Okay, maybe I found a player or two who endeared themselves to me last night. The obvious choice would be Draelon Burns. When Notre Dame went up 11-0, it was Draelon and Wilson Chandler who combined to score the first 16 points of the game. He helped steady things when they could have gotten out of control beyond repair. I do think his shot selection occasionally leaves a bit to be desired, though, and that's something on which he needs to mature to take another step in the leadership process.
The player who really endeared himself to me last night was Marcus. I think back to the Louisville game, and Len Elmore made a comment near the end of that game that when DePaul was crashing the offensive boards, they were just tip, tip, tipping the ball towards the rim, rather than grabbing, gathering and…scoring. (I tried for some alliteration there, but I couldn't come up with a good "g" synonym.) In the pressure situations of the last four minutes, I was impressed with how composed he seemed around the basket – the reverse lay-up, the lay-up to bring the game to 66-65, the dunk on the feed from Chandler…which, by the way, was in stark contrast with the weak lay-up effort Rob Kurz attempted at the end of the game which was swatted by Wilson. Foul? No foul? If he goes up to dunk, he forces the issue.
If "Wedding Crashers 2" is ever made, I can totally see Colin Falls cast as the villain. I don't know what it is, but he has a little of that "A.J. Pierzynski Look" in him, to me.
I listened to the first half of the game as I was driving home from work, and it seemed like Zach Zaidman described about one of every four of Jabari's passes as "no look". Was that true? If it is, could this explain why he had as many turnovers as he did last night?
For those of you who were at the game last night, be thankful you were spared the sight of Rick Majerus in a DePaul jersey (although, thankfully, he had the discretion to keep his shirt on underneath). Basketball jerseys aren't supposed to be form-fitting, are they?
So where does this leave DePaul? Assuming the bubble is Chicago, DePaul is probably in Aurora right now. But before this game, they were in the Quad Cities, so this is progress. At 13-11, 5-6, the RPI rank is at 68. That's only three spots behind Syracuse and 15 spots behind 18-win Notre Dame. Is the Marquette game a "must win"? Well, if they aren't, then the game at Notre Dame probably is. So pick which one you want to be the "must win" in that scenario. Of course, winning them both would do wonders for the at-large profile. Darn it, I'm starting to dream again….
Big East Scores of Bubble Relevance
Georgetown 73, Louisville 65. As if any doubt was left about the Hoyas (17-5, 7-2, RPI: 32) qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, it's gone now. That's six wins in a row, and they're positioning themselves nicely for a first-round Big East Tournament bye. On the other hand, Louisville (15-8, 6-4, RPI: 71) has been staggered with two straight losses, and the RPI continues to be anemic. They have three probable wins left on the schedule (South Florida, St. John's, Seton Hall) and two probable losses (@ the Wannstedts, @ Marquette). The "swing" game appears to be the one at Connecticut. In Louisville's case, ten conference wins versus nine could make a lot of difference.
Pittsburgh 60, West Virginia 47. I'm probably less bullish on the Pittsnogles (17-5, 7-4, RPI: 47) than most. The set of numbers that bothers me the most is the 3-4 against the RPI Top 100. That's a very low number of total overall games and wins against this crucial group. Even Memphis has four wins against the Top 100, and they only have one other Top 100 team in their conference. That having been said, watch them go out and beat UCLA over the weekend and render this entire paragraph useless.
ACC Scores of Bubble Relevance
Clemson 71, Florida State 58. The Tigers (19-5, 5-5, RPI: 22) needed this win at home in the worst way, and they got it. It stems the tide of a stretch of five losses in six games, although to be fair, one of those was against the Father of Modern Basketball and his Cavaliers. Clemson probably doesn't even have to finish .500 in conference to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. Twenty-one wins at 7-9 with a solid computer number is probably enough. On the other side, Florida State (17-7, 5-5, RPI: 19) was probably playing with house money here after winning at Cameron Indoor over the weekend. Finishing .500 in conference would get them to 20 wins, and that's probably enough to go dancing.
SEC Scores of Bubble Relevance
Florida 71, Georgia 61. The Bulldogs' (12-9, 5-5, RPI: 52) case was looking pretty good after beating LSU at home on January 28. Since then, they've lost three in a row. There's really no shame in any of the losses (at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, vs. Florida), but their profile is sinking. However, the next five games are all winnable: @ South Carolina, vs. Kennesaw State (?), vs. Auburn, @ Mississippi, vs. Mississippi State, so it's premature to count out the ‘Dawgs.
Big 10 Scores of Bubble Relevance
Purdue 62, Michigan State 38. Twelve points in the second half? What the heck? Michigan State (17-8, 4-6, RPI: 40) has lost four in a row, none uglier than this one. They're going to try and circle the wagons with four consecutive home games, but they have home-and-homes with Michigan and Wisconsin remaining, plus a visit from Indiana. That's not a pleasant schedule. On the other side, the Boilermakers (16-8, 5-5, RPI: 38) have leapt over the Spartans in both conference standings and RPI rank. They're going in fits and starts, not having a winning or losing streak of more than two games since December 9. Their next game is at Ohio State, which has the chance of being the money shot that propels them into serious NCAA consideration, if they can win (a tall order).
