Saturday, January 10, 2009

UConn Continues To Roll

#5 UConn 81, Cincinnati 72
Teams that win the Big East win games like this. And with Notre Dame and Louisville both struggling, and with questions suddenly arising about Georgetown's offense, it's possible that UConn might be able to turn this conference into a two team battle with Pittsburgh. And considering the fact that those two teams will play each other in a home-and-home during the regular season, that battle will likely be settled on the court. This was actually the most efficient I've seen the Huskies play offense all season, with 58% shooting from the field, 53% from behind the arc, and only 10 fouls and 10 turnovers. They played well enough to take Cincinnati's best and beat it. For Cincy, it's demoralizing to play so well and still lose, but it's never embarrassing to lose to a Top Ten team, and there will be plenty more opportunities for nice wins in the Big East. The problem is that they are now 0-3 and probably tenth in the pecking order of a conference that will not get ten Tournament teams (no matter how many times ESPN tries to tell us that they might). They enter a very winnable stretch here, with games against Rutgers, DePaul, Providence and St. John's coming up. If Cincy wants a realistic scenario for making the Tournament, they have got to win at least three of those four games.

Virginia Tech 78, Virginia 75
I'm very impressed with the way that this young Virginia team fought back from a 15 point deficit with under five minutes to go, getting within one point in the closing seconds, and only being foiled by A.D. Vassallo's deadly free throwing shooting (who made all four of his free throw attempts in the final ten seconds of the game). Virginia is now 7-6, and they're obviously long shots as far as making the Tournament this year goes. But they are very young, and you have to love the back court of true freshman Sylven Landesberg and redshirt freshman Sammy Zeglinski, who have to be reminding at least some people in Charlottesville of the highly successful Sean Singletary/J.R. Reynolds back court. I think this Virginia team will be poised for big things in 2009-10, even if they're destined for a spot near last place in the ACC this season. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has high hopes of a Tournament trip right now. They move to 10-5, including 1-1 in the ACC, with a 2-3 record against the RPI Top 100. The computer numbers aren't very good, so even a 9-7 ACC record might not be enough for an at-large bid. But if they're going to get to 9 or 10 wins in this conference, home games against the likes of Virginia are absolute essentials, and this would have been a devastating loss.

San Diego State 72, Utah 63
With a huge victory here, San Diego State throws their hat in the ring as a serious at-large contender out of the Mountain West. With an 11-3 record (including 2-3 against the RPI Top 100), their RPI ranking has slipped just inside the Top 50 in the nation, and it's likely that Sagarin's rankings will follow suit when they come out tomorrow morning. The Mountain West will get at least two teams into the Tournament, so the Aztecs will be in excellent shape if they can pull ahead of BYU, Utah or UNLV (arguably the three top teams in the Mountain West coming into this weekend) in the conference pecking order. Despite the loss, and a seemingly mediocre 10-6 record, Utah still has an RPI of 18th in the nation, but that is about as deceptive as an RPI can be this far into the season. First of all, one of Utah's losses came to Division II Southwest Baptist (Division II games are not counted in RPI ratings). Second of all, they have a seemingly impressive four wins over the RPI Top 100, but three of those wins are over Mississippi, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Oregon (the other was impressive, over Gonzaga). I would make the argument that this win pushes San Diego State into third in the Mountain West pecking order, dropping Utah at least down to fourth. And I'm sure TCU fans would like to argue that they are ahead of Utah as well (I'll get to their win over UNLV in my next post tonight). Honestly, all five of these Mountain West teams have solid resumes so far, but there is just no chance that all five will make the Tournament, so it will be a great battle throughout the season as these teams battle for Tournament position.

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