Sunday, February 16, 2014

A College Basketball Saturday with a Little of Everything

Saturday saw a little of everything. Big favorites (Duke, Syracuse) with nailbiters at home, big upsets in the scope of the conference, major schools taking hold of bracket positioning, and bubble edge battles. Let's get into the Saturday Recap.

@Middle Tennessee 81, Southern Miss 64: Absurdly bad loss for Southern Miss. Southern Miss now has 4 bad losses (Western Kentucky, Tulsa, UAB, Middle Tennessee) and only one passable win (Louisiana Tech). The lack of good wins has as much to do with C-USA's glut of below average teams, but the resume is still going away. Southern Miss could still make the tournament as an at-large, but it desperately needs to win all of its remaining games, including a visit from UTEP, which is C-USA's 3rd best team. Simply put, any more miscues, and C-USA is a #1 bid conference (if it isn't already).

@Marquette 81, Xavier 72: Marquette is another one of those teams that has been hanging around the bubble just well enough that we can't say that they are officially out. This was a noteworthy win for MU, but upcoming games against Villanova and Creighton are far more important to Marquette's at-large chance. Xavier is another one of those teams that cannot afford these kinds of losses (see: Kansas State, below). But this one won't kill XU. It just means Xavier's margin of error is a little smaller.

@Baylor 87, Kansas State 73 (2OT): Baylor fell off the bubble, and rightly so. And it is nearly impossible for the Bears to get back its at-large spot, but it is at least possible, and games like this are required. The massive finishing margin at least makes Ken Pomeroy's recent blog post about overtime margin a good read, but more importantly, BU is still in the hunt. As for Kansas State, it should still be in the tournament, but it needs to know that it cannot lose too many more games like this.

BYU 60, @Saint Mary's 57: These two teams have been riding the bubble, and after BYU lost to Pacific two days ago, it looked like Saint Mary's would have the inside edge ahead of at least BYU, especially with its remaining game against BYU being played at home. But tonight's loss likely flip-flopped the teams back, with BYU in the tournament and SMC out. Had the game been played at BYU, that might not be the case, but SMC may learn that it can't lose these games at home late in the season, and the road win gives BYU much needed computer points.

Florida 69, @Kentucky 59: I included this game not because I am surprised that Florida won, but because it highlights an important aspect of the NCAA committee's edict to do geography-based bracketing. Let's say that the four #1s are Syracuse, Wichita State, Villanova, and Florida, and that Arizona is a #2. Using geography-based bracketing, whoever is ranked #4 out of the #1 seeds will get sent to Anaheim---this is true out of any team projected in the top #4-seed lines recently except Arizona and San Diego State. The #2 in that region? Arizona, playing in Anaheim, with maybe 7,000-10,000 fans in the building. That's an unfortunate turn of events for whichever #1 seed is sent west, who should feel proud to get the #1. But waiting will be Arizona, who wouldn't leave the southwestern United States. That's why Florida's win is so important: it puts them ahead of Villanova and possibly ahead of Wichita State now.

Elsewhere, the crazy action continued. So many games were important that you will see a lot of mini-summaries below regarding the thoughts that this bracketologist thought upon seeing the results.

Virginia 63, @Clemson 58 - Tigers miss out on major win, close to falling to "Prayer" status
@Connecticut 86, Memphis 81 (OT) - good, expected home win for UConn
Iowa 82, @Penn State 70
@North Carolina 75, Pittsburgh 71 - UNC keeps getting good wins, Pitt on slide
@Iowa State 70, Texas Tech 64
@Saint Louis 64, VCU 62 - SLU escapes at home, still unbeaten in A-10
Oklahoma 77, @Oklahoma State 74 - OSU loses 6th straight, 2nd without Smart
@Lafayette 74, American 62 - Boston U back in play with American loss
@Providence 84, DePaul 61
Massachusetts 67, @George Washington 61
@Vermont 76, UMBC 52
@Eastern Michigan 65, Toledo 44 - despite big loss, Toledo still MAC favorite
Davidson 88, @Georgia Southern 73
@Cincinnati 73, Houston 62
California 72, @Washington 59 - good road win for Cal, could not afford loss to UW
@Kansas 95, TCU 65
@Robert Morris 69, Mount St. Mary's 61
@Missouri 75, Tennessee 70 - important home win for Mizzou, protects bracket spot
Green Bay 68, @Cleveland State 54 - GB has clear grasp on Horizon now
Stephen F. Austin 67, @Sam Houston State 60
@UCLA 80, Utah 66
North Dakota State 75, @Omaha 59
@Duke 69, Maryland 67
@Troy 85, Georgia State 81 - GSU drops first Sun Belt game, still has healthy 2-game lead
Arkansas Pine Bluff 64, @Southern 58 - and SU still has 2-game lead in SWAC
@Richmond 82, Fordham 70
North Carolina Central 67, @South Carolina State 53
@New Mexico 90, Nevada 72
@Syracuse 56, NC State 55
@Coastal Carolina 75, Gardner-Webb 60
Cal State Northridge 80, @UC Santa Barbara 78 - Big West up for grabs in tourney
Harvard 67, @Cornell 44
Stanford 69, @Washington State 56
@Texas 88, West Virginia 71
Ohio State 48, @Illinois 39
@Louisiana Tech 85, Rice 46
Florida State 67, @Wake Forest 60 - season-saving rally for FSU at Wake
@Gonzaga 86, Loyola Marymount 67
@San Diego State 64, Air Force 56
@New Mexico State 84, Chicago State 55

You might look at this list and say Wisconsin/Michigan is the best game, but from a bracket perspective, it isn't that interesting. These top Big Ten teams can beat up on each other and not suffer many consequences. For the reasons stated above in the Florida recap, though, Villanova's game at Creighton is monumental. Since Florida won that huge game at Kentucky, Villanova needs to keep pace by winning this big road game at Creighton. Otherwise, Villanova might get stuck out in Anaheim with the prospect of facing Arizona and its massive traveling fan base in Anaheim. Keep an eye too on Georgetown at St. John's. It may define who is in the bubble and who is on an outline in the next Bracket Brief.

#3 Wisconsin at #3 Michigan
#7 SMU at Temple
Northern Kentucky at #14 Mercer
Nebraska at #2 Michigan State
Oregon State at #10 Oregon
#1 Wichita State at Evansville
#1 Villanova at #3 Creighton
Rutgers at #5 Louisville
#12 Minnesota at Northwestern
(LFI) #12 Georgetown at (FFO) St. John's
#11 Colorado at USC

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