Monday, March 10, 2014

Morning News: Tournament Previews, Maryland Closes ACC Play In Style, Nebraska Upsets Wisconsin, Ohio St/Michigan St And More

Maryland Heads To The Big Ten In Style.

Tournament Previews: Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, SWAC, WAC More conference tournament previews were posted on Sunday. Come for the discussion about how Conference USA's bracket and tiebreak procedures have a huge impact on who is favored, stay for the angry rant about why the SWAC should have their automatic bid revoked this season.

Tournament Previews: Atlantic Ten, Big Sky, Big West, Southland, Sun Belt Not one, but two batches of conference tournament previews were posted Sunday! I break down the Atlantic Ten's at-large chances (and why a potential Dayton/St. Joseph's game is so important) and also talk about Stephen F Austin's potential at-large chances.

Bubble Watch Three more teams clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament, moving that total up to 28. 40 spots remain available. The bubble swells to 14 teams for 9 spots, and I talk in the post about why Nebraska is still on the bubble.

Maryland Closes ACC Play In Style This is the final regular season game for Maryland in ACC play before they leave for the Big Ten, and it couldn't have gone much better than this... though they made it fairly stressful for their fans. They led basically the whole way down the stretch, and properly executed a foul when up by three points. But after Malcolm Brogdan hit the first and missed the second, Maryland somehow knocked the rebound out of bounds, and then Virginia had a perfectly executed play from out of bounds that got an open shot for Anthony Gill that sent the game to overtime. Maryland was finally able to pull away in overtime. Even though they lost, the execution by Virginia both on their full-court play and their out-of-bounds play without any timeouts was very impressive, and is a sign of a well-coached team.

This loss might cost Virginia a 1 seed even if they win the ACC tournament. They still have just four wins over the RPI Top 50 and are 10-6 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that is 12th and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 10th.

Maryland isn't totally out of the at-large discussion... I guess. It's still quite the long shot. They finish the regular season 17-14 overall and 9-9 in ACC play, with a brutal 4-14 record against the RPI Top 100. Even though their RPI is 65th, the lack of quality wins and all of those losses means that realistically they're going to need to win the ACC tournament.

Nebraska Upsets Wisconsin... Are They In The Tourney Now? This was just Nebraska's day, with a great crowd for a must-win game, and everything going their way on the court as well. Wisconsin will be frustrated by how many points they left on the floor, shooting a brutal 11-for-21 at the line and missing bunny after bunny in the paint. Nebraska, on the other hand, hit 76% at the line and 55% behind the arc. Meanwhile, Nebraska Wisconsin'd Wisconsin, committing only 5 turnovers, and getting a huge 26 point performance from Shavon Shields (on 10-for-17 shooting).

After this game, the general media consensus was that Nebraska had locked up an at-large bid. Of course, the media always says this time of year that bubble teams have locked up bids after every big win, and Nebraska is just the latest team to get prematurely put in the bracket. Yes, they went 11-7 in Big Ten play, but non-conference play matters too, and they only had three RPI Top 50 wins. If they lose in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals (and they'll be pretty significant underdogs against Ohio State if that's who they end up playing) they'll finish the season 19-12 overall and 15-12 against the RPI Top 200, with an RPI in the mid-50s and a Sagarin PURE_ELO outside the Top 50 as well. They can get in with that resume, but it'll be dicey.

Wisconsin isn't totally out of the 1 seed debate with so much other carnage in the last few days, but they're a long shot now. They'll need to win the Big Ten tournament and get a whole lot of help (Villanova is now in the driver's seat for that last 1 seed if they can win the Big East tournament). But with a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 6th and a 16-5 record against the RPI Top 100, they still have a great chance for a 2 seed. A run to the Big Ten title game should be enough to lock up a 2.

Ohio State Beats Michigan State On Senior Night On Senior Night in Columbus, of course, the game was put on ice by a diving hustle play by Aaron Craft. And I'll probably talk about this more another time, but the thing with Craft is that he actually is a very fun player to watch if you put the distractions aside. You want to see guys who play as smart and as hard as he does. Ohio State fans need to realize that when the rest of us hate on Aaron Craft with snark it's not because we actually hate him as a person or player (I guess a few people probably do, but most don't), it's that we hate stuff like this and this, and the way Dan Dakich gets all creepy every time he calls a Craft game. It's out of touch people in the media who say "How can you hate Aaron Craft? He's perfect!" who don't realize that quotes like that are precisely what make us hate him. If you can put all that aside, which is hard to do, you can appreciate what a fun player he is.

