Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Morning News: Georgia Tech Stuns Syracuse, Georgetown Gets A Crucial Win, Providence Wins A Crazy Bubble Battle, And More

That's how we all feel, Jim.

New Bubble Watch The biggest Bubble Battle of the night was Marquette/Providence, and with Marquette losing they dropped off the bubble. With their big win, Baylor moved off the bubble in the other direction. The net result is a bubble that now consists of 15 teams for 9 bids. Kentucky's ugly win earned them the 17th bid into the NCAA Tournament. 51 more spots are still to be filled.

Georgia Tech Stuns Syracuse Is Jerami Grant that good? Is Syracuse this bad? What the hell is going on here? Well, I don't think Syracuse is as bad as they've seemed the last two weeks, but they weren't as good as they seemed prior to that. The reality was that Syracuse was extraordinarily lucky in close games to get to 25-0. Of those 25 wins, 8 were by six points or less.

The fact is that Syracuse has been playing very tight games for a while now. Take their final five wins in that 25 game winning streak, for example. Four of those five games came down to the final minute. The Duke game went to overtime, they won the Pitt game on a Tyler Ennis miracle 35 footer, and then they beat NC State by a single point at home with a couple of disputed referee calls late. Over the last two weeks that's reversed. They lost to Duke on a disputed call in the final 30 seconds, they lost to Boston College in overtime, and this Georgia Tech game again came down to the final 30 seconds as well. Nothing has gotten significantly worse other than their luck. So a lot of articles will be written today trying to figure out how Syracuse has fallen off a cliff, but the reality is that it hasn't. They aren't really playing significantly worse than when they were 25-0.

With four losses in their last five games, how far has Syracuse's seed fallen? They're still 14-2 against the RPI Top 100, though they only have 5 wins against the RPI Top 50. Their RPI has dropped to 11th and their Sagarin PURE_ELO has fallen to 6th. If the season ended now they'd most likely be a 3 seed. They can still earn a 1 seed if they win the ACC tournament, though they're at the point that even winning out might not be enough to secure a 1 seed.

Georgetown Gets A Crucial Win Over Creighton You never want to play road games against desperate teams on Senior Day. Georgetown controlled the paint on both sides of the floor. The Hoyas finished 12-for-12 on layups and dunks while Creighton was 9-for-18, and the Hoyas outscored their opponents 32-22 in the paint. As we all know, Creighton can often make up for paint deficiencies with outside shooting, but the outside shots weren't falling either. They were 10-for-29 behind the arc, dropping to 1-4 in Big East play this season when shooting below 35.0% behind the arc.

Georgetown gets to 8-9 in Big East play with this win, with a road game at Villanova looming. A 7-11 Georgetown team wouldn't go Dancing, but an 8-10 team could. With a 5-5 record against the RPI Top 50 and a Sagarin PURE_ELO up to 50th, they'll be in really good shape if they can steal a win at Villanova, but even with a loss they can earn an at-large bid with a minimum of one or two wins in the Big East tournament (an 8-10 finish would put them into the opening round of the Big East tournament, which means that two wins would get them to the semifinals).

Creighton might have cost themselves a 1 seed with this loss, even if they go on to win the Big East tournament. They're just 12-6 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin PURE_ELO that has slid to 15th, though their RPI is still 8th. Winning out would probably earn them a 2 seed, though.

Providence Wins A Crazy Bubble Battle Over Marquette This game was insane, and both chances had dozens of chances to win. At the end of regulation, we first had Josh Fortune fouled while making a three-pointer for a four-point play to put Providence up by three, followed by Todd Mayo getting fouled on a three and hitting all of his free throws to tie the game back up again. After Bryce Cotton missed a long shot at the end of regulation, Davante Gardner got the rebound and nailed a 75 footer that clearly came after the buzzer, but was close enough on first inspection that Marquette celebrated (too much, as it turned out, as somebody smacked Gardner in the forehead during the celebration and drew blood).

