Monday, March 27, 2006

George Who?

The first President of the United States is usually the George that gets all the love in this Country. George Washington has monuments, cities and colleges named after him, and rightfully so. However, it's a different Founding Father named George that's stealing the spotlight in the NCAA Tournament. The George Mason Patriots have beaten Michigan St., N. Carolina, and Connecticut to reach the Final Four as an 11 seed. The Patriots victory over N. Carolina might have been the biggest upset of the tournament in most years. However, George Mason's victory over Connecticut has to go down as the biggest upset in not only this tournament but in NCAA Tournament history.

George Mason reaching the Final Four by beating three powerhouse teams is equivalent to an eight seed in the NBA Playoffs winning the NBA Championship. Only one eight seed in NBA Playoff history has ever beaten a one seed to even make it to the second round. George Mason only beat two teams in the RPI top 50 all season! The Patriots lost to Hofstra twice and Mississippi St. To think that this team could beat three elite teams in a row was simply unfathomable just two weeks ago.

Like its namesake, George Mason is a founding father. It is the founding father for mid-majors representation in the Final Four. The odds of George Mason beating Florida and then either LSU/UCLA are slim. However, they aren't any worse than the odds that they were going to beat MSU, N. Carolina, and Connecticut coming into the Tournament. It would truly be the biggest underdog story in sports history. An 11 seed winning the NCAA Tournament after being one of the last at-large teams selected would truly be remarkable. I hope it happens. It would certainly liven up the record books for all of history.

I've followed college basketball extensively this year on this blog. I've paid special attention to the mid-majors including the MVC and CAA. There were some mid-majors that were unfairly left out of the tournament. Just a few weeks ago when asked how mid-majors could get more respect come Selection Sunday, Billy Packer sarcastically said something to the effect of, "have you ever heard of the NCAA Tournament?" Well, three at-large mid-majors made it to the Sweet Sixteen this year and now George Mason has made it to the Final Four. The mid-majors take a lot of heat for not playing difficult schedules. The problem with that argument is that big-time schools from major conferences will not travel to George Mason, Wichita St., or N. Iowa. Big-time schools have no incentive for playing those teams on the road when they can pay teams to get blown out on their own court. The mid-major conferences have made consistent leaps over the last few years to the point that these schools have to be feared come Tournament time.

The combination of underclassmen leaving early for the NBA Draft and the reduced number of scholarships has created an environment in the NCAA where Junior and Senior laden mid-major teams can compete with Freshmen and Sophomore laden major teams. There's no question that the major schools would still dominate if underclassmen weren't allowed to leave. But, that's not the case.

Billy Packer was right about one thing. Since schools from major conferences won't travel to play solid mid-major programs, the only way mid-majors can prove themselves is in the Tournament. And that is just what they did this year. This development is good for all college basketball fans as it will result in a more exciting landscape in college basketball and the NCAA Tournament as the gap between mid-majors and majors narrows.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Same book different cover

The Lions made a bunch of noise with a coaching staff overhaul last month. The addition of Rod Marinelli,Donnie Henderson, and Mike Martz was only supposed to be the beginning of the re-tooling. Instead, the Lions have done nothing but sit while quality free agents sign with new teams. The 2005 Lions had four wide receivers (R. Williams, M. Williams, C. Rogers, and K. Johnson) that were good enough to start and one quarterback (Joey Harrington)who hadn't done anything in four seasons in the NFL. The Lions had glaring weaknesses in the secondary and offensive line. So, what did the Lions do? They went out and signed another wide receiver that is good enough to start and THREE quarterbacks who haven't done anything in the NFL. That's it. That's the retooling. Bringing in Jon Kitna, Shuan King, and Josh McNown to replace Joey Harrington is like eating Haggis instead of Black Pudding. Does it really matter?

Steve Mariucci was only half of the problem last season. The other half was the inability to run the ball consistently and stop teams from passing. No amount of brilliance from the coaching staff can make up for a deficiency in talent. Plus, who's to say that there will be brilliance from the coaching staff in the first place? The Lions have been the same team for the last 20 years. Not once in the last 20 years have the Lions had a good secondary or offensive line. Until they address those needs, the Lions will continue to be a sad franchise in a league where just about every team competes for the playoffs within a two or three year time frame.

