Wednesday, January 24, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (Week of January 21)

More so than any other year that I can remember, there seems to be a very fine line between tournament worthy teams and the also-rans. I initially thought that this year was unique in the fact that there were so many teams that have a shot at making the tournament. Then I realized that there were so many bad teams that it just looked that way. With the exception of the Missouri Valley Conference and one or two “bubble teams”, most teams have already cemented their status for the post-season. Obviously a lot can change between now and March. A lot can change in just one week.

As it stands now, I’m having a hard time coming up with the “Next Five” teams that are just outside of the field. It seems like the Tournament is just begging for teams like Michigan, Stanford and Vanderbilt to do something. Bids are there for the taking. This weekend will answer a lot of questions in terms of where teams stand for the Tournament. I expect to have a much better feel for the field on Monday.

My tournament projections are based on putting in the teams that deserve to be in the tournament regardless of conference affiliation or mid-major/major status. The Selection Committee did a horrific job last season so I will no longer try to guess what it will do. If I picked teams based on which teams I think the Committee will put in, I would have to intentionally pick teams that I don’t feel deserve a bid since that seems to be what the Committee does. Here is how I view the field right now (in no particular order):

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East Pittsburgh
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Wisconsin
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC S. Illinois
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial Hofstra
12 MAC Toledo
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt Western Kentucky
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Marist
18 Big Sky Idaho St.
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Long Beach St.
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Appalachian St.
24 Patriot Holy Cross
25 Southland Texas A&M Corpus Christi
26 Northeast Sacred Heart
27 AEC Vermont
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Jackson St.
31 MEAC Delaware St.
32 At-Large Duke
33 At-Large Georgia Tech
34 At-Large Clemson
35 At-Large Virginia Tech
36 At-Large Florida St.
37 At-Large Boston College
38 At-Large Maryland
39 At-Large Tennessee
40 At-Large Kentucky
41 At-Large Arkansas
42 At-Large Alabama
43 At-Large LSU
44 At-Large Villanova
45 At-Large Marquette
46 At-Large West Virginia
47 At-Large Syracuse
48 At-Large Georgetown
49 At-Large Notre Dame
50 At-Large Oklahoma St.
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Texas A&M
53 At-Large Texas Tech
54 At-Large Ohio St.
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Michigan St.
57 At-Large Arizona
58 At-Large Oregon
59 At-Large Washington St.
60 At-Large USC
61 At-Large UNLV
62 At-Large Drexel
63 At-Large Missouri St.
64 At-Large N. Iowa
65 At-Large Michigan

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. There could be up to five 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 five teams in the tourney right now:

1. Michigan

RPI rating: 39
Pomeroy rating: 40

Quality wins: Illinois and Purdue

Bad losses: @ NC State

Not having any road wins that could even be described as remotely good will be Michigan’s undoing. Illinois and Purdue are decent teams but both could miss the tournament. Nobody is going to be impressed with a win over Davidson. This team will probably collapse as it has done the last few seasons. The Big Ten will probably only get four teams into the tournament. Michigan would have to do something spectacular against a killer schedule to change that.


2. LSU

RPI rating: 53
Pomeroy rating: 36

Quality wins: Texas A&M and Connecticut

Bad losses: none

LSU might be thought of as a lock for the tournament based on its success from last season. However, it will have a lot of work to do if it’s going to make the 65-team field. The Tigers have only beaten two teams in the RPI 80. Their victory over Connecticut is looking less and less impressive. The good news for LSU is that the remaining schedule is weak at best. LSU should finish no worse than 9-7 in the SEC which should be good enough for a bid considering the SEC’s SOS.


3. West Virginia

RPI rating: 55
Pomeroy rating: 20

Quality wins: Villanova and Connecticut

Bad losses: @ Cincinnati

West Virginia is in a similar position as LSU. Both teams have 1.5 impressive wins and low RPI’s. Like LSU, West Virginia has a lot of winnable games left on its schedule. The Big East will get a lot of attention from the selection committee so a 9-7 record would probably be enough to get a bid. In most years, West Virginia and LSU would be in perilous situations but given the lack of tournament-worthy teams, they are still looking good.

4. N. Iowa

RPI rating: 45
Pomeroy rating: 58

Quality wins: @ Iowa, Bradley, @ Wichita St., Southern Illinois, @ Missouri St., and Indiana St.

Bad losses: @ Loyola Chicago, @ Illinois St.

