Handicapping NCAA bids via remaining conference tourneys
A look at the circumstances behind the Hoosiers' epic win over the Wolverines, as well as some major games on tap in conference tournaments this week.
So you want to know what really goes into deciding who advances to the NCAA tournament? We go over all these variables and subjective data, but the truth is the selection committee can use that date any way it sees fit. What we do know is that the conference tournament games below are likely play-in, play-out scenarios:
Big East -- Cincinnati vs. Providence, Wednesday: Cincinnati (21-10, 9-9) went to the Sweet 16 last year and looked poised for another deep run early this year. But the Bearcats have lost six of their last nine and barely beat South Florida in their last regular season game. An older team that has no inside scoring, Cincinnati can't afford to lose to a dangerous Providence (17-13, 9-9) team on Wednesday.
Big East -- Villanova vs. St. John's, Wednesday: Villanova (19-12, 10-8) is all over the map. They have four really good home wins over the top of the Big East, but also out of conference losses to other bubble teams in La Salle, Temple (by 17) and Alabama (22). They lost twice to Providence, lost by 18 to Cincinnati, and lost to Seton Hall. Nova appears to be in as of now, but with a loss to St. John's (16-14, 8-10) and other teams accruing wins, they could end up on the wrong side of the bubble.
MWC -- Boise State vs. San Diego State, Wednesday: The Broncos (21-9, 9-7) beat SDSU (21-9, 9-7) to end their season and seemingly get on the right side of the bubble. SDSU needed a last-second three to beat Boise at home earlier in the season. This will be an amazing early round Mountain West matchup, and BSU is a lock with a win.
ACC -- NC State vs. Virginia, Thursday: NC State (22-9, 9-7) is one of those teams that could very easily play itself out of the NCAA tournament. The Pack did beat Duke, but the Blue Devils didn't have Ryan Kelly (same deal with Virginia's win over the Devils). State's other top wins are over UConn and UNC. Outside of that, NC State was wildly disappointing this year, managing only to not lose to anyone who is awful (although the Wake Forest loss looks bad). NC State should survive and at least get into the NCAA tournament, but it must beat Virginia Tech (13-18, 4-14) at a minimum in order to get closer to lock position. As for Virginia (21-10, 11-7) a win over NC State should be enough. The loser of Pack/Cavs will be sweating, and frankly it should be NC State sweating more, as the Wahoos can at least point to a road win over Wisconsin as evidence of their national worth.
Big 12 -- Oklahoma vs. Iowa State, Thursday: The winner should be in decent shape, and since ISU (21-10, 11-7) won by 19 at home and lost by 17 on the road to the Sooners (20-10. 11-7), one more game appears in order.The loser should be out of the tourney, though the Cyclones two close losses to KU might be a mark in their favor.
Big 12 -- Baylor vs. Oklahoma State, Thursday: The Bears (18-13, 9-9) hopped back into contention with a big-time win over Kansas to end their regular season, and a neutral court win over Oklahoma State (23-7, 13-5), who they had beaten in Stillwater before falling apart late in a 69-67 loss, would do wonders. Baylor likely needs to win two games, and Kansas State would be its likely opponent in the Big 12 semifinals.
SEC -- Tennessee vs. Alabama, Friday: Tennessee (19-11, 11-7) has to win its first game against the South Carolina/Mississippi State winner, but should the Vols clear that hurdle, it would set up this critical matchup for both teams. Tennessee would be close without a win over Bama (20-11, 12-6), but Bama would not be close without a win over Tennessee. Should they prevail here, the Tide would have a great case, with a win over a Kentucky team that still had Nerlens Noel and a win over Villanova by 22 on a neutral court. Bama may have been very lucky to beat Georgia this past weekend, but that doesn't mean the Tide aren't capable.
Iowa needs two wins in Big Ten tourney
In the Big Ten tournament, which begins Thursday, Iowa (20-11) has to win two games to get into the field, in my opinion, which would mean dispatching Michigan State if the Hawkeyes get past Northwestern in round one.
Keep in mind Iowa had an easier Big Ten schedule then others, so 9-9 is not equal to what Illinois and to a lesser extent Minnesota did in or out of league. Iowa played MSU only once, in Iowa City, and lost by three.
Guard Mike Gesell is still out with a foot problem, but coach Fran McCaffery said he could return for the Big Ten tourney and provide a lift for a Hawkeyes team that has won six of eight. If Iowa wins two, they will likely dance, anything less and a .500 Big Ten season for the first time in six years is a good step in the right direction for a young team.
What about Minnesota (20-11, 8-10)? Sure the Golden Gophers beat Indiana and Michigan State, as well as Illinois on the road. True, their resume is more impressive in terms of strength of schedule and quality of wins than most anyone else on the bubble. But they have also lost 10 of their last 15 games.
Minnesota has a third game with Illinois coming up. Can you put a team in that loses 11 of its last 16 games? The answer is yes, as UConn had a similar finish last year losing 12 of its last 18. The Huskies, like Minnesota, had talent but flamed out to a better team with inferior talent in the first round (Iowa State).
