South Florida 56, Pittsburgh 47
South Florida has had an excellent season - by far their best since joining the Big East. They're a borderline Top 50 team and getting close to the NCAA Tournament bubble. But that said, the fact that they are now 10-4 in Big East play is mind-boggling when you look at some of the stats. South Florida is 1-6 against the RPI Top 50 and 4-7 against the RPI Top 100. They are rated 69th in the Pomeroy ratings. To put that in comparison, Illinois is 4-7 against the RPI Top 50, 6-10 against the RPI Top 100, 63rd in the Pomeroy ratings.... and 5-10 in the Big Ten. It shows you the vast difference in quality between those two conferences this year.
That said, South Florida's won-loss record is only partially due to the overall strength/weakness of the Big East. A big part of it is their schedule within the conference. According to Pomeroy. USF has played the easiest conference schedule so far of any Big East team. They haven't had to play Syracuse, Louisville, West Virginia or Cincinnati yet. And I have bad news: those are their four remaining opponents. I think that South Florida needs to get a split in those two games. If they lose three of four then they'll be 11-7 in Big East play heading into the Big East tournament with work left to do. They'll end up playing in the second round of the Big East tournament against a team like UConn or Seton Hall, and I won't like their chances. Their next game will be tomorrow night at Syracuse.
This loss should finally put to bed the Pitt at-large talk. They had responded to their 8 game losing streak by winning 4 straight. But they've now replied to that winning streak by losing 4 straight. Too many things have gone wrong this year. You can see the frustration on the face of every Pitt player. I never thought I would see a team with a coach as good as Jamie Dixon have a season like this, but I guess anything is possible. They are now 4-11 in Big East play and will play next on Sunday at Louisville.
#14 Baylor 77, Texas 72
The brutal luck for Texas in close games continues. Texas is now 1-8 in games decided by six points or less. I understand that casual fans tend to buy into the mainstream media's post hoc rationalization on clutch play, that somehow elite teams will "find ways to win" close games, but it's all nonsense. The stats say that when games are very tight, the best and worst teams will all win around 50% of the time. Plot Pomeroy Luck factor vs Pomeroy rating - there is no correlation. Last night I recommended this post on luck, which I wrote back in December.
Speaking of Pomeroy Luck factor, it's no surprise that Texas is by far the unluckiest team in the Pomeroy Top 50. The next unluckiest teams, though? Ohio State and Memphis, two other teams that are very much underrated by the media and the human polls. The luckiest team in the Pomeroy Top 50? Baylor, interestingly enough.
What is the future for Texas? I looked for other teams that were borderline Top 25 squads that ended up on the bubble because of horrific luck and came up with two decent comparisons from the past decade. One was the 2006-07 Mississippi State team that went 1-7 in games decided by five or less. Despite being a Top 25 team in Pomeroy, they ended up in the NIT. Another comparison is the 2004-05 NC State team that was rated 20th in Pomeroy but 1-6 in games decided by five points or less. They made the NCAA Tournament as a 10 seed and went to the Sweet 16 (winning a game by 3 points along the way). Obviously Texas will be a serious Sweet 16 threat should they make the NCAA Tournament (and there's a good chance that as a 10 or 11 seed they'll be favored in Vegas against whichever 7 or 6 seed they are matched up against), but they're going to need two more wins to avoid the NIT. They'll need to take care of business at Texas Tech (on Saturday) and at home against Oklahoma (next Wednesday).
This is a huge upset win for Baylor to turn around the momentum of their season. After getting swept by Missouri and Kansas, they were starting to get the reputation as a team that couldn't beat elite opponents. A home loss to Kansas State coming into this was particularly worrying. Now they're back to a comfortable 10-5 in Big 12 play with a couple of easy home games (Oklahoma and Texas Tech) coming up next. They'd need to have a terrible collapse in the final few games to end up with anything worse than a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon 68, Stanford 64
This game just typified everything Pac-12 for me. Particularly down the stretch, the play was just so sloppy that both teams looked like they were trying to blow the game. Here are the stats for both teams combined in the final 2:45 of regulation: 0-for-6 shooting, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 2 points made on free throws. Yuck. Stanford was actually the better team for most of the game, but they couldn't do anything right late in the game. In the final eight minutes they had four turnovers and two made field goals.
And this is more than a demoralizing loss for Stanford. It's also a near-fatal blow for their at-large hopes, which had looked pretty good a month ago. They've lost six of nine and are only 8-7 in Pac-12 play and 7-9 against the RPI Top 200. Their RPI is 102nd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 89th. Hard to see any way that they can get an at-large bid now. They currently sit 7th in the Pac-12 standings. They'll want to finish there or in 6th so that they can stay in the bottom half of the Pac-12 tournament bracket and avoid California, the one legitimately good team in the conference. Their next game will be Thursday at Colorado.
Oregon moves to 10-5 in Pac-12 play with this win. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is up to 62nd, but they're only 2-7 against the RPI Top 100. I think that if they can win their final three regular season games, it should be enough to get them on or very close to the bubble. But anything less than that and they're probably playing for the automatic bid or bust in the Pac-12 tournament. Their next game will be Sunday at Oregon State. That will be their toughest remaining regular season game.