Tuesday, February 21, 2006

NCAA Tournament Projections (week of 2-21)

With most teams having no more than four regular season games remaining, the projected field is starting to shape up. Some teams that look to be in trouble (i.e. Maryland) have three winnable games remaining while other teams that appear to be in solid shape (i.e. Cincinnati) may not win another game this season. The last two weeks of conference play will determine which teams slip out of the field and which teams slide in. There was only one change to my projected field this week as I replaced Indiana with NC Wilmington. I had originally included Houston but NC Wilmington’s RPI is 20 spots higher which gives them the nod. I did not make any changes to my projected automatic bids.

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-10George 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 NC Wilmington
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.

Lowest at-large teams in the tourney from RPI
#65 California
#57 Arkansas
#53 UAB
#47 Colorado
#45 Maryland
#44 Seton Hall
#41 Kansas
#39 Kentucky
#38 Alabama
#37 NC Wilmington
#36 S. Illinois
#35 Washington
#34 Boston College
#33 George Washington
#32 Syracuse
#31 Michigan
#30 Creighton

Highest teams ommitted from RPI
#43 Indiana
#46 Hofstra
#48 St. Joseph's
#49 Air Force
#50 Utah St.
#51 Bradley
#52 Old Dominion
#55 Houston
#56 BYU
#58 S. Carolina
#60 Florida St.
#61 Vanderbilt
#62 Louisiana Tech
#63 Temple
#64 Minnesota
#66 Clemson
#67 Louisville

The last seven teams in the tourney right now:

1. S. Illinois

The Missouri Valley Conference went into the Bracket Buster Tournament with a chance to prove itself as a power conference deserving of five bids. Although some analysts felt that the MVC fell on its face, I didn’t see it that way. The conference’s top seven teams went 5-2. The only bad loss was the S. Illinois home loss to Louisiana Tech. Wichita St. lost the conference’s other game to George Mason which is nothing to be embarrassed about. S. Illinois would’ve been a sure bet to make the NCAA Tournament with a win over La. Tech. A respectable RPI and a couple of big wins against MVC teams are keeping S. Illinois in the tournament right now. However, with a conference game against N. Iowa still on the schedule and the MVC Tournament still to come, the Salukis will likely finish the regular season with ten losses which isn’t ideal for a team looking for a fifth bid from a mid-major conference.

RPI rating: 36
Pomeroy rating: 59

Quality wins: Wichita St., Bradley, Creighton, @ Creighton, Missouri St., Kent St., @ Murray St.

Bad losses: (neutral) Monmouth, @ Alaska-Anchorage, @ St. Louis

2. UAB

UAB probably has the weakest resume of any team seeking an at-large bid. In fact, I can’t rationalize putting UAB in the tournament ahead of Houston. I’m only projecting them ahead of Houston right now because I’m predicting that the committee would take UAB right now. Houston has a couple of bad losses and UAB beat Houston in their only meeting. Luckily for UAB, that meeting was a home game. UAB’s RPI is virtually the same as Houston’s. If UAB loses to SMU or Marshall, it will be out of the tournament field. The same would happen if UAB is upset in the C-USA tournament. C-USA’s RPI is so weak that teams will have to stand out to get a bid.

RPI rating: 53
Pomeroy rating: 56

Quality wins: Old Dominion, Houston

Bad losses: @ DePaul, @ Minnesota, @ UTEP

3. NC Wilmington

The selection committee has historically been kind to mid-major teams with very good computer ratings. NC Wilmington fits the bill. However, NC Wilmington’s resume is very close to the caliber of fellow Colonial Conference member Hofstra. NC Wilmington’s signature win this season was against the conference’s best team; George Mason. It also went 1-1 against Hofstra. Despite its impressive RPI, NC Wilmington only has two quality wins this season. A loss against Va. Commonwealth on Thursday would likely put NC Wilmington out of the tournament.

