Sunday, March 08, 2009

Washington and Louisville Win Titles

#13 Washington 67, Washington State 60
You knew that red hot Washington State was going to make this game a battle, but Washington showed a lot of poise hanging in there and squeaking out the victory. Their reward is an outright Pac-10 title, as they finish a game ahead of UCLA. If they can also collect the Pac-10 tournament title they will probably end up as a 3 seed, because they'd need a ton of help to squeeze into the 2 line. I just don't see that happening. If Washington loses in the Pac-10 tournament then they will end up with something between a 4 and a 6 seed. As for Washington State, they had done a great job winning three straight games over three of the best teams in the conference, but they had dug themselves too large of a hole. With the loss here their at-large chances are basically cooked. They finish 8-10 in a mediocre Pac-10, and their stats include a 12-14 record against the RPI Top 200. I suppose it's possible for them to sneak into the Tournament if they make a strong run to the Pac-10 tournament title game, but anything short of that will likely mean the NIT, although even an NIT has not been assured yet for Wazzu.

#6 Louisville 62, West Virginia 59
That Pitt victory over UConn opened up the door for an outright Big East title for Louisville, and they jumped through with a very impressive win over a West Virginia team buoyed by a frenzied crowd on Senior Night. Rick Pitino's teams have always been famous for this slow starts and fast finishes, but it's remarkable the way that they looked so awful back in December only to finish up 16-2 in the Big East. If they win the Big East tournament they're going to be a near lock for a 1 seed. Of course, that brings up a mistake that a lot of college basketball analysts have made on television and in print lately. The fact that if the season ended now we'd have Pitt with a 1 seed, and UConn very likely with one as well, and Louisville with a chance to earn a 1 seed in the Big East tourney, makes people think that the Big East can get three top seeds. They can't. The fact is that these teams all have to play each other in the Big East tournament. Somebody has to lose. The Big East (and the ACC) do have a scenario where they can end up with two top seeds. But they will not get three. If Louisville earns a 1 seed it will come at the expensive of UConn and/or Pitt. As for West Virginia, they finish the season 10-8 in the Big East and tied for seventh in the conference with Providence. They are locks for a Tournament bid, but the Big East tournament will be very important for their seeding. They're going to have to be careful in their first game, where they're likely to play a desperate Notre Dame team playing to keep their Tournament hopes alive.

San Diego State 57, UNLV 46
Other than Florida/Kentucky, it can easily be argued that this was the most important bubble-related game of the day, even if it didn't get a single mention on national television. UNLV entered this game most likely in the Tournament bracket, but this loss leaves them most likely out of the Tournament, for the time being. They finish 21-9 with an 8-6 record against the RPI Top 100, but those numbers are somewhat deceptive. For one thing they're only 9-7 in the Mountain West, and as strong as that conference has been this year it's rare for a team outside a BCS conference to earn an at-large bid when only two games over .500 in conference. That said, it's not unheard of, as just last year a 9-7 Saint Joseph's team made it to the A-10 finals and earned an 11 seed. UNLV might need to repeat that, as it's hard to see them making the Tournament if they don't make the finals of the Mountain West tournament. As for San Diego State, they would have had almost no chance at an at-large bid with a loss here, and with the win they are suddenly right on the edge of making the bracket. Their computer numbers are now slightly better than UNLV's, and they're also a solid 11-5 in Mountain West play. They are only 4-7 against the RPI Top 100 without any good out of conference wins, but they also do not have any bad losses (UNLV, on the other hand, has losses to TCU and Colorado State). They still have a little bit of ground to make up in the Mountain West tournament, but it's going to be tough to deny them a bid if they make the Mountain West finals. They can still earn an at-large if they go out in the Mountain West semis, but they'd need a little bit of help around the nation. Since San Diego State and UNLV will play again in the Mountain West quarterfinals, we can view that as an elimination game. Whichever team loses that game on Thursday will be able to start printing their NIT tickets.

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