Saturday, March 06, 2010

Memphis Grabbing Control

Memphis 70, UAB 65
I've been arguing for some time that I think Memphis will win the Conference USA tournament to get an automatic bid, even though they do not have the best resume in the conference (that would be UTEP). Memphis is a team that is still finding itself with a really young and inexperienced coach, and they've improved rapidly over the last two months. And the return of Angel Garcia has been huge for the depth of a frightfully thin bench. They can now go safely eight players deep, which is fine (I've always been a believer that a team needs a regular eight or nine man rotation to reach their potential). The Tigers have now won six of seven to actually get themselves into the serious bubble debate even should they not win the C-USA tournament. They're 12-3 in conference play, with only a home game against reeling Tulsa remaining. They're 6-5 against the RPI Top 100, although the two wins over UAB are their only RPI Top 50 wins, and they've got bad losses to UMass, Houston and SMU. Their RPI is 51st, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 61st, so they've still got work to do. They need to beat Tulsa and then make it to the C-USA tournament finals. The question will be whether a loss in that game will keep them out of the Field of 65, and the answer will depend on the strength of the bubble. As for UAB, they've been on the bubble for some time, but they've been unable to firmly get a foot in the Field of 65. UAB is 23-6, but they have to win at UTEP tonight to avoid falling to 11-5 in conference play, a potential fourth place finish. They're 5-5 against the RPI Top 100, but that includes a weak 1-2 record against the RPI Top 50 (the win came over Butler). Their ELO_CHESS is 49th, and their RPI is 41st. If the season ended now they would be just barely out of the Tournament, although a win over UTEP tonight would probably put them back in the bracket, temporarily. They're going to have to win at least two more games between now and Selection Sunday to have a realistic shot at making the NCAA Tournament.

#24 Texas A&M 76, Oklahoma State 61
A classic Senior Night win for Texas A&M. They came out of the locker room fired up, opening up 9-0 and then opening that lead to 13 before the energy worked its way out of their system and Oklahoma State came all the way back to tie the game. They then came out of the halftime locker room with another run: 14-0 this time. Oklahoma State narrowed the lead a bit, but it was too much to overcome. As a whole, this game was really a three-point contest. Oklahoma State launched, and launched, and launched: 8-for-33 as a team (how you shoot 33 of them in a game where you're hitting less than a quarter of them is beyond me). A&M, on the other hand, was an efficient 10-for-21 behind the arc. Oklahoma State was the slightly better rebounding team, and committed six fewer turnovers, but the three-point shooting was the difference. This win locks up Texas A&M's at-large bid. In fact, I doubt they'd be worse than a 6 seed if the season ended now. If they can win a Big 12 tournament title they will get themselves in the discussion for as high as a 3 seed. As for Oklahoma State, despite an RPI of 27th they have still not locked up their own at-large bid. They're still only 8-7 in the Big 12 (although they should finish 9-7 with only a home game against Nebraska remaining), and only 6-9 against the RPI Top 100, but their resume is bolstered by wins over Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas A&M, with zero bad losses. So there's no question they'd be in the Tournament if the season ended now. But even assuming that they take care of business this afternoon against Nebraska, they still probably need one win in the Big 12 tournament to keep themselves in the bracket for certain.

Richmond 60, Dayton 56
This was a devastating loss for Dayton. In a game they needed to have, which would have been a powerful road win heading into Selection Sunday, they led almost the entire way before faltering down the stretch. The loss is their fourth in their last six, as they fall all the way into seventh place in the Atlantic Ten. Dayton now had a must-win home game against St. Louis to end the season. Even a win there would still only get them to 6-9 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Georgia Tech, Xavier and Old Dominion, along with a bad loss to St. Joe's. Of the top seven A-10 teams (the only ones with any hopes at an at-large bid), Dayton has been the one team all season with a Sagarin PREDICTOR better than their ELO_CHESS, which is why I thought that if one team would not fall apart down the stretch it would be them. But as good as they are defensively, their offense is atrocious, and they keep losing games with scores like this. Here's a stat for you: Dayton is 5-1 in the last six games where they've scored 60 or more points in regulation, yet they're just 2-4 overall in their last six games. In other words, they will win if they can get to 60 points... they're just rarely getting there. I do think they'll beat St. Louis, and the fact that they're down in the standings will mean that they will play in the first round of the A-10 tournament, which will get them an extra chance for a win, but they'll have to win at least a couple of A-10 tournament games to work their way back into the bracket. Things are brighter for Richmond, as they are 12-3 with a small chance still of a share of the A-10 regular season title. At 5-2 against the RPI Top 50 and with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 37th, there is no question they're in the bracket for the time being. But they have a very difficult game this afternoon at Charlotte, and if they lose that game then they will still be at risk of falling out of the Field of 65 without a respectable A-10 tournament performance, which will mean at least one victory. They don't need the auto bid to make the Tournament, but they do need to avoid falling on their face between now and Selection Sunday.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but you think Richmond could fall out of the tournament? I can honestly say I haven't found any other prognosticator who doesn't have Richmond as a lock at this point. You've been pretty hard on Richmond (claiming they'd have a 'bad loss' back in a 2/12 post; that hasn't happened, and isn't likely to) this year.

Jeff said...

As I said, not only would Richmond have to lose out but a lot of crazy stuff would have to happen. I'm certain they'll be in the Tournament, so don't worry about it.

One thing to realize is that I have a different definition of "lock" then any other website. Most people use the word "lock" to mean "I think it will happen." When I say something is a "lock" then it WILL happen, with no exceptions. That's why in each of my BP65s I have teams at the bottom who have a 0.001% chance of making the Tournament, because that way everybody can be certain that once their team is removed from that last category by me that they will NOT make the Tournament as an at-large.

I see all the time that a website like ESPN's "Bubble Watch" will have a team as a "lock" one day, and within two weeks they're out of the bracket altogether. That will not happen here.

But to answer your question: Yes, Richmond will be in the Tournament. We'd have to have an improbable set of events to happen for them to drop out, even should they lose all of their remaining games.

Jeff said...

I should add that this is all moot with the Richmond win today. There is now no possible scenario that would have Richmond missing the Tournament.