With wins over Southern Illinois and Missouri St., N. Iowa has proven it is one of the best teams in the MVC. The problem is that with a weak RPI and no marquee out of conference wins, its resume is looking a little thin. Obviously if N. Iowa can continue winning in the MVC, it won’t have much of a problem.


5. Texas

RPI rating: 56
Pomeroy rating: 34

Quality wins: LSU (neutral) and Arkansas

Bad losses: None

Texas has a bunch of “cream puffs” coming up which will undoubtedly inflate its record. A 9-7 conference record is almost a lock barring an injury to Kevin Durant. That should be enough to earn Texas a bid.


On the outside looking in:


1. Stanford


RPI rating: 38
Pomeroy rating: 67

Quality wins: Texas Tech and Washington St.
Bad losses: Santa Clara

Stanford’s resume does nothing for me. It will have to beat the top four teams in the conference at least a couple times to be in contention for a bid at season’s end. Stanford’s best road win is a one-point victory at Virginia. This team has the RPI to get into the tournament. Now it just needs a few more big wins.

2. Illinois

RPI rating: 46
Pomeroy rating: 33

Quality wins: Bradley (neutral), Missouri (neutral), and Indiana

Bad losses: none

Illinois has a big match-up with Purdue on Saturday. The winner of that game will have a great shot at being the Big Ten’s fourth bid (assuming Michigan takes a nose dive). Illinois has the easiest Big Ten schedule that any team could hope to have. Illinois should go no worse than 6-3 in its remaining nine games. That would be good enough for a 9-7 record in the conference. I’m inclined to believe that would get Illinois in.


3. Purdue

RPI rating: 48
Pomeroy rating: 49

Quality wins: DePaul (neutral), Oklahoma (neutral), and Michigan

Bad losses: @ Minnesota

Purdue has seven wins against the RPI 100. That is one of the highest totals in the country. Only one of the seven wins is in the RPI 50. Before the season began, beating Oklahoma, DePaul, Virginia, and Missouri in non-conference play would have looked very impressive. Now that none of those teams is any good, Purdue is left with a bunch of semi-impressive wins. I think Purdue has to get to 9-7 in the Big Ten. To get there, it will have to pull off an upset along the way.

4. Providence

RPI rating: 63
Pomeroy rating: 62

Quality wins: Boston College, Marquette, and George Washington
Bad losses: Brown and @ Seton Hall


Providence has zero road wins. I haven’t looked it up but I am guessing that no team in college basketball history has received an at-large bid with zero road wins. I doubt Providence will be the first. The best Providence could hope to do in the conference is finish at 8-8 and pray that the Big East’s reputation is enough to get them in. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

5. Kansas St.

RPI rating: 54
Pomeroy rating: 60

Quality wins: USC (neutral)
Bad losses: @ New Mexico and @ Colorado St.

Kansas St. was my sleeper team to make the tournament this year. I thought the combination of Bob Huggins and Bill Walker would make noise in the Big XII. Unfortunately, Walker suffered a season-ending knee injury. KSU has managed to stay afloat which is a testament to Huggins. If KSU just wins the rest of its games against teams with worse RPI scores, then it will finish 10-6 in the Big XII. That would definitely put KSU in good position.

6. Bradley

RPI rating: 36
Pomeroy rating: 57

Quality wins: DePaul, S. Illinois, @ Indiana St., and Wichita St.
Bad losses: @ Tennessee Tech

Bradley is only here because of its RPI. In fact, it was a toss up between Bradley and Creighton. Both have a lot of losses with decent RPI’s. Bradley’s resume is just a little better. The MVC schedule is so brutal that Bradley might struggle to finish 10-8 in the conference. I don’t see a 10-8 MVC team getting a bid.

7. Vanderbilt

RPI rating: 66
Pomeroy rating: 55

Quality wins: Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Alabama, @ Kentucky
Bad losses: @ Wake Forest, Furman, and @ Auburn

I don’t think there is another team in all of college basketball with four wins as impressive as the Commodores. Vandy has two problems. One, it has a brutal loss to Furman. That will be a very large black mark. Two, Vandy may have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in college basketball. LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, and Arkansas may result in a 0-6 record. That would give Vandy 12 losses on the season. If Vandy can win two of those games, I think it’ll get in.


8. Creighton
9. Louisville
10. California
11. Indiana St.
12. UMass
13. UConn
14. BYU
15. Wichita St.
16. Georgia
17. Dayton



Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#36 Bradley
#38 Stanford
#41 California
#42 Creighton
#46 Illinois
#48 Purdue
#50 Georgia
#52 BYU
#54 Kansas St.
#57 Davidson
#59 Dayton
#60 Wichita St.


