Peppers at 10, which seems low.
Saturday's Night's Bubble News or What to Watch during Hockey Intermissions
As expected, Michigan lost today on the road to one of the best teams in the Big 10. The Harris ejection was a huge stomach punch to the team, which was too bad because Michigan, without really playing above their head, had gone neck and neck with Purdue the first half. It looked like they could play with Purdue. I am more encouraged about Michigan's chances when they rematch four weeks from now at Crisler Arena than I was this morning. Hopefully Manny will drop a career high on them in retribution for today's early shower.
The obvious sad news is that Michigan, hanging by a thread in most mock brackets when the week began, will disappear from most boards after an 0-2 week. No worries. There are plenty of big ticket scalps out there coming to Crisler Arena in February. Michigan still controls its own fate in regards to an NCAA tournament bid despite their expected absence from the next round of projections.
Scoreboard watching, plenty of good news did come in for Michigan's bubble hopes. Lets take a look at how the afternoon went for Lunardi's projections at espn.com Notre Dame (#10) extended its losing streak to five and is headed for a triple digit RPI. Oklahoma State, a team among the final 4 into the field along with Michigan, also completed an 0-2 week. Two teams from the final eight cut, Mississippi State and Providence, lost with the Bulldogs failures against Ole Miss especially damning, falling spot on in the 'bad loss' department. BC and USC from that group face toss up games this evening. I cant think of one team out there thats not from this group that will automatically leap over them in the current pecking order. With no bubble team making a decisive statement this week, its at least good timing for Michigan to throw up an 0-2 week on the board. Another consideration favoring Michigan as it relates to ESPN's projections. Among the dozen teams that include their final four in and final eight out of the field, three (Utah, BYU and SDSU) are from the Mountain West Conference. Along with UNLV, that league is probably only going to get two bids, so those bubble contenders in that time zone will pick each other off.
In between commercial breaks of tonight's big hockey game with ND, here's what to look for on the out of town scoreboard that will impact the bubble as the final day of January comes to a close.
Baylor at Missouri, 6 pm ESPN Full Cout. Line, Missou -7.5
I'm watching these teams run up and down the court against each other as we speak. Missouri up 35-32 late in the first half. Each team will continue to trade impressive scoring runs.
Conference positioning on the bracket lines is on the line as well. This is a #7 vs a #10 seed in ESPN's current field and its a #8 vs #9 in Rivals. Both teams look solid in this field right now and sport a combined 32-8 record.
I like both of these teams. Missouri is a proud hoops school and the college game can only be at its peak when good teams are rolling out of Columbia. I want to see Anderson create a winner and love the fact he's trying to replicate the Old Razerback 40 minutes of Hell style. Baylor speaks for itself. How can you not cheer for Drew's impressive turnaround and this beleaguered fan base.
I wonder, though, in watching the Bears get totally outclassed by OU and Texas in recent games if this reclamation project hasn't hit a ceiling. They can compete for a tourney bid, but they still look an influix of talent away from being legit conference title challengers. Baylor fans will take that progression as pursuing the first ever consective tourney berths is exciting enough. Defesively, the team has issues and a loss tonight drops them below .500 in the league.
Virginia Tech at Boston College, 8 pm ESPN Full Court. Line, BC -4
How are the Hokies going to respond to letting such a big lead disappear en route to losing to Clemson the last time out? Probably by playing a close game, that's how. Nine games this season have been decided by five or less points. After Thursday's vomit job, the Hokies are now 4-5 in those contests. They're an 8 and 9 seed in the Rivals and ESPN fields, so an 0-2 week would crimp their stature. Home games this week against NC State and Georgia Tech will give them a chance to steady their ship this week, but this team will be living on the edge every time out.
Tonight, they'll be looking to earn a key series sweep of a fellow ACC bubble team. To do so, the Hokies will look to continue their mastery of the quick ACC turnaround travel schedule.
Boston College has been on a big yo-yo this whole month. After their upset over UNC, they were everyone's darling and promptly made an appearance in the national polls. Their next time out they fell to Harvard (Yay, Tommy A!) to start a four game losing streak. Now, they've won three in a row taking advantage of the bottom third of the league standings. They're among ESPN's bottom half of the final eight cuts in their projection. Their RPI is 57, two spots behind Michigan, as of this morning. Their next six games is a brutal stretch that includes games with Clemson, Wake and Duke. They have a big recruit in the house tonight as well. They could use this victory.
This game will go a long way in determining the ACC pecking order.
Miami at Maryland, 8 pm ESPN Full Court. Line, pick 'em
The Terps have been the best soap opera story of the season. They've lost three in a row. The were embarrased in one of the worst losses in school history. Bookending that ineptitude were a pair of games where they lost double digit halftime leads. And surrounding all this a very open fued between the coach and the athletic department over recruiting. Despite their struggles consider this plea by the Testudo Times that he's still the man. Nevertheless, on the verge of missing the tournament for the fourth time in five years, the drama coming out of College Park has got an O.K. Corral feel to it. Adding to the drama of another gamenight is the fact the nation's top recruit will be courtside.
