Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tennessee Takes Out Another Top Team

#17 Tennessee 74, #2 Kentucky 65
It was just one of those days for Kentucky, as they shot 2-for-22 behind the arc and bricked their way to their second loss of the season. You have to give Tennessee credit for not allowing any easy baskets inside. They got called for their share of fouls, and Kentucky stayed in this game with four more free throws made than Tennessee attempted, but they also successfully encouraged Kentucky to keep firing up three pointers that just were not going in. I am also impressed with the fact that Bruce Pearl has continued to use his bench (he gave ten players extended time today, with only two players getting more than 26 minutes on the floor) despite the fact that the roster seems short of enough scholarship players. He's had no problem going with walk-ons that he feels confident can handle the game and keep the tempo and pressure up on opponents. This marks the second win of the season for Tennessee over a Top Two team, to go with a take down of #1 ranked Kansas back in early January. Tennessee is still only 9-5 with this win, and for the time being is still ranked fourth in the SEC East standings, but they probably have the second best resume in the SEC. Vanderbilt has avoided some of the mediocre losses that Tennessee has, as they've managed to pull out a lot of close games over the middle-and-lower teams in the SEC, but Tennessee has bigger wins. Vandy is 9-4 against the RPI Top 100, compared to 9-6 for Tennessee, but they still have no wins against the RPI Top 10. This win pushes Tennessee up to a 4 or 5 seed for the time being, with the potential to realistically move as high as a 3 seed with a strong finish. As for Kentucky, all losses are good learning experiences for young teams, and we'll see how they learn from this one. Despite media huffing and puffing, this was no big upset. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rated Kentucky as only the seventh best team in the country coming into this one, and Sagarin gave the slight edge in this game to Tennessee while Pomeroy gave the slight edge to Kentucky (due to Sagarin rating Tennessee higher than Pomeroy). This was basically a pick'em game. Kentucky remains a strong favorite for a 1 seed. I still think that Kansas is the clear #1 team in the nation, and that Kentucky is the second most likely team to grab a 1 seed, despite the fact that they're obviously not one of the two best teams in the country (due to a combination of a weak schedule, some lucky close wins, and the media hype around John Wall and John Calipari). They would have to lose at least one more time before Selection Sunday to have any chance of not getting a 1 seed.

#23 Texas A&M 74, #21 Texas 58
With Texas A&M coming off a tough loss and Texas coming off their biggest win in almost a month, it was no surprise to see Texas A&M take care of business on their home floor. Donald Sloan will get the attention on Sportscenter because of his 19 points, but the key to this win Bryan Davis, who had seven offensive rebounds against a huge Texas frontline to lead A&M to the surprising rebounding advantage in this game. Davis has probably been the key behind this entire Texas A&M hot stretch, where they've won 6 of their last 8 games. During that stretch Davis is averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, including 5.3 on the offensive end. He's already up to 7th in the conference in rebounding per game, and among those playing more than 25 minutes per game is third in the conference in offensive rebounding efficiency, behind only the much better known Cole Aldrich and Ekpe Udoh. This win should lock up the NCAA Tournament for an Aggies team that was a bubble team just a month ago. They are 9-5 in the Big 12 with an 8-8 record against the RPI Top 100 and zero bad losses. They'd be a 4-6 seed if the season ended now. As for Texas, this is not a bad loss, but it's a missed opportunity. And more importantly, they don't know the status of J'Covan Brown, who had a nasty fall at the end of the game. It looked like he just slammed his head and had a stinger, but you never want to project how quickly a guy will be back when he's taken off the floor on a stabilizing stretcher. Texas is already in trouble at the point guard position with Dogus Balbay gone for the season, and you saw the ball handling problems here with more turnovers as a team than assists. If J'Covan Brown has to be out for any kind of time then the team is really going to have a problem. Jai Lucas is a capable point guard who can eat minutes there, but he's nowhere near the all around athlete and player that Brown is, and who would be the backup? Neither Justin Mason or Avery Bradley is anything but a scoring guard. But as I said, unless something happened that wasn't apparent on television, I wouldn't expect Brown to miss any more time. The next Texas game (at home vs Oklahoma) should be an easy one anyway. Their next true test will be the regular season finale at Baylor next Saturday.

