Friday, March 15, 2013

Maryland Stuns Duke; Does Duke Lose A 1 Seed?

Maryland 83, #2 Duke 74
So I guess Duke can still lose with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, huh? Ironically, this result is again to lead the media to the wrong conclusions about Ryan Kelly. The media perception is that Kelly is an offense-only player, and that his return not only produces a lot of points but opens up shots for his teammates. In reality, as I've described over and over again here, Duke's offense was #1 in the ACC even without Kelly. His impact is primarily on the defensive end. And so while he scored only 8 points here, Duke still finished with a reasonable 1.06 PPP. The bigger problem was that Kelly (and his teammates) had an atrocious day defensively, and allowed Maryland to torch them for 1.19 PPP. For perspective, Duke had only allowed six teams to break 1.05 PPP all season, and five of those six teams did so without Ryan Kelly in the lineup. That's not to say Kelly isn't a really good offensive player, it's just that Duke needs his defense much more than they need his offense.

This game has significant implications for both teams. Duke looked like a pretty safe 1 seed, but it has been a very long time since a team lost their opening conference tournament game and still earned a 1 seed (so long that I can't remember when it's actually happened). And recall that, unless you ignore all the time Ryan Kelly missed (which the Selection Committee won't do), Duke's resume doesn't really scream 1 seed anyway. They didn't win the ACC regular season crown either, after all. So I really think Duke is going to end up with a 2 seed.

Maryland is not only two games from the ACC auto bid, but they've reinserted themselves into the bubble conversation. They went 8-10 in ACC play, and are now 4-9 against the RPI Top 100. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will move to around 50th, though their RPI is still 65th. So if the season ended now they'd still be an NIT team, but they'll have a case if they can win one more game and if the bubble continues to weaken.

#19 Syracuse 58, #5 Georgetown 55, OT
Georgetown struggled to hit shots all day, and kept having to fight back from behind. The Hoyas finished a putrid 4-for-18 behind the arc, which is always such a key against the Syracuse zone. Syracuse led by as many 10 points in the first half and 12 points early in the second half. Georgetown fought back, and Otto Porter managed to tie the game in the final seconds by drawing a foul and hitting a pair of free throws. Michael Carter-Williams had a few seconds to come back down the court, but rushed an ugly shot that missed badly. In overtime, the Hoyas offense continued to really struggle. They shot only 1-for-6 from the field with a pair of turnovers.

With Michael Carter-Williams and CJ Fair struggling, Syracuse got much of their offensive spark off the bench. Baye Keita had an efficient 13 points on 3-for-4 shooting (and 7-for-7 at the line) and Trevor Cooney gave Syracuse a hot hand (10 points on 4-for-6 shooting). With the Georgetown starters struggling as well, they don't really have that kind of bench spark that they can turn to. Otto Porter and Markel Starks finished a combined 9-for-25 from the field, but had to keep shooting because they remained Georgetown's best options.

This game obviously has major implications for both teams. First, it obviously ends Georgetown's chances of a 1 seed. They should either end up with a 2 or 3 seed, depending on what happens in other conferences. With this run in the Big East tournament, Syracuse has turned around their declining NCAA Tournament seed. They were at risk of a 6 or even a 7 seed heading into the Big East tournament, but now are probably looking at a 4 seed. A 3 seed is possible if they win the Big East title game.

Alabama 58, Tennessee 48
This was a classic bubble battle, and close to a must-win for both teams. And while Alabama may stink offensively (0.97 PPP in SEC play), they do still play pretty good defense. And even when Tennessee did get open shots here, they were just ice cold. Tennessee hit 5-for-23 behind the arc and finished with a 36.6 eFG%. In total, Tennessee had 0.86 PPP. To put that futility in perspective, Tennessee had broken 1 PPP in their last 11 games, and had not scored fewer than 0.86 PPP since their 62-56 loss to Ole Miss on January 24th. That 36.6 eFG% was their worst since that 37-36 debacle against Georgetown, where they actually were only slightly worse (35.9 eFG%). Alabama's offense was pretty poor in the half court in their own right, and they only forced 4 steals, but they were able to get into a lot of transition offense off of long Tennessee bricks, and that was why they were able to end up ten points clear.

This is a devastating loss for Tennessee. They finish 20-12 overall and 11-7 in SEC play, with a 12-12 record against the RPI Top 200. They have wins over Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Wichita State and Alabama along with bad losses to Arkansas and Georgia (twice). Their RPI is 59th, and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will likely be just outside the Top 50 as well. If they do sneak into the NCAA Tournament, it will only be because the bubble got weaker from where it is now. So they will need to root against every other bubble team and every potential auto-bid thief.

With this win, Alabama firmly puts themselves into the bubble conversation. They are 21-11 overall and went 12-6 in SEC play, though they did that with an extraordinarily soft schedule. Their list of quality wins is only Kentucky, Villanova and Tennessee (twice). At the same time, they have bad losses to Mercer, Tulane, Auburn, LSU and Dayton. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will likely be near 55th tomorrow, and their RPI is currently 60th. So while they are on the bubble, at this point they're almost certainly an NIT team. To make the Tournament they'll need to win at least one more game, and that means that their season will come down to tomorrow's SEC semifinal game against Florida.


Anonymous said...

Really, it's been SO LONG since a team lost their first game and still got a 1 seed? It happened a mere 2 years ago, and it involved a player you may remember, named Kemba Walker.

That was Pittsburgh's first game in the 2011 Big East tournament, and they still went on to get a 1 seed.

Anonymous said...

Also, Syracuse lost their first game in 2010 and got a 1 seed, and Pittsburgh AND UConn both lost their first games in 2009 and got 1 seeds. In other words, a team losing their first conference tournament game and getting a 1 seed has happened 4 times in the last 4 seasons.

Your comment about it being so rare is one of the dumbest things you've ever written.

Jeff said...

I've been talking about this a bit on twitter. The UConn and Pitt '09 cases are the only examples of a team getting the 1 seed when they didn't win their regular season title, and they were part of "the greatest conference ever" that earned 3 of the 1 seeds.

Duke was in the 4th best conference and didn't win either title and flamed out in the first round of their conference tournament. There's never been a case of a team like that getting a 1 seed.