Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 26, 2016 at 10:23 AM
SATURDAY’S KEY STORYLINES INCLUDING VILLANOVA AFTER (ANOTHER) TOP 25 LOSS PLUS THE SEC’S “PERCEPTION” PROBLEMS
So, what does a college basketball team do when it is ranked #1 in the land – and loses?
Well, if you’re the Villanova Wildcats – an 90-83 loser at Xavier in a Big East Conference pick ‘em game played this past Wednesday night – than you pull up your high-tops and beat a gritty/gutty Marquette team that awaits you on Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee.
Villanova (24-4, 13-2 in Big East play) now has lost three-of-four games to fellow Top 25 teams this year – thus adding even more fuel to the argument that claims Jay Wright’s club isn’t exactly “elite” and you do have to wonder aloud where the NCAA Tournament Committee folks are gonna place this Philly squad that allowed #5 Xavier to shoot 30-of-60 from the floor in that mid-week tilt.
Hey, there’s no doubt there’s a batch of great storylines as we head into the final February weekend but we’ll put the Villanova “story” atop our little short list here … and put it this way, if ‘Nova loses at Marquette than you might see the Wildcats tumble to the back part of the Associated Press top 10 next week and that famous “S curve” utilized for the NCAA Tourney could have ‘Nova zig-zagging its way to the #3 seed line. Really!
And now hear this …
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In Saturday’s other NCAA Basketball key storylines…
The SEC is battling a “perception” problem and a “numbers” problem … and here’s what we mean:
The 14-team league currently ranks sixth among all college hoops leagues – that’s behind the Big 12 (of course), the ACC, the Pac-12, the Big 10 and the Big East – and that’s not good considering that means the SEC is the last of the so-called power conferences and most folks that have watched a ton of college b-ball this 2015-16 season would agree.
So, the perception is this is indeed a “down year” for the Southeastern Conference and the facts are the only ranked teams from this league right now are #16 Kentucky and #21 Texas A&M plus we will admit that schizo South Carolina is a lead-pipe cinch for the NCAAs … still, not real good when you look at the big picture.
And so here’s where the numbers problem comes into play:
The SEC would love to say it deserves to get seven or eight teams into the upcoming NCAA Tournament but the fact that the conference is so poorly rated and the fact there’s just two ranked teams in the mix right now likely means the bubble teams in the SEC are gonna wind up on the wrong side of the bubble.
Could it be that this league gets only four or five teams into the “Big Dance”? Yes, that’s possible especially when you consider that we might get seven teams from the Big 12, eight teams coming from the Big 10 and as many as six teams from the Pac-12. If a power conference gets “squeezed” by the NCAA Tournament folks, it’ll be the SEC that’s getting squeezed out.
P.S., the likes of Vanderbilt (17-11, 9-6), LSU (16-12, 9-6), Ole Miss (18-10, 8-7) and Florida (17-11, 8-7) really can’t afford to lose many more regular-season games before they look to make decent runs in next month’s SEC Tournament in Nashville and so pay special attention to their games on Saturday … that’s Ole Miss at Georgia, Kentucky at Vanderbilt and Florida at LSU.
Finally, Saturday’s a big day/night for the Big 10 – not only are there currently six teams separated by two games near the top of the league standings but remember the top four teams get double-byes into the quarterfinal round of the conference’s mini-tourney next month in Indianapolis and so there’s a mad scramble to avoid having to win four games in four days. Check out this Saturday menu in the Big 10 …
- #8 Iowa at Ohio State, 12 p.m. ET (Big 10 Network) … The Hawkeyes are 11-4 in league play and chasing front-runner Indiana (12-3 in Big 10 play) but can Fran McCaffery’s club stop the skidding after losing three of its last four games?
- Rutgers at Northwestern, 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU) … Can we get some folks to sign a petition to oust the Scarlet Knights from the Big 10 already?
- #10 Maryland at #20 Purdue, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN) … Best game of the day in the ancient Big 10 and we’re starting to think that the Terrapins (sitting there with an RPI of 10) could wind up being a #1 NCAA Tournament seed if they run the table. Note that following this game there’s Maryland home to Illinois and then at Indiana in the team’s regular-season finales before the Big 10 Tourney. Note that Maryland bested 5.5-point road underdog Purdue 72-61 back on Feb. 6th in College Park when the Terps overcame Melo Trimble’s 0-for-4 shooting game en route to a lowly 6-point performance.
Note that the Big 10 has some key Sunday action too with Penn State at #6 Michigan State (are the Spartans ready to peek per usual come March?), Minnesota at Illinois and a whopper late afternoon matinee between Michigan at Wisconsin … those last two guys are two of the Big 10’s grand total of seven teams sporting 10-or-more wins so far and how exactly does the NCAA Tournament keep out all of them (that’s Indiana, Maryland, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State)?
Note: Lots more B-ball News & Notes in tomorrow’s Jim Sez.