Saturday, March 13, 2010

Huge Victory For Illinois

Illinois 58, #18 Wisconsin 54
Illinois has really had an at-large bid handed to them on a silver platter. The bubble is much weaker than we could have expected, with nearly every other bubble team falling on their face over the last week, and then they got the single worst shooting performance by Wisconsin this season. The Badgers won the turnover battle 17-to-5, and the offensive rebounding battle 10-to-2. They got 23 more shots from the field, and just three less from the free throw line. I can't recall ever seeing a team get that many more shots than its opponent while still losing. Wisconsin's 28.6% shooting from the field was inflated by a late rally, and was close to 20% for most of the game. Illinois actually didn't play well in this game at all, and basically tried to do everything they could to blow the lead in the final minute (the announcers rightly called it a "Keystone Kops" routine). But the NCAA Tournament is about resumes, and the Illinois resume has strengthened dramatically. They are 5-8 against the RPI Top 50 with wins over Clemson, Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Wisconsin (twice). They've got four RPI 100+ losses, but only one is particularly bad (Utah). Their RPI is still 73rd, but their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be almost up to 55th when the new numbers come out in the morning. Illinois is right on the bubble at the moment. More than likely they'll need to win one more game to make the NCAA Tournament, which would be on Saturday afternoon against Ohio State. As for Wisconsin, the question is now whether they will get consideration for the Jon Leuer injury. Right now they're probably sitting at a 4-5 seed, although they could fall to a 6.

NC State 59, Clemson 57
I wanted to go back to a result from Thursday to talk about Clemson's resume. They finish 21-10, and 9-7 against the ACC, with a 10-9 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Butler, Georgia Tech and Florida State (twice), with only one weak loss (Boston College). In a stronger year they could be on the bubble, but this season that's good enough for an RPI of 34th and a Sagarin ELO_CHESS of 37th, and they are a lock for an at-large bid. They're probably a 9-10 seed right now, although they could slide up to an 8. NC State obviously has no chance at an at-large bid, but by following this game up with a win over Florida State (I'll talk about that game in another post Saturday morning or early afternoon) they still have a shot of pulling off the upset for an automatic bid. And don't think that teams like Illinois aren't scared to death of the idea of NC State earning an automatic bid.

Stanford 70, Arizona State 61
I want to discuss one last game from Thursday, so that I can talk about Arizona State's resume. This is a disastrous loss for them, after the weak bubble had really opened up the door for a second (or even third) Pac-10 team to make the Tournament. They finish 22-10 and 12-6 in the Pac-10, which in any other season would be a great resume, but the Pac-10 is terrible this year. They finish only 4-7 against the RPI Top 100 with only two RPI Top 50 wins (San Diego State and Washington) to go with three RPI 100+ losses (UCLA, USC and Stanford). Their RPI is 62nd, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 59th. It's almost impossible to see any scenario where they make the Field of 65 now. They're going to the NIT. Stanford cannot earn an at-large, and will need to upset Washington and then Cal to earn an automatic bid.

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