Saturday, March 13, 2010

Big Wins For Mississippi State, Minnesota

Mississippi State 75, Florida 69
This was a bubble battle, and it required a really balanced attack from Mississippi State to carry the day. While Jarvis Varnado is the Human Vacuum Cleaner on defense, they have struggled this season because they've lacked a go-to scorer. So they got double-digit scoring from all five starters here. As usual Varnado was huge defensively, and he was the key reason that neither Alex Tyus or Vernon Macklin could get going for Florida (a combined 8 points, 11 rebounds and 5 turnovers). For Mississippi State this keeps them alive for the NCAA Tournament not just because it keeps them alive for an auto bid, but also because it puts them back onto the bubble. They still only have one RPI Top 50 win (Old Dominion), but they're 7-6 against the RPI Top 100 and 14-10 against the RPI Top 200. Their RPI is only 64th, but their ELO_CHESS is up to 56th. They'd be out of the Tournament if the season ended now, but a win today over Vanderbilt could put them in the bracket, at least for the time being. As for Florida, this loss assures them of having to sweat out Selection Sunday. They finish with four losses in their final five games, and only 8-10 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Tennessee, Michigan State and Florida, but also a very bad loss to South Florida. Their RPI is 54th and their ELO_CHESS is 49th. For the moment they're probably in the Field of 65, but they're now at the whim of the bubble, and they have to spend all day today rooting for teams like UTEP and Utah State, as well as teams like Vanderbilt, Temple and Purdue.

Minnesota 72, #11 Michigan State 67
The media's story of this game was Devoe Joseph taking the team on his back in overtime and carrying them to victory, but the real story of this game was much more boring: free throws. Michigan State would have won this game easily if they'd hit their free throws, but they instead went 18-for-34. This game obviously meant more for a Minnesota team that needed a win to keep their NCAA hopes alive. And while this game doesn't put them in the bracket, it does give them a shot to get into the bracket if they can beat Purdue this afternoon. They've got wins over Butler, Ohio State and Wisconsin to go with this one, but they also have a number of bad losses (Indiana, and twice against Michigan), and their computer numbers are all still outside the Top 60 (their resume numbers that is: both Sagarin and Pomeroy believe that they're a lot better than their resume). Whether a win over Purdue would put them in the Field of 65 or not will depend on what happens around the rest of the nation. As for Michigan State, they end the season with a rapidly weakening resume, including a shockingly poor 8-8 record against the RPI Top 100. There's no chance that they do better than a 5 seed, and they could easily fall to a 6 or a 7.

#22 Georgetown 80, Marquette 57
Georgetown has been a Jekyll & Hyde team all season long, but there's been no question that when they're clicking they're one of the best teams in the country. And they've been clicking so far in the Big East tournament, and will look to beat four good teams in four days when they play West Virginia tonight. Greg Monroe in particular has been a beast, as he seems to have recognized that they tend to lose games only when he is passive offensively. And Georgetown has proven what a good schedule can do for a team, because despite a 10-8 Big East record they have nine RPI Top 50 wins (the second most in the entire country, behind only Kansas), including three RPI Top 20 wins out of conference (Duke, Butler and Temple). If they can beat West Virginia tonight then they'll have a great shot at a 2 seed. Even with a loss tonight I still think they're getting a 3. As for Marquette, they had a nice Big East tournament run that comes to an end, but not before locking up a Tournament bid. They finish 10-10 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Villanova, Georgetown and Xavier, and only one bad loss (DePaul). Their RPI is only 50th, but their ELO_CHESS is up to 25th. They will probably be right around a 7-8 seed in the Tournament.

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