Thursday, February 04, 2010

Wisconsin Hammers Michigan State

#16 Wisconsin 67, #5 Michigan State 49
You had to have the sense that Wisconsin still had life in them even without Jon Leuer after that solid effort they put up in a close loss at Purdue, and Tom Izzo has never won a game at the Kohl Center, but I don't think anybody saw this kind of a domination coming. Wisconsin opened up a ten point lead in the first five minutes of the game, and it was never close after that. The story of the game in the end, however, will be the Kalin Lucas injury. With about ten minutes left in the second half he rolled his ankle and sprained it, and it remains a question mark how long he'll be out. He still hasn't practiced since the injury, and is officially being called "questionable" for Saturday's game at Illinois. Michigan State came into this game 9-0 in the Big Ten, but it was about as soft of a 9-0 as you can have. They've played a very easy schedule, largely at home, and even so required a number of very close final-moment victories. In addition to the coming game at Illinois they also have a home-and-home remaining with Purdue. Even if Lucas doesn't miss another game I still don't think Michigan State ends up better than 14-4 in the Big Ten. That opens things up for teams like Wisconsin, a team whose Big Ten schedule has been the polar opposite of Michigan State's. They've already played a home-and-home against Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, and their three Big Ten losses have been those three road games. Their remaining schedule is almost exclusively against the bottom half of the Big Ten. They could easily end up with a share of the Big Ten title, particularly if Jon Leuer is able to return soon.

South Florida 72, #8 Georgetown 64
It's hard to find a player more confident right now than Dominique Jones. He had 22 points in the second half of this game as South Florida overcame a nine point halftime deficit to win fairly convincingly at a Georgetown team that had destroyed Duke in their previous home game. Not only is Jones making noise as a potential Big East Player of the Year, he's also got his South Florida team 5-5 in the Big East and into the bubble picture for the first time basically ever. Certainly the first time since they moved to the Big East. This win pushes their RPI up to 48th, and they are 6-6 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Pittsburgh and Georgetown and only one bad loss (to Central Michigan). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 49th and their PREDICTOR is 66th. If the season ended now they wouldn't make the NCAA Tournament, but they'd be one of the teams seriously considered by the Selection Committee. They have upcoming road games at Notre Dame and Marquette, but after that their schedule really is not that bad. They only have one game that isn't eminently winnable (at Villanova), and also have convenient home games against a couple of the teams they're fighting against for an at-large bid (Cincinnati and UConn). They will have to get to 9-9 or better to earn that at-large bid. As for Georgetown, they fall to 6-4 and a full four losses behind first placed Villanova. They get a home game against Villanova on Saturday, which will be their last shot at any hope of a share of the Big East regular season title. They remain in the discussion for a 2 or a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can finish well, even if they don't win the Big East.

#6 West Virginia 70, #21 Pittsburgh 51
Maybe the phrase "Backyard Brawl" shouldn't just be reserved for the football games between these two schools. This game was ugly in almost every way. Pitt couldn't hit a shot to save their lives, hitting 30% from the field, 20% behind the arc and 61% from the line. And even worse, West Virginia fans started tossing stuff onto the court to the point that a Pitt assistant coach was actually hit in the head, forcing referees to award Pitt a technical foul, and Bob Huggins to go on the PA system to tell the fans to stop acting stupidly. It's not the first time any of us have seen fans throwing things on a court, but it's hard to recall a case where fans did that while their team was winning easily. West Virginia never trailed in this game, and the game was never even tied other than 2-2 in the opening moments - you'd think the fans would just be happy with the win. And it's a big win for a West Virginia team that still believes it has a shot at a share of the Big East title. They are two losses behind Villanova, but they get Villanova at home on Monday night, just two days after Villanova heads to Georgetown. Certainly it seems like either West Virginia, Villanova or Syracuse will end up being the conference champion. Pitt, on the other hand, has lost four of their last five to fall to 6-4 in the Big East. They still have chances for big wins, with home games against Villanova and West Virginia remaining, but they also have a chance of falling all the way to the bubble. They need to get to ten Big East wins to assure themselves a spot in the Tournament. At 9-9 or 8-10 they will be on the bubble.

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