Thursday, March 10, 2011

Irish Slaughter Cincinnati

#4 Notre Dame 89, Cincinnati 51
This wasn't like the Villanova game a couple of weeks ago when Notre Dame shot out of their minds from behind the arc and hit 20 three-pointers. No, this game against Cincinnati was just a complete and thorough destruction in every facet of the game. The Irish only hit nine threes this entire game, in fact. Defensively, they completely shut down the Cincinnati offense. The Bearcats had a 37.1 eFG% and scored only 0.81 PPP. And they are a team that allows bad offense to affect their defensive concentration, and so on the other end the Irish just got to the rim at will. Notre Dame committed only five turnovers, and had more assists (22) than Cincy had made shots (19).

With Pittsburgh going down in their first Big East tournament game, things have been really opened up for Notre Dame to win. Not only that but a 1 seed has opened up. If Notre Dame can win the Big East tournament they'll have a great shot at winning a 1 seed, particularly since there's a good chance that they'll pass Pitt on the S-Curve. Notre Dame fans need to also root against Purdue, a team that could potentially pass the Irish if they win the Big Ten tournament.

Cincinnati finishes 5-8 against the RPI Top 50, but with zero losses outside the Top 50. Their RPI is 37th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be near 20th. They're obviously locked into the NCAA Tournament, but this loss blows a chance to build on their Tournament seed. They will not earn higher than a 4 seed now, and more likely are looking at a 5 or 6.

Oregon 76, UCLA 59
And the bubble sighs... With UCLA going down we now dramatically increase the chances of somebody stealing an automatic bid in the Pac-10 tournament. For Oregon this was the EJ Singler show. He led all players with a tremendously efficient 24 points (7-for-9 from the field). Defensively, Oregon did a really good job of keeping control of the paint, forcing UCLA to take a lot of long jumpers. Neither Reeves Nelson or Tyler Honeycutt got going, and UCLA ended up with a team-wide 38.9 eFG%.

UCLA hadn't locked up their at-large bid before this game, but they are still in pretty good shape. They finish 22-10 and 13-5 in the Pac-10, with a 7-8 record against the RPI Top 100. They have quality wins over BYU, St. John's and Arizona, along with bad losses now to Montana and Oregon. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be inside the Top 50. The computer numbers aren't great, but they're being weighed down by how crappy the Pac-10 is and how many RPI 150+ teams they had to play. That 13-5 conference record is excellent, even in the Pac-10, and they've got a nice set of good wins. Compare them, for example, to Alabama, another team with a strong record in a mediocre conference. There's no way the Selection Committee can take Alabama over UCLA. So for now, UCLA is fine. If the bubble gets a lot stronger over the next few days? UCLA might have to survive a nervous Selection Sunday. Certainly they now become Arizona fans for the remainder of the Pac-10 tournament. Oregon will play the winner of Washington/Wazzu tomorrow night.

UTEP 77, Marshall 65
Like the Memphis/Southern Miss game earlier in the day, this was an elimination game. Both of these teams entered the game knowing that they needed a victory. Marshall lost this game because they refused to work the ball into the paint. UTEP is a very small team, and Marshall's big men were having a field day when they got the ball in the paint. Marshall's starting frontcourt combined to shoot 10-for-16 from the field. But Marshall's starting backcourt preferred launching threes all game, and they finished a combined 7-for-26 from the field, including 0-for-8 behind the arc. As a team Marshall shot 2-for-16 behind the arc. Conversely, UTEP had a very balanced attack: six players in double-digits, with none scoring more than 14.

Marshall didn't really have a path to an at-large bid anyway. They were only 9-7 in Conference USA play, and they finish 7-10 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will be well outside the Top 70. They might not even make the NIT. UTEP is a more intriguing bubble team. They were 11-5 in Conference USA and are currently 6-6 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Memphis, Michigan and Marshall (twice), along with bad losses to Georgia Tech and Pacific. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be close to 65th. They're still out of the Field of 68 right now, but if they beat Tulsa tomorrow, play close against Memphis in the CUSA tournament finals, and benefit from a weak bubble, an at-large bid isn't impossible. Certainly their game tomorrow against Tulsa is a must-win, though.

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