Monday, March 02, 2015

Morning News: Bubble Watch, UConn Knocks Off SMU, Oregon Wins A Bubble Battle, And More

The NPOY favorite won a conference title last night

Bubble Watch Today marks the first of the daily bubble watches that I'll be doing between now and Selection Sunday. We start off with just 16 NCAA Tournament spots locked in and a bigger bubble than usual (18 teams for 11 spots), but that's not too far out of the ordinary for being 13 days out. By Selection Sunday we should have somewhere between 60 and 64 safe NCAA Tournament teams.

UConn Knocks Off SMU This isn't the upset that the media is making it out to be. Depending on where you looked, UConn was either a 1.5 to 2 point underdog here. And the difference here, really, was jump shooting. The Huskies hit 49% of their jump shots, including 45% behind the arc. Ryan Boatright hit 4-for-8 on threes, while Rodney Purvis led all scorers with 28 points. SMU's star Nic Moore had a tough day, scoring just 9 points on 3-for-13 shooting.

For UConn, this game is a reminder that with the AAC tournament on this very court they will have a legitimate chance to steal an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Depending on how the bracket finally ends up, they could potentially have a rematch with SMU in the semifinals.

SMU drops out of first place in the AAC with this loss, though they still control their own destiny. A home game against Tulsa next Sunday will decide the AAC title. Winning that game and taking the AAC tourney title will put them in decent shape for a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon Wins A Bubble Battle Over Stanford Chasson Randle is going to want the end of this game back. In a key bubble battle for both team, Stanford had the ball in a tie game with under 30 seconds to go. But in a weird confused play, Randle threw the ball away to Dwayne Benjamin and then fouled him on the other end. After Benjamin hit one of two, Randle tried hero ball on the other end and got an awful shot that never had a chance.
Jordan Bell. Wow.

Stanford's RPI has dropped out of the Top 50 and they are just 9-7 in Pac-12 play with their road trip at the two Arizona schools to go. They're going to have to win at least one of those two games (and obviously that road game at Arizona will take a near-miracle to win). They have just a single RPI Top 50 win, so if the season ended now they'd very likely be NIT-bound.

Oregon also only has a single RPI Top 50 win, though they do have nine RPI Top 100 wins and are now 12-5 in Pac-12 play with an RPI up into the Top 35. They were due to finish the regular season with three straight difficult road games, but they've somehow already taken the first two. If they can win at Oregon State on Wednesday then they'll be in great shape for an at-large bid.

Ohio State Comes Back To Beat Purdue If Purdue fails to make the NCAA Tournament, they're going to look back on blowing a 12 point halftime lead here. Their offense was a mess in the second half, committing 8 turnovers and scoring just 0.79 PPP. A big problem was their inability to get their bigs the ball on the block. Ohio State kept pushing them away from the basket. D'Angelo Russell didn't have a great shooting day for Ohio State, but he did everything else, leading all scorers with 28 points.

Purdue is now 11-5 in Big Ten play, with another tough road game up next (at Michigan State). Unless they win those final two regular season games (unlikely) they're going to have to win a game or two in the Big Ten tournament. Without any RPI Top 25 wins, they really need to get their RPI back inside the Top 50.

This win pushes Ohio State's RPI back inside the Top 40, and they'd certainly be a Tourney team if the season ended now. Two more wins between now and Selection Sunday should lock them in.

Pitt Loses To Wake Forest This isn't a terrible loss for Pitt in a vacuum. Wake Forest is not a terrible team, and they were only 1.5 point underdogs in Vegas. But Pitt entered this game just narrowly out of the Field of 68, and desperately could not afford a loss here. But after being in control the entire second half, Pitt's stats in the final six minutes of this game (until a meaningless three at the buzzer) were 0-for-5 shooting from the field with 4 turnovers. And down the stretch, some of those turnovers were just comically bad. Jamie Dixon looked about as distraught as I've ever seen him.

Pitt is 8-8 in ACC play and 5-8 against the RPI Top 100 with three RPI 100+ losses. Their RPI is 49th, but if the season ended now they'd be in the NIT. That home game against Miami on Wednesday is a crucial one for both teams. Even with a win there, Pitt probably has to beat Florida State and then get to the ACC tournament semifinals to earn an at-large bid.

Wisconsin Routs Michigan State The final score makes this game seem a lot closer than it really was. Wisconsin led by 22 points midway through the second half, and Michigan State went on an 8-0 run in the final 45 seconds of garbage time to make the final score much more respectable. Frank Kaminsky had a monster game, scoring 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting despite it only being a 57 possession game. To put that in perspective, that's like scoring 41 points in a 75 possession game. The fact that slow tempos have lowered Kaminsky's raw "counting stats" is pretty much the only reason at this point that Kamsinky isn't a lock for the NPOY award. He's clearly been the best player.

Michigan State has now lost two straight with two more difficult games to go in the regular season. And they do need to win one of those two games, or they will slip onto the bubble. They're not safely in the NCAA Tournament yet. They'd certainly be in the Tourney if the season ended now, though.

Wisconsin very likely would be a 2 seed if the season ended now, but they can get their way back up to the 1 seed line by winning out. They close the regular season with two tough road games, though, at Minnesota and Ohio State. Odds are that they'll lose at least one more game between now and Selection Sunday.

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