Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cincinnati Closes In On An At-Large Bid

Cincinnati 63, #16 Louisville 54
With Yancy Gates benched, Cashmere Wright is often carrying Cincinnati's offense, and he did lead all players with 20 points in this game, but Sean Kilpatrick has begun to really emerge as an explosive option off the bench. In fact, this is now the third straight 15+ point game for the redshirt freshman, who had 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting in this game. This home victory comes at a much-needed time for a Cincinnati team that had lost five of their last eight and was really beginning to slide after their 15-0 start to the season. This now represents their 20th win of the season, which is always a good milestone to pass. Cincinnati is also 7-6 in Big East play, although their remaining schedule is brutal. If they can get to 9-9 they'll very likely make the NCAA Tournament, no matter what happens in the Big East tournament, but even getting to 9-9 will be tough. They will have road games at Georgeton, Marquette and Providence, and also home games against Georgetown and UConn. What's the easiest game there? Maybe the home game against UConn? Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is up near 20th, however, so they don't have to win too many. As I said, they just have to avoid a total collapse. A 2-3 finish should be sufficient.

Louisville falls to 8-5 in the Big East with this loss, although that still puts them in a draw in the loss column with the third placed team in the conference. There is just a gigantic bottleneck in the middle of the Big East standings. Louisville has wins over Syracuse, UConn, UNLV, Butler, West Virginia, St. John's and Marquette, and zero particularly bad losses. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be narrowly outside the Top 20 when the new numbers come out tomorrow. If they can get to ten Big East wins they'll clinch an at-large bid, although even nine wins should easily be sufficient.

#12 UConn 78, #9 Georgetown 70
A big "booo!" to ESPN for relegating this game to while we got stuck with a crappy Virginia/Duke game on ESPN2. It would be one of the more egregious television scheduling decisions if not for the Mountain West Conference, which somehow manages to put almost every good game in its conference on that Mountain West network that about 19 people get in their homes. They did it again tonight - throwing SDSU vs New Mexico on a channel I can't get, while throwing Wyoming-Utah on a channel that I (and a lot of other people) do get. Well done, guys. As for this game, it was something of a re-coming out party for Kemba Walker. Walker was getting a nauseating amount of national hype earlier in the season because he hit a couple of buzzer-beaters and scored a ton of points, but over time many people learned what statisticians could have told them a couple of months ago, which is that Walker is a streaky volume scorer. And buzzer beaters are more a matter of circumstance - being in that situation and being the player the team chooses to take that shot. But Walker exploded here for 31 points (on 13-for-23 shooting), 10 assists and 7 rebounds.

This was a nice bounce-back win for a UConn team that had lost three of their previous five. This win gets them to 8-5 in Big East play and should push their Sagarin ELO_CHESS back inside the Top Ten. If the season ended now they'd be a 2 or 3 seed in the Tournament, and still have an outside chance at a 1 seed if they can win the Big East tournament. As for Georgetown, they were due to lose eventually. I think they'll take this loss in exchange for the eight game winning streak they just put together in Big East play. The Hoyas really don't have a bad schedule the rest of the way. They will play a home-and-home with Cincinnati, and also have a home game against Syracuse and a road game at USF. The USF game is next, on Saturday evening. Georgetown's Sagarin ELO_CHESS will still be close to 10th after this win. I'm not sure I see a path to a 1 seed for them, but they certainly still have a chance to work their way to a 2 seed.

#18 Vanderbilt 64, Georgia 56

Georgia appeared to be rolling at home in this game, and actually had a 13 point lead with under ten minutes to go, but they didn't hit another field goal the rest of the game. A dramatic 24-3 run for Vanderbilt delivered a huge road victory for them while delivering a devastating blow to Georgia. What made this run remarkable was that none of it came from star Jeffery Taylor, who shot an unbelievable 2-for-18 in the game. John Jenkins had 21 second half points to lead the way for Vandy. For Georgia, they should be embarrassed about their effort level in this game, allowing 22 offensive rebounds for Vanderbilt (a 50% defensive rebounding percentage), that allowed Vandy to overcome a relatively weak shooting night (a 41.5 eFG%).

Vanderbilt did beat North Carolina and Nebraska on a neutral floor in Puerto Rico, but this game is their first quality win in a true road game, and that does mean a lot to the Selection Committee. It also means a lot for Vandy's NCAA Tournament chances, considering that their inability to win away from home has led to a couple of bad early exits from the NCAA Tournament in recent years. Vanderbilt shouldn't be too worried about actually make the Tournament. This win will push their Sagarin ELO_CHESS inside the Top 25, and at 6-4 in the SEC they should clinch a bid if they can get to ten wins. If they do somehow fall to 9-7 and lose their first SEC tournament game they might possibly fall to the bubble, but I don't see that happening. Assuming Vanderbilt doesn't fall below third place in the SEC East they should have an easy first game in the SEC tournament.

As for Georgia, they might finally be returning to their mean. With an 8-3 record in games decided by five points or less, they're a team that is much more popular with the human pollsters than the computers. Heading into this game their Sagarin ELO_CHESS was 37th but their PREDICTOR was 65th. Their ELO_CHESS will certainly still be inside the Top 50, but that win over Kentucky is their only RPI Top 50 win and their at-large status is already precarious. At this point they'd still probably be in the Field of 68, but with nothing higher than an 11 seed. At 6-5 in the SEC they probably need to get to 9-7 to stay in the Tournament. They certainly can't afford a loss on the road at Auburn on Saturday afternoon.


BillyHoyle said...

Vandy plays at Auburn not UGA and Vandy is 7-4 not 6-4 in the SEC. UGA is going to need a big win on the road (barring a big run in the SEC tourney)They have @UT, @FLA, and @Bama among their last 5. If they lose all 3, the best they could finish would be 8-8 in the SEC. As much as they needed that win last night and the way they lost it, I would not be surprised to see a huge collapse down the stretch. I'm surprised you still see them getting in to the dance. How do you see this happening?

Jeff said...

I do agree that Georgia probably needs to get to 9-7, but I don't think 9-7 is as unlikely as you do. They have two home games that should be walkovers (LSU, South Carolina). So that means that they will only need one win from those three road games. They'll be underdogs in all of them, but I think the odds are that they'll win one.

That's the wonder of statistics. If you look at Pomeroy's projections right now, he gives Georgia a less than 30% chance in each of those three games (28% against Tennessee, 22% against Alabama, 19% against Florida). But when you do the math on that you see that Pomeroy only projects a 45% chance that Georgia will lose all three. So that's why I still have Georgia in.

And look at the teams I have right out of the bracket right now. Who among those do you think is getting in? Clemson? Gonzaga? Southern Miss? There are a lot of soft resumes.

But this is way things always look at this time of the year. "This is the softest bubble in years" articles are a rite of February, like pitchers & catchers reporting. The bubble will firm up as we get closer, which is why I agree with you that Georgia needs to get to 9-7 to stay in the Field of 68.