Thursday, February 13, 2014

The World Is Closer to Having St. John's in the Tournament

No Earth shaking games happened on Thursday, but that doesn't mean there weren't games of interest. We pinpoint games in Conference USA, the Big Ten, the Big East, and the West Coast in tonight's recap.

@UAB 84, Southern Miss 60: Conference USA has oscillated between being a one-bid and a two-bid conference throughout the year. Early on, it looked like Louisiana Tech was the class of the conference, but injury pushed LA Tech back to second-best in C-USA and put Southern Miss in front, despite the fact that LA Tech has better wins and better losses. Southern Miss has now the same problem that any mid-major does: lack of strength of remaining schedule. With C-USA's huge size, the Golden Eagles only play the Bulldogs once, and UTEP is about the only other team with any useful computer points. Southern Miss will likely stay in the tournament even after this loss, but the margin of error for the rest of the year is getting smaller and smaller.

@Wisconsin 78, Minnesota 70: In today's Bracket Brief, Minnesota was listed as a #12 seed, but that was because I moved them from a #11 for bracketing purposes. So things aren't so dire, but the bracket is starting to get awfully tight for a Minnesota team that is now two games under 0.500 in the Big Ten. The Golden Gophers' last stretch has been particularly troubling, losing games that it shouldn't (unlike tonight, which is not surprising). With three massively difficult games left, Minnesota is going to make sure that it wins its three remaining "easy" games, and possibly get one of those other ones. This is going to be a long 3 weeks for Minnesota fans.

St. John's 68, @Seton Hall 67: Major, major win for St. John's, who has been sitting on the out lines for a couple of weeks as it built up this 7-1 stretch with wins over decent teams and in decent arenas. I think that for SJU to get into the bracket, it's gonna need to get to 10-8 in the Big East, beating Georgetown, Butler, DePaul, and Marquette, with a win over Xavier or Villanova getting SJU major points. We are getting close to a point, though, where St. John's in the Big Dance is a real thing.

BYU 89, @Pacific 82: As Thursday night ran down, we began wondering if both of the West Coast Conference's bubble teams, BYU and Saint Mary's, would go down in flames, their at-large berth hopes with them. But when SMC turned it on behind their home crowd, BYU couldn't get by Pacific. The gravity of the loss cannot be overstated, only mitigated by the fact that it was on the road. Ever since early losses to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, BYU has been trying to claw its way back onto the bracket, which it did recently after winning 9 of 11 games (and despite a tough loss at Portland). But losing to Pacific is bad. BYU is likely to find itself back out of the tournament. Luckily, it has plenty of time to prove itself with its next two games at Saint Mary's and home against Gonzaga. But failing to win either of those games likely ends BYU's chance to get an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

In other games, Missouri got a very good win it it took down Arkansas. It was an expected win, but necessary none the less. Let's look at those games and the rest of Thursday's action.

Northwestern at #2 Michigan State
Creighton 68, @Butler 63
#16 Robert Morris 66, Saint Francis (PA) 60
Green Bay 71, @Youngstown State 40
@Missouri 86, Arkansas 85 - Mizzou gets very important win
North Dakota State 56, @Western Illinois 52
Stephen F. Austin 78, @Lamar 69
Weber State 75, @Southern Utah 55
@Gonzaga 83, Pepperdine 68
@UCLA 92, Colorado 74 - big loss for CU, may need some big upsets down the stretch
@Belmont 73, Tennessee State 71
Seattle U 71, @Utah Valley 57 - bad loss for UVU, might give WAC back to NMSU
UC Santa Barbara 65, @Long Beach State 64
@Saint Mary's 69, San Diego 57

The obvious game of Valentine's Day night is Arizona at Arizona State. Word is that ASU's Wells Fargo Arena is sold out with thousands of Arizona fans expected to be filling the upper bowl. Arizona won 91-68 in McKale Center in mid-January, but Brandon Ashley was still playing back then. Expect that the game will be quite a bit closer, showing Arizona's recently exposed flaws.

#5 Louisville at Temple
#7 SMU at Rutgers
Monmouth at #14 Iona
#12 Harvard at Columbia
Lipscomb at #14 Mercer
#1 Arizona at #8 Arizona State

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