Monday, March 2, 2009

Weekend Review

WHO WAS AWESOME

1. Providence. I mentioned this previously, but the Friars win over Pitt on Tuesday was a huge lift to the Friars’ postseason chances. They still have a lot of work to do, but that was a step in the right direction. They also picked up a huge win at Rutgers on Saturday – not hard as in Rutgers is any good, they aren’t, but good to go on the road at a traditionally tough place to play and not show any letdown, going in and winning 73-66. They are doing it with defense, forcing both Pitt and Rutgers into 16 turnovers, a very good sign. Plenty of work left to do, and they close out the season on the road against a surprisingly very good Villanova team (despite Scotty Reynolds) in a game they probably have to win to have any hope. But if the Friars can pull that upset off and win a game in the Big East tournament, I don’t see any way they don’t make it.

2. BYU. Another team looking for a bid, the Cougars had a huge week coming up with wins over fellow Mountain West contenders San Diego State 69-59 and Utah 63-50. The win over the league leading Utes is huge, giving BYU its third victory over an RPI Top 50 opponent. With games at Wyoming and at home versus Air Force remaining, BYU should end up finishing 12-4 and second in the Mountain West. The real question is will that be enough? The computer numbers are pretty good, but they are just 3-5 against RPI Top 50 teams, which looks bad when compared to fellow conference bubble team UNLV who is 5-2. There isn’t much here outside the conference, so BYU better get to at least the MWC tournament finals, although the RPI ranking of #21 will certainly help.

3. Oklahoma State. Here’s a weird team that has come out of nowhere to suddenly be included in the bubble conversation, and they just got a signature win they badly needed by beating Texas 68-59 on Saturday, running their winning streak to five straight and pushing their conference record to 8-6, good enough for fourth in the Big 12. A pretty aggressive non-conference schedule and a slow start had them off the radar, but with the recent winning streak that same aggressive schedule has them with some pretty good numbers (#30 RPI, #11 SOS). They haven’t fared well against top teams, going just 3-8 vs. RPI Top 50 and 7-9 vs. The Top 100, but if they can split the last two (home vs. Kansas State, @ Oklahoma) that would put them at 20-10, 9-7 in conference. Take that, along with the good computer numbers and strong finish, and the Cowboys are looking pretty good for a bid.

4. Kansas. They certainly don’t need any help to get in the tournament, but suddenly a “depleted” Kansas team is playing for a possible two seed and took a good step in the right direction this week. They are 13-1 in the Big 12, and just beat the only other two ranked teams in the conference this week, taking down a Blake Griffin-less Oklahoma on the road 87-78 and followed it up by whooping #11 Missouri 90-65 in Lawrence. You knew Sherron Collins would be a stud this year, but the biggest reason for the team’s success despite losing so much talent after last year’s Championship has been Cole Aldrich – and yes, it pains me greatly to say that. After minimal playing time last year, he’s jumped to 30 minutes, 15 points, and 10 rebounds per game, put up 19 and 14 against Missouri, and is projected to be a top five NBA after next season by NBAdraft.net There are a bunch of newcomers who are also helping out, but Cole is definitely the biggest reason the Jayhawks are an unexpected Final Four contender.

5. Geoff Ogilvy. Ogilvy didn’t just win the Accenture Match Play Championship, he dominated it. In a week when Tiger Woods was the main story, Ogilvy moved passed him into first place on the all-time Accenture winning percentage, going 6-0 to push his record to 17-2 overall, a .895 winning percentage – ahead of Woods who is 32-7, .821. Ogilvy beat Paul Casey in the championship 4 & 3, following a run that saw him beat the gay Stewart Cink, teen phenom Rory McIlroy, Dr. Acula’s boyfriend Camilo Villegas, the Chinese Cowboy Shingo Katayama, and Kevin Sutherland. Ogilvy shot a combined 25 under in his last 66 holes (3 matches worth) and never trailed against any of his last three opponents. Ogilvy tends to play better in big events, this is his second time winning the Accenture, winning in 2006 as well as winning the US Open that year. He’s definitely one to watch in the majors this season.


WHO SUCKED


1. Siena. Well, the good ole DWG Jinx strikes again. This time hitting the MAAC leading Saints who, after last weekend’s win over Northern Iowa in Bracket Busters, looked to have a chance, however slim, at an at-large NCAA bid if they didn’t win their conference tournament. You can pretty much forget it now, as Niagara’s Purple Eagles knocked off Siena on Friday, 100-85. The Saints played a tough schedule, but were unable to grab a signature win, with their best win on the season coming against the previously mentioned Purple Eagles. Unfortunately, letting Niagara shoot 52% from the floor was too much to overcome, and the talented, and dangerous, Saints will have to win the conference tournament in order to get a chance to repeat their success from last season.

2. Utah State. The Aggies were in a similar situation as Siena, most likely needing to win their conference tournament to get in, but having an outside shot at an at-large. And, just like Siena, those hopes are now over with their loss at Nevada on Thursday night. It’s just the Aggies second WAC loss, the other being at Boise State, and losing on the road to the #2 and #4 teams in your conference isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but when your at-large resume contains only one win over a RPI top 50 opponent and your strength of schedule is 133, you can’t really afford any losses. So Utah State will now need to win the WAC tournament, and, bad news Aggies’ fans, it’s held in Reno on Nevada’s home floor. Ruh roh.

3. Kentucky. Another team that really hurt itself, the Wildcats haven’t completely locked themselves out of at-large consideration, but it’s really, really close. They completely bombed this week, going into South Carolina and getting steamrolled 77-59 and then following that up on Saturday by dropping a home game to LSU 73-70. Kentucky has been done in by poor perimeter shooting and sloppy ballhandling, as they shot just 7-26 from three in the two games and turned it over 20 and 15 times – trends that need to stop if they have any chance of making the tournament. They have Georgia at home in an easy win, and then close out the regular season by traveling to Florida in what will be a must win. If they can’t win both of their remaining games, the Cats might need to win the SEC tournament to get in.

4. Arizona. Another Wildcat team that didn’t do themselves any favors, Arizona also went 0-2 this week in getting swept by the Washington schools. This was following up a loss to Arizona State, and their safe NCAA hopes are suddenly looking a little more precarious. Losing on the road to a very good Washington team is nothing to be ashamed of, but they needed to win at Wash State, and unfortunately didn’t even bother to show up, getting blown out 69-53. The Wildcats have two home games to close out the season, playing Stanford and Cal this week, and probably need to win both or head into the Pac 10 tournament very nervously. Arizona has some very good scorers in Wise, Budinger, and Jordan Hill, but they need to fix their rebounding issues. Both Washington schools outrebounded them by 9 in their most recent games, and it’s been a season long issue with Arizona being one of the worst in the country in keeping team’s off their offensive boards. Couple that with their inability to turn other teams over, and they are giving up a boatload of shots every game.

5. Marquette. They certainly aren’t in any danger of not making the tournament at 12-4 in the Big East, and actually their 0-2 week wouldn’t normally land them in the WHO SUCKED column since those two losses were at Louisville and versus UCONN. The reason they are here is because they lost their senior leader, starting point guard, and top four conference assist man Dominic James for the season thanks to a broken foot suffered against UCONN. This takes the Golden Eagles from a sleeper final four contender to a sweet 16 max upside type team. They still have their top 3 scorers, and Jerel McNeal and Wes Mathews are still one of the top guard tandems in the country, but it will be very difficult to replace James. Even though they managed to hang tough with Louisville yesterday, losing just 62-58, but they also managed to scrounge up a total of just seven assists in the whole game, where James averaged five per contest by himself.