Lowest rated RPI teams projected “in” the tournament as at-large selections

#58 USC
#56 Texas
#55 West Virginia
#53 LSU
#49 Notre Dame
#45 Northern Iowa
#44 Syracuse
#39 Michigan


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

ACC (8)


UNC
Duke
BC
Maryland
Ga. Tech
Clemson
Va. Tech
FSU

Big East (7)

Pittsburgh
Villanova
Marquette
W. Virginia
Notre Dame
Syracuse
Georgetown

SEC (6)


Florida
Tennessee
Kentucky
Arkansas
LSU
Alabama

Pac-10 (5)

UCLA
Arizona
Oregon
WSU
USC

Big Ten (5)

Wisconsin
Ohio State
Indiana
MSU
Michigan

MVC (3)

Missouri St.
S. Illinois
N. Iowa


MWC (2)

Air Force
UNLV

CAA (2)

Hofstra
Drexel


The Missouri Valley Conference Dilemma

Last season, the MVC proved it could play with the best conferences in America with its success in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the MVC has skyrocketed into the top four of the RPI non-conference ratings. The number of quality wins for the conference is too long to list. The problem isn’t that the MVC is still viewed as a mid-major. I think that the Selection Committee is more than willing to reward the MVC for its non-conference accomplishments. The problem is that despite its amazing RPI score, the conference’s best teams have collectively disappointed in conference play. I am sure that much of the disappointment can be attributed to the strength of the conference from top to bottom. Even the conference’s bottom feeders (Drake, Evansville, and Illinois St.) have impressive wins this season.

Unfortunately for the MVC, its top teams have put themselves in perilous situations in terms of their Selection Sunday fate. An argument can be made that seven teams deserve bids. An argument can also be made that only two teams deserve bids. A similar situation occurred with the MVC last season. I tried to rank every potential tournament team in the conference using the Selection Committee’s standards. I was able to come up with a fairly significant cutoff point where five teams seemed to be deserving of bids. Unfortunately, the Selection Committee made a horrendous decision in leaving Missouri St. out of the tournament. This season is going to be much more difficult. With seven teams having legitimate chances to make the tournament, it is almost impossible to differentiate between them.

The most enjoyable aspect of college basketball last season was following the MVC (and to some extent the Colonial Athletic Association). I encourage anyone who is a college basketball fan to tune in. There are no “gimmes” in the MVC. Just when you think you have something figured out, everything changes. I have no vested interest whatsoever in the MVC other than as a casual fan. From what I’ve seen over the last two years, the MVC is the most exciting conference in America.

4 comments:

Dave said...

Quote:
"Nobody is going to be impressed with a win over Davidson."

Are you serious? Davidson is (19-4, 10-1).

Thanks for the humor, even if it was unintentional.

Jake said...

I'm going to assume that you're being serious for a second.

Davidson has one win in the RPI 100 and it's against Ohio (NOT STATE). So yeah, they are 10-1 in the 17TH rated conference in America. WOW!

You give me a power-conference fanbase that is impressed with a win over Davidson, and I'll show you an absolutely pathetic fanbase.

Just a few stats in case you haven't changed your mind....

11 of Davidson's 17 wins are against teams in the RPI 200+. Translation= one of the worst collection of wins in the country.

The best team that Davidson has beaten (Ohio) has lost to such powerhouses as Samford, Marshall, Kent St., Miami (OH), and Ball St.

Davidson has one victory in the RPI 115.

By the way, would a victory over Cal. St. Fulerton be an impressive victory? I mean, they are 14-4 (6-2). According to you, an impressive win/loss record is all that matters. And if that's not what you think, there isn't a single impressive component of Davidson's resume other than win/loss record unless you want to count not getting blown out in some of its losses.

P.S. I would love to be present with you in the room of the NCAA Selection Committee when they are discussing Michigan. Since Michigan's resume is shady at best, the tone of the conversation would be going against Michigan. Then, when all seemed lost, you would say, "But they beat Davidson!" I would pay $50 to see their reaction. Now THAT is humorous. Thanks!

Dave said...

I don't know if you've found this yet, Jake, but you should try browsing the ValleyTalk MVC message boards. A lot of good stuff about the Missouri Valley can be found there. A link to the site can be found on my (severely dated) blog.

Jake said...

Thanks, I'll check it out.

Jake

 

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