Saturday, March 05, 2011

Marquette Falls To The Bubble

Seton Hall 85, Marquette 72
If Seton Hall hired a three-point shooting coach a week ago, somebody needs to give him a raise. A week ago they were dead last in the Big East with a 29% three-point shooting percentage (under 27% in Big East conference games). Then they hit 12-for-18 in an upset of St. John's, and followed that up with 12-for-21 three-point shooting in an upset of Marquette. That said, just like the St. John's game, the reality is that Seton Hall did basically play the game to a draw even when you discount the hot shooting. These wins weren't flukes. In this game they fought to a draw on the boards and committed four fewer turnovers, while collecting six more assists. What was also nice for Seton Hall was that they got very balanced scoring, with six players in double-digits. It wasn't just Jeremy Hazell pouring in points while his teammates watched.

This loss drops Marquette to the bubble. They finish 18-13 overall and 9-9 in the Big East. They have quality wins over Notre Dame, UConn, Syracuse and West Virginia, and this is their worst loss of the season. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be around 40th after this loss. Marquette will be the 11 seed in the Big East tournament and will play Providence in the first round, with the winner playing West Virginia. I think Marquette needs to at least win that Providence game to feel good about their at-large hopes. If the bubble gets a lot stronger (still very possible) then Marquette might need to beat West Virginia also.

These two big wins to end the season actually really did nothing for Seton Hall. They were already locked into playing Rutgers in the 12/13 game of the Big East tournament, and all they accomplished was giving themselves the opportunity to wear their home uniforms in that game. The winner of that game will play St. John's in the second round. On the plus side, Seton Hall did do a lot for their NIT resume, and a win over Providence will probably get them into that tournament at least.

Indiana State 61, Wichita State 54
Indiana State players obviously took it personally when I called them the "easier semifinal match-up" in my Arch Madness preview. Wichita State swept them in the regular season (scoring 26 more points on net in the two games) and is clearly the better team, but it's hard to win a game when you shoot 7-for-29 behind the arc, as Wichita State did. In MVC games this season, Wichita State finished first in 2P%, third in FT% and eighth in 3P% - obviously it's not in their best interest to launch threes. This game wasn't on television so I don't know exactly why WSU's backcourt didn't attack the rim, but the stats are startling. WSU starts three guards, and those three players combined for 2-for-14 on threes, 0-for-3 on twos, and 0-0 at the line, with 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 turnovers. That's horrible. It's possible that the team just was mentally looking ahead to the MVC championship game against Missouri State and didn't have the right intensity.

Either way, Wichita State is probably looking at the NIT now. They finished 24-8 and 14-4 in the Missouri Valley, but ended with zero wins against the RPI Top 50, and three losses to RPI 100+ opponents (Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Indiana State). Their RPI is 50th but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is outside the Top 70. As weak as the bubble is right now, I don't see any way WSU would make the Tournament if the season ended now, and I'll be surprised if the bubble doesn't get even stronger over the next week. So Wichita State heads to the NIT.

Indiana State is actually making a good case for the NIT for themselves - this win could get them a bid. They're obviously nowhere near an at-large bid and will have to knock off Missouri State tomorrow to make the NCAA Tournament. But if they could beat Wichita State they can definitely beat Missouri State, a team that they actually beat once in the regular season (they won by 1 point at home, and lost by 7 points on the road).

UCLA 58, Washington State 54, OT
I hope Klay Thompson enjoyed his marijuana, because his arrest and suspension for this game probably cost his team a loss. Surely a guy who might end up being the Pac-10 Player of the Year would have made the difference in a game that ended up in overtime, right? Washington State is a small team, and they were blown away inside in this game by Reeves Nelson (23 points on 8-for-10 shooting along with 8 rebounds) and Tyler Honeycutt (10 points and 10 rebounds). UCLA ended up with six more offensive rebounds and five more blocks. UCLA shot very poorly otherwise (a 40.7 eFG%), but Washington State just didn't have enough offense without Thompson to outdo that.

UCLA finishes the season 13-5 in Pac-10 play, one game back of Arizona. They were 7-8 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over BYU, St. John's and Arizona, along with a bad loss to Montana. Their RPI is 39th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should move into the Top 40 as well. There's no question that they're in the Field of 68 right now, but they might need one more win to be sure that they stay in. They will play the winner of the 7/10 game in the Pac-10 quarterfinals. The 10 seed is Arizona State, and the 7 seed will either be Stanford or Oregon.

The bad news for Washington State is that the Selection Committee is not going to give them a break just because Klay Thompson didn't play. You play with whoever you have, and the Selection Committee won't allow you to just ignore games because you didn't have all of your best players. The good news is that Washington State's at-large hopes aren't completely extinguished. Washington State finishes the regular season 19-11 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-10. They have quality wins over Washington (twice), Gonzaga and Baylor, along with bad losses to Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State. Their RPI is 70th, which is about where their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be tomorrow morning. If they can make the Pac-10 tournament finals, they should at least be in the bubble discussion. Wazzu will be the 4, 5 or 6 seed, and honestly it doesn't matter much either way. Either way they'll need to win three games to win the Pac-10 tournament, and the conference is relatively balanced - no path is much more difficult than any other.

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