Thursday, February 26, 2015

Morning News: New Bracket, Richmond Wins A Thriller, Baylor Wins At Iowa State, Northwestern Knocks Off Indiana, And More


New Bracket Projection Virginia moves up to a projected 1 seed, replacing Wisconsin. There were also four changes to the Field of 68 itself. Purdue, Cleveland State, Central Michigan and North Florida move in, while Illinois, Green Bay, Toledo and Florida Gulf Coast drop out. For all the details, click the link.

Richmond Beats VCU In A Thriller This was easily the game of the night. Just a really fun, hard fought game. Trying to say which team "deserved" to win a game like this is an exercise in futility. In regulation, Treveon Graham hit a deep three-pointer to tie up the game, and then Richmond came oh so close to winning at the buzzer:
In overtime, it was VCU that led by three points in the closing seconds and they chose to intentionally foul. Shawndre' Jones did a good job of hitting the first and getting a long bounce while missing the second, knocking the ball out of bounds off VCU. Richmond then ran a great baseline out-of-bounds play to get a layup for TJ Cline for the tie. In the second overtime, Treveon Graham tried to hit a jumper to send the game to a third overtime, but Deion Taylor got the block to seal it.

The Atlantic Ten is now plugged up with a four-way tie atop the standings, including VCU. VCU's next two games will be against two of the teams they're tied with (Dayton and Davidson), and they still control their own destiny for the 1 seed in the Atlantic Ten tournament if they win out.

Richmond is now 9-6 in Atlantic Ten play, with an RPI that has slid up to 65th. They're not realistically going to earn an at-large bid, but it's a solid season, and they're going to return everybody from their regular rotation but Kendall Anthony next season.

Baylor Wins At Iowa State It's going to take a good team playing really well to win at Iowa State, and Baylor shot the lights out here. They hit 14-for-26 (54%) behind the arc, compared to just 39% on two-pointers. The key stretch started with around 8 minutes to go, when Baylor hit six consecutive three-pointers, including three by Taurean Prince, who led Baylor with 20 points. Iowa State was also limited in the easy baskets that they tend to rely on, getting just 2 fast break points.

Iowa State had a chance to tie Kansas atop the Big 12 standings here. Kansas will likely lose again, though, so if Iowa State can win out then they will still have a good chance for that share of the conference title.

Baylor has won three straight games to get to 9-6 in Big 12 play and 6-5 against the RPI Top 50, with an RPI up to 11th. They are very much in the conversation for a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament,

Northwestern Knocks Off Indiana Welsh-Ryan is a house of horrors for Tom Crean, who dropped to 4-8 in his career against Northwestern with this loss. Indiana is now 7-3 against Pomeroy Top 20 opponents when hitting above 40% behind the arc while just 3-7 when shooting 40% or worse. They are heavily dependent on the three (31 of their 63 attempted shots here were from behind the arc), and their defense is the worst in the Big Ten (Northwestern cruised to 1.24 PPP here). Northwestern was led by Tre Demps, who had 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Northwestern has won four straight Big Ten games now for the first time since 1967, which seems an almost impossibly long streak.

Indiana drops to 9-7 in Big Ten play, with five RPI Top 50 wins and this as their first loss to a team outside the RPI Top 75. Their RPI itself is sitting 36th. So Indiana would certainly be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but they'll be in trouble if they lose one of these two remaining home games (against Iowa and Michigan State). If they lose one, then they're going to need to win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament or they'll need some help to miss the NIT.

Iowa Holds Off Illinois This was a battle between two potential bubble teams desperately in need of a win. But more than anything, it was a frustrating shooting day for Illinois, particularly in the second half. In that second half they hit just 25% of their three-pointers as well as just 25% of their two pointers, scoring just 0.88 PPP. Iowa never could pull away, but Illinois did not have the firepower to catch up either. Aaron White led the way for Iowa with 29 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

Iowa is closing in on a Tournament bid, but they have work to do. Now 9-6, they'd be in good shape if they get to 11-7, but not a lock. They'd want to avoid a one-and-done performance in the Big Ten tournament.

Illinois is in a more precarious situation, now 7-8 in Big Ten play and 5-10 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that has slid to 59th. They have some good wins (Baylor, Michigan State and Maryland), but it's going to be tough to get in with a 9-9 Big Ten record and an RPI outside the Top 50. So really, that road game to close the season at Purdue will be absolutely crucial for Illinois to strengthen their resume and also to damage a rival bubble team from their own league.

Georgia Wins At Ole Miss Georgia and Mississippi both have a chance to be stuck on the bubble on Selection Sunday, but Georgia went a long way toward lowering the stress levels of their fans on Selection Sunday with this road win. Their victory was driven primarily by outside shooting, where they hit 11-for-23 behind the arc. Kenny Gaines was 4-for-7 himself, and he also led all scorers with 22 points. Mississippi, in contrast, had only a 31.0 eFG% in the first half, creating a double-digit hole that they were unable to dig out of.

Georgia's RPI (30th) is obviously inflated, as they're just 8-5 against the RPI Top 100 with four RPI 100+ losses and zero wins against the RPI Top 30. But still, no team from a major conference is realistically going to miss the NCAA Tournament if their RPI is that high. Obviously if they beat Kentucky they'll be safe, but if they lose to Kentucky and win those other two games, I think winning a single game in the SEC tournament should be enough.

This loss dropped Mississippi's RPI from the low-30s all the way to 43rd. Their resume is similar to Georgia, including a few bad losses and zero RPI Top 25 wins. It's the type of soft resume that requires a really good RPI to get in. And unless they win their final three regular season games (unlikely, considering the schedule), Mississippi will have to win a game (or possibly two) in the SEC tournament to get back inside the RPI Top 40.


Anonymous said...

Iowa not in at 11-7 in the Big Ten? Really?

Anonymous said...

Iowa has road wins over North Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan and other wins over Maryland, Illinois and Ohio State at home. They are 27th in Pomeroy and would have a 42 RPI at 11-7 in the Big Ten. Not sure how you have them not as a lock if they get to that.

Jeff said...

Pomeroy is not relevant. Just two seasons ago Iowa was 29th in Pomeroy and left out.

That said, you have to realize what I mean by "lock" and "safe". I mean that even if crazy stuff happens during Championship Week, they should still not really have to worry on Selection Sunday.

I'm not saying that if Iowa goes 11-7 and then one-and-done in the Big Ten tourney that they're going to end up in the NIT. Simply that they'll be at the mercy of the bubble, and whether it gets stronger or weaker.