RPI rating: 37
Pomeroy rating: 52

Quality wins: George Mason, Hofstra

Bad losses: College of Charleston, @ East Carolina


Arkansas finally got its marquee win over Florida on Saturday. That win catapulted the Razorbacks into the tournament field. Arkansas will likely lose its next two games before winning its last two to finish 8-8 in the conference. With many close losses against good teams, Arkansas’ resume is much more impressive than its RPI indicates. It would take a 1-3 finish for Arkansas to miss the tourney.

RPI rating: 57
Pomeroy rating: 26

Quality wins: Kansas (neutral), Missouri St, Vanderbilt, Florida

Bad losses: @ Mississippi St., @ Mississippi

5. Michigan

Michigan’s long, slow demise has been equal parts crushing and expected for Michigan fans. Anybody who glanced ahead at the Big Ten schedule back in December and January could’ve predicted Michigan’s February swoon. However, injuries to Lester Abram, Dion Harris, Jerret Smith, and Chris Hunter certainly made things worse. Michigan will likely lose its next two games against Illinois and Ohio St. setting up what amounts to a one-game tournament against Indiana. If Michigan beats Indiana, then the Wolverines are in. If Michigan loses, it will finish 7-9 in the Big Ten having gone 1-7 in its last eight games. At that point, Michigan would have to reach the Big Ten tournament finals just to be considered. With Indiana struggling, Michigan might be able to squeeze out a win. This is a team that will be considerably better come the second week in March with the return of four key players.

RPI rating: 31
Pomeroy rating: 38

Quality wins: Michigan St., Wisconsin

Bad losses: @ Purdue

6. Cincinnati

Cincinnati looks like a lock to make the tournament. However, I don’t think they will make it. I would not be surprised to see the Bearcats lose their last three games and miss the tournament. Cincy has an incredibly high RPI but that might not be good enough to offset a 18-13 record with few marquee wins. The good news for Bearcats fans is that Cincy only needs to win one of its remaining three games to clinch a tourney bid. I’d put the odds right at 50/50.

RPI rating: 27
Pomeroy rating: 40

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

Bad losses: Dayton

The teams waiting in the wings:

1. Houston

If UAB is a tournament team, then Houston should be a tournament team as well. Granted, UAB won the only meeting between the teams but it was a home game. The outcome could’ve very well been different if the game was played in Houston. Also, the Cougars have two wins over top twenty teams (LSU and Arizona). Conversely, UAB has zero wins over top 50 teams. If I had to choose, I would take Houston. A bid for UAB would be rewarding a team for playing an incredibly easy schedule.

RPI rating: 55
Pomeroy rating: 84

Quality wins: @ LSU, Arizona

Bad losses: @ Rice, C. Florida, @ UNLV, @ S. Alabama

2. Utah St.

The Aggies are a tough team to figure out when analyzing their tournament chances. Their schedule looks like a bunch of meaningless games wrapped around two games against Nevada. Utah St. has an impressive record but it becomes less impressive when strength of schedule is taken into consideration. Utah St. has one win over the RPI top 55. It has five losses to the RPI +100. The WAC has a fairly decent power rating which gives some credence to the conference receiving two bids but I just don’t see it happening. The power of a specific conference really shouldn’t dictate how many teams that conference gets in the tournament. It’s entirely feasible for a conference to be top-heavy.

RPI rating: 50
Pomeroy rating: 54

Quality wins: BYU, @ Nevada

Bad losses: New Mexico St., @ New Mexico St., @ Middle Tennessee, @ Utah, @ Fresno St.

3. FSU

Florida St. has a terrible RPI. They haven’t beaten anyone of note. Yet, there is a strong possibility that the Seminoles will finish 8-8 in the ACC which could be good enough for an at-large bid. I would not put them in the tournament simply because of an 8-8 ACC record but stranger things have happened. The Seminoles would have to beat Maryland, Va. Tech and Miami (FL). If they lose one of those games, they are NIT bound.

