Monday, February 25, 2008

"Projections" win 8 and 7

There’s the bubble…

Like magic, “the bubble” just appeared out of thin air this week. It is amazing how many teams that were “left for dead” fought there way back, and conversely, how many teams that were near locks went sour in a hurry. The following is by no means conclusive but it is a list of teams on the bubble with three weeks before Selection Sunday.

St. Joe’s-----------Houston--------Arkansas
Rhode Island------Ohio St----------VCU
Massachusetts----Syracuse--------Wright St.
UNLV------------Villanova--------Arizona St.
New Mexico-----W. Virginia--------Arizona
San Diego St.-----Illinois St.--------Va. Tech
Texas A&M-------S. Illinois--------Wake Forest
Texas Tech-------Kentucky--------Miami FL

This list doesn’t even include teams like Kent St., Oral Roberts, BYU, S. Alabama, and Davidson who would move directly to the bubble if they don’t win their conference tournaments. The last few weeks of the college basketball season usually do a pretty good job of sorting everything out. However, every team listed above pretty much controls its own destiny. Only about 1/3 of the teams listed above will get bids. These teams have a lot of work to do. If I were in charge of the tournament and had to make my selections today, I could only pick 60 worthy teams. The bubble might be large but it's far from impressive.

The Wrecking Balls

If you're reading this, Jay Bilas, please skip to the next paragraph. Michigan’s “maturation” has me all excited for the Big Ten Tournament. Despite a 9-18 overall record, I would take John Beilein’s first-year squad over any of Tommy Amaker’s products heading into the BTT. Amaker never won more than one game in any of his six Big Ten Tournament appearances. Beilein has Michigan playing its best ball heading into the most important part of the season. For much of the Big Ten schedule, Michigan was the 10th best team in the conference and it didn’t appear to be close. Now, a strong argument can be made that Michigan is the 7th best team in the conference closing fast on Minnesota and Ohio St. Michigan has won four of its last five games and nearly beat Purdue and Wisconsin (the top two teams in the conference) earlier in the season. That makes Michigan a less-than-desirable opponent in the Big Ten Tournament. Here are the squads that other teams want to avoid in their respective conference tournaments (to qualify, an at-large bid must be out of the question):

ACC: NC State

NC State has wins over Villanova, Davidson, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Miami FL, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech this season. Over the last seven years, NC State is 10-6 in the ACC Tournament including victories over eight teams in the RPI 45 and three trips to the ACC Final.

Big XII: Oklahoma St.

The Cowboys have had one of its worst teams in recent memory. A 1-6 start in the Big XII ended any hopes for an at-large bid. However, three consecutive wins over Baylor, Texas A&M, and Kansas has OSU playing it best basketball of the season. Only a handful of teams in Division-I basketball can claim a better string of back-to-back-to-back victories. In the last four years, OSU is 9-2 in the Big XII Tournament including two Championships.

Pac 10: Oregon

Oregon has wins over Kansas St., Arizona, and Stanford and has been competitive in its seven losses to teams in the RPI 40 in the Pac 10 alone (with the exception of a 29-point drubbing at Stanford). Oregon is 9-2 in its last four Pac 10 Tournament appearances including two Championships.

Big East: Cincinnati

Cincinnati has wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Villanova. Ohio St. would be a "lock" for the tournament if it could boast such a collection of wins. The Bearcats are also above .500 in the Big East which is a substantial accomplishment considering they were 2-14 in the conference last season.

SEC: Mississippi

The Rebels encountered a debilitating 3-7 stretch after starting the season 15-1. An at-large bid is likely out of the question but a run in the SEC Tournament is not. Mississippi has wins over Clemson, S. Alabama, New Mexico, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi St.

A-10: Temple

The Owls had a chance to climb into the bubble picture but promptly lost an inexcusable home game to Fordham. Still, Temple claims wins over Xavier, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island and boasts a 7-5 record in the A-10.

MVC: Bradley

Bradley was 1-5 in the MVC and seemingly headed for a disappointing season to say the least. Since then, Bradley has gone 8-2 with wins over Illinois St., Creighton, and Drake. Off topic but I feel compelled to give a "shout out" to Hersey Hawkins. It is because of him that I cannot think of Bradley without first thinking of Chocolate Bars.

“Like, for sure”

The Valley had a monumental 2008 Bracket Buster taking eight of its ten match-ups. The MVC had been disappointing all season but the conference did its best to make up for it on one momentous weekend. Just two weeks ago, it appeared that Drake would be the only team from the conference in consideration for an at-large bid. Now, with an RPI neck and neck with the A-10, the MVC should be poised for multiple bids yet again. Drake is a “lock” at this point. I would not be surprised to see two more teams get a bid. The top four teams in the MVC took on very strong candidates in the Bracket Buster and all came away victorious. Drake took down Butler. Illinois St. beat Wright St. S. Illinois hammered Nevada. Creighton beat Oral Roberts. Butler, Wright St., and Oral Roberts are three of the best mid-majors in the country.


