Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Ivy League Continues to Rise, and A Big West Team Falls off the Bubble Completely

It is a very good thing that Friday night was so slow in college basketball, since my Comcast internet connection went down for several evening hours. Barring any upset, there was only one Friday night game, Princeton's neutral-court game against Pacific, might be worth recapping. Let's see if anything else popped up during Friday's schedule.

Princeton 83, Pacific 58: Princeton is a team that is rapidly moving up the mid-major charts. Look, Princeton was supposed to win this game, the result is not a surprise. But the margin of victory is. Pacific isn't a top-tier team, but they are solidly the fourth-best team in a multi-bid conference. Pacific hung around for quite awhile in a road game at Oregon. So to see the West-Coast Tigers get manhandled by the East-Coast Tigers like this, you have to take notice.

Princeton now has wins at Bucknell, at Penn State, and tonight's cross-country neutral-court game against Pacific. Princeton is a missed last-minute shot from its game at Butler from being undefeated right now. The Ivy League has never had two bids in the 64-team NCAA tournament. It came extremely close in 2011 after the Princeton/Harvard one-game playoff. Now, unexpectedly, out of the blue, 2014 might be the year it happens. The best-chance scenario that could happen under would be for whomever is worse off in the computer numbers (probably Princeton) to win the automatic bid. Then again, that happened in 2011, and Harvard was relegated to the NIT. For now, though, if both teams keep winning, we'll see just how much they can move up in the RPI and other computer rankings.

Utah State 77, UC Santa Barbara 71 (OT): These two mid-majors are looking for some respect towards heading for an at-large bid. Heading into tonight, I would have said that UCSB was the better team. And having lost at USU, in overtime, UCSB still very well may be. UCSB is very clearly the class of the Big West. But it simply has too many losses. Losses at Colorado and at UCLA are not bad. Wins at UNLV and over Cal are good. The other two losses were from a home-and-home with Utah State, so maybe we're looking at matchup problems between these two teams. No matter what the problem is, however, a mid-major just cannot get an at-large bid with this many losses. With not a single good team left on UCSB's schedule, it now needs to win the Big West Tournament.

USU is in a better position from the aspect that it has lost less. But there are zero good wins on USU's schedule outside perhaps these two games with UCSB. It is fortunate for USU that the Mountain West Conference is struggling quite a bit. Yes, there are remaining games with SDSU, UNM, and BYU, but if USU can figure out how to come out on top in at least some of those games, it will see its computer numbers rise to bubble-worthy numbers.
A number of other teams were in action tonight but won as expected:

Syracuse 75, High Point 54
Indiana 79, Nicholls State 66
Southern Miss 88, Coppin State 74
SMU 62, Wyoming 54
Minnesota 92, Omaha 79

Saturday has one of the smallest slates of the season because of the holiday season, but there are still some gems. Here is what you should watch for to keep up on games important to the March Madness bracket:

Georgetown at Kansas
Belmont at Kentucky
East Carolina at NC State
Boston U at Maryland
UMass vs. Florida State at Miami
Middle Tennessee vs. Cincinnati
UNC Greensboro vs. Wake Forest
Youngstown St. vs. St. John's
Maine at Providence
Cleveland State at Toledo
UMBC at Pittsburgh
Butler at Evansville
Gonzaga vs. Kansas St
IUPUI at Indiana State
Michigan State at Texas
Rider at Villanova
Northern Iowa at Virginia
Cal Poly at Pittsburgh
Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt
Vermont at Harvard
Saint Louis vs. North Carolina A&T
Fresno State at Florida
Davidson at North Carolina
Illinois vs. Missouri
VCU vs. Virginia Tech
Louisville at FIU
Texas Tech at Arizona State
Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M
Xavier at Alabama
Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Southeast Missouri State at Memphis
Southern Miss at AR Little Rock
Stanford vs. Michigan
Marquette vs. New Mexico
McNeese State vs. San Diego State
Troy at Utah State
BYU at Oregon
Princeton vs. Portland
Oklahoma State at Colorado

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