"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Win pulls MU within 1 game of 4th place, double-bye (Pomeroy predicts 4th place finish for first time)

MU dazzled a national TV audience (ESPN2) for 24 minutes against DePaul, as JC transfers DJO and Dwight Buycks combined to shoot 10 of 15 from the floor and 12 of 15 from the line for a very efficient 21 and 14 points respectively as MU dominated and raced to a 53-27 lead with 14 minutes to go.

The two showed all the excitement of two players who have stepped in to instantly fill the shoes of the Three Amigos, but also reminded everyone they were first year players as they combined for 8 turnovers in 46 minutes. Hopefully most people changed channels at that point, because the final 14 minutes was pretty dreadful, with MU continually struggling against a DePaul press. Outside of DJO and Buycks, the team shot only 9 of 35 from the floor, and outside of great runs at the beginning of both halfs, DePaul won 24 minutes of the game by a 58-24 margin.

It was enough to revenge the loss at DePaul, and with Dominique Jones dominating Georgetown for another 22 second half points (he is now averaging 35 points a game during USF’s first ever 4-game winning streak in the Big East), both MU and USF are in great positions for a final run.

Just 10 days before meeting at the Bradley Center, USF and Marquette not only pulled to .500 in the Big East, but amazingly both have pulled to within one game of 4th place in the conference – the final spot for a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.

On January 13, USF was 0-4 and Marquette was 1-3 in Big East play. However, if you look at their 5-5 marks, and the remaining schedule, both teams have a legitimate shot at the coveted double-bye and 4th place finish. Georgetown’s loss tonight pushes them to 6-4 in fourth place with a tough schedule left with Nova, Syracuse, at Louisville and at West Virginia still on the schedule. In short, it is likely that the winner of next Saturday’s USF at MU game will control their own destiny to 4th place – particularly with Marquette holding the tie-breaker if they can catch Georgetown for the 4th spot.

RealTime RPI (http://realtimerpi.com/bin/rtr/rtrank?type=rpi&gender=1&tid=156) predicts Georgetown will weather the tough schedule to still finish 14-4 in the Big East and easily in 4th place, while Pomeroy (www.kenpom.com) predicts the Hoyas will finish 11-7 and MARQUETTE will do the same and win the tie-breaker due to the head-to-head over Gtown to claim 4th place.

Looking at the six teams within one game of 4th place, with their games remaining and * to indicate a home game, + to indicate a game in which both RealTime and Pomeroy pick a win, and ++ indicating both picking a double digit win (? = RealTime and Pomeroy disagree on the winner, and – indicates predicted loss) you can see the advantage MU has in having all four tough games behind them and potentially owning EVERY potential tie-breaker for the 4th place spot if they play well down the stretch:

Georgetown 6-4 currently – Nova*+, Prov+, Rutgers+, Syracuse*?, Lville?, ND++, WV-, Cincy*++. (Pomeroy predicts 11-7 and 5th place behind MU, RealTime predicts 14-4)

Pittsburgh 6-4 – SH*+, WV*?, MU-, Nova*?,ND?,SJU+, Prov*++, Rut*++. (Pomeroy predicts 11-7, RealTime 12-6).

Louisville 5-4 - Rut*++, SJU+, Syr--, ND*++, DePaul+, Gtown*?, UConn-, MU?, Syr*-. (Pomeroy and RealTime both predict 10-8).

Cincinnati 5-4 – ND-, Syr*-, UConn-, USF-, MU*?, DePaul*++, WVU--,Nova*-, Gtown--. (Pomeroy 8-10, RealTime 7-11).

Marquette 5-5 – Prov+, USF*+, Pitt*+, Cincy ?, SJU+, SH?, Lville* ?, ND*+. (Pomeroy predicts 11-7 and 4th place on tiebreaker, RealTime predicts 10-8 and 6th place based on predicted loss to Lousville).

South Florida 5-5 – ND ?, MU-, Cincy*+, SJU*+, Nova--, Prov*+, DePaul+,UConn*+. Predicted 9-9 in both, but win at MU next Saturday would push MU down to 7th place).

MU could certainly fall further, but can you believe that in early February we are talking about MU finishing somewhere between 4th and 7th place in the Big East? ESPN says there are five NCAA locks in the Big East, the conference with the top RPI in the country.

If MU wins at Providence Saturday, and South Florida wins at Notre Dame, both would be 6-5 going into what could suddenly be a showdown of teams that were in the bottom quarter not long ago. Even if Providence and ND win, they both face a gauntlet at the end that will make it very unlikely they finish .500 in the Big East and challenge the teams listed above.

MU has the four stars for the stretch run – does it have the bench or height?
The question is still whether or not MU has the depth or height to get through the final Big East run and tournament and end up in the NCAA.

To review the rest of the performances Saturday night against DePaul:
Mo Acker and David Cubillan couldn’t hit tonight, but did continue to provide senior poise in protecting the ball (only 3 turnovers in a combined 70 minutes compared to 8 turnovers in 46 minutes for Buycks and DJO).

Frankly outside of the two incredible runs to open each half, DePaul frustrated MU (outside of DJO and Buycks the rest of the team went 9 of 35 from the floor), slapped on a press that stole the ball 10 times, and actually won the other 24 minutes of the game 58-34 by turning the game into a foul fest (54 total fouls between the two teams). However, with Lazar again doing everything well (18 points, 14 rebounds, 3 early steals, and a “Lebron-style” rejection off a breakaway) and Jimmy Butler looking again more assertive after the game-winner at UConn by continually challenging DePaul’s bigs and getting to the line (his 14-16 from the line led a 36-44 night, or 81.8%, for MU), it is clear MU has four bona fide stars for the stretch run.

Is the bench deep enough and can anyone over 6-foot-6 contribute enough to make the tourney? Joe Fulce and Erik Williams grabbed a combined 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes, and Williams looked very strong in also tracking down a loose ball. With Mboa and Otule out, these two 6-foot-7 players are both looking assertive enough to perhaps provide the boost and give MU the option of a 2-guard offense in stretches.
Junior Cadougan only got in four more minutes with DJO and Buycks hot, but he did drive to the hoop to draw a foul, and put a nice pass into Buycks for a layup.
And of course, DJO and Buycks are just adding to what we already thought we had with Lazar and Jimmy.

Lazar Hayward grabbed a few early steals, but missed his first few shots to be scoreless at the 10 minute mark. However, he then took over with an unbelievable sequence in which he ripped his own miss away from two taller DePaul defenders to stick it back in for his first score with 9:38 to play, then shortly thereafter tracked down a DePaul fast break to reject a layup off the backboard. He finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

I'm certainly not counting any of the final games "in the bank." USF looked like a lock a few weeks ago, and now who knows if we can stop Jones. ND on senior day actually looks like the most certain win. BUT, all the rest of the games are winnable. After being picked to finish 13th BEFORE Junior, Otule and Mbao went down with injuries and Maymon quit, can you believe two of the most accurate predictors of college basketball now predict us to finish either 4th or 7th in the Big East?

I really hope to be flying someplace to see MU in the NCAA, but even if not, this has not been the lost rebuilding year I was anticipating.


Anonymous said...

good thing Buzz doesn't practice Free Throws... HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Feelin' good about our chances now, a far cry from the earlier loss to DPU.

JohnPudner said...

Agreed. I know the stretch run wasn't pretty today, but it's huge to just get the WIN and get to .500. DePaul has lost a lot of games by around 20 the last three years, but for some reason they've always stayed within 8 to 15 of MU in addition to the upset, so let's just take the 12 point win and continue the run one game at a time! thanks for reading.