Saturday, March 12, 2011

Virginia Tech Beats FSU In Closest Game Ever

Virginia Tech 52, Florida State 51
I have never seen a game decided by a shot this close to the buzzer. Derwin Kitchen hit what appeared to be the game winner, but on video review it was clear that the shot left his hand approximately two camera frames after the buzzer. I can't even imagine what was going through the minds of Virginia Tech fans during that whole sequence. And this was a frustrating game for both teams the entire way, as neither could put the ball in the hoop. I have to wait for the official possession numbers for this game, but by my math these two teams combined for 0.80 PPP, To put that in perspective, this was actually a worse scoring performance than that 36-33 Penn State/Wisconsin game. I'm not sure if offensive futility is less grating to watch at a glacial, average or fast pace...

Anyway, when you consider that it had been getting to the point that Virginia Tech getting narrowly left out of the Tournament seemed like a rite of March, it would be remarkable if they make it in this season solely because Derwin Kitchen took an extra 50 milliseconds getting that ball out of his hand. The Hokies are now 21-10 and 8-7 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Duke, Penn State and Florida State (twice) along with bad losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia (twice). Their RPI is only 60th but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be up near 40th. If the season ended now they'd be in the NCAA Tournament, but if they fall to Duke tomorrow then they're still going to have to sweat out Selection Sunday.

Chris Singleton tried to give it a go before this game, but in the end sat out again. At least it will give Florida State fans hope that he'll play in the Tournament, and could have an impact on how the Selection Committee seeds them, since their resume was so much better before he got hurt. FSU went 11-5 in the ACC, which normally would lock them into the NCAA Tournament, but the ACC is down this year and they're only 1-5 against the RPI Top 50 (the win came against Duke). Their RPI is 55th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should be in the 45-50 range. They would very likely be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but they could fall out. Other than that one win over Duke their resume is very weak, and the Selection Committee has not historically given a team a lot of benefit of the doubt for injuries during the season.

Richmond 55, Rhode Island 45
You might be wondering how a team shot 32% from the field (including 5-for-26 behind the arc) and still won a game over a quality opponent by ten points. They did it by holding their opponents to only a 40.3 eFG%, while also winning the turnover battle, the rebounding battle, and also had more steals, blocks and assists. To be fair, Rhode Island hasn't shot well against anybody this season. They entered this game outside the Top 200 in the nation in effective field goal percentage (48.4% on the season), which was the dominant reason for their disappointing season. They probably won't even make the NIT.

With the bubble starting to tighten up, it was really important for Richmond to take care of business here. They went 13-3 in the Atlantic Ten and are now 25-7, although with only a 3-5 record against the RPI Top 100. Their best wins were over Purdue, VCU and Dayton, and their worst losses came against Georgia Tech, Rhode Island and Iona. Their RPI is only 57th but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is inside the Top 40. They'd definitely be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but they're still not completely locked into the Field of 68. I think they need to take out Temple tomorrow to do that. Of course, if they beat Temple then they'll be pretty heavily favored in the A-10 championship game against either Dayton or St. Joe's.

#10 Texas 70, #21 Texas A&M 58
This was an efficient win by Texas. They took control of this game from the opening tip, and though the margin between the teams never got too large, it never seemed like Texas A&M had a real shot of getting back into the game. The Longhorns dominated the boards (a 50% offensive rebounding percentage), scored efficiently (40% on threes, 53% on twos), and completely shut down A&M's offense (10 turnovers and 7 assists, and a 38.5 eFG%). The only reason the final margin wasn't more was because the game was played at a glacial place by Texas standards. By my math this game had only 58 possessions, which is well under the 68.4 that Texas is averaging per game this season. In fact, while Texas A&M held them to only 57 possessions when these two teams played in January, you'd have to go back to 2007 to find the last time that Texas played another game with fewer possessions.

Texas will have a chance on Saturday to beat Kansas to earn their first ever Big 12 tournament title (it's pretty amazing that they haven't won one yet, honestly). They also can keep their hopes alive for a 1 seed, although they'll probably need both Duke and BYU to lose to have a shot. A win should at least lock up a 2 seed. With a loss to Kansas they'll be either a 2 or 3 seed. Texas A&M is 8-8 against the RPI Top 100 with zero RPI 100+ losses, and wins over Washington, Missouri (twice), Kansas State and Temple. Their RPI is 29th, which is close to where their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be. They're likely looking at a seed in the 6-8 range, although they could slip to a 9 if a lot of stuff breaks wrong for them over the next two days.

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