Friday, March 11, 2011

Alabama Gets A Gift. Is Boston College Out?

Alabama 65, Georgia 59, OT
The nature of Alabama's style of basketball means that just about every one of their games plays out like this. You can make the argument statistically that no team in the country has been better defensively over the past two months. Certainly no other SEC team has played better defense. But at the same time, Alabama's offense is horrid. They have no shooters, and they can't get to the rim when playing halfcourt basketball. On the season they are outside the Top 200 in the nation in offensive turnover rate and eFG%, and they are outside the Top 300 in the nation in three-point shooting percentage and free throw rate. The average D-I team has an eFG% of 49%, yet Alabama has played one game since November where both they and their opponent broke 49%.

This particular game was a gift for Alabama because of a bone-headed mistake by Georgia coach Mark Fox. After Alabama tied the game late in regulation, Georgia had about four seconds to get the ball across the court and to take a shot. Dustin Ware banked in a 25-footer just before the buzzer, but Mark Fox had called a timeout with 0.8 seconds left, and the shot didn't count. I've seen coaches all the time take timeouts just before a guy hit a shot - the coach can't know ahead of time whether the shot is going in or not. But what made this particular decision stupid is that it was a horrible place for a timeout. What purpose is there to take the ball out of bounds at halfcourt with 0.8 seconds left? Maybe if you can get Kevin Durant to transfer in for the play, but I haven't seen that play work in a college game in about 19 years. Might as well let Ware try to make a play against a defense that was basically just letting him dribble up the court because they were afraid of fouling.

Alabama won in overtime, as you would have expected. It would have been very difficult for Georgia to overcome emotionally the way the game headed into overtime. And Alabama collects a win in probably the most bubblicious game of the day. I said late last night that the winner of this game would probably make the Tournament and the loser probably wouldn't. Of the two teams, Georgia is better able to handle a loss. Their resume is still bubble-worthy. They finish 21-11 and 9-7 in the SEC, and they have only two losses outside the RPI Top 50, and zero outside the RPI Top 100. Their best wins were over Kentucky, Tennessee, UAB and Colorado. Their RPI is still 43rd, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should stay narrowly inside the Top 50. You can make the argument that they are still in the Field of 68, although more likely than not the bubble will tighten enough that they'll fall out. They need to become big fans of Utah State, Temple and Arizona for sure.

Alabama is 21-10 and 12-4 in the SEC, but that conference record is inflated by being in the SEC West. They are are 5-6 against the RPI Top 100 with quality wins over Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia (twice), along with bad losses to Iowa, St. Peter's, Seton Hall, Providence and Arkansas. Their RPI is 76th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be around 65th. Overall, their numbers just aren't there, but they could be in the Field of 68 at the moment because of that conference record and the fact that they're playing so much better now than they did in non-conference play. But in my view, the Selection Committee doesn't go out of their way to reward teams that schedule weak opponents out-of-conference, which is what Alabama did. So in my opinion, if they lose to Kentucky tomorrow in the SEC semifinals, they still will have a good shot of missing the NCAA Tournament.

Clemson 70, Boston College 47
This was another game between two bubble teams, but this one was never close. Clemson led 11-0 before BC's players realized what had happened, and they never looked back. Clemson kept Reggie Jackson from beating them (11 points on 5-for-13 shooting), and all season long that's been the formula to beat BC.

With this win Clemson is now 21-10 and 9-7 against the RPI Top 100, but only 1-6 against the RPI Top 50 (the one win came over Florida State), and with a few bad losses (South Carolina, NC State and Virginia). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be in the 40-45 range when the new numbers come out tomorrow. I don't think there's much question that Clemson would be in the Field of 68 if the season ended now, but they're not safe yet. They could fall back out. They need a win tomorrow over North Carolina to firm up their spot in the bracket.

Boston College had 20 wins and went 9-7 in the ACC with only one loss outside the RPI Top 100, but they also went 1-6 against the RPI Top 50 with only a win over Texas A&M that they had way back in November. Their RPI is 56th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be near 50th. They're still on the bubble, but they'd probably be out of the season ended now. And considering the fact that the bubble will likely tighten over the next few days, I don't see how BC gets in at this point. They're going to the NIT.

Dayton 68, #20 Xavier 67

Dayton had 30 lost consecutive games against Xavier on road on neutral courts, which is pretty amazing when you consider how much success Dayton has had over that stretch. And they almost blew another one here. Dayton got out to a 21-3 lead, and led by 17 points with 12 minutes to go. Xavier finished on a 30-14 run, but a Tu Holloway shot at the buzzer missed and Dayton escaped with the victory.

Xavier blew a chance to lock their place in the Tournament, but they should still be safe. They went 24-7 and 15-1 in the Atlantic Ten with a 7-5 record against the RPI Top 100. They have quality wins over Temple, Georgia and Butler, along with bad losses to Charlotte and Miami-Ohio. Their RPI is 23rd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be near 30th. Even with the bubble tightening, it's really hard to see it catching all the way up to Xavier. Dayton is not in at-large consideration, but they now have a gift of an A-10 semifinal match-up against St. Joe's. With a win there they'll be only one game away from an automatic bid.

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