Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rhode Island Rises, Ole Miss Falls

#13 Tennessee 76, Mississippi 65
This was an ugly game with neither team doing much on offense. Both teams seemed content to fire up a lot of three-pointers, and neither were efficient. Both teams shot a total of 39% from the field for the game. But the difference was ball control, and the fact that Chris Warren had more turnovers by himself (nine) than Tennessee had as a team (eight). This was a killer loss for an Ole Miss team that probably would have moved into the bracket with a win here. But with the loss they end up 5-9 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Kansas State and UTEP being their only RPI Top 50 wins (and the K-State team that they beat was nowhere near the team that they are now). They have an RPI of 59th, with an ELO_CHESS right around 55th. Right now they're out of the bracket, although not by much. It's not totally out of the question for them to back in, but I seriously doubt it. As for Tennessee, they also only have two RPI Top 50 wins, but those two wins were over Kansas and Kentucky. And they're 12-5 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI of 11th, and an ELO_CHESS around 15th. I don't see them moving up to a 2 seed under any circumstances, but a 3 seed is very realistic, particularly if they can knock off Kentucky again on Saturday.

Rhode Island 63, Saint Louis 47
Rhode Island has had a very fortunate last week, with such a weak bubble developing, although even with this win they have locked up nothing. They finished only 9-7 in Atlantic 10 play, and despite two straight wins they could end up (with a loss on Saturday) with a 4-6 record in their final ten games. The 1-4 record against the RPI Top 50 is a killer (the one win came over Oklahoma State), and they've got a couple of weak losses (St. Bonaventure and UMass). In most years that resume would be a surefire NIT resume, but this year it's got them an RPI of 39th and a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will slide just inside the Top 45. They are probably one of the last teams in the Field of 65 right now, but the question is whether they'll fall back out if they lose to Temple on Saturday. And the answer to that is: probably. They need to pull the upset, or they're going to need a lot of help. As for Saint Louis, this loss ends their hopes of going to the NCAA Tournament this season, but they had a great season, and are probably the youngest team in the nation (depends how you define "youngest team" - by at least one metric I saw they're the youngest of all 347 Division I teams). Rick Majerus has done a great job bringing in the types of kids that he can win with, and they're going to be a very good team next year. You're all going to have to wait a few weeks for my 2010-11 A-10 preview, but Saint Louis is going to have a great shot of going Dancing.

Miami (Fl) 70, Virginia Tech 65
Miami's defense hasn't been too good all season long, but it was excellent here. They pestered Virginia Tech into 38% shooting (including 6-for-24 behind the arc), which allowed the Hurricanes to overcome 18 turnovers. The key was shutting down Malcolm Delaney, the Virginia Tech star, who was held to 3-for-15 shooting from the field. For Virginia Tech, they blew a chance to lock up an at-large bid. They went 23-8 overall and 10-6 in a strong ACC, but they had a cakewalk of an out-of-conference schedule, and managed to run that ACC record up against the weakest teams. They are only 3-4 against the RPI Top 50, including 0-3 against the RPI Top 25. Their RPI is 56th, but their resume isn't nearly that bad (recall that the RPI over-weights strength of schedule). Their ELO_CHESS will be right around 35th when the numbers come out in the morning. For the time being the Hokies are still definitely in the Field of 65. But if we start seeing teams like Nevada and NC State winning automatic bids? The Hokies might have to sweat out Selection Sunday. As for Miami, they have no chance at an at-large bid, but they are now in the semifinals and will get a shot to move onto the finals against Duke on Saturday.

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