Friday, March 09, 2012

Texas Outlasts Iowa State

Texas 71, Iowa State 65
Texas couldn't hit a shot to save their lives in the first half of this game, falling behind by as many as 11 points and looking in serious risk of falling to the NIT. They came into this game rated the 21st best team in the nation by Sagarin and 26th by Pomeroy, and it's been at least half a decade since one of the 25 best teams in the country got left out on Selection Sunday, but Texas would have been at very serious risk of they'd fallen here. And you could see that urgency in the second half. Texas finished the game with six more offensive rebounds and seven fewer turnovers - it's pretty hard to lose when you have 13 extra possessions.

With this win, Texas now has 20 on the season. They went 9-9 in conference play and 4-9 against the RPI Top 50, with wins over Temple, Kansas State and Iowa State (twice), along with bad losses to Oregon State and Oklahoma State. This win pushed the Longhorns' RPI inside the Top 50 (to 43rd). More importantly, it pushed their Sagarin ELO_CHESS inside the Top 40 (to 39th). If the season ended now, there's no question that they'd be a Tournament team. They're not a lock yet, but they're in good shape even if they lose to Missouri.

Iowa State went 12-6 in the Big 12 and finished 5-7 against the RPI Top 50, with wins over Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State (twice) and Texas, along with bad losses to Drake and Oklahoma State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 25th. They are still safe for an NCAA tournament bid, but this loss probably drops them to around a 6 or 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

#23 Notre Dame 57, South Florida 53, OT
If you don't have a twitter account, let this game be a reason to join. Toward the tail end of this game, my entire twitter feed was full of people making jokes about how awful this game was. And it really was ugly and sloppy. More of the blame for that goes on USF than the Irish. Pomeroy rates the USF offense second worst in the Big East, and their defense third best. This is the tenth straight game where they've held their opponent below 1 PPP, and they themselves have been held below 1 PPP in all but two of those same games. Nothing typified this game better than USF's final possession of regulation, where they couldn't get a shot off and the players ended up in a scrum on the floor. The refs called a jump ball with 0.7 seconds to go, but only because they totally ignored a USF player (I believe it was Augustus Gilchrist) bear-hugging a Notre Dame player. It would have been poetry if this game was decided on a loose ball foul 70 feet from the basket with 0.7 seconds left.

There are certain teams that are comfortable playing slow, dragged out games, and Notre Dame is one of them. This win pushes them above .500 against the RPI Top 50 (6-5) and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is up to 28th. If the season ended now, I think they'd be a 5 or 6 seed, and they could move up to a 4 if they beat Louisville. Even a 3 seed isn't impossible if they win the Big East tournament, though they'd need some help from other conference tournaments.

South Florida will now be an interesting team on Selection Sunday. They went 12-6 in Big East play, but the league is down and they got lucky with the unbalanced schedule. They went only 1-9 against the RPI Top 50 (the win came over Louisville) and they have three RPI 100+ losses (Old Dominion, Penn State, Auburn). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is sitting at 50th, which is right on the bubble. Looking around the web it looks like almost everybody has USF in the Tournament right now, but I honestly think their chances are not good. Why exactly should they be in over Washington? Or even Northwestern? I understand that they have a gaudy conference record, but in the era of extremely unbalanced schedules I just don't see how you can ignore who they played. If they'd had a second game against Marquette or Syracuse instead of a second game against Providence or Villanova, they'd probably be 11-7, and nobody would even be considering them too seriously as a bubble team. Obviously what happens in other conference tournaments will impact USF's status, and they could still sneak in if the bubble is very weak. But in my opinion, USF is most likely heading to the NIT.

Georgia 71, Mississippi State 61
Mississippi State started the season 19-5, and spent a couple of months ranked around 15th in the nation, but they lost 6 of 8 to finish the season and they're now not even particularly close to the bubble. Obviously they didn't play that well down the stretch, but the reality is that they were never that good of a team. When they were peaking with that 19-5 record, Pomeroy was still ranking them in the mid-60s. They had gone 7-1 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime. Down the stretch? Only 1-2 in games decided by five or less.

Mississippi State finished 8-8 in SEC play and 7-9 against the RPI Top 100, which isn't awful. But their only two RPI Top 50 wins came over Vanderbilt and Alabama, and they have a few bad losses - Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia (twice). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS has fallen all the way out to 59th, which is out where a team needs an extenuating circumstance to get in, such as a player who was added mid-season, or a star who missed a month with injury. They don't have that. Barring a miracle, they're heading to the NIT.

Georgia only went 5-11 in SEC play, so they're not even on the NIT bubble. But let's recall that we're only four years removed from that Georgia team that went 4-12 in SEC play but won the SEC tournament (including having to win two games on the same day because of tornadoes that cancelled a day of games). So they know as well as any program that you're not out until you lose. They'll play Vanderbilt tonight.

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