Thursday, March 12, 2009

Talking Texas A&M, Providence & Northwestern

Texas Tech 88, Texas A&M 83
I needed to talk about one last game from last night. What a crazy, crazy game this was. First of all, you had a team that was the heavy favorite blowing a 21 point second half lead. And you had it happen because of 29 straight points by a bench player en route to a Big 12 tournament record 43 points. When you combine this with a rapidly improving bubble, suddenly Texas A&M isn't such a certain Tournament team anymore. I will say that they are in the Tournament at the moment. They are a solid 23-9 with an 8-8 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas, LSU and Arizona, although this loss does represent an RPI 100+ loss. Like I said, they're in the bracket at the moment, but they're not a lock. A lot of teams out of the bracket have a chance to earn their way in during conference tournament play, while A&M is sitting in the clubhouse. It's going to be a nervous few days in College Station.

#5 Louisville 73, Providence 55
The Big East Network (formerly known as ESPN) will continue to pump up Providence as a potential at-large team, but after this loss I just don't see it. They finish 6-13 against the RPI Top 100. Not only that, but they only had two wins all season long against the RPI Top 60. They went 19-13, but that included a 10-8 Big East record that was inflated due to some luck with the unbalanced schedule, and an 8-4 record against an out of conference resume that Pomeroy ranks 282nd. With a Sagarin rating of 69th and an RPI of 70th, the only argument that you can make for them will be the argument that you're certain to hear Digger Phelps make this weekend, which is that any team that goes 10-8 in the Big East has to make the Tournament regardless of their resume. But that's not how the Selection Committee works. As for Louisville, this has been a remarkably good 24 hours, with losses for Pitt, Kansas and Oklahoma. Suddenly those hopes for a 1 seed aren't looking like as much of a long shot. In fact, if they win the Big East tournament they'll be a lock for a 1 seed. They could even potentially get a 1 seed if they lose in the Big East finals. If they lose tomorrow against Villanova, though, they won't go any higher than a 2 seed.

Minnesota 66, Northwestern 53
Northwestern was a great feel good story this season, but this loss should assure their spot in the NIT. They finish 17-13 overall with a 6-11 record against the RPI Top 100. They did have those road wins at Michigan State and Purdue, but it's not going to be enough. Still, this will only be their fourth trip to the NIT in over 100 years of basketball history (they still have never been to the Big Dance), and they are a young team that should be even better next year. It's hard not to feel good about this season if you're a Northwestern fan, even with this downer of an ending. As for Minnesota, I don't think this win locks them in the Tournament, but it does put them solidly in the bracket for the time being. They're now up to 22-9 with a solid 9-9 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Louisville, Illinois, Ohio State and Wisconsin (twice), and zero bad losses. The RPI is up to 37th, and Sagarin will have them right around 30th when the new numbers come out tomorrow morning. They can lock up their at-large bid if they can beat Michigan State tomorrow. Otherwise they're going to have to sweat this weekend out.

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