Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Villanova And Michigan State Fall

#21 Pittsburgh 70, #3 Villanova 65
It was pretty clear here why Villanova's playing style makes them particularly vulnerable against certain types of opponents. Their backcourt is outstanding and will likely not be outplayed in any NCAA Tournament game, but they can play well and still lose, as they did here. Scottie Reynolds led the way here with 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and as a team the Wildcats hit 43% behind the arc. But we all know that Villanova is small, and against big teams like Pittsburgh a game can basically turn into offensive rebounding practice. Pitt had 18 offensive rebounds (compared to only 20 defensive rebounds for Villanova), and despite 35% shooting (even worse than you might think because of all of the easy put-back baskets) they managed to win this game. It makes you wonder what will happen when Villanova plays Syracuse. I had thought that Villanova would have an advantage because of how much Syracuse depends on turnovers and transition points, and struggles to score in half-court sets, but Syracuse is even larger on the inside than Pitt is and could really just muscle their way to the victory. Still, even with a loss to Syracuse this weekend and a failure to win the Big East tournament title, Villanova still looks to be in a good position for a 2 seed. As for Pitt, this is their fifth straight win and they have now moved into sole possession of third place in the Big East. Most of the other contenders for 3 and 4 seeds have really fallen apart the past couple of weeks, and that opens the door to those types of seeds for Pitt

#12 Ohio State 74, #11 Michigan State 67
I know that Evan Turner missed a few weeks with injury, but it's getting harder and harder to not put him as the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award. He played here with a flu, on the road against one of the best defensive teams in the country, and yet ended up only four assists short of a triple double. The only players I can think of over the last decade who were this much of a threat night after night for a triple double were Dwyane Wade and Stephane Lasme. Ohio State's backcourt also deserves a lot of credit for this big win with the way they suffocated Kalin Lucas, who ended up with only nine points on 3-for-13 shooting. Ohio State appears to be in the driver's seat for second place in the Big Ten, and looks to be somewhere close to a 3 seed right now. A good Big Ten tournament performance can easily move them up to a 2. Michigan State, meanwhile, is proving how important schedule strength is. They opened up the Big Ten season 9-0 by beating up on inferior opponents, yet have lost four of six games since the schedule toughened up about three weeks ago. They entered this game ranked 11th in the nation, but they'd probably be a 5 or a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now. They next play at Purdue, on Sunday evening, and then they follow that up with two relatively easy home games to get them sharp for the Big Ten tournament.

Marquette 79, Cincinnati 76, OT
Hot shooting by Marquette behind the arc (11 made three-pointers, at a 41% clip) and at the line (94% for the game) were the difference here as Marquette overcame their inferiority inside against Cincinnati. And in the process of collecting a quality win for themselves, they dealt a crushing blow to Cincinnati's at-large chances. Marquette moves to 8-6 in the Big East, with a 5-7 record against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Georgetown, Xavier and UConn, as well as a bad loss against DePaul. Their RPI is still only 60th, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is all the way up to 38th. They would be one of the last teams into the bracket, or one of the first teams out, if the season ended now. With a relatively easy four games remaining in their regular season they probably need to finish at least 2-2 to stay in a good position for an at-large bid. If they can do that and then win at least one Big East tournament game then they'll assure themselves of at least being in the discussion on Selection Sunday. Cincy, meanwhile, gets clearly knocked out of the Field of 65 for the time being. They are now only 6-8 in the Big East, and 6-11 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Vanderbilt, Maryland and UConn (twice), and no bad losses. Their RPI is 56th and their ELO_CHESS is 54th. They've now put themselves in a situation where they will need at least one win in their final three brutal games (at West Virginia, vs Villanova, at Georgetown), or else their at-large hopes will be dashed.

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