Saturday, March 07, 2009

Penn State Moves Into The Bracket... Maybe

Penn State 64, #23 Illinois 63
A huge come-from-behind victory for a Penn State team that is desperately clawing their way into the NCAA Tournament. Talor Battle's shot locked up a tenth Big Ten win for Penn State, and probably pushed them into the bracket for the time being. Their resume still does have a lot of holes, including the fact that they're only 11-10 against the RPI Top 200. That loss to Iowa certainly did help at all, and their only glamor win is still really that Michigan State game. Their out of conference resume is atrocious, with their best win coming over Mount Saint Mary's. But the best thing that Penn State has going for them is that the bubble is so weak and has gotten even weaker today, with a slew of bubble teams going down. If they can make it to the Big Ten semifinals, I think that will put Penn State into the Tournament. If they go down in the quarterfinals then we'll have to see how the rest of the bubble plays out. As for Illinois, their resume would sure look a heck of a lot better if they could have avoided the season sweep at the hands of Penn State. Still, they finished 11-7 in the Big Ten with eight RPI Top 50 wins and solid computer numbers. They are a lock for the Tournament, and the only question is how high their seed will go after the Big Ten tournament.

Calfornia 83, Arizona 77
California nearly locked itself into the Tournament with the win here. Even with the loss to Arizona State they finish the season 11-7, and should make the NCAA Tournament even if they go down in their first Pac-10 tournament game. But just to be sure, one win in the Pac-10 tournament will make them a lock. The more interesting case here is Arizona. Remember, they have played in 24 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, which is the longest active streak and closing in on the alltime record of 27 straight. And while they managed to just barely sneak in last season, they might not get so lucky this time around. After winning seven straight in the Pac-10, they have immediately followed that up with four straight losses. Having fallen to 8-9 in the Pac-10, they now face a must-win home game tonight against Stanford. A loss there and they might be off of the bubble for good. With a win they will have a more realistic at-large scenario, but no matter what they will begin the Pac-10 tournament out of the NCAA bracket. They will have to earn their way in. In my opinion they've got to beat Stanford and then, at a minimum, reach the Pac-10 semifinals. Anything less than that and they're heading to the NIT. If they reach the semifinals then I'll have to re-evaluate their chances based on how the rest of the bubble plays this week.

Temple 68, Saint Joseph's 59
With all of the bubble teams going down this weekend, Temple clearly has the opportunity to make a final run for their second consecutive Tournament appearance. This win pushes them to 10-5 in the A-10 with a chance to clinch a share of second place in the conference with a win at George Washington tonight. They are closing in on 20 victories and are a reasonable 6-7 against the RPI Top 100. Their RPI is a very solid 41st. But on the other hand they have losses to LaSalle, Long Beach State, Buffalo and UMass that more than balance out those wins over Tennessee and Penn State. Sagarin has them 66th, and they've still got a lot of ground to make up. They need to win tonight, and then win at least a game or two in the A-10 tournament. They will also need some help from other bubble teams. One thing to keep in mind is that the A-10 is unlikely to get four teams in, and so with Xavier a lock and Dayton nearly a lock, it falls on Temple to prove that they've got a better resume than Rhode Island. They will have to attempt that in the A-10 tournament.

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