Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Virginia Is Closer To The Bubble Than You Think

Clemson 60, #22 Virginia 48
Clemson has an extremely aggressive defense, often to their detriment. They are leading the ACC with 8.5 steals per game in ACC play, but if they're not getting steals they tend to give up easy baskets. And to some extent that happened here - Virginia hit 67.9% of their two-pointers. The problem was that their weak backcourt gave up 14 steals, and Mike Scott was bothered by the constant pressure and finished with only 13 points. Virginia's lack of offensive firepower did them in again.

This loss brings up an issue I've talked about a few times, which is that Virginia's really soft non-conference schedule means that they're stuck with a much softer resume than most people realize. Their only win against the RPI Top 40 came against Michigan back in November, and they have bad losses to TCU and Clemson. Their RPI is 41st and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 31st. At 6-5 in conference play, I think they need to get to 9-7 and then need a win in the ACC tournament to completely lock up an at-large bid. Another bad loss or two and the Virginia bubble talk will really start to heat up.Their next game will be on Saturday against Maryland.

Clemson is actually up to a very respectable 67th in the Pomeroy ratings, but it hasn't translated into a lot of wins. They're a brutal 2-8 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime, and they're only 5-6 in ACC play with a Sagarin ELO_CHESS that is 150th. So despite their relatively strong play, their bad luck means that they have no real chance of an at-large bid. They are now 7th in the ACC standings, and will try to improve on that as we head toward the ACC tournament. Their next game will be on Saturday at North Carolina.

TCU 102, #11 UNLV 97, OT
This game was on the dreaded MTN, which I'm fairly sure that no Americans actually get. But with nobody watching, this game had a truly remarkable result. Not only did TCU pull a huge upset here, but they somehow managed to do it while shooting worse on threes than UNLV. They won the turnover battle by five, and the offensive rebounding battle by 11. They had 16 extra possessions! It was the worst that UNLV has been out-rebounded in a game this season... and it came against a TCU team that is 252nd in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. I don't even know how to make sense of this other than that it's an incredible statistical oddity.

The good news for UNLV is that there's no real risk of playing themselves onto the bubble. The bad news is that not only did they do some harm to their NCAA Tournament seed, but they also dealt a serious blow to their Mountain West regular season title hopes. They're now a game behind New Mexico and San Diego State, and will have to play New Mexico on the road on Saturday. Without a win in that game, their title hopes will really start to dim.

TCU moves to 5-4 in the Mountain West, which for the team being puts them in fourth place, ahead of both Wyoming and Colorado State. Unfortunately for them, their overall resume isn't nearly as good as either of those teams has. They are 9-8 against the RPI Top 200, and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 99th. They will play at Boise State on Saturday, and then at Air Force next Wednesday.

#12 Florida 61, Alabama 52
Alabama got two of their four suspended players back for this game, but unfortunately for their fans, they were the wrong two players. Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green, the two best Alabama players, are still suspended indefinitely. Facing an Alabama team missing two key front court players, Billy Donovan attacked the paint. Patric Young got to see much more of the ball than he usually does, and he finished with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal finished 2-for-13 on threes, but it didn't matter. They were able to get enough offense in the paint, and Alabama's offense wasn't even that good before they lost Mitchell and Green.

Alabama is still rated the 28th best team in the nation by Pomeroy, but they're at the point that their Tournament hopes would be at severe risk even if they were at full strength. They're down to 5-6 in SEC play without a single win over a Pomeroy Top 80 team since November. Because of the quirks of the RPI, Alabama is actually 7-8 against the RPI Top 100, which is fairly respectable. But unless they go 4-1 down the stretch, they're going to enter the SEC tournament with work left to do. The good news is that their finishing schedule is very soft. Their toughest game remaining will probably be a road game at Arkansas next week. On Saturday they'll play Tennessee.

Florida moves to 8-3 in SEC play. They have no real chance of catching Kentucky in the standings, but they're close to locking up one of the top three spots in the SEC standings, which would assure avoiding Kentucky until the SEC tournament finals. Their NCAA Tournament seed will, in a large way, be settled by their performance in the last week of the regular season when they will play at Vanderbilt, and at home against Kentucky. Their next game, though, will be at Arkansas on Saturday.

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