Monday, February 13, 2006

NCAA Tournament Projections (week of 2-13)

As the season rolls along, each week provides less movement by teams going on and off my projected NCAA Tournament list. However, a two or three game winning/losing streak can happen in just seven short days. That means teams can go from firmly being in the projections (Michigan, Kentucky) to barely hanging on to an at-large bid in the span of a week. Conversely, teams can go from “also-ran” status to being firmly in the field (Alabama, Seton Hall). It seems like this year’s crop of bubble teams is much weaker than in years past. Teams like Cincinnati and Kentucky are carrying around questionable resumes but with a short list of qualified teams to take their place, I can’t project those two teams out of the tournament yet.

Here are the changes I made to the projected automatic bid winners:

MWC San Diego St. replaces Air Force
Big West Pacific replaces UC Irvine

Here is how I view the field right now (in no particular order):

1 ACC Duke
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East UCONN
4 Big 12 Texas
5 Big Ten Illinois
6 Pac-10 Washington
7 MVC N. Iowa
8 MWC San Diego St.
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 George Washington
11 Colonial George Mason
12 MAC Kent St.
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt W. Kentucky
16 Horizon Wisconsin-Mil.
17 MAAC Iona
18 Big Sky N. Arizona
20 Big West Pacific
21 OVC Murray St.
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Bucknell
25 Southland Northwestern St.
26 Northeast Farleigh Dickinson
27 AEC Albany
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Southern
31 MEAC Delaware St.
32 At-Large Seton Hall
33 At-Large Syracuse
34 At-Large Villanova
35 At-Large Pittsburgh
36 At-Large W. Virginia
37 At-Large Cincinnati
38 At-Large Marquette
39 At-Large Georgetown
40 At-Large NC State
41 At-Large Boston College
42 At-Large N. Carolina
43 At-Large Maryland
44 At-Large California
45 At-Large MSU
46 At-Large Indiana
47 At-Large Michigan
48 At-Large Ohio St.
49 At-Large Wisconsin
50 At-Large Iowa
51 At-Large Kentucky
52 At-Large Tennessee
53 At-Large LSU
54 At-Large Alabama
55 At-Large Oklahoma
56 At-Large Kansas
57 At-Large Colorado
58 At-Large Arkansas
59 At-Large Arizona
60 At-Large UCLA
61 At-Large UAB
62 At-Large Missouri St.
63 At-Large Wichita St.
64 At-Large Creighton
65 At-Large S. Illinois

I haven't listed the 65 teams in order yet. I'll start doing that in a few weeks. The field that I have "projected" now 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. 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.

The last seven teams in the tourney right now:

1. Alabama

Alabama is projected to be in the tournament for the first time since November. The Crimson Tide opened the season on a disappointing note after unanimously being considered a top 25 team. On Dec. 31, Alabama stood at 6-5. Now, the Tide is 14-8 including an impressive 7-3 record in the SEC. This past week, Alabama beat LSU, Vanderbilt and Mississippi. If Alabama can finish its last six conference games at 3-3 or better, it will be tourney bound.

RPI rating: 42
Pomeroy rating: 73

Quality wins: @ Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, Vanderbilt

Bad losses: Mississippi, @ Georgia

2. Arkansas

The Razorbacks almost pulled off a tournament bid-clinching victory at LSU this week. Instead of picking up the monumental win, they lost 78-77 to stay firmly on the bubble. Arkansas has the lowest RPI of any team that I have projected in the tournament field. I have to admit that I’m a bit confused by its low number. The Razorbacks have good non-conference wins and stand at 5-5 in the SEC. Also, in each of Arkansas five conference losses, it has lost by less than five points. Arkansas’ Pomeroy rating is very impressive at 26 so hopefully the selection committee will take that into consideration. Nonetheless, it looks like Arkansas will have to pull off a big win down the stretch to improve its RPI to something more respectable.

RPI rating: 66
Pomeroy rating: 26

Quality wins: Kansas (neutral site), Missouri St., Vanderbilt,

Bad losses: @ Mississippi

3. Cincinnati

I don’t think Cincinnati will make the tournament. Its remaining Big East schedule is just too daunting. The Bearcats are only 5-6 in the conference with games @ Syracuse, Villanova, @ Seton Hall, and W. Virginia still left on their schedule. I don’t anticipate Cincinnati doing any better than 2-3 in those games leaving it at 7-9 in conference play. Even though there are worse resumes among bubble teams in terms of “bad losses” and “RPI”, Cincinnati’s is hardly impressive.

