Monday, March 06, 2006

NCAA Tournament Projections/MVC Breakdown

Rarely have seen so many teams come out of nowhere in the last week of the regular season to lay claim to an at-large bid. Florida St., UAB, Texas A&M, and Seton Hall are just some of the teams that have complicated things for the Selection Committee. Whether one big victory will prove to be enough to send these teams into the tournament remains to be seen. Florida St.’s victory over Duke gives the Seminoles one victory over a team that will make the tournament. That hardly seems like enough to receive an at-large bid. On the other side, UAB’s victory over Memphis and Texas A&M’s shocking win over Texas puts those teams right on the fringe of the 65-team field. Seton Hall’s improbable wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh probably seals the deal for an eighth team out of the Big East. As of last week, the selection process was looking extremely easy for the committee. As of today, I can’t say I envy their position. I will attempt to give the committee a thorough comparison of the at-large candidates from the MVC as well as the entire 65-team field. This will be my best attempt at differentiating the six teams vying for a bid from that conference. I think all six teams deserve a bid but I’ll do my best to rank the six teams in terms of bid worthiness.

Won Automatic bid from their conference:

OVC Murray St.
Big South Winthrop
Ivy Pennsylvania
Atl. Sun Belmont
MVC S. Illinois
Southern Davidson

Here is how I view the field right now (in no particular order):

1 ACC Duke
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East UCONN
4 Big 12 Texas
5 Big Ten Illinois
6 Pac-10 Washington
7 MVC S. Illinois
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 George Washington
11 Colonial Hofstra
12 MAC Kent St.
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt W. Kentucky
16 Horizon Wisconsin-Mil.
17 MAAC Iona
18 Big Sky N. Arizona
20 Big West Pacific
21 OVC Murray St.
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Bucknell
25 Southland Northwestern St.
26 Northeast Farleigh Dickinson
27 AEC Albany
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Southern
31 MEAC Delaware St.
32 At-Large George Mason
33 At-Large Seton Hall
34 At-Large Villanova
35 At-Large Pittsburgh
36 At-Large W. Virginia
37 At-Large Cincinnati
38 At-Large Marquette
39 At-Large Georgetown
40 At-Large NC State
41 At-Large Boston College
42 At-Large N. Carolina
43 At-Large Indiana
44 At-Large UAB
45 At-Large MSU
46 At-Large NC Wilmington
47 At-Large Michigan
48 At-Large Ohio St.
49 At-Large Wisconsin
50 At-Large Iowa
51 At-Large Kentucky
52 At-Large Tennessee
53 At-Large LSU
54 At-Large Alabama
55 At-Large Oklahoma
56 At-Large Kansas
57 At-Large Texas A&M
58 At-Large Arkansas
59 At-Large Arizona
60 At-Large UCLA
61 At-Large Bradley
62 At-Large Missouri St.
63 At-Large Wichita St.
64 At-Large Creighton
65 At-Large N. Iowa

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. I’m starting to think that GW will be upset in the A-10 tournament without Pops Mensu-Boshu which would pop somebody’s bubble. There could be anywhere from 5-10 teams that make the tournament who wouldn't have otherwise made it just from the conference tournaments alone. That would push five of my "projected" teams out of the field. Come conference tournament time, the last two or three teams that I have in the tourney will probably get pushed out by upsets if not more.

The last seven teams in the tourney right now:

As the RPI stands right now, Arkansas seems to be the clear cutoff point for teams making the tournament. What I mean by that is that I don’t see any team with a worse RPI than Arkansas making the tournament as an at-large selection. Of teams rated higher than Arkansas in the RPI, I only see St. Joseph’s and Syracuse missing the tournament. That appears to be a fair cutoff point.

1. Creighton

Two weeks ago, Creighton was a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. However, the Blue Jays haven’t beaten a team in the RPI top 125 since January. With so many “bubble” teams picking up monumental wins last week, Creighton’s lack of quality wins over the last two months couldn’t have come at a worse time. A first round loss in the MVC Tournament didn’t help its cause either. I really think that the MVC should get all six teams into the tournament. If Missouri St. is good enough to make the tournament, then Wichita St. is good enough since WSU went 2-0 against MSU this year. If Wichita St. is good enough to make the tournament, then Northern Iowa is good enough since N. Iowa went 2-0 against WSU. If N. Iowa is good enough to make the tournament then S. Illinois is good enough to make the tournament since S. Illinois went 2-0 against N. Iowa. Likewise, if N. Iowa is good enough to make the tournament then Creighton is good enough to make the tournament since Creighton was 2-0 against N. Iowa. If Creighton is good enough to make the tournament, then Bradley is good enough to make the tournament since Bradley went 2-1 against Creighton. Each of the top six teams in this conference has the same argument for making the tournament. I know there are only a limited number of spots, but I would like to see the selection committee reward the MVC for having such an impressive RPI while holding teams like California, Colorado, and Syracuse accountable for having low RPI’s or weak resumes. I’ll have much more on this at the bottom of the page.

RPI rating: 42
Pomeroy rating: 55

Quality wins: @ George Mason, Xavier, @ N. Iowa, Bradley, Wichita St., N. Iowa,

Bad losses: @ Chatanooga, @ Illinois St,

2. Bradley

Bradley was an afterthought just a month ago. However, an amazing 11-3 stretch that featured victories over five teams in the RPI top 45 has Bradley in the mix for an at-large bid. No team in the MVC has been hotter over the second half of the season. Bradley has eight wins over the RPI top 55 which is a phenomenal total for a mid-major. This team, like the other five MVC teams, deserves to be in the tournament. Bradley is one of only two teams (S. Illinois is the other) two have beaten all five of the other top teams in the MVC.

RPI rating: 34
Pomeroy rating: 32

Quality wins: W. Kentucky, N. Iowa, @ N. Iowa, Creighton (2), Missouri St., S. Illinois and Wichita St.

Bad losses: @ Loyola Chicago, @ Indiana St. and @ Drake

3. NC Wilmington

The Seahawks were sitting pretty last week with an RPI in the top 35. With so many “bubble” teams picking up big victories, NC Wilmington dropped in the RPI despite its current six-game winning streak. I had been saying for the past few weeks that if NC Wilmington is a tournament team, then Hofstra should be a tournament team as well. That was when NC Wilmington was getting more publicity than Hofstra. Now, I fear that the roles will be reversed and NC Wilmington will be the odd team out. Frankly, the CAA deserves three teams in the tournament. Hofstra, NC Wilmington, and George Mason should be tourney bound. If NC Wilmington doesn’t make the tournament, it really only has itself to blame with terrible losses to College of Charleston and E. Carolina.

RPI rating: 37
Pomeroy rating: 41

Quality wins: George Mason, Hofstra
Bad losses: College of Charleston, @ E. Carolina

4. George Mason

I think Hofstra is in the tournament regardless of what happens in the CAA Championship between Hofstra and NC Wilmington. George Mason should be in as well with an RPI of 29. Although, there are more deserving resumes on the bubble list than what George Mason has to offer. While I think it has a legitimate gripe for a bid if it were left out of the tournament, there really isn’t much to speak of in terms of quality wins.

RPI rating: 29
Pomeroy rating: 30

Quality wins: @ Wichita St., NC Wilmington
Bad losses: @ Mississippi St.

5. Texas A&M

As much as I hate to admit it, the Aggies really do deserve to make the tournament as things stand now. This team came out of nowhere to earn a 20-7 record (10-6 in the Big XII) with victories over Texas and Colorado. In fact, the Aggies beat Colorado head to head and finished ahead of the Buffaloes in the Big XII standings. If that doesn’t get Texas A&M in ahead of Colorado, then something is wrong. The Aggies don’t have the most impressive RPI but this team finished the season on a seven-game winning streak including the big win over Texas. I see Texas A&M as the fourth and final team from the Big XII barring major upsets in the conference tournaments.

RPI rating: 49
Pomeroy rating: 42

Quality wins: @ Colorado, Northwestern St, Texas, @ Iowa St

Bad losses: @ Kansas St., @ Pacific

6. Missouri St.

The Bears were on a major roll until an opening round loss in the MVC. In fairness, the loss was against a game N. Iowa team who needed the victory slightly more than Missouri St. needed it. However, that shouldn’t discount Missouri St.’s amazing second half run. The Bears finished the regular season on an 8-1 run with victories over four teams in the RPI top 60. Their RPI is in the mid-20’s which is almost certainly good enough for an at-large bid. The Bears’ fate for the tournament lies completely in the Selection Committee’s view towards the MVC. If the committee gives the MVC the respect it deserves, then this team will be in the tournament. Another positive for MSU is that it has no losses to teams outside of the RPI top 50. Not many teams can say that.

RPI rating: 21
Pomeroy rating: 31

Quality wins: S. Illinois, Bradley, @ N. Iowa, @ Wisconsin Milwaukee, Creighton
Bad losses: none

7. UAB

UAB was destined for the NIT without a marquee win. With the Conference USA being incredibly week, the Blazers only had two chances at getting that marquee win. Luckily for the Blazers, they took advantage of their second chance against Memphis which likely sealed a bid. It’s hard to imagine this team being 21-5 overall (12-2 in conference) with a victory over a top ten team with no losses to teams outside of the RPI top 100 not making the tournament. Stranger things have happened but UAB should be in.

RPI rating: 44
Pomeroy rating: 43

Quality wins: Memphis, Old Dominion, Houston
Bad losses: @ DePaul

8. Seton Hall

I must admit that I wrote Seton Hall off just seven days ago. This team lost to St. John’s and DePaul in must-win games last week. That left the Pirates 16-10 overall (7-7 conference) with two certain losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati looming. Two victories later, the Pirates are sitting pretty at 9-7 in the Big East with five victories over the RPI top 35. This team has possibly the worst negatives of any “bubble team”. The Pirates lost to Richmond, Northwestern, Rutgers, DePaul, St. John’s, and Notre Dame. The Hall also lost by 53 to Duke and 42 to Connecticut. If I were on the committee, I would lobby hard to keep this team out of the tournament. An at-large bid should be given to a team with a deserving resume. In my opinion, no team with six losses outside of the RPI top 85 deserves the tournament. If that isn’t enough, no team that lost two games by at least 40 points deserves an at-large bid.

RPI rating: 48
Pomeroy rating: 45

Quality wins: @ NC State, @ Syracuse, W. Virginia, Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh
Bad losses: Too many to name.

9. Michigan

Luckily for Michigan, Daniel Horton single-handily beat Illinois to get Michigan to 8-8 in the conference. If it weren’t for that upset win, Michigan would most certainly be headed to the NIT. Even with the victory, Michigan hardly deserves to make the NCAA Tournament. Michigan went 3-7 against the other six powerhouse teams in the Big Ten which is by far the worst of the group. Michigan has gone 2-6 over its last eight and hasn’t beaten a team in the RPI top 80 since January. I hate to say it, but no team that finishes the season on a 2-6 run with so few quality wins deserves to make the tournament. In every category that the Selection Committee looks at to determine a team’s worthiness for an at-large bid, Michigan is deficient. Michigan didn’t beat anyone on the road. Michigan finished the season terribly. Michigan had no marquee non-conference wins. Michigan didn’t finish above .500 in conference. How exactly does this team deserve to make the tournament? The only thing Michigan has going for it is the injury card. With Lester Abram out for 13 games and the recent injury to Chris Hunter, Michigan certainly wasn’t playing at full strength. Even without those players, a tournament-worthy basketball team should not turn the ball over 24 times (!!!!!!) in a must-win home finale and blow a 10-point lead to boot. However, if Michigan makes it, it will be solely on the strength of the Big Ten’s RPI.

RPI rating: 36
Pomeroy rating: 39

Quality wins: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan St.
Bad losses: @ Purdue

The teams waiting in the wings:

I predicted two weeks ago that either Syracuse or Cincinnati would not make the NCAA Tournament. As unlikely as it seemed then, it now appears that Syracuse will probably be NIT bound. The Orange have virtually no marquee wins this season and finished below .500 (7-9) in the Big East. Many of the following teams have appeared in my “projected” field for quite some time before this week. I didn’t take them out of my projections because of their play rather because of the play of other teams. I really have no idea which direction the committee is going to go in terms of mid-majors vs. power conference teams. If the committee shows favoritism to the power conferences, many teams below could sneak into the tournament with weak resumes.

1. California

If Stanford can be kept out of the tournament with an 11-7 conference record due to an undeserving resume, then California can too. I’ve long considered the Bears as a likely tournament team just because of their conference record. However, the Bears have an awful RPI. They have zero good wins out of the conference. They did beat UCLA, Arizona, and Washington but lost to all three as well. In some years, Cal’s resume would be good enough to make the tournament. This year, it shouldn’t be. Three losses to teams with an RPI of 165 or worse including Eastern Michigan proves Cal’s unworthiness to be a tournament team. The committee may feel compelled to give a team a break from a power conference but 11-7 doesn’t mean anything in the Pac-10.

RPI rating: 59
Pomeroy rating: 48

Quality wins: @ Arizona, @ Washington, UCLA
Bad losses: @ Eastern Michigan, Oregon St, Arizona St.

2. Colorado

Colorado has a bland resume that would be perfect for the NIT. The Buffaloes have even less quality wins than California. They have exactly two wins over the RPI top 80. They have four losses to teams with an RPI of 85 or worse. I’m trying to think of reasons that this team should make the tournament and I’m coming up with none.

RPI rating: 52
Pomeroy rating: 52

Quality wins: NC Wilmington, Oklahoma

Bad losses: @ Colorado St, @ Iowa St, @ Kansas St, @ Nebraska

3. Florida St.

As amazing as it might seem, Florida St. actually has less quality wins than California and Colorado. Florida St. pulled off a shocking upset over Duke last week but that will be FSU’s only victory over a team headed to the NCAA Tournament this year. FSU only has one victory on the season over a team with RPI of 50 or higher. This team nearly beat Duke a second time but unfortunately for the Seminoles, that was probably the only way FSU was going to make the tournament.

RPI rating: 56
Pomeroy rating: 27

Quality wins: Duke

Bad losses: @ Clemson, Miami (FL), @ Va. Tech

4. Syracuse

Syracuse had two things working against it this season, 1). It played in an incredibly deep conference and 2). It wasn’t very good. Syracuse’s impending absence from the tournament could be seen weeks ago as its stretch schedule looked too difficult for an average team to survive. The Orange failed to reach .500 in the Big East and only managed to beat two teams in the RPI top 55. Considering the Orange played 11 games against teams in the RPI, the two victories prove that this team doesn’t belong.

RPI rating: 43
Pomeroy rating: 63

Quality wins: W. Virginia, Cincinnati, Kent St., UTEP

Bad losses: @ DePaul

Here is a breakdown of conferences with multiple bids (in no particular order):

ACC (4)
NC State
Boston College
N. Carolina

SEC (6)

Big East (8)
Seton Hall
W. Virginia

Big 12 (4)
Texas A&M

Big Ten (7)
Ohio St.

Pac-10 (4)

C-USA (2)

A-10 (1)

MVC (6)
N. Iowa
Wichita St.
S. Illinois
Missouri St.

George Mason
NC Wilmington

Sorting out the MVC

The Missouri Valley Conference is two things if not a mystery; 1). The #6 conference in the RPI and 2). Top heavy. There are six teams from the MVC that deserve bids to the NCAA Tournament. However, it is unlikely the selection committee will reward the MVC with six bids due to “unwritten” quotas for mid-majors allowed in the tournament. The committee claims to take the best 35 at-large teams regardless of conference affiliation but I have to think that a team from a power conference will get the benefit of the doubt when weighed against the 5th or 6th representative from the MVC. It just doesn’t “seem” right that the MVC deserves six bids. As a result, my goal is to a). show that if one team in the MVC deserves a bid, then they all do and b). rank the teams in order from 1-6 no matter how hard that may be. I will rank the teams 1-6 in 10 different categories. A corresponding point value will be given to each slot within each category. The team ranked first in each category will receive six points. The team ranked second will receive five points and so on. At the end, I will add up the total points and rank the MVC teams. I understand that some people may value certain categories more than others but all 10 categories are taken into consideration by the committee with non being considerably more important than any other.

