Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UConn Back Into The Bracket

UConn 73, #7 West Virginia 62
It's always amazing to me how the no-perspective sports media can build up, knock down and build up again each of these teams with each game. Just a week or two ago we were told that UConn wasn't just out of the bracket, but they had no chance of ever getting back in bracket. Suddenly they're one of the hottest teams in the Big East and right back in the bracket. They are a very athletic team that can play very good defense and can rebound very well when the effort is good, but they're also sloppy. They have the athletes to stay in the game against any opponent, but they also struggle to score so much in slow-down drag-out half court sets that they can lose to anybody in the Big East. One stat that really tells this story more than any other is their rebounding efficiency from Pomeroy. They have the 32nd rated offensive rebounding squad and the 252nd rated defensive rebounding squad. Offensive rebounds have to do mostly with athleticism, as well as effort. Defensive rebounding is more than anything about fundamentals and execution. Well-coached teams are typically better at defensive rebounding than offensive rebounding. Either way, they did rebound well in this game, and Kemba Walker did a great job of getting to the rim to score 21 points even though he couldn't hit an outside shot. The Huskies now move to 7-8 in the Big East. And while they could earn an at-large bid with an 8-10 Big East record and a good performance in the Big East tournament, they really should get to 9-9 if they want to feel good about their chances. As for West Virginia, they fall to 10-5 in the Big East and might be a 3 seed if the season ended now, but with remaining regular season games against Georgetown and Villanova, as well as the Big East tournament, they will have plenty of chances to earn some more big wins. They'd need a lot of things to go right to make a run at a 1 seed, but a 2 seed is still well within their reach.

#13 Georgetown 70, Louisville 60
It seems as if the Georgetown Big Three (Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright) just take turns each game being the star. You never know which of the three will explode. And while Greg Monroe had another big game (16 points and 14 rebounds), it was Austin Freeman's extraordinarily efficient 29 points (5-for-6 behind the arc, 4-for-6 on two-point attempts, and 6-for-6 at the line) that powered Georgetown to a big second half comeback and a nice bounce-back win after two straight losses. It was a sign of the respect (whether it's warranted or not) that the Big East gets in the polls that an 8-6 Georgetown team came into this game ranked 13th in the country. They move to 9-6 now with a chance for another big win next week at West Virginia. A win there would immediately put them back in the discussion for a 3 seed. For Louisville this is a disappointing missed opportunity, although they're still pretty safely in the Field of 65 for the time being. But with a difficult remaining regular season schedule (at UConn, at Marquette, vs Syracuse) they could easily fall right back out of the Tournament. Two wins in those three games will lock up an at-large bid, but with only one win in those three games they will likely need a Big East tournament win.

Florida 75, #17 Tennessee 62
This was some of the best basketball that Florida has played all season. They are a thin team that depends so much on their starting lineup, which showed up big with at least eight points from all five starters, for 71 points in all. They were particularly dominant down low, scoring at a 56% clip for the game on two-point attempts. They also benefited from a poor game out of Wayne Chism, who fouled out with only 15 minutes on the floor. The win is Florida's 20th on the season, and they're now 9-4 in the SEC. Two of their final three regular season games will be against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. This loss drops Tennessee to fourth place in the SEC East, although we can effectively call that fourth place in the SEC with the way that the entire SEC West has fallen apart. They get a chance for an immediate bounce-back win with Kentucky coming to town on Saturday afternoon. They'd be a 5-7 seed if the season ended now, but they can improve their expectations dramatically with a win over Kentucky now that they appear to have settled down their suspension issues and seem to be finally getting comfortable with their new rotation.

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