The Lions will likely come out throwing the ball all over the field in 2006. Martz will avoid Kevin Jones like the plague as he did with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. The offense will likely put up more points than the Harrington-led groups of the past few years. However, that will only force the opposition to throw more resulting in the Lions secondary getting burned even more frequently. It might be a more exciting brand of football to watch but it won't be a more productive brand of football in the win column.

Unless Rod Marinelli is as good of a coach as Bill Belichick, the 2006 Lions are doomed to repeat their sad history even with a fantastic quarterback troika reminiscent of the Chicago Bulls three-headed monster of Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, and Will Perdue.

Here is the giant splash the Lions have made in Free Agency thus far:

Corey Bradford WR
Jon Kitna QB
Josh McNown QB
Shuan King QB
Rex Tucker OT
Arlen Harris RB
Dan Campbell TE

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Vindication for the wronged

Billy Packer and Jim Nantz were correct to call-out the Selection Committee Chairman but they did it for all the wrong reasons. Packer seemed to be the spokesperson for the major-conference bubble teams like Maryland, Michigan, and Cincinnati that didn't make the tournament. Packer's decision to question the Committee's selections solely on a mid-major vs. major basis disguises the real problem. Deserving teams should not be grouped into sub-categories. Packer did teams like Hofstra, Cincinnati, and Missouri St. and injustice by focusing the attention on teams like Maryland and Florida St. that didn't have a beef to begin with.

The Selection Committee clearly didn't have a problem letting in mid-majors which is what Packer was irate about. If he did his homework, he would've realized that the Committee let in the wrong mid-majors. As I mentioned last week, Utah St. and Air Force had no business whatsoever making the tournament. But, there were majors that undeservedly made the tournament as well. Seton Hall lost to Rutgers (2), Northwestern, Richmond, St. John's, and DePaul, had an RPI of 58 and still made the tournament. Packer missed the boat with his misguided diatribe. Nobody in the media made a compelling argument for Hofstra or Missouri St. Well, after the first week, I think there is vindication. Air Force and Utah St. went out in the first round without making a sound. Seton Hall was blown away by a MVC team. That same MVC team (Wichita St.) went on to beat Tennessee and is now in the Sweet Sixteen. Bradley, the team that finished 6th in the final MVC regular season standings, has beaten Kansas and Pittsburgh to fly into the Sweet Sixteen. George Mason beat Michigan St. and N. Carolina in convincing fashion.

After seeing Wichita St., George Mason, and Bradley tear up the field in the first two rounds, imagine what teams like Hofstra (which beat George Mason twice this year and finished with a better record), Missouri St. (the MVC's hottest team at the end of the regular season), and Creighton could do. Hofstra, Missouri St., and Cincinnati are tearing through the NIT tournament. It's not about mid majors or majors. It's about the teams that deserve to make it. The Selection Committee was wrong last week and they were proven wrong this week. Packer was wrong as the "major" teams that he lobbied for like Maryland lost to Manhattan in the NIT. The Tournament has been exciting as usual but the awful job by the Selection Committee and likewise by Billy Packer to accurately identify the Selection Committee's failure has left a bitter taste in my mouth. If George Mason can thoroughly beat a Michigan St. team, then imagine what Hofstra could do. The Committee's job is to pick the best at-large teams. Instead, it decided to put undeserving teams in the tournament as to not give too many teams from one conference bids (i.e. CAA and MVC). Coincidentally, the Committee has said many times in the past that they pay no attention to the number of teams from each conference.

There needs to be reform to the selection process. I might give some suggestions in the future but the Committee clearly failed miserably this year in picking the best teams. For every George Mason and Bradley that's in the tournament, there is a Creighton, Missouri St., or Hofstra that could've done the exact same thing. Thanks to the Selection Committee, we got to see Seton Hall put on a horrible performance and Utah St. and Air Force vanish in the wind.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Selection Committee of Ignorance

I am currently without a home computer as my family prepares our move back to America. As a result, I won't get a chance to post as often and my posts likely won't be as thorough as they have been in the past. Also, there could be a few more typos for which I'm apologizing in advance for. However, as usual, I will do my best!