Illinois 58, Northwestern 43. I wonder what the fan base in Evanston is thinking about the version of the Princeton offense the Mildcats are running. Northwestern is 1-9 in conference and has yet to break 60 points in a conference game. (I can see you all getting angrier at the screen as you think about DePaul's performance there.) Actually, do they have a fan base at all with this sort of yawning offense and lack of success? Anyway, with their remaining schedule, I can see Illinois (18-8, 6-5, RPI: 41) getting to 21 wins before the conference tourney, then getting a first-round lay-up game to pad the resume. Twenty-two wins in the Big 10 is plenty for NCAA Tournament inclusion.
Big XII Scores of Bubble Relevance
Kansas 97, Kansas State 70. It looks like the Huggy Bears (17-7, 6-3, RPI: 43) played this one like they had just come off an emotional road win…which they had, at Texas over the weekend. With a fading Texas Tech and a computer-number weak Longhorn squad, K-State looks better and better matched up against them. Question of the day: why does Big XII football have two divisions, but Big XII basketball does not? I was going to talk about K-State's standing in the Big XII North, then realized there is no Big XII North.
Oklahoma 67, Oklahoma State 60. Of all the teams I included on here, I thought longest and hardest about the Cowboys (17-5, 4-4, RPI: 26). They feel like they should be a lock, but…this makes two questionable road losses in a row, the other by 12 to an awful Colorado team. While 17-5 overall looks shiny, it pales when you consider that they were once 14-1.
Pac-10 Scores of Bubble Relevance
UCLA 70, USC 65. I keep waiting for the RPI to catch up with the record for the Trojans (18-7, 8-4, RPI: 44), and it doesn't seem like it will. Most of the problem is that somehow, USC managed to play two of the ten worst teams in Division I as of today (Bethune Cookman – RPI: 332; Charleston Southern – RPI: 330). I don't recall a major conference team ever managing that feat, so congratulations to Tim Floyd on his scheduling. That must have been the tipping point for O.J. Mayo to select USC. It sure feels like this year, a number of BCS conference teams are going to end up with 20+ wins, yet RPI ranks in the 40s and 50s. I'm interested to see how that situation will play itself out from a selection perspective.
Washington State 58, Stanford 45. The Cougars (19-4, 8-3, RPI: 29) are safe. Second place in the Pac-10 and 19 overall wins will give that safety to a team. This is more about the Cardinal (15-6, 7-3, RPI: 36). As long as they can get to over .500 in conference, they should be fine. The Pac-10 is so numerically strong, beating just about anyone in conference helps. Remember, this is a conference where Arizona is in sixth place, but has an RPI rank of 7.
Missouri Valley Scores of Bubble Relevance
Creighton 79, Evansville 74. Second question of the day: how did Evansville (12-13, 5-9, RPI: 116) get chosen for the "Bracket Buster" over some of the other Valley schools? They'll be taking on Samford (13-10, 11-4, RPI: 127) of the Ohio Valley Conference. What was the other option, Towson at Montana? Anyway, the Bluejays (17-7, 11-3, RPI: 25) have now won five in a row and finish with three of their last five at home. I can't see them getting snubbed again this year for NCAA Tournament inclusion.
Southern Illinois 60, Bradley 50. Should be interesting to watch what the Selection Committee does with the Salukis (19-5, 11-3, RPI: 11). The RPI would suggest they deserve to be a #2-seed right now, but nobody's kidding themselves into believing that. With only one non-conference Top 50 win (against Virginia Tech), SIU seems destined for a seed somewhere in the #5-#7 range. On the other side, I actually had to delete and rewrite what I initially wrote about Bradley (15-10, 7-7, RPI: 46). I saw 15-10 and thought the clock had struck midnight. But their last four conference games are very winnable (Drake, @ Evansville, Northern Iowa, Indiana State), and they have the best chance of anyone to advance their profile in the "Bracket Buster" by playing at Virginia Commonwealth. Could Bradley and DePaul charge forward together to make the NCAA Tournament?
Wichita State 61, Indiana State 45. I keep waiting to bury the Shockers (15-9, 7-7, RPI: 66), and they keep winning just enough to stay relevant. If they run the table to the conference tournament, they would have 20 wins and victories over Appalachian State in the "Bracket Buster", Missouri State and Creighton. Then, all of a sudden, their case would get interesting.
Drake 67, Northern Iowa 59. That's all she wrote for the Panthers (15-9, 7-7, RPI: 81). Two consecutive suspect losses against Indiana State and Drake is all the impetus I needed to declare Northern Iowa out of the bubble chase. I'm sure the Selection Committee will be relieved to know I've made a definitive decision on one team.
Other Scores of Bubble Relevance
Virginia Commonwealth 63, George Mason 49. The Rams (21-4, 13-1, RPI: 45) keep right on rolling. In their five remaining games, they'll likely be favored in four of them. Should they take care of business in the ones I project to be wins, they'll be 25-5 heading into the conference tournament. That's definitely enough to qualify for the NCAAs, regardless of the conference tournament results.
Drexel 95, Hofstra 87 (OT). What a huge win for the Dragons (17-6, 10-4, RPI: 50) on the road over the second-place team in the conference, the Pride (17-7, 11-3, RPI: 77). With four teams at conference records of 10-4 or better, the semifinals of the Colonial conference tournament are shaping up to be a free-for-all.
Let's go, Demons.
WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report – 2/9/07
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