Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sometimes the bear eats you

With right around four minutes left, Tennessee was leading Auburn by 8 after a Tay Waller three. With the shot clock winding down, the Vols fed the ball to Tyler Smith at the left elbow. Rasheem Barrett was inside his shirt. Smith took a dribble across the lane, tried to spot up, and was denied by Barrett. He spun, leapt, in mid-air switched the ball from his right hand to his left, and as he came back down flung the ball at the basket. It hit nothing but net.

That was the kind of day it was today for Auburn. Their offense wasn't spectacular, but it was decent--one shot under the 33 percent mark from 3, 21-of-37 from inside the arc (57 percent), even a 13-of-19 performance at the free throw line. With Auburn's usual defensive performance, it's good enough to win.

But Auburn did not have their usual defensive performance. In fact, their defensive performance, at least statistically, was outright disastrous. The Vols--who for the season have shot 31 percent from 3--finished 9-of-19 for 47 percent. From the field overall, they shot 34-of-59 for 57 percent. On those 25 missed shots, Tennessee collected 13 offensive rebounds--or more than half of all their possible offensive rebounds. Combine fantastic shooting with dominance on the boards, and what do you get? 94 points. If the Vols hadn't turned the ball over 19 times, they would have cracked 100 with ease.

Of course, Auburn's defense had more than a little to do with those 19 turnovers. Some of the Vol explosion was due to slow rotations on three-point shooters (particularly in the first half), or missed assignments inside, or just poor perimeter defense. But some of it, too, was shots like Smith's with four minutes left, where the Vols had to make a tremendous play to score and did. And they did that many, many times. Full kudos to them: they were better today, and they deserved to play tomorrow.

As for Auburn, the bubble updates can stop now. A team that is 2-4 against the top 50 and 6-10 against the top 100 and earned only one of those six wins on the is not going to given admittance to the NCAA Tournament this season. Here's to hoping this team can overcome this disappointment and go on a long run in the NIT: they should have the chance to remind us that instead of being disappointed they failed to make the NCAAs, we should celebrate that this motley-looking bunch defied every expectation and ever came within a game of the tournament in the first place.

More--including a wrap of Championship Week from the mid-major perspective and the JCCW's annual bracketology stab--coming tomorrow.


jrsuicide said...

I hate the bear.

SEC Homer said...

I still think its a 30% chance at a bid. Duquesne, Baylor and USC are losing. OverratedLand lost to Duke. Utah State needs to win tonight. AU's resume isn't that much different than Saint Mary's, Creighton, or Penn State. If these scores hold, I think we still have a decent shot.

Jerry Hinnen said...

jrs, me too.


a) Unfortunately, USC just pulled it out. It was always too much to hope that none of these thieving finalists would whiff.

b) St. Mary's I can buy, but Creighton has a 9-5 top 100 mark to Auburn's 6-10. Penn St. has six top 50 wins, with two on the road vs. the top 25; Auburn has two vs. the top 50, with both at home and only one vs. the top 25. It's not happening unless the Committee screws up.

SEC Homer said...

USC winning really hurts.
I know I'm reaching Jerry, but AU does have some things going for it which make a bid possible:
SEC usually gets at least 5 teams in the field. AU was 10-6, I don't beleive a 10-6 SEC team has ever been left out.
Hot Streak-
AU has won 10 of the last 12. Creighton has a similar streak, but most other bubble teams went
.500 or worse down the stretch.
Their final game was competitive-unlike the final games for St Mary's(East Washington doesn't count, can AU schedule someone else tomorrow, LOL), Penn St, and Creighton.
Name recognition-
AU is in the SEC, that is a slight built in advantage compared to Creighton and St Mary's. And PSU has less basketball history than AU. Creighton does have a better history than AU does.

I know that most of these reasons are not supposed to matter... but I still think there is a 10% chance(down from 30% now that USC won)...but like you say it is a slim chance at best, is Mike Slive on the committee?

jd said...

I'd put our four-letter at-large chances at 2%. The only reason I think we might make it at all is because it's still hard for me to imagine the SEC only getting two bids, even as down as the league was this season. If Miss State wins tomorrow, the league gets three no doubt.