Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pitt Keeps Marquette On The Bubble

#21 Pittsburgh 58, Marquette 51
Marquette has gained a lot of momentum as a potential NCAA Tournament team over the past week or two, and could have moved into the bracket (at least for the time being) with a win here. But in the end the difference was inside play, where Marquette has been weak all season long. They play most of the time with what is effectively a four guard, one small forward lineup. Pitt is not nearly as big as they were last season, but defensively they absolutely controlled the paint, forcing a lot of long jumpers by Marquette. The few players who made it into the line had their shots blocked (Gary McGhee had six by himself). Pitt also did a good job of interior passing, something which they tend to be good of, with 19 assists on 23 made baskets. For Marquette, they fall to 7-6 in the Big East, with a 4-7 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Xavier, Georgetown and UConn, and a loss to DePaul. Their RPI is 68th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS rating is somewhere around 50th (we'll see what it is in the morning). There's no question that they would be out of the Field of 65 if the season ended now, but they're very close. One big win would put them right back in. As for Pitt, this effectively locks up their at-large bid. They would have to lose every game left between now and Selection Sunday to even have a chance of missing the Tournament, and obviously that is not going to happen.

#24 Northern Iowa 68, Old Dominion 60
This was a really difficult match-up for Northern Iowa. Their star 7-foot center Jordan Eglseder was suspended for the game, and Old Dominion is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation. Amazingly, UNI actually won the rebounding battle, on the back of inspired play from Adam Koch and Lucas O'Rear. Northern Iowa is now 24-3 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that has moved into the Top 20 in the nation. If the season ended now they'd be a 5 or a 6 seed, although I don't see them moving much higher. They don't have the Top 25 wins that the other teams competing for 3 and 4 seeds will have. As for Old Dominion, this damages but does not end their at-large chances. They're 21-8 with a 6-7 record against the RPI Top 100, with a win over Georgetown. Their computer numbers are all in the low-40s right now. They would have a tough time getting an at-large bid if they lost in the CAA tournament, unless they won every game between now and then, but they are in the discussion for a 12, or even an 11 seed if they can win the automatic bid.

Florida 64, Ole Miss 61
Other than at the free throw line, Florida really struggled to hit shots in this game. Despite hitting only one three pointer they entire game, the difference here was Vernon Macklin, who Ole Miss just could not guard in the paint. Florida pounded the ball inside, and Macklin scored 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field. Ole Miss got a nice jolt off the bench from Terrance Henry, who from game-to-game seems to either be a non-factor or a star. For Florida, this win pushes them to 8-4 in the SEC and ever closer to an at-large bid. They have a very difficult remaining schedule (vs Tennessee, at Georgia, vs Vanderbilt, at Kentucky). A split in those four games should be sufficient to lock up that at-large bid. Ole Miss, meanwhile, falls to 5-7 in the SEC with a very mediocre 9-8 record against the RPI Top 200. Their only RPI Top 50 win came back in November, over Kansas State. With RPI and Sagarin ratings that have fallen out of the Top 50 there's no question that Mississippi would not be a Tournament team if the season ended now. They've got to at least split their final four SEC regular season games to stay alive in the bubble picture.

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