Friday, February 12, 2010

Six Atlantic Ten Teams Have At-Large Case

Richmond 69, Rhode Island 67
Richmond hasn't shot better than this all season long. They were coming off a home win over Temple, but they won a road game over what was previously the hottest team in the A-10 with some red hot shooting from deep. As a team they hit 9-for-13 behind the arc, and also shot 54% on two-pointers. Rhode Island actually was the better team here: with nine more offensive rebounds and five fewer turnovers they ended up with 12 more shots from the field and 12 more at the line. It's very rare for a team to take that many more shots than an opponent and to then lose. But don't feel bad for Rhode Island, because they've been winning close games all season long. They came into this one 7-2 in games decided by five points or less, and even after this one they still have a dramatically better Sagarin ELO_CHESS (23rd) than PREDICTOR (63rd). Their RPI remains 21st, but that's a bit of a mirage due to their out-of-conference resume, where 10 of their 13 games were against teams with an RPI between 55th and 175th. The key to inflating your RPI is always to avoid teams with RPIs over 250. If Rhode Island played a team with an RPI of 330th tomorrow, they could win by 50 points and their RPI would drop out of the Top 30. They are 5-4 against the RPI Top 100, but their two best wins are over Dayton and Oklahoma State. If they don't win at Temple tomorrow afternoon then they will not have a big win on Selection Sunday, so they're going to have to be very careful to avoid any bad losses between now and then. As for Richmond, this win suddenly makes them a very viable at-large team. In fact, if the season ended now they'd be an at-large team. They are 19-6, including 7-6 against the RPI Top 105. With five wins in a row they're now 8-2 and tied for first place in the A-10. The thing is, they're due for a letdown game. They will have a bad loss between now and Selection Sunday. The question is, how bad will the loss be, and how will they respond to it?

Dayton 75, Charlotte 47
As wild as the A-10 has been in recent weeks, it still was a bit of a surprise to see the 8-1 conference leaders have this bad of a clunker. Charlotte lost the rebounding battle, they lost the turnover battle, and they hit 25% from the field. They were beaten badly in every aspect of the game. Charlotte is still 18-6, and 3-6 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Louisville, Temple and Richmond, and their RPI is 38th. But this game is not the first evidence that Charlotte should not be in the NCAA Tournament, including a Pomeroy Luck factor that is first in the nation. They came into this game leading the A-10, and are clearly on the bubble, but in my opinion they clearly have the sixth best resume in the conference. With a tough remaining schedule (including games against Xavier, Rhode Island and Richmond), I would expect Charlotte to lose more games and end up out the NCAA Tournament. But when the sixth best resume in the conference features a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 29th place... it's a pretty good season for the Atlantic Ten. As for Dayton, the preseason A-10 favorites seem to really be coming to life with three straight blowouts to get to 6-3 in conference play. They're now 4-5 against the RPI Top 100, and both Pomeroy and Sagarin rate them as the second best team in the A-10 (behind Xavier).

Clemson 77, Florida State 67

Clemson did a nice job of playing aggressive offense in this game. Florida State has a very long and athletic defense that is difficult to score against, but Clemson ran right at them and earned 38 trips to the free throw line that ended up being the difference in the game (the scoring differential at the line was greater than the scoring differential for the game). They also fouled out Solomon Alabi, and put the rest of the Florida State front line in foul trouble. This win pushes Clemson back to .500 in ACC, at 5-5. All they likely need to do to earn that at-large bid will be to get to 8-8. The next two Saturdays will be key, with very winnable home games against Miami and Virginia. They'll be favored in both games, and if they can take care of business they'll be very close to locking up an at-large bid for sure. Florida State is also 5-5, and also will have a good shot at an at-large bid if they can get to 8-8, but they've been losing momentum. They've lost three of their last five games, and those two wins came over Boston College and Miami. It's been pretty clear for some time that Florida State is going to stay on the bubble all season long. Their at-large chances will probably end up coming down to their ACC tournament play.

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