Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Xavier Solidifies Their Resume

Xavier 65, Georgia 57
This is a big win for the entire Atlantic Ten Conference. It has been a horrible year for the A-10, with all three major computer ratings (the RPI, Sagarin and Pomeroy ratings) putting them 9th, behind the six BCS conferences, the Mountain West and Conference USA. There is still a plausible path to the conference ending up with only one NCAA Tournament bid. This win not only raises the computer numbers of every team in the conference, but also strengthens the resume of the team arguably best positioned for an at-large bid right now. Xavier is tied atop the A-10 with a record of 8-1. Overall they're 7-5 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Butler, Temple and now Georgia, along with bad losses to Charlotte and Miami-Ohio. Their RPI is all the way up to 19th, although their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will likely be just outside the Top 30. They have seven regular season games remaining, including three difficult road games (Duquesne, Dayton and Saint Louis). I definitely think Xavier can afford one more regular season loss and they'll still make the Tournament with a loss in the A-10 tournament. But if they lose a second game in the regular season they'll be at the mercy at the bubble if they can't win the A-10 tournament.

Georgia is a team with a ton of raw talent, but once again they fell short against a top opponent. They did get that upset of Kentucky, another young team that has struggled to win close games, but other than that their wins over UAB and Ole Miss are their only against the RPI Top 80. They don't have any bad losses and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be inside the Top 45, so they're still very narrowly inside the Field of 68 for now. Georgia is 5-4 in the SEC, and I think they've got to get to 9-7 to stay inside the Tournament. But unless they finish 10-6 or better they will definitely enter the SEC tournament with work still left to do. They could really use another big win, and a home game against Vanderbilt next Wednesday is probably their best chance.

#18 Kentucky 73, Tennessee 61
Tennessee has had a bad habit the past few years of playing streaky basketball, allowing teams to go on big runs against them. They had two killer streaks in this game: a 14-2 run at the end of the first half and a 16-3 run early in the second half. That's a lot to overcome on the road against a team as talented as Kentucky. Of course, I never liked Tennessee's chances in this game. Not only has Kentucky won 31 in a row at home but they were also coming off two straight losses and were facing the fact that a loss in this game would have dropped the Wildcats to dead last in the SEC East. Even with this win they're only 5-4 in the SEC, a full two games behind Florida. I do still believe that Kentucky is the clear best team in the SEC. Their Pomeroy Luck rating is 321st. The wins will come. Their next game is a big one, on Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt.

Tennessee is also 5-4 in the SEC, but they've now lost two straight with a road game at Florida up next. Despite how schizophrenic their resume has been this season they should be a near-lock for the Tournament if they can get to 9-7. They should be favored in four of their remaining games (vs South Carolina, vs Georgia, vs Mississippi State, at South Carolina), so if they take care of business they'll go Dancing. Of course, if there's any team that is more likely to pull big upsets while suffering terrible losses it's Tennessee. They've been the most unpredictable team in the nation.

Clemson 77, Boston College 69
This was a game that could end up having huge bubble ramifications. Both of these teams entered the game on the bubble, and the difference in the game was Clemson getting the ball inside (a 63.6% two-point shooting percentage) while BC spent the night settling for long jumpers (a 50% 3PA/FGA). BC hit only 9 of their 30 attempted threes, and that just wasn't enough offense to deliver the win despite 15 offensive rebounds. This win pushes Clemson to 6-4 in the ACC and 6-5 against the RPI Top 100, which seems more impressive than it really is. The ACC will get very little respect from the Selection Committee this year, and this win represents Clemson's first against the RPI Top 50, while they've already got bad losses to Virginia and South Carolina. Even after this win Clemon's RPI is 62nd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be near 55th. They'd be NIT-bound if the season ended now. Clemson now has a huge home game against North Carolina on Saturday. A win there and they might temporarily push themselves into the Field of 68, but with a loss they'll have an uphill battle just to get to 9-7 in ACC play, and even 9-7 will leave them with work left to do heading into the ACC tournament.

Boston College falls to 5-5 in the ACC with this loss. They've got a quality win over Texas A&M along with a bad loss to Yale. Their RPI is still 44th after this loss but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall out of the Top 50. This loss is their fourth in their last five games, and it drops them out of the Field of 68 for now. I think they need to get to 9-7 and then they need to win a game in the ACC tournament to get back into the NCAA Tournament. They play Maryland on Saturday, and then have a full week to prepare for a road game at North Carolina.

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