Saturday, February 11, 2012

Georgia Knocks Mississippi State Back To The Bubble

Georgia 70, #18 Mississippi State 68, OT
I got a whole lot of grief from Mississippi State fans earlier this season for saying that they are a bubble quality team. They've been ranked around 15-20th in the human polls for more than two months now, but the reality is that they've been very lucky in close games. Coming into this game they were 7-1 in games decided by five points or less. Throw in the fact that even with that luck they're only 6-6 against the RPI Top 100 and you have the reason why I'm down on them, and why they were rated 64th by Pomeroy (and 55th by the Sagarin PREDICTOR) even before this game.

I have Mississippi State in the Field of 68 because on Selection Sunday it's about results rather than how good you are, and Mississippi State has Tournament quality results so far. But by no means are they a lock, and now that they've finally lost a close game they also will wake up tomorrow morning a lot closer to the bubble. They're 6-4 in SEC play now, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall out close to 35th. If the season ended now they'd be an 8 or 9 seed, but they still have several tough games ahead. Unless they get to 10-6 in SEC play, they're going to enter the SEC tournament with work left to do.

Dee Bost played tremendously well in this game, on both sides of the floor. He scored 21 points, led his team in assists (4) and also shut down Georgia's go-to scorer (Gerald Robinson, who finished only 4-for-15 from the field). But Georgia got a boost from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who hit 6-for-12 behind the arc. I'm fairly sure that there is no freshman in the nation as good as Caldwell-Pope that has gotten less national attention. It's not his fault that his teammates aren't good enough to warrant the national spotlight.

But the fact is that Georgia has struggled this season. Even after this win they're still only 3-7 in SEC play. Their next game will be Wednesday night at South Carolina. Mississippi State has a tricky game coming up on Tuesday night at LSU.

Texas 75, Kansas State 64
Kansas State actually led by as many as 15 points in this game, but it had the makings of a game that was due to tighten up. Watching the game it seemed fairly even, but Texas had an eFG% at halftime under 30% while Kansas State had hit half of their threes. By the end of the game those shooting stats had evened up. Kansas State finished with a 48.3 eFG%, while Texas was at 48.8%. But overall, the Kansas State execution down the stretch was just awful. Their offense got sloppy, they did a bad job of getting back on defense, and they couldn't stop the Texas guards from getting into the lane. Myck Kabongo and J'Covan Brown both got into the lane at will.

Kansas State got over their road woes a little bit three weeks ago by winning at Oklahoma State, but they're still a very different at home as opposed to the road. At home they've taken down Missouri and Texas. On the road they are 2-4 in conference play, with those two wins coming against two of the three worst teams in the conference. They still have to play at Missouri and Baylor, which is a problem considering that they're only 6-6 in conference play. If they fall below 9-9 then their at-large hopes will be in trouble. And their next game will be home... against Kansas. A win will immediately turn this season around, but a loss will send them ever closer to the bubble.

Texas moves back to 6-6 in conference play with this win, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will move back into the Top 50. Like Kansas State, they can't afford to fall below 9-9 in Big 12 play or their at-large hopes will be in trouble. They have a key stretch coming up next as they take a road trip to Oklahoma. They need to at least split those two games to stay on pace. They'll be favored in both, but sweeping will be difficult.

New Mexico 48, Wyoming 38
This game was played at a glacial pace, even for Wyoming, the slowest team in the Mountain West. They held the game to 59 possessions, which is tied for the third slowest game Wyoming has played all season long. But even at that pace, the offenses were brutal. The teams combined to put up a 35.8 eFG%. Wyoming's Francisco Cruz somehow hit 4 of his 5 three-point attempts, but other than that Wyoming was totally bogged down by New Mexico's defense, which is leading the Mountain West with only 0.87 PPP allowed in conference play.

New Mexico is loved by the computers (12th in Pomeroy, 16th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR), but have been undone by a terribly weak schedule. A win over St. Louis was their only really quality non-conference win, and they haven't beaten UNLV or San Diego State yet in conference play. Wins over Wyoming just aren't going to impress the Selection Committee. They are only 2-2 against the RPI Top 50, and their RPI is only 34th. Their key stretch is coming up this week. They'll play at San Diego State on Wednesday, and then at home against UNLV on Saturday. They'll probably win at least one of those games, but if they don't then they could fall onto the Tournament bubble, without any more chance for quality wins (unless you count a road game at Colorado State) until the Mountain West tournament.

Wyoming did beat UNLV last week, but it's their only quality win of the season. And it's why despite being rated near 50th by Sagarin and Pomeroy, they aren't really considered a bubble team. They're only 5-6 against the RPI Top 200, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is into the mid-60s. At 4-4 in conference play, they'll need to go 4-2 down the stretch or better to have a plausible shot at an at-large bid heading into the Mountain West tournament. They'll play Air Force on Wednesday, and then will be at Colorado State next Saturday.

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