Friday, February 26, 2010

Big East Bubble Breakdown

Ed. Note: The rest of this post can be found at RTC.

Barring an improbable collapse or an unforeseen run through Madison Square Garden, there are just six Big East teams that are still sitting somewhere on the bubble.

Syracuse, Villanova, Pitt, Georgetown, and West Virginia are all playing for seeding and a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. South Florida, Providence, Rutgers, DePaul, and St. John's are all playing for pride and, well, pride.

That leaves the six teams sitting in the middle of the league -- Marquette, Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and Seton Hall -- with a shot at dancing. Commencing Big East Bubble Breakdown.

Marquette: 18-9, 9-6; RPI: 54, SOS: 65
- vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 2-6, 3-7, 6-7
- Best Wins: Xavier, Georgetown
- Worst Losses: DePaul

As has been the case all season long for Marquette, their inability to win close games early in the season has been killer. The Golden Eagles RPI does not properly represent how well this team has played this season. None of their nine losses have come by more than nine points, and seven have come by less than five points. It seems like Marquette's luck is starting to turn a corner, as they have now won their last four close games, including Wednesday's buzzer-beating W at St. John's. Marquette gets Seton Hall on the road and Louisville and Notre Dame at home before heading to the Big East tournament, where is looks as if they will get a first round bye. Win three more games, and Marquette will lock up a bid.

Louisville: 18-10, 9-6; RPI: 42, SOS: 9
- vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-5, 2-6, 6-9
- Best Wins: UConn, Syracuse
- Worst Losses: Western Carolina, St. John's

Louisville is in a tough spot. They have a solid RPI bolstered by very good strength of schedule, but they have not really beaten anyone this season. The win at Syracuse is as good as it gets, but after that, their best W is against a UConn team that could lose their last four games by 20 points and no one would be surprised. If the eye test matters to anyone, Louisville will pass with flying colors. They have a very good front line, anchored by Samardo Samuels and the suddenly-dangerous Jared Swopshire. Their back court, which has been inconsistent this season (although there have been some injuries), is as talented on paper as any in the conference save Villanova. Louisville has a tough schedule down the stretch, but that means that they will have three chances to really improve their resume - at UConn and Marquette (who are both fighting for a bubble spot as well), and at home for Syracuse (who will likely be playing for the Big East title and will be looking for revenge). Lose all three, and Louisville is in trouble. But if they win all three and make some noise in the Big East Tournament, and this is a team that could be a top six or seven seed.

UConn: 17-11, 7-8; RPI: 40, SOS: 2
- vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 3-5, 3-6, 9-9
- Best Wins: Texas, Villanova, West Virginia
- Worst Losses: Providence, Michigan

The Huskies are coming along at the right time. Since Jim Calhoun returned from his illness, UConn is 3-1 with wins over Villanova and West Virginia. Overall, UConn is in a similar boat to Louisville, as their lofty RPI is, in large part, a result of the tough schedule they have played. UConn brings up an interesting question - how will the committee handle the seven games Jim Calhoun missed? With him, the Huskies are 14-7. Without him, they are 3-4 with a loss to Providence. But UConn also beat Texas without him and lost to Cincinnati in terrible fashion without Calhoun. The Huskies get Louisville at home and South Florida and Notre Dame on the road. Win their last three and their first game in the Big East, and this team wins.

Cincinnati: 16-11, 7-8; RPI: 59, SOS: 29
- vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-3, 4-6, 6-11
- Best Wins: Maryland, Vanderbilt, UConn X 2
- Worst Losses: St. John's

Cincinnati is in a really tough spot. Before beating DePaul, the Bearcats had lost four of their last five games and seven of their last eleven. And now they are sitting at 59th in the RPI without a good conference win under their belts. They will get three chances at getting one in their last three games, as they go on the road to face Villanova, get Georgetown at home, and play West Virginia on the road as well. As I said, the Bearcats are in trouble.

Seton Hall: 16-10, 7-8; RPI: 52, SOS: 18
- vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
- Best Wins: Cornell, Pitt
- Worst Losses: South Florida

You know, Seton Hall's resume is not as bad as many people think it is. They have a couple nice wins, beating Cornell on the road and knocking off Pitt and Louisville at home. They do have 10 losses, but of those ten, the only one that can be considered a "bad" loss came in overtime at South Florida during that two week stretch when South Florida was pretending they were good. The Pirates play three more regular season games - Marquette at home and Rutgers and Providence on the road. If they can win all three of those, a task which is far from improbable, the Pirates will head into the Big East Tournament at 10-8 in the league with a very real chance of being able to play their way into the tournament.

Notre Dame: 18-10, 7-8; RPI: 72, SOS: 63
- vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
- Best Wins: West Virginia, Pitt
- Worst Losses: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern, Rutgers

Call me crazy, but is Notre Dame playing better basketball without Luke Harangody? Since to all-american went out with a knee injury against Seton Hall, ND has looked downright scary at times. They lost to Louisville on the road in double overtime most recently they just put a whooping on Pitt at home. Without 'Gody on the floor, ND seems to play better defense and move the ball better. The rest of the team also seems to be a bit more aggressive, knowing that they don't have to get the big fella touches. In the three games 'Gody has been out, Tim Abromaitis has up his average to 23.3 ppg in the last three. Ben Hansbrough is averaging 16.3 ppg. Tory Jackson is averaging 13.7 ppg, and scored 25 the night 'Gody was hurt. Clearly, Notre Dame is a better basketball team with Luke on the floor, and they are going to need him if the Irish are to navigate a difficult stretch run -- at Georgetown, UConn, at Marquette. With the losses ND has this season, they probably needed to sweep those three games and pick up at least one win in the Big East tournament for a shot at an at-large.

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