Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Bubble Rejoices: Virginia, Kentucky & UMass All Lose

Florida State 53, Virginia 51
It's been a good night for bubble teams that didn't play, with a whole bunch of bubble teams going down. Let's start with Virginia, who nearly came back from an 11 points deficit from 6 minutes to go. Joe Harris pulled Virginia into the lead, and they got the ball back up by 1 point with around 55 seconds left. Unfortunately, they made the classic mistake of wasting 30 seconds and then forcing a terrible shot at the end of the possession. And then Michael Snear... again... hit the game winner for Florida State. Snaer has had some great shots, but I think it also needs to be pointed out that he's just had a lot of chances. This season, Snaer has had 7 shots in the final minute of regulation or overtime with a chance to tie or take the lead and hit 4. Those were four exciting hits, but only one more than you'd expect based on his normal shooting percentage. Let's stop pretending Snaer is a superhero.

How did Virginia struggle so badly with Florida State? They actually dominated the glass and ended up attempting 13 more shots from the field than Florida State. But they went ice cold, hitting 2-for-14 behind the arc and finishing with a 40.4 eFG%, their worst shooting performance since January 9th. Florida State threw waves of defenders at Joe Harris, and kept him under control (5-for-15 from the field). Snaer scored 14 points for Florida State, but the most impressive Seminoles player was Okaro White, who scored 17 points (on 6-for-9 shooting) and looked really good on the defensive end of the court all night.

Virginia remains impossible to predict, and their resume is even more of a mess now. Their wins (Duke, Wisconsin, North Carolina and NC State) are better than any bubble team other than Villanova, but this loss doesn't even count toward their 7 RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 71st, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should remain inside the Top 40. Honestly, their resume is at the point that it's unprecedented. We've seen some teams with great wins and terrible losses (2008-09 Boston College being a good recent example), but nothing like this. So right now, all we can say is that Virginia is a bubble team. Even if they beat Maryland on Sunday they're going to have to play really well in the ACC tournament to provide some clarity before Selection Sunday.

Florida State moves to 8-9 in ACC play, with a chance to move to .500 by beating NC State on Saturday. They'll be either the 6 or 7 seed in the ACC tournament, where they'll open on March 14th.

Butler 73, UMass 62
Butler only hit 3-for-19 behind the arc, and it still never seemed like UMass had a chance. Butler dominated the glass and came up with every loose ball. They recovered 52% of their misses, and the easy put backs pushed their 2P% up to 63.9%. Khyle Marshall hit 6-for-7 from the field (he seems to play like this once every 4 or 5 games, and makes me think he's better than he really is). Andrew Smith, meanwhile, pulled down 15 rebounds (UMass as a team only had 18). Meanwhile, Roosevelt Jones had a really great game as a distributor (8 assists, 2 turnovers).

UMass had kind of become a bubble team by default. After all, they came into this game 18-9 overall and 8-6 in Atlantic Ten play, which seems impressive. But they have only one RPI Top 50 win (La Salle) and several bad losses (Charlotte, George Washington and St. Bonaventure). And UMass isn't as good as their resume either, with a 10-4 record in games decided by five points or less. Their Pomeroy rating was 82nd even before this loss. I suppose they could still get back on the bubble, but they'll have to win at Rhode Island on Saturday, and then they'll need to win at least two games in the Atlantic Ten tournament.

This win probably puts to bed any concern of Butler missing the NCAA Tournament. It had become an issue after losing 3 of their previous 5 games, and they've certainly done a lot of damage to their NCAA Tournament seed, but they should at least be safe from the NIT now. They'll play Xavier on Saturday, A win will seal a bye to the A-10 tournament quarterfinals. I still think it will be fascinating how the match-ups in the A-10 tournament end up. I don't think Butler can beat VCU, I don't think VCU can beat St. Louis, St. Louis can lose to anybody when they're missing shots, and La Salle might somehow end up being the favorite. It's going to be so difficult to project until the final match-ups are set up. Keep an eye on Saturday's game between St. Louis and La Salle.

Georgia 72, Kentucky 62
I'll start with the good news for Kentucky: the popular idea that the Selection Committee takes injuries into account is basically a myth. I can only think of one or two examples in the past 10-20 years of wins or losses being discounted because of injured players. So Kentucky will still get full credit for their wins prior to the Nerlens Noel injury. But the bad news is that it might not matter. This loss drops Kentucky to 11-6 in SEC play, with only a single RPI Top 50 victory (Missouri). Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should still be inside the Top 40, but this loss dropped their RPI out of the Top 50.

There was a lot of talk on twitter as this game was ending that Kentucky is an NIT team for sure now, but that's just not true. For one thing, they can make this loss disappear by beating Florida on Saturday. Should they lose to Florida, though, then they'll really be in trouble. In that case, they'll probably have to make the SEC title game to stay alive for the NCAA Tournament.

This win pushes Georgia to 9-8 in SEC play, which says more about how bad the SEC is than anything else. They're only 15-15 overall, though considering potential SEC tournament draws, they might actually be favored in their first round game.

No comments: