Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday Update

#24 Indiana 65, Illinois 61
A big missed opportunity for an Illinois team that has a lot of talent but just hasn't put it all together this year. A lot of close losses have really killed their record, and their RPI. They are now 6-6 in the Big 10 with an RPI of 41. I still think they're getting in the Tournament, but they're going to have to sweat it out. They have three fairly easy games in their last four (Northwestern and Michigan at home, Penn State on the road). They really need to win three of four for me to feel confident about keeping them in my bracket. A 9-7 record should assure them the 4th Big 10 spot. I can't see that conference, however much its middle has struggled, only getting three teams. Indiana, of course, will be the third team to get in. They are almost assured, at 7-3 with three of their games remaining against the three worst teams in the conference (Northwestern, Penn State and Minnesota). Hard to see them not getting the 10 wins to assure a bid. Right now their RPI is at a very snug 17 with an 8-6 record against the RPI Top 100. Solid.

West Virginia 70, #2 UCLA 65
A game with implications beyond these two teams. Through the first few months of the season, the Pac-10 seemed like the clear best conference in the land. But with this game following on the tails of the Arizona beat down against UNC, it's hard to make that argument now. I know a lot of people see great things in the SEC, but I think an argument can be made for the ACC as well. Either way, the lowered status for the Pac-10 hurts the bids of borderline teams like Stanford and Washington. Moving onto the two teams that actually played, I don't think this game does massive harm to the Bruins. A solid Pac-10 Championship should be enough for a #1 seed in the Tournament. As for West Virginia, this is a glamor win that really solidifies their bid. If the season ended now there's no question they'd be in. And I don't see any reason to see a dropoff over the last couple of weeks. At this point, the real question is what seed they'll end up getting.

Arizona 77, #15 Oregon 74
With all the Oden-Durant hype (honestly, is it in every college basketball show's contract that they have to discuss which is better atleast once every two weeks?), stars like Chase Budinger are flying too far below the radar. The kid is an absolute stud who can shoot with anybody. And at 6'7", he can get his shot over the top of more defenders than most. At the same time, a team below the radar has been Arizona. Talk about this team being on the Bubble was a joke. As I've already mentioned, even their sixth loss in eight games didn't drop them below an RPI ranking of 8. Their RPI is back up to 6th and they're a remarkable 12-7 against the RPI Top 100 (remarkable in that 19 of their 24 games have been against the Top 100 teams). Not only are they a lock for the Tournament, but they're almost definitely getting a pretty good seed. You can't drop a team with that kind of RPI to a 10+ seed, like some bracket predictions have done. Teams should be encouraged to make schedules like this - no one will drop for just losing a few games against elite opponents.

#17 Oklahoma State 93, Texas Tech 91, 2OT
Another tough last-second loss for Tech. They're more than likely still getting a Tournament bid, but they're going to have fight hard for a few more wins. The RPI has dropped well out of the Top 40, with a poor 4-6 record in the Big 12. They're also sitting as the 7th team in the Big 12, a conference that almost definitely won't get 7 teams. They need to find a way to finish ahead of atleast Oklahoma. If the Red Raiders do manage to get a bid, they're a good team to bet on as a first round upsetter, as they're definitely much better than their record. They struggled early under the intense media spotlight around Bob Knight's wins record. Now, they're losing games on last second shots and miracles. There is a lot of senior talent on this team, and Jarrius Jackson needs to lead them down the home stretch.

Missouri State 62, Northern Iowa 58
A bigger game for Northern Iowa than Missouri State. The Bears are sitting pretty with 10 Valley wins and an RPI of 32. At this point, the only way they miss the Tournament is if they really collapse down the stretch. As for Northern Iowa, not only have they fallen out of every bracket prediction I've seen, but they're almost falling off the bubble altogether. They're 7-8 in conference with an RPI of 88. They get a good opportunity to knock off Nevada. Without that win they pretty much have to win out or pack their bags for the NIT.

Maryland 72, #16 Duke 60
A huge early run by the Terps put this game almost out of reach, and a good closing by Duke wasn't enough. There's no doubt that Duke is starving for an offensive leader right now, because they have too many good players and too good of a coach to struggle like this. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this team is on the bubble, but honestly when was the last time this team's Tournament resume was even still in doubt in mid-Februrary? Let's remember, of course, that they have faced a very tough resume. Their RPI is still in the Top 20, which is a guaranteed bid for any BCS-conference team (and a near-guarantee for any mid-major as well). As for Maryland, this is a massive resume-building win. At 4-6 in the ACC they can still salvage a decent conference record. And their RPI is a solid 34. The biggest problem is that they're currently sitting 8th in the ACC. That will improve, of course, if they can finish 4-2 to bring their record up to the 8-8 they probably need to get in. A huge game will be against Florida State next week. If Maryland wants to get in the Tournament, they might need to knock the Seminoles out. They still have to face UNC and Duke at Cameron Indoor, which means they probably will need to earn their bid against FSU, Clemson, and NC State twice. Maryland is the prototypical bubble team, and they're going ot need the prototypical bubble victories. Should be fun to watch.

Louisville 66, #5 Pittsburgh 53
A massive win for Rick Pitino's squad. It's their first noteworthy road victory, and the kind of game you can really point to on Selection Sunday as a reason to put a team in. They've been able to get their share of three-pointers all year, but the defense really stepped up in this one. Pitt was really devastated with Aaron Gray in foul-trouble. They already lack an elite dribble-driving scorer without Carl Krauser and mostly rely on kick-outs from Gray to three-point shooters like Ronald Ramon. Without running the offense through Gray they really struggle to open up those shots. Back to Louisville's resume, this win moves their RPI from 73rd up to 43rd. They're also sitting pretty at 8-4 in the Big East, with a 10-6 record looking almost definite. And with this win, a 10-6 record should be a near-lock for the Tournament. They're definitely moving back into the BP65 on Thursday morning.

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