Reviewing the Big Ten’s Bubble Teams Before Indy

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 12th, 2014

The Big Ten Tournament commences on Thursday and teams are either hoping to improve their seeding, resume, or win it outright. But these conference tournaments are always of most consequence to the bubble teams. It’s their final chance to rack up a quality win or two in order to impress the selection committee and see their name announced on Selection Sunday. Four Big Ten teams are on the bubble to varying degrees: Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois. The Cornhuskers and Gophers are squarely on it, while the Hoosiers and Illini are longshots at this point. According to bracketmatrix.com, the consensus view has Nebraska in the tourney as an #11 seed while most have Minnesota in their “first four out.” The table below displays the current profile for all four teams.

b1g bubble resumes 2014

Here’s what lies ahead for each of these teams heading into Indianapolis:

Indiana and Illinois. As it turns out, the two longshots face each other in the first round in the #8/#9 match-up on Thursday afternoon. So while one team will be automatically eliminated from bubble talk in its first game, the other will move on to face Michigan on Friday. Beating Michigan will be a tall task, as the outright Big Ten champs have won five straight — the last two of which were against Indiana and Illinois — and at 15-3 have been the hands-down best team in the league. That said, Michigan won a close game against the Hoosiers last Saturday and went to overtime against last-place Purdue a few weeks back, so they are not infallible. The Wolverines are #10 in the RPI and have an SOS of #9, so a win over Michigan here would be a significant boost to either team’s RPI and could advance that team on to the bubble.

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Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Vanderbilt 52

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after this afternoon’s SEC Tournament semifinal between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

  1. Vandy Goes Cold.  Vanderbilt was in control of the game for most of the first half, as they led by eight with just under four minutes remaining in the frame. After that, the Commodores went ice cold, particularly from three-point range. They were held scoreless for the last 3:49 of the first half and didn’t score their first basket in the second until the 17:35 mark. For the game, they shot just 33.9% from the field, and went 6-of-30 from three-point range. What Kevin Stallings did with this team was somewhat remarkable, as anyone who saw the Commodores two months ago never would have believed it could have performed the way it did in this tournament. But Vanderbilt clearly was bothered by Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway on the inside, and it was unable to get good looks or knock down enough shots on the perimeter. After playing the last two nights, it stands to reason the Commodores had tired legs, and it clearly showed in their performance Saturday.
  2. Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. Marshall Henderson has been, to say the least, a source of entertainment in Nashville this weekend, and much of the buzz among fans and the media has been about the Ole Miss junior. On Saturday, he was not quite as animated as he was in Friday night’s comeback over Missouri, but he still showed flashes of the personality that drives so many in the league crazy. What can’t be discounted is how important he is to his team. He led Ole Miss in scoring for for the second consecutive game, and, as he did Friday, hit key shots at important times. His play allowed the Rebels to extend their lead, which Vanderbilt was never able to overcome. If the Rebels are able to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in coach Andy Kennedy’s tenure, it’s no coincidence that it comes in Henderson’s first year in the program. Kennedy clearly decided to allow him to display antics that most coaches would not, and it may get the Rebels into the Big Dance. Henderson has deficiencies – he takes too many shots outside the flow of the offense and isn’t a particularly good defender – but he gives Ole Miss an element it hasn’t had in the past, and he was worth the risk for Kennedy.
  3. Is Ole Miss Safe? Andy Kennedy is convinced his team is in the NCAA Tournament, and Friday’s win over RPI No. 35 certainly helped the Rebels’ cause. But Saturday’s win over the Commodores likely did nothing to push Ole Miss closer to a tournament bid. Vanderbilt is outside the RPI top 100, and this committee will be given no real weight by the Selection Committee. The Rebels needed the win more from the standpoint that a loss would have severely damaged their cause, and more importantly, it now gives them a chance to take the decision out of the committee’s hands by beating Florida tomorrow. If they lose to the Gators, it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ve done enough to earn a bid. The only two top-50 wins they have came against Missouri, and they have ugly losses against sub-top-200 teams South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Rebels own 25 wins overall, so it won’t be surprising if they do receive a bid even if they aren’t able to beat the Gators, but Kennedy’s club would be well-served to take care of business tomorrow and earn the auto-bid.

Star of the Game. Marshall Henderson. Henderson went only 3-of-11 from three-point range, but did lead his team with a game-high 23 points. Again, though, it was the timing of his scoring that keyed the Rebels’ second-half run.

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Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Missouri 62

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Ole Miss-Missouri game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Takeaways:

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

  1. A Collapse Befitting Missouri. Missouri has had its trouble with closing out and giving away games throughout the season, but this one took the cake. The Tigers led by 14 in the second half and by 10 with 10 minutes to play. Somehow, they wilted down the stretch, even though Ole Miss never went on a particularly impressive run. With the game tied at 59 and less than a minute to play, Phil Pressey, whose late-game failures have been well chronicled, knocked down an open three from the top of the key to give the Tigers the lead. Derrick Millinghaus then tied the game with a three of his own with 31 seconds remaining. Missouri called timeout, and against the Ole Miss press, Laurence Bowers made an inexplicable pass towards no one in particular at mid-court, and Marshall Henderson got the ball.  After a timeout, Millinghaus hit a jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Rebels the win. 
  2. Millinghaus to the Rescue.  Early in the second half, Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers suffered an apparent concussion and was lost for the game. Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy turned to his backup, whom he referred to after the game as a “spot” player, and Millinghaus answered the call. In addition to knocking down the game-tying and game-winning shots, he didn’t turn the ball over, and played solid defense on Pressey. Without him, the Rebels would be going home. Now, to move on, they’ll need another strong performance from Millinghaus against Vanderbilt, as it’s unlikely Summers will be able to make a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s semifinal.  The diminutive freshman from New York stepped up in his team’s most important game of the season and at a time when it needed him most.
  3. Did Ole Miss Seal the Deal?  For most of the game, it looked like the Rebels would make yet another trip to the NIT, where they’ve been five of the past six years. Now, with another quality win on their resume – and their second over Missouri – a NCAA Tournament berth may be in the offing. Kennedy is convinced that his team has done enough. “No team in a BCS league has ever won 24 games and not made the NCAA Tournament,” he said.  The Rebels will be favored to advance to the championship game, and if they do, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll punch their ticket to the Big Dance, especially given the failures of so many other teams who came into the week sitting on the bubble.  Even without a win over Vanderbilt tomorrow, Kennedy’s team’s chances to make the Big Dance drastically improved with this quality win, and the relief Kennedy felt after the game was evident in his mood.  

Star of the Game. Derrick Millinghaus.  While Henderson scored a game-high 27 points,  Ole Miss doesn’t win this game without Millinghaus’ heroic play. Tournament play often brings out the best in players in situations such as the one Ole Miss faced with Summers’ injury, and that was the case on Friday night.

Sights and Sounds.  After Kentucky filled Bridgestone Arena in the first game of the session, a letdown was to be expected for this game. But both teams had more fans that anticipated, and both sections were loud. In a league filled with apathetic fan bases, Missouri is a welcome addition, and the Tigers’ contingent trailed only those of Kentucky and Tennessee in terms of size.  Henderson’s taunting of the Missouri section late in the game got it particularly riled up.

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Rushed Reactions: Vanderbilt 64, Kentucky 48

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

  1. Bubble Trouble.  With all of the losses fellow bubble-dwellers have suffered, the path to the NCAA Tournament was clear for Kentucky. Most assumed the Wildcats would clinch a bid with a win over Vanderbilt, which came into the contest with an overall record of 15-16. Instead, they add another loss to a sub-top-100 team (the Commodores currently sit at No. 118 in the RPI). So instead of advancing to play either Missouri or Ole Miss, the Wildcats severely damaged their position with the Selection Committee. They must now wait and see what the committee will do, and whether their resume is enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Since Nerlens Noel went out with a season-ending injury, Kentucky is now 4-4, and a blowout loss to a heretofore mediocre Vanderbilt squad coupled with ugly losses at Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, may make it easy for the committee to conclude that the Wildcats don’t deserve a selection. Kentucky looked like anything but an NCAA Tournament team Friday night, trailing Vanderbilt from the outset and falling behind by 20 early in the second half.  The Wildcats looked listless on the offensive end and allowed Vanderbilt to control the game. The Commodores looked like the only NCAA Tournament-worthy squad in this contest.
  2. A Harrow-ing Tale. To figure out what has plagued Kentucky throughout this up-and-down, frustrating campaign, one need look no further than the play it has gotten from the point guard position. In the past John Calipari’s teams have had superb point guard play, from Derrick Rose to John Wall to Brandon Knight to Marquis Teague, but this team hasn’t gotten that. That glaring weakness was especially evident Friday, as Ryan Harrow was nothing short of atrocious. He went 2-of-15 from the field and turned the ball over four times, killing any chance Kentucky had of winning this game. Harrow has shown signs of what brought him so much acclaim when he transferred from NC State, but overall, has not played up to Calipari’s standards. If Kentucky doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, it can look no further than Harrow’s play for a reason why.
  3. Can Vanderbilt Steal a Bid? According to Commodore coach Kevin Stallings, his team is back to .500 for the first time “in about five months.” It may not have been that long, but it has been an uphill climb for his club. This was a team from which very little was expected, and Stallings said after the game that he couldn’t be more satisfied with the way his club has improved. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been as proud of a team as I am of this one,” he said.  The question for his club now becomes whether it can break through and steal a bid to the NCAA Tournament. After dismantling Kentucky, he likes how his club is playing, and what seemed like an impossibility just a few short weeks ago now is something to at least think about. The Commodores will face either Missouri or Ole Miss in tomorrow’s second semifinal. They were dismantled in Columbia in January, but would have beaten Ole Miss but for a 35-footer by Marshall Henderson that sent the game to overtime before the Rebels prevailed.  To just be in this position is quite an accomplishment, and anyone who has followed this team knows Stallings has done one of his best coaching jobs this season.

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Alabama Positions Itself to Make a Run at an NCAA Bid

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Friday afternoon’s game between Alabama and Tennessee at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Some called today’s SEC Quarterfinal match-up between Tennessee and Alabama a “play-in” game for the NCAA Tournament. The reality was, though, that it was more likely a play-in for Tennessee. Most observers agreed that a win by the Volunteers would put them in the Big Dance, as they would have notched their 10th win over an RPI top-100 team. Most agreed, too, that Alabama would need to do more to make itself worthy of a spot in the field. What the Crimson Tide’s 58-48 victory, which came as the result of stifling defense that held Tennessee to 32% shooting from the field, did was put them in a position to secure a bid. Alabama, which currently sits at No. 62 in the RPI and owns only one victory over a top-50 RPI team (against No. 48 Kentucky), will now get a shot at a big one.

Alabama Held On to Come Out On Top Regardless

Alabama Held On to Come Out On Top Regardless

It takes on SEC regular season champion Florida, which sits at No. 7 in the RPI, in Saturday’s first semifinal. Given the difficulty other teams firmly on the bubble have had with taking advantage of their respective positions this week, the door is open for Anthony Grant’s team to make a run. Just today, the likes of Virginia, LaSalle, and, of course, Tennessee, all considered to be in the “Last Four In/Last Four Out” merry-go-round, lost. Earlier in the week, Boise State and MTSU, also among that group, lost. Ole Miss and Kentucky have yet to play here, but Alabama’s path to the field of 68 is clearer than it could have anticipated coming into the tournament.

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Big 12 NCAA Resumes: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 27th, 2013

Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down where each Big 12 bubble team stands in terms of its current NCAA Tournament resume. This time: the Baylor Bears, who are trying to make back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time in the Scott Drew era. 

  • Current Record: 16-11, 7-7 in the Big 12
  • RPI: 64
  • SOS: 32
Baylor's at-large opportunities are waning. (Getty Images)

Baylor’s chances at an at-large bid are waning. (Getty Images)

As is the case with most bubble teams, it’s been an up-and-down year for the Baylor Bears. The talent is there: upperclassmen, versatile big men, a dead-eye shooter and a Big 12 POY candidate. Despite a couple of brain-farts at home and maybe head coach Scott Drew, there’s still a chance to sneak into the Dance. SI’s Andy Glockner, CBS’ Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Ben Franklin all have the Bears on the outside at this point, but I’m going to do my best to try to make an unbiased case for them.

Case For An At-Large Bid: Gotta give Baylor this: They really challenged themselves in the non-conference season. They participated in the Charleston Classic that featured teams like Colorado and St. John’s. They took trips to difficult environments like Gonzaga and Kentucky. To top it off, they scheduled two home games versus 2012 Tournament teams Lehigh and BYU. (Which makes me wonder: How are strength of schedules calculated exactly?) They played Gonzaga tough on the road and lost while beating fellow bubble teams BYU, St. John’s and Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile in conference play, they have a 10-point win against Oklahoma State which is looking better by the week.

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Big East

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2008

We’re less than a week away from Selection Sunday, and already five teams have earned automatic bids to the NCAAs.  Congrats to Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Cornell (Ivy), Drake (Missouri Valley) and Austin Peay (OVC) for securing bids over the weekend.  Belmont (2006 and 2007), Winthrop (1999-2002 and 2005-2007) and Austin Peay (1996 and 2003) are old hands at March Madness, but some special love should go to Cornell and Drake, as Cornell hasn’t been to the Dance since 1988 and Drake since 1971!

Every year we always have trouble finding brackets for each of the major conference tournaments, so we decided to provide them for ease of use this time around.  Over the next couple days, we’re going to do a quick analysis of each conference tournament, starting today with the Big East.   

Where:  Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When:
  Wednesday – Saturday

Big East Bracket v.3

The Favorite(s).  We don’t see much of a difference between regular season champion Georgetown and runner-up Louisville.  Both of their regular season games were low-scoring affairs marked by grinding defense and big plays down the stretch.  If it comes down to a rematch, we like Louisville’s experience prevailing in the neutral court environment. 

The Darkhorse.  UConn.  It’s difficult to ever think of Connecticut as a darkhorse in this tournament, but so long as the Huskies avoid playing Providence again (PC would have to upset WVU to reach UConn on Thursday), they are in prime position to make a run at Jim Calhoun’s seventh BE Tournament title.  They have the size to counter Georgetown in the semis, and UConn always enjoys a quasi-home crowd environment at the Garden. 

Bubble Buster Game.  The first game of the tournament is also the most important game for the NCAA Selection Committee.  Syracuse and Villanova have almost identical profiles – it would be hard for us to believe that the loser of this game will be chosen over the winner on Sunday afternoon. 

Cinderella.  With that in mind, we know that Syracuse loves to make runs in this tournament.  They have a great following in NYC, and have very recently handled both Villanova and Georgetown, the two teams they will see in the first two rounds.  Paging the ghost of Gerry McNamara…

Games We Want to See.  The Big East is the strongest conference in America at the top, and therefore we’d love to see a strong semifinal group of Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut and Notre Dame (or Marquette) on Friday night, followed by GU-UL part 3 for the title.  All of these teams are Sweet 16 teams or better, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see two of them in the F4 this year.  The quality of basketball should be better than any other conference at that level. 

Champion.  On Saturday night, whoever comes out of this group of teams will have definitely proven itself.  We like Rick Pitino’s Louisville team.  Since David Padgett returned to the lineup, the Cards have gone 15-4, including a strong 9-1 stretch run that included only the narrow road loss at Georgetown this past weekend.  Surprisingly, Pitino is only 3-4 with no titles in the BE Tourney in two stints at Providence and Louisville.  We think that this is the year he improves on that record.

Those Left Home.  Depaul, St. John’s, South Florida, Rutgers.  How embarrassing is it that St. John’s cannot even make the Big East Tourney, played ostensibly on its home floor at MSG?

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