|Yogi Ferrell was distraught after missing two shots in the final seconds|
New Bracket Projection There are always a few brackets where it feels like the bubble is very weak, and this is one of those. I really didn't have any confidence in the last few at-large teams. In the end I made two changes. Temple and Tulsa moved into the projected Field of 68 while Seton Hall and NC State dropped out. Click on the link for more details.
Indiana Comes Up Short Maryland was playing with fire late in this game. Colin Hartman missed a layup that was almost too easy which would have put Indiana up in the final 90 seconds. And with Maryland up by just two in the final seconds, Indiana's best shooter (Yogi Ferrell) got a great look at a game-winning three that just happened to miss. Ferrell got the rebound on his own shot and nearly sent the game to overtime, but missed again. And so Maryland escaped, the third time in their last five games they've won by six points or fewer.
The advanced metrics all say that Maryland is overrated. They're actually being slightly outscored in Big Ten play, fewer than 1 point per 100 possessions better than Penn State has been. Their Pomeroy rating is 37th and their Sagarin PREDICTOR is 38th. If you were going to make a list of teams to expect to fade down the stretch, they'd be near the top. Be wary of Saturday's game at Penn State, for example, where the Nittany Lions actually might be favored in Vegas.
Indiana is now 7-5 in Big Ten play. If they can get to 11-7 they should be safe for an at-large bid. At 10-8 or 9-9 they'll have work to do in the Big Ten tournament. Every single one of those final six games is pretty close to a toss-up, meaning that Indiana's at-large fate will probably come down to their luck in close games over the next few weeks.
Injury-Riddled VCU Falls Again The hits keep on coming for VCU, who were again without Treveon Graham. Briante Weber is done for the season and JeQuan Lewis twice suffered minor knee injuries in this game, though he kept coming back in and finished the game. Even so, they had more than a few chances to win this one. It took a late Jordan Price three in regulation to get La Salle into overtime. At the end of the second overtime, JeQuan Lewis seemed to panic a bit and rushed an off-balance three when he still had time left. He missed, and that was the dagger.
VCU is in a four-way tie at 8-3 atop the Atlantic Ten. But are they actually at risk of missing the NCAA Tournament? Even after this loss their RPI is 13th and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is 21st, so that seems silly, but they're obviously not the same team now. Even if Graham comes back, he'll unlikely be 100% for a while. How many losses can they afford and still be safe? A 3-5 finish to get to 11-7 should be enough to lock them in. If they go 2-6 or worse down the stretch they'll enter the A-10 tournament with work left to do. They should be safe, but it's something to keep your eye on.
Virginia Survives NC State Both teams made serious strategic gaffes in the final 30 seconds of this game, which were bizarre. Virginia had the ball up by two points with just four seconds between game and shot clock, meaning that NC State had to foul... but they didn't. All Virginia had to do was run the clock down to 1 on the shot clock and to launch a jumper that hit the rim and the game was over. But instead Malcolm Brogdon attempted a shot with 10 seconds left on the shot clock that missed. Trevor Lacey then got a great look on the other end but missed also.
It was an ugly win, but it's a good win for Virginia. They're without Justin Anderson for a while, and NC State was a bubble team desperate for a win at home. Getting out of there with the victory is a nice achievement. And this win just about seals up the ACC regular season title for Virginia as well. Their remaining schedule is fairly soft.
NC State really needed to have this one. They now drop to 5-7 in ACC play with road games at Louisville and North Carolina among their next three games. Unless they pull a big road upset they're almost certainly going to enter the ACC tournament outside the RPI Top 50 and with quite a bit of work to do.
Miami Falls To Wake Forest Wake Forest shot out of their minds in this game. They came in shooting an ugly 30.9% behind the arc in ACC play, but they went 12-for-23 here. Konstantino Mitoglou was the hero, hitting 6-for-7. Meanwhile, Miami is the better three-point shooting team this season, but they were an awful 7-for-26 behind the arc. And when you consider those statistics, it's actually kind of amazing that Miami still had a shot on the final possession (they were only two point favorites in Vegas).
