Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Louisville Falls To Villanova

Villanova 73, #5 Louisville 64
Louisville just played like crap here. I don't think there's any other way to describe this performance. They committed 17 turnovers, they hit only 50% of their free throws and almost everybody was in foul trouble (Gorgui Dieng fouled out while Wayne Blackshear and Russ Smith ended up with 4). Honestly, Villanova didn't even play much better than I've seen them play most of the season. They had a nice balanced attack, but nobody was spectacular. They just allowed Louisville to self destruct and took advantage.

Louisville can still come back to win the Big East, of course. They'll have to win at Syracuse on March 2nd to win a share of the regular season title, but they certainly could win the Big East tournament. But even if they do, a loss like this could be what costs them a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten clearly deserves at least one of those 1 seeds, and then Duke, Florida and Kansas will all have formidable resumes. The Big East isn't what it's been in the past, and it's a very realistic scenario that no team from the conference will earn a 1 seed. The Cardinals will try to bounce back on Saturday at Georgetown.

Coming off of three straight losses, Jay Wright will have to hope that this win turns his season around. This is a young team, of course, and at 3-3 in Big East play it's not unreasonable to think that they could work their way to 9-9. I still don't think they're a serious contender for the Tournament bubble, but they could still get there. Their next game will be on Saturday, against Syracuse.

#3 Kansas 59, #11 Kansas State 55
With this win, we can effectively hand the Big 12 regular season title to Kansas. They're going to run away with the league, and it shouldn't even be close. It will be their ninth consecutive season with at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title - a remarkable string of success. The Big 12 isn't getting a lot of love from the media this season, so Kansas could win the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles while still getting stuck with a 2 seed, but their chances of a 1 seed are definitely improving.

Kansas does control their own destiny for a 1 seed. If they go 16-2 or 17-1 in Big 12 play and then run through the Big 12 tournament, that should do it for them. If they end up 15-3 or 14-4 then they'll be at the mercy of what happens in the other top leagues. And yes, Kansas is 5-0 and should be favored for every remaining game, but they're not going to go 18-0. They'll lose eventually due to statistical randomness if nothing else.

This is a tough loss for a Kansas State team that isn't popular with the computers but has a fairly strong resume. After this loss they are 15-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play, with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. They should be able to assure a spot in the NCAA Tournament if they can get to 10-8 or better. They'll play on the road at Iowa State on Saturday.

Alabama 59, Kentucky 55
Kentucky's struggles the past few weeks have been remarkable. They are now 3-2 in SEC play, but more importantly are a horrific 1-6 against the RPI Top 100 (the one win came over Maryland). They got terrible play from their starting lineup here. Only Julius Mays (4-for-5 on threes) played well, though Kyle Wiltjer gave them a solid 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting off the bench.

There's no question that Kentucky would be NIT-bound if the season ended now. That 1-6 RPI Top 100 record would be the clincher. But the reality is, as I argued on twitter, it's way too early to write their obituary. The reality is that they're better than their resume. Their Pomeroy rating should still be in the Top 25 after this win. Also, here is the PPP scoring margin for the top SEC teams in conference play:

1. Florida +0.42
2. Ole Miss +0.18
3. Kentucky +0.12
4. Alabama +0.06
5. Texas A&M +0.04
6. Arkansas +0.01
7. Missouri -0.02

So first of all, obviously, Florida is awfully good. They're arguably the best team in the nation. But after that? Kentucky is in the mix. Even after this loss I'd expect Kentucky's projected SEC record in Pomeroy and Sagarin to be around 12-6. If they get there that should be enough for an at-large bid, particularly if they find a way to knock off Florida.

Alabama is now 4-1 in SEC play with this big win along with bad losses to Mercer, Tulane and Dayton. Considering all of those bad losses, they probably need to get to 12-6 in SEC play to make the NCAA Tournament, so they still have an uphill battle. Their next game will be on Saturday at Tennessee.

Kentucky shouldn't have much trouble bouncing back on Saturday against LSU. A much tougher game will come next Tuesday, when they'll play on the road at Ole Miss.

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