Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Michigan State Escapes Again

#5 Michigan State 57, Michigan 56
Michigan had an excellent chance to win this game on the final play, as John Beilein drew up a great play that gave DeShawn Sims what basically amounted to an off-balance layup to win the game. If anything, the shot might have been too easy, and Sims seemed to be taken off guard and missed a shot he probably makes more than half the time usually. Post game analysis always drives me nuts because it's pure post hoc ergo propter hoc, where every decision by the winning team is praised and every decision by the losing team is criticized, even in a case like this where a single made layup turns this from a Michigan State win to a Michigan win. But in the end, wins and losses matter to the Selection Committee, and Michigan State's last two games will go down as very nice road conference victories - even if both came by a single point. Michigan State now moves to 8-0 and a full two games over a second placed Wisconsin team that will surely lose a couple of games over the next couple of weeks because they haven't been the same since the Jon Leuer wrist injury. If they can win the regular season Big Ten title, which they must be favored to do at this point, they'll likely have a reasonable path to an NCAA Tournament 1 seed heading into the Big Ten tournament. As for Michigan, they are clearly better than their bad record (10-10 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten), but it's getting late in the season for them to turn around the final moments jitters that seem to keep them from winning a close game. Both Pomeroy and Sagarin believe that they're much better than their record (Pomeroy gives them a Luck rating of 337th), and both view Michigan as somewhere around the 60th best team in the nation, but on Selection Sunday it's about wins and losses, and right now Michigan doesn't have nearly enough wins for an at-large bid. I think they've got to get to 10-8 in the Big Ten to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid, which means that they've got to finish 7-3. But their upcoming schedule is really not that bad, and Michigan is owed some good karma from so many bad losses, so it's not that unlikely for the Wolverines to enter March a serious bubble contender.

Rhode Island 65, Dayton 64

Dayton led for the first 27 minutes of this game or so, and it was quite a battle down the stretch, but Dayton just has not been able to pull out good wins all season long. It's been a disappointing season for a Dayton team that was expected to win the Atlantic Ten, and is instead just hoping to get into the NCAA Tournament at all. The difference in this game was Delroy James (22 points on 11 shots from the field), who really is an excellent athlete. To relate him to a past Rhode Island great, James really does look like the poor man's Lamar Odom, and he's a tough match-up for any Atlantic Ten team. This loss drops the preseason A-10 favorites to 3-3 and a tie for seventh place. They are now 2-5 against the RPI Top 100 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 50th. They have a key week coming up with home games against Xavier and Charlotte. As for Rhode Island, they now move to 4-2 in the conference, and are themselves firmly on the bubble. They're now 16-3 with an RPI up to a ridiculous 12th, although Sagarin and Pomeroy both view them as closer to the 60th best team in the nation. They are 7-2 in games decided by five or less points, so they are due for some losses. But as long as they can finish with a strong A-10 record (something around 12-4 or 11-5) then they'll be in excellent shape.

Maryland 81, Miami (Fl) 59

Maryland just torched Miami in this one, and this game was never close. Maryland shot far better than Miami in this game, but the real reason comes from the assist numbers: 19-to-5 in favor of Maryland. They just got easy shots, while Miami was chucking up jumpers. These are two programs moving in opposite directions this season. After a slow start, Maryland is actually temporarily alone in first place in the ACC at 4-1, although I doubt that will survive this coming week when they head to Clemson and Florida State. They are still missing that big win, and are only 3-5 against the RPI Top 100, but they have no bad losses. One stat that really sticks out to me is that they have a Sagarin PREDICTOR of 10th and a Pomeroy rating of 8th. I haven't ever felt like they were that good, but those are certainly impressive. As for Miami, after torching a joke of an at-large schedule (Pomeroy rates their out-of-conference strength of schedule 340th in the nation) they have fallen apart in ACC play, now at 1-5 overall and in dead last place. They next face a near must-win at home against Virginia Tech, with road games at Wake Forest and Florida State coming up next. If they fall to the Hokies then they're going to have to pull a big road upset or their at-large hopes will be basically dashed.

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