|Russell Westbrook enjoyed last night.|
UCLA's resume is awfully strong at this point, as they have wins over Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Arizona. They have losses to Washington, Washington State, Wake Forest, and Monmouth as well, but the Selection Committee will always prioritize a team with big wins and bad losses over a team with neither. That said, the computer ratings are not as high on UCLA as their current resume suggests they might be. They are 57th in Pomeroy and 56th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. There is a long way to go in this season. If UCLA does fade, as the computers think they will, they are still far from a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team. And if they end up on the bubble, this win could be the crucial win that gets them over the top.
SMU Survives Again It will start becoming a bigger story that SMU, a team ineligible for the postseason, is undefeated. SMU is far from the best team in the nation, but their schedule has been soft and they've been lucky in close games (4-0 in games decided by five points or fewer). In addition, their AAC schedule is backloaded, meaning that they have an easy few weeks coming up before their schedule picks up and gets difficult in mid-February. So they might be undefeated for a few weeks more. Of course, SMU's wins are also doing damage to the NCAA Tournament hopes of the rest of the AAC, including Cincinnati. SMU finished this game on an 11-2 run, with the most important play being Jordan Tolbert's game-saving block:
Purdue Pulls Away From Michigan With Caris LeVert unable to play in this game, Michigan was going to need a dominating shooting performance to win this game. Instead it was Purdue out-shooting them, hitting 9-for-18 behind the arc. AJ Hammons dominated the Michigan front line with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks. The good news for Michigan was that they got a huge game out of Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman (25 points on 10-for-16 shooting), who had been having a somewhat disappointing and inconsistent sophomore season thus far.
Purdue came into this game ranked #20 in the AP Poll, which was stupid. They're better than that, and their poll numbers will eventually rise. Whether they win the Big Ten or not will depend in large part on whether Denzel Valentine can indeed return at 100% this weekend, as Michigan State is hoping.
Michigan not looking great without Caris LeVert isn't a huge surprise, but this Wolverines team (at full strength) is probably underrated. They only have one win over a team with a realistic chance to finish the season in the RPI Top 50, but they'll pick up plenty more in Big Ten play. In my opinion, they're a pretty clear NCAA Tournament team.