Friday, March 11, 2011

Michigan, Michigan State Close In On Bid

Michigan 60, Illinois 55
Illinois fans have seen this before. Leading by 12 with a little more than 8 minutes to play, they fell apart down the stretch. Over the final eight minutes they hit 1-for-8 from the field and had five turnovers. And once again they had Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale deferring and showing a lack of fire, with Brandon Paul and Mike Davis the only ones that looked like they cared as this game was falling apart. Certainly a lot of credit has to go to Michigan's backcourt duo of Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Jr. The two combined for 33 points on 11-for-24 shooting with 7 assists and 4 turnovers.

In my opinion, Michigan was in the Field of 68 before this game, but the bubble is tightening up and this was a game that they absolutely needed to have. They went 9-9 in Big Ten play and are currently 19-12 with a 10-11 record against the RPI Top 100. They have quality wins over Michigan State (twice), Illinois, Clemson and Harvard, along with just one bad loss (Indiana). Their RPI is 47th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will move into the Top 35. They're not a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but they're in really good shape. The only way they can miss out now would be if they lose to Ohio State tomorrow and then the bubble gets much, much tougher.

Illinois reminds me a lot of Villanova and Missouri. All three teams have been extremely underwhelming and have disappointed their fans, and all three have very mediocre resumes, but all three still look safe to reach the Tournament. The Illini finish 19-13 and 9-9 in the Big Ten, with an 11-1 record against the RPI Top 100. They have quality wins over North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan and Gonzaga, along with bad losses to Indiana and Illinois-Chicago. Their RPI is 44th, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be in the 40-45 range. Their resume is weaker than both Michigan and Michigan State now, so they're only sixth in the Big Ten pecking order, but there's no question that they'd still be in the Tournament if the season ended now. The bubble will have to get a lot tighter for them to miss out.

Michigan State 75, #9 Purdue 56
All week long we've seen teams that had play-in games getting off to quick starts against teams that had byes, and Purdue was no different. There's something to be said for being in the groove of things and having a win under the belt, and playing a team that's cold and hasn't experienced the tournament atmosphere yet. Purdue was down 23-11 early in this one and fell down by as much as 20. They pulled within 9 a couple of times, but never closer.

I've talked extensively about how the story of Michigan State's season has been defense. When they went into that horrible slump midseason it was because their defense fell apart. And this was not just their biggest win of the season, it was also their best defensive performance of the season. I don't think Purdue had an open shot the entire game, and the Boilers finished with a 40.2 eFG%, their second worst shooting performance against a Big Ten team this season.

Michigan State was in the Field of 68 when this game tipped off, but they knew that a loss here could mean a trip to the NIT. This win should just about seal things up. They are now 18-13 and 10-11 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Washington, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois, and only one loss outside the RPI Top 55 (Iowa). Their RPI is 38th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is nearing the Top 30. They're looking safe. Purdue, meanwhile, obviously blew any chance of a 1 seed with this loss. They could still earn a 2 seed, but much more likely are looking at a 3.

UTEP 66, Tulsa 54
You can argue that as a team, Tulsa was better than UTEP today. They dominated the boards and forced two more steals. But the difference in this game was the fact that UTEP has a player who can take a game over (Randy Culpepper) and Tulsa doesn't. Culpepper has scored 20+ points in six of his last eight games, and he dominated here with 26 points on 9-for-16 shooting.

Even with this win I don't like UTEP's at-large chances. They are 24-8, but only 2-2 against the RPI Top 50 with wins over Michigan, Memphis and Marshall (twice) along with bad losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech. Their RPI is 50th but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will likely still be out of the Top 60. I don't see them making the NCAA Tournament without a win tomorrow in the CUSA tournament finals over Memphis. Tulsa finishes 19-13 with six RPI Top 100 wins and five RPI 100+ losses, with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that could fall out of the Top 100. They are on the NIT bubble at this point.


Anonymous said...

Man what a day that was! Big tens top didn't look too great, but maybe that's just because their middle ended up better than most expected. At this point I think the big east and big 10 have hands down put on the best shows, probably because they are the deepest leagues. Even that 36-33 game was exciting! Who woulda thought maybe 7 from the big 10? Couple questions. What is the likelihood the big east doesn't get a 1 seed? I think it only happens if BYU and duke both win their tourneys. I don't see Texas jumping Pitt no matter what, and if UNC wins the ACC then duke is a 2. Also I think you're a little high on purdue. They are more like a 3/4 at this point in my opinion. If louisville wins the BET where do they end up? What about UConn if they win it? And where is SDSU assuming they lose again to BYU?

Jeff said...

Phew, a lot of questions! Let me try to get them all:

The odds that the Big East doesn't get a 1 seed are extremely low. Pitt looks pretty safe. I don't think BYU can pass them, even if they win the Mountain West tournament (which I don't think will happen anyway - I'll be shocked if BYU beats SDSU after watching them play the last two days).

I actually have dropped Purdue to a 3 seed. I had given them a 2 before they lost to Michigan State.

And in that same new bracket I've got Louisville winning the Big East title, and I've got them as a 2 seed. If they lose the Big East title then they're probably a 3 seed.

If SDSU loses again to BYU they'll most likely be a 3 seed, and could be a 4 seed. But I think they're going to win, and with a win I've got them as a 2 seed.