Friday, March 11, 2011

Jimmer Fredette Single-Handedly Beats New Mexico

#8 BYU 87, New Mexico 76
BYU became in this game what most casual fans thought they were - the Jimmer Fredette show. They basically have only a five man rotation now. The bench scored one point, and it came on a free throw by a player who was only in the game in the final minute because one of BYU's starters had fouled out. Fredette hit 22 of New Mexico's 34 shots, and had 52 of his team's 87 points. Jackson Emery deserves some credit for a boxscore-stuffing 14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, but it's clear that this team is going to go as far as Jimmer takes them. And to be fair, that's not a way to win. If Fredette has an off shooting night they can lose to anybody.

But BYU did win here, and they honestly are not out of the discussion for a 1 seed. If they do win the Mountain West tournament tomorrow and earn a 1 seed, they probably will be the worst 1 seed ever. Remember, even that much-maligned 2003-04 St. Joseph's team had two future NBA starters on it. If I were on the Selection Committee I wouldn't vote for them to get higher than a 3 seed. New Mexico finishes 20-12 and 5-8 against the RPI Top 100 with a pair of wins over both BYU and Colorado State, along with bad losses to Wyoming, Northern Iowa and Utah (twice). Their RPI is 66th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be close to 60th. The two wins over BYU are nice, but unless the bubble gets a lot weaker I just don't see how New Mexico can avoid the NIT.

Penn State 36, #13 Wisconsin 33
Before I say anything I do want to point out that this game had only 42 possessions, making it the slowest game played in Division I since 1998. Coming into this game Wisconsin had the #1 offense in the nation with 1.20 points per possession, so even if they'd kept up that average they'd only have scored 50 points. But that said, I've never seen a team shoot as poorly as Wisconsin did in this game. They hit 2-for-21 behind the arc and had a 31.3 eFG%. To put that in perspective, Wisconsin hadn't put up an eFG% below 40% since last season, and haven't shot this badly since they were knocked out of the 2009 Tournament by Xavier. To put it in further perspective, Penn State hadn't held a team to a shooting performance that poor since they did it in November of 2007 to a Canisius team that went 6-25 that season.

So Wisconsin has been on the wrong end of a historic statistical performance for the second straight game, at a horrible time as far as the Selection Committee is concerned. Wisconsin's Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be around 14th or 15th, but I can't see them getting better than a 4 seed now, and they could fall to a 5. Penn State went 9-9 in Big Ten play and is now 18-13 with a 9-12 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin (twice), along with only one loss outside the RPI Top 100 (Maine). Their RPI is 47th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is close to 40th. I think that they'd almost surely be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but in no way are they safe. They need to beat Michigan State tomorrow to really firm up their bid.

#12 Florida 85, Tennessee 74
Tennessee went on a 21-4 run to close the first half, but the Gators were able to regroup at the half and were firing on all cylinders in the second half. The Gators finished the game with a 65.2 eFG%, which is pretty amazing when you consider that they were only 67.6% (25-for-37) at the line. All five Gators starters scored in double-digits and had an effective field goal percentage over 50%, so it was a team-wide effort. Tennessee's offense just is not that good, so they never had a shot once Florida started pouring in points like they did.

The Gators will play Vanderbilt tomorrow, and likely will face Kentucky in the SEC finals. It would be very impressive if they could knock out Tennessee, Vandy and Kentucky on consecutive days, but they've got one down and only two to go. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS also might finally break into the Top 15, and I think they'd be a 4 seed if the season ended now. If they win the SEC tournament I think they'll have to be in the discussion for a 3 seed.

Tennessee finishes the season with a 19-14 record, three RPI 100+ losses, and a Sagarin ELO_CHESS near 55th. But they have seven RPI Top 50 wins, including big time scalps against Pittsburgh, Villanova, Vanderbilt (twice) and Memphis. There's no question that Tennessee is still in the bracket at the moment. But they still will have to sweat out the next two days, and it's not impossible for them to fall into the NIT.

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