Saturday, March 14, 2009

More Big Ten Action, Plus South Carolina Loses

Ohio State 61, Wisconsin 57
Another close game, another loss for Wisconsin. It's remarkable for a team that is so experienced and has historically been so good in close games to be in a situation where I knew without a doubt that they would lose when Ohio State had the game tied in the final two minutes. You knew that they'd miss their open shots, and that Ohio State's shots would go in. Luckily for them, they still should sneak into the Tournament. The RPI has plummeted to 44th, but Sagarin still has them 31st, and I can't recall any team with a Sagarin rating that high ever missing out. Wisconsin finishes only 18-12, but against a strength of schedule that the RPI rates 14th, and Sagarin rates 11th. They finish 9-11 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Virginia Tech, Illinois and Ohio State, and only one loss against a team that won't be discussed on Selection Sunday (Iowa). Even without a lot of big wins, the solid play and the lack of bad losses should put them in unless a lot of crazy stuff happens over the next 24 hours. Ohio State, on the other hand, is now a lock. They also went 10-8 in the Big Ten, but they are also now 10-9 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI of 35th and a Sagarin of 25th. And nobody will hold a potential loss against Michigan State this afternoon against them. The only question now is their seed, as they should end up with something in the 7-9 seed range.

#25 Illinois 60, Michigan 50
I was very impressed with the way that Illinois won this game without floor leader Chester Frazier. They were actually up by as many as 20 points halfway through the second half before Michigan made the final score more respectable with a little run late in the game. Right now, Illinois is probably in at a 4-5 seed, and could potentially go as high as a 3 if they can win the Big Ten tournament. As for Michigan, they join what seems like half of the Big Ten conference on the bubble. They finish 19-13 with a 9-9 record in the Big Ten. They still have those wins over Duke and UCLA, but one big worry I have is the 13-13 record against the RPI Top 200. They also finished poorly, anyway you put it: 5-5 over the last 10, 6-6 over the last 12, or 7-10 over the last 17. There will be teams out of the Tournament that played better over the last two months, and the question will be how heavily the Selection Committee weighs those big wins from November and December. I think they're in the bracket at the moment on the strength of the overall resume, but if they end up missing out it will because the Selection Committee put a heavy emphasis on the last few weeks.

Mississippi State 82, South Carolina 68

It's going to be a stressful next 24 hours or so for South Carolina fans, as they really needed to have this one. If you look at their resume, their only real argument is the 10-6 SEC record. They remind me a lot of Providence, another team that really has no argument for the Tournament other than their conference record. The stat that clinches it for me is that Pomeroy ranks South Carolina's out of conference schedule 337th. That's just embarrassing. They finish a respectable 7-8 against the RPI Top 100, but they have zero RPI Top 50 wins. In my opinion they've fallen below both Florida, and possibly even below Auburn, in the SEC pecking order. They could still earn an at-large bid, but right now I'd bet against it. Meanwhile, could Mississippi State earn an at-large bid if they beat LSU today and then lose a close game in the SEC tournament title game? It's possible, as they did finish 9-7 in the SEC, and are now 21-12 overall with an 8-8 record against the RPI Top 100 (the 12-4 record against the Division I RPI 100+ is a problem, though). They won't have a chance if they lose to LSU, but they'll get discussed by the Selection Committe if they can play their way into the SEC title game.

1 comment:

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