Bubble Watch: Saturday Viewing Guide
Well, I've got to say that I'm disappointed in some of you. I clearly assigned people to watch the Good Guys while I was at work, and even though I was able to duck out before the game ended, obviously things were in doubt for far too long. Someone needs to get on the ball. The advance prep for Friday's post went so well that I'm doing the same thing today. Tonight, I mean. Only this time, I'll be able to update regularly until everything is set for Saturday. TO THE RECAP
Purdue spent a great deal of time trying to decide whether or not to copy about 20 other teams trying to back into the NCAAs, eventually holding off the DJ Newbills, 64-59. I disagree with Aneesh: I don't think this win changed Purdue's tournament prospects itself. They were either safely in the field because half the bubble teams already lost, or they were close to the edge and still need a win against Wisconsin to be sure of their fate. Obviously this was much, much better than a loss, but it was still an expected win.
Bad break for Purdue: uh, Columbus didn't get any closer overnight? (See below: at least it's a lot closer than Portland.)
Neutral results: Temple did beat Memphis, but that's not going to change much from the Boilers' perspective. Maybe if Temple beats SMU, there might be a small issue, but quite a few teams are closer to the exit than Purdue. Tulsa beat Houston, which basically changes nothing. UCLA lost a close one to Arizona, so they probably won't even threaten Indiana, who lost a close game themselves to Maryland.
Good break for Purdue: LSU followed Texas A&M and Mississippi down the path of Waiting for Sunday, falling in overtime to Tigers the Lesser, despite what I said yesterday. LSU might well drop below Oklahoma State and Purdue, but I don't know - sometimes individual games don't have the impact I would expect. (Not a bad thing sometimes.)
Current status: Safely In
Bracket Matrix: as of 11:29 PM Friday, 10.85, 107 of 110 brackets. I was curious to see who had the Boilers out when so many sites had them in and most even have them as an 11 or 12 seed. One of the three sites actually has them in as well, so that one's a reporting error. One site has them third in First Four Out, but has Buffalo and Old Dominion on the 11 line and Mississippi and UCLA on the 12, but that's also from an Ohio State fan, so ... yeah, pretty much an error as well. The other site has Stanford and Mississippi as 12 seeds, with no mention of First/Next Four Out. The last two haven't updated since Thursday, which is significant. (This is a major reason why I don't do bracket predictions. You need to have those updated regularly this time of year, otherwise there's no point.)
They're currently updating again: Purdue's average seed is 10.69, 89 of 91 brackets. The two missing brackets are listed above (the Matrix updated its list of the third, so that now appears correctly).
Lunardi: third 10 seed, up 4 spots! Hello, attrition. Lunardi now projects the play-in games to be among 11 seeds. Downside: he projects the Boilers to be playing in Portland against Xavier. The reason is that he has Big Tenteen teams in each of the other three pods (7-seed MSU, 2-seed Wisconsin, 7-seed Iowa), so Purdue has to go in the other one, and it's headed by 2-seed Arizona, so it's got to be out West.
dratings: as of 11:15 AM, fourth 10 seed, up 3 spots.
kenpom: 48th, no change.
RPI: 53rd-tie, up 5 spots! That's quite a change this late in the season.
#4 Purdue (21-11, RPI 53) vs. #1 Wisconsin (29-3, RPI 5), 1:00 on CBS
Honestly, Purdue should be safely in the field beyond any doubt at this point. This is almost like someone's playing NCAA 2Ksomething (remember back before 2K got all gunshy and actually made college games?) and taking over each of the other bubble teams just to make them lose. They then left the game on pause, went to grab something to eat, and came back to their 6-year-old brother playing the game. Unfortunately, the tyke took control of Newbill ... kids learn young these days.
Ordinarily, this would be a more winnable game than one might think, because Painter's always been able to coach up his guys against Wisconsin basketball, but this might be an even better chance for an upset. The Badgers held off a undermanned Michigan squad, but still allowed the Wolverines 1.11 PPP; as I've mentioned earlier, this is not your standard Wisconsin defense. Purdue held the Badgers to 1.07 PPP in Madison, so they've got the ability at both ends to give Wisconsin fits, and they don't actually know they're in the NCAAs yet, so they have much more to play for at this point.
The one thing that could be a problem for the Good Guys is an early deficit. They did a good job of keeping Wisconsin in reach the whole game in January; the Badgers' biggest lead was the seven-point margin of victory. If Purdue does the same thing Saturday, they could be playing Sunday as well.
Other top games
AAC semifinals: #4 Temple (23-9, RPI 32) vs. #1 SMU (24-6, RPI 14), 3:00 on ESPN2
The Owls should be safely ahead of Indiana now, and we're reaching a point of diminishing returns - the selection committee isn't going to evaluate at-large teams all the way up until Sunday evening. I don't think Temple would jump ahead of Purdue even if they win the ACC and Purdue falls to Wisconsin, and even if that happened, there simply aren't enough teams left to bump the Boilers. (Right now, teams that have lost and are also around or below Purdue are LSU, Oklahoma State, BYU, Mississippi, Texas, Indiana, Miami, UCLA, Old Dominion, Texas A&M, Murray State, Iona, and Richmond.)
So root for Temple just so they stay ahead of IU.
Big Ten semifinals: #3 Michigan State (22-10, RPI 25) vs. #2 Maryland (27-5, RPI 9), 3:25 on CBS
As expected, Sparty dispatched Ohio State; they should do the same to Maryland, setting up a rematch with Purdue or Wisconsin. MSU played OSU and Purdue once each during the regular season, beating both; they played Maryland twice and lost both times, and they played Wisconsin once and lost once. Obviously this means they will lose to Maryland again. JOKING. Unless it comes down to free throws (MSU shoots .627, 340th in DI; Maryland shoots .757, 14th in DI), Izzo will be complaining one more day in Chicago. With any luck, Matt Painter will be clapping him on the back Sunday as Izzo composes his whinyface for the cameras.
AAC semifinals: #6 Connecticut (19-13, RPI 74) vs. #2 Tulsa (21-9, RPI 45), 5:30 on ESPN2
I went ahead and moved this to 5:30 because, uh, Temple-SMU tips off at 3. Tulsa could possibly wade through the corpses of fellow bubble teams and lurch into a 12-seed play-in, if for no other reason than there's nobody left to stop them. UConn's upset of Cincinnati basically means that Tulsa needs to win the conference tournament to get in; I honestly don't think an expected win on Saturday is going to make enough of a difference for the Golden Hurricane.
ACC championship: #5 North Carolina (21-10, RPI 11) vs. #3 Notre Dame (26-5, RPI 18), 8:30 on ESPN
So yeah, like everybody thought, Virginia and Duke ... wait, I mean Louisville and Duke ... I mean ... yeah. I guess the Irish read up on Wisconsin, realized there might be a 2 seed to steal, noted that the ACC finishes up Saturday, and here they are. It's still possible for the state to have three conference champions. I'm not going to root for ND, but then I'm not rooting for a Roy Williams team either. (He and Jim Boeheim are cut from the same cloth.) If you decide to root for the Irish, I'll judge you. I mean, you should always feel free to root for whichever teams you want for whatever reasons you want, but I can also not invite you to the next Boiled Sports Gambling Extravaganza in Las Vegas.
Yeah, so we haven't had one and aren't planning one (yet). So? You're still not invited.
Other conference championships
America East: #3 Stony Brook at #1 Albany, 11:00 AM on ESPN2. These two are 128 and 129 in kenpom right now. In the half season of College Hoops 2K8 I played on the 360, I was the coach at Albany. I guess I never made it to the America East finals, did I?
Big 12: #2 Iowa State vs. #1 Kansas, 6:00 on ESPN. Oh look, a major-conference tournament that came down to 1 vs. 2. How droll.
Big East: #6 Xavier vs. #1 Villanova, 8:00 on FS1, which is exactly where I'd put a game if I wanted nobody to watch it.
