Saturday, January 31, 2009

UConn The New #1

#2 UConn 94, Providence 61
UConn will be the new #1 team in the country when the polls come out Monday, as all of the other top four teams in the nation fell this week. I had a feeling this morning that this would be a reality check for Providence, but they really were blown away. I think they might have started to think that they're a little better than they really are. Even with the loss Providence is still 6-3 in the Big East, good for fifth place. That said, I think they're still only ninth in the Big East pecking order, possibly tenth. The league most likely will only get eight bids, so I think Providence is still on the outside looking in. The fact is that their out-of-conference resume is extremely weak (Pomeroy gives them an OOC strength of schedule of 267th), so they're going to need a very nice Big East conference record to make the Tournament. A 9-9 Big East record would be a Tournament resume for almost every other team in the conference, but not for Providence. They need to get to 10-8, plus a win or two in the Big East tournament. Their remaining Big East schedule isn't easy, but it could be a lot harder. They definitely have a realistic route to 10-8. The key will be getting their confidence back and just winning games.

Kansas State 85, #12 Texas 81, OT
Kansas State played out of their minds in this game, and it paid off in a massive victory, and a tough loss for Texas. For Kansas State, obviously, it was the Denis Clemente show. Clemente scored 44 points, including 6-for-6 from behind the arc and 12-for-12 from the line. The Wildcats also showed great perimeter defense, forcing 20 turnovers and only 4-for-17 three point shooting for Texas . With this win, Kansas State moves firmly onto the bubble. They are now 3-4 in the Big 12 with a respectable 2-3 record against the RPI Top 50. With an RPI of 74th and a Sagarin near 60th, they wouldn't be in the Tournament if the season ended now, but they'd be in the discussion. They've got a very easy remaining Big 12 schedule, so they've got the opportunity to run up a bunch of wins. Right now I'd project them to finish 8-8, but if they can pull a couple of upsets they could easily get up to 10-6, which would warrant them a long look on Selection Sunday. For Texas, this is devastating for their hopes of a Big 12 regular season title and a 1 seed. With a 4-2 record they are now in fourth place, and just need to get their intensity and consistency back. Too many of their key players are just playing poorly right now (A.J. Abrams and Connor Atchley will both want to forget about this game). When Texas is running on all cylinders they are an elite team, but too often they're just not playing up to their potential.

Illinois State 69, Bradley 65

The Missouri Valley conference is starting to sort itself out a little bit. With Evansville and Drake fading it appears to be a four team race, and these two teams are among those four. Bradley falls to 7-4 with this loss, and their at-large chances are more or less done at this point. They just have to keep fighting for better seeding in the Missouri Valley tournament, because they'll certainly be among the favorites to earn the automatic bid if they can get a favorable draw. For Illinois State, their at-large chances are at least plausible at this point. They move to 7-4 in the Missouri Valley, and are a solid 18-4 overall, with an RPI of 61st, and both Sagarin and Pomeroy both put them around 60th-70th as well. It would really help to take the regular season title, but they're still three games back of the surprising Northern Iowa Panthers. But Northern Iowa really has a brutal schedule the rest of the way, including a game at Illinois State, so there's no question that the Redbirds will get their chance. If they can get to 13-5, earn at least a share of the Valley regular season title, and lose a close battle in the Missouri Valley tournament finals, that would be a pretty good Tournament resume. We'd just have to see how the rest of the bubble plays out.

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