#7 West Virginia 74, Cincinnati 68
Cincy opened up a 13 point first half lead here, but West Virginia started to chip away late in the first half and the Mountaineers victory just started feeling inevitable. West Virginia certainly played with more energy here, and it felt like they just could jump higher and run faster than anybody Cincy had. It was a particularly disappointing performance from Yancy Gates, who had that glazed look that he gets when he's mailing in games, and which is so frustrating to watch when you consider the raw talent that he has. Unless the boxscore I'm looking at has a typo, Gates played this entire game without a single rebound, despite being the largest player on the floor. That's unbelievable. This loss is devastating to Cincy's at-large chances, which were already starting to get a bit dim. I've been waiting all season for Yancy Gates to take this team on his back, and it hasn't happened, and it's hard to see him doing it now. The Bearcats are now 7-9 in the Big East with a brutal final two regular season games (vs Villanova, at Georgetown). Needless to say, they've got to at least split those two games to keep their realistic at-large hopes alive. As for West Virginia, they've had a lot of slow starts and fast finishes lately, but it hasn't hurt them too much. They remain 11-5 in Big East play, in a tie for third place. They play an almost identical schedule to Cincy to close the season (at Villanova, vs Georgetown), so while they could end up 11-7, they could also still potentially make a run at a 1 seed if they can win out and then win the Big East tournament. A more likely finish, of course, is a 2 or a 3 seed.


Anonymous said...


RPI: 15
SOS: 15
Record against RPI Top 50: 5-2 (20, @20, 39, 45, @50)
Record against RPI Top 100: 10-5 (20, @20, 39, 45 @50, 58, @61, @73, 94, 97)
Road/Neutral: 7-5


RPI: 20
SOS: 25
Record against RPI Top 50: 3-5 (1, 4, 45)
Record against RPI Top 100: 9-6 (1, 4, 45, 56, 61 @69, 73, @73, 94)
Road/Neutral: 7-6

Now, UT's RPI, SOS and ELO_CHESS will all rise and they hold two great wins, but their overall resume is not better than Vandy's. They only have one more win against the RPI top 50 and none of them are away from home (Vandy has 2). Tennessee's win will also make Vandy look better because they SWEPT UT. Vandy has the better resume and it's only going to get better with another opportunity to notch a top 50 win in Florida (something UT couldn't do) and a chance to notch another RPI 100 win (USC).

If you're going to give UT love, you need to give Vandy love too. Beating the elite teams is alll great, but consistency is what the committee looks for and UT has been inconsistent and their resume is still weaker than Vandy's.

Jeff said...

I said that I believe Tennessee is a 4 or a 5 seed. And I also said in another post a couple of days ago that I think Vandy is a 5 or a 6 seed right now. So I definitely agree that they are close.

A point I was trying to bring up is that the Selection Committee weighs big wins more and bad losses less than the computers do. Teams with an inordinate amount of big wins and an inordinate amount of bad losses gets seeded ahead of teams that lack both. For a perfect example look at Boston College last season.

Anonymous said...

Vandy may not have 2 wins over top 5 teams, but they do have almost DOUBLE the RPI Top 50 wins that Tennessee does. 2 of those are also on the road; UT lacks a true road win (Memphis is their best road win). They are 3-4 on the road in the SEC (Vandy is 5-2). Vandy has simply been a more consistent team, both at home and on the road. UT does have two great wins, but the NCAAT is chock full of top 50 opponents on neutral courts and UT has not proven it can consistently win against solid Top 50 opponents.