Not that it will affect the eventual winner of the NCAA Tournament, but the Selection Committee did a deplorable job in selecting the 65-team field. Most notably, the admissions of Seton Hall, Air Force, and Utah St., and the omissions of Cincinnati, Hofstra, and Missouri St. The Committee has said in the past that it doesn't take into consideration how many teams are given bids from certain conferences. There are few things I dislike more than when people say something isn't true when it obviously is. The committee is a joke and needs to be reformed. The NCAA Tournament is the envy of all sporting championships around the world. It's the model that most football fans would love to bring to the college football landscape. However, that speaks nothing about the credibility of the Selection Committee. How can there be an unbiased selection process when the ten members of the committee are often affiliated with the teams that they are judging? George Mason's Athletic Director was a member of the committee this year. The fact that George Mason received a bid, and Hofstra, who beat George Mason twice this year AND made it to the CAA Championship game and didn't receive a bid seems awfully convenient for George Mason.

Here is a brief comparison of the teams listed above:

Which teams would you pick in each comparison?

Team A or Team B?

Team A

Record: 24-6
RPI: 30

Team B

Record: 23-7
RPI: 26

Team A and Team B played twice this year, Team A won both games by at least nine points!

Team C or Team D?

Team C

Record: 20-8
RPI: 21
Wins vs. tourney teams: 6
SOS: 46

Team D

Record: 22-6
RPI: 50
Wins vs. tourney teams: 1
SOS: 158

Team E or Team F?

Team E

Record: 18-12
RPI: 40
Wins vs. RPI top 50: 4
SOS: 5
Losses to teams with an RPI of 90 or worse: 1
Conference rank: 2

Team F

Record: 22-8
RPI: 46
Wins vs. RPI top 50: 1
SOS: 102
Losses to teams with an RPI of 90 or worse: 6
Conference rank: 9

Clearly, teams A, C, and E are the obvious choice in each comparison. Those teams are Hofstra, Missouri St., and Cincinnati. For some reason (a reason that seems unfathomable to me) the Committee chose teams B, D and F which are George Mason, Air Force, and Utah St.

Don't get me wrong, I think George Mason should've made the tournament. I just used GM to show how ridiculous it is for Hofstra to be at home while GM is in the field. There is no way anybody can rationalize putting in Air Force and Utah St. into the field without using # of teams from a conference as a rationale. The Committee says that it doesn't use # of teams from a conference to determine bids. So, either the committee is lying, or it is insane.

To top it off, Seton Hall had seven losses to teams with an RPI of 75 or worse. That includes three losses outside of the RPI top 100 and two losses to fellow conference bottom dweller, Rutgers. No team with that many bad losses should make the tournament.

The teams that should've made the tournament out of these teams are Hofstra, Cincinnati, George Mason, and Missouri St. Seton Hall, Air Force, and Utah St. have no business being in the tournament.

This may seem insignificant, and it might be if the only thing that matters is who wins the tournament. These teams really have no shot at that. However, I think fairness matters. I can't respect the Committee or the selection process when it makes such terrible decisions. There needs to be reform in how teams are selected. Or, the NCAA could just add teams to the field. There is no reason why a team with an RPI of 21 (Missouri St.) should be playing in the NIT.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Final Tournament Projections

Here is my final projection for the NCAA Tournament. It seems pretty cut and dry to me but you never know what the Selection Committee is thinking.

