Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How did last night's games effect Florida, Louisville, and Illinois

Florida, Louisville, and Illinois went into tonight's games under similar circumstances.

All three were sitting (precariously) on the right side of the bubble, but all three kicked off brutal finishes to their conference schedule.

The Gators and the Illini helped themselves. Florida, who was sitting tied with Tennessee for third in the tough SEC East, overcame a sluggish start as they used a big second half surge to knock off the Vols at the O-Dome. It is the first RPI top 25 win for Florida (they were previously 0-6), who should get a bump into the RPI top 50 tomorrow (ESPN has them at 54 right now). Florida finishes up with games at Georgia, against Vanderbilt, and at Kentucky before heading to the SEC Tournament. The odds of the Gators earning a bye in the SEC Tournament are slim, which means that Florida would likely play their first round game against the fifth or sixth place team from the SEC West. Two more wins (read: avoid losses to Georgia and the bottom of the SEC West), and Florida is in.

Illinois is in a bit of a tougher situation than Florida. After knocking off Michigan on the road last night, the Illini are tied with Wisconsin for fifth in the Big Ten, a good two and a half games in front of sixth place Minnesota. They have some nice wins -- at Clemson, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, at Wisconsin -- but also some head-scratching losses -- Bradley, Utah, Georgia. As a result, the Illini have a brutal RPI of 71, smack-dab in the middle of St. John's and Weber State. Illinois' will play three very difficult games to finish the regular season as they host Minnesota and travel to Ohio State before finishing the season with Wisconsin in Assembly Hall. Getting one win may be enough, but the Illini will probably want to win two to feel safe; it looks fairly likely that Illinois will finish in the fifth spot in the conference, meaning their first Big Ten Tournament game will be against one of the top four teams. The Orange Crush won't be sitting comfortably on Selection Sunday with a 1-3 finish.

And then there is Louisville.

Heading into tonight, the Cardinals had won three straight games, including a road win against Syracuse, which had vaulted them into the bottom half of most mock brackets. Tonight's home loss to Georgetown shouldn't change that standing too much - Georgetown is, in fact, a top 15 team nationally.

Before the loss, Louisville was 30th in the RPI, having played the 8th best schedule in the country with arguably the nation's best win this season, knocking off Syracuse on the road (the Orange are currently ranked 4th in the RPI, and none of the three teams above them as lost a home game this year).

But that is really it for Louisville.

They did nothing in their non-conference slate. They have losses to Western Carolina and Charlotte (by 22) at home. They've lost to Seton Hall and St. John's on the road. Hell, its not crazy to think that their only win against a tournament team is that Syracuse win (UConn and Cinci may earn bids, while Morgan State, Western Kentucky, and possibly even Oral Roberts have a shot of winning their tournaments).

Back to my point, that resume is enough to earn a bid today, but the season doesn't end today.

It ends after Louisville heads on the road for two bubble battles against UConn and Marquette in the span of three days. It ends after Louisville closes the season at home against a Syracuse that could very well be playing for a Big East regular season title. It ends after the Big East Tournament, where there is a chance that Louisville will be playing on the first day.

There are not many teams in the country with a tougher finish to the season than Louisville.

And if they don't win at least a game or two, last year's #1 overall seed could be headed to the NIT.

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