Saturday, February 13, 2010

Duke Continues UNC Misery

#7 Duke 64, North Carolina 54
Neither team played particularly well here, with neither team able to generate much offense. But Duke hit their open three-pointers (9-for-18 behind the arc for the game) and that was the difference. I don't want to re-hash my thoughts on what's going on with this North Carolina team because I just wrote a long post about it yesterday (read that here). But there's clearly a complete leadership vacuum, and the injuries are building up to an unbelievable level, and it's obvious that much of the team has just checked out. If Tyler Zeller comes back soon and they turn things around they can still make the NCAA Tournament. Although at 2-7 in the ACC, they've probably got to get to 7-9. I can't recall any example of a team earning an at-large bid when four games below .500 in conference play, but a North Carolina team that finishes 4-3 and then wins a couple of ACC tournament games would probably make the best ever case for a 6-10 team getting in. But with eight losses in their last nine games, they can't be worried about that right now. They have a pretty easy home game this afternoon against NC State that I expect them to win, but then they play at Georgia Tech and Boston College, followed by a home game against Florida State. I don't think it's a stretch to say that they have to win at least three of those next four games to get back on the bubble. As for Duke, while beating their rival is always sweet, they're more focused on bigger things this season. They are leading the ACC at 8-2, and the one remaining roadblock between them and the ACC title is Maryland, who they play at home today, and then on the road on March 3rd. If they can win the outright ACC regular season title and then win the ACC tournament title, they'll have a great case for a 1 seed.

#19 New Mexico 76, #25 UNLV 66
This was a great team effort by New Mexico. Four of their starters scored in double digits, and they dominated the team rebounding battle (15 offensive rebounds, compared to only 14 defensive rebounds for UNLV). Darington Hobson continues his hot play, with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 2-for-3 shooting behind the arc. New Mexico temporarily grabs a slight lead over BYU in the Mountain West standings, but that regular season title will likely come down to a game at BYU on February 27th. They already took care of business in their home game against BYU. As for UNLV, despite this loss they remain fairly safely in the field of 65. They are 19-5, including an 8-4 record against the RPI Top 100, with wins over BYU, New Mexico and Louisville. Their one disappointing loss is to Utah. They will likely be favored in five of their final six games, and if they can win five of those six then they will make the NCAA Tournament regardless of their peformance in the Mountain West tournament.

#11 Gonzaga 80, Saint Mary's 61
Gonzaga was really focused and motivated for this game. I watched this game and really thought that the refs let them get out of control - they were fouling Saint Mary's on almost every defensive possession and it wasn't being called. But the Gaels seemed to be really psyched out by the intense defense, and just were never really in this game. Gonzaga could not hit outside shots (4-for-13 behind the arc), but they did a great job of getting the ball into the paint for easy buckets (61% shooting on 2-point attempts). Gonzaga will likely not lose another game between Selection Sunday, which will make them a very interesting case for the Selection Committee. It's hard to come up with any other team that has had as many RPI 200+ losses as RPI Top 25 wins (one, in Gonzaga's case) still earn a 2 seed. But Gonzaga's overall numbers are already pretty impressive: 20-4 with a 9-3 record against the RPI Top 100, and if they win out they'll end up 28-4. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is already up to 14th. And most of all, there just has been a lot of carnage in the Top 10 this season. There are going to be teams getting 2, 3 and 4 seeds with surprisingly bad resumes. So Gonzaga has to be considered at this point a very serious contender for a 2 seed. As for Saint Mary's, they head to Portland today, but then will not have another difficult game until the WCC tournament. They're currently 21-4 with a 5-4 record against the RPI Top 100 with wins over San Diego State and Utah State and no bad losses. Their RPI is 43rd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 31st. If the season ended now they'd almost definitely get an at-large bid, but without much room to spare. A loss to Portland today would probably drop them out of the field for the time being. But if they can beat Portland and then take care of business against the inferior teams they finish their regular season against, and then make the WCC tournament finals, it will be hard to see them getting left out of the Field of 65. They could even get a pretty good seed.

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