Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ole Miss Shocks Kentucky

Mississippi 71, #11 Kentucky 69
Chris Warren hit a heck of a shot with about 3 seconds left in this game to lead Ole Miss to their biggest victory in years. Terrence Jones had another big night for Kentucky (22 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks), but the Kentucky backcourt really struggled with the high-pressure defense that Mississippi was applying. Ole Miss forced 11 steals and committed only 11 total turnovers themselves. And they needed those fast breaks, not only because it kept the crowd in a frenzy, but also because they were really struggling to score against Kentucky's defense in the half court.

This is a great win for Ole Miss, but their only other RPI Top 100 wins this season have been against Penn State and Southern Miss, and a home loss to Mississippi State is a bad loss. Their RPI is 75th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is likely to be even worse when the new numbers come out tomorrow. They are 2-5 in SEC play, and will have to finish 9-7 or better to have any chance of an at-large bid. But that 7-2 finish is not the longshot you might think. In the putrid wonder that is the SEC West, Ole Miss plays seven of their final nine games against teams outside the RPI Top 100. The other two games? Against Arkansas, a team rated 99th by Pomeroy and 97th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. That's a joke of a schedule in a BCS conference. Kentucky falls to 4-3 with this loss, but I still view them as the favorite to win the SEC East and the SEC tournament title. They've shown the type of inconsistency that young teams always show, but at their best they are clearly the best team in the SEC. They head to Florida on Saturday, and then play Tennessee and Vanderbilt next week. They will play those same three teams to finish their regular season. Those games will determine whether Kentucky will win the SEC regular season title.

North Carolina 106, Boston College 74
All season long Boston College has struggled against the most athletic teams on their schedule, and their defense was absolutely torched by the Tar Heels in this game. Boston College allowed a 65.4 eFG% compared to a 50.9 eFG% average coming in. They had no answer inside for Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson (a combined 57 points on 21-for-32 shooting). I do like that the Tar Heels are beginning to restrict Larry Drew's minutes in favor of guys like Kendall Marshall. I don't know why it took Roy Williams so long to find an appropriate rotation. The Tar Heels are now quietly (believe it or not) tied atop the ACC at 6-1. They still have a home-and-home with Duke and Florida State, but they do not have to travel to Maryland this season. North Carolina will play FSU at home on Sunday, and then will play at Duke next Wednesday. This win will push North Carolina's Sagarin ELO_CHESS very close to 20th, and possibly narrowly inside the Top 20. They don't have a lot of big wins, but something like a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament is still looking very realistic.

Boston College has now lost four or five to fall to 4-4 in the ACC. They do have wins over Texas A&M, Maryland and California but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall into the high-40s with this loss. Right now they'd very likely be in the NCAA Tournament, but only by a narrow margin. I think they've got to get to 9-7 in ACC play to make the Tournament. If they finish only 8-8 they will have a lot of work left to do heading into the ACC tournament. They play Virginia Tech on Saturday and then head to Clemson for a game next Tuesday.

Colorado 95, Iowa State 69
This was an interesting below-the-radar game between two Big 12 teams trying to fight their way back onto the bubble. Both teams desperately needed this win, for different reasons. Iowa State came into this game having lost four straight. They had won their three previous games, against Missouri, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, but hadn't handled the ensuing hype well. Iowa State just needed any kind of win - they are now only 1-7 in Big 12 play. Colorado, despite that strong stretch in conference play, still has a relatively weak resume because they played a cupcake non-conference schedule. Their best wins were over Indiana and Colorado State, and they lost games to San Francisco and Harvard. This win will push their Sagarin ELO_CHESS up near 75th, but they'll have to get into the Top 60 to be on the bubble, and very likely into the Top 50 to actually get an at-large bid. They have one shot left at Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri, and absolutely need to close the deal in at least one of those games. The Selection Committee wants to see those big wins.

Iowa State has wins over Virginia, Creighton and Baylor, but they've also got a few bad losses (including home losses to Oklahoma and Texas Tech). Their Sagarin PREDICTOR and Pomeroy ratings are going to stay in the 75-80th range after this loss, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS has fallen all the way out of the Top 100. They'd have to win four or five games in a row to get back to the bubble now. Their next game is Saturday against Kansas State.

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