Saturday, January 29, 2011

BYU Lets Down Against New Mexico

New Mexico 86, #9 BYU 77
It's not abnormal for a team to have a letdown game after a big win, like BYU just had over San Diego State. Jimmer Fredette wasn't the problem - if anything he had a more well-rounded game than he did against SDSU. Fredette had 32 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. But Jackson Emery struggled (2-for-8 shooting and 4 fouls in only 29 minutes played), and the team let down defensively (57.4 eFG% for New Mexico). Besides, if I'd told you before the season that New Mexico beat BYU at home you'd have figured it was just a nice close game. New Mexico was supposed to be keeping up with BYU - in fact, many experts picked New Mexico as the better team. But the Lobos have really struggled, and for them they will hope to use this win as a way to catapult themselves back into bubble contention.

New Mexico is 3-5 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over BYU and Colorado State, along with bad losses to Wyoming and Utah. Their RPI is 67th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will still very likely be outside the Top 75 after this win. They are 3-4 in Mountain West play, but probably need to get to 10-6 to be in a good position for an at-large bid. If they finish 9-7 they'll have work left to do heading into the MWC tournament. BYU obviously isn't worrying about the bubble. The worry with this loss is the effect on their conference title hopes. They are now tied with San Diego State, but still have to head to SDSU for a game on February 26th. Even with this loss BYU is still in contention for a 1 seed if they can sweep the MWC regular season and tournament titles.

Penn State 56, #15 Wisconsin 52
Wisconsin obviously left this game wishing they could have borrowed some points from their destruction of Northwestern in their previous game. They were beyond ice cold late in this game. With a two point lead and six minutes to go, Wisconsin proceeded to hit 1 of their next 11 shots. And I was watching that part of the game and don't think that a single one of those 11 shots was seriously contested - Wisconsin was just building a home with bricks. This loss is particularly tough for Wisconsin after the troubles that Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota have been going through. The Badgers could have nearly locked up a top three finish in the Big Ten. Now they come home to play Purdue and Michigan State next week. Already a full game back of Purdue in the standings, and with an Ohio State home-and-home and a Purdue road game left to go, Wisconsin really has to beat Purdue this week at home to keep their realistic hopes of a second place Big Ten finish alive.

Penn State, believe it or not, is 5-4 in Big Ten play. They now have wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois, and only one RPI 100+ loss (Maine). Their RPI is 46th, although their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be in the 65-70th range. If they can somehow get to 10-8 in Big Ten play they'll at least be considered on Selection Sunday. They next head on the road to play Illinois on Tuesday night, and then come home to play Michigan next Sunday.

#1 Ohio State 58, Northwestern 57
This game is why it's wrong to draw too much out of a game like Ohio State's blowout of Purdue. The fact is that the Purdue game represented the best Ohio State can play. This game against Northwestern? About as bad as they can play. They just didn't look to be mentally in this game. Northwestern successfully kept this game at a very slow pace, not only in the number of possessions but also in the deliberate way the possessions were played. The teams combined for only 11 turnovers and 10 offensive rebounds. Ohio State just couldn't pick up the energy at all. And amazingly, Northwestern did this without their best player - John Shurna.

Still, a win is a win and Ohio State moves to 9-0 in Big Ten play. They'll have to really collapse down the stretch to blow the Big Ten regular season title. And a Big Ten regular season title combined with a Big Ten tournament title will be a certain 1 seed for them in the Tournament. As for Northwestern, you have to feel bad for this program that always seems to come up just a little bit short. This loss drops them to 3-7 in Big Ten play, and they are now 0-8 against the RPI Top 50. They are through the toughest part of their schedule and do have a chance to run up some wins now. They now have a week to prepare for a home game against Illinois, and then after that their next five games will be against Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Penn State (twice).

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