Monday, March 03, 2014

Morning News: Conference Tournaments, Ohio State Falls To Indiana, Villanova Handles Marquette, And Arizona Wins The Pac-12

Arizona claimed the outright Pac-12 title in style.

New Bubble Watch There will be one of these bubble watches every day. So there wasn't much movement on Sunday, but we'll get plenty of changes later in the week. For now, we still have just 16 Tournament locks. The bubble is 17 teams for 10 spots.

Conference Tournament Calendar It's live! Conference tournaments kick off today (yes, at 7PM eastern time), and you should check back daily to use this calendar to guide your viewing. It'll let you know what action is going on each day.

Conference Tournament Previews: Atlantic Sun, Big South, Horizon, NEC, OVC, Patriot League The first batch of conference tournament previews are live. More will come over the next week. Each conference tournament will have a preview posted some time between the last regular season game and the first tournament game.

Ohio State Falls To Indiana Indiana has been fairly fearsome at home this season. They've taken down Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and now Ohio State. Will Sheehey had perhaps his best game of the season, shooting 8-for-12 from the field en route to 19 points. That said, the real story for Ohio State was brutal 0-for-11 shooting behind the arc, and their horrible shooting extended inside the arc as well. The Buckeyes actually made 21 layups and dunks and outscored the Hoosiers 48-28 in the paint... but at some point you've got to hit a jump shot.

If you're going to shoot jump shots poorly on the road against a bubble quality team, you're probably going to lose. So as I've said a million times this season already, don't panic over a result like this. Ohio State is only 9-8 in Big Ten play, but they're 0-4 in conference games decided by six points or less, and their efficiency margin (+0.04 PPP) isn't too different from Big Ten champ Michigan's (+0.08 PPP). They're still ranked one of the 20 best teams in the country by both Sagarin and Pomeroy, and even though their Tourney seed is dropping (they'd probably be a 7 or 8 seed if the season ended now) they're still a team that has a great chance to make a Sweet 16.

Can Indiana still make a run at an at-large bid? It's possible, but the odds are still very much against them. They're 7-9 in Big Ten play with a 4-6 record against the RPI Top 50, but with four RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 79th and their Sagarin PURE_ELO is 66th. Obviously they aren't in yet, and obviously they need to beat Nebraska on Wednesday, but can they get in without winning their season finale at Michigan? Probably not. Maybe if they make a run to the Big Ten title game.

Villanova Handles Marquette When Villanova is hitting threes like this, you can pretty much forget it. When shooting 40% or better behind the arc, they are 7-1 this season, winning those seven games by an average of 19.6 points per game. The one loss was one of Creighton's lights out shooting performances. Darrun Hilliard led Nova with 26 points, including 5-for-8 behind the arc. At the same time, Marquette's offense was impotent. No starter scored more than five points. This game was just never competitive.

While Arizona, Wichita State and Florida have the inside track to the first three 1 seeds, that final 1 seed is wide open, and Villanova fans have to be dreaming about that right now. They're quietly 26-3 overall and 14-3 against the RPI Top 100, with a Sagarin PURE_ELO up to 5th. Realistically, however, they're not earning a 1 seed without a Big East tournament title.

Marquette would likely have moved into the Field of 68 with a win here, but with the loss they're still sitting on the outside looking in. They're 5-11 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that is 70th, but their RPI stats are all goofy. The better measure of resume is Sagarin PURE_ELO, and it has Marquette 51st. They close with a road game at Providence and a home game against St. John's. A sweep probably gets them back into the Field of 68. Without a sweep they'll have to win at least two games in the Big East tournament.

Arizona Clinches Outright Pac-12 Title Arizona got a little sloppy in the final few minutes of this game, so the final score doesn't seem too lopsided, but this game was a blowout. They led by 25 points with under ten minutes to go. Stanford just got run off the court early. Arizona outscored them 16-0 on fast break points and 15-4 on second chance points. Aaron Gordon had a dominant 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Arizona struggled in their first few games without Brandon Ashley, but have been downright dominant over the last three games. They have locked up the Pac-12 outright regular season title, and will clinch a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a Pac-12 tournament title.

Stanford drops to 9-7 in Pac-12 play and 6-9 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that has slid to 42nd and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 45th. If the season ended now they'd probably be in the NCAA Tournament, but it wouldn't be a certainty. They head home to finish the regular season against Colorado and Utah, with a chance to basically lock up an at-large bid. If they just split those two games then they'll have work left to do in the Pac-12 tournament.

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