RPI rating: 32
Pomeroy rating: 49

Quality wins: LSU (neutral site), @ Vanderbilt, @ Marquette,

Bad losses: Dayton

4. Kentucky

Kentucky is in trouble. I thought the Wildcats would take advantage of a weak SEC. It looked like they were going to do just that after starting off 5-2 in conference play. However, three straight losses have put Kentucky at an unenviable record of 15-9. With a resume lacking of quality wins, Kentucky needs to beat a good team. The good news for Kentucky is that the next three games should be wins (Georgia, @ S. Carolina, and Mississippi). That would set up Kentucky nicely for its brutal three-game stretch to close out SEC play which includes game @ LSU, @ Tennessee, and Florida. A 4-2 record in those six games would clinch a bid. A 3-3 record would probably require a strong showing in the SEC tournament. A team with 13 losses doesn’t normally get into the tournament.

RPI rating: 44
Pomeroy rating: 53

Quality wins: W. Virginia (neutral site), Arkansas

Bad losses: none

5. Missouri St.

No team did more for its tournament chances this week than Missouri St. Last week, it looked like Missouri St. was destined for the NIT. The Bears beat N. Iowa on the road in a must-win game to raise their RPI to an impressive 26. The Missouri Valley Conference usually doesn’t stand a chance at four at-large bids but the teams from this conference are forcing the committee’s hand by keeping their RPI’s in the top 30. Missouri St. was lacking a marquee win to go along with an impressive record and solid RPI. The victory on the road over N. Iowa has bolstered an already strong resume.

RPI rating: 26
Pomeroy rating: 30

Quality wins: S. Illinois, Bradley, @ N. Iowa

Bad losses: none

6. Indiana

Indiana is a mess right now. What looked to be a promising season has gone south. It wasn’t a coincidence that Indiana’s struggles started when D.J. White went down for the season. The Hoosiers are wasting the unexpected emergence of senior transfer Marco Killingsworth. This was the season for Indiana to break out. Since it didn’t happen, this could be the season that puts Mike Davis on notice. Fans in Bloomington want more than what they’re getting and Davis obviously knows this after his comment this past week. Luckily for Indiana, there is a Big Ten team that is struggling even more. That team is Michigan. Indiana has six Big Ten games remaining. With two games against Penn St. and two others against Purdue and Michigan, the Hoosiers should go 4-2 in those games which would be good enough for 9-7 in the Big Ten. That would get Indiana in.

RPI rating: 35
Pomeroy rating: 50

Quality wins: Kentucky, Ohio St., Illinois

Bad losses: @ Indiana St., @ Minnesota

8. Michigan

If the season ended today, Michigan would be in the tournament. Unfortunately for Michigan, the season doesn’t end today and they won’t be in the tournament come March. The bad breaks keep coming in Ann Arbor for Tommy Amaker. Two weeks ago, if you would’ve asked a college basketball “expert” whether Michigan will make the tournament or not, they’d laugh in your face for asking such a silly question. Three straight losses later, the wheels are falling off. Entering this week, Michigan only needed to beat Purdue and Minnesota to secure a tournament bid. That means Michigan could’ve gone 2-4 in its last six games and still made the tournament. Michigan got blasted by Purdue this week which leaves only one winnable game left on the schedule. Michigan will like lose its last four games and finish 7-9 in the Big Ten.

RPI rating: 31
Pomeroy rating: 39

Quality wins: Michigan St., Wisconsin

Bad losses: @ Purdue

The teams waiting in the wings:

The teams on this list aren’t as close to being in the tournament as it appears. As of now, I can conveniently assume that teams like Gonzaga and Nevada will win their conference’s automatic bids. If they don’t, some of the teams that I have projected in the tournament will get bumped which will push the teams below even farther down the list. But, like Alabama and Seton Hall, it is possible for a team to come off of this list and jump into the 65-team field.

1. Vanderbilt

Vandy is holding on to a position on the bubble admirably. After embarking on a four-game losing streak, Vandy beat Kentucky for the second time this season to bring its conference record to 4-6. If the Commodores can go 4-2 in their last six conference games, they will make the NCAA Tournament. The problem is that I see three wins at the most.

RPI rating: 58
Pomeroy rating: 60

Quality wins: @ Georgetown, @ Kentucky, Kentucky

Bad losses: @ Ga. Tech, Georgia

2. NC Wilmington

My guess is that NC Wilmington will have a top 45 RPI at the end of the season. The question will be whether or not NC Wilmington’s unimpressive resume is impressive enough for the selection committee. The Seahawks have virtually no marquee wins while playing in a mid-tier conference. That doesn’t bode well for a tournament bid.

RPI rating: 45
Pomeroy rating: 54

Quality wins: George Mason

Bad losses: College of Charleston, E. Carolina,

3. Xavier

Xavier should not make the tournament. Short of winning the A-10 conference tournament, Xavier can’t possibly do enough with its remaining schedule to earn an at-large bid. The Musketeers are 5-5 in an incredibly weak A-10 conference. They have one quality win and that was at home, in overtime over a struggling Cincinnati team. Xavier’s RPI is a disaster at 74.

RPI rating: 74
Pomeroy rating: 52

Quality wins: Cincinnati

Bad losses: St. Louis, @ St. Louis, LaSalle

4. Air Force

While Air Force has been impressive at times, losing four times in the Mountain West Conference is not the best way to get noticed by the committee. The Falcons need to win the MWC to make the tournament. San Diego St. appears to be the best team in the conference while Air Force is battling UNLV and BYU for second place. Air Force has no marquee wins and an average RPI.

RPI rating: 46
Pomeroy rating: 44

Quality wins: Miami (FL)

Bad losses: @ Wyoming, @ New Mexico, @ BYU

5. Houston

Of all the teams on this list, Houston has the best shot at receiving an at-large bid. It might not look like it now, but the Cougars could finish the regular season at 19-7 and 10-4 in Conference USA. Earlier in the year, Houston won at LSU and beat Arizona. Those two wins are as impressive as any combination of wins by a team on the bubble. My guess is that Houston will not make the tournament due to the mediocrity of C-USA. But, if teams like Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky continue to struggle, Houston’s resume might end up being good enough squeeze in.

RPI rating: 59
Pomeroy rating: 91

Quality wins: @ LSU, Arizona

Bad losses: @ S. Alabama, @ Rice, Central Florida

6. Louisville

Louisville has seven Big East games left. If the Cardinals go 5-2 in those games, I think they will likely get an at-large bid. Anything less would mean an NIT berth for a team that started the season in the top 10. I don’t think computer ratings and quality wins or losses will come into play for Louisville. I think it will all come down to whether it has a .500 or better conference record. 8-8 will probably get them in. 7-9 will keep them out.

RPI rating: 65
Pomeroy rating: 45

Quality wins:

Bad losses: none

7. Florida St.

Florida St. is in the same category as Houston. Right now, FSU does not look like a threat to make the tournament. However, at 5-5 in the ACC, FSU has legitimate shot at finishing 8-8 in the ACC. For a conference that is considered among the top two in college basketball, a sixth team would not be a lot to ask for. FSU needs to beat Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Miami (FL) to get to 8-8. I doubt those wins will improve FSU’s weak RPI but 8-8 goes a long way in the ACC.

RPI rating: 67
Pomeroy rating: 28

Quality wins: @ Virginia

Bad losses: @ Clemson

8. Miami (FL)

On the surface, it looks like Miami (FL) would have a better shot at making the tournament since it stands at 6-5 in the ACC. However, with a tough remaining schedule, Miami might only pick up one more win in conference play. If Miami can win two (the best chance for this would be wins over Va. Tech and Florida St.), it will be at 8-8 in the ACC. There is probably a 50/50 chance that either FSU or Miami will finish at 8-8 in the ACC.

RPI rating: 82
Pomeroy rating: 58

Quality wins: Maryland, @ N. Carolina, @ FSU

Bad losses: none

9. Virginia

Like FSU and Miami, Virginia could reach 8-8 in the ACC. It would only require two victories over FSU and Clemson. The problem for Virginia is that 8-8 in the ACC would only be good enough for a 15-12 record overall. Virginia only has one marquee win this season. Virginia would have the worst shot at receiving an at-large bid of the teams that could finish at 8-8 in the ACC.

RPI rating: 56
Pomeroy rating: 65

Quality wins: N. Carolina, Miami (FL)

Bad losses: @ Ga. Tech, Fordham

10 Iowa St.
11 Utah St.
12 S. Carolina
13 Stanford
14 Hofstra
15 Old Dominion

Here are the highest rated (RPI) teams that I have projected out of the tournament:

#45 NC Wilmington
#46 Air Force
#50 St. Joseph's
#51 Old Dominion
#52 South Carolina
#53 Utah St.
#54 Hofstra
#56 Virginia
#57 Temple
#58 Vanderbilt
#59 Houston
#61 BYU
#62 Bradley
#63 Iowa St.
#64 Virginia Commonwealth
#65 Louisville

Here are the lowest rated (RPI) teams that I project to be in the tournament

#66 Arkansas
#55 California
#49 Colorado
#48 UAB
#44 Kentucky
#43 Kansas
#42 Alabama
#41 Maryland
#40 Washington
#36 Marquette
#35 Indiana
#33 Seton Hall
#32 Cincinnati
#31 Michigan
#30 Creighton
#29 Boston College

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

ACC (5)
NC State
Boston College
N. Carolina

SEC (6)

Big East (9)
W. Virginia
Seton Hall

Big 12 (4)

Big Ten (7)
Ohio St.

Pac-10 (4)

C-USA (2)

A-10 (1)

MVC (5)
N. Iowa
Wichita St.
S. Illinois
Missouri St.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess I have to pay attention to college basketball even though I am still in denial over football season being over. Good info here to help me catch up with all I've put on the counter next to the back burner we call the NHL and NBA.


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