Monday, February 26, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (Week of February 25)

Last week, Michigan St. was spiraling out of control with two home games against Wisconsin and Indiana staring it in the face. Two victories later and MSU isn’t only a lock for the NCAA Tournament but it could end up with a five or six seed. One week can make all the difference. Just ask San Diego St. and Drexel. Those teams were out of the at-large discussion until a number of major conference teams went into the tank. San Diego St. might not seem like a typical at-large selection but if Air Force, UNLV and BYU are tournament teams (as most agree that they are), then San Diego St. is a tournament team, too.

One thing I didn’t realize until after I finalized this week’s projections was that the SEC and Big XII only have four bids each. I don’t have a single team from the SEC West. I don’t think the SEC has much of a chance to get a fifth team unless Alabama wins its last two conference games and makes it far into the SEC Tournament. The Big XII could get five but that is the most since the loser of the OSU/KSU game will be out of luck. The mid-major haters will be in full effect if the Mountain West gets as many bids (four) as the SEC and Big XII as I have projected. The good news is that, other than Billy Packer, I don’t think there are many mid-major haters out there.

My tournament projections are based on putting in the teams that deserve to be in the tournament regardless of conference affiliation and/or mid-major/major status. The Selection Committee did a horrific job last season so I will no longer try to guess what it is 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: Michigan State, San Diego St., Syracuse, and Drexel

Out: Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma St., and Alabama

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East Georgetown
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Ohio St.
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC S. Illinois
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial Old Dominion
12 MAC Akron
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt Western Kentucky
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Marist
18 Big Sky Weber 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 Central Connecticut St.
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 Virginia
34 At-Large Michigan St.
35 At-Large Virginia Tech
36 At-Large Maryland
37 At-Large Boston College
38 At-Large BYU
39 At-Large Tennessee
40 At-Large Kentucky
41 At-Large Louisville
42 At-Large Drexel
43 At-Large San Diego St.
44 At-Large Villanova
45 At-Large Marquette
46 At-Large West Virginia
47 At-Large Illinois
48 At-Large Pittsburgh
49 At-Large Notre Dame
50 At-Large Syracuse
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Texas A&M
53 At-Large Texas Tech
54 At-Large Wisconsin
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Purdue
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

My 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. San Diego St.

RPI rating: 46
Pomeroy rating: 71
SOS: 61
W/L: 18-8
Record vs. RPI100: 3-5

Quality wins: California, Air Force, BYU, and UNLV
Bad losses: @ Western Michigan, Wyoming and @ Wyoming

San Diego St. blindsided me. Not once in the previous five weeks did I even mention San Diego St. To be fair, the Aztecs were 11-7 with virtually no wins of note five weeks ago. Since that time, SDSU has gone 8-1 with victories over three teams in the RPI 25. The Aztecs have also seen their RPI skyrocket to 46. With two winnable games remaining and many of the big conference teams beating each other up, that number will likely rise into the 30s before Selection Sunday. If SDSU loses either of its last two games (@ Utah, and TCU), then it’ll be on the outside looking in.

2. Syracuse

RPI rating: 53
Pomeroy rating: 42
SOS: 59
W/L: 20-8
Record vs. RPI50: 2-5

Quality wins: Hofstra, @ Marquette, Villanova, and @ Providence
Bad losses: Wichita St., @ St. John’s, and @ UCONN

If Syracuse can get to 10 wins in the Big East, I think it’ll be in (assuming no conference tournament upsets). The ‘Cuse have a better resume than Kansas St. and Alabama. A comparison between Oklahoma St. and Syracuse is very close with OSU having won in NY over Syracuse early in the season. That win becomes moot if OSU doesn’t win out to get to 8-8 in the Big XII. To get to 10-6 in the Big East, Syracuse will have to either win at Georgetown or beat Villanova at home. Both will be a tall order but Jim Boeheim’s teams have played very well late in the season over the last few years. I think Syracuse will take one of those games.

3. Drexel

RPI rating: 53
Pomeroy rating: 42
SOS: 98
W/L: 21-7
Record vs. RPI50: 2-2

Quality wins: @ Villanova, @ Syracuse, @ Hofstra, @ Creighton
Bad losses: @ Pennsylvania, @ Rider, and @ William & Mary

Drexel has snuck up the RPI very quickly over the last two weeks. Winning five of six including at Creighton in a Bracket Buster showdown will have that effect. Syracuse’s renaissance has actually helped Drexel’s resume. The Dragons can boast two wins on the road against two possible Big East at-large selections. Drexel also has non-conference wins over three other teams in the RPI 100 (Toledo, St. Joseph’s, and Vermont). Drexel has the most road wins in college basketball. Only an early exit in the CAA conference tournament would boot Drexel from an automatic bid.

4. Purdue

RPI rating: 47
Pomeroy rating: 38
SOS: 30
W/L: 18-10
Record vs. RPI50: 4-5

Quality wins: Virginia, DePaul (neutral), Illinois, Michigan St. and Indiana
Bad losses: @ Indiana St. and @ Minnesota

Purdue’s relatively weak RPI is probably due to the fact that it had the luxury of playing Penn St., Northwestern, and Minnesota a total of six times. Throw in the fact that Purdue only had to play Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan St. once each, and you have, quite possibly, the weakest Big Ten schedule of all-time. Still, Purdue is 3-1 against Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan St. which are all in line for at-large selections. Purdue also has an impressive slate of non-conference wins against Virginia, DePaul, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The latter two aren’t going to blow anyone away but the collection of non-conference wins is better than most bubble teams. As long as Purdue wins its last two conference games (Minnesota and Northwestern) then it will be heading to the NCAA Tournament.

5. West Virginia

RPI rating: 57
Pomeroy rating: 33
SOS: 108
W/L: 19-7
Record vs. RPI50: 2-4

Quality wins: Villanova, DePaul, and UCLA
Bad losses: @ Cincinnati

Of all of the at-large teams that I have projected in the NCAA Tournament, West Virginia has, by far, the lowest RPI and worst collection of quality wins. I’m not convinced that most people are aware of how bad WVU’s resume is as of right now. The Mountaineers will likely finish 9-7 in the Big East with an RPI in the 50s. That will lead to an uncomfortable Selection Sunday for John Beilein and Co. but I think WVU’s perception will be enough for an at-large bid.

On the outside looking in:

1. Oklahoma St.

RPI rating: 50
Pomeroy rating: 69
SOS: 39
W/L: 18-9
Record vs. RPI50: 4-6

Quality wins: Missouri St. (neutral), Syracuse (neutral), Pittsburgh, Texas, and Texas Tech
Bad losses: @ Colorado, @ Oklahoma, and Missouri

Other than a better conference record, I’m not sure how West Virginia gets in over Oklahoma St. OSU has a vastly more impressive list of victims. WVU would be essentially benefiting from playing a much weaker schedule. Granted, Oklahoma St. has struggled as of late but should it get its conference record to 8-8 (very possible), then I think OSU deserves to be in over WVU.

2. Kansas St.

RPI rating: 55
Pomeroy rating: 51
SOS: 94
W/L: 20-9
Record vs. RPI50: 2-5

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

Kansas St. could become the first team in major conference history to win 11 conference games and not make the NCAA Tournament. KSU had the good fortune of playing Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech once each. KSU has one of the worst strength of schedules of any major conference team. Eight of its nine conference wins have come against Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa St., Baylor and Colorado. That doesn’t mean that KSU won’t get in with 11 conference wins. Anything is possible at this point. I do feel confident saying that the loser of the KSU/OSU game will be out of the running for a bid.

3. Alabama

RPI rating: 43
Pomeroy rating: 55
SOS: 49
W/L: 19-9
Record vs. RPI50: 2-4

Quality wins: Xavier (neutral), Georgia and Kentucky
Bad losses: @ Auburn, @ Mississippi, and Auburn

Alabama has had plenty of chances to clinch an at-large bid but has failed miserably against poor competition. This team doesn’t deserve a bid based on its resume thus far. It has one of the weakest collections of quality wins of any team in college basketball. In fact, it only has two wins over teams that I have making the tournament. That is a terrible total. It must win its last two conference games just to get to 8-8 in the conference. A trip to the SEC Championship game is pretty much the only thing that can save the Crimson Tide.

