Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cincinnati Just About Locks Up An At-Large

Cincinnati 58, #11 Georgetown 46
This was a painful game for Georgetown in more than one way. The most painful part was Chris Wright going down with a wrist injury and not returning. It's impossible to get injury information very quickly with college players, but that could be a serious one. We'll know in a day or two certainly. With Wright out and Julian Vaughn struggling (1-for-8 shooting from the field) it was the Austin Freeman show for Georgetown. He did score 19 of Georgetown's 46 points, but it wasn't enough. Cincinnati did get a strong Yancy Gates performance off the bench (17 points and 12 rebounds). He's been playing better since he's been benched - maybe it's motivated him.

Cincinnati has won three straight to get to 9-6 in Big East play and 6-6 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Louisville, Xavier, St. John's and Georgetown along with zero bad losses. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be around 15th after this win. I don't want to say Cincinnati has "locked" up an NCAA Tournament bid because if they lose four straight games to end the season then they could end up on the bubble, but for for all intents and purposes they're good to go. They do have a fairly tough schedule remaining (vs UConn, at Marquette, vs Georgetown), but that schedule will give them an opportunity to drive their Tournament seed higher. They can realistically work themselves as high as a 4 seed if they finish strong.

Georgetown falls to 10-6 in Big East play and is in severe risk of failing to earn the double-bye in the Big East tournament (which goes to the top four teams in the Big East standings). It's very hard to win the Big East tournament without the double-bye. But the bigger worry is Chris Wright. Any hopes they had of an Elite Eight or Final Four run involved Chris Wright in a big way. They can't afford to lose him for an extended period of time.

#21 Missouri 77, Baylor 59
Missouri is such a better team at home, where they use the crowd's energy to fuel their full court press. The Tigers forced 21 turnovers in this game and collected 14 steals that led to a lot of layups. In Big 12 play this year they are 7-0 at home and 1-5 on the road. The problem is that they've still got to head on the road to Kansas State and Nebraska (two bubble teams) and their remaining home game is against Kansas. It's not completely unrealistic that Missouri might end the regular season 8-8 in Big 12 play. They do have wins over Illinois, Vanderbilt, Kansas State and Old Dominion, with zero bad losses, and a Sagarin ELO_CHESS in the Top 25, so even if they lose their final three games I don't think they're going to be in too much risk of missing the NCAA Tournament. But certainly Missouri will like to prove, if nothing else, that they can beat a good team away from home. The NCAA Tournament won't be played at Mizzou Arena, after all.

Baylor falls to 6-7 in the Big 12 and a putrid 11-10 against the RPI Top 200. Their only big win came against Texas A&M and they've got bad losses to Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas Tech. Their RPI is 81st and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is actually a little bit worse than that. They finish the regular season with Texas A&M at home, then a road game at Oklahoma State, and a home game against Texas. The Texas home game will be key - a win there and a win in at least one of the other two games will put them in decent shape for an at-large bid.

Maryland 78, Florida State 62
I don't think anybody is too shocked that Florida State has gone into a minor swoon without Chris Singleton. But while their offense was supposed to struggle, their defense struggled mightily by their standards in this one (1.08 PPP). Jordan Williams was actually relatively quiet, and it was 7-for-14 three-point shooting by the Terps that led the way. The problem for Maryland is that this loss knocked Florida State out of the RPI Top 50, and so the Terps are still 0-8 against the RPI Top 50. They are 18-2 against everybody else, though, and they're now 7-6 in ACC play with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will be up close to 60th with this win. Maryland now heads into a huge road game on Sunday at North Carolina. If they fail to win there then they will need to win their final two regular season games (at Miami, vs Virginia) to stay in a good position for an at-large bid.

Florida State is still 9-4 in ACC play but they have three games ahead against RPI Top 100 teams (vs Miami, vs North Carolina, at NC State). They haven't beaten an RPI Top 100 team since Chris Singleton got hurt, so they'll want to win at least one of those games for confidence, if nothing else. FSU didn't do anything out-of-conference, but they've got that win over Duke and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be inside the Top 50. If they win two of their final three regular season games then they'll put themselves very safely into the Field of 68. If they lose two of three they'll still have work to do in the ACC tournament. If they lose all three then their at-large hopes will be in big trouble.

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