In double overtime, Marquette had the ball out of bounds with under 10 seconds left up by a point, but Providence executed a trap and Bryce Cotton forced a tie-up. Cotton was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws. Marquette had one last chance, but Todd Mayo missed it.

We need to recognize how incredible Bryce Cotton has been this season. He's now up over 42 minutes per game in Big East play and over 40 minutes per game for the entire season (including some cupcake games in November where he got to rest early). Even on a day where he was just 5-for-16 from the field he found a way to make key plays, earning 15 free throws, grabbing 7 rebounds, collecting 9 assists, and making that key defensive play at the end of double overtime. He deserves serious All-America consideration.

This win gets Providence to 10-7 in Big East play and 8-9 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that is 51st and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 43rd. They now have the margin of error where they can lose their season finale at Creighton and still make the NCAA Tournament if they win a game or two in the Big East tournament. Marquette's RPI drops to 72 with an ugly 5-12 record against the RPI Top 100 with this loss, but their resume is significantly stronger than that. Their Sagarin PURE_ELO is still 55th. They'd probably be in the NIT if the season ended now, but a season finale win at home over St. John's plus a win or two in the Big East tourney should still send them Dancing.

Baylor Beats Iowa State This wasn't an "upset", as Baylor was favored by three, though this final score was also a bit deceptive. Baylor won by 13, but they never led by more than six points at any point until the final minute, and this game was actually tied with just over two minutes left. Over the final 3:30, Iowa State failed to score on any of their final eight possessions. Baylor's strong finish was sparked by Brady Heslip, who shot 5-for-6 behind the arc in the second half. Kenny Cherry also had a pair of big jumpers in the final two minutes, followed by a pair of free throws to ice the game.

This is an important win for Baylor to get to 8-9 in conference play. Like Georgetown, Baylor faces a tough road game to finish the regular season (Kansas State in their case), and can't afford to finish 7-11, which is a record that almost never leads to an at-large bid. Baylor now has seven wins against the RPI Top 50 with a Sagarin PURE_ELO up to 37th, so they'd be a Tournament team if the season ended now, but they still have work left to do. If they don't beat Kansas State, they'll need at least one win in the Big 12 tournament.

Iowa State drops to 10-7 in Big 12 play. They have 8 RPI Top 50 wins and their RPI is 12th, but both of those numbers are deceptive. They only have three wins against the Pomeroy Top 30, and their Sagarin PURE_ELO is just 18th. If the season ended now they'd probably be a 5 seed.

Oregon Moves Closer To A Bid Arizona State shot the ball well here, hitting 12-for-27 behind the arc. But behind five blocks from Waverly Austin, Oregon held the Sun Devils to 33% shooting on two-pointers. Mike Moser was physically dominant, pouring in 22 points with 17 rebounds. Jahii Carson continues to have a really good season below the radar for Arizona State (28 points on 10-for-19 shooting), but his teammates combined to hit five shots inside the arc.

Oregon was already inside the Field of 68 before this win, but with a rapidly strengthening bubble they need to keep winning to stay clear of trouble. They're now 9-8 in Pac-12 play and 9-7 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that is all the way up to 28th and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 41st. If the season ended now they'd be somewhere in the 9-to-11 seed range. On Saturday they have a huge opportunity at home against Arizona to basically put themselves into the NCAA Tournament for good. They'd need a whole lot to go wrong after a win there to somehow end up in the NIT. With a loss to Arizona, however, they're going to need to win at least one game in the Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona State is still firmly in the NCAA Tournament, but they haven't locked up their bid yet either. They're 10-7 in conference play with wins over Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, Colorado, California (twice) and Marquette, along with bad losses to Washington and the University of Miami. They're 8-8 against the RPI Top 100 with an RPI that is 30th and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 36th. Their season finale is a tricky one at Oregon State. A loss there would force them to win a game in the Pac-12 tournament to likely stay in the Field of 68.

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