Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crushing Loss For Cincinnati

South Florida 65, Cincinnati 57
Dominique Jones isn't a national name yet, and he probably won't be a national name this season unless South Florida makes the NCAA Tournament, but he sure has turned a lot of heads in the Big East. He torched Cincy's defense here, getting to the free throw line 12 times and scoring 26 total points. He has scored 20 or more points in 10 of his last 12 Big East games, averaging more than 26 points per game over that stretch. And he's almost single-handedly pulling South Florida into serious at-large discussions. Their Big East record is now 6-7, and they're 5-8 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Georgetown and Pittsburgh, and only one bad loss (to Central Michigan). Their RPI is up to 57th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 56th. And both Sagarin and Pomeroy have them as right around the 60th best team in the nation, so their resume is not inconsistent with how good they are. Their remaining schedule really is not that bad either, with every game realistically winnable except for a road game at Villanova. Both Pomeroy and Sagarin give them at least a 55% chance of winning all of those games other than the one against Nova. Assuming they lose one of those four games they will still end up 9-9 in Big East play, giving them a plausible chance at an at-large bid if they can win a game or two in the Big East tournament. As for Cincinnati, they now fall to 6-7 in the Big East as well, and with an ELO_CHESS of 49th they are right on the bubble. They probably have to finish 3-2 over their final five games as well. Their next two games are essential to have against Marquette and DePaul, because their final three regular season games are at West Virginia, vs Villanova and at Georgetown.

Virginia Tech 87, #23 Wake Forest 83
Virginia Tech came into this game in a precarious situation, with a 20-4 record that came against a very weak schedule. That 20-4 record would have gotten them into the Tournament had the season already ended, but they are only one or two bad losses away from falling all the way out. The key for them down the stretch is collecting a big scalp or two, and they got a big scalp here. Beating Wake Forest may not be the same as beating Duke, but it's their only win right now over an RPI Top 25 team, and one of only two against the RPI Top 50 (the other came over Clemson). They are now 8-3 in the ACC and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is up to 17th (although their PREDICTOR is only 39th). They should be safely into the NCAA Tournament if they can win two of their final five regular season games. As for Wake Forest, they got a big time performance here from Al-Farouq Aminu, with 25 points and 8 offensive rebounds. But their backcourt defense was bad, and they got torched by Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson, who combined for 52 points. Delaney and Hudson are two of the better backcourts out there, but if Wake Forest is going to make an NCAA Tournament run then they'll have to handle even better backcourts. The loss drops Wake Forest to 8-4 in the ACC, and they'd probably be a 5 or a 6 seed if the season ended now. If they can finish strong then they can make a run at a 4 seed, or even possibly a 3.

#4 Purdue 60, #12 Ohio State 57
Ohio State had their chances here. Not only did they have the homecourt advantage, but they also had Robbie Hummel on the bench for much of the game with foul trouble (he scored four points in 28 minutes played). But despite Hummel being completely shut out in the first half it was JaJuan Johnson who led the way with 15 points en route to a 13 point lead. And while Ohio State made their run in the second half, they could never quite grab the lead, and Purdue squeezed the life out of the game. Keaton Grant did a really nice job off the bench filling in for Hummel. It's also possible that Ohio State wore out a bit down the stretch, with four of their five starters playing all 40 minutes. But I just think that Purdue is simply the best team in the Big Ten. And while their RPI is still only 9th, their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is up to 6th and I view them as a favorite to grab a 1 seed. Unless they have a bad loss the rest of the way, or fail to win the Big Ten tournament, it's very unlikely that they won't get a 1. As for Ohio State, this loss drops them to 3rd place in the Big Ten with a road game at Michigan State up next. Although if they can pull the upset there, their remaining schedule isn't that bad at all, and they still have a shot at a 3 seed, or even a 2 seed if they can steal the Big Ten tournament.

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