Saturday, March 09, 2013

Louisville Thrashes Notre Dame

#8 Louisville 73, #24 Notre Dame 57
A 12-3 run midway through the second half blew this game open, and Notre Dame never had a chance to win this game after that. And while Peyton Siva played well (13 points, 5 assists), the star for Louisville was Gorgui Dieng. Dieng had 20 points (on 8-for-11 shooting), 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Garrick Sherman did get some offense going for the Irish while Dieng was on the bench, but Jack Cooley (7 points, 7 rebounds) was shut down. Russ Smith didn't have a big day in the box score, but he facilitated so much of the offense. He is the best offensive creator on Louisville, and also the team's best defender, which is why he can be so valuable even when he's not scoring a lot of points (and why he's underrated by the media).

Things are falling in place for Louisville to earn a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They'll have to earn it, though, by winning the Big East tournament. Georgetown will be the 1 seed in the Big East tournament while Louisville will be the 2 seed, and if those two teams meet in the title game then there's a good chance that the winner will earn a 1 seed while the loser will earn a 2 seed. Despite being the 2 seed in the Big East tournament, I'd argue that Louisville has the easier draw. They might face Villanova in the quarterfinals, which will be a reasonably tough game, but their semifinal foe is potentially Marquette, while Georgetown is drawn to potentially play Pittsburgh. Pitt would be a 3 point favorite over Marquette on a neutral floor. And Cincinnati (Georgetown's potential quarterfinal opponent) isn't any easier to beat than Villanova either.

The Irish finish 6th in the Big Eastwith an 11-7 conference record. They are 8-8 against the RPI Top 100, with a Sagarin ELO_SCORE that should still be in the Top 30 tomorrow. So they're safe for an NCAA Tournament bid, but their seed can move several lines up or down depending on what they do in the Big East tournament. They'll open in the second round against either DePaul or Rutgers. If they win that game then they'll face Marquette in the quarterfials.

Boise State 69, San Diego State 65
Before the season started, when San Diego State was a Final Four contender and Boise State was on nobody's radar, who would have ever thought that in March this would end up a bubble battle? Boise State needed this win more, though. San Diego State isn't really viewed as a bubble team yet (though more on that in a moment), while Boise State desperately needed a big win after that heartbreaking loss to UNLV. Derrick Marks was the hero for San Diego State. He led all players with both 27 points and 6 assists, and also made a key defensive play in the final minute. Up by three points with under 30 seconds left, Boise State turned the ball over, but Derrick Marks came back from behind and somehow blocked the Xavier Thomas shot to one of his teammates, effectively dousing San Diego State's last chance.

Boise State will be an interesting bubble case no matter what happens. They finish 9-7 in Mountain West play and 8-7 against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Creighton, UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State, along with bad losses to Utah, Nevada and Air Force. Their RPI is 37th, though RPIs are inflated throughout the Mountain West. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE, which will likely move narrowly into the Top 50 tomorrow, is a better measure of their resume strength.

Before talking about Boise State's next game, I want to talk about San Diego State's resume (for a reason). San Diego State is a lot closer to the bubble than most people think. They also finish the regular season 9-7, with a 7-9 record against the RPI Top 100, with wins over New Mexico, Colorado State, Boise State and UCLA, along with bad losses to Air Force and Wyoming. I give the narrow resume edge to San Diego State between these two, and San Diego State would very likely be an NCAA Tournament team if the season ended now, but they have very little room to spare.

And that brings us to the Mountain West quarterfinals, where these two teams will play a rematch. And honestly, the loser of that game (whoever it is) is going to have to sweat out Selection Sunday. San Diego State probably just needs that one win to feel safe, while Boise State might need a second win in the Mountain West tournament, but neither team is safe if they fall there. So stay tuned for that game, which will be the final game of a quadruple header on CBS College Sports on Wednesday.

Tennessee 64, Missouri 62
I feel like we've seen this before from Missouri. I don't think any conclusions can really be drawn from their 4-6 record in games decided by six points or less since the sample size is so small, but watching them play I think their execution late in games is really poor. The problem is that Flip Pressey is really elite offensive creator, but he's a bad shooter (31.5 3P%, 44.2 eFG%). Late in games, Pressey tries to take every shot... and it tends not to work. Here, with Missouri down by 3 points, Pressey forced a bad three-point attempt with close to 20 seconds left. It was unnecessary, and it didn't work out. For all the grief that Louisville and Florida get about their late game execution, I think Missouri is worse.

That said, I don't see how this loss drops Missouri to the bubble, as some seem to think. Missouri is still 11-7 in SEC play, with wins over VCU, Illinois, Florida and Ole Miss, along with bad losses to LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas. Their 9-9 against the RPI Top 100 and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should still be close to 25th tomorrow. They'll want to win one SEC tournament game just so they don't have to risk being nervous on Selection Sunday, but even with a loss there they'll probably be okay. As the 6 seed, Missouri will open against the Auburn/Texas A&M winner in the SEC tournament second round.

Tennessee really needed to have this game after their loss to Georgia. They finish the regular season 19-11 overall and 11-7 in SEC play, though with only a 12-11 record against the RPI Top 200. They have wins over Florida, Kentucky and Wichita State, along with bad losses to Arkansas and Georgia (twice). Their RPI is 55th and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will likely be just inside the Top 45 tomorrow. As the 5 seed, Tennessee will play the South Carolina/Mississippi State winner in the SEC tournament second round. If they win then they'll face Alabama in the quarterfinals. In my opinion, I think they need to win both of those games to make the Tournament. A game against Alabama is probably an elimination game for those two teams.

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