#19 Vanderbilt 64, Florida 60
Of Vanderbilt's last six games, five have been close the whole way and gone down to the wire. And of those five, Vandy is 4-1. They continue to play close games against the basement of the conference and continue to win. Florida, of course, is a quality team, but again it's a narrow win for Vandy. Clutch teams win more close games than they lose, but at some point it just becomes statistically unlikely for teams to do this. I always point out how each team's Sagarin ELO_CHESS and PREDICTOR closes as the season goes along, but Vandy's gap has actually been growing. Over the last week and a half their PREDICTOR has actually fallen, to 25th. And their Pomeroy rating has also fallen, to 24th. But at the same time their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 14th, and they'd be a 3 or a 4 seed if the season ended now. The only teams in the Top 25 with resumes this much better than they theoretically deserve are Villanova and New Mexico. But while I keep saying that Vandy is due to lose one of these games, they're running out of games to lose. And with so much carnage in the Top 15 lately, Vandy is a serious contender for a 3 seed right now. As for Florida, they're still trying to keep themselves in the Field of 65. This loss drops them to 9-6 in the SEC with a 7-9 record against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Michigan State, Florida State and Tennessee, along with a bad loss to South Alabama. This loss dropped their RPI out of the Top 50, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is still 39th. If the season ended now they'd still be in the Field of 65, but with very little room to spare. They close their regular season on Sunday afternoon at Kentucky, and a win there would probably lock up an at-large bid. But without that big upset, they'll enter the SEC tournament with work left to do.
Clemson 91, Georgia Tech 80
Trevor Booker has been playing better over the last few weeks, and he played well on Senior Night with 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists. But this win had more to do with three point shooting. Demontez Stitt was the best of the bunch, with 4-for-6 shooting behind the arc, but as a team they hit 12-for-27, a surprising performance from a team that has been nowhere near the three point shooting team that they were last year with Terrence Oglesby. As for Georgia Tech, Glen Rice Jr has been deserving of a starting position for some time now, and he's been paying dividends since finally moving off of the bench. He led Georgia Tech here in points (17) and rebounds (8), and tied for a team-high in assists (4). Georgia Tech fans won't be happy with the loss, but they probably outplayed Clemson here on Clemson's senior day. If it wasn't for that uncharacteristically hot deep shooting for Clemson they probably would have lost. But Clemson gets the win, and it makes five wins in their last six games. I hesitate to say that they've completely locked up an at-large bid, but they'd need a lot to go wrong to fall out at this point. They are 9-6 in the ACC with a 9-8 record against the RPI Top 100 and no bad losses. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is all the way up to 30th. They could lose their regular season finale (at Wake Forest) and then lose their first round ACC tournament game and they would still have a good shot of making the NCAA Tournament. Georgia Tech needed this game more, as this loss is their fourth in their last six, and they're a very mediocre 4-6 in their last ten games against D-I teams. They are 8-8 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Duke, Clemson and Wake Forest, but also have a couple of RPI 100+ losses (Virginia and Miami). Their RPI is still 38th, but their ELO_CHESS is down to 43rd, so they're right on the bubble (although at the moment, they're still in the Field of 65). Even if they win their home finale against Virginia Tech they still might have some work to do to make the NCAA Tournament. It will depend on how strong the bubble is.
#7 Ohio State 73, Illinois 57
Ohio State really locked down defensively in the second half of this game to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. They also have clinched the top seed in the Big Ten tournament. Jon Diebler lit it up here with seven three pointers, but that has more to do with Evan Turner than anything else. We learned when Turner was injured that Diebler struggles to create his own offense, and he can be completely shut down when defenses don't have to key on Turner. I'm somewhat concerned about Ohio State's chances in the Big Ten tournament because of the fact that Thad Matta thinks his bench is just there for cheering. Turner, Diebler, David Lighty and William Buford basically never sit, and you wonder how they'll hold up trying to do that for three straight days. And if Matta tries to expand his bench during the Big Ten tournament then he'll really be throwing some guys without game experience into the deep end. But that said, with so much chaos at the top of the polls, and with the Robbie Hummel injury, Ohio State has actually worked themselves into the 1 seed discussion. They would not be a 1 seed if the season ended now, but if they can win the Big Ten tournament then they actually wouldn't need too much help to slide into a 1 seed. As for Illinois, they have now lost four of five games at the worst possible time, and despite a 10-7 Big Ten record they are in a lot of trouble. They now face a near-must win home game against Wisconsin, and after that will either play Michigan State, Ohio State or Wisconsin in their first Big Ten tournament game. They have to win at least one more game to get themselves into the NCAA Tournament, so they're going to have to knock off a very good team. They did beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but that was without Jon Leuer, so by no means will that be an easy win.