Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bubble Cheers As Memphis Escapes Southern Miss

#20 Memphis 91, Southern  Miss 79, 2OT
Coming into this game, Memphis was an NCAA Tournament lock while Southern Miss was likely out. With the Conference USA auto bid on the line, every bubble team was watching this game and rooting for a Southern  Miss team that came awfully close to the upset. Memphis probably should have won at the end of regulation, when Joe Jackson went to the line for a 1-and-1 with Memphis up by 2 points and with approximately five seconds left. He missed the front end, though, and the Memphis transition defense was terrible, allowing Neil Watson to streak the length of the floor to tie the game. In the first overtime, it was Southern Miss that had the last chance to win the game. After Joe Jackson tied the game up late, the Golden Eagles had a final possession that they completely screwed up (I don't even think they got the shot off in time). In the second overtime, Memphis finally pulled away.

Both of these teams, as expected, struggled to keep the other out of the lane. In the first half it seemed like Memphis was settling for too many jumpers, but in the second half they attacked with plenty of success. Joe Jackson led the way for Memphis with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Chris Crawford also poured in 23 points, though much of his offense came on outside jump shots.

It's hard to see Southern Miss making the NCAA Tournament without a single RPI Top 60 win. Their RPI is 32nd, but their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is closer to 60th, and that's about where they should be.

Memphis, on the other hand, is likely looking at a 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their resume probably deserves that, but they're going to be a very soft 5 or 6 seed. Their 6-1 record in games decided by six points or less or in overtime means they're not as good as their record. Coming into today they were 38th in Pomeroy and 34th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR, which means that if they get a 6 seed they could potentially be an underdog in Vegas in their 6/11 match-up if they get an unlucky draw.

#9 Miami 81, NC State 71
Miami led by as many as 19 points in the first half of this game, and the final score does not indicate how one-sided this match-up was. A 16-10 run by NC State to finish the game made the final score more respectable. Shane Larkin played very well (23 points, 4 assists and 3 steals), but Durand Scott was simply dominant. Scott scored 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including 5-for-8 behind the arc. He basically ate the NC State defense for lunch. On the other side of the court, Scott Wood had another big day behind the arc (6-for-10 on threes), but NC State wasn't getting the ball in the paint into CJ Leslie or Richard Howell. To be fair, Miami's front line had something to do with that.

Miami moves to the ACC title game, where they will have a chance with a win to contend for a 1 seed. They'll need some help (for one thing, either Kansas or Louisville has to lose), but they'll at least have a real chance. Certainly an ACC tourney title would assure them nothing worse than a 2 seed.

NC State finishes up finishes only 7-9 against the RPI Top 100, but they beat Duke, UConn, Virginia, North Carolina and Stanford, along with bad losses to Wake Forest and Florida State. Their RPI is 33rd, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should still be inside the Top 30 tomorrow. They're probably looking at a 7-9 seed tomorrow.

#16 St. Louis 67, Butler 56
Butler played St. Louis back in January, so you'd think that they knew what was coming, but they seemed very surprised by the physicality of the Billikens. To be fair, St. Louis is playing significantly better down the stretch than they were back in January. Back then they were sitting in the 50s in the computers, but they are now in the Top 20 of both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. Butler has now been hold to 0.80 PPP (their season low) three times this season. One of those games was the romp at the hands of VCU a couple weeks ago. The other two were their two games against St. Louis.

St. Louis will take on VCU for the A-10 title tomorrow, and with it could actually have an argument for a 3 seed if you want to heavily weight toward their play over the final few weeks. More likely they'd get a 4 or 5 seed if they win. Even with a loss, the Billikens probably will not drop below a 6 seed.

Butler finishes 26-8 overall and 10-8 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that is 23rd, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is near 40th. They're likely looking at a seed in the 7-9 range tomorrow.

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