In addition, I feel like you're just not giving the SEC as a whole enough credit. UK will get a 1 seed and the SEC will only have 4 bids, but the resumes of both UT and Vandy are better than many of the teams you have projected ahead of them. I posted all those numbers in another comment section, but the SEC will not be getting a 5 and 6 seed in the tourney. If both teams win out (or don't take any bad losses), Vandy will get a 3 seed (or top top 4 seed) and UT will be a low 4, high 5. I may be drawing at straws with the seeding, but it's important to give this conference credit and I simply don't see it with your projections.

Anonymous said...

In addition, a lot of committee members will rely on the "eye test" and Vandy is clearly better when it comes to this. If Tyler Smith were still around, the Vols would have this advantage, but Vandy plays such a strong, fundamental basketball game that it cannot be ignored. UT has benefited from KU and UK having some really horrid shooting nights, and props to them for capitalizing. With that being said, they don't have enough scorers on the team and their bench is not deep at all. Vandy runs 9 or 10 deep and mixes above average defense with elite offense to create a 3 seed tourney team. This is arguably the best team that Vandy has ever had and they won't be a 5 or 6 seed, I can ASSURE you that.

Jeff said...

You think that Vandy is better by the eye test because you're a Vanderbilt fan. The Sagarin PREDICTOR is the best objective judge of team ability and future performance, and it had Tennessee ahead of Vanderbilt even before today's win over Kentucky. Pomeroy gave a slight edge to Vandy going into today, but I'm going to guess that Tennessee moves ahead with today's results.

Tennessee has the best defense in the SEC. At some point it stops being a coincidence when top teams happen to have bad shooting nights against them.

And also, I'm not sure what you mean about depth. Tennessee gave extended time to ten players today. And even their 12th guy off the bench is Josh Bone, who hasn't had to come off the bench in almost a month, yet two years ago was starting for Southern Illinois.

Because of the suspensions there's a misconception that Tennessee is a thin team, but as I pointed out in this post, they're actually quite deep.

I understand that you're a Vanderbilt fan so you think I'm underestimating your team, and that's fine. But you should know that after all of the years of doing this the "I know you're downgrading my team, but trust me you're wrong" argument doesn't really convince me.

Vandy has won only one game all SEC season by double-digits. They've won a lot of really close games and are due for close losses. Fans of teams always believe that a lot of close wins mean a lot more close wins in the future, because their team is "clutch". But it's half clutch, half luck, and the odds are that teams with a lot of close wins end up with a disproportionate amount of close losses later. That's just what happens.

Anonymous said...

I consider depth to be who can fully contribute off the bench when your 1st string is off the court. Vandy runs 9 deep and everyone is capable of pouring in the points, while I think the likes of Skylar McBee, Woolridge, Williams, Bone and Pearl are unable to do these same things. All these players are decent in one area or another, but they cannot fully contribute on both ends of the floor consistently.

Coming into today, UT did not have the best defense, according to Pomeroy. Their adjusted defensive efficiency was only 15, while UK's was 13. Vandy, by comparison, is 68 (but this number has jumped in the past couple weeks as our defense has become more stifling). If anything, UK and UT are equal with regards to defense (Miss St a close third).

One qualm I do have about this Vandy team is their lack of a killer instinct late in games, but their close wins are not attributed to their luck - it's the way they play. If you watch Vandy at all, you know that Vandy's game is to pound the ball and get to the FT line all game. This is especially prevalent in the late stages of the game. They get a lead and hold on to it, doing just enough to make sure victory is at hand. That's not luck, it's fundamental offense and it's not clutch, it's skill. Just because we don't blow teams out does not mean we're not an elite team.

The eye test is always debatable; the resumes are the true indicators. I just think Vandy's resume is a bit stronger than UT's at this point.

Bball said...

"They've won a lot of really close games and are due for close losses."

I'm surprised that someone who loves to use stats so much would try to use this argument. Steer clear of the Roulette table ...