Monday, December 24, 2012

Colorado State Destroys Virginia Tech, So Why Aren't They An At-Large Team?

Colorado State 88, Virginia Tech 52
Virginia Tech is a poor rebounding team, and they were going up against arguably the best rebounding team in the nation. It was no surprise that Colorado State ended up with 17 offensive rebounds (a 48.6 OR%). Throw in a very efficient offensive performance (22 assists to only 6 turnovers) and Colorado State ended up earning 10 more shots from the field and 11 more at the free throw line. That alone would have been enough for victory. Throw in 11-for-24 three-point shooting and you get, well, a 36 point romp.

These types of performances are what make Colorado State so intriguing as a potential at-large team. They're now ranked 30th in the Pomeroy ratings and 22nd in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. That's better than close to 20 teams I'm projecting as at-large teams. Why am I not projecting Colorado State as a Tournament team? Because Tournament bids aren't handed out to the best teams - they're handed out to the best resumes. And unfortunately for the Rams, they put together a really soft non-conference schedule. Their one quality opponent was Colorado, who the Rams lost to in a close, exciting road game. Throw in a clunker against Illinois-Chicago and their resume isn't even close to a Tournament resume right now.

To make the Tournament, Colorado State needs at least a win or two over UNLV or San Diego State (or perhaps Wyoming or New Mexico if either of those teams works their way into the Top 25 toward the end of the season). Without a big win or two they'll be in the at-large pile with the Belmonts and Middle Tennessees of the world, with great won-loss records but no big scalps. And that usually translates into an NIT bid. Their first chance for a big win will be on the road at San Diego State on January 12th.

Virginia Tech opened the season 7-0, with wins over Iowa and Oklahoma State. The computers were never impressed, and Virginia Tech's recent results seem to have proven the computers right. They've lost three of five, including a terrible loss to Georgia Southern. They have a pseudo-road game at BYU on Saturday, which could be crucial for their at-large hopes. With a loss there they'll need to get to 10-8 in ACC play to have a good chance at an at-large bid, and I don't think they're good enough to get there.

Northern Iowa 82, St. Mary's 75
St. Mary's has been vexed all season with an inability to keep opponents off the free throw line. It cost them in that terrible loss to Pacific, and it cost them again here. Northern Iowa marched to the free throw line for 37 attempts. Three different UNI players (Jake Koch, Seth Tuttle and Deon Mitchell) took double digit free throw attempts. Mitchell also played a key role in shutting down Gaels star Matthew Dellavedova (9 points on 3-for-11 shooting). This season, Dellavedova is averaging 10,0 points per game in Gaels losses, and 21.8 points per game in Gaels victories. This Gaels team isn't good defensively, and really needs Dellavedova's scoring to deliver quality wins.

St. Mary's has a surprisingly poor resume so far. They have iffy losses to Georgia Tech, Pacific and Northern Iowa, and are still looking for their first quality victory of the season. They will play Harvard on New Year's Eve, but their first real chance for a quality win will be their road game at Gonzaga on January 10th. Considering BYU's struggles, Gonzaga is the only premier WCC opponent this year for the Gaels. They have to win at least one of those Gonzaga games. Their next game will be Thursday against Rhode Island.

Northern Iowa is 7-5, but without a single bad loss. They have had a couple of close calls against quality teams (particularly Louisville and Memphis at the Battle 4 Atlantis), but couldn't come through. It's hard to see them earning an at-large bid unless they can get to 13-5 in Missouri Valley play, and even at 13-5 they'd enter Arch Madness with work left to do. They will open Valley play on Sunday, at Wichita State.

#4 Arizona 69, Miami (Fl) 50
All things considered, this was the best Arizona has played all season. Florida is a better scalp than Miami, of course, But Florida outplayed Arizona on their home floor, and just coughed it up with a mental collapse in the final two minutes. Here, against a very good and underrated Miami team on a neutral floor, Arizona just took the Canes to the woodshed. They led by as many as 14 in the first half, and by 26 in the second half, before taking their foot off the pedal in the final minutes.

Arizona has a great game coming up tomorrow against San Diego State. Arizona is probably overdue for a letdown game, but a win over San Diego State would really strengthen the argument that they're deserving of their Top Ten ranking. San Diego State's offense has struggled at times this season, so if Arizona can get hot and hit shots at a good clip over the top of the SDSU defense, they should be in good shape. After that they'll head home from Hawaii for rest and recovery before opening up Pac-12 play against Colorado, on January 3rd.

Miami is 8-2 now, with a nice win over Michigan State and a bad loss to Florida Gulf Coast (it's possible that the Selection Committee will give them a break for not having Durand Scott for that latter game, but it's unlikely - there isn't much precedent for that). They will play Indiana State tomorrow in the Diamond Head Classic third place game, and then against La Salle at January 2nd before opening ACC play at Georgia Tech, on January 5th.

No comments: