Monday, March 1, 2010

Week in Review - 3/1/2010

Well that was a pretty good win.  Not good as in pretty, or good as in they finally figured out how to close out a game, but good as in that was a season saver.  I can't really give you the usual brilliant, in-depth analysis you've come to expect because I was watching the game while at a beer bust, but I saw enough to know my prediction of a big gopher lead early, a gopher lead late, and a Illinois comeback and win damn near came true.  That's not the important thing, however.  The important thing is that they did get this win, and now are in ok shape for a tournament bid, even showing up on the "last four out" for Joe Lunardi.  Win at Michigan and beat Iowa here, then win one big ten tournament game and it's very interesting.

If you just compare the Gophers and Illinois quick, they have basically the same record, although Illinois is two games better in conference play.  The Gophers have the better RPI (70 to 74) and better Strength of Schedule (37 to 61).  Both teams have two wins over top 25 RPI teams, while Illinois has a total of four over top 50 teams compared to just three for the Gophers and they have nearly identical records against the top 100.  The Gophers have three bad losses (vs. teams over 100 in the RPI) while Illinois has two.  The Gophers are 4-8 in road/neutral games, while Illinois is 6-8.  The best win by either of the two teams goes to the Gophers with their win over Butler, and both team's have beaten Wisconsin.

I know the bids supposedly don't compare teams within the conference like this and look at the team's as an overall whole, but it's useful to know where the Gophers stand in comparison to the Illini.  It also serves as a depressing reminder that if you reverse almost any loss on the Gopher schedule, they are ahead of Illinois, but as it stands right now they are probably slightly behind.  In any case, it's time to win.  There's no room for error.


1.  Notre Dame.  Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory in full effect?  Seriously, has anybody has as impressive a week all year as Notre Dame had this week?  They beat both Pitt and Georgetown, both by double-digits, and have gone from "probably out" to "probably in" all in a four day span - and they've done it without Luke Harangody.  Since he's been out it's just been a bunch of role-players just used to deferring to him, but maybe we're finding out they aren't role players (even if Tory Jackson has the decision-making skills of a rock).  Ben Hansbrough has stepped up his scoring since Harangody went out, averaging 15 per game (compared to 12), but the guy who has really helped out is junior forward Carleton Scott, who is averaging 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game since the injury compared to 3.5 of each beforehand.  Basically the Irish have played really well since Luke went down, and now find themselves in good shape for an NCAA bid.  Which means he'll come back next week, they'll lose two, bow out early in the Big East tournament, and find themselves in the NIT again.  

2.  Syracuse.  Wow.  And also, wow.  What an impressive victory over Villanova, the alleged #8 team in the land.  The Orange smoked Scottie Reynolds and the rest of those dorks 95-77 which followed up their road win earlier in the week over Providence.  To go out and annihilate another top ten team like the Wildcats is impressive, and I'm starting to think the Orange are the team to beat in March.  I was pretty clearly wrong about Wes Johnson, who is an absolute stud, and I think Andy Rautins used my criticism of him from last year as a motivational tool because he's somehow become a top flight point guard and he's not even a point guard.  I was talking to a friend who is a Syracuse alum, and he said that this isn't the Cuse's most talented team, but it is their best.  He said usually they have a focal point guy who a lot of times undermines the whole team concept - it worked with Carmelo, didn't with Donte Greene - but this year it's just seven guys who have bought in to the team concept.  Really good team.  Right now, they're probably my #1.

3.  New Mexico.  If you kind of thought New Mexico wasn't anything special and just kept rising in the polls because they were basically just chillin' in the Mountain West, you aren't alone.  If you still think that, you're an idiot.  The Lobos put the word out that they are the real deal, going into Provo and beat BYU 83-81, the Cougars first home loss this year and one of only a handful the last few years.  The win clinches at least a tie for the MWC crown for the Lobos, and brings New Mexico to 6-0 this year against ranked teams.  That's right, 6-0.  They've beaten BYU twice, UNLV, Cal, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M, and also have wins over decent teams like Dayton, Louisiana Tech, and New Mexico State.  Three of this team's top four players are of the 6-5 to 6-8 athletic wing types, and the other dude gives them the strong and experience point play you need in March.  This team is a threat.

4.  Marquette.  Now this is how a bubble team is supposed to respond to a challenge in late March.  Marquette was probably right in the middle of the bubble, but with two wins this week, both on the road, both in overtime, and one over fellow bubble team Seton Hall, they're probably in for sure.  First, the Eagles beat St. John's in their place 63-61 on a Jimmy Butler jumper as time expired in overtime, and then they went to Seton Hall and knocked the Pirates out of NCAA contention 84-83.  I didn't expect much out of Marquette this year, not after losing three starting guards who were basically the whole team, but Lazar Hayward has gotten even better and Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom are very good players.  And Marquette is probably better than the 19-9 record would indicate.  Other than an inexplicable loss to DePaul and an early season loss to NC State every loss on the record has been by single-digits to an NCAA-caliber team. 

5.  Tay Waller.  I know you don't know who this is, but that's why I'm here, to be nerdy enough about college hoops to know who people like Tay Waller are.  And also he's on my fantasy team, which has now made the finals.  Anyway, Waller had a big week but you won't hear about because he plays for crappy Auburn.  The 6-2 senior guard for the Tigers was a top 10 JuCo player back in 2008 coming out of NW Florida Community College, and after being pretty solid for his year and three-quarters (way better than Bostick) he's really hit his stride, scoring more than 26 in each of Auburn's last three games, scoring 29 against Ole Miss in a loss and then 26 to lead the Tigers to a win over LSU this week.  He's not on any NBA radars or anything, but he'll probably end up making a nice living overseas, and he deserves to be recognized even if he plays for the shitbox that is the Auburn Tigers.  Plus, he probably gets to roll around with broads like these all the time.


1.  Wake Forest.  Probably the worst week any team has had in the history of basketball.  No joke.  The Demon Deacons started off the week by losing at ACC bottom-feeder North Carolina State, and then followed that up by getting embarrassed at home by the embarrassing Carolina Tar Heels.  To put this in Big Ten terms, that would be like losing at Indiana and then losing at home to Michigan.  [NOTE:  I just realized what I did there.  hahahahahahahahahaha kill me.]   And I had the misfortune to watch a good chunk of that Carolina game, and holy crap is Wake awful.  I've never seen a team play so lazily and selfishly all at the same time.  It was like watching five Westbrooks.  I refuse to believe this team is 8-6 in the ACC, and was 8-3 at one point.  This is a first-round upset waiting to happen, I don't care if they draw Bethune-Cookman in round one.

2.  John Wall.  Has the phenom hit the proverbial wall?  His raw numbers are ok - 12 pts, 5 rebounds, 4 assists in a 20-point win over South Carolina and 19-5-6 in the loss to Tennessee, but if you look deeper he had a pretty sub-par week.  He shot just 10-31 overall and was 0-7 from three-point range, and he turned the ball over 11 times in the two games - yes, that's more turnovers than field goals made this week.  And although he has always been a bit of a turnover machine (averaging 4.0 per game) his shooting is what would really concern me - he hasn't shot better than 50% in a game since February 2nd.  Maybe it's just a simple fluctuation of his numbers, but if I was a Kentucky fan I'd be pretty concerned that he seems to be struggling a bit at this time of the year.  In any case, there's no way a team this young (three of the top four players are freshmen) and this volatile (both Cousins and Wall are crazy) with that coach is going to the final four.  You go ahead and pick them there, but they're going to get knocked off by some seven seed.  Just watch.

3.  Virginia Tech.  When your hopes for an at-large bid are best described as "little margin for error and only in decent shape because of an impressive ACC record" one thing you really shouldn't do is go out the next week and drop two ACC games - one at home (to Maryland) and one to a bottom-tier team (Boston College).  The Hokies are still 21-7 overall and 8-6 in conference play, but there's not a whole lot to be impressed with.  They have a win over Clemson, one over Wake, and a non-conference win over Seton Hall, and that's it.  Everything else is against a bottom tier team.  I don't know what to think about their chances, they're a super confusing team.  You could make a pretty good argument spanning anywhere from "they should be easily in" to "they have no chance."  Take your pick.

