Sunday, January 17, 2010

Texas Stays Undefeated... Barely

#1 Texas 72, Texas A&M 67, OT
Like Kentucky, Texas has just managed to eke out win after win, and continues to be undefeated. Texas A&M actually led almost this entire game, including a double-digit second half lead, but Texas made a furious comeback and actually probably should have won on their final possession of regulation (they missed a tip-in just before the buzzer) before pulling away in overtime. Texas A&M deserves a lot of credit for how well they played in this game - I don't know how they could really play much better. Also, they seem to finally be getting their groove back after that gruesome Derrick Roland injury that would have scarred any team in the nation. The best win they've had since that injury was over Nebraska last week, but I think they'll improve on that Tuesday night against Oklahoma. Texas A&M was given a break by the Big 12 schedule makers, and their easy schedule will allow them to win a lot of games this season if they keep playing like this. But one game is not a trend. As for Texas, they were also given a gift by the schedule makers, as they don't have to go to Phog Allen to play Kansas. If they can beat Kansas at home then they will be in the clear driver's seat to win the Big 12 regular season title. I still think that Kansas is the better team, and I think that Kansas will win the Big 12 tournament to wrap up the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Texas is in a great position to get a 1 seed of their own. If those two teams can continue mowing down the opposition, the Big 12 is in the best position of any conference to earn multiple 1 seeds in March.

Vanderbilt 89, South Carolina 79
Vanderbilt's players loved the Colonial Center rims during this game, shooting a scorching 61% from the field, including 46% behind the arc. In addition to the great outside shooting, A.J. Ogilvy just represented an immovable force for South Carolina. He scored 22 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Vanderbilt's play put to waste another stellar game from Devan Downey, who led all players with 35 points, and also had six steals. All in all just a good game, with the best players from both teams putting on great performances. But the win goes to Vanderbilt, and they continue to put together solid at-large numbers. They are off to a quick 3-0 start to SEC play, and while they don't have any chance of winning the SEC East, they could potentially finish as high as second. More likely I see them in a battle for third place with Florida. They don't play again until a home game against Auburn next Saturday, but the following week go on a brutal road trip to Tennessee and Kentucky that will tell us a lot about whether Vandy can really make a run at second place in the SEC East. South Carolina, meanwhile, seems to be the clear fifth best team in the SEC East (they are fourth in the standings, but that has more to do about schedule strength at these early stages than anything else), and that's not a good sign for their at-large chances when the SEC might only get four or five teams total. Their RPI has fallen to 80th, and they're a poor 7-6 against the RPI Top 200. Sagarin and Pomeroy both see them as somewhere around the 75th-80th best team in the nation as well. Devan Downey is one of the best players in the SEC, but he's not getting a lot of help.

Ohio State 60, #16 Wisconsin 51

A couple of weeks ago in Wisconsin it was the Badgers rocking a Buckeyes team by 22 points that was missing Evan Turner. Yesterday, with Turner back, it was Ohio State controlling the game against a Wisconsin team lacking Jon Leuer. It would only seem fitting if these two teams meet again in the Big Ten tournament, with both teams at full strength. Ohio State shot well in this game (52% from the field), but more than anything else that had to do with uncharacteristically poor perimeter defense from Wisconsin. Jon Leuer is a very tough loss, but Wisconsin's bench proved that they were up to the task earlier this week with a solid win at Northwestern, and it was a bit surprising to see how poorly they played here. But this is a very good Ohio State team. They're unranked because of the Evan Turner injury, but with him healthy this is probably one of the 15-20 best teams in the country. And that three game losing streak by Purdue means that Ohio State actually still has a small chance of winning the Big Ten title. They have three more losses than Big Ten leaders Michigan State, but Michigan State still has to play two games with Purdue and could easily get swept. Wisconsin, too, is still alive in the Big Ten title race. But assuming Jon Leuer is out another month or more (which is what it's looking like), it's very hard to see them pulling it out. I see them finishing in fourth in the Big Ten unless Leuer makes a shockingly quick return from his injury.

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