Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mississippi State Rises, Illinois Falls

#7 Ohio State 88, Illinois 81, 2OT
Illinois came into this game knowing that a win would at least temporarily put them in the Field of 65. Many were saying, including the announcers of this game, that Illinois would become a lock with a win here. I didn't buy that, and thought Illinois could win this game and still end up in the NIT, but there's no question that this was a huge game. And they had a chance for the final shot in both regulation and the first overtime, and in both cases they could not get a shot off until a fraction of a second after the horn sounded. Neither shot went in, but it was the idea that they couldn't get a shot off. The first time was more excusable, as Ohio State smartly had William Buford get in Demetri McCamey's face without even looking at where the ball was, just trying to keep the ball out of his hands. Illinois panicked and had to call a timeout with about four seconds left, and that was too little time for a good play. The end of the first overtime was not as excusable. And when you combine this with their epic collapse against Wisconsin yesterday where they almost blew a double-digit lead in the final minute, you really get the sense that Illinois just doesn't trust itself down the stretch of games. I think it's pretty clear that they have a leadership void. And with the way that the bubble has finally started getting stronger today, I think Illinois is in a lot of trouble now. They are an atrocious 11-14 against the RPI Top 200 with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that is outside the Top 60. I can't recall ever seeing a team with that bad of an ELO_CHESS getting in, and so I think they're probably out. As for Ohio State, they keep their slim hopes of a 1 seed alive. But they're going to have to not only win the Big Ten tournament, but they're going to need some help in other games around the country.

Mississippi State 62, #23 Vanderbilt 52
Vanderbilt was really just unable to deal with Jarvis Varnado in this game. Not only did he have six blocks, but it always seems like he forces two or three re-directed shots for every block he gets. Vandy star A.J. Ogilvy went 0-for-4 from the field, after scoring in double digits in 15 of 17 SEC games this season. Vandy stayed in this game with 50% shooting behind the arc, but they hit only 30% inside the arc. This is a more extreme example of what Mississippi State has done all season long, where they are 8th in the nation in two-point field goal shooting, but only 78th in three-point defense. But Mississippi State has resuscitated its at-large hopes with a great run in the SEC tournament, and even without a victory over Kentucky tomorrow they still will have a shot an at-large bid. This is their second RPI Top 50 win of the season (the other came over Old Dominion), and they're up to 8-6 against the RPI Top 100. Their RPI will move into the Top 60, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will get right up to within a spot or two of the important Top 50. Right now they're right on the edge of the bubble, either one of the last teams into the field or one of the first teams out. As for Vanderbilt, they finish 11-6 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over Missouri, Saint Mary's and Tennessee (twice), along with losses to Georgia and Western Kentucky. Their RPI will be just narrowly in the Top 25, as will their ELO_CHESS. They're looking at a 5-7 seed right now.

Richmond 89, Xavier 85, OT
If by some chance these teams end up playing in the NCAA Tournament, you'll want to make sure that you can watch, because they followed up a two-overtime thriller the last time they played with yet another excellent one here. But after Xavier survived that last one, it was Richmond that will now be heading into the A-10 tourname championship game tomorrow against Temple. Both of these teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament, of course, and were only playing for seed. Xavier had no losses to any team with an RPI worse than 55th this season, but they also only went 3-7 against the RPI Top 50, including 1-5 against the RPI Top 25 (the one win being that two overtime win over Richmond at home). Their RPI is 19th, and their ELO_CHESS will be right around 20th. They could have gotten a 3 seed in the Tournament if they'd won the A-10 tournament, but now they will get no better than a 4, and I'd be surprised if they get better than a 5. I see them getting a 5 or 6 seed most likely. As for Richmond, they are now 10-7 against the RPI Top 100, and also do not have any 100+ losses. They also are 2-1 against the RPI Top 25 (the wins came over Temple and Xavier). Their RPI is 22nd, and their ELO_CHESS will be 20th-22nd. If they can win the A-10 tournament I can see them getting a 5 seed, with a 6 seed perhaps more realistic. If they lose then the best they'll get is a 6 seed, and they can possibly fall to a 7 or 8.

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