Thursday, February 11, 2010

Purdue Grabs Back Control Of Big Ten

#6 Purdue 76, #10 Michigan State 64
It's unfortunate for Michigan State that of their two games with Purdue, the home game had to happen here. They are reeling as a team, and you had to have the sense that they were going to lose this game no matter where it was played. If this game had been at Purdue then at least Michigan State might have been able to grab a season split later in the season when Kalin Lucas is healthy. It's unlikely that they'll win at Purdue now, even if Lucas is back to 100%. Lucas did play in this game for the first time since spraining his ankle, but he was only marginally effective. The biggest thing he provided was leadership, which calmed the team down and prevented many of the stupid turnovers that doomed them against Illinois. But defensively they could not stop Purdue, and the Boilermakers didn't miss any open shots either. They hit 57% from the field, including 43% behind the arc, as well as 91% from the line. Purdue is still technically in fourth place in the Big Ten, but their three losses are tied with Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois for the least in the conference. Purdue gets to play Michigan State and Illinois again at home, and Ohio State on the road. They are the best team in the Big Ten, and at this point it seems unlikely that they won't finish with at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. If they can win at Ohio State next Wednesday evening then they have to be the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten outright. As for Michigan State, other than that game at Purdue their remaining schedule actually is not that bad. If Purdue slilps up then the Spartans still have a shot to win the conference, particularly with Lucas quickly getting healthier.

Illinois 63, #13 Wisconsin 56
This was a pretty big shocker. When you consider how good each of these teams are at home, I mentally penciled in a Wisconsin win here and an Illinois win when these teams play at Assembly Hall to close out the regular season on March 6th. Illinois pretty much got all of their offense here from Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale. Those two ran a high screen seemingly every play, and neither could miss. Tisdale shot 8-for-11 from the field, and I don't think a single shot was within 15 feet. And McCamey hit 11-for-18 from the field, including a couple from about 30 feet. The two combined for 46 of the 63 Illinois points. But even with that hot shooting, Wisconsin still would have won the game if not for an unbelievable cold shooting stretch to close the game. Over the final 13 minutes of this game Wisconsin shot 3-for-21 from the field, and were 0-for-2 at the line. I really got the sense that a streak like that wouldn't have happened if Jon Leuer was playing, because he has the ability to get to the basket and to the line off the dribble, and would have been able to provide help defense inside off of those Illinois high screens. Wisconsin really struggled with the size of Illinois. Either way, this loss is devastating to Wisconsin's chances of a Big Ten title. They could still potentially win out, with road games at Minnesota and Illinois being the only particularly tough games remaining, but it's unlikely. I don't think they can earn a 2 seed now unless they win the Big Ten tournament. As for Illinois, they have clearly pulled themselves off the Tournament bubble for the time being with a 9-3 Big Ten record. Their remaining schedule is really brutal (a home game against Minnesota is probably the easiest), so they have no realistic chance of getting a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but they now only have to win two of those final six regular season games to lock up an at-large bid.

Miami (Fl) 64, #20 Georgia Tech 62
One of the things that drives me nuts about college football is that the sport rewards easy schedules. The top teams know that their best chance of a national title is to put together as easy of a schedule as possible, and then to beat all of those teams by 50 points. Miami basketball this season chose to schedule a college football schedule, and despite having the identical 17-7 record as Georgia Tech right now they have nowhere near the same resume. Miami put together a joke of an out-of-conference schedule that they went 14-0 against, but the Selection Committee will yawn because not one of those 14 wins came against an RPI Top 60 team. Miami is now just 3-7 in the ACC even with this win, and 5-7 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 58th. They do have four of their final six games at home, but they're going to have to win at least four of those six games to have a shot at an at-large bid. As for Georgia Tech, they now fall to 5-5 and a tie for sixth place in the ACC. Despite also being only 17-7 they are a better 7-7 against the RPI Top 100 with zero bad losses, and wins over Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson and Siena. If they can split their final six games and end up 8-8 in the ACC then it's hard to see them not making the NCAA Tournament. Even at 7-9 they'd have a shot if they played well in the ACC tournament.

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