1 ACC Duke
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East Syracuse
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Iowa
6 Pac-10 Washington
7 MVC S. Illinois
8 MWC San Diego St.
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial NC Wilmington
12 MAC Kent St.
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt S. Alabama
16 Horizon Wisconsin-Mil.
17 MAAC Iona
18 Big Sky Montana
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Pacific
21 OVC Murray St.
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Bucknell
25 Southland Northwestern St.
26 Northeast Monmouth
27 AEC Albany
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Southern
31 MEAC Hampton

32 At-Large George Mason
33 At-Large George Washington
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 Indiana
44 At-Large UAB
45 At-Large MSU
46 At-Large NC Wilmington
47 At-Large Connecticut
48 At-Large Ohio St.
49 At-Large Wisconsin
50 At-Large Ohio St.
51 At-Large Kentucky
52 At-Large Tennessee
53 At-Large LSU
54 At-Large Alabama
55 At-Large Oklahoma
56 At-Large Texas
57 At-Large Texas A&M
58 At-Large Arkansas
59 At-Large Arizona
60 At-Large UCLA
61 At-Large Bradley
62 At-Large Missouri St.
63 At-Large Wichita St.
64 At-Large California
65 At-Large N. Iowa

Last Five In:


The Braves proved at the end of the season that they are one of the top two teams in the MVC. If the MVC gets multiple bids, Bradley has to be in the tourney.

George Mason

George Mason's RPI is too high to be left out of the tournament. George Mason won a share of the regular season CAA title. With an RPI of 26, this team should be in over a bevy of teams with RPI's nearly 20 spots worse.


Hofstra seams to be the odd team out on most projections simply because most people think the committee will not take three teams from the CAA. With an RPI of 30 and three victories over NC Wilmington and George Mason, this team should definitely be in.


Alabama's record isn't all that impressive but the Tide finished 10-6 with victories over Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, and LSU. While 'Bama has a weak RPI, few teams have as many quality wins.


I don't think Cal should be in the tournament. Take a minute to check out its resume and you will find nothing even remotely close to impressive. Cal might just be the most fortunate college basketball team in the last decade. The Pac-10 was so bad this year that it had a worse RPI than the MVC.

Last Seven Out:


The MVC won't get six bids. This is the odd team out.

Seton Hall

WAY too many losses to teams outside of the RPI top 90. It would be a travesty if a team with that many losses to BAD basketball teams makes the tournament.


2-7 stretch to end the season with only three victories in the RPI top 50 is a weak resume. Throw in a plummeting RPI of 46 and this team should not make the tournament. Injuries aside, a tournament-worthy team would've at least had a pulse at the end of the season.

Air Force

Not a good year to be a pretty good at-large team.


Too many losses and too few quality wins.

Florida St.

Same as Maryland only worse.


If Colorado was in the Pac-10, it would be California and likely be headed to the tournament.

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

ACC (4)
NC State
Boston College
N. Carolina

SEC (6)

Big East (8)
W. Virginia

Big 12 (4)
Texas A&M

Big Ten (6)
Ohio St.

Pac-10 (4)

C-USA (2)

A-10 (2)

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

George Mason
NC Wilmington

Monday, March 06, 2006

NCAA Tournament Projections/MVC Breakdown

Rarely have seen so many teams come out of nowhere in the last week of the regular season to lay claim to an at-large bid. Florida St., UAB, Texas A&M, and Seton Hall are just some of the teams that have complicated things for the Selection Committee. Whether one big victory will prove to be enough to send these teams into the tournament remains to be seen. Florida St.’s victory over Duke gives the Seminoles one victory over a team that will make the tournament. That hardly seems like enough to receive an at-large bid. On the other side, UAB’s victory over Memphis and Texas A&M’s shocking win over Texas puts those teams right on the fringe of the 65-team field. Seton Hall’s improbable wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh probably seals the deal for an eighth team out of the Big East. As of last week, the selection process was looking extremely easy for the committee. As of today, I can’t say I envy their position. I will attempt to give the committee a thorough comparison of the at-large candidates from the MVC as well as the entire 65-team field. This will be my best attempt at differentiating the six teams vying for a bid from that conference. I think all six teams deserve a bid but I’ll do my best to rank the six teams in terms of bid worthiness.

Won Automatic bid from their conference:

OVC Murray St.
Big South Winthrop
Ivy Pennsylvania
Atl. Sun Belmont
MVC S. Illinois
Southern Davidson

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 S. Illinois
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 George Washington
11 Colonial Hofstra
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 George Mason
33 At-Large Seton Hall
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 Indiana
44 At-Large UAB
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 Texas A&M
58 At-Large Arkansas
59 At-Large Arizona
60 At-Large UCLA
61 At-Large Bradley
62 At-Large Missouri St.
63 At-Large Wichita St.
64 At-Large Creighton
65 At-Large N. Iowa

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. I’m starting to think that GW will be upset in the A-10 tournament without Pops Mensu-Boshu which would pop somebody’s bubble. 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 if not more.

The last seven teams in the tourney right now:

As the RPI stands right now, Arkansas seems to be the clear cutoff point for teams making the tournament. What I mean by that is that I don’t see any team with a worse RPI than Arkansas making the tournament as an at-large selection. Of teams rated higher than Arkansas in the RPI, I only see St. Joseph’s and Syracuse missing the tournament. That appears to be a fair cutoff point.

1. Creighton

Two weeks ago, Creighton was a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. However, the Blue Jays haven’t beaten a team in the RPI top 125 since January. With so many “bubble” teams picking up monumental wins last week, Creighton’s lack of quality wins over the last two months couldn’t have come at a worse time. A first round loss in the MVC Tournament didn’t help its cause either. I really think that the MVC should get all six teams into the tournament. If Missouri St. is good enough to make the tournament, then Wichita St. is good enough since WSU went 2-0 against MSU this year. If Wichita St. is good enough to make the tournament, then Northern Iowa is good enough since N. Iowa went 2-0 against WSU. If N. Iowa is good enough to make the tournament then S. Illinois is good enough to make the tournament since S. Illinois went 2-0 against N. Iowa. Likewise, if N. Iowa is good enough to make the tournament then Creighton is good enough to make the tournament since Creighton was 2-0 against N. Iowa. If Creighton is good enough to make the tournament, then Bradley is good enough to make the tournament since Bradley went 2-1 against Creighton. Each of the top six teams in this conference has the same argument for making the tournament. I know there are only a limited number of spots, but I would like to see the selection committee reward the MVC for having such an impressive RPI while holding teams like California, Colorado, and Syracuse accountable for having low RPI’s or weak resumes. I’ll have much more on this at the bottom of the page.

RPI rating: 42
Pomeroy rating: 55

Quality wins: @ George Mason, Xavier, @ N. Iowa, Bradley, Wichita St., N. Iowa,

Bad losses: @ Chatanooga, @ Illinois St,

2. Bradley

Bradley was an afterthought just a month ago. However, an amazing 11-3 stretch that featured victories over five teams in the RPI top 45 has Bradley in the mix for an at-large bid. No team in the MVC has been hotter over the second half of the season. Bradley has eight wins over the RPI top 55 which is a phenomenal total for a mid-major. This team, like the other five MVC teams, deserves to be in the tournament. Bradley is one of only two teams (S. Illinois is the other) two have beaten all five of the other top teams in the MVC.

RPI rating: 34
Pomeroy rating: 32

Quality wins: W. Kentucky, N. Iowa, @ N. Iowa, Creighton (2), Missouri St., S. Illinois and Wichita St.

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

3. NC Wilmington

The Seahawks were sitting pretty last week with an RPI in the top 35. With so many “bubble” teams picking up big victories, NC Wilmington dropped in the RPI despite its current six-game winning streak. I had been saying for the past few weeks that if NC Wilmington is a tournament team, then Hofstra should be a tournament team as well. That was when NC Wilmington was getting more publicity than Hofstra. Now, I fear that the roles will be reversed and NC Wilmington will be the odd team out. Frankly, the CAA deserves three teams in the tournament. Hofstra, NC Wilmington, and George Mason should be tourney bound. If NC Wilmington doesn’t make the tournament, it really only has itself to blame with terrible losses to College of Charleston and E. Carolina.

RPI rating: 37
Pomeroy rating: 41

Quality wins: George Mason, Hofstra
Bad losses: College of Charleston, @ E. Carolina

4. George Mason

I think Hofstra is in the tournament regardless of what happens in the CAA Championship between Hofstra and NC Wilmington. George Mason should be in as well with an RPI of 29. Although, there are more deserving resumes on the bubble list than what George Mason has to offer. While I think it has a legitimate gripe for a bid if it were left out of the tournament, there really isn’t much to speak of in terms of quality wins.

RPI rating: 29
Pomeroy rating: 30

Quality wins: @ Wichita St., NC Wilmington
Bad losses: @ Mississippi St.

5. Texas A&M

As much as I hate to admit it, the Aggies really do deserve to make the tournament as things stand now. This team came out of nowhere to earn a 20-7 record (10-6 in the Big XII) with victories over Texas and Colorado. In fact, the Aggies beat Colorado head to head and finished ahead of the Buffaloes in the Big XII standings. If that doesn’t get Texas A&M in ahead of Colorado, then something is wrong. The Aggies don’t have the most impressive RPI but this team finished the season on a seven-game winning streak including the big win over Texas. I see Texas A&M as the fourth and final team from the Big XII barring major upsets in the conference tournaments.

RPI rating: 49
Pomeroy rating: 42

Quality wins: @ Colorado, Northwestern St, Texas, @ Iowa St

Bad losses: @ Kansas St., @ Pacific

6. Missouri St.

The Bears were on a major roll until an opening round loss in the MVC. In fairness, the loss was against a game N. Iowa team who needed the victory slightly more than Missouri St. needed it. However, that shouldn’t discount Missouri St.’s amazing second half run. The Bears finished the regular season on an 8-1 run with victories over four teams in the RPI top 60. Their RPI is in the mid-20’s which is almost certainly good enough for an at-large bid. The Bears’ fate for the tournament lies completely in the Selection Committee’s view towards the MVC. If the committee gives the MVC the respect it deserves, then this team will be in the tournament. Another positive for MSU is that it has no losses to teams outside of the RPI top 50. Not many teams can say that.

RPI rating: 21
Pomeroy rating: 31

Quality wins: S. Illinois, Bradley, @ N. Iowa, @ Wisconsin Milwaukee, Creighton
Bad losses: none

7. UAB

UAB was destined for the NIT without a marquee win. With the Conference USA being incredibly week, the Blazers only had two chances at getting that marquee win. Luckily for the Blazers, they took advantage of their second chance against Memphis which likely sealed a bid. It’s hard to imagine this team being 21-5 overall (12-2 in conference) with a victory over a top ten team with no losses to teams outside of the RPI top 100 not making the tournament. Stranger things have happened but UAB should be in.

RPI rating: 44
Pomeroy rating: 43

Quality wins: Memphis, Old Dominion, Houston
Bad losses: @ DePaul

8. Seton Hall

I must admit that I wrote Seton Hall off just seven days ago. This team lost to St. John’s and DePaul in must-win games last week. That left the Pirates 16-10 overall (7-7 conference) with two certain losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati looming. Two victories later, the Pirates are sitting pretty at 9-7 in the Big East with five victories over the RPI top 35. This team has possibly the worst negatives of any “bubble team”. The Pirates lost to Richmond, Northwestern, Rutgers, DePaul, St. John’s, and Notre Dame. The Hall also lost by 53 to Duke and 42 to Connecticut. If I were on the committee, I would lobby hard to keep this team out of the tournament. An at-large bid should be given to a team with a deserving resume. In my opinion, no team with six losses outside of the RPI top 85 deserves the tournament. If that isn’t enough, no team that lost two games by at least 40 points deserves an at-large bid.

RPI rating: 48
Pomeroy rating: 45

Quality wins: @ NC State, @ Syracuse, W. Virginia, Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh
Bad losses: Too many to name.