RPI rating: 60
Pomeroy rating: 31

Quality wins: none

Bad losses: @ Clemson

4. Air Force

Air Force’s resume is deplorable. Only one team in the RPI top 55 even shows up on the schedule at all (a loss to Washington). Air Force has the 168th ranked strength of schedule. Also, Air Force’s best win is over San Diego St. which has an RPI of 59. In my opinion, no team with a strength of schedule as low as Air Force’s with no wins against the RPI top 55 deserves to make the tournament.

RPI rating: 49
Pomeroy rating: 42

Quality wins: none

Bad losses: @ Wyoming, @ New Mexico

5. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is nowhere near making the tournament as of today. However, if the Commodores go 3-1 in their last four games, they would be 8-8 in the SEC. That would give them a fighting chance to get an at-large bid. Vanderbilt should be able to beat S. Carolina and Mississippi. That would set up two games against LSU and Tennessee for a shot at the tournament. Vanderbilt controls its own destiny.

RPI rating: 61
Pomeroy rating: 50

Quality wins: @ Georgetown, @ Kentucky, Kentucky

Bad losses:
6. Hofstra

If NC Wilmington is a tournament team, then Hofstra is a tournament team too. Here is a comparison of the two teams:


Record: 19-5 (11-4)
Wins vs. RPI top 55: 3
Losses vs RPI 175 +: 1
Record vs. NC Wilmington 1-1

NC Wilmington

Record: 20-7 (13-3)
Wins over RPI top 55: 2
Losses vs RPI 175 +: 2
Record vs. Hofstra 1-1

NC Wilmington did beat George Mason. Hofstra has yet to play George Mason. I’m not saying that Hofstra deserves a bid over NC Wilmington, I’m just saying that Hofstra has every bit the argument to merit at-large consideration. Hofstra won’t receive an at-large bid unless it wins its remaining conference games and reaches the Colonial tournament finals.

RPI rating: 46
Pomeroy rating: 70

Quality wins: NC Wilmington, Old Dominion, @ Old Dominion

Bad losses: @ Towson, @ Northeastern

7. Bradley

If Bradley were in any other mid-major conference, my guess is that they would be in line for an at-large bid. Unfortunately for Bradley, they play in a conference that’s having quite possibly the greatest season ever by a mid-major conference. Bradley has five wins over the RPI top 42. However, a 9-7 record in a mid-major conference won’t be good enough for a bid in any season. Bradley is NIT bound.

RPI rating: 51
Pomeroy rating: 44

Quality wins: W. Kentucky, N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St., S. Illinois

Bad losses: @ Loyola Chicago, @ Butler, @ Drake, @ Indiana St.

8. Stanford

Stanford is 9-5 in the Pac-10. I don’t think there has been a team in college basketball history from a major conference to finish four games above .500 in conference and miss the tournament. Stanford will probably be the first team. If the Cardinal can go 3-1 in its last four games, that would be good enough for a 12-6 conference record. The selection committee would then be forced into the unenviable position of deciding Stanford’s tournament fate. For those of you wondering what the problem with Stanford getting a bid is, it has to do with Stanford’s abysmal RPI rating of 88.

RPI rating: 88
Pomeroy rating: 68

Quality wins: California, Washington

Bad losses: UC Irvine, @ Montana, @ UC Davis, Va. Tech, @ USC

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 (6)
Ohio St.

Pac-10 (4)

C-USA (2)

A-10 (1)

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

Colonial (2)
George Mason
NC Wilmington


robert paulson said...


I believe that is how you now spell Michigan's tourney chances.

Only 7 teams in the nation have more wins over RPI top 100 teams (we've got 10).

Jake said...

Even when UM was struggling, all it needed to do was get to 8-8. The Illinois win clinched that and clinched the bid. A three game losing streak to end the season (Illinois, OSU, and Indiana) would've sealed the deal for an NIT.

robert paulson said...

3 game losing streak and a couple wins in the BTT would've still put them in the dance IMHO.


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