Friday, March 11, 2011

Missouri Continues Their Slide

#21 Texas A&M 86, Missouri 71
This game was never competitive. Texas A&M grabbed their first double-digit lead less than six minutes into the game, and led by as much as 17 in the first half and 22 in the second half. Missouri scored some garbage points in the final two minutes to close the final deficit to 15. Missouri lost four of their last five games, and lost here in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals after finishing only 8-8 in the Big 12 regular season. The formula has been the same in all of these losses: Missouri is forcing turnovers, but are allowing layups and wide-open jumpers anytime their press is beat. And without enough steals and long rebounds to get into transition, Missouri's offense just isn't good enough out of halfcourt sets. In this game Missouri forced 18 turnovers, but allowed a staggering 66.7 eFG%, compared to their own 36.6 eFG%. Missouri had 12 steals but only had 19 made baskets, so they went very long stretches of the game without scoring from the field outside of their transition offense.

Missouri finishes the regular season 22-10 and 7-10 against the RPI Top 100 with quality wins over Vanderbilt, Illinois, Old Dominion and Kansas State, with zero losses outside the RPI Top 90. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be very close to 35th. The team with a resume most similar to Missouri is probably Villanova. Both teams have fallen apart down the stretch and have seen their NCAA tournament seed plummet, but both still look safe for an NCAA Tournament bid. Right now the bubble is weaker than usual, and we'd need a bubble much stronger than usual for either team to end up on the bubble. But in terms of seed, Mizzou is definitely fading. They look like they might be headed for an 8/9 game at this point.

Texas A&M moves on to play Texas in the Big 12 semifinals. With this win they move to 5-4 against the RPI Top 50 with zero losses outside the RPI Top 100. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS could move into the Top 25 when the new numbers come out in the morning. Even with a loss tomorrow to Texas they're likely looking at a 7 or 8 seed, with a shot at a 6. If they can knock off Texas they could potentially move up to a 5.

#14 Louisville 81, Marquette 56
This game was actually competitive in the first half, but Louisville took over in the second half. Marquette's offense tends to struggle if they're not hitting threes and they can't out-athlete their opponent. They hit only 20% behind the arc in this game, and only 33% on twos. The star of the game was Mike Marra, who came off the bench for Louisville and scored 22 points, including 6-for-10 shooting behind the arc. Marra had actually scored 23 points once in his career, but that came against South Alabama more than three months ago, which isn't quite the same as doing it in Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

Marquette will be disappointed with the way that they were wiped off the court here, but they did enough work in the Big East tournament. They should be very safe for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. They are likely looking at a spot in an 8/9 game, although I could see them falling to a 10 seed. As for Louisville, it's unlikely that they'll earn worse than a 4 seed now, and they could be in the discussion for a 3 seed. If they can knock off Notre Dame on Friday then they'll definitely have a good shot at a 3 seed.

Washington 89, Washington State 87
Klay Thompson tried to make up for lost time after his suspension, and he scored a Pac-10 tournament record 43 points, but it wasn't quite enough. It's worth pointing out, of course, that the Pac-10 tournament hasn't been around for that long. The announcers calling the game pointed out how Reggie Miller had set the previous record for points in a Pac-10 tournament non-overtime game (39 points), but failed to mention that the tournament didn't exist throughout the entire 1990s. In fact, this year is only the 14th ever Pac-10 tournament. Thompson's 43 points were impressive, but it's not like he broke a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar record.

Washington has found a real offensive spark in CJ Wilcox, who hit 5-for-9 on threes, including several key shots that helped turn the momentum of the game midway through the second half. I love the passion that Isaiah Thomas plays with and the fact that he's so comfortable beating his men off the dribble just to set up his teammates. He doesn't force shots, which is why he ended up with 11 assists in this game.

Washington could have lost this game and still ended up in the NCAA Tournament, but I didn't like their odds. They went 11-7 in Pac-10 play and are now 21-7 with an 8-7 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Arizona and UCLA (twice), along with bad losses to Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be right around 50th when the new numbers come out tomorrow. Even with this win, Washington still has work left to do. A loss on Friday to Oregon would be a bad loss and very likely will push Washington right back out of the Field of 68.

Washington State had a shot at an at-large bid if they made a run to the Pac-10 tournament finals, but that's over now. They finish the season 19-12, 9-9 in the Pac-10 and 6-9 against the RPI Top 100, with two wins over Washington along with bad losses to Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall out of the Top 70 with the loss here. They're heading to the NIT now.

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