Saturday, March 07, 2009

Providence Will Be A Conundrum

#16 Villanova 97, Providence 80
Villanova really is on a roll, as they've now closed their regular season with 11 wins in their last 13 games. This win locks up fourth place in the Big East, and they'll be on pace for a showdown with Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals. I think that a win there should lock up at least a 3 seed for Villanova. Providence's fate, however, is more uncertain. They finish with a 10-8 record in the Big East, but I would argue that the fact that Providence can go 10-8 is why the Big East is not nearly as good as the media makes it out to be. They do have that very nice upset over Pitt, and they have a win over Syracuse, but their other eight wins all came up against the bottom 9 teams in the conference. Their out of conference resume is bad, with only a 1 point victory over Rhode Island. All in all they are 5-12 against the RPI Top 100, and both the Sagarin and the RPI have them 69th (Pomeroy has them 73rd). They also finished poorly, going only 4-6 in their final ten games. So while the media is making Providence out to have a decent shot at the Tournament, the only stat I can come up with to argue for a Providence bid is a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 54th. So I can't fathom Providence making the Tournament if the season ended now. They are going to be either 8th or 7th in the Big East standings, which means that they'll face a must-win game in the second round of the Big East tournament, followed by what will probably be a must-win game in the Big East quarterfinals against either UConn, Pitt or Louisville. If they lose that game, I just really can't see how Providence will make the Tournament. If they weren't in the Big East I don't think anybody would consider them a likely Tournament team.

Tennessee 86, South Carolina 70
Boy did Tennessee look good here. When they are playing like this they can beat almost anybody, and their style of play is good for a cinderella Tournament run. They can put out a lineup that has five guys who all seem like clones: they're all 6'5"-6'7", they're all long, they're all quick and they're all very athletic. They even almost all wear those sleek white head bands. Of course, they also have games where they can't play defense and can't beat anybody. But if they can bottle up this performance and bring it to the Big Dance, they're going to be a very scary opponent for anybody. This win finally locks Tennessee into the NCAA Tournament, and by locking up the top seed in the SEC East they also get to avoid LSU until the SEC tournament finals. They should be able to work themselves up the NCAA bracket to a fairly good seed. South Carolina, on the other hand, is a really tough bubble team to judge right now. They are 9-6 in the SEC, and should win their finale at Georgia. If they fall there then things get bleak, but assuming they do win they'll be 10-6 and they'll have the second seed out of the SEC East. They are a solid 7-7 against the RPI Top 100, and their computer numbers are decent (the one problem is a Sagarin of 62nd). Assuming they take care of business against Georgia, South Carolina will have to make the SEC tournament semifinals to make the NCAA Tournament (which will probably mean a win over the likes of Mississippi State in their SEC quarterfinal game). If they can then beat LSU then they'll most likely be in the Tournament. If they lose then their at-large chances will depend on what happens the rest of this week. The bubble is currently very weak, which is good for South Carolina, but that can change as quickly as you can say "Davidson loses in the SoCon tournament."

#18 Xavier 76, Dayton 59
Xavier appears to have caught themselves after that inexplicable three losses in four games a couple of weeks back. They have now won three straight, none more impressive then this huge victory over rival Dayton (one of those rivalries that most casual fans have unfortunately never even heard of). Xavier will lock up the outright A-10 regular season title if they beat Richmond tonight, and they still have the potential to end up with a pretty good Tournament seed. They are 11-4 against the RPI Top 100, and Sagarin has them back inside the Top 20. If they win the A-10 tournament they probably won't end up with worse than a 5 seed at this point. They could potentially go as high as a 3 seed if everything falls right for them. As for Dayton, they missed a chance to lock up their own Tournament bid here. They are now 10-5 in the A-10, really needing a home victory over Duquesne tonight. They are a very good 8-3 against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Marquette, Xavier and Temple. On the other hand they have a Sagarin of 63rd and losses to UMass, Saint Louis and Charlotte. I would argue against that Sagarin number with the fact that their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 40th, which means that they're not that good of a team but their resume is good enough that they should be in the Tournament if the season ends now. If they beat Duquesne and make the A-10 tournament semifinals they should be in the NCAA tournament. That bad Sagarin PREDICTOR, though, means that the gambler in me is rooting for Dayton in the Tournament so I can bet against them in the first round.

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