Saturday, March 05, 2011

UNC Beats Duke, Wins ACC Regular Season Title

#13 North Carolina 81, #4 Duke 67
It's kind of amazing that this was only the second time in the past 20 years that these two teams played in the final regular season game with the ACC title on the line. They play in the last game of the season almost every year, which is why it's odd that the regular season title is so rarely actually on the line. This particular game was very simple - it was about depth and the fact that North Carolina could get the ball into the paint and Duke couldn't. North Carolina played an 11 man rotation while Duke basically played with 7. Duke just tried to win this game by launching threes, and ended up shooting three times as many as North Carolina took (27 to 9). If Duke had shot closer to their season average (they hit only 6 of 27, and if you take out Seth Curry's 6-for-11 the rest of the shot 0-for-16) they'd have made this game closer, but that's not a way to try to win a game - launching three after three while you're opponent is rotating in fresh bodies and attacking the basket.

North Carolina wins the ACC regular season title with this win. They finish 14-2 in the ACC and 14-5 against the RPI Top 100. Their RPI is up to 6th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is closing in on the Top Ten as well. They'd be a 2 or 3 seed if the season ended now, and can earn a 1 seed if they win the ACC tournament and get a little bit of help.

As for Duke, it turns out the ACC wasn't the cakewalk it appeared to be two months ago. North Carolina came on strong, and Duke is now in second place, and would very likely be a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now. Their RPI is 5th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS could actually fall out of the Top Ten. Even though every expert you'll hear on TV tonight will tell you that Duke can't get a 1 seed now, the reality is that they'll probably earn a 1 seed if they win the ACC tournament. If Duke, Pitt, Ohio State and Kansas all win their conference tournaments, it's hard to see those not being the four teams that get the 1 seeds.

#8 Texas 60, Baylor 54
If this was the first time you watched Baylor all season, you got a perfect encapsulation of why they are so frustrating to follow. LaceDarius Dunn is a tremendous pure scorer who actually became the Big 12's all-time leading scorer in this game, and he also had a couple of beautiful passes in this game. But he also takes more dumb shots with 30 seconds left in the shot clock than any other player I've seen with as much talent as he has. It's criminal that Perry Jones sees so little of the ball. The other frustration with Baylor is that as long and athletic as their front line is, they're a horrible defensive rebounding team. They seemed to think that because they're playing defense in a zone they don't need to box out. Texas ended up with 21 offensive rebounds in this game, including several killer second chance baskets down the stretch.

Baylor is now in major trouble. They finish 7-9 in the Big 12 and 2-6 against the RPI Top 50 with two wins over Texas A&M along with bad losses to Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Their RPI is 76th, which is near where their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be. They have the 7 seed in the Big 12 and will open the Big 12 tournament against Oklahoma. With a win there they'll get another shot against Texas in the Big 12 quarterfinals. There's no question that they need to beat Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 tournament to have any shot on Selection Sunday.

This is a nice bounce back win for Texas, but they might have already destroyed their chances at a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They'll have to win the Big 12 tournament and then they'll need a bunch of help to get back to the 1 seed line. They will play next in the Big 12 quarterfinals against the winner of Baylor/Oklahoma. If they win that game they'll face the winner of Texas A&M/Missouri/Texas Tech in the Big 12 semifinals.

Colorado 67, Nebraska 57
As far as I could tell, this game wasn't on television anywhere. Maybe some local tv stations in Colorado or Nebraska picked it up, but the fact that this game was invisible nationally was a testament to how low everybody thought the odds were that this would be an important game. Well, it turns out that this game had big bubble implications for both teams. Colorado got a huge performance by Marcus Relphorde, who 3-for-4 behind the arc and led the team with 19 points and 4 steals. Nebraska's offense just isn't very good, and it's hard for them to beat any team that's hitting their shots.

I've seen several of the national analysts saying that this win puts Colorado into the Field of 68 for now. I'm not sure I buy that. Going 8-8 in the Big 12 and 5-6 against the RPI Top 50 is good, but finishing 10-12 against the RPI Top 200? Also, when you break down those five RPI Top 50 wins you see that other than the upset of Texas they've got wins over Kansas State (twice), Missouri and Colorado State. Only one of those wins (Kansas State) came on the road. So that's really not too impressive. Their RPI is 75th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will still be right around 60th. I still think that they'd be one of the last teams out of the bracket if the season ended now. Colorado will have the 5 seed in the Big 12 tournament, where they'll open against Iowa State. With a win there they'll play Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. In my opinion, Colorado needs to win that game to make the NCAA Tournament. I don't think any less will cut it.

As much work as Colorado has left, Nebraska is in even worse shape. This loss drops them to 7-9 in Big 12 play and 10-11 against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Texas, Missouri and Texas A&M, along with bad losses to Davidson, Texas Tech and Iowa State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall into the 65-70 range. They will have the 8 seed in the Big 12 tournament, where they'll open against Oklahoma State. The winner will play Kansas in the Big 12 quarterfinals. Nebraska probably needs to beat both OSU and Kansas to make the NCAA Tournament.


DMoore said...

"North Carolina played an 11 man rotation"

No, not really. UNC played an 8 man rotation. Depth is actually one of Carolina's weaknesses, given the style they want to play. The 3 extra players were walk-ons who started the game because it was senior night.

Jeff said...

Sorry, you're right, that was careless of me. Although they still have more depth than Duke.