Monday, February 11, 2008

Projections more confident than Kanye West

I would like to invoke the transitive property to prove Michigan’s dominance over Michigan St. in basketball. The Wolverines got off to a brutal start this season while Michigan St. has been spectacular sans a couple in-conference meltdowns. However, everyone who follows basketball knows that Penn St. is the barometer in college basketball. Since Michigan beat Penn St. on Saturday, and Penn St. beat Michigan St. last Saturday, it can be said—without a shadow of a doubt—that Michigan currently sports the superior basketball program. I realize there will be more than a few totally biased Spartans out there who will argue that Michigan St. beat Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio St., and Purdue while Michigan lost to all four giving Michigan St. the advantage in transitive property superiority, 4-1. Some may even choose to cite Michigan St.'s head-to-head victory. While I applaud their fandom, those reasons ring hollow. Everyone knows that you’re judged on what you have done most recently—and what you’ve done against Penn St. The pendulum has swung in Michigan’s favor. And all I can say is, “Eat it, Sparty!”


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 Utah St.
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial George Mason
12 MAC Kent St.
13 WCC St. Mary’s
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt S. Alabama
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Siena
18 Big Sky Portland St.
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Cal St. Northridge
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Cornell
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot American
25 Southland Sam Houston St.
26 Northeast Wagner
27 AEC MD Baltimore County
28 Big South NC Asheville
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Alabama St.
31 MEAC Hampton
32 At-Large Gonzaga
33 At-Large Duke
34 At-Large Clemson
35 At-Large Maryland
36 At-Large Syracuse
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 Arkansas
61 At-Large Dayton
62 At-Large Massachusetts
63 At-Large Rhode Island
64 At-Large St. Joe's
65 At-Large BYU

Changes from last week:

In: Maryland
Out: NC State

*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). Oklahoma

I wanted to take Oklahoma out of the field this week but, since there’s no bubble, I had no team to take its place. I briefly considered Michigan but its 169 RPI poses a problem. Losing to Colorado was a huge blow to OU’s chances at securing an at-large bid. Another slip-up like that and it's NIT-time. The Sooners have wins over Arkansas, West Virginia, Gonzaga, and Baylor and a mid-40s RPI. Oregon sports a similar resume but Oklahoma has a fairly manageable schedule remaining. If OU doesn’t go 2-0 this week, then "no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find..." a replacement.

2). Mississippi St.

Mississippi St. can all but clinch an at-large bid with a win at home against Arkansas on Saturday. A loss wouldn’t be a deal-breaker but it would almost guarantee a nervous Selection Sunday. The Bulldogs don’t have a great resume but a win over Arkansas would almost certainly mean a minimum of a 10-6 conference record. That has historically been good enough for a bid with few exceptions.

3). Syracuse

If Syracuse loses to S. Florida this week, then it’s over. A win still leaves the Orange with less than a 50% chance of making the tournament. Contrast Syracuse’s remaining Big East schedule to Seton Hall’s and you have to wonder if Ramon Ramos is making the schedules. The good news is that the Orange can always choose to play the, “struggle mightily in the regular season only to improbably win the Big East conference tournament by beating four teams in the RPI 40 in four days” card.

4). Maryland

I should’ve known that Gary Williams would eventually get Maryland into that “fourth team in the ACC” spot. I feel like a fool for not realizing this sooner. I had my reasons to doubt, though. Maryland started the season 6-6 with losses at home to American (shouldn’t a school with a name like that get more attention?), and Ohio. Maryland’s resume is still pretty questionable but a 6-3 record in the ACC is a guarantee for the tourney. A few unexpected losses could change things but Maryland could probably finish 3-4 over its last seven and still make the tourney.

5). West Virginia

This is a team that has looked like a solid bet for an at-large bid all season. For that to remain true and avoid another Rich Rodriguez-style rude-awakening, WVU will have to go 5-3 in its last eight conference games. The schedule isn’t too daunting but I can't say I'd be surprised if WVU flamed out.

First five “out” (no particular order)

1). Seton Hall

For the third consecutive week, Seton Hall is in this position. The Pirates have lost three in a row. Their RPI is 60. They’re under .500 in the Big East. Few things seem to be going right. However, remember the last few weeks when I mentioned that Seton Hall has the easiest conference schedule to close out the season? Well, that’s about to come into play. Seton Hall has to split its next two games at home against Marquette and @ West Virginia. After that, it’s RPIs of 136, 160, 123, and 198 with a home game against Syracuse in there. Seton Hall has a pretty good shot at 10-8 in the Big East. That would likely be good enough for a tourney-bid. Lose the next two, though, and they’re toast.

2). Houston

Houston will be in this section for the remainder of the season unless it can win @ Memphis this week or get the editor of the August 26, 1991 edition of Sports Illustrated on the Selection Committee. I'm skeptical that either is going to happen. So, Houston will have to sweat out Selection Sunday with a 14-2 conference record and an RPI in the 40s. Houston’s best win on the season is against Kentucky. That’s starting to look a bit better but no wins inside the RPI 80 is a deal-breaker.

3). NC State

If the Wolfpack lose @ Boston College on Thursday, then you will probably never see its name in this space again unless. A decent RPI and a near .500 record in the ACC is the only reason I’m still writing about these guys. NC State has no wins in the RPI 40. It lost to New Orleans and East Carolina which is atrocious to have on a resume.

4). VCU

If VCU plays George Mason in the Colonial Conference Championship Game, I think there is a good chance that both will get in. VCU has wins over Maryland and Houston and will likely sport a 16-2 conference record. VCU will need to beat Akron in its Bracket Buster game. If it does all that, it’ll have a 21-5 record and an RPI in the 40s. That should get it done.

5). Kentucky

If Kentucky can win five of its final eight SEC games, it’ll finish with at least an 11-5 conference record. I’m pretty sure that there has never been a major-conference team left out of the tourney with 11 conference wins since the tourney expanded to 64 teams. Plus, the Selection Committee values how teams are playing at the end of the season. Kentucky has won five in a row including a victory over the #1 team in the RPI (Tennessee). I don’t think many people would’ve believed this three weeks ago but Kentucky controls its own destination for a tourney bid despite an 89 RPI.

Top Seeds

#1 Seeds

North Carolina

#2 Seeds


#3 Seeds

Michigan St.

#4 Seeds


#5 Seeds

Notre Dame
St. Mary’s

#6 Seeds

Kansas St.
Texas A&M

#7 Seeds

Washington St.
Rhode Island

#8 Seeds


Just outside the top 8-seeds: Mississippi, USC, Gonzaga, Florida, and Massachusetts

Big Games this Week

Kansas @ Texas
Utah St. @ Nevada

Michigan St. @ Purdue
Kentucky @ Vanderbilt
Marquette @ Seton Hall

Maryland @ Duke
Wisconsin @ Indiana
Notre Dame @ Connecticut
Houston @ Memphis
Arkansas @ Tennessee


Pittsburgh @ Marquette

Clemson @ NC State
Michigan St. @ Indiana
Oklahoma @ Texas Tech
Texas @ Baylor
Georgetown @ Syracuse
Ohio @ Kent St.
Stanford @ Arizona
Washington St. @ Oregon
Arkansas @ Mississippi St.
Florida @ Vanderbilt

Seton Hall @ West Virginia

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