Friday, February 18, 2011

Louisville Wins Sloppy, Fun Game Against UConn

#16 Louisville 71, #12 UConn 58
This was the type of game you'd expect with Louisville and UConn, particularly when you have refs that let the players play and don't call a lot of fouls. Both of these teams ooze athleticism and raw talent, but both are sloppy and consistently make poor decisions on the floor. The two teams combined for 17 steals and 27 offensive rebounds in this game, and we had what must have about 25 dunks and alley-oops (I don't have any stats for that - it was just my impression watching the game). This game made me cringe more than once, but there's no question that at the very least this game was fun. This game was also fairly one-sided. Louisville had more steals than turnovers and won the offensive rebounding battle by seven. And beginning near the midway point in the second half, UConn proceeded to go nearly eight minutes between made baskets, a stretch during which the game really got away.

Louisville moves to 9-5 in the Big East, which puts them in a tie for third. That said, Louisville is only one loss ahead of tenth place West Virginia, so the Big East continues to be all bunched up. And these seeds do really matter - remember that teams 5-8 in the standings get a bye, and teams 1-4 in the standings get a double-bye. Louisville currently has a 7-5 record against the RPI Top 50, with wins over UConn (twice), Syracuse, West Virginia, UNLV and St. John's, along with a bad loss to Providence. Their RPI is only 24th but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be narrowly inside the Top 20. They would be a 4 or 5 seed if the season ended now, but could easily slide up to a 3 if they finish the season strong. They will play at Rutgers on Tuesday, but then have a huge home game against Pittsburgh. A win there would put them in a great position for that double-bye at the Big East tournament.

UConn falls to 8-6 in the Big East, but all six of their losses all season have come against the RPI Top 50, and they do have wins over Kentucky, Texas, Michigan State, Tennessee, Villanova and Georgetown. That's a really nice crop of wins to go with zero bad losses, and even with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will likely fall out of the Top Ten with this loss, I still think they'd be looking at a 3 seed if the season ended now. They will next play Marquette, on Thursday evening. They've already beaten Marquette on the road this season.

#13 Arizona 79, Washington State 70
Washington State nearly came back from a 17 point second half deficit here, on the road at Arizona. They actually pulled back within five points on multiple occasions late, but couldn't get closer than that, missing a really good chance to pull themselves into the NCAA Tournament. Both of these teams have one dominating player, and both stars came to play. Derrick Williams did what he always does - he scores and he draws fouls. He scored 26 points and earned 12 free throw attempts. Klay Thompson is just a scoring machine for Wazzu, and he led all players with 30 points on 11-for-24 shooting from the field. In the end it's just another close loss for Washington State, after they lost by two points to Arizona in the home leg between these two back in January. They did beat Gonzaga and Baylor, but neither of those are RPI Top 50 wins right now. Washington State's only RPI Top 50 win this season came against Washington, and they've got bad losses to Oregon and Stanford. The 7-7 record in the Pac-10 is also a problem, considering how down that conference is. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS has actually fallen all the way to 73rd. I don't see a realistic path to the Tournament for them that doesn't involve at least a 3-1 finish in their final four games. Their next game is tomorrow afternoon at Arizona State.

Arizona moves to 11-2 with this win, still a game clear of the field in the Pac-10. Their hopes for a regular season Pac-10 title will likely come down to two games: tomorrow afternoon against Washington and next Saturday at UCLA. If they can somehow win both of those games they will almost surely win the Pac-10 regular season title, and they'll be a Pac-10 tournament title away from climbing as high as a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the season ended now they'd like be a 5 seed.

VCU 68, Wichita State 67
I'm torn on what happened on the winning play for VCU. Joey Rodriguez attacked the basket and was fouled by Wichita State and he hit two free throws to give VCU the lead and the win. I'm a believer in refs letting games be decided by the players and I don't like fouls called at the end of games, but at the same time, they can't allow defenders to just maul attacking players. To me, this play was borderline. In the regular play it's almost surely a foul. Would I have called that foul with 0.8 seconds to go, though? Not sure. It's particularly tough when that call ended up deciding this game between two teams right on the bubble, both desperately wanting this win for their resume.

This win pushes VCU to 6-5 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over UCLA and Old Dominion to go with this win. The problem is, they've also got losses to Northeastern, Georgia State and South Florida. Even after this win their RPI is 57th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be close to 60th when the new numbers come out in the morning. So even with this win they're still out of the Tournament. They do have two RPI Top 100 opponents remaining: a road game at Drexel on Wednesday, and then a home game against James Madison next Saturday. If they can win both of those and win a couple of games in the CAA tournament, they could still have an at-large bid in their future.

Wichita State falls to 2-5 against the RPI Top 100 with this loss (the two wins came against Northern Iowa and Tulsa), along with one bad loss (Southern Illinois). They are 22-6 and 13-3 in Missouri Valley play, but the conference is weak and Wichita State is without a big win in the non-conference. Their RPI is still 54th after this loss, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be close to 60th. They might have been narrowly in the Tournament field coming into this game, but they're definitely out now. They will play Wednesday against Creighton and then on next Saturday they'll play at Missouri State. A road win at Missouri State would really help their resume. Certainly I believe that WSU has to win both of those remaining regular season games to stay on the bubble.

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