Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Ohio State Ruins Senior Night At Indiana

#14 Ohio State 60, #2 Indiana 60
Indiana had a chance to clinch the outright Big Ten regular season title on Senior Night at Assembly Hall, but they just were not at their best here. Cody Zeller was strong (17 points on 5-for-9 shooting), but his teammates struggled. Victor Oladipo spent most of the game in foul trouble and fouled out with only 7 points in 25 minutes. Yogi Ferrell had a quiet 7 points and 2 assists. Will Sheehy shot only 1-for-6 from the field. And on the other side of the court, Aaron Craft had perhaps his best game of the season. He was his typical lock down defender, but also had several strong offensive attacks and finished with 15 points (on 7-for-10 shooting) with 4 assists and 4 steals.

What stands out for Ohio State the past couple of weeks is their defense. Since the debacle against Wisconsin, they have held their last four opponents to under 1 PPP. They have the third best defensive efficiency in Big Ten play (behind Wisconsin and Indiana), and have now won seven straight games when holding opponents under 1 PPP.

Indiana will have to win on Sunday at Michigan to earn the outright Big Ten title. The outright Big Ten title would lock up a 1 seed unless they totally fall on their face in the Big Ten tournament. With a loss to Michigan, though, Indiana might need to reach the Big Ten title game to avoid slipping to a 2 seed. And there will be no easy games for them in the Big Ten tournament.

Should Indiana fall to Michigan, Ohio State can grab a share of the Big Ten title by beating Illinois on Sunday. With a share of the title, they will likely be looking at a 3 or 4 seed on Selection Sunday. And if they somehow win the Big Ten tournament title, then a 2 seed is very realistic. No matter what happens, and as wide open as the 1 seeds are, I still don't think Ohio State has any possible path to a 1 seed.

Iowa 63, Illinois 55
This was an absolute must-win game for Iowa, and it came in fairly ugly fashion. Though to be fair, this is kind of what Iowa is this season. Last season's team was a flashy offense with a terrible defense. This year's team shoots poorly (dead last in the Big Ten in 3P%, third from last in eFG%), but has an awfully tough defense (fourth in the Big Ten in PPP allowed in conference play). And here, they absolutely shut down the Illinois offense. Iowa had 12 blocks, holding Illinois to a 26.5 2P%.

Offensively, Iowa was aggressive but struggled all night to hit shots. Roy Devyn Marble was the quickest player on the court (21 points with 10-for-10 shooting at the line), but for the most part it seemed like Iowa was rushing things on offense and taking bad shots. But the 0.88 PPP they scored here was enough for the win that they had to have.

The RPI hates Iowa this year, so any and all of their RPI stats have to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, they are only 5-8 against the RPI Top 100 with 3 RPI 100+ losses, which sounds very NIT-ish. But when you look at the actual games, their wins (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa State) more than balance out their bad losses (Nebraska, Virginia Tech and Purdue). With an 8-9 Big Ten record, Iowa has to beat Nebraska on Saturday. After that, they'll have to win at least one Big Ten tournament game to have a decent shot for an at-large bid. To really have a strong case on Selection Sunday, they'll need a second Big Ten tournament win. It's really hard at this point, though, to project what those match-ups will be.

This loss drops Illinois to 8-9 in Big Ten play also, but the rest of their resume is stronger than Iowa's. They have wins over Gonzaga, Indiana, Ohio State, Minnesota and Butler, along with bad losses to Northwestern and Purdue. Their RPI is still 36th, which is close to where their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will be tomorrow. The thing is, unless they win at Ohio State on Sunday, they will finish the season 8-10. Even in a conference as strong as this year's Big Ten, that's a concern. So Illinois will need one win in the Big Ten tournament to solidify their at-large position.

Ole Miss 87, Alabama 83
This was probably the closest thing to a true "elimination game" that we've seen so far this season. When this game tipped off, both of these teams were just narrowly outside the Field of 68. As it turned out, neither of these teams could miss a shot. Alabama hit 60% of their three-pointers, while Ole Miss finished with a 62.2 eFG%. I have talked recently about putting a leash on Marshall Henderson, and he played under control here, attempting only seven three-pointers (only taking seven is a huge accomplishment for him, trust me). Henderson led all players with 24 points, in only 25 minutes.

Ole Miss came into this game having lost six of their last ten games. This win gets them back to 11-6 in SEC play, though they still only have a single RPI Top 50 win (Missouri) and still have an RPI that is 56th and a Sagarin ELO_SCORE that is very close to 50th. So this win doesn't put them back in the Field of 68, but it keeps them within striking distance and helps stop the bleeding. On Saturday they'll play on the road at LSU, which is a game that they need. A win there and a win in the SEC tournament will put them on the bubble, and a second SEC tournament win will probably get them into the Tournament. A loss to LSU, though, will put them in a whole lot of trouble.

Alabama is still 11-6 in SEC play after this loss, and will likely finish 12-6 (they will play at home against Georgia on Saturday), but it will be an incredibly soft record. Alabama has zero RPI Top 50 wins and four RPI 100+ losses. They're not even on the bubble right now. They will need to beat Georgia, and then they'll need to beat a quality team in the SEC tournament. I just can't see them getting in without an RPI Top 50 win.

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