Monday, February 20, 2012

Iowa Knocks Off Indiana

Iowa 78, #22 Indiana 66
Iowa is a feisty team, particularly at home. They are 4-3 at home in Big Ten play with wins over Michigan, Minnesota and now Indiana. Matt Gatens exploded for 30 points, but Roy Marble was the best player on the floor. Marble was the best Iowa defender, forcing 4 steals and also adding 7 assists, 7 rebounds and 10 points. Cody Zeller had a good game for Indiana (15 points and 13 rebounds), but his teammates weren't much help on the boards. Iowa seemed to win every 50-50 ball, particularly loose ball rebounds.

As far as the Big Ten standings go, this loss means that Indiana will probably have to play in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. The top four teams get a bye, and the fourth placed team (Wisconsin) is now two games clear of the Hoosiers in the loss column with a head-to-head win. This loss also drops Indiana to 8-7 in Big Ten play, highlighting the fact that the Hoosiers haven't quite clinched their NCAA Tournament berth yet. They are 8-5 against the RPI Top 100 and have those big wins over Ohio State and Kentucky, but they need to get to 10-8 in Big Ten play or they will enter the Big Ten tournament probably needing one more win to lock up a bid. They have a meaningless game on Wednesday against North Carolina Central (no, I have no clue why they scheduled that game for late February), and then will head on the road to play Minnesota on Sunday.

Iowa is up to a surprisingly strong 6-8 in Big Ten play with this win. That puts them in a tie for 7th place in the Big Ten standings. They have a tough game coming up on Thursday against Wisconsin. They did have that shocking upset at the Kohl Center and they're playing very well, though this will be a revenge game for the Badgers. On Sunday they'll head on the road to face Illinois.

Creighton 81, Long Beach State 79
That three game losing streak earlier this month made this game a lot more interesting for Creighton than it looked to be when the game was scheduled. A loss here would have dropped them all the way from 13th in the AP Poll to the Tournament bubble. They got the win, but not without a bizarre finish. Long Beach State had the ball with the game tied, basically holding for one. But Gregory Echenique forced a TJ Robinson turnover, allowing Antoine Young to hit the winning shot at the buzzer to send the students onto the court... or so it seemed. It turned out that there were actually 0.3 seconds remaining, and the students had to head off the court and the Long Beach State players had to get dragged out of the locker room for one final play, which didn't work. The Creighton fans didn't storm the court a second time.

Of course, the fact that the Creighton students stormed the court sticks out even a season where there's been an epidemic of dumb court storms. I get that it was an exciting win, but Creighton was favored, is the better team, has had more historical success, comes from a bigger conference, and there was no hardware on the line. But what this win did accomplish for the team was to firm back up their place in the NCAA Tournament. Creighton is now 6-4 against the RPI Top 100 with wins over San Diego State, Wichita State, Northwestern and Long Beach State, with one bad loss (Evansville). Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is back up to 19th. They will play Evansville on Tuesday, and then at Indiana State on Saturday. A win in both games will lock them into the NCAA Tournament even before Arch Madness tips off next week.

Long Beach State has played a tremendously difficult out-of-conference schedule, which is why their RPI is 35th even though they are in a mediocre conference and are only 19-7 overall. They are 12-0 in the Big West, and also have wins over Xavier and Pittsburgh, and zero bad losses. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 40th. But the problem is that 0-6 record against the RPI Top 50. Just one win in those six games probably would have put them in good shape for an at-large bid. But at this point, it's going to be tough for them to get in without the auto bid. At the very least, they need to win the rest of their regular season games, including a home game against UCSB on Wednesday.

#8 Michigan State 76, Purdue 62
Michigan State is not a good team to get cold from the field against, but Purdue had a horrific stretch to open up the second half. Purdue hit just 1 of their first 23 shots in the half, and didn't hit their first two-pointer of the half until there was 5:32 left. Michigan State's defense was again incredible, though Purdue also missed a bunch of open shots during that stretch. Eventually they did get things back under control, and some nice play from Anthony Johnson along with a more aggressive Robbie Hummel helped make it a game in the final minutes, but the Spartans eventually pulled away.

The reason Hummel had to be more aggressive was because of off-the-court incidents that left them short-handed. A drunken incident at a local bar got Kesley Barlow booted off the team and DJ Byrd suspended, costing the team two of their top eight minutes earners. Barlow is one of the team's better perimeter defenders, and Byrd is an excellent outside shooter.

The good news for Purdue is that there's still a little bit of breathing room between them and the Tournament bubble. They are 7-7 in Big Ten play, with wins over Temple, Minnesota, Northwestern (twice), Illinois (twice) and Miami (Fl), along with bad losses to Butler and Penn State. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 37th. With home games remaining against Nebraska and Penn State, it's hard to see even this undermanned Purdue team ending up short of 9-9 in conference play, which will put them in good position for a Tournament bid. The Nebraska game is up first, on Wednesday night.

Michigan State now sits one game clear in the Big Ten, and in contention for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they can win at least a share of the Big Ten title and then win the Big Ten tournament, that should be enough for a 1 seed. Their next game will be Wednesday night at Minnesota. The game that looms most, of course, is Ohio State's trip to the Breslin Center on March 4th.

1 comment:

Texas=Best Team in Big XII said...

Texas is going to the Final Four!