4.  The Atlantic 10.  Going into this week there were seven teams in the A-10 that had a shot at getting an at-large bid to the tournament, but things are not breaking the right way and it's starting to look more and more likely that the conference will end up with three teams going (Temple, Xavier, and Richmond are all basically locks).  Dayton is probably fourth on the list, but at 8-6 in the conference might not have enough juice, and they had a huge chance to knock of Temple this week and whiffed.  Another team that had a chance at a big upset and missed out was St. Louis, who has a nice 10-4 conference record but is lacking big wins, which makes their loss to Xavier this week even more damaging.  Charlotte and Rhode Island both looked to have an inside track at a bid earlier this year, but both have faded coming down the stretch and both knocked themselves out of bid contention with losses they couldn't have this weekend - Charlotte lost to George Washington, Rhode Island to St. Bonaventure.  So the A-10 will likely have just three teams dancing, maybe four if Dayton gets it together, which isn't bad, but isn't as lofty as it could have been.  Also, Richmond and Temple are going down quickly, Xavier is the only team here that can make a run.  Mark it down.

5.  Purdue.  Ruh roh.  You kind of had to wonder just how the Boilers would respond with Robbie Hummel out.  They still have E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson which still gives them one of the better 1-2 punches in the country, but Hummel was kind of the glue guy, along with being a top scorer.  They certainly didn't have any time to ease into, welcoming Michigan State to Keady Court right off the bat, and the results weren't pretty.  The only managed 44 points, shot just 30%, and were out-rebounded 44-16 as the Spartans won 53-44.  Yes by the way, those numbers are correct they were out-rebounded 44-16.  I think they'll end up being a lot better without Hummel than they showed on Sunday, and they have games against Penn State and Indiana this coming week to work on some things, but this has to be a pretty big concern for Boiler Nation.

I guess there was also some kind of big whoopity-doo hockey game between the Americans and the Commies or something, but I didn't really pay attention.  I heard the commies won, so I expect Canada to start taking over Red Dawn style anytime now.  WOLVERINES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (but not on Tuesday)


Fresno State @ Utah State.  I've written about them before, but the beat rolls on.  USU needs to win and keep winning.  Even at 23-6 they can't really afford a loss because, outside of a win over BYU, there's not much there in the non-conference profile.  They would probably be ok if they lost in the WAC final to either New Mexico State or Louisiana Tech, but any loss short of that will keep likely knock them out of at-large consideration


Black Snake said...

Start pulling for Marquette. There are a ton of those nerds in Chicago and it would be fun to watch them get gutted while in Chicago. They can be our Dayton!

WWWWWW said...

I also just noticed that Miami is 101 on the RPI so they are counting as a "bad loss." If they can get lucky and win a game or two to pull that RPI back inside triple-digits that will help the Gophers.

They finish the season at North Carolina and then home against Florida State, then they'll probably play someone like Georgia Tech or Wake in an opening round ACC tournament game. I'm no expert on RPI, but I think if they could win one of those games it would bump them into the top 100.

Dawg said...

Do you think if Illinois loses against OSU and Sconi and the gophs win out against Mich and Iowa that we are a lock? That would give us 5th place and a bye in the 1st round. We would then play Sconi in the first round of the Big 10.

Or if we win out and end up getting the 6th seed, I believe that we would play Inidana in the 1st round and Purdue in the 2nd round. That would be huge if they could get a matchup against a Hummel-less Purdue.

Finally, any idea what the tie breaker is in the Big 10 standings after head to head?

WWWWWW said...

I don't think it makes them a lock, but it would certainly put them ahead of the Illini in the overall pecking order. The committee says they don't look at a certain number of teams from each conference, but I have to think they would take five from the Big Ten.