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 VCU
12 MAC Kent St.
13 WCC St. Mary’s
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt S. Alabama
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Marist
18 Big Sky N. Arizona
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Cal St. Northridge
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Cornell
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Lafayette
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 Va. Tech
37 At-Large Miami FL
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 Marquette
44 At-Large Villanova
45 At-Large Arizona
46 At-Large Washington St.
47 At-Large USC
48 At-Large Stanford
49 At-Large Kansas St.
50 At-Large Texas A&M
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Baylor
53 At-Large Oklahoma
54 At-Large Wisconsin
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Purdue
57 At-Large Vanderbilt
58 At-Large Arkansas
59 At-Large Mississippi St.
60 At-Large Kentucky
61 At-Large St. Joe's
62 At-Large Massachusetts
63 At-Large New Mexico
64 At-Large S. Illinois
65 At-Large UNLV

Changes from last week:

In: Miami FL, Kentucky, S. Illinois, New Mexico, Villanova, Virginia Tech
Out: Syracuse, Florida, Ohio St., Houston, Dayton, Rhode Island

*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). S. Illinois

S. Illinois’s candidacy for an at-large bid is tenuous at best. However, I think its fate is pretty simple. If the Salukis don’t lose until the MVC Final, then I think they’re in. Anything short of that would mean a minimum of 13 losses and a trip to the NIT. The Salukis may hold a tiebreaker over a number of teams since its star, Randal Falker, looks like Boyd Tinsley. Hopefully, for SIU's sake, the Selection Committee likes DMB.

2). New Mexico

New Mexico has two games to basically play its way into the tournament. The Lobos might look like a bubble team now but that should change by next weekend. They play UNLV and BYU at home this week. Two wins and they are headed to the tourney. Two losses would not only burst their bubble but might also make Stoney Case cry. A split will keep these guys in the discussion for three more weeks.

3). Va. Tech

The ACC is a mess. There are three teams in the conference that are above .500 with an RPI worse than 60. Most arguments on Selection Sunday are “cut and dry”, IMO. The argument for Va. Tech could go either way. The ACC is, by far, the #1 conference according to the RPI. Finishing above .500 in such a strong conference is quite an achievement. However, Va. Tech has zero wins in the RPI 50. I don’t think this team deserves a bid at the moment but I think their affiliation with the ACC would get them in. Slightly off topic but for anyone wondering why Bimbo Coles goes by “Bimbo”, his given name is Vernell Eufaye Coles…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

4). Maryland

Maryland is pretty much in the same position as Va. Tech with one major exception: Va. Tech beat Maryland twice. So, if Va. Tech doesn’t get a bid, then I don’t see how Maryland can.

5). Texas A&M

Texas A&M is in trouble. As things stand now, I think the Aggies are in. With a stretch against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Kansas to close out the season, things could change. Still, a split in those games would mean a likely ticket to the dance. Interestingly, A&M might miss out on an at-large bid while Kentucky will likely get one. Billy Gillispie took a lot of heat when Kentucky was 7-9 and Texas A&M was 14-1. I’m not sure anyone saw that coming.

First five “out” (no particular order)

1). Illinois St.

Illinois St. knocked Wright St. out of this spot with its eight-point win over the Raiders on Sunday. The MVC will likely get multiple bids so as long as ISU holds on to its second place position, it should be in good shape.

2). Ohio St.

Ohio St. might need to go back to paying its players because this “on the up and up” stuff just isn’t cutting it. Where’s Jim O’Brien’s check book when you need it? By the way, am I the only one who has a hard time understanding the following passage?

“O'Brien won the suit after a judge ruled that, though he had broken his contract by giving the loan, the error was not serious enough to warrant firing.” (Wikipedia)

Since when does “paying a player $6,000” not warrant firing? Plus, he paid two players.

3). Florida

Florida is even worse off than the ACC-trifecta. The Gators have an RPI of 59 and only one win in the RPI 50. That is similar to Maryland and Va. Tech but Florida doesn’t play in the #1 conference in America. Florida will need to finish 3-1 against a pretty tough schedule and win a game in the SEC Tourney.

4). Syracuse

I’m ready to stick a fork in Syracuse. Its remaining schedule is brutal. That would be OK if Syracuse was at or above .500 in the conference. Instead, its 6-7 conference record will probably continue to get worse.

5). Dayton

Dayton has just about finished its all-time caliber tank-job. However, the last three games of the schedule present an opportunity for the Flyers to get back to .500 in the conference. That—combined with at least one win in the A-10 Tourney—would get Dayton right back in the mix.

Top Seeds

#1 Seeds

North Carolina

#2 Seeds


#3 Seeds


#4 Seeds

Notre Dame
Michigan St.

#5 Seeds


#6 Seeds

Washington St.

#7 Seeds

St. Mary’s
Kent St.

#8 Seeds

Miami FL
Mississippi St.

Big Games this Week


Texas @ Kansas St.
Marquette @ Villanova


Ohio St. @ Indiana
S. Illinois @ Bradley
BYU @ New Mexico
Tennessee @ Vanderbilt


Miami FL @ Clemson
Texas Tech @ Texas A&M
Creighton @ Illinois St.


Maryland @ Wake Forest
Michigan St. @ Wisconsin
Notre Dame @ Louisville
Wright St. @ Butler
USC @ Arizona
UCLA @ Arizona St.




Ohio St. @ Minnesota
Kansas St. @ Kansas
Texas @ Texas Tech
Texas A&M @ Oklahoma
Georgetown @ Marquette
Pittsburgh @ Syracuse
West Virginia @ Connecticut
USC @ Arizona St.
Washington St. @ Stanford
Mississippi St. @ Florida
Vanderbilt @ Arkansas
St. Mary’s @ Gonzaga


Temple @ St. Joe’s
Clemson @ Maryland
Indiana @ Michigan St.
Villanova @ Louisville
UCLA @ Arizona
Kentucky @ Tennessee

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