Sunday, February 28, 2010

Terps Keep ACC Title Hopes Alive

Maryland 104, Virginia Tech 100, 2OT
This game was really close the entire way, with the two teams within a single possession for most of the game. And as I often say, in a game like this it's clear that neither team "deserves" to win more than the other, because when games are this close the winner is often decided by lucky bounces or bad referee calls. Greivis Vasquez led all players with 41 points, although 41 is a little less impressive than it usually is when 31 of those points are scored from the field and it took 33 shots (to his credit, he was 10-for-10 at the line). Jordan Williams was a force inside for Maryland with 15 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive end. Virginia Tech was led by the trio of Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen, who all scored more than 20 points. For Maryland, this win keeps their ACC title hopes alive. They remain one loss behind Duke, and can even that up when Duke comes to College Park on Wednesday. The ACC has gotten lost again in the Big East hype, and because tv analysts always judge conferences by how many Top Ten or Top 25 teams they have, even though those are wildly stupid metrics (see here for my explanation of this argument, if you haven't seen it before). Pomeroy rates the ACC as the best conference in the nation, narrowly ahead of the Big 12. Sagarin puts the Big 12 at the top, narrowly ahead of the ACC. The ACC has no bad teams, and to win the ACC would be a very impressive feat. As for Virginia Tech, they are 21-7 and tied for fourth place in the ACC, but are only 8-6 in ACC play with a 5-5 record against the RPI Top 100. In fact, if I torture the numbers a bit I can point out that they're 6-7 against the RPI Top 105. Their RPI is 52nd and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 34th. At the moment they're still in the Field of 65, but it's a tenuous position because of the lack of big wins (they will end the regular season with no wins against the RPI Top 25). I think they need two more wins to assure themselves an at-large bid: either a sweep of their final two regular season games, or a split of those games followed up by a win in the ACC tournament.

Minnesota 62, Illinois 60
Illinois had a nightmare first half here, shooting 22.6% from the field, including 0-for-11 behind the arc. Minnesota opened up their lead to 19 points with under seven minutes left in the game. But this was a near-must win for Illinois, and they fought back ferociously, hitting five of six three-pointers in a short stretch and earning themselves the ball with eight seconds to go and a chance to tie, but the shot didn't go and this will be a tough one to get over. The loss drops Illinois to 10-6 in the Big Ten with a game at Ohio State, and at home vs Wisconsin to close the regular season, unable to afford losses in both games. In fact, even a split to get to 11-7 might not assure them an NCAA Tournament bid (although it will be very likely). Illinois needs two more wins to be sure. Minnesota, meanwhile, keeps their own at-large hopes alive. They're 8-8 in the Big Ten with a 5-8 record against the RPI Top 100, wins over Butler, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and bad losses to Indiana and Michigan. Their RPI is 70th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 68th. There's no question that they'd be NIT bound if the season ended now, but they can put themselves in decent shape if they can take care of business in their final two regular season games (at Michigan, vs Iowa). If they can win those and then win a Big Ten tournament game then they'll at the very least be in the discussion on Selection Sunday. Although I'm betting that they'll need to win at least two Big Ten tournament games to get in.

#6 Kansas State 63, Missouri 53
There probably isn't another team in the country more stressful to play offense against than Missouri. Mike Anderson's 40 Minutes Of Hell, Version 2.0 is even difficult for Big 12 teams that see it twice a season. And Kansas State looked awful early on in this one, scoring only ten points in the first 14 minutes of the game. But Kansas State has been very strong at home this season, with a fan base that is fired up by the best season in a generation, and they fought back for a very impressive win. Kansas State has very, very quietly won seven straight games and has watched the other top ranked teams around them fall one after the other. And at the moment they are actually probably fifth in line for a 1 seed. In fact, if they can win at Kansas on Wednesday night then they'll be, for the time being, a 1 seed. As for Missouri, they fall to 9-5 in Big 12 play with a 7-6 record against the RPI Top 100. Despite a Sagarin PREDICTOR of 12th they still haven't completely locked up an at-large bid, although they can lock that up on Tuesday night at Iowa State.

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