Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Villanova Takes Down Georgetown, Moves Closer To A Bid

Villanova 67, #5 Georgetown 57
I wouldn't blame Georgetown for being a bit displeased with the refs here. Villanova took 42 free throw attempts, compared to just 8 for Georgetown. But I don't think the reffing was why they lost. The bigger problem was ball handling, which has been a problem for Georgetown all season long. They committed 20 turnovers here, with only 10 assists. This was the fourth time in Big East play that they committed turnovers on more than 25% of their possessions, and they have now lost three of those four games.

It's valuable to remember that this is no shocking upset. Villanova was actually favored by a point in Vegas. And while Villanova is only 7-10 against the RPI Top 100 (with two RPI 100+ losses), they have a better set of wins than any other bubble team: Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette and UConn. Their RPI is 55th, but their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will move up to around 40th tomorrow, and it's pretty certain that Villanova would be an at-large team if the season ended now. They are far from a lock, though. Villanova will have a single-bye into the Big East tournament second round, where they will open up against one of the lower tier Big East teams. I think Villanova needs to win that game or they'll probably tip right back into the NIT.

Georgetown was beginning to get quite a bit of 1 seed hype, but they were inevitably going to have a reality check loss. The Hoyas had won 11 straight Big East games, but they've also been a bit lucky in close games. Neither Sagarin or Pomeroy rated them better than the 15th best team in the nation even before this loss. That's why the point spread in Vegas was where it was. Despite all the talk about "eye tests", there is no such thing, and that's good news for Georgetown. They can still clinch at least a share of the Big East title against Syracuse on Saturday, and are still 7-3 against the RPI Top 50. If the season ended now they'd be either a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

UNLV 68, Boise State 64
This was a heartbreaking loss for Boise State last night. Desperately needing a big win to pull themselves into the Field of 68, they looked to have one in hand at UNLV. They led for almost the entire night, and had a double-digit lead in the second half. Anthony Marshall was a beast down the stretch, though - his eight points in the final five minutes matched the entire Boise State team. And after grabbing the lead late, the dagger for UNLV came on a Katin Reinhardt three-pointer with around 15 seconds left. Anthony Marshall finished his big day with 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting, with 7 assists and 0 turnovers.

UNLV is playing their best basketball of the season right now and it's not even close. They have won six consecutive games, including wins over Colorado State, San Diego State and Boise State. In fact, they are undefeated at home in conference play, which seems particularly relevant when you consider that they will have homecourt advantage for the Mountain West tournament.

UNLV is now 11-6 against the RPI Top 100 and 10-5 in Mountain West play, with a Sagarin ELO_SCORE that is up to 31st. They can stop worrying about earning an NCAA Tournament at-large bid now, and just need to concern themselves with that Mountain West tournament title and their eventual NCAA Tournament seed. UNLV could move as high as a 4 seed if they take the Mountain West title.

Boise State drops to 8-7 in Mountain West play and 7-7 against the RPI Top 100, with wins over Colorado State, Creighton and UNLV, along with bad losses to Utah, Nevada and Air Force. Their RPI is 44th, but RPIs are inflated up and down the Mountain West. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is 53rd, which is closer to where I think their resume is right now. They will have a huge opportunity at home against San Diego State on Saturday. A win there and a win in the Mountain West tournament will probably earn them an at-large bid. Anything less than that and more than likely they'll be NIT-bound.

Iowa State 87, #13 Oklahoma State 76
Iowa State was domated this game early on. Oklahoma State's offense has been awfully spotty at times this year - they lack shooters and can really struggle to score against teams that pack the paint against them. Oklahoma State fired off 23 three-pointers here, hitting only 4 of them. Marcus Smart has been part of that problem - he scored 24 points here, but shot 8-for-22 from the field, including 1-for-7 behind the arc. Most college basketball analysts ignore Smart's terrible shooting because he's an athletic specimen who has a ton of NBA potential, but it's a real problem that his eFG% is under 46% for the season.

Behind 12 early points from Georges Niang, Iowa State jumped open to a 30-15 lead. Oklahoma State chipped away the lead and got it down to two points with 4:30 remaining, and that's when Will Clyburn took over. Clyburn finished with 20 points (on 7-for-10 shooting), including a huge three-pointer to push the Cyclones lead back up to five, and then a driving layup late in the shot clock to push Iowa State's lead back up to ten points only two minutes later.

This is a massive victory for Iowa State's at-large hopes. It pushes them to 10-7 in Big 12 play, with wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor (twice), along with bad losses to Texas and Texas Tech. This win should also push their Sagarin ELO_SCORE into the Top 40. I think it's pretty certain that Iowa State would be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now. To stay in, though, they need to win at West Virginia on Saturday, and then need a win in their Big 12 tournament quarterfinal game (likely against Oklahoma). If they beat West Virginia and then fall to Oklahoma then they could still get that at-large bid, but they're going to have to sweat out the rest of Championship Week and Selection Sunday.

Meanwhile, this loss ends Oklahoma State's hopes for a share of the Big 12 regular season title. They fall to 12-5 in conference play, though they can wrap up the 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament by beating Kansas State on Saturday. The 3 seed would give them a Big 12 quarterfinal match-up with Baylor and, most likely, a semifinal match-up with Kansas State. If the season ended now, Oklahoma State would be either a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A 2 seed might be out of reach, but they could push as high as a 3 seed with a strong Big 12 tournament performance.

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