#5 Kansas 87, #3 Missouri 86, OT
When Missouri beat Kansas in Mizzou Arena three weeks ago, I talked about how Missouri got every close call from the refs. This got some Missouri fans angry, who insisted that Kansas gets every call in Phog Allen. Well, no kidding. That's what home court advantage is. What you saw in this game were a disproportionate number of close calls going the way of Kansas, including that Phil Pressey foul of Tyshawn Taylor that put him to the line for the winning free throws with 8.3 seconds to go. Home court advantage isn't about refs making blatantly horrible calls - it's about refs giving the 50-50 calls to the home team. So the home team fans will think the game was reffed fairly, while the visiting team fans will tend to think that the ref was paid off and the game was stolen. Kansas fans were angry three weeks ago, and Missouri fans are mad today.
Thomas Robinson was the star of this game. With Jeff Withey made obsolete against the tiny, quick Missouri lineup, Robinson controlled the paint with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and the huge block at the end of regulation that sent this game to overtime. Marcus Denmon was the man for Missouri, scoring 28 points with 6-for-10 shooting behind the arc. For some incomprehensible reason, Missouri didn't get him the ball on that final possession in overtime.
This win means that Kansas clinches at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. They'll clinch the outright title with a win in one of their two final games, or a loss by Missouri in one of their two final games. If Kansas wins the Big 12 tournament, they'll definitely be a 1 seed. Anything other than a Big 12 tournament title and they'll be a 1 seed or a 2 seed, depending on what happens in other conference tournaments.
I'm sure that Missouri fans are dismayed by this loss, but the reality is that it doesn't change much. They proved today that while Kansas is the better team, Missouri poses a match-up problem for them with their quickness. Jeff Withey has been the second best Kansas player this season, and he basically can't get on the floor against Missouri. That's a huge advantage that could pay off if these teams meet again in the Big 12 tournament title game. Missouri can still earn a 1 seed if they win out and earn the Big 12 tournament title.
Missouri's next game will be Wednesday against Iowa State. Kansas will play Monday at Oklahoma State.
Purdue 75, #13 Michigan 61
Michigan has taken more than 44% of their shots in Big Ten play behind the arc, and that style of play can be inconsistent if your shots aren't falling. Michigan was just launching threes and bricking them all day here, finishing 9-for-32 behind the arc (they finished 16-for-28 on twos). With players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., there's no reason for them to often go minutes without getting the ball inside the paint.
DJ Byrd is back from suspension for Purdue (Kelsey Barlow is kicked off the team, though, so he won't be back), but the star here was Terone Johnson. Johnson finished 9-for-12 from the field and also had a pair of assists and a pair of steals. Robbie Hummel finished 3-for-4 behind the arc, including a pair of clutch threes late.
With many other bubble teams struggling today, this win firms up Purdue's place in the NCAA Tournament. They are now 9-7 in the Big Ten with wins over Michigan, Temple, Northwestern (twice), Miami (Fl) and Minnesota, along with bad losses to Butler and Penn State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will move up close to 30th with this win. If the season ended now they'd likely be a 6-8 seed, and they can move up even further with some more wins. They shouldn't have too much trouble at home against Penn State on Wednesday, but then will have a chance for a big win at Indiana on March 4th.
This loss drops Michigan to 11-5 and effectively ends their hopes of a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but they're still close to locking up a bye through the first round of the Big Ten tournament. They are 9-6 against the RPI Top 50, with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that will still be in the vicinity of 15th. So even with this loss, they'd probably be a 4 seed if the season ended now. They will finish the regular season with a pair of road games, at Illinois and Penn State. Neither will be a gimme.
VCU 89, George Mason 77
This game didn't have quite the thrilling finish of the match-up between these two teams a couple of weeks ago. VCU grabbed a double-digit lead midway through the first half, and the game was never really close after that. George Mason players seemed to get frustrated, picking up a couple of technicals in the second half. I don't blame them for being upset about the 47 free throw attempts that VCU got, but VCU was the better team. They assisted on 17 of 22 made baskets, and forced 15 steals. Bradford Burgess led the way with 31 points, including 5-for-11 behind the arc.
George Mason has turned the ball over on 22% of offensive possessions this season, which makes VCU a difficult opponents. VCU is leading the Colonial in steals per game (10.5) and forced turnovers per game (17.3). Because of that, and with this win, I now think that VCU is the team to beat in the CAA tournament.
But should VCU come up short in the CAA tournament, can they earn an at-large bid? They can, but it's iffy. They have no big wins and they have a bad loss to Georgia Tech. Their RPI is 59th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is right around 50th. Having those computer ratings puts them on the bubble, but the lack of big wins would very likely have VCU bound for the NIT if the season ended now. If they get to the CAA tournament final and lose a close game to a team like Drexel, though? They can spend Championship Week rooting for teams like Murray State and Wichita State, and they can hope for some good fortune. Or they can make their own good fortune by winning the CAA's auto bid. They'll play in the CAA quarterfinals next Saturday against either Northeastern or William & Mary.
This has been something of a frustrating season for George Mason. I thought preseason that they'd be a Top 25 team, but Jim Larranaga's departure meant that the team downgraded at head coach to Paul Hewitt, who promptly lost star Luke Hancock via transfer to Louisville. And now they head into the CAA tournament needing to win the auto bid to make the NCAA Tournament. They'll play Saturday against the winner of Georgia State vs Hofstra. A win there will likely set up a huge semifinal match-up with VCU.