Sunday, March 01, 2009

Clemson And FSU Switch Places

#25 Florida State 73, #13 Clemson 66
Florida State is rapidly turning into the ACC's version of Villanova: the Final Four contender from a hyped big time conference that is inexplicably flying under the radar. It seemed as if Florida State had already pulled ahead of Clemson into fourth in the ACC pecking order even before this result, and at this point it's not even a question. As Clemson has faded over the last few weeks, Florida State continues to play solid basketball. They have moved into a tie for third place with Wake Forest, another team which is not playing that well right now. The Seminoles locked up their Tournament bid with the win here, and are heading towards a nice seed, but the one worry I have are the computer numbers. Sagarin gives them an ELO_CHESS of 14th and a PREDICTOR of 49th. That matches up well with an RPI of 18th and a Pomeroy of 43rd. In other words, the computers agree that Florida State has one of the 20 best resumes in the nation, but that they're also not one of the 40 best teams. They are overperforming, and those computer stats will make me very wary of projecting FSU past the Sweet 16. As for Clemson, they still have not locked up their own Tournament bid. They are now 8-6 in the ACC, and close their regular season at Wake Forest. If they don't take care of business at home against Virginia Tuesday night then things really start getting complicated. If they lose to Virginia and then lose to Wake Forest they will actually face a must-win first round ACC tournament game, potentially against a team like Miami or NC State. A loss there and they will very likely miss the NCAA Tournament altogether. In other words, they had better take care of Virginia on Tuesday night or Clemson fans are going to start having Vietnam-style flash backs to 2007.

#7 Duke 72, Virginia Tech 65
A solid victory for Duke, even if they did make their fans a bit nervous late in the game as they let Virginia Tech go on a 15-4 run to tie it up with under five minutes to go. ESPN was even ominously cutting to signs in the crowd taunting Duke on their late season collapses the past two seasons. But Gerald Henderson and Elliot Williams have been the difference this season, even if Henderson does occasionally get out of control. Another big difference was Duke's defense - they still struggle with tall, long athletic opponents, but nobody takes charges better than Coach K's teams. I think they had about eight of them here. If you are playing Duke and you try to drive from behind the arc in the corner try to dunk it, there's about a 95% chance you're going to commit a charge. With the win, Duke stays in the hunt for a 1 seed. They're going to need to beat North Carolina to earn a 1 seed, but they'll get their chance in Chapel Hill next weekend. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is a very good team that is just snake bit. They are better than their record, but it's too late in the season for that to be much consolation anymore. They are 12-11 against the RPI Top 200, and the computer rankings have slipped to around 60th. They get UNC at home next, and then head to Wake Forest. They're going to have to win at least one of them to have any kind of an at-large chance heading into the ACC tournament.

#18 LSU 73, Kentucky 70
LSU continues to just find ways to win games, and Tasmin Mitchell was the hero here by hitting the game winning shot with under 10 seconds left. The win officially locked up LSU's shocking SEC regular season crown, and with all of the Top 25 carnage we can expect them to move up close to the Top Ten on Monday. But that said, I still think they're more an artifact of the SEC than anything else. As I've discussed before, LSU's style of play makes young, impatient teams the perfect opponents. And the SEC is full of teams with raw talent that is too young and impatient to beat LSU. I think LSU will really struggle when they play more experienced ACC, Big East or Big Ten opponents, and I will warn people after the brackets come out not to put them too far in your bracket. But they have that SEC crown and they're in the Tournament looking at a very nice seed. Kentucky, on the other hand, is really getting in trouble. They are now 8-6 in the SEC, with an RPI of 66th. They're only 11-10 against the RPI Top 200, but at the same time they are a solid 48th in the Sagarin ratings because they are better than their record. Kentucky has to have at least one of their final two games, and unless they win both they will enter the SEC tournament with quite a bit of work still left to do to make the NCAA Touranment. Another thing to keep in mind is that a loss to Florida would probably line Kentucky up for another game against LSU in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament, needing a win to avoid a trip to the NIT.

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