Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Everybody Knows Who Brandon Davies Is Now

New Mexico 82, #3 BYU 64
A couple of days ago, most casual fans had never heard of a BYU player other than Jimmer Fredette. But as you've surely heard by now, Brandon Davies has been kicked off the team for the season because of BYU's uber-strict code of conduct, and the team clearly did not react to that loss well. Davies wasn't the team's second best player (that would be Jackson Emery), and even on the front line he was probably only the second best offensive weapon (Noah Hartsock). But Davies was the team's best rebounder and interior defender, and was huge in the victory against San Diego State's tremendous front line.

Interestingly enough, the loss of Davies is not the reason that BYU lost by 18 points in this game. Both teams had six offensive rebounds, and this result had a lot more to do with 5-for-26 three-point shooting from BYU than anything else. As a team they had a 38.1 eFG%, which was well below the 43.0% which had been their previous worst shooting performance in a MWC game this season. It's possible that it was just a coincidence, that this team just didn't respond well to that victory over San Diego State (the way Virginia Tech came off their win over Duke by getting waxed by Boston College). But you have to wonder how this team will respond to their first adversity of the season. We just don't know about this team's mental makeup. Certainly their shot at a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is effectively over, but they can still hang onto that 2 seed if they turn things around quickly. Even without Davies they should be a solid favorite in every game ahead until they get to the Mountain West tournament finals.

As for New Mexico, they've been loving the bubble carnage, and with this gigantic win they are suddenly back on the edge of the bubble picture. The Lobos are 7-8 in Mountain West play with two big wins over BYU to go with bad losses to Wyoming and Utah (twice). Their RPI is only 75th, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should move inside the Top 70. They will have Senior Night on Saturday against Air Force, and assuming they win that game they should end up with a Mountain West tournament quarterfinal match-up against Colorado State. That might be an elimination game.

#2 Kansas 64, #22 Texas A&M 51
Kansas is arguably the best team in the nation. At home on Senior Night against an overrated Texas A&M team? There was no chance this game was going to be close. Kansas is working Tyshawn Taylor back into the offensive rotation after his suspension, but their defense didn't skip a beat, and they suffocated Texas A&M. The Aggies finished with 17 turnovers and a 44.8 eFG%, finishing with 0.85 PPP on offense. Kansas now heads for a tough road game at Missouri, a fierce rival that is going to be riled up Senior Night. If the Jayhawks can win the game they'll lock up the outright Big 12 title. If they fall then they'll need Texas to lose to Baylor. Even if they fall to Missouri, a Big 12 tournament title will lock up a 1 seed in the Tournament for Kansas.

Texas A&M is now 9-6 in the Big 12 and 7-7 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Temple, Washington, Missouri and Kansas State, and no particularly bad losses. I said that they're overrated because they're 8-2 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime - they've been a little lucky. If the season ended now their Tournament seed would be in the 6-9 range, and it could fall another line if they don't play well in the Big 12 tournament.

Cincinnati 67, Marquette 60
Yancy Gates has moved back into the starting lineup and his strong play has continued as he dominated the paint against Marquette with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Marquette's Jimmy Butler was wondering where his help was coming from, as he scored 30 of Marquette's 60 points. Butler actually made more free throws (15) than the entire Cincinnati team attempted (12), but his teammates combined for a 38.2 eFG%, and Marquette just couldn't keep up offensively with Cincinnati in the second half.

I think everybody viewed Cincinnati as a safe Tournament team even before this win, but there's no question now. They now have wins over Xavier, St. John's, Louisville and Georgetown, and zero losses to a team outside the RPI Top 35. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS could move into the Top 15 tomorrow, and they would be a 4 or 5 seed if the season ended now. With a win Saturday over Georgetown they will clinch at least a single bye in the Big East tournament, and will put themselves in the discussion for a 3 seed in the Tournament.

It looks like ten Big East teams have locked up their Tournament bids, and there are five teams definitely out of contention. That leaves Marquette as the one remaining question mark. With this loss they fall to 9-8 in Big East play with a poor 6-12 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over West Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse and UConn, and zero losses to a team outside the RPI Top 70. Their RPI is 57th, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be in the 35-40 range when the new numbers come out tomorrow. There's no question that they're still in the Field of 68, but if they lose at Seton Hall on Saturday they'll really put their chances in jeopardy. A win there should come close to locking up an 11th Tournament bid for the Big East.

No comments: