Saturday, January 22, 2011

Notre Dame Survives Marquette

#16 Notre Dame 80, Marquette 75
Mike Brey will be happy to not have to see Marquette again this season. When these two teams played in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago Marquette had their best game of the season, whipping the Irish by 22 points. This evening in South Bend, Marquette led by 12 points in the second half before Notre Dame fought back behind a whole bunch of free throws. They hit 28-for-36 for the game, including a 9-for-10 stretch in the second half as their turned that 12 point deficit into a six point lead. This win pushes Notre Dame to 5-3 in Big East play, good for sixth place. They next have a tough game at Pittsburgh, on Monday night, but after that they have a fairly easy stretch that they should be able to feast on (at DePaul, vs Rutgers, vs Louisville, at South Florida, at West Virginia, at Providence, vs Seton Hall). I see them going 5-2 over that stretch, getting to 10-6 and already locked into the NCAA Tournament when they play Villanova on February 26th. Marquette is one of those Big East teams that is precariously in the Field of 68 for now. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate them just outside the Top 30 teams in the nation, but they're only 3-7 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that has fallen out of the Top 40, and an RPI outside the Top 60. They are 4-3 in Big East play, and probably need to get to 9-9 to make the Tournament. They have a key stretch next week with home games against UConn and Syracuse. Pomeroy rates their chances of losing both games at only 21%, so they should pick up a quality victory. If they do lose both, though, they'll be in trouble, with road games ahead against Villanova, UConn and Georgetown.

Florida State 67, Boston College 51
Boston College really is like an Ivy League team this year under first-year Coach Steve Donahue, who spent the last 20 years on the staffs of Cornell and Penn. They are among the best in the country in free throw percentage, not turning the ball over and not fouling. But do not have elite ACC talent other than Reggie Jackson, and they have struggled with very athletic defenses. Needless to say, they struggled with Florida State, hitting 35% from the field and getting blocked seven times. What was more surprising was the way that they struggled defensively, allowing Florida State more than 1.15 points per possession, the biggest offensive outburst by the Seminoles since they played Stetson on December 15th. This win keeps Florida State effectively in the ACC lead. They are tied with Duke at 5-1, and have the head-to-head win (and will not play against in the regular season). They now have a week to prepare for a road game at Clemson, and then will play Wake Forest and North Carolina the following week. Despite their strong play they still will likely need to go at least 5-5 down the stretch to earn their way into the Tournament. They should achieve that, but it's not going to be automatic. Boston College drops back to the bubble with this loss. They are 14-6 and 4-2 in the ACC, but only 1-4 against the RPI Top 60 (the one win came against Texas A&M) with losses to Yale, Harvard and Rhode Island. Their RPI is 35th but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall out of the Top 40. They will play at Duke on Thursday, but I don't see that upset happening. And if they lose then they might need to finish 6-3 just to stay in the Tournament.

San Francisco 96, Gonzaga 91, OT
Gonzaga lives and dies with their defense. Their defense was horrendous in the early part of this season when they were at one point 4-5. They got their act in the second half of December, rolling off victories against Baylor, Xavier and Oklahoma State. But the defense has been a joke the past two games, allowing more than 1.2 points per possession against both Santa Clara and San Francisco. There's no excuse for that with the athletic talent that they have. And now this is the first time in years that we've been this late in the season and able to say that if the season ended now Gonzaga would be heading to the NIT. They are 6-7 against the RPI Top 200 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will likely be out of the Top 60 when the new numbers come out tomorrow morning. They have now set up a near-must win on Thursday at home against Saint Mary's. They will play at Saint Mary's on February 24th, but Saint Mary's is much better at home than on the road, and if they can go into Spokane and win then they'll likely win the return trip. And Gonzaga can probably afford only one or two more losses the rest of the season if they're going to earn an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, should they need it. As for San Francisco, they do deserve credit for some nice wins this season. In addition to this win they've beaten Colorado and Portland, and at 4-1 they're in second place in the WCC. Of course, their computer numbers are well outside the Top 100 and they have no chance at an at-large bid and are quite the longshot for the WCC's automatic bid. But they're a young team and should be even better next season. They could be a Top 100 team next season for the first time in more than a decade.

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