Saturday, March 16, 2013

New Mexico Leaves Vegas With The Mountain West Title

#15 New Mexico 63, UNLV 56
This game was the Tony Snell Show. New Mexico led by 1 point with 9 minutes left. Over the next 8 minutes, Tony Snell scored all 13 points that New Mexico had, single-handedly outscoring every other player on the floor combined by a score of 13-8. The final shot, a long three to put the Lobos up by 6 with a little over a minute to go, was a back breaker. For the game, Snell scored 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting, including 5-for-7 behind the arc. Shooting was a chore for UNLV all game - they hit only 34% of their shots, including just 9-for-31 behind the arc.

With this win, New Mexico moves to 19-5 against the RPI Top 100. And even though all of their RPI stats are obviously very inflated, their resume does probably deserve a 3 or a 4 seed. And since the RPI still holds a lot of weight to the Selection Committee, they could even slide up to a 2 seed.  Their 13-2 record in games decided by 7 points or less or in overtime means that they've been awfully lucky, and New Mexico fans will end up being surprised by how little Vegas thinks of them when the Tournament lines come out, but they have the type of team that can make an Elite 8 run if the right draw is placed in front of them. Their defensive length and athleticism makes them very tough to play if you can't hit your threes. Just ask UNLV.

UNLV finishes the season 25-9 overall and 14-7 against the RPI Top 100. Their RPI is 24th, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is in the 35-40 range. I think that a 6 seed is probably out of the question with this loss, but they should end up a 7 or 8 seed.

#25 VCU 71, UMass 62
You would have thought that the only way UMass could win this game was to avoid the huge numbers of turnovers that #havoc tends to cause. But the Minutemen committed 23 turnovers in 74 possessions, which is actually a higher turnover rate (31.1%) than VCU averaged this season. But VCU struggled offensively, and both teams ended up stuck in a low-scoring battle. VCU ended up winning with only 0.96 PPP, their second worst against any Atlantic Ten team this season (they had 0.95 PPP in their 69-61 loss to La Salle). A lot of credit has to go to the UMass defense, of course, but VCU also was struggling to hit open jumpers. Sometimes you just don't shoot the ball well.

VCU managed to score enough to secure the win, though - potentially saving a bubble team from falling to the NIT. UMass was an unlikely at-large team, even with a win here, but a win here would have put them only one win from stealing the Atlantic Ten's auto bid. Instead, they come up short with a 21-11 overall record and a 9-9 record against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Temple and La Salle, along with bad losses to George Washington, Charlotte and St. Bonaventure. Their RPI is 55th, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is close to 70th. And considering the lack of quality wins, I just don't see how UMass can avoid the NIT now. They had to win this game.

VCU will get St. Louis in a second chance to overcome their kryptonite. VCU needs turnovers to survive, both offensively and defensively, and the Billikens generally refuse to give them. At this point, VCU is probably sitting in the 6-7 seed range, and could potentially move as high as a 5 seed if they knock off St. Louis.

#7 Kansas 70, #11 Kansas State 54
Kansas has the best interior defense in the nation, so if you're not hitting your threes then you're not going to beat them. Kansas State only hit 6-for-24 behind the arc, which doomed them. Jeff Withey locked down the paint on both sides of the floor. He scored 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting, and attempted nearly as many free throws (10) as Kansas State attempted as a team (12). Perry Ellis also kept his nice play off the bench going with 5-for-6 shooting and 12 points.

The Jayhawks are firmly in the 1 seed conversation, but it's no guarantee. If Louisville wins the Big East tournament title then they will take a 1 seed, and then Kansas will be dueling with Duke and possibly Miami for that final 1 seed. But certainly they will end up no lower than a 2 seed.

Kansas State, by making the Big 12 title game and knocking off Oklahoma State, had a very successful week, even if it stings in the short term to get beat up by their in-state rival. Their RPI is into the Top 20 and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is sitting near 15th. Their seed is a little bit hard to figure out, but they should end up somewhere between a 3 and a 5 seed.

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