Saturday, February 19, 2011

Arizona Wins Epic Over Washington

#13 Arizona 87, Washington 86
The Pac-10 is underrated, just like it was last season. Sure, it's not the Big Ten or the Big East, but there are some good teams. And hopefully anybody who had doubts about that watched this game, which was played at the highest level by two really good teams. Derrick Williams was tremendous for Arizona, and they ran their entire offense through him. He finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds. For the game as a whole, he was arguably out-played by Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who had 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 assists and 3 steals. That's a full stat line. But down the stretch it was the Derrick Williams show. In the final six minutes of the game he was 3-for-4 from the field (including a made three-pointer) and 3-for-3 at the line with a block, a rebound and a steal. This is another disappointing close loss for a Washington team that is now 0-6 in games decided by five points or less. They entered this game 7th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR and 49th in the Sagarin ELO_CHESS. That gap is unlikely to close after this result.

The Top Ten Sagarin PREDICTOR (Pomeroy also has them in the Top Ten) means that Washington will be a dangerous team if they can get into the NCAA Tournament, but that "if" is getting even more apparent now that they couldn't collect the win here. Washington is now only 5-5 against the RPI Top 100 (best wins against Arizona and UCLA) with several bad losses (Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford). Their RPI is still 36th after this loss, but they're right on the bubble now. They are 10-5 in the Pac-10 with three home games left (against Washington State, UCLA and USC). If they can win all three games they'll be in very good shape, but should they lose a game they'll have work left to do when they begin the Pac-10 tournament.

Arizona moves to 12-2 in Pac-10 play with this win. Their next game will be Thursday at USC, but the game that really matters is Saturday afternoon at UCLA. They have a one game lead over UCLA in the standings - the only team left with a chance to spoil their Pac-10 regular season title. Arizona already beat UCLA at home - if they can win the road game they'll effectively clinch the Pac-10 regular season title. They'll also be in a good position to get as high as a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament should they continue their hot streak through the Pac-10 tournament. The way this Arizona/Washington game was played, I think a lot of basketball fans will be looking toward a potential Arizona/Washington re-match in the Pac-10 tournament finals.

UNLV 68, Colorado State 61
UNLV has consistently been in or near the NCAA Tournament for several years in a row now, while Colorado State hasn't been Dancing in almost a decade and hasn't even really contended for a while. This was a game, at home, that Colorado State absolutely needed to stay on the bubble. And instead, they got whooped. The final margin was seven points, but the only reason it was so close was because of poor UNLV shooting. The Runnin' Rebs won the offensive rebounding battle by 10, and the turnover battle by 7.

Colorado State is still third in the Mountain West after this loss at 8-4, but they're now only 5-6 against the RPI Top 100 with as many RPI Top 50 wins (2) as RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 46th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be very close to 50th. While I don't think there's any doubt that they're out of the Field of 68 right now, they still have chances on the road at BYU and San Diego State to get right back in. Both games will be very tough, but all you can ask at this time of year is the chance to earn your way to an at-large bid with a win. Their next game will be Wednesday night at BYU. UNLV, meanwhile, moves closer to locking up their own at-large bid. They're only 3-6 against the RPI Top 50, but that includes wins over Wisconsin and Kansas State, and they've only got one loss outside the RPI Top 50 (UC-Santa Barbara). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will move up to around 25th with this win. With three games left, I think a 2-1 finish should be sufficient to lock up an at-large bid. The only really difficult game will be their next game, on Wednesday night at New Mexico.

George Mason 77, Northern Iowa 71
Bracketbusters has gone horribly for the Missouri Valley, after a truly horrid season. The conference is rated no higher than 12th in any of the major computer ratings, and Bracketbusters has been an unmitigated disaster. Wichita State lost to VCU, Missouri State lost to Valparaiso and Northern Iowa lost to George Mason. Moving further down the standings I'd also rate Indiana State losing to Morehead State and Evansville losing by 25 to Murray State as embarrassing results. This is a season to forget for the conference, for sure. This result also could be the death of any at-large chances that Northern Iowa had. They are 0-2 against the RPI Top 50 and have a slew of bad losses (Southern Illinois, Indiana State, Drake, Evansville, Iowa and UW-Milwaukee). Their RPI is 86th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall all the way close to 100th after this loss. I just don't see any path to an at-large bid. The only good news is that they don't have any dominant team in conference, so they have a decent shot of pulling the upset and winning the conference's auto bid.

George Mason, on the other hand, is actually closing in on locking up an at-large bid. They are 9-4 against the RPI Top 100 with Top 50 wins over Old Dominion and Harvard, and only one really bad loss (Wofford). Their RPI is all the way up to 19th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be inside the Top 25 as well. They have two easy games remaining (vs Northeastern, at Georgia State), and if they can win both of those I think it will lock them in to the Tournament.


Tom said...

I think Arizona is in great position to win the regular season title whether they beat UCLA or not. Worst case scenario (assuming they beat USC and UCLA beats ASU) let's assume UCLA wins on Saturday. Then both teams will be tied with two games left: Arizona at home vs. Oregon and Oregon State, while UCLA travels to Washington and Washington State. Winning the UCLA game would effectively wrap it up as you mentioned, but the advantage is clearly to Arizona anyway.

Jeff said...

I agree. Arizona is very likely winning the conference no matter what. My point was just that even if they lose to USC, a win over UCLA will effectively clinch the conference regular season title.