Big Sky: #2 Eastern Washington at #1 Montana, 9:00 on ESPNU. I told you it would happen this way. Home court will make the difference here. Who lost to a team that ended up being a 16-seed (wait - a 15?), and who lost to a team that couldn't even win its conference tournament? Well, Gardner-Webb, but that's not what we're talking about here.
Big West: #5 Hawaii vs. one of two virtually identical teams that I don't care to stay up to find out because OVERTIME WHY OVERTIME, ESPN2. (OK, fine. It's #3 UC Irvine.) I think it's funny they make a point of re-seeding the teams after the quarters (which is actually a good idea for smaller conferences), but the only upset was Hawaii over #4 Long Beach, so it didn't matter.
Conference USA: #6 Middle Tennessee at #4 UAB, 2:30 on FS1. No worries, bubble teams: C-USA was a one-bid conference anyway, so it doesn't matter if it's MTSU or UAB instead of Louisiana Tech.
Ivy: Harvard vs. Yale, 4:00 on ESPN3. OMG THE IVY LEAGUE HAS A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, STOP THE PRESSES. I mean, technically it's a playoff like MLB uses to break ties, but still. Also, Harvard-Yale. I think the winner faces CCNY in the NIT on Friday.
MAC: #2 Buffalo vs. #1 Central Michigan, 7:30 on ESPN2. Did you know the MAC had eight 20-win teams this year? They actually have 5 kenpom top 100 teams, headed by #56 Buffalo. The West Coast only had 4.
MEAC: #6 Hampton vs. #5 Delaware State, 1:00 on ESPN2. North Carolina Central went 16-0 in conference play, annihilated Coppin State 91-43 in the quarters, then lost to Delaware State 63-57 in the semis at Norfolk in front of what was probably a very small crowd (the ESPN box score doesn't list attendance). This is what I think Bilas was talking about when he mentioned conference tournaments not being a good thing for some conferences. MEAC and SWAC schools can barely afford to field programs, much less send their teams away for a week to play in front of tiny crowds on neutral courts. They'd have been better off sending the Eagles instead of the Hornets or Pirates.
Mountain West: #4 Wyoming vs. #2 San Diego State, 6:00 on CBS. This could be a potential problem for bubble teams: Boise State is close to the bubble, or at least they were prior to losing to Wyoming Friday. If the Cowboys win the tournament and the MWC gets four teams in, someone else has to go. Red Rover, Red Rover, send Indiana right over.
Pac-12: #2 Oregon vs. #1 Arizona, 11:00 on ESPN. Both Virginia and Duke lost, but I don't know if that's enough to open the door for Arizona to earn a 1 seed.
Southland: #2 Sam Houston State vs. #1 Stephen F. Austin, 9:30 on ESPN2. The Southland did it better than the MEAC, giving the top two seeds a bye to the semis and the #3 and #4 seeds byes to the quarters. The bracket played out almost to seed, with only #7 New Orleans topping #6 Nicholls State. The Lumberjacks should be OK here.
SWAC: Technically, it's #3 Southern vs. #1 Texas Southern, but Mike Davis already has the NCAA tournament spot wrapped up. Both Southern and #2 Alabama State were ineligible for NCAA tournament play, but they played anyway, naturally won their quarterfinal games, met in the semifinal, and thus guaranteed that TSU would get the auto-bid. (The way that APR penalties almost always are issued against teams like this is a whole other problem, but for the final few years of the NCAA's existence, this is how it's going to be.) So they'll play at 6:30 on ESPNU, but it'll only be for a trophy.
WAC: #3 Seattle vs. #1 New Mexico State, 10:00 on ESPNU. Remember when the WAC had sixteen teams and was clearly the conference of the future? L. O. L. I'll give you a dollar if you can name four of the eight teams ... go! Nope. Nope. Nope. Oh, New Mexico State, sure. And ... time's up. Fun fact: both of these teams have been to Final Fours (Seattle with Elgin Baylor in 1958, New Mexico State in 1970).