Monday, January 29, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (Week of January 28)

I certainly did not expect to see so much change in just one week. By my count, three teams jumped into the tournament field based on strong performances. Vanderbilt and Stanford both went 2-0 while Creighton climbed to 8-3 in conference which leads (tied with S. Illinois) the MVC by two full games. Some of the stronger candidates from earlier in the season are starting to look more like average teams. Alabama, Syracuse, and LSU are three such teams. A team to keep an eye for next week is Virginia. The Cavaliers are 5-2 in the ACC with impressive non-conference victories over Arizona and Gonzaga. Virginia has Duke, Maryland, and Virginia Tech over the next 12 days. We’ll know more about them after that stretch.

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 they are going to 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):

Changes from last week:

In: Vanderbilt, Stanford, Creighton and VCU (CAA Automatic bid)

Out: Alabama, Syracuse, LSU, and Hofstra

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 VCU
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 Georgia
43 At-Large Drexel
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 Vanderbilt
63 At-Large Missouri St.
64 At-Large Stanford
65 At-Large Creighton

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. There could be five or more 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. Creighton

RPI rating: 35
Pomeroy rating: 38

Quality wins: Missouri St., Xavier, @ Northern Iowa, Bradley, and @ Missouri St.

Bad losses: @ Nebraska, @ Fresno St., and @ Hawaii

I’m very impressed by Creighton’s two victories over a Missouri St. team that handed Wisconsin its only loss of the season. I’m equally disturbed by Creighton’s losses to Nebraska, Fresno St., and Hawaii. To be fair, all three of those games were on the road. Had Creighton taken care of business against those teams, it would be safely in the tournament instead of being the last team in. Despite those three blemishes, Creighton is 8-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Those that have been following the MVC know how impressive that is. If Creighton can get to 12 wins in the conference, I think it’ll get an at-large bid.

2. Georgia

RPI rating: 38
Pomeroy rating: 24

Quality wins: Gonzaga (neutral), Vanderbilt, @ Arkansas, Kentucky, and LSU

Bad losses: none

I can’t keep Georgia out of the tournament if I tried—and trust me I tried. Georgia’s remaining schedule is so difficult that I don’t think it could possibly rack up enough wins to make the tournament. As of now, though, the Bulldogs are barely in. I’m predicting a 9-7 record in the SEC for Georgia. I think it will need to go 10-6 to make the bid dance. That means Georgia has to beat S. Carolina, Auburn, Mississippi, and Mississippi St. and then beat one of the following: Tennessee (2), Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.

3. Drexel

RPI rating: 55
Pomeroy rating: 78

Quality wins: @ Villanova and @ Syracuse

Bad losses: @ Rider and @ Penn

I’m pretty certain that the Colonial Athletic Association is going to get at least two bids to the tournament. The problem is that Drexel and Hofstra don’t have the best RPIs. It’s starting to become clear that Virginia Commonwealth is the best team in the conference. I don’t see another team outside of Drexel and Hofstra with a shot at an at-large bid. Drexel gets the slight nod over Hofstra because of its impressive wins @ Villanova and @ Syracuse.

4. Vanderbilt

RPI rating: 58
Pomeroy rating: 48

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

I would really like to see Vanderbilt make the tournament this year but I think the Commodores have less of a shot of making it than Georgia. Vandy’s schedule is probably the toughest remaining schedule of any bubble team. It has to play; Florida (2), Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas. That is six teams in the RPI 38. Throw in a pair of games against a formidable S. Carolina squad and things don’t look promising for Vanderbilt. Nonetheless, if the season ended today, Vandy would make the tournament.

5. USC

RPI rating: 57
Pomeroy rating: 33

Quality wins: George Washington (neutral), Wichita St. (neutral), Washington, @ Oregon, Arizona, and @ California

Bad losses: none

I’m not quite sure why USC’s RPI is so poor. The Trojans haven’t had a “bad” loss yet. They are 6-3 in the Pac-10 including wins over Oregon and Arizona. There is no question in my mind that USC has one of the better resumes among teams fighting for a bid. Despite its good standing, USC has a tough road ahead. A 10-8 record in the Pac-10 might be enough but with its mediocre RPI, I’m guessing USC will have to make it to 11-7 to get a bid.

On the outside looking in:

1. Alabama

RPI rating:
Pomeroy rating:

Quality wins: Xavier (neutral), LSU, and Georgia
Bad losses: @ Auburn
Alabama has a solid RPI but I’m not sure how. Its three “impressive” wins are borderline impressive. It has no victories over a team in the RPI 35. It is 2-4 in the SEC. Four of its five losses have been by 14 or more points. I don’t believe this is a tournament team. Its RPI is the only thing keeping it in consideration right now.

2. Syracuse

RPI rating: 47
Pomeroy rating: 45

Quality wins: @ Marquette, Hofstra, and Villanova

Bad losses: @ St. John’s

Drexel doesn’t have as good of an RPI as Syracuse but its quality wins stand up nicely in a comparison. Also, Drexel won at Syracuse. The Orangemen control their own destiny, though. A 10-6 record in the Big East looks to be a lock for Syracuse. That would definitely be enough for a bid.

3. Louisville

RPI rating: 65
Pomeroy rating: 34

Quality wins: Providence and Syracuse
Bad losses: Dayton (neutral)

The Selection Committee could have a situation on its hands if Louisville makes it to 10-6 in the Big East. It’s almost an unwritten rule that if a team in a major conference goes 10-6, it will get a bid. Louisville could get to 10-6 in the Big East without beating a team in the top 46 of the RPI. If Rick Pitino can get his boys to knock off Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown, or Pittsburgh, things might not be so complicated. I don’t see that happening though. This is not a tournament team. Remember that when Louisville is 10-6.

4. Purdue

RPI rating: 44
Pomeroy rating: 42

Quality wins: Virginia, Michigan, and Illinois
Bad losses: @ Minnesota

If the Big Ten is going to get five teams in the tournament, then Purdue will be the fifth team. However, it’s not going to happen. I don’t see how Purdue could possibly finish better than 8-8 in conference play. That would certainly not be enough for a bid considering how terrible the Big Ten has been this season.

5. BYU

RPI rating: 36
Pomeroy rating: 63

Quality wins: Air Force
Bad losses: @ Boise St., @ Lamar, and @ Colorado St.

Air Force made the tournament last season with an atrocious schedule and no wins even remotely close to being impressive. So I guess BYU has that going for it. The Cougars have one win worth nothing and three times as many terrible losses. If the season ended today, I’m guessing the Selection Committee would hand BYU a bid. I have no confidence in the committee’s ability to separate fraud’s from legitimate contenders. BYU isn’t terrible but it doesn’t have anything close to a tournament-worthy resume.

6. Virginia
7. Hofstra
8. LSU
9. Kansas St.
10. Providence
11. Illinois
12. Bradley

Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#34 Alabama
#36 BYU
#40 Bradley
#43 Michigan
#44 Purdue
#45 Illinois
#47 Syracuse
#51 Virginia
#56 Kansas St.
#59 Providence
#60 California

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

#58 Vanderbilt
#57 USC
#55 Drexel
#54 Northern Iowa
#53 Georgia Tech
#50 Texas
#46 West Virginia
#42 Notre Dame
#39 Missouri St.
#38 Georgia
#37 Georgetown
#35 Creighton

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

ACC (8)

Ga. Tech
Va. Tech

Big East (6)

W. Virginia
Notre Dame

SEC (6)


Pac-10 (6)


Big XII (5)

Oklahoma St.
Texas Tech
Texas A&M

Big Ten (4)

Ohio State

MVC (4)

Missouri St.
S. Illinois
N. Iowa

MWC (2)

Air Force

CAA (2)


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