Tuesday, February 16, 2010

UConn Stays Alive At Villanova

Connecticut 84, #3 Villanova 75
This was a somewhat surprising result, but not as much as you might think. I talk sometimes here about sports betting, and when to bet on or against a team, and this was the type of game where you bet on UConn. UConn's resume is not good, but they're a quality team. More than anybody, they remind me of Florida State, another team with outstanding athletes and good defense that struggles offensively in the half court. This was the first game where they've had a full preparation with Jim Calhoun since he left for health reasons. Most importantly, this was a team backed up against a wall, staring at a 4-9 Big East record that would have been almost impossible to come back from. Now at 5-8, their March Madness odds are still not wonderful, but they're back in the bubble picture. They're 8-9 against the RPI Top 100 with a win over Texas to go with this win, and no particularly bad losses. Their RPI is back up to 50th, although their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is still back at 58th. If they can get to 8-10 in Big East play and then win at least one Big East tournament game then I think that gets them into the Dance. Three of those five final regular season games are on the road, but the two home games are against their two toughest remaining opponents (West Virginia and Louisville). They've obviously got to take care of Rutgers on the road, and then split those two home games to grab another RPI Top 50 win. As for Villanova, this hurts their chances at a 1 seed, but the fact that Syracuse lost also this week means that those two are still even in the battle for the Big East regular season title. Their next game is a big one at Pitt, but the Big East title will probably come down to their road game at Syracuse on February 27th. If Villanova can win a share of the Big East title and then win the Big East tournament then they should get a 1 seed.

Northwestern 77, Minnesota 74, OT
This was a brutal and killer loss for Minnesota. They led by 13 points with 7:30 to go, but let the lead slip away. And Northwestern squeezed the life out of the game in the overtime period by hitting 9 of 10 free throw attempts. The comeback was led by John Shurna, who played all 45 minutes in the game and scored 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting behind the arc. This was a near must-win for both teams, as both teams entered in at-large contention, but outside the Tournament if the season had already ended. Northwestern moves to 6-7 in Big Ten play with this win, but their resume is still pretty weak. They're 4-7 against the RPI Top 100 with a win over Purdue being their only against the Top 50, and an Iowa loss being their worst. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 61st, and their other computer ratings are worse. They need to collect at least one more RPI Top 50 win, and they've got to get to at least 9-9. Even that won't be enough without a good Big Ten tournament and some help. As for Minnesota, they are a team with a lot of talent that has had a lot of off-court problems, a lot of tough losses, and just a disappointing season in general. They should be much better than 14-10, which is where they sit right now. Their Sagarin PREDICTOR is still 27th, but their ELO_CHESS is 83rd, and it's getting late in the season to be too warmed by that PREDICTOR number. At 5-7 in the Big Ten they will have to finish at least 4-2 to get an at-large.

#1 Kansas 59, #23 Texas A&M 54
I don't think any team in the country has had more impressive tough, close wins than Kansas has had. Texas A&M has been one of the hottest teams in the country, and their crowd had them fired up, but Kansas is just too good. Kansas doesn't impress me as much as last year's North Carolina team did, but that team was the best we've seen in several years. This Kansas team will end up being one of the best of this decade, and anybody who is not ranking them #1 in the country should have their voting ballots taken away. As for the Aggies, this is a huge missed opportunity to really make a run at something like a 4 or a 5 seed. They're now 7-4 in the Big 12, and 7-7 against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Baylor and Clemson. Their RPI is 18th and their ELO_CHESS is 22nd. They probably need two more wins to completely lock up an at-large bid, but with six wins in the seven games leading up to this one that should not be a problem.

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