Saturday, February 13, 2010

San Diego State Looks For Fourth MWC Bid

San Diego State 68, #25 UNLV 58
San Diego State controlled this game from start to finish, leading the final 37 minutes of play. San Diego State does not have the stars that the other elite teams in the Mountain West have. They don't have the players recognizable to casual fans, like UNLV has with Tre'Von Willis and Chase Stanback, but they mesh really well as a team. They won this game with absolutely suffocating team defense. They used their size advantage to gain a slight rebounding advantage, but team defense was the difference here. UNLV hit only 35% from the field. San Diego State is up to 7-4 in conference play with a 4-5 record against the RPI Top 100, with wins over New Mexico and UNLV, but also bad losses against Wyoming and Pacific. Their Sagarin rating will probably be just inside the Top 50 when the new numbers come out tomorrow. They're right on the bubble, and will have a key opportunity to really move into the bracket when they play at BYU on February 24th. But BYU is really tough to beat at home, and so San Diego State is going to have to avoid any bad losses just in case they don't get that big scalp. They will have to finish at least 3-2 over their final five regular season games, and then put up a respectable performance in the Mountain West tournament. As for UNLV, they are still safely in the bracket despite two straight losses, but they're getting dangerously close to the bubble. They are 19-6, but only 10-6 against the RPI Top 200, with only one RPI Top 50 win out of conference (Louisville). At 7-4 in conference play they also will have to finish at least 10-6, but unlike San Diego State they will be favored in every single remaining regular season game. They will have to lose some bad games to fall into the NIT.

Baylor 64, Missouri 62
This was an impressive ball handling display by Baylor. Nobody presses harder or forces more turnovers than Missouri, and Baylor tried to win this game with only seven players seeing the floor. But they stayed out of foul trouble and despite wearing out a little bit in the second half they managed to ever so barely hang on for the win. Missouri also really struggled to keep Ekpe Udoh off the boards, as he pulled down 10 rebounds, including the winning tip-in with 1.3 seconds to go. Udoh and Quincy Acy combined to have only two fewer rebounds than the entire Missouri team, and the fact that the team only turned the ball over 13 times (a very impressive output against Missouri) meant that Baylor was able to overcome an inferior shooting percentage. Baylor has won four of five, and at 6-4 in the Big 12 are closing in on an at-large bid. Their remaining schedule is very tough (a home game against Texas Tech is as easy as it gets), but if they can manage to go 3-3 and then win a Big 12 tournament game then there's no realistic chance of them being left out of the Tournament. The path into the Field of 65 is trickier for a Missouri team that is also 6-4 in the Big 12, but with an inferior overall resume. With a 6-6 record against the RPI Top 100, as well as a bad loss to Oral Roberts, Missouri's RPI has fallen out of the Top 40, and their ELO_CHESS is closing in on 40th as well. They have remaining home games against Texas and Kansas, and if they can win one of those games and then get to 9-7 in Big 12 play then they should make the Tournament if they can get a Big 12 tournament win. Without a big scalp they might need to get to 10-6, or else make a good run in the Big 12 tournament. I still think they'll be a Tournament team, but they might still be on the bubble as we head into the final week before Selection Sunday.

Xavier 76, Florida 64
The final score here belies how close this game was for most of the second half. Xavier led by only three with under three minutes to go, but down the stretch they hit their shots and collected a nice out of conference win. This game not only affects these two teams, but also will have strength of schedule impacts on all of the SEC and Atlantic Ten conference teams fighting for an at-large bid, and there might not be any conference in the nation with more teams on the bubble than either of those two. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate Xavier as the best team in the Atlantic Ten, and their resume is starting to catch up to that with a 6-7 record against the RPI Top 100, including wins over Cincinnati, Dayton and Rhode Island, and zero bad losses. If the season ended now they'd have a seed in the 7-9 range, and they can realistically get as high as a 5 if they can get hot down the stretch. As for Florida, they are fighting for their Tournament lives after this disappointing home loss. They're also 6-7 against the RPI Top 100, but have not had an RPI Top 50 win since November (when they beat Michigan State and Florida State), and also have a bad loss to South Alabama. Their RPI has fallen all the way to 60th, but their ELO_CHESS is near 50th, so they're still right on the bubble. They have two key opportunities for wins down the stretch with home games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

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