Monday, January 23, 2006

Tops Nip Jags; 01/23 Bracket

I. Tops Recover By Slipping Past South Alabama, 74-73
In a match up of the two best teams in the Belt, WKU managed to eke out a one-point road win in Mobile over South AL. The Jags were 8-0 at home and 4-0 in the Sun Belt before WKU handed them the tough loss. Both teams played stretches of excellent defense in this game and both had stretches of hot shooting to make mini-runs. WKU led by nine points on two different occasions in the second half, but USA answered both times, once with a three-point barrage by Demetric Bennett (three in a row) and once by making a string of free throws late in the second half to pull even.

WKU made a conscious effort to go inside early and often. While this helped the Tops get some open outside looks, the outside shooting woes continued in the first half as WKU was 0-5 from Three to start the game. From that point on, the Tops were 9-14 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. This team tends to live and die with their perimeter shooting. The amazing part is that WKU lost the battle on the boards (36-34), were outscored by 15 at the line, and still managed a road win against a team that was formerly 8-0 at home. Big win for WKU...and they get to keep the Belt bracket slot for another week.

II. Bracket Update
Last week, big guns Oklahoma and Kentucky fell out of the bracket. While both barely slipped back into this week's bracket, 2005 Final Four partcipant Louisville fell out. The Cards' RPI is 82, they have no top 50 RPI wins, they are 1-4 in Big East play, and they lost to Saint John's this week (although the Johnnies upset Pitt as well). Preseason darling Nevada also fell out. The numerical evidence is too great to overcome any love for big Nick Fazekas.

1. Boston College and Wake Forest need to pick up a bit. Both are precariously close to falling out of the bracket. BC's win over streaking Miami-FL will help if the Canes keep up their good play.

2. Aforementioned Oklahoma slipped back in by beating Texas A&M and Texas Tech. OK is at Baylor on Wednesday and has a huge game against Texas in Norman on Saturday.

3. Kentucky fans were elated with the late heroics needed to get a victory over South Carolina. In Rupp Arena. That should tell you something about where UK is right now. UK goes to Auburn on Tuesday night and hosts fellow Bubble Boy Arkansas on Sunday. They need both games.

4. Miami-FL soared into the bracket based on some fantastic recent play. They have won four of five, including wins over Maryland, North Carolina, and Clemson. They did lose to Boston College on Saturday, but they still are in at this point. They have road games at Virginia and Florida State this week.

Multi-bid Conference Breakdown
West Virginia, Miami-FL, Georgetown, and LSU were big gainers this week. SIU, Louisville, DePaul, Nebraska, and Nevada fell out of the bracket.

Big East (8): UConn, Villanova, Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Marquette
Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan
ACC (7): Duke, NC State, Maryland, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami-FL
SEC (7): Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Kentucky
MVC (4): Northern Iowa, Creighton, Wichita State, Missouri State
Pac-10 (3): UCLA, Arizona, Washington
Big 12 (3): Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma
CUSA (2): Memphis, UAB
A-10 (2): George Washington, Xavier

Last Four Teams In: Kentucky, Boston College, Wake Forest, Oklahoma

First Five Out: Bradley, Iona, Louisville, Southern Illinois, Clemson

Others: Kansas State, Kansas, Georgia, Air Force, Nebraska

III. Tonight's GOI
--Sacred Heart at Fairleigh Dickinson. There is a SIX-WAY tie at the top of the Northeast Conference. These are two of those six teams with two conferences losses.
--Utah State at Nevada. Huge WAC tilt between two favorites.
--Syracuse at Pittsburgh. Both coming off of Big East losses over the weekend.
--Oklahoma State at Texas. This one would go a long way on the Cowboys' resume.