Thursday, March 07, 2013

Is UCLA Back On The Bubble?

Washington State 73, #23 UCLA 61
Washington State's 19 game home losing streak to UCLA was one of the more amazing streaks in college basketball. But they won this game emphatically. Washington State jumped out to a 19-2 lead - a stretch during which UCLA was 1-for-10 from the field with 4 turnovers. Washington State then led by double digits for basically the rest of the night, with UCLA only briefly climbing within 7 points. Rebounding has been a debacle for UCLA all season (they are dead last in DR% and second-to-last in OR% in Pac-12 play), and they were pummeled on the glass here. Washington State rebounded 58% of their misses, while UCLA rebounded only 22% of theirs.

Brock Motum led the way with 6 offensive rebounds and 20 points. UCLA has been relying very heavily on Shabazz Muhammad lately, and he just could not deliver here (4-for-19 shooting). With Travis Wear struggling with an injury, UCLA's depth has become a significant problem, and there just is not much of an alternative when Muhammad is having a bad day.

I'm not quite sure how UCLA got ranked - typical pollster stupidity. They are 11-6 against the RPI Top 100, which is pretty good, but their wins (Missouri, California and twice against Arizona) are balanced out by bad losses to Cal Poly, USC and Arizona State. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will fade to around 40th after this loss. They'd still be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but they have to win on the road at Washington on Saturday or they're going to enter the Pac-12 tournament with work left to do.

Washington State is only 3-14 in Pac-12 play this year, though they're better than their record. They are 0-9 this season in games decided by five points or less, which is why their Pomeroy rating might actually move into the Top 100 with this win. But that terrible won/loss record means that they could still end up in last place in the Pac-12 standings. They'll end their regular season against USC on Saturday.

Xavier 77, #16 St. Louis 66, OT
St. Louis showed a lot of grit fighting back from a six point deficit with just over a minute to go. Jordair Jett set up a key Mike McCall three-pointer in the corner, and then hit a tip-in to send the game to overtime. In overtime, Xavier grabbed an early lead and then hit their free throws. In the final two minutes they were 12-for-14 at the free throw line. Xavier only came into this game hitting 65% from the line at Atlantic Ten play... they just happened to get hot at the right time.

This was just a brutal shooting night for St. Louis. Cody Ellis summed things up by shooting 0-for-15 from the field. As a team, the Billikens hit only 7 out of 30 three-point attempts. They shot 30.1% from the field as a team. Their 34.9 eFG% was their worst shooting performance of the entire season. This loss drops St. Louis into a tie with VCU atop the Atlantic Ten, with La Salle looming only a game back. That sets up a huge Senior Night game for St. Louis against La Salle, on Saturday. The winner of that game (if I understand the tiebreaker appropriately) will lock up the 1 seed in the A-10 tournament.

It's been a tough season for Xavier, but this win pushes them to a respectable 17-12 overall and 9-6 in Atlantic Ten play. As far as down seasons go, it gets a lot worse than this for most mid-majors. They will play at Butler on Saturday, and then will definitely have a chance to win a game or two in the A-10 tournament.

Stanford 83, California 70
This game had a pretty bizarre ending, with a minor fight ending up with a whole bunch of ejections, including at least one Stanford assistant. I couldn't understand the logic of the ejections, and it was a good thing that the game was basically over already. Stanford put this game away by playing really clean on both ends of the floor. They had more steals (8) than turnovers committed (6), and hit 53% of their three-pointers. Chasson Randle hit 4-for-5 behind the arc and finished with 20 points. Josh Huestis added 18 points and 4 blocks. It all added up to the biggest defensive breakdown of the season for California.

What is bizarre about this defensive performance is that it came out of nowhere. California had held 7 of their last 9 opponents below 1 PPP, and had not allowed more than 1.16 PPP all season long. But here? They allowed 1.23 PPP. California was a bit due for a letdown game after a seven game winning streak and with NCAA Tournament hype building, but this is still a pretty shocking way for it to happen.

California finishes Pac-12 play at 12-6, which will likely give them the 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. They are 8-10 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_SCORE that will still be in the Top 50 tomorrow, but not by much. They are right on the fat part of the bubble right now, which means that they'll probably drop to the NIT unless they win at least one Pac-12 tournament game.

With this win, Stanford hangs on the periphery of the at-large picture themselves. They finish the regular season 18-13 overall and 9-9 in Pac-12 play, with wins over Oregon and California (twice), along with bad losses to Washington and USC (twice). If they can somehow get to the Pac-12 tournament title game, they'll have a decent at-large case. At this point it's too hard to project their draw, so I'm not even going to try.

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