Sunday, March 07, 2010

Illinois Is In A Lot Of Trouble

#17 Wisconsin 72, Illinois 57
Illinois beat Wisconsin in Madison earlier this season, but that Wisconsin team was without Jon Leuer, and he was the difference in a nice true road victory for Wisconsin. Leuer had 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting, although I don't think he hit a shot beyond two feet, as he just torched every defender Illinois threw at him. Wisconsin also did a great job of stealing a lot of offensive rebounds from an Illinois team that just seemed too tight and a step slow, including seven offensive boards from 6'1" Trevon Hughes. This is a devastating loss for an Illinois team that ran up a 9-3 Big Ten record against the bottom feeders, but has now lost five of six against the top of the conference. They'll get some benefit of the doubt for the tough schedule, but the Selection Committee wants to see you beat good teams, rather than just playing them and losing. Wins over Vanderbilt, Clemson, Wisconsin and Michigan State will go a long way, but they are only 5-10 against the RPI Top 100, and 12-11 against the RPI Top 200. Their RPI has fallen to 75th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS has fallen out of the Top 65. Their next game will be in the Big Ten tournament against Wisconsin, a game that they have to win to have any hope of an at-large bid. Even that might not be enough, as they probably would need to follow that up with one more win to reach the Big Ten title game. Demetri McCamey and Bruce Weber will have to get back on the same page very soon. As for Wisconsin, it's worth pointing out that they came into this game with a Sagarin PREDICTOR of 4th and a Pomeroy rating of 3rd, all despite missing their second best player for more than a month. They have to be a sleeper Final Four contender. If the season ended now they'd probably be a 4 seed, although they will easily slide up to a 3 seed with a win or two in the Big Ten tournament.

Old Dominion 73, VCU 69, OT
Old Dominion trailed for most of this game, including a pretty steep 12 point deficit with 12 minutes remaining. But they fought back the way they've been winning all season long: with ferocious interior play, on both sides of the floor. Gerald Lee was unstoppable inside with 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting, they won the rebounding battle 39-to-26, and they completely shut down VCU star Larry Sanders (six points, six rebounds and four fouls in 26 minutes). I found it impressive that in the modern era where so many teams just drive and kick out for three pointers all game long, Old Dominion managed to attempt only eight three-pointers in 45 minutes of game time. VCU entered this game still holding out hope for an at-large bid, but this loss condemns them to the NIT. Old Dominion, on the other hand, does have a realistic chance for an at-large bid should they lose the Colonial title game tomorrow against William & Mary. I'll go into their resume in more depth after their game tomorrow, but this win tonight should push their Sagarin ELO_CHESS inside the important Top 50 barrier. At the very least they'll be in the discussion on Selection Sunday.

Wake Forest 70, Clemson 65
Yet another bubble battle in the ACC, with both of these teams looking to really firmly put themselves into the bracket, and it was Wake Forest that benefited from ice cold Clemson shooting (20% behind the arc, 63% at the line). Al-Farouq Aminu deserves credit for coming back off of two horrid performances to lead Wake Forest in both points (18) and rebounds (12). Wake has other good post players, but none with the athleticism of Aminu, and he will have to play like this for them to make any noise in the NCAA Tournament. This win snaps a four game losing streak, putting them 9-7 in the ACC with a 6-5 record against the RPI Top 50, including wins over Maryland, Xavier and Gonzaga to go with this one. This win pushes their RPI up to 31st, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be up inside the Top 35 as well. Wake is probably in the bracket for good, but a win over Miami on Thursday afternoon will lock it up. If the season ended now they'd be a 7-9 seed. For Clemson, despite some really good computer numbers (both Sagarin and Pomeroy will have them somewhere around the 20th best team in the country even after this loss) they still need one more win to keep themselves in the NCAA Tournament. They are 8-8 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI of 27th, but a Sagarin ELO_CHESS just outside the Top 35. The Tigers play next against NC State, on Thursday evening.

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