Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mountain West Looks To Have Four Bids

San Diego State 72, #8 New Mexico 69
San Diego State entered this game right on the bubble, knowing that this was probably a "Win and you're in; Lose and you're going to the NIT" game for them, and boy did they come up big. New Mexico likes to play fairly uptempo, but San Diego State enforced their slow tempo on the game. New Mexico likes to play with close to 70 possessions in a game, but San Diego State held this game to 60 possessions. And with each possession more valuable than usual, their 10-for-16 three-point shooting allowed them to overcome the more talented New Mexico squad. I won't go so far as to say that San Diego State is locked into the NCAA Tournament, but they'd definitely be in the field if the season ended right now. Their RPI is all the way up to 24th, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 39th is much closer to where their real seed is. They are only 5-6 against the RPI Top 100, but two wins over New Mexico along with a win over UNLV should be enough to get them into the field. They can lock things up this evening against UNLV, but even with a loss I'd be surprised if they fall to the NIT. Despite this loss, New Mexico did still win the MWC outright and will still have that #8 ranking on Selection Sunday, although their resume isn't quite that good. They did get two RPI Top 50 wins out of conference (California and Texas A&M) that will go a long way, and their RPI is still 9th, and their ELO_CHESS is 10th. They're looking at most likely either a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament right now.

UNLV 70, #15 BYU 65
UNLV entered this game knowing that they were probably going Dancing no matter what, but they locked up their NCAA Tournament bid with a very good win. They did it by holding (yes, "holding") Jimmer Fredette to 30 points, on 7-for-20 shooting from the field. Having home court advantage has been a huge help at the Mountain West conference tournament, and it's because of that home court advantage that I expect them to be a fairly heavy favorite today against San Diego State. But because of this win, they will only be playing for NCAA Tournament seed tonight. Speaking of seed, BYU should already get on a list of NCAA Tournament sleepers, because they are just such a good shooting team that on any day they can beat anybody. And they never ever miss free throws (I don't think Jimmer Fredette has missed a free throw in a competitive game since around seventh grade), which is such an underrated skill for Tournament time. And as far as seed, BYU is looking at something in the 4-6 range, with a possibility of falling to a 7. Unless they get a really bad draw I'm going to recommend putting them in your Sweet 16.

#9 Kansas State 82, #20 Baylor 75
This was an exciting battle between two teams with very good backcourts. Baylor got off to a quick start and led most of the first half, but they seemed to wear out down the stretch. Both teams were playing their second game in two days, but Kansas State seemed to handle it better. LaceDarius Dunn went for 26 points, but he couldn't overcome the Kansas State backcourt of Dennis Clemente and Jacob Pullen (50 combined points on 17-for-30 shooting from the field). For Kansas State, this win keeps their 1 seed hopes alive. The fact that they're playing Kansas tonight actually probably helps, because it gives them the chance to really make an impression with a big win, and even a loss would almost definitely not be enough to drop them from the 2 seed line. If Duke loses in the ACC tournament and Kansas State beats Kansas today, then the Wildcats will be in a serious discussion for a 1 seed. They can also get some help today from Georgetown, Minnesota and Illinois, who play the other three contenders for a 1 seed (West Virginia, Purdue and Ohio State, respectively). As for Baylor, they miss an opportunity to improve their seed here, but they're still in good shape with a 7-5 record against the RPI Top 50, and both their RPI and ELO_CHESS still just inside the Top Ten. Even with this loss I still think they're getting a 3 seed, and would be very surprised to see them fall below a 4.

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