Saturday, March 12, 2011

Louisville, SDSU and Washington Advance

#14 Louisville 83, #4 Notre Dame 77, OT
Notre Dame's offense is pretty unstoppable if you sit back and let them work in the half court, but they're vulnerable to the press, and Rick Pitino pressed them like crazy in this one. And while it didn't have a huge effect in the first half, Notre Dame did tire down the stretch and committed a couple of killer turnovers that made the difference. They did a great job of not allowing Ben Hansbrough any space to score, and he finished only 3-for-16 from the field. Peyton Siva was the best offensive player for Louisville, finishing with 5-for-10 shooting, 7 assists and only 1 turnover.

This game pretty much ends Notre Dame's hopes of a 1 seed and opens the door a little wider for teams like Duke, Texas and BYU. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be right around 5th or 6th, and they look like a 2 seed now. Louisville is now 9-6 against the RPI Top 50 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will move into the Top 15. Even with a loss in the Big East tournament title game to UConn there is no way they'll get worse than a 4 seed now, and they'll be in the discussion for a 3. With a win in the Big East tournament finals I see them just about locking up that 3 seed.

#6 San Diego State 74, UNLV 72
UNLV had the homecourt advantage and were playing great, but DJ Gay has been an assassin for San Diego State this season in clutch moments, and he nailed a dagger with four seconds to go to win this game. The biggest problem for UNLV in this game was frontcourt depth, because SDSU's front line got all of UNLV's key bigs in foul trouble. Quintrell Thomas and Brice Massamba were both severely limited with foul trouble (both collected four fouls, and the two combined for only 27 minutes on the floor).

The good news after a game like that is that it won't cost either team a Tournament bid. Both are going to the NCAA Tournament. SDSU will play BYU for the Mountain West tournament title, and with a win you have to figure that SDSU will be seriously considered for the 2 seed out West, which would make their fans very happy. UNLV finishes 24-8 and 7-7 against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Wisconsin, Kansas State and Colorado State, and only one loss outside the RPI Top 50 (UC-Santa Barbara). Their RPI is 27th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be very close to 20th. They're very likely going to be a 6 or 7 seed in the Tournament.

Washington 69, Oregon 51

Oregon had been playing well over the last few weeks, but they ran out of steam against Washington. This game was close for the first 30 minutes, but Oregon lost their shooting legs late and hit just 3 of their final 14 shot attempts. For the game the Ducks hit 32% from the field, including 4-for-24 behind the arc. I want to again give credit to Isaiah Thomas, who is such an underrated player in terms of what he brings emotionally to his team. Because Washington plays so many games in the middle of the night on Fox Sports, most people who aren't fans of the Pac-10 never watch Washington play, and Isaiah Thomas doesn't put up a lot of points. But in this game he couldn't hit a shot (2-for-11 from the field), but still led his team with 12 assists and 3 steals. To put that in perspective, Oregon only had nine assists in this game as a team.

Unfortunately for Washington, they don't get any credit for beating Oregon - they just avoid what would be another bad loss. But they are up to 22-10 and 8-7 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that is 39th and a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that should move very close to 50th. They'd be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but they'll have to sweat out Selection Sunday if they don't win the auto bid in the Pac-10 tournament finals over Arizona. Oregon will not be in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, but the end of this season should give their fans hope for next year and beyond. They are improving.

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