"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

Monday, March 08, 2010

MU is a lock, and Lazar should have been for 1st team Big East

I wasn’t depressed like I usually am after any loss. Sure, I always hate losing to Notre Dame, hate losing on senior day and hate seeing 7 points slip away in the final minute. But for a month MU has been pulling out near do-or-die games, and this was the first time the team could take a breath with 5th place in the Big East and a NCAA berth in the bag.

I didn’t get angry until today when the Big East 1st team included legacy pick Luke Harangody instead of Lazar Hayward (See post below). While Lazar didn’t shoot well enough the final few games to deserve MOP consideration, his ability to be among the league leaders in so many more categories than anyone else in the league, and the fact that MU finished ahead of ND despite Lazar being the only returning starter should have made Lazar a “lock.” While Lazar was the indispensible backbone to MU’s defense, Gody was such a defensive liability that one Big East TV commentator suggested that he would have to work to get minutes back after returning from his injury because Notre Dame had played so much better without him on the court.

I did feel sorry for Gody having to be in a suit for his senior day, but it was a much greater tragedy to put him on the All-Big East 1st team ahead of Lazar.

Still a great honor for Lazar to be named 2nd team as one of the top 11 players in the best conference in the country. Congratulations, but we all know you should have been first team!

MU is a lock

I was surprised on leaving the Bradley Center with how concerned people still were about MU potentially being left out of the tournament if we lose opening round of the Big East.

While there is certainly always the mathematical possibility of a crazy scenario that would keep us out, the fact is we will make the tournament. MU is referred to as in the tournament by almost everyone. In fact, even in crediting Notre Dame as one of the big winners Saturday, Andy Katz simply noted: “The Irish gave the selection committee another reason to put them in the dance with yet another road win, this time with Luke Harangody and at Marquette -- a team in the tournament field…”

I assume the only reason people were telling me after the game that they thought we needed a win in the Big East tournament was that Lunardi still doesn’t have us as a lock. However, in looking at the same ESPN blog in which Katz made his comments (http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation), even Lunardi’s ranking make it pretty clear that really MU is a lock.

Since Lunardi posted the top 22 listed below late Saturday night, Illinois, which was five spots behind MU on the bubble, lost by 15 AT HOME to Wisconsin, and Florida missed it’s chance to leapfrog us with the loss at Kentucky. The only other teams chasing us that played Sunday were Wake Forest holding their home court against Clemson, which could nudge them ahead of us, St. Mary’s beating Portland, though at seven spots behind us that just isn’t going to be enough to catch MU.

10 of the 11 who would have to catch MU are 61-70 away from their home courts

The fact is that even with a worst-case lopsided loss against St. John’s or UConn, a bunch of the 11 teams chasing MU would have to go on great runs on a neutral court, and that is very unlikely. While MU had a much tougher schedule away from home than any of these teams and closed with five straight wins to go 6-5 away from the Bradley Center, these 11 teams have a combined losing record away from their home gyms. In fact, if you take out St. Mary’s gaudy 10-3 mark away from home in the West Coast Conference, the other 10 teams combine for a 61-70 record when not in their home building.

Here is Lunardi’s list of the 22 bubble teams, with MU the most likely of the 22 to grab one of the 11 spots remaining and UConn being the least likely at 22nd. I also listed the away/neutral court record of the 11 teams chasing MU, which makes it very unlikely many of them would string together the 3 straight neutral court wins they’d probably need in the their conference tourneys to catch MU even if MU were to lose.

Lunardi’s Bubble as of Saturday night (list of records away from home in parenthesis, followed by upcoming conference tourney): IN (11, in S-Curve order): Marquette (6-5 away from home include 5 straight wins to close season), Wake Forest (6-7,note did beat Clem 70-65 Sunday, next ACC tourney), Virginia Tech (8-6, ACC tourney), Georgia Tech (5-9, ACC tourney), Florida (7-7, lost to Kentucky at now SEC tourney), Illinois (6-9, lost to Wisconsin 57-72 and now Big Ten tourney), Notre Dame (4-7, Big East tourney), Saint Mary's (10-3, W Portland 69-55 in tourney), Memphis (7-5, CUSA tourney), San Diego State (8-7, Col St in Mountain West tourney), Arizona State (6-6, Pac10 tourney)
OUT (11, in S-Curve order): Washington (4-7, Oregon State in Pac 10 tourney), UAB, Ole Miss, Wichita State, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, Dayton, Mississippi State , Minnesota, South Florida, Connecticut.

Potential Big East Tourney deja vu from last year

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the Big East Tourney. I just don’t want the guys to have any cloud hanging over them. I love the fact that this tournament could line up exactly the same as last year.

If St. John’s beats UConn on their home court, MU gets St. John’s just as we did last year team (a 74-45 MU win). An MU win would then put is in the 5/4 seed game against a reeling Villanova team. MU is playing much better, and Nova much worse, then when the teams met early this year. I just don’t believe Nova will beat us a fourth straight time after the last three wins have been: 76-75, 74-72, 78-76.

We are playing with the House’s money, but let’s still see if we can’t have a great tournament in New York starting at 2 p.m. EST against the St. John’s, UConn winner, and then just see whether we are sent to New Orleans, Providence, San Jose, Spokane, Buffalo, Jacksonville or Oklahoma City next Sunday evening.

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