Sunday, December 22, 2013

Two More Unbeaten Teams Fall, But Some Teams Fall Out of the Tourney Completely.

Saturday was an extremely busy day for college basketball as we saw two more undefeated teams, UMass and Mizzou go down for the first times this year. We're now down to the top 10, though we came close to being down to 9 when BYU took Oregon into OT. We also saw and ACC team and an Ivy League team all but playing themselves out of the possibility of at-large bids at this point with silly office supply purchases. Let's take a look at a a few choice games and look at what else happened today, as well as preview Sunday's games.

Boston U 83, Maryland 77: I included this game only because I'm getting to the point where I find it hard to see Maryland getting an at-large bid in the tournament. Maryland could survive losses to Ohio State and UConn. George Washington is explainable. But it cannot survive losses to Oregon State and Boston U. With no worthwhile wins available on its remaining non-conference schedule, it is hard to picture a scenario when Maryland could make it into the Big Dance even going 9-9 in this year's deep ACC. It is extremely possible that Maryland would start the ACC season 2-5, and it is a few bounces of the ball from being 0-5 in its last 5 games. Maryland is falling apart and I think will find itself far off the bubble.

Florida State 60, Massachusetts 55: UMass lost in a questionable manner in Florida against Florida State, yes. But this UMass team seems like the real deal. There isn't a Marcus Camby type on the roster like 20 years ago when UMass was a frequent power, but the roster is solid all around. Derek Kellogg is really building something at Massachusetts, and it looks like they will make the tournament for the first time under his helm this year. UMass may only have one or two teams left on its schedule as talented as FSU, so it is likely UMass will enter the tourney with only a handful of losses and a spiffy seed.

FSU, on the other hand, finally has a decent win (I am not counting its neutral-court win over VCU since VCU is still a question mark). After close losses to Michigan, Florida, and Minnesota, it looked like FSU might yet again fall to good competition, but the Seminoles were able to hold on and pull out a good win. Now, however, comes ACC play, where wins will be difficult to come by almost every single night. FSU hopes that tonight's win will become some kind of identity for these upcoming games.

Kansas State 72, Gonzaga 62: This year's Kansas State struggles mightily on defense, but it still found a way to put up 72 points and take out a very good Gonzaga team in Wichita. The result was quite surprising. KSU has struggled all year, losing games to Northern Colorado and Charlotte and barely beating South Dakota and Mississippi. Gonzaga had only dropped one game, a close one to Dayton. I am beginning to wonder, though, if the Zags are not the second-best team in the WCC, as St. Mary's has had an extremely good start to the season. Still, Gonzaga should not have lost to Kansas State, who, even with this win, is still far on the wrong side of the bubble. Gonzaga only has one non-conference game yet, a mid-conference-season game at Memphis where GU will likely be underdogs. This means Gonzaga will need to win quite a few games in conference. On the flip side, Kansas State has seemingly figured out its early-season woes, and it will be interesting to see if this success continues.

Michigan State 92, Texas 76: This game was fairly entertaining until Michigan State kicked into its second gear. The margin of victory is impressive considering that this game was in Austin. Personally, I'm not entirely sold on MSU yet. The home loss to UNC was bad, especially considering just how badly the Tar Heels have struggled in so many games this year. Then there was the scare against Oakland. I'm not saying that I think MSU isn't one of this year's very good teams, but they haven't earned a #1 seed yet. This win, however, goes a long way in proving me wrong.

Even after today, Texas has only played three games against decent competition: a loss to BYU in Kansas City, a win at UNC, and today's blowout to Michigan State. That's 1-2 in the only games so far that matter. Texas is still in the tournament as of now, and the Longhorns sure are not in a position for a good seed yet.

Illinois 65, Missouri 64: Like UMass, Missouri fell victim to the late-December unbeaten-team loss today, falling to Illinois in St. Louis. Mizzou is still, largely, an unknown. Wins over West Virginia and UCLA are nice, but they were both at home, while today's Illinois game was at a neutral court. Missouri is good, but like Texas, the Tigers find themselves in the boat of bad seeds. The win meant a lot more for the Illini, who have been trying to get back credit lost in Illinois' early loss to Georgia Tech.

Michigan 68, Stanford 65: Tough week for Stanford. The Cardinal nearly won at UConn, but lost in the final moments. And Stanford nearly won against Michigan today in Brooklyn, but they again came up just short. Michigan pulled out the game probably thanks to a week full of rest after last week's game with Arizona. It is hard to say how this game effects either team at this point. My guess is that this game neither hurts nor helps either team.

Oregon 100, BYU 96: BYU nearly pulled off the road upset, but Oregon was able to prevail in a closely contested game. BYU had some decent wins on its resume at the beginning of the year, but they've dropped yet another close one. I'm feeling less and less confident in BYU, and I'm patiently awaiting to see if they can (only two teams that are good remaining on BYU's schedule: Gonzaga and St. Mary's. Continue playing like this, and an NCAA tournament may no longer be on the table for BYU.

Portland 93, Princeton 79: As much as I've been banging the Ivy League drum lately, this game is a huge disappointment for the Tigers. Portland isn't bad, but Princeton should have been able to handle Portland easily. This game only served to move Princeton a few steps closer to being required to win the WCC tournament.

Those weren't the only important games of the day, just some of the most unexpected or most impactful. Take a look below to see the results from all of the games that might have a major effect on the bracket later on.

Kansas 76, Georgetown 64 - KU back on track, finally wins difficult game
Kentucky 93, Belmont 80 - UK survives tough Belmont test
NC State 90, East Carolina 79
Cincinnati 69, Middle Tennessee 48
Wake Forest 59, UNC Greensboro 51
St. John's 96, Youngstown St. 87
Providence 94, Maine 70
Toledo 71, Cleveland State 67 - Toledo's surprising undefeated run continues
Green Bay 74, Fairfield 58
New Mexico 75, Marquette 68
George Washington 74, UMBC 61
Manhattan 84, Buffalo 81 (OT)
Butler 68, Evansville 59
Indiana State 81, IUPUI 61
Villanova 88, Rider 67
Virginia 57, Northern Iowa 43
Pittsburgh 73, Cal Poly 57
Vanderbilt 76, Georgia Tech 63
Harvard 74, Vermont 68
Saint Louis 79, North Carolina A&T 57
Florida 66, Fresno State 49
North Carolina 97, Davidson 85 (OT) - Major scare for bipolar Tar Heels
LSU 86, UAB 63
VCU 82, Virginia Tech 52 - Big neutral court win for questionable Rams
Louisville 85, Florida Int'l 56
Arizona State 76, Texas Tech 62
Oklahoma 64, Texas A&M 52
Xavier 77, Alabama 74 - Nice road win for XU, but 'Bama is slumping
Ohio State 64, Notre Dame 61
Memphis 77, SE Missouri St. 65
North Dakota St. 90, Towson 82
Arkansas 72, South Alabama 60
Southern Miss 74, AR Little Rock 60
San Diego State 65, McNeese State 36
Utah State 71, Troy 50
Oklahoma State 78, Colorado 73 - Close game throughout, but OSU is too strong for a mid-day Thanksgiving turkey.

Sunday is pretty great as well for my fellow bracket watchers, with games such as:

Kennesaw State at Indiana
Purdue at West Virginia
Ohio at Richmond
AR Pine Bluff at Iowa
Mt. St. Mary's at Penn State
St. Francis (PA) at Drexel
USC at Dayton
Valpo at UCF
UConn at Washington
Mercer at Ole Miss
Southern at Baylor
Iowa State vs. George Mason (in Hawaii)
Weber State at UCLA
California at Creighton
North Carolina Central at Wichita State
Mississippi State vs. South Florida (in Las Vegas)
South Carolina vs. St. Mary's (in Hawaii)
Boise State at Hawaii

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