Friday, March 11, 2011

UConn Wins Again. Maryland Is Out.

#19 UConn 76, #11 Syracuse 71, OT
You would think UConn would wear out eventually, or at least Kemba Walker would since he's the entire UConn offense. But they haven't. They won this game (in overtime, no less) and now have the chance tomorrow to become the first Division I team to ever win games on five consecutive days. Kemba Walker scored 33 points on 9-for-18 shooting, and is really putting on one of the best conference tournament performances I've ever seen. He's got a scary combination of confidence and skill right now. One thing that perplexed me in this game was Jim Boeheim's lineup decisions. He decided to go big, which makes no sense. If there's one thing UConn's frontline can do, it's bang bodies in the paint. And Syracuse's offense is best when they can get out and run. Brandon Triche sat out for about 12 straight minutes in the second half, and finished with only four points. I just don't get it. It seems like you'd want to go small against UConn, right?

UConn only went 9-9 in regular season Big East play, but these four straight wins in the Big East tournament have them flying up the bracket. They are up to 11-8 against the RPI Top 50 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will move inside the Top Ten. At this point they're probably looking at a 3 seed. Syracuse finishes 10-5 against the RPI Top 50, and they also finished 12-6 in Big East regular season play. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be right around 10th. Right now I think they're still a 3 seed, though they could fall to a 4.

#5 Duke 87, Maryland 71
Maryland entered this game knowing that they needed a win to keep their at-large hopes alive, and Nolan Smith got knocked out of the game when the margin was only five points, with nearly seven minutes to go. You had to figure Maryland was going to pull the game out at that point. Instead, Duke went on a 22-11 finish and ended up running away with this one. Kyle Singler starred for Duke with 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting, but a lot of credit has to go to Seth Curry for taking over the point when Nolan Smith got knocked out and finishing without a single turnover. And he might have to play point for a while longer, because that Nolan Smith injury didn't look good. We won't know until tomorrow, but I'll be surprised if he plays.

Maryland finished 7-9 in the ACC and 4-13 against the RPI Top 100. You don't even need to know anything else. They're done. As for Duke, they're up to 28-4 and 15-4 against the RPI Top 100. Their RPI is back up to fourth and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is inside the Top 8. They'd be no worse than a 2 seed if the season ended now, and are still in play for a 1 seed. Duke fans need to root for Texas, Notre Dame and BYU to lose in their conference tournaments, and they need to take care of business and win the ACC tournament.

#1 Kansas 90, Colorado 83
You have to give Colorado credit for fighting as hard as they could to get back in this game. Down by 17 with under 10 minutes to go they didn't give up, and got back within six. In fact, they might have won if Kansas hadn't hit ten straight free throws to end the game, including eight in a row in the final 75 seconds. Alec Burks scored 8 of the last 11 for Colorado and led all scorers with 23 points on 9-for-18 shooting.

Colorado finishes 20-13 and 8-8 against the Big 12 with an 8-10 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Texas, Missouri, Kansas State (three times) and Colorado State, along with bad losses to San Francisco, Oklahoma and Iowa State. Their RPI is 64th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be in the 50-55 range. At the moment I think they're still in the Field of 68, but they're in a precarious situation. If the bubble tightens they could be heading for the NIT. As for Kansas, I think this clinches a 1 seed for them. Even if they lose tomorrow to Texas, and even though they lost head-to-head to Texas, I can't see them falling behind Texas on the S-Curve. In terms of overall resume, Kansas is just clearly better.

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