Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wisconsin Knocks Off Ohio State

#14 Wisconsin 71, #1 Ohio State 67
This was a hell of a game. Ohio State actually got their lead up to 15 points in the second half that was quickly erased with a 15-0 Wisconsin run. Wisconsin got an unbelievable game from Jordan Taylor, who had 27 points on 8-for-13 shooting, as well as 7 assists and only 1 turnover, while being guarded almost the entire way by Aaron Craft, who's been shutting down Big Ten guards all season long. It's nice to see Taylor finally get some national attention, because all year long he's been the most jarring example of a player that the statisticians and computers loved but the national media ignored. Wisconsin's offense was on center stage (71 points on 57 possessions - by far the worst PPP given up by Ohio State's defense all season), but they also played well defensively. They were able to guard Jared Sullinger one-on-one most of the game without him really blowing up, which limited the kick-out opportunities for Ohio State's shooters.

This loss itself doesn't matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things for Ohio State. Wisconsin has lost six Big Ten home games in Bo Ryan's ten years, and they were rated as one of the ten best teams in the nation by both Sagarin and Pomeroy coming in. It's okay to believe that Ohio State isn't the best team in the country, but that conclusion shouldn't come from this game alone. Losing a game at a Wisconsin team firing on all cylinders is not a reason to drop a team from #1 in the polls. But if there was one flaw exposed here it might be Ohio State's depth. The Buckeyes only played seven players, and two of those seven played only six minutes apiece. Jared Sullinger and William Buford both played all 40 minutes. They looked to wear out a little bit down the stretch. Will Ohio State wear out in a Tournament setting, or against a team that really pushes the pace? It's possible. But this team is still spectacular, and still is in control of the Big Ten regular season title and an NCAA Tournament 1 seed.

Wisconsin can't rest - they're off to play at Purdue on Wednesday night. The winner of that game will walk out with second place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin already beat Purdue by seven points in Madison, but Purdue should be favored to win the return game. Wisconsin does also have to head to Ohio State on March 6th. Other than that, they should be favored in all of their remaining games. But the Big Ten is the deepest conference we've seen in a few years - there are no easy games. So Wisconsin could easily lose one of their non-Purdue/OSU games.

#21 North Carolina 64, Clemson 62
Winning at Clemson is not easy. Their resume isn't great, but the computers rate a road win at Clemson as approximately equivalent in difficulty to winning at home against Villanova or Georgetown. Kendall Marshall didn't have the best of games (18 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers), but even his off nights are better than what Larry Drew was giving them, and Harrison Barnes combined with John Henson to dominate the paint (a combined 34 points and 17 rebounds). North Carolina moves to 8-2 in ACC play with this win with an easy stretch coming up (vs Wake Forest, vs Boston College, at NC State). Despite how much the computers like Clemson they are 1-5 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime. They are 0-3 in ACC games decided by two points or less. And that's why they're 6-5 in ACC play and on the bubble. They have wins over Florida State and Boston College, along with losses to Virginia and South Carolina. Their RPI is 73rd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will likely be around 65th when the new numbers come out tomorrow morning. If the season ended now they'd be narrowly out of the Field of 68. I don't think they can afford to finish worse than 9-7 in ACC play. Considering that they already have five losses and also have a road game at Duke to play, that means that their margin of error is getting really slim.

Old Dominion 70, VCU 59
This was the best Old Dominion has looked in weeks. To say that they just dominated the boards would be an understatement. ODU had a 53% offensive rebounding percentage, compared to 19% offensive rebounding percentage for VCU. Frank Hassell has been great this season, and now has eight double-doubles in his last ten games. This is Old Dominion's 20th victory of the season, although only two have come against the RPI Top 50 (Xavier and George Mason), and they've got a bad loss to Delaware. If the season ended now I do think ODU and George Mason would both be at-large teams for the Colonial. If both teams can finish strong and make it to the CAA championship game I do expect both to make the Tournament. Of course, VCU was hoping to stay in contention for another at-large bid. They also have 20 wins and also have a couple of nice wins (UCLA and Old Dominion), but they have several bad losses (Georgia State, South Florida and Northeastern). VCU's Sagarin ELO_CHESS will tumble out of the Top 60 with this loss. VCU has a big home game coming up on Tuesday against George Mason. If they can't win that one then the only way they'll stay in the at-large discussion will be if they can win the rest of their regular season games, which will include road games at both Wichita State and Drexel.

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