Monday, January 28, 2008

NCAA Tournament projections goes to 5 OTs

The ACC needs some bad teams

The ACC is the #1 conference in America and—according to the RPI—it’s not close. The worst team in the ACC is Virginia with an RPI of 108 (Virginia's RPI was 86 heading into Sunday). No other conference can claim a “worst team” in the RPI 150. While there is no question that the ACC is the deepest conference in America, there is also no question that the ACC is in danger of only placing three teams in the NCAA Tournament. There is a lot of time before Selection Sunday so things can obviously change. Miami’s win over Clemson on Sunday was huge for the conference in terms of potential bids. However, as impressive as it is that the ACC’s worst team has an RPI of 108, the fact that it only has four teams in the RPI 45 is equally unimpressive. There is little difference between Virginia, Florida St., Virginia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest, Maryland, and Georgia Tech. None are likely to make the tournament. In fact, it’s getting to the point where there are only five possibilities for bids. North Carolina and Duke are in. Clemson is in barring a disaster. NC State and Miami (FL) control their own destiny but I would be surprised if both teams could weather the storm of the ACC schedule. So, if you’re an ACC fan, take pride in the fact that your team plays in the #1 conference--statistically speaking--in America because you probably aren’t going to be taking pride in too much else come Selection Sunday.

The Big East is a bubble beast

Various TV personalities love to argue that the Big East is the best conference in America. The problem is that nobody disagrees. The ACC has the best computer average but the Big East clearly has the best colleciton of teams. The Big East has 11 teams in the RPI 65. The ACC only has 12 teams in its conference. So, I’m not sure who they’re arguing with. Since the Big East has 16 teams, it would be a shock if it weren’t the best conference. So, maybe we can put an end to the, “Some people may disagree but the Big East is the best conference in America” arguments. Nobody disagrees.

The Big East is a solid conference magnified by having an additional four teams. With that magnification come a larger group of mid-tier teams. That’s why the conference has four teams squarely on “the bubble” and will probably have at least that many come March. It has seven teams that should safely find at-large bids. After those, however, the conference could be looking at anywhere from zero to four additional bids. Providence, Syracuse, Seton Hall, and Villanova will all struggle to stay above .500 in the conference (Pomeroy doesn’t predict any of the four to finish better than 8-10 in conference). I could see West Virginia potentially joining that group as well. I could certainly foresee a situation in March where the entire “bubble” is filled with Big East teams. Contrast that to a conference like the Big Ten which will likely have zero teams on the bubble.

The big winner in Big East's monstrosity is, of course, Memphis. Why join a 17-team mega conference when you can destroy Conference-USA? The big loser in all of this is Cincinnati. Has any athletic administration in the history of sports made a worse 1-2 combo of decisions than when Cincy’s ad-wizards canned Bob Huggins and chose to join the Big East?


Here is how I view the field right now (at-large bids are sorted by conference):

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Tennessee
3 Big East Georgetown
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Michigan St.
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC Drake
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial George Mason
12 MAC Akron
13 WCC St. Mary’s
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt S. Alabama
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Niagara
18 Big Sky N. Arizona
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Cal St. Northridge
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Brown
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Holy Cross
25 Southland Sam Houston St.
26 Northeast Wagner
27 AEC MD Baltimore County
28 Big South NC Asheville
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Southern
31 MEAC Hampton
32 At-Large Gonzaga
33 At-Large Duke
34 At-Large Clemson
35 At-Large NC State
36 At-Large Miami (FL)
37 At-Large Marquette
38 At-Large Pittsburgh
39 At-Large West Virginia
40 At-Large Notre Dame
41 At-Large Connecticut
42 At-Large Louisville
43 At-Large USC
44 At-Large Stanford
45 At-Large Arizona
46 At-Large Washington St.
47 At-Large Baylor
48 At-Large Oklahoma
49 At-Large Kansas St.
50 At-Large Texas A&M
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Purdue
53 At-Large Ohio St.
54 At-Large Wisconsin
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Mississippi St.
57 At-Large Vanderbilt
58 At-Large Mississippi
59 At-Large Florida
60 At-Large St. Joe's
61 At-Large Dayton
62 At-Large Massachusetts
63 At-Large Rhode Island
64 At-Large Kent St.
65 At-Large BYU

Changes from last week:

In: Connecticut, Purdue, St. Joe's, BYU, Kent St., Miami (FL)
Out: Villanova, Providence, Illinois St., Cleveland St., Oregon, Arizona St.

*I don't look at other projections—Lunardi's included—at any point in the season. Everything I do is based on researching each team's resume. My projections are based on who I think will be there based on the results of games played and the difficulty of remaining schedules. This isn’t a “if the season ended today”-deal.

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. 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. 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.

Last five “in” (no particular order)

1). St. Joseph’s


St. Joe’s has unexpectedly jumped onto the A-10 train headed for the NCAA Tournament. All along, it looked like the A-10 was going to shock the college basketball world with four bids. Now, it looks like it might shock the college basketball world with five bids. St. Joe’s will need at least 11 conference wins to garner a bid, IMO. The remaining schedule is manageable with a number of games against the bottom of the A-10. Pomeroy predicts an 11-5 conference record so Phil Martelli might be headed to another tourney.

2). BYU


The Cougars should have no problem getting to 12-4 in conference. That would come with a pretty good RPI which would likely mean an at-large bid.

3). Kent St.


Kent St. has wins over Illinois St., George Mason, and Cleveland St. The Golden Flashes could be in competition for an at-large bid with all three of those teams.

4). Texas A&M


The Aggies only have one win over a team in the RPI 50. They’ll get an opportunity to change that this week with home games against Texas and Oklahoma. Win one and you’ll see A&M in my projections next week. Lose both, and they’ll be on the outside looking in.

5). NC State


We should know by Valentine’s Day if NC State is tourney bound. It’ll have to go 3-2 to between now and then or things could get ugly. Pomeroy predicts a 3-8 finish for NC State. I’m not sure it’ll be that bad but it could be close. If the Wolfpack don’t end up getting a bid, I’d love to see Sydney Lowe’s suit-coat get an “honorary” bid.

First five “out” (no particular order)

1). Villanova


Villanova has issues. Its next five games are against teams in the RPI 50. Five of its next six games after that are against teams in the RPI 35. I didn’t even know a schedule like that was possible. Still, a 5-5 record over that span would leave ‘Nova in good shape for a bid.

2). Seton Hall


The Pirates (a tip of the cap to Captain Feathersword) started off 0-3 in the Big East. Four consecutive wins later and they’re fighting for a tourney bid. Seton Hall has one of the easiest schedules in the conference from here on out so it might be the best bet of the four bubble teams so Andrew Gaze and Luther Wright eligibility inquiries shouldn't be necessary.

3). Providence


I don’t have much confidence in Providence’s tourney chances despite non-conference wins over Arkansas, BC, Temple, and Florida St. It would help if even one of those teams was tourney bound.

4). Syracuse


Syracuse is 1-5 against the RPI 50. The Big East schedule is going to eat the “Cuse” alive. Six of its remaining ten games are on the road and six of its remaining ten games are against teams in the RPI 50. A miss this season would make it two-straight years without a NCAA Tournament bid for James Arthur Boeheim. It would be three had Syracuse not shockingly won the Big East tournament two years ago.

5). Arkansas


Losing back to back games to S. Carolina and Georgia is not a recipe for making the tournament. In the end, those two games will likely be the reason the Razorbacks are playing in the NIT. Arkansas is about to enter a five-game stretch against teams that are 20-5 in the SEC. If Arkansas has any prayer of making the tourney, it’ll need to go 3-2 in those games, or get bailed out by the Selection Committee for the second year in a row by beating a bunch of “has beens” in the SEC tourney.

Top Seeds

#1 Seeds

North Carolina

#2 Seeds

Michigan St.

Big Games this Week


Louisville @ Connecticut


VCU @ George Mason


Kansas @ Kansas St.
Texas @ Texas A&M
Villanova @ Pittsburgh
Memphis @ Houston
Creighton @ Drake
Mississippi St. @ Arkansas
Vanderbilt @ Mississippi


NC State @ Duke
Indiana @ Wisconsin
Providence @ Notre Dame
Arizona @ USC
Arizona St. @ UCLA




Dayton @ Rhode Island
Miami (FL) @ Duke
Baylor @ Texas
Oklahoma @ Texas A&M
Pittsburgh @ Connecticut
Seton Hall@ Georgetown
Syracuse @ Villanova
West Virginia @ Providence
Winthrop @ NC Asheville
Arizona @ UCLA
Arizona St. @ USC
Stanford @ Washington St.
Florida @ Arkansas
Tennessee @ Mississippi St.
Utah St. @ Nevada


New England vs. NY Giants

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