Friday, March 05, 2010

Marquette Rolls On

Marquette 69, Louisville 48
Darius John Odom scored 14 points before he missed a single shot in this game, but Marquette's lead was still only five points with about a minute left in the first half when Louisville proceeded to go more than eight minutes without scoring a point. Marquette scored 18 points over that stretch, blowing their lead open to a level that they never relinquished. I thought that this was a poor performance from Rick Pitino and his staff, because Louisville seemed completely unprepared to deal with Marquette's energetic and athletic guards. Louisville has big bodies that they could use to attack the basket inside, and to foul out Lazar Hayward, but they did neither. Samardo Samuels and Jared Swopshire combined for nine points and eight turnovers. But Marquette has been doing this to a lot of teams lately. They have won nine of their last ten games and have forced themselves into the Field of 65 after barely even being a bubble team a month ago. They're up to 8-7 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 25th. If the season ended now they would not only be in the Tournament, but they'd be in the discussion for a 7-9 seed. The only way they could fall out of the Tournament at this point would be to lose their home finale against Notre Dame and then their first round Big East tournament game. As for Louisville, they head into a home finale that they really need to win against Syracuse. They're now 10-7 in the Big East, but against a relatively soft schedule: they're only 7-10 against the RPI Top 100 with that one upset they've already got over Syracuse being their only win over a team with an RPI better than 50th. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS has slipped to 42nd. If they can't handle Syracuse at home then they will head into the Big East second round against a team like Seton Hall or Cincinnati knowing that a loss might knock them out of the bracket.

Florida State 51, Wake Forest 47
Florida State's offense is so bad that these are the only types of games that they win. They had as many turnovers and fouls committed (15 a piece) as field goals made. But they also forced 12 steals and dragged Wake Forest into a bruising drag-out battle, and pulled out the win in the end. They've held four of their last five ACC opponents to 53 points or less, and their defense is now rated #1 in the country by Pomeroy. So as awful as their offense is, they're a good team that will really frustrate opponents in the NCAA Tournament. And with a 9-7 record against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Georgia Tech and Marquette to go with this one and a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 31st, it does look like they'll be there. Wake Forest is in a more difficult situation, with a 9-9 record against the RPI Top 115. They do have a 5-4 record against the RPI Top 50, however, and the Selection Committee will weigh those wins over Gonzaga, Xavier and Maryland more heavily than the losses to Miami and NC State. So they're still in the Field of 65, but they need at least one more win to stay there.

Rhode Island 80, Charlotte 58
Rhode Island had really been tailing off with four losses in their last five games, which was something that was somewhat expected since their Sagarin PREDICTOR was so much worse than their ELO_CHESS, but people had begun to forget why Rhode Island over-performed in the first place: a fierce, aggressive pressing defense that forces a lot of turnovers and produces a lot of easy baskets. They forced 17 turnovers and turned this game into a layup line, dealing a death blow to Charlotte's own at-large chances. Charlotte had a lot of at-large buzz back when they were 8-1 in the Atlantic Ten, but I never quite understood it. It was obvious that they'd beaten up on the soft part of their schedule and that their final seven regular season games were going to be brutal, and they just were not a good enough team to handle it. I didn't see it being this bad (five losses in their last six games), but they never struck me as a likely Tournament team. They are now 9-6 in the A-10 with a 4-9 record against the RPI Top 100. They close their regular season with a must-win at home against Richmond. Even with a win there they'll need at least two more wins in the A-10 tournament to have a realistic shot at an at-large. Rhode Island, on the other hand, is right on the edge of the bracket right now. They're also 9-6 in the A-10, but with an 8-6 record against the RPI Top 100 and wins over Dayton and Oklahoma State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 37th (compared to 56th for Charlotte), which means that if they did miss the bracket if the season ended now they would be one of the first two or three teams out of the bracket. They end their regular season with a tricky road game at UMass (particularly tricky when you consider that their last road win came more than a month ago, against a 4-11 La Salle team). They likely need at least two more wins between now and Selection Sunday to make the Tournament.

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