Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another #1 Goes Down

#4 Wake Forest 70, #1 Duke 68
I'm not sure why the media is making such a big deal out of four #1 ranked teams going down in a month, since only one of them was really much of an upset. I believe Wake Forest was favored for this one, which was why it was interesting to see half of the crowd rush the court after the win while half the crowd stayed in their seats. It's like they can't decide how good they really are, since a team that really believes it's one of the top teams in the land doesn't rush the court for beating anybody. Anyway, the reality is that Duke really played poorly in this one. They shot poorly (33% from the field, 18% from behind the three point arc), and they had a number of defensive breakdowns (including a particularly galling one on the final basket). Wake Forest is the type of team that should give Duke problems (tall, long and very athletic), which makes it actually somewhat encouraging for a Duke fan that they had this game tied in Winston-Salem with under three seconds to go. We know that at least one, and maybe two, 1 seeds will come out of the ACC, so these battles between Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina will be crucial in that fight.

#21 Villanova 67, #3 Pittsburgh 57

This game was definitely the worst that Pittsburgh has looked all season long. Shooting poorly is one thing, but they did a horrible job with ball control. Neither DeJuan Blair or Levance Fields looked at all interested in this game. Obviously Villanova was motivated in their last game ever at the Spectrum, but they wouldn't have won if Pitt hadn't played so poorly. Keeping in mind their remaining schedule, Pitt might really regret the egg that laid here if they end up finishing one game short of first place in the Big East when the season ends. Pitt is still firmly in the hunt for a 1 seed, of which the Big East is basically assured of at least one, but they've got to separate themselves from UConn, Marquette and Louisville. But Pitt's loss is Villanova's gain, and this really boosts the Tournament chances of the Wildcats. They are now 4-3 in the Big East, with an RPI of 14th in the land. They are still only 2-4 against the RPI Top 50, but there's no question that they'd be easily into the Tournament if the season ended now. At this point, they probably make the Tournament if they just win the games that they're supposed to win. Looking at their remaining schedule, 10-8 is probably their most likely record. Even 9-9 would be a near lock for a Tournament bid.

Northeastern 68, VCU 63

I happened to jinx Northeastern the last time I talked about them, but hopefully it won't happen twice. But it's hard to ignore this team, that is now leading the Colonial with a 9-1 record. Overall they are 14-6 with a 4-4 record against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI up to 52nd overall. They will end up with 21-23 wins overall, but I'm not sure if that's going to be enough for the Tournament. They have a win over Providence that looks a lot better than it did a couple of months ago, but otherwise this represents their best win. It's very hard to earn an at-large bid without an RPI Top 50 victory, especially if your record isn't insanely gaudy. Butler is likely to make the Tournament despite zero wins over the RPI Top 40, but it's because (even if they lose in the Horizon League tournament) they're going to have something like a 26-3 record. Northeastern's 14-6 record just won't cut it. But they're a very dangerous team, and they're going to be a great upset pick if they do manage to win the Colonial tournament.

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