Thursday, March 10, 2011

Colorado Closes In On A Bid

Colorado 87, #23 Kansas State 75
Absolutely everything was clicking for Colorado in this game. Not only did their star, Alec Burks, have another big game (24 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), but they also got a tremendous offensive performance from Cory Higgins (28 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field). As a team the Buffaloes hit 6-for-9 behind the arc and a total 64.0 eFG%, their best shooting performance against a Big 12 team this season. Kansas State actually played fairly well. Jacob Pullen stayed under control and set up his teammates, getting three of them in double-digits and collecting seven assists for himself. But that shooting barrage from Colorado was tough to overcome.

I felt that Colorado was out of the Field of 68 heading into this game, but they're in after this win. Colorado has a bizarre resume where they are 6-6 against the RPI Top 50 but 6-6 against teams with an RPI between 51 and 200. Overall they have quality wins against Texas, Missouri, Kansas State (three times) and Colorado State, along with bad losses to San Francisco, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Their RPI is 64th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be in the 45-50 range. But while they are in the Tournament for now, they're not safe yet. If they lose tomorrow to Kansas and the bubble tightens up, Colorado will have to sweat out Selection Sunday. A win over Kansas should be the clincher, though.

Kansas State finishes 22-10 and 10-6 against the Big 12, with a 10-10 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Kansas, Texas and Missouri, with zero RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 24th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be in the 30-35 range when the new numbers come out tomorrow. It's not impossible for them to fall onto the bubble if we have a crazy next few days, but realistically they are still safe. This loss will simply hurt their seed, which was on the rise, but now will unlikely be higher than a 7 or 8.

Memphis 66, Southern Miss 63
Southern Miss will feel like they let this game get away. Despite leading Conference USA with 74% free throw shooting in conference play they hit only 15-for-25 in this game. Meanwhile, a Memphis team that was dead last in Conference USA in free throw shooting drastically beat them in this game with a respectable 77% at the stripe. Southern Miss also got what was effectively a nothing performance by their star, Gary Flowers. Flowers had 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting, including missed three-pointers on two separate possessions in the final 30 seconds, either of which would have tied up the game. The last miss by Flowers came just before the buzzer. DJ Newbill grabbed the offensive board, dribbled outside and banked in a three, but the ball clearly left his hand several tenths of a second after the buzzer, leaving the win to Memphis.

Southern Miss finishes 22-10, but only 9-7 in Conference USA play, and only 1-5 against the RPI Top 50. Their RPI is 62nd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be close to 70th. They're done. Memphis is the only team in Conference USA with a good shot at an at-large bid. Memphis is 11-7 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that is up to 33rd, but they also have as many RPI Top 50 wins (2) as RPI 100+ losses. Those wins both came over UAB, and the bad losses came against SMU and Rice. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is right around 50th, and with the lack of big wins I think they're still out of the Field of 68. With a win over East Carolina tomorrow and then a respectable loss in the CUSA tournament finals, can they get in? It's possible, but they'll need the bubble to weaken.

New Mexico 67, Colorado State 61
This was not one of the prettier wins that New Mexico has had. They shot below 40% from the field, including 6-for-19 behind the arc, and coughed up 9 steals. But they dominated the paint, with 10 more offensive rebounds, led by AJ Hardeman (5-for-7 shooting from the field and 6 offensive rebounds) and Drew Gordon (13 points and 13 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive end).

New Mexico heads next to play BYU, a team that certainly fears them now that Brandon Davies is gone. New Mexico swept the season series, including that 18 point demolition in Provo last week. And BYU is looking very, very thin, basically playing only five players in the second half against TCU earlier today. They barely survived that TCU game, and will have to be tired heading into the New Mexico match-up. I expect BYU to wear out, and unless Jimmer Fredette has a monster game I expect a New Mexico upset. And New Mexico needs that win to keep their realistic hopes of an NCAA Tournament trip alive. They are 20-11 against D-I opponents and 8-8 in Mountain West play with those two wins over BYU and two wins over Colorado State. But they've also got bad losses to Wyoming, Northern Iowa and Utah (twice). Even after this win their Sagarin ELO_CHESS shouldn't be higher than around 55th. I don't see how they can make the NCAA Tournament without that win over BYU.

Colorado State can now pack their bags for the NIT. They went 9-7 in Mountain West play, but just could not close the deal against their top opponents and finished 1-6 against the RPI Top 50, with three losses outside the RPI Top 100. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall out of the Top 60 as well. It's a tough way for them to end the season. They had a two point loss to San Diego State, a couple single-digit losses to BYU, as well as several other close losses to RPI Top 100 teams. Just one big win would have completely changed the complexion of their season.

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