Monday, March 04, 2013

Texas Deals Baylor A Crushing Blow

Texas 79, Baylor 70
Texas dealt Baylor a brutal loss here, and Baylor is close to completing a really bad collapse from Top 20 in the polls to the NIT. They have lost 8 of their last 11 games, and are now 8-9 in Big 12 play with a must-win game against Kansas on Saturday. Not a good situation at all. This loss also followed the typical formula that almost all Baylor losses have followed this season (and honestly, it's been the same formula throughout the entire Scott Drew era). First, they have a point guard who takes too many shots (Pierre Jackson was 7-for-17 from the field) and neglects the front court (Cory Jefferson took only 7 shots - I've talked before about how getting Jefferson 9 or more shots is the formula for victory). And defensive rebounding is always a problem for Baylor's long, athletic front line. Texas is a terrible rebounding team, but they somehow outrebounded Baylor (a 36.0 OR% compared to a 33.3 OR% for Baylor).

Baylor is now 1-8 against the RPI Top 50 and 9-13 against the RPI Top 200. If the season ended now there is no question that Baylor would be an NIT team. To earn an at-large bid, they will have to knock off Kansas, and then they'll need at least a win or two in the Big 12 tournament. With a loss to Kansas, they'll probably need to win the Big 12 tournament to avoid the NIT.

As expected, Texas has played better basketball since getting Myck Kabongo back. They were 2-8 in Big 12 play without him, and are now 4-3 with him. It's too little too late to have a chance for an at-large bid, but with a win at Texas Tech on Saturday they can finish the season at 7-11 in Big 12 play. That will earn them either 7th or 8th place (depending on how West Virginia finishes their regular season). Either way they'll play in the Big 12 tournament first round. But let's be honest, Texas is not a team anybody wants to play right now. With their terrible season, beating them does nothing for their opponent's resume, but with Kabongo back they are a legitimate threat to beat almost anybody.

#8 Louisville 67, Cincinnati 51
Cincinnati really played about as well as they could in the first half of this game. They dominated the glass and shot better than they have for most of the past few weeks. But Peyton Siva showed bursts of his previous brilliance, scoring 11 first half points which included a clutch three right before the halftime buzzer to put Louisville up by 4. In the second half, Cincinnati's shooting went back to normal (they finished the game with a 41.2 eFG%), and Louisville's pressure defense really took a toll (21 turnovers). Cincinnati finished with 0.80 PPP, the fifth time in their last eight games that they failed to crack 0.9 PPP.

The good news for Cincinnati is that nobody expected them to win on the road at Louisville, and they were sitting on the good side of the Tournament bubble coming into this game. The Bearcats are 8-10 against the RPI Top 100 and 8-9 in Big East play, with wins over Pittsburgh, Marquette, Iowa State, Oregon, UConn and Villanova, along with bad losses to St. John's and Providence. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should remain in the Top 30 tomorrow. They will close the regular season against USF on Saturday and then, depending on the results of other games, will either be the 8 seed (with a bye) or will play in the first round of the Big East tournament. Either way, a win over USF and a win in that first Big East tournament game, will be enough for an NCAA Tournament bid.

If the Peyton Siva from the first half of this game comes to play in the NCAA Tournament, and if Louisville's draw is good, the Cardinals might end up being the favorite in the NCAA Tournament. They are underrated right now because of some bad luck in close games (1-3 in games decided by three points or less in Big East play), and because defensive-first teams are always underrated in the media relative to offense-first teams. The good news for Louisville is that a 1 seed is very much a realistic possibility, despite their current Top 25 ranking. A win over Notre Dame on Saturday and a Big East tournament title will not assure them a 1 seed, but it will be good enough if they can get a little bit of help in other conference tournaments.

Boston College 53, Virginia 52
This was one final game from Sunday that I wanted to talk about. And given the way Virginia's season has gone so far, wasn't it inevitable that they were going to follow up their win over Duke with a loss to Boston College? This is a Virginia team, after all, that is 7-2 against the RPI Top 100 (with wins over Wisconsin, Duke, North Carolina and NC State), but which has 7 RPI 100+ losses, including terrible losses to Old Dominion, George Mason, Delaware, Wake Forest and now Boston College. The good news for Virginia is that, despite their mediocre RPI (64th), the Selection Committee historically prefers teams with big wins and bad losses to teams with neither. Virginia has proven - repeatedly - that they can hang with top teams and beat them. They have played down to their competition, but will have a real advantage over bubble teams lacking big scalps on their resume.

All of those bad losses, though, do put Virginia in a precarious situation. They will play on the road at Florida State on Thursday, and at home against Maryland on Sunday. A win in both games would get them to 12-6, and in very good shape for an at-large bid. An upset loss in either game, though, would force Virginia to do some work in the ACC tournament. They'd have to win at least one game, and would probably need to win a pair of games to feel good about their chances.

Boston College, despite the 5-11 ACC record, should feel good about their season. They are incredibly young, with a core that should be together for three more seasons, and they are already very close to the Top 100 in both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. It's reasonable to think that they might be able to make a run at an at-large bid next season. For now, they will close the regular season at Clemson and then at home against Georgia Tech. After that they'll play in the ACC tournament first round, on March 14th.

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