Ohio State finishes Big Ten play 10-8 and safely in the NCAA Tournament, and also with a friendly Big Ten tournament draw. They get Purdue in the opening round, and if they get past them will play Nebraska in the quarterfinals, a game that they'll be close to a 6 point favorite for. Their Sagarin PURE_ELO is back up to 31st, and they can certainly get back into the mix for a 5 or 6 seed with a strong Big Ten tournament performance.

Michigan State finishes 12-6 and in third place in the Big Ten. They're a hard team to figure out right now because they do appear to be mostly healthy finally and it hasn't totally translated into wins yet, though at the same time it's been against a pretty tough schedule. No shame in a final-possession loss on the road to Ohio State on Senior Night. And they're coming off a solid victory over Iowa. If they can get on a roll and win the Big Ten tournament then they won't earn a 1 seed, but they'll be in the premier group of national title contenders as we head into the NCAA Tournament.

Jordair Jett Leads St. Louis Over UMass The final few minutes of this game were just fantastic, with Jordair Jett and Chaz Williams dueling. Jett was doing it more by scoring while Williams was doing it more with the pass, but both were absolutely dominating play. In the end, it was Jordair Jett hitting two late layups, including one in the final seconds to deliver a massive two point road victory for the Billikens.

Saint Louis had a back-loaded conference schedule, and when you throw in the upset loss to Duquesne they were riding a three game losing streak until winning here. But in the end, this win secured the outright Atlantic Ten title. Their Sagarin PURE_ELO after all of this is still 8th, but realistically St. Louis can't really earn a 2 seed. Their RPI is just 18th, with an 8-4 record against the RPI Top 100 (with that RPI 100+ loss to Duquesne). If the season ended now they'd likely be a 5 seed, and possibly a 6 seed. If they win the Atlantic Ten tournament they might move up to a 4.

UMass finishes 10-6 in Atlantic Ten play, but they are safely in the NCAA Tournament with an RPI of 17th. That said, both Sagarin and Pomeroy rate them only the 49th best team in the country, and they are looking like the 6 or 7 seed that you really want to get in your bracket (as opposed to a team like Kentucky, who is the 7 seed you really don't want to get in your bracket).

St. Joseph's Back To The Bubble There's a perception that St. Joseph's has already locked up their Tournament bid, and that might have been true if they'd taken care of business here, but this stinker on Senior Day puts them at very serious risk of falling into the NIT. This loss can't be blamed on Langston Galloway, who has quietly been one of the most efficient players in the nation and deserves serious consideration for 1st Team All-Atlantic  Ten. He had 27 points on 5-for-8 three-point shooting, including 8-for-8 at the line. But La Salle was able to attack the basket very efficiency, earning 31 free throw attempts while only committing 5 turnovers. Tyreek Duren single-handedly hit ten straight free throws in the final 1:30 of the game to put the game on ice.

St. Joe's finishes the regular season 11-5 in Atlantic Ten play, which is why so many think they're in the NCAA Tournament. But with an unbalanced conference schedule, you have to look past that. They have wins over VCU, UMass and Dayton (twice), but also bad losses to Temple, LSU, Richmond and now La Salle, and are 6-8 against the RPI Top 100, with an RPI that is 42nd and a Sagarin PURE_ELO that is 37th. If the season ended now, that's probably enough to earn an at-large bid, but they will likely open the Atlantic Ten tournament against Dayton, and that's going to be a tough one. They've beaten Dayton twice this season, but Dayton is playing their best basketball right now (having won 9 of 10) and that game will likely be a quasi-playoff into the NCAA Tournament. The winner is probably in while the loser is probably out.

La Salle was one of the more disappointing teams this season, starting out with hopes for an at-large bid and never coming close. They lost 8 of 9 in Atlantic Ten play at one point. But with three wins in their final four games, they're perhaps playing better basketball down the stretch. That said, they've got a tough Atlantic Ten draw, opening with an underrated St. Bonaventure team, and with St. Louis waiting for them in the quarterfinal round.


Anonymous said...

Great comments on Craft. Hopefully you tweet that to Dakich.

Anonymous said...

Pretty evident why your analysis of Nebraska is so far off, and so different than just about any other analyst. As an example you state that Nebraska has an RPI in the 50s whereas in reality it is currently ranked 35 after the Wisconsin win. In the last 15 years there has NOT been a team from a "BCS"/Power conference, where that conference was ranked in the top 3, and the team won > 60% of its conference games and had an RPI of 45 or higher that DID NOT GET AN AT LARGE BID. Not going to happen with Nebraska in the 2nd ranked Big Ten this year. Your wrong. They are in no matter what they do in the Big Ten tourney. They win 2 and they are probably a #8 seed.

Jeff said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure where you got those numbers, but they're not accurate.

First of all, Nebraska is currently 41st in RPI, not 35th. Second of all, their projected RPI if they lose their first Big Ten tournament game is in the low-50s.

It is correct that major conference teams in the Top 45 generally get in, but Nebraska will not be there if they go one-and-done, which is their most likely result.

Unknown said...

If Villanova doesn't win Big East Tournament, and Wisconsin/Michigan reach the Big Ten Tournament final, do you think the committee will have a 1/2 setup for the winner/loser of that game?

The committee has taken interesting approaches to the big 10 tournament final, and it seems to change by the season. Several years ago, I recall committee members saying they couldn't take the game into consideration because it was too late in the day, while in more recent years they've tried to work in scenarios into the seeding when possible.

It seems to me like it wouldn't be that hard to work in scenarios for a Wisconsin vs Michigan final, since their resumes and geographical locations are similar.

That being said, if Wisconsin has the choice between a 1 & 2 seed, but the 2 seed is in Milwaukee and the 1 seed is not, I'm pretty sure they'd want the 2 seed in Milwaukee every time.

Jeff said...

It's a myth that the Big Ten title game isn't taken into account. They make two brackets, and it's been that case for a long time.

Unknown said...


That's flat out not true. When my team is spited I remember.

2003/2004 Wisconsin Badgers were 2nd in the Big Ten, won Big 10 Tournament and ended with a 6 seed (24-6, 6th in Ken Pom, yeah..they got screwed) and lost to 3 seed Pittsburgh in 2nd round (they were also under-seeded, 4th in Ken Pom).

This is what Bob Bowlsby had to say that evening when asked about the times of the Big 12 and Big 10 final games:

"There isn't any question that's a factor,'' said Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the Division I men's basketball committee. ``We get to the point sometime mid-afternoon where we have to begin the bracketing process. Sometimes that's an easy process and sometimes it's a difficult one. It's not something that can be done in the last hour before the selection show goes on the air.

"While we were in the seeding process, we made the considered decision that we were no longer going to be able to consider Oklahoma State to move to the top line because they hadn't completed their game yet. I'm a member of the Big Ten Conference at the University of Iowa and members of the Big 12 are in the same situation. We accept the money for those games late in the afternoon and we have to take the downside that goes along with it."

Jeff said...

Well, first of all, it's a good rule of thumb not to believe anything that anybody on the Selection Committee says. They say so many wildly divergent, contradictory and non-sensical things that almost nothing in their brackets makes sense if you believe the actual words out of their mouth.

Second of all, while I can't speak to what Wisconsin deserved that year since I wasn't doing bracketology yet, they were certainly taking the title game into account by 2006, when Iowa slid up to a 3 seed by winning the title. And there are several other cases since (such as two years ago, when Michigan State moved up to a 1 seed).

Unknown said...

Yeah, that's exactly what I was eluding to here:

"The committee has taken interesting approaches to the big 10 tournament final, and it seems to change by the season. Several years ago, I recall committee members saying they couldn't take the game into consideration because it was too late in the day, while in more recent years they've tried to work in scenarios into the seeding when possible."

I have to give you credit for your Nova projection, they have a very real chance of being a 3 now after losing to a terrible Seton Hall team. That being said, I don't think you actually thought they would lose to Seton Hall!