And Miami did have a chance to escape to overtime. Down by two points with the clock slipping away, Angel Rodriguez got to the rim for a layup that rolled all over the rim before falling out. It seemed impossible he could miss from there, though Rodriguez is one of the worst shooters at the rim in the nation, hitting just 40% of his shots there this season.
Miami is seeing their at-large chances slip away. They've lost four of five to drop to 5-6 in ACC play and just 10-9 against the RPI Top 200, with an RPI that has dropped to 66th. With a relatively soft schedule down the stretch, they probably need to finish 10-8 in ACC play to be in good shape on Selection. Games against Boston College and Virginia Tech over the next week obviously are must-wins.
Wake Forest moves to 4-8 in ACC play, though four of their next five are against Virginia, Duke and Notre Dame, so they might be stuck on four ACC wins for a little while.
Villanova Beats Providence Providence is a bubble quality team that needed a big home game, and they played pretty well, but Villanova still came out with the win. It's an impressive victory, and it was powered by Daniel Ochefu's 7-for-7 from the field. Providence has struggled to defend the paint this season, and Villanova shot 65% on two-pointers.
Villanova can effectively wrap up the Big East regular season title at Butler on Saturday. With a loss, though, they'll have a fight on their hands. Butler is playing really good basketball right now, and they might actually be favored in Vegas on Saturday.
Providence has lost 3 of 4 to drop to 7-5 in Big East play, though they're still 6-5 against the RPI Top 50 with an RPI that is Top 25, so they're safely in the Field of 68 for now. If they win the games they're supposed to win down the stretch they'll be fine.
Duquesne Smokes George Washington When you're on the bubble, it's not a good idea to lose by double digits to a team that is 7-14. But George Washington just couldn't hit a shot here. Their 36.8 eFG% wasn't a season low, but it's been a long time since they've won a game shooting so poorly. Over the last 7 seasons, George Washington is 0-27 when their eFG% has been under 39%.
George Washington is 17-7 overall and 7-4 in Atlantic Ten play with wins over Wichita State and Dayton, but they also have bad losses to Penn State, La Salle and now Duquesne, and they're just 3-6 against the RPI Top 100. They've got a key home game coming up against a wounded VCU squad on Saturday. They need to go at least 5-2 down the stretch to be in good position on Selection Sunday, so they really need to capitalize there.
Georgia Beats Texas A&M It feels like half the SEC is on the bubble, including these two teams. Georgia is quietly firming up their position in the Field of 68, though. They don't have a win over a team higher than 40th in RPI, but they've won 7 of 9, and are now 7-4 in SEC play and 22nd in RPI.
Georgia's RPI is inflated, of course. The lack of big wins would have them somewhere in the 8-11 seed range if the season ended now, but they'd definitely be in. They have a big opportunity at home against Kentucky coming up on March 3rd, but even with a loss there they should be safe for an at-large bid if they get to 11-7 in SEC play.
Texas A&M is Top 50 in the Pomeroy ratings, and they're also Top 50 in the RPI, but a soft schedule and a lack of wins mean that they'd be an NIT team if the season ended now. They have zero RPI Top 50 wins and are 4-6 against the RPI Top 100. If they can get their RPI into the Top 40 on Selection Sunday they'll very likely get in, but they need a 13-5 SEC record to be confident of that. If they finish 12-6 or 11-7 then it's going to come down to what they do in the SEC tournament.
Jared Sina Leaves Seton Hall The Seton Hall season is spiraling out of control, and it appears to be causing serious locker room divisions. Nobody is being explicit, but it seems an open secret that the catalyst for the problems is Isaiah Whitehead, the heavily hyped freshman who has clashed with a lot of the upper classmen. And really, when you see usage/efficiency statistics like this, it's hard to not side with Sterling Gibbs after he and Whitehead got into it during their last game: