you would have to think that Texas is suddenly one of the top two favorites to take the Big 12 tournament. Despite the 9-7 Big 12 record, Texas has a pretty strong resume, and I don't see them doing any worse than an 8 seed at this point. Right now they're probably a 6 or a 7 seed, and can move up even further with a win tomorrow against Baylor. As for Kansas State, they knew that they had to have this game. They finish 5-9 against the RPI Top 100, and only 6-8 in road/neutral games. They did have a six game winning streak from mid-January to mid-February that included wins over Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri, but they also have losses to Oregon and Iowa this season, and finish only 6-4 in their final ten games. The RPI is 80th, although the Sagarin was 43rd entering this (to be fair, their ELO_CHESS was only 59th). It's possible for them to get enough help to sneak into the Tournament, but the bubble has been improving all weekend, and most likely Kansas State will be NIT bound.

San Diego State 71, UNLV 57

I spoke about this game after recapping the last time these two teams played, during each team's regular season finale. UNLV had entered that game with the better resume, but San Diego State took care of business at home to move ahead in the Tournament pecking order. But I called this game a must win for both of them, and I stand by that. Here are UNLV's final numbers: 21-10, including 9-7 in the Mountain West, and 6-6 in road games. They finish 8-7 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Louisville, BYU (twice), and Utah. But they also had a few very mediocre losses, including TCU, Colorado State and Wyoming. Their RPI is 66th and Sagarin will have them around 60th. They'll get discussed by the Selection Committee, but for all intents and purposes they can pack their bags for the NIT. As for San Diego State, I do think they still have some work left to do, even with this very big win. They are now 22-8, and that 11-5 Mountain West record looks pretty good, and they're unquestionably a solid team. But they lack that marquee win, including only one win against the RPI Top 55 (Utah, more than two months ago). Their RPI is 38th, and Sagarin will have them around 40th tomorrow morning, but I think that lack of a marquee win will be a problem. And that's why I think they're not going to make the Tournament without a win over BYU tomorrow.

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