Saturday, February 13, 2010

Memphis Moves Into Second Place

Memphis 93, Tulsa 86
Tulsa had won 23 straight games at home, and it took quite the shooting display by Memphis to end that streak. They hit 54% from the field, 43% behind the arc, and 83% at the line. Tulsa was torched by Elliot Williams, who actually hit one more free throw than the entire Tulsa team. It's become clear for some time that Memphis can't beat good teams except when Williams has a big night, but teams have often been unable to contain him even when they focus on him defensively. Another big plus for Memphis was Angel Garcia, who was only playing his third game of the season after injuring himself in the offseason, and after two quiet performances off of the bench he exploded here for 16 points. He will provide much needed depth for what had been a very thin Memphis team. Even though they came into this game with the third best resume in the conference, I've been arguing that Memphis will win the conference tournament because they're the most talented, and because they have the experience of dominating the conference the past few years. But this win really helps them make the case for an at-large bid should they not take the automatic bid. They are up to 8-2 in Conference USA, and 5-5 against the RPI Top 100, with their best win coming against UAB, and their worst losses coming against UMass and SMU. They would not get an at-large bid if the season ended now, but they still have a shot at one if they can win at least four of their final six regular season games . Their ELO_CHESS was 76th heading into this game, and they will have to get it up close to 50th to get an at-large. As for Tulsa, they entered this season perceived as the top rival for Memphis, but their resume is now probably only fourth best in a conference that has no chance of four Tournament teams. They can change everything if they can win at Duke on February 25th, but without that they will probably need to win at least four of their final five C-USA games to have a realistic at-large shot heading into the C-USA tournament.

Wake Forest 75, #20 Georgia Tech 64
Wake Forest is red hot right now, and with four straight wins they will be in the Top 25 when the new polls come out on Monday. Ishmael Smith is a player who will become a household name during the NCAA Tournament this year, and he led the way here with 10 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds, but the entire Wake Forest backcourt deserves credit for this win for their defense. The Georgia Tech starting backcourt of Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia was completely shut out with zero points on 0-for-10 shooting from the field. With the win Wake Forest moves into second place in the ACC at 8-3, but despite being only one game back of Duke they will lose the head-to-head tiebreak should it get there. But they have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, and could easily end up 12-4. If the season ended now they'd be a 5 or a 6 seed, but they could end up as a high as a 3 if they can get to 12-4 and then make the ACC tournament finals. As for Georgia Tech, this loss actually drops them to 5-6 in ACC play. The rest of their resume is fairly strong, however, with a 7-8 record against the RPI Top 100 and wins over Duke and Clemson, and zero bad losses, so they'd definitely be in the Tournament if the season ended now. But they've got to finish 3-2 to get to 8-8 so that they can still feel good about an at-large bid heading into the ACC tournament.

#2 Kentucky 73, #12 Tennessee 62
This was a very close for the first 30 minutes or so, with the two teams rarely separated by more than two or three points. Tennessee did a good job of going with a zone to slow down John Wall, but they really began to wear down over the final ten minutes of the game. They possibly could have won this game if Tyler Smith was still available. They'll get another shot to take at Kentucky, and it will be on their home floor, on February 27th. But Kentucky can lose that game and still will earn a 1 seed if they can avoid any bad losses and then win the SEC tournament. As for Tennessee, they are now 6-4 in SEC play and a full two games behind Vanderbilt. They no longer have a realistic shot of finishing better than third in the SEC East. But even so, they still would not be worse than a 6 seed if the season ended now. Other than the home game against Kentucky, their key games will be back-to-back road games against South Carolina and Florida. Also, while it's a bit early to start thinking about conference tournament match-ups, a third placed Tennessee team would be on pace to play Kentucky in the SEC semifinals, which would give them yet another chance for another big win.

No comments: