Saturday, February 03, 2007

Heading Into Saturday

Catching up on the bubble-related games from the latter half of the past week:

#20 Alabama 73, LSU 70
As some of us talked about in the comments section earlier this week, this game was a matchup between two talented teams that have struggled mightily lately. Someone had to have a turn-around game, and someone had to fall even deeper. For Bama, this will probably put to bed any talk of this team being on the bubble. They may only be 3-4 in conference, but they have a homegame against South Carolina today that should move them back to .500. More importantly, they are already 16-5 overall, a ranking inside the Top 20, an RPI of 26, and a pretty good record of 6-5 against the RPI Top 100. As for LSU, I don't think anyone knows what is going on with this team. They are now 2-5 in the SEC with an RPI that is an amazing 80. Four straight losses will do that to a computer ranking. With an overall Sagarin rating of 62 (the Sagarin rating is often a more popular guide on Selection Sunday than the RPI) things aren't totally hopeless. Let's also keep in mind that they aren't losing to junky teams. Of their eight losses, the worst has an RPI of 71 (Washington, back in December). That's a pretty amazing stat when you think about it. The schedule remains tough, so if LSU can end on a decent winning streak they will have a good RPI. They are just running out of time to turn it around.

Kansas State 80, Missouri 73
A very important bubble-related game in the Big 12. Missouri needed a win here to remain a legitimate at-large candidate, but now they drop to 2-5 with an RPI of 77. They are now only the 7th or 8th best team in the conference, and you can bet the Big 12 won't get 8 teams. As for Kansas State, they stay in the meaty part of the bubble. Their 5-2 conference and 16-6 overall records are gaudy, but they remain winless against the Top 25. The RPI sits at 46, but their biggest negative is probably that 0-2 record against the RPI Top 50. But atleast they'll get a shot from that marquee win, with two games left against Kansas as well as one against both Texas and Oklahoma State.

Gonzaga 90, Stanford 86
An important win for a Gonzaga team that had really struggled towards the end of their main out-of-conference schedule. They've been running through the WCC, but no one really knows what that really means. This gives them another win against a legitimate BCS-conference team. As for Stanford, this should temper the hype about Stanford after their quick 6-3 start in the Pac-10. Their RPI is still stuck at 40th, and their 14-6 record is especially unimpressive when you consider their easy out-of-conference schedule. Another thing I pointed out earlier this week is that the Cardinal have a very tough stretch coming up. At Cal, at Wazzu and at Washington. That is a rough stretch that could easily drop them to 6-6 with a slew of brutal games still to come, including a payback game at Pauley Pavilion in three weeks. They did what they had to do up to this point, but to consider Stanford anything but a middle-of-the-bubble team is to overrate them.

Virginia 68, #10 Duke 66, OT
Some of my favorite things about the end of the college basketball season are the changes of allegiances of fans rooting for a bubble team. In this case, you had a ton of fans around the country rooting for the hated Dukies to knock Virginia off the bubble, all of whom were crushed by that acrobatic game winner by Sean Singletary. Without a doubt, Virgina has re-affirmed by preseason faith in them and now have their fourth really good win this year (including wins at home over Arizona and Maryland, and on the road at Clemson). The Cavaliers have moved their RPI inside the Top 40, with an incredible 5-2 record against the RPI Top 50. Most importantly, their 6-2 ACC record keeps them in the hunt for big things in conference. North Carolina still shouldn't feel too threatend by anyone in the ACC, but Virginia has as good of a shot as anyone to nab second place. And a second place finish in the ACC would be a guaranteed at-large bid. Best of all, the worst of the ACC schedule is over. They are done with Duke, UNC, Maryland, Boston College and Clemson. They key will probably be the home-and-home series with Virginia Tech, another rival for second place in the conference.

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