1st=6 points
2nd=5 points
3rd=4 points
4th=3 points
5th=2 points
6th=1 point

Record vs. the top five teams in the MVC:

Wichita St.’s record vs. N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St., Bradley and S. Illinois: 6-5

N. Iowa’s record vs. Wichita St., Creighton, Missouri St., Bradley and S. Illinois: 5-7

Creighton’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Missouri St., Bradley and S. Illinois: 5-6

Missouri St’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Creighton, Bradley and S. Illinois: 4-7

Bradley’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St. and S. Illinois: 7-6

S. Illinois’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St. and Bradley: 8-4


Wichita St.: 3rd Place

N. Iowa: 2nd Place

Creighton: 6th Place

Missouri St.: 1st Place

Bradley: 5th Place

S. Illinois: 4th Place


Wichita St.: 4th Place

N. Iowa: 1st Place

Creighton: 6th Place

Missouri St.: 2nd Place

Bradley: 3rd Place

S. Illinois: 5th Place

Record in last 12 games:

Bradley: 9-3

Missouri St.: 8-4

Wichita St.: 8-4

Creighton: 7-5

S. Illinois: 7-5

N. Iowa: 6-6

Best two non-conference wins:

N. Iowa: @ LSU, Iowa

Creighton: @ George Mason, Xavier

Bradley: W. Kentucky, @ DePaul

Wichita St.: @ Northwestern St., Miami (OH)

Missouri St.: @ Wisconsin Milwaukee, N. Illinois

S. Illinois: Kent St., @ Murray St.

# of losses outside of the RPI top 100

Wichita St.: 0

N. Iowa: 1

Creighton: 2

Missouri St.: 0

Bradley: 3

S. Illinois: 4

# of wins inside the RPI top 80

Wichita St.: 7

N. Iowa: 8

Creighton: 6

Missouri St.: 5

Bradley: 8

S. Illinois: 10

Conference Record

Wichita St.: 14-4

N. Iowa: 11-7

Creighton: 12-6

Missouri St.: 12-6

Bradley: 11-7

S. Illinois: 12-6

MVC Tournament finish

Wichita St.: 3/4

N. Iowa: 3/4

Creighton: 7/8

Missouri St.: 7/8

Bradley: 2

S. Illinois: 1

Road/Neutral record:

Wichita St.: 10-6

N. Iowa: 10-6

Creighton: 5-8

Missouri St.: 8-6

Bradley: 7-9

S. Illinois: 11-7

Here is how the teams compare after calculating the point total for each category:

Wichita St. 43
N. Iowa 39
S. Illinois 35.5
Bradley 35
Missouri St. 33.5
Creighton 24

Clearly from this comparison, Creighton is noticeably behind the other MVC teams. With S. Illinois receiving the MVC’s automatic bid, the Selection Committee could easily omit Creighton from this group and take the rest. Wichita St. is clearly the cream of the conference in terms of resume viability. The next four are fairly indistinguishable. Before I compared the teams in the MVC in this manner, I felt that all six teams deserved consideration as there wasn’t much separating them from each other. While there might not be an obvious black mark on Creighton’s resume from the naked eye, it appears that all of the little things add up to a team that is probably less deserving than its league counterparts. Creighton has impressive wins over George Mason, N. Iowa (2), Wichita St., and Bradley. But, when all of the factors that the Selection Committee takes into place are considered, the Blue Jays might be on the outside looking in.


Lombaowski said...

Someone needs to give you a job on the selection committee.

Lombaowski said...

Or commit you.


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