Friday, March 15, 2013

Virginia: A Bracketologist's Nightmare

NC State 75, Virginia 56
Virginia's offense tends to look ugly against almost everybody, though it was still surprising that they were this inefficient against a poor NC State defense (the 0.82 PPP for Virginia tied for the second fewest that any team has had against NC State this season, behind only the 0.79 PPP that Maryland put up on January 16th. Joe Harris had another poor game (4-for-13 from the field), and as a team they hit only 25% of their outside shots. Meanwhile, Scott Wood (7-for-12 behind the arc) shot NC State into an early lead that they never came too close to relinquishing.

This loss sets up Virginia as an impossible bubble team to figure out. And, really, there is no correct answer on Virginia. It's an "eye of the beholder" problem, and all we can do is guess what the particular members of the Selection Committee will believe. The Cavaliers went 21-11 overall and 11-7 in ACC play, with wins over Wisconsin, Tennessee, Duke, North Carolina, NC State and Maryland (twice), along with bad losses to Delaware, George Mason, Old Dominion, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida State. They were 8-4 against the RPI Top 100, but with 7 RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 70th, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE should remain in the Top 40. So on that data alone, it may seem like Virginia is headed to an NIT bid, but then we should consider that the Selection Committee prefers big wins and bad losses to teams with neither. And that certainly is what Virginia has. So I will not be surprised if they get in or get left out of the NCAA Tournament. It will come entirely down to the subjective viewpoint of the Selection Committee.

As for NC State, they are looking at a 6 or 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament right now. They will get a chance for a big win tomorrow against a struggling Miami squad in the ACC tournament semifinals.

#22 Wisconsin 68, #7 Michigan 59
This was a tale of two halves for Wisconsin. Their offensive movement was not terrible in the first half, but they couldn't hit a jumper to save their lives. In the second half, they got white hot. They finished with 0.99 PPP, but it took a 0.50 PPP first half and a 1.46 PPP second half. Ben Brust's 4-for-7 three-point shooting stood out, but what really made the difference was Wisconsin's paint success. Ryan Evans torched Glenn Robinson III in the paint (12 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), to the point that John Beilein had to bench Robinson late in the game. Trey Burke was outstanding for Michigan (19 points and 7 assists), but it took a lot of effort and a lot of one-on-one action. When Michigan gets down, they tend to stand around and watch Burke do everything himself, which is awfully difficult against this Wisconsin defense.

Michigan has really slid down the stretch, losing 6 of their final 11 games. It's come in the Big Ten, so let's cut them some slack - they're still a contender to make a run to the Final Four with the right draw - but their NCAA Tournament seed has definitely faded. Two months ago they were a top contender for a 1 seed. Now, they can forget about a 1 or 2 seed. They will likely earn a 3 or 4 seed.

Wisconsin moves to 7-7 against the RPI Top 50 (and 12-9 against the RPI Top 100) with this win. Their Sagarin ELO_SCORE is going to move a little inside the Top 20 after this win. At this point, they're probably looking at a 5 seed, though they might get a 4. If they can knock off Indiana tomorrow then they can move into the 3/4 seed range. Although even if they win the entire Big Ten tournament, I don't think they're likely to move higher than a 3 seed. They just have too many losses, even if it's come against a thoroughly brutal schedule.

Butler 69, La Salle 58
Butler came into this game with a terrific game plan, which is what you expect with Brad Stevens. La Salle has the single best perimeter defense in the Atlantic Ten (first in both 3PA/FGA ratio and 3P%) but the single worst interior defense (dead last in 2P%). So Butler pounded the ball into the paint all day. Khyle Marshall scored 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting, Roosevelt Jones had 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting and Kameron Woods had 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting. In all, Butler hit 20% of their threes and 60% of their twos. In other words, La Salle was who we thought they were.

This is a tough loss for a La Salle team that absolutely needed this one. A win here would have firmly put them in the Field of 68 for at least the time being, but with this loss they are in trouble. They finish 21-9 over and 11-5 in the Atlantic Ten, but only 6-8 against the RPI Top 100. They have wins over Villanova, VCU and Butler, along with bad losses to Charlotte, Central Connecticut State, Bucknell and Xavier. Their RPI is 45th, though their Sagarin ELO_SCORE will end up just outside the Top 50. So their won-loss records are all gaudy, but the underlying resume is pretty soft. They certainly don't have the big wins that most other bubble teams have. So they will spend the next 48 hours sweating out every other game involving a bubble team, and then the Selection Show.

Butler moves to an impressive 10-7 against the RPI Top 100 with this win, and pushes their RPI back inside the Top 20. Right now they're probably looking at a 6-8 seed. They'll face St. Louis tomorrow in the A-10 semifinals.

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