"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

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cadougan card played at Syracuse as MU seeks to win 9 of next 12 to go to NCAA

Both RealtimeRPI and Pomeroy predict MU will be 19-11 heading into the Big East Tournament. RealtimeRPI predicts that will be enough to make the tournament as a 12-seed. Linardi still has MU as one of the last four teams out, but with Cincy as one of the last four teams in. An MU win at Cincy on February 21 would likely flip us with the Bearcats.

With MU finally facing the “easy” part of the schedule and clearly on the bubble, Buzz played the Cadougan card by giving him his first seven minutes of the season in the toughest venue of the year at Syracuse. While Cadougan left his first jumper a couple of feet short of the rim and was slow on a couple of defensive plays, he grabbed two rebounds, and would have had three assists except that on one of them Butler was fouled and hit free throws instead of a basket. He got a run going that could have been the differences except for the referees somehow missing the most obivous goaltend you will see all year.

More important, Cadougan gave MU an 8-man rotation that played at the fastest pace of the year (74 trips down the court) just a few days after playing their slowest game in six years (53 trips against DePaul).

With MU on pace to be so squarely on the bubble, here are the three ways that Cadougan’s surprise return could be the difference and get MU’s ticket punched in March:

1) MU is about to start playing games that will count in the “RECORD IN FINAL 12 GAMES” category as early as Rutgers on Tuesday, so if he is the difference in just one game down the stretch he could help ensure at least a 9-3 mark in the last 12 games even if we lose in the Big East tourney opener;

2) the Selection Committee does consider how good the roster is that will play in the NCAA tourney, so if MU plays better with Cadougan than they did without him, it will be a major boost in the process, and

3) his ability to give MU a true 8-man rotation will allow them to step up the tempo like they did against Syracuse to play to their strengths.

With a 7-man rotation Buzz has been forced to play at one of the slower paces in the country to save the team’s legs, and trying to win a half court game in which our height makes it tough to stop 2-point shots (Syracuse shot 67% 2-pointers at 30 for 45) or opposing offensive rebounds (Syracuse grabbed 42% with 10 of 24) gives MU no margin for error.

However, with Cadougan as part of the 8-man rotation, MU ran Syracuse into the ground while forcing 22 turnovers, and putting up another 10 of 25 performance from 3-point land to stay first in the country at 42.9%, as well as go on an 11-0 run in a 97 second interval that left MU within 70-65 with 1:54 to play. Only losing by 5 points at Syracuse propelled MU even higher in Pomeroy, as he now ranks MU as the 18th best team in the country, well ahead of the 79th in the RPI.

UConn is virtually the same height as Syracuse this year (12th tallest and 13th tallest teams in the US, respectively), so a similar performance next week against UConn or February 21 at Cincy could give MU the one marquee road win to wrap up a bid with a 20-10 mark, or at least be in position to make a case heading into the Big East tourney at 19-11. The biggest wrap on MU is having lost seven straight road games, but except for the DePaul debacle, those games include two losses to No. 1 seeds in 2009 (Pitt and Louisville) and four losses this year to teams currently in the Top 11 in the RPI (#1 Syracuse, #6 Nova, #8 WVU and #11 Wisconsin). It also ignores that we destroyed St. John's on their home court in the Big East tourney.

If MU does finish 19-11 including a win at Cincy or UConn, the three “gimme” wins and a 4-2 mark in the games in which we are slight favorites, then it would project to finish 10-8 in the Big East and in the top half of the conference. That would leave MU projected to face an 8-10 team in Cincinnati, Notre Dame or Seton Hall in the opening round. So add to the good record in the final 12 games, allowances for most losses coming before Cadougan completed the potential NCAA roster, and a top half finish in the Big East as one of only two teams (along with Pitt) to record a fifth straight 10-win season, and the resume would be strong.

In short, MU needs to win nine of its last 12 – whether that’s 9-2 in the regular season and a first round Big East tourney loss or 8-3 in the regular season and a first round win over Cincy, ND or SH, to make the tourney. However, they may need the marquee road win at Cincy or UConn among those nine wins.

This really makes for a lot more exciting regular season than a year when we are just determining whether MU will be a 3-seed or a 7-seed. These next 12 games are life or death for Lazar, Mo and Cube, and I’m glad Cadougan is there just in case he makes the difference on going 9-3 or better and extending the season.

Media recaps from Syracuse Loss
Eagles cut down by size according to Rosiak at the JS
Rosiak blogs a final wrap-up
Video recaps of the game via MUScoop
Syracuse.com recap


Unknown said...

Great analysis. I am pretty upset with the closes loses and that puts it very mildly. But, we HAVE to press on. I myself have studied and stared at the remaining schedule in order to figure it all out. We need the W at Cincy and if we can take down ND, Lville, and Pitt in MKE I'll start liking our NCAA chances much better.

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