Why Indiana won, Michigan lost
At halftime of Sunday's eventual classic between Indiana and Michigan, the Wolverines had a three-point lead, and I pointed out on CBS that Tom Crean had subbed himself out of an early lead with a bizarre array of substitutions. Having played big games in environments like Crisler Arena, I know you get winded very quickly because of all the hype and the crowd, and maybe Crean was reacting to that. On the other hand, Crean has a tendency to leave himself with a mishmash of talent on the floor, and IU struggled to regain its rhythm after building that early lead.
But Crean made up for it in the second half, when he outmaneuvered John Beilein some by using Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller all at the same time. The Hoosiers' big lineup, crossed with Michigan going small and using 5-11 Spike Albrecht as the off guard, allowed IU to pound Michigan on the glass. Sheehey also got several open looks as Michigan struggled to match up. All of that said, the Wolverines had the game essentially won before the final minute when their struggles at the line doomed them.
Now, to the foul. I do not know where fans went off the mark, but the foul on Christian Watford was not of an intentional/flagrant variety. True, Glenn Robinson Jr. had a clear path to the basket. True, Watford fouled him, and yes, Watford even bumped him in the back in trying to block his shot, but having a clear path does not mean the defender has to give up on the play. Of course there was some intent to foul, but there was no clear intent to do harm. The bigger issue was Michigan missing free throws, not a butchered call -- which it was not. Credit Indiana with getting the ball in to Zeller late when it was down, and not forcing bad 3-pointers. On the other hand, IU got away with fouling Michigan's two highest-volume shooters and two very good free-throw shooters. Fouling Trey Burke was the wrong move, though it worked. Burke is an 80 percent free-throw shooter, and there were 29 seconds to go in the game. On the other hand, IU employed the extend-the-game philosophy, and being down one, they would have had at least the threat of a 3 to tie.
In the end, Michigan ran a high ball screen for Burke, he got Cody Zeller on a switch and blew past Zeller but tried to draw contact and finish with his left hand in the lane. Youth coaches often teach finishing with your left hand on the left side, and Burke can protect the ball by using his body to shield the ball from trouble by using his left, but he had the lane, and should have used his right hand to finish and win the game. Jordan Morgan then narrowly missed a tip-in to give the Hoosiers the victory. Indiana never quit, Michigan missed three of four free throws down the stretch -- and Burke's and Morgan's shots. For Indiana to win in Columbus, East Lansing and Ann Arbor in the same season is quite the accomplishment.
As for Crean yelling, "You helped ruin our program" at former IU assistant Jeff Meyer, Crean should be ashamed of himself. What could be perceived as a lack of class in such situations has been noticed by other Big Ten coaches. One league coach said of Crean, "He never played, so he has this insecurity wrapped up with being totally aloof from how things are done. He has a hell of a team, but I have no use for the guy and his handshake antics, or his full-court press when he is up 30."
Burke over Oladipo the right call
I agree with the Big Ten awarding Trey Burke player of the year honors. Burke, while not the defender Victor Oladipo is, is such a huge part of who Michigan is and what the Wolverines do, so he's a solid choice. As for Oladipo, his value, like that of Ohio State's Aaron Craft, is in his all-around game and spectacular defense. I would have actually voted Craft second and Oladipo fourth behind Cody Zeller for player of the year honors. Here's why: If you take Burke off Michigan and, say, Spike Albrecht is their point guard starter as a freshman (while Albrecht is going to be a nice player), the Wolverines may not make the NCAA tournament. I think something similar could be said about Craft. While Oladipo is tremendous, IU's bevy of talented scorers would have the Hoosiers at least viable as a tournament team in his absence. To be sure, Oladipo makes them a title favorite.
The Mountain West gave their POY to Kendall Williams of New Mexico. Williams wasn't as important as Lobos center Alex Kirk was, but he did have a 46-point game on the road at Colorado State. Still, I would have given the award to San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin. Franklin, who leads his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals, is the only player in the country to do that this season.
Big win for Owls
VCU had Temple down 16 points and on the ropes, but that is when the sound coaching of Fran Dunphy and the stellar play of senior guard Khalif Wyatt kicked in. Dunphy went to three guards at times, and that stabilized the Owls versus the press. In addition, Temple continued to make VCU shoot deep jumpers and without makes, VCU could not set up its pressure. In the halfcourt, Temple really ran a four-corners type of set and let Wyatt go one-on-one since he can use his 6-4, 215-pound frame and get into the lane. That tempo favored Temple. The Owls do not have much inside scoring, and though they want to switch via screens, their bigs are not as adept at the practice as they would like, and it causes them some mismatch problems.
Doug Gottlieb is a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports. A former player at Notre Dame and Oklahoma State, Gottlieb is 10th in NCAA history in assists. Watch Doug on Lead Off, weeknights at midnight ET on CBS Sports Network, and listen to him on CBS Sports Radio weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Follow Doug on Twitter @GottliebShow.
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