Maryland can still turn it around and string enough wins together. But, they're going to have to do it against an murderous slate with half their remaining games against Duke, UNC, Wake or Clemson. Its doubtful the Terps have the chops to get many wins against those big boys, or if they can sweep the collection of other games on the schedule. They're not on anyone's radar as a tourney team. They're likely not going to do better than break even the rest of the way. You can figure out their fate from there.
But, for strength of schedule sake, Michigan fans ought to be pulling for the Terrapins to at least make a nice run at it over the season's final weeks. Commentators Zone Read Left and jmblue took me to task for rooting against Maryland as it hurts Michigan's overall profile. I'd have to agree with that. In retrospect, I think i was narrowly focusing on the head to head aspect of the UM-Maryland dynamic when in reality it would take an extraordinary amount of circumstance to get to the point where the last bid would be between these teams. Anything that helps keep Michigan's resume and RPI afloat and competitive during this downturn is a welcome result.
A Terp win tonight could also start the downfall of a team that currently sits on the 7-line in both the ESPN and Rival projections. Miami looks to be in good shape in the projections. But, their next three games are against Duke, Wake and UNC. If they lose tonight, they're staring at 3-7 in ACC play if they dont spring a major upset. They come in tonight having lost two in a row. Lose tonight and the makings a losing streak well into February could take root. Fans of every bubble team should be pulling for that to happen.
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 8 pm BTN. Line, NW -1
Whats the longest the losing streak a team has ever had and still received an at large bid into the field? I dont know the answer to that. But if you set the bar at 6-game losing streaks, I'd take the 'under' on whatever you threw up on the board on the number of teams who rebounded to earn an at large invite. The Badgers look to avoid their sixth straight defeat tonight in Evanston. Hanging around as a double digit seed in every mock bracket, the Badgers will likely find themselves, along with Michigan, out of most of the mocks next update.
Also of intrigue: Will any physical play from the Badgers result in an ejection, a la in the Michigan game today, in the wake of the Krabbenhoff knockdown?
Meanwhile, what's up with Northwestern? Are they the darkhorse nobody is talking about? Is Michigan about the become the longest ncaa drought in the conference? Vegas is impressed. I cant get over the fact Northwestern is favored. A month ago you'd be ignored as a heretic in Midwestern basketball circles had you suggested the Cats would be expected to win over the Badgers, even at home.
Jerry Palm's projections at cbssportsline.com really has me perplexed about the Wildcats. He claims he's trying to project how the field will look come Selection Sunday, whereas everyone else is telling you what the field would look like today. Ok, that's fine. Yet, he has the Wildcats in the field. He's predicting the 11-7, 3-5 Wildcats to rip off a lot of wins. We'll see if that run starts tonight.
The Wildcat voices out there dont seem all that convinced. They're coping with the flaws and anxities a close win over dormant Indiana brings. Ah, yes.Remember that Michigan fans? Just three weeks ago. Good times.
Florida at Tennessee, 9 pm ESPN. Line, Tenn -4
If the Vols lose tonight at home, they'll fall to no better than fifth in line in the SEC pecking order. In a league, where taking the 'over' at 4.5 for number of bids received is a bad bet, that is not an enviable position to be in. Despite their slump, Vol Nation is advised to stay calm as the 2007 Sweet 16 team followed a similar bumpy trek. Yet, the same blog predicts another loss tonight I dont know, there's an edge missing to this year's Volunteers. One thing is clear, their home court advantage has been crushed. They had been 50-2 under Pearl at home--including a 34-game win streak--but Tennessee has already lost four games this month in Knoxville. And, now tonight they welcome one the league's highest scoring teams. There are warrants out for the Florida Gators and here's the rundown of wrongdoings. On the Florida side, this game will define the team's mettle and whether or not its as good as it guady record would suggest.
Cal at USC, 10:30 FSN. Line, USC -5
For the first time during this California set of the Pac 10 round robin, Michigan's allegiances lay squarely with the Northern California team. Despite a loss last time out to UCLA that exposed flaws, I've put the Bears in the sure thing department because of their nice looking 16-5 record combined with a favorable schedule: Five of their next seven are at home with the road trip being the cushy Oregon Swing. Its hard not to see this team coming into the clubhouse with more than 20 wins and less than 10 losses. That's a tournament resume coming out of a BCS league.
USC is a different story. Lunardi's ESPN projections have USC in the final eight out; Rivals as close as the final four out. They're in the middle of this beauty pagaent, but dont stand out from the crowd. A loss could be crippling because their next three games are at UCLA, at AU and at ASU. If indeed a losing streak is in the offing for USC, then Michigan can stay ahead of them in this chase by defending their home turf in upcoming games. Tim Floyd's crew could use some bench production as they march through this important stretch.