4. Bradley

RPI rating: 45
Pomeroy rating: 62
SOS: 46
W/L: 19-11
Record vs. RPI50: 1-7

Quality wins: S. Illinois and VCU
Bad losses: @ Tennessee Tech

Bradley might end up being the highest rated team in the RPI left out of the tournament. Bradley is nowhere near as qualified as last year’s highest rated team (Missouri St.) left out of the tournament. Bradley went 0-4 against Missouri St. and Creighton. It lost by wide margins to Michigan St. and Illinois. Putting the RPI aside for a moment, I don’t see anything from Bradley’s schedule that indicates it is a tournament-worthy team. A trip to the MVC finals could change that but Bradley is probably the team that has the least amount of opportunity to make an impression of all bubble teams before Selection Sunday.

5. Georgia

RPI rating: 52
Pomeroy rating: 39
SOS: 20
W/L: 16-10
Record vs. RPI50: 2-7

Quality wins: Vanderbilt and Kentucky
Bad losses: Western Kentucky and @ Mississippi

Georgia has two games left—one against Tennessee and one against Kentucky. If Georgia wins both, it will be in the tournament. If it loses both, it will be out of the tournament. If it splits, it will be the bubble team of all bubble teams.

7. DePaul
8. Iowa
9. VCU

Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#41 Clemson
#43 Alabama
#45 Bradley
#48 Florida St.
#50 Oklahoma St.
#51 Georgia Tech
#52 Georgia
#54 Michigan
#55 Kansas St.
#58 Massachusetts

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

#57 West Virginia
#53 Syracuse
#49 USC
#47 Purdue
#46 San Diego St.
#44 Texas Tech
#42 Drexel
#40 Stanford
#39 Louisville
#38 Virginia

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

ACC (6)

Va. Tech

Big East (8)

W. Virginia
Notre Dame

SEC (4)


Pac-10 (6)


Big XII (4)

Texas Tech
Texas A&M

Big Ten (6)

Ohio State
Michigan St.

MVC (3)

Missouri St.
S. Illinois

MWC (4)

Air Force
San Diego St.

CAA (2)

Old Dominion

Six Degrees of Separation NCAA Basketball Style

I started wondering the other night how many degrees the worst team in the RPI is from the best team in terms of a common opponent link. Obviously, the difference in talent is huge. But, with 336 D-1 basketball teams playing 30+ games per season, there is bound to be a short separation from worst to best I researched this extraordinary waste of time back to 2001. I would have done it for '99 and '00 but it’s very difficult to play this game when the worst team has zero wins. I chose Florida for 2007 for no other reason than I think Florida is the best team. It remains to be seen which team will finish number one in the RPI for 2007.


N. Colorado over N. Arizona
N. Arizona over San Fran
San Fran over Loyola Maramount
Loyola Maramount over Oral Roberts
Oral Roberts over Kansas
Kansas over Florida


Prarie View A&M over Alabama St.
Alabama St. over S. Alabama
S. Alabama over Houston
Houston over LSU
LSU over West Virginia
West Virginia over Georgetown
Georgetown over Duke


Maryland East Shore over MD Baltimore County
MD Baltimore County over Delaware
Delaware over Drexel
Drexel over St. Joseph's
St. Joseph's over Davidson
Davidson over Missouri
Missouri over Kansas


Arkansas Pine Bluff over Alabama St.
Alabama St. over Texas Southern
Texas Southern over Mississippi Valley St.
Mississippi Valley St. over Northwestern
Northwestern over Purdue
Purdue over Duke


Morris Brown over Lipscomb
Lipscomb over NO
NO over Tulane
Tulane over Ga. Tech
Ga. Tech over Virginia
Virginia over Kentucky


Liberty over Radford
Radford over NC Wilmington
NC Wilmington over Miami (OH)
Miami (OH) over Ball St.
Ball St. over Kansas


Arkansas Pine Bluff over MVSU
MVSU over Alabama St.
Alabama St. over S. Alabama
S. Alabama over Marquette
Marquette over Cincy
Cincy over Clemson
Clemson over NC
NC over Duke

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