Friday, March 15, 2013

Vanderbilt Wipes The Floor With Kentucky

Vanderbilt 64, Kentucky 48
Despite this being a pseudo-home game for Vanderbilt, this crowd was almost entirely pro-Kentucky. But it didn't matter, because the Wildcats came out and laid an egg. This game was never particularly competitive, and by early on in the second half it was pretty obviously over. More than anywhere, the lack of effort showed up on the defensive end, where Kentucky's future NBA players were torched over and over again by the young Vanderbilt backcourt. Kedren Johnson, Dai-Jon Parker, Kevin Bright and Kyle Fuller all got into the lane at will (all scored in double-digits, on a combined 16-for-29 shooting, 7 assists and only 3 turnovers). Kentucky didn't get anything from their starters. The only spark at all emotionally was Kyle Wiltjer, who also shot 4-for-5 with 2 offensive rebounds off the bench.

The big story after this game is Kentucky and their at-large chances. They end up 21-11 and 12-6 in SEC play, with a 7-9 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss, along with bad losses to Texas A&M, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will likely remain in the low-40s, but their RPI dropped out of the Top 50 with this loss. Kentucky could still earn an at-large bid, but at this point I think their odds are worse than 50/50. They'll need the bubble to get significantly weaker over the next two days.

Vanderbilt will move on to the SEC semis. They're not a particularly good team, but outside of Florida there isn't anybody particularly scary in the SEC. So if Alabama can take out Florida tomorrow then Vanderbilt will have a realistic chance of stealing a Tournament bid away from a bubble team.... like Kentucky, perhaps.

#7 Kansas 88, Iowa State 73
Kansas spent the day in the paint while Iowa State spent the day taking long jump shots. It's not a surprise that Kansas ending up winning relatively easily. Kansas ended up shooting 65% on two-pointers, while Iowa State's eFG% was only 47.7%. The star of the game, without question, was Perry Ellis. Off the bench, Ellis shot 10-for-12 from the field and led all players with 23 points. Elijah Johnson was another big contributor, scoring 14 points with 7 assists.

Things have really opened up for Kansas to earn a 1 seed. Duke and Georgetown both went down today. Kansas obviously has to win the Big 12 tournament, but if they do that then I think they'll have a good case to finish ahead of Duke, Georgetown, Florida and Miami. It will help them if Indiana wins the Big Ten tournament, since they're going to get a 1 seed no matter what.

Iowa State would have locked up an at-large bid with a win here, but I do still think they're probably okay. They finish up 22-11 and 11-7 in Big 12 play, with an 8-9 record against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor (twice), along with bad losses to Texas and Texas Tech. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will be near 30th and their RPI is currently 45th. To me, that's a Tournament resume. They will need to make sure that a few auto bids don't get stolen in the next two days, though.

#8 Michigan State 59, Iowa 56
With a win here, Iowa would have firmly moved into the Field of 68. And for most of this game it really did seem like they were going to win. They led by as many as 13 points in the second half, but melted down during a 22-2 run that put Michigan State up by 8 points with under 2 minutes to go. But because this game needed one more twist, Michigan State committed a pair of dumb turnovers and inexplicably gave Iowa three separate three-point attempts to tie the game in the final minute... all missed, though.

I want to get straight to the Iowa at-large hopes, since that's the hot topic right now. Iowa finishes the season 21-12 and 9-9 in Big Ten play, with a 5-9 record against the RPI Top 100 and an RPI that is 78th. That all sounds like an NIT resume, but Iowa's RPI is screwed up this season and doesn't match their resume, and historically the Selection Committee has looked past the RPI when a team's is so out of whack. If we break down their actual quality wins and bad losses, what we get are wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa State, along with losses to Virginia Tech, Nebraska and Purdue. That's not bad, and their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will remain in the mid-30s.

In my opinion, that's a really bubble-ish resume. I'd put Iowa's odds of an at-large bid slightly below 50/50, but they might still end up as the last team in my bracket projection tonight. There has been a lot of carnage of bubble teams this week, and in the end we still need 68 teams. The biggest concern for Iowa is that it's possible that several NCAA Tournament bids will get stolen over the next few days by teams like Southern Miss or UMass or even a team like Utah. If that happens, then they'll be out.

As for Michigan State, they will go and play Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals tomorrow. At this point they're looking at a 2 or 3 seed, and it's not inconceivable that they could get back into the 1 seed discussion if they win the Big Ten tournament.

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