9. Michigan

Luckily for Michigan, Daniel Horton single-handily beat Illinois to get Michigan to 8-8 in the conference. If it weren’t for that upset win, Michigan would most certainly be headed to the NIT. Even with the victory, Michigan hardly deserves to make the NCAA Tournament. Michigan went 3-7 against the other six powerhouse teams in the Big Ten which is by far the worst of the group. Michigan has gone 2-6 over its last eight and hasn’t beaten a team in the RPI top 80 since January. I hate to say it, but no team that finishes the season on a 2-6 run with so few quality wins deserves to make the tournament. In every category that the Selection Committee looks at to determine a team’s worthiness for an at-large bid, Michigan is deficient. Michigan didn’t beat anyone on the road. Michigan finished the season terribly. Michigan had no marquee non-conference wins. Michigan didn’t finish above .500 in conference. How exactly does this team deserve to make the tournament? The only thing Michigan has going for it is the injury card. With Lester Abram out for 13 games and the recent injury to Chris Hunter, Michigan certainly wasn’t playing at full strength. Even without those players, a tournament-worthy basketball team should not turn the ball over 24 times (!!!!!!) in a must-win home finale and blow a 10-point lead to boot. However, if Michigan makes it, it will be solely on the strength of the Big Ten’s RPI.

RPI rating: 36
Pomeroy rating: 39

Quality wins: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan St.
Bad losses: @ Purdue

The teams waiting in the wings:

I predicted two weeks ago that either Syracuse or Cincinnati would not make the NCAA Tournament. As unlikely as it seemed then, it now appears that Syracuse will probably be NIT bound. The Orange have virtually no marquee wins this season and finished below .500 (7-9) in the Big East. Many of the following teams have appeared in my “projected” field for quite some time before this week. I didn’t take them out of my projections because of their play rather because of the play of other teams. I really have no idea which direction the committee is going to go in terms of mid-majors vs. power conference teams. If the committee shows favoritism to the power conferences, many teams below could sneak into the tournament with weak resumes.

1. California

If Stanford can be kept out of the tournament with an 11-7 conference record due to an undeserving resume, then California can too. I’ve long considered the Bears as a likely tournament team just because of their conference record. However, the Bears have an awful RPI. They have zero good wins out of the conference. They did beat UCLA, Arizona, and Washington but lost to all three as well. In some years, Cal’s resume would be good enough to make the tournament. This year, it shouldn’t be. Three losses to teams with an RPI of 165 or worse including Eastern Michigan proves Cal’s unworthiness to be a tournament team. The committee may feel compelled to give a team a break from a power conference but 11-7 doesn’t mean anything in the Pac-10.

RPI rating: 59
Pomeroy rating: 48

Quality wins: @ Arizona, @ Washington, UCLA
Bad losses: @ Eastern Michigan, Oregon St, Arizona St.

2. Colorado

Colorado has a bland resume that would be perfect for the NIT. The Buffaloes have even less quality wins than California. They have exactly two wins over the RPI top 80. They have four losses to teams with an RPI of 85 or worse. I’m trying to think of reasons that this team should make the tournament and I’m coming up with none.

RPI rating: 52
Pomeroy rating: 52

Quality wins: NC Wilmington, Oklahoma

Bad losses: @ Colorado St, @ Iowa St, @ Kansas St, @ Nebraska

3. Florida St.

As amazing as it might seem, Florida St. actually has less quality wins than California and Colorado. Florida St. pulled off a shocking upset over Duke last week but that will be FSU’s only victory over a team headed to the NCAA Tournament this year. FSU only has one victory on the season over a team with RPI of 50 or higher. This team nearly beat Duke a second time but unfortunately for the Seminoles, that was probably the only way FSU was going to make the tournament.

RPI rating: 56
Pomeroy rating: 27

Quality wins: Duke

Bad losses: @ Clemson, Miami (FL), @ Va. Tech

4. Syracuse

Syracuse had two things working against it this season, 1). It played in an incredibly deep conference and 2). It wasn’t very good. Syracuse’s impending absence from the tournament could be seen weeks ago as its stretch schedule looked too difficult for an average team to survive. The Orange failed to reach .500 in the Big East and only managed to beat two teams in the RPI top 55. Considering the Orange played 11 games against teams in the RPI, the two victories prove that this team doesn’t belong.

RPI rating: 43
Pomeroy rating: 63

Quality wins: W. Virginia, Cincinnati, Kent St., UTEP

Bad losses: @ DePaul

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

ACC (4)
NC State
Boston College
N. Carolina

SEC (6)

Big East (8)
Seton Hall
W. Virginia

Big 12 (4)
Texas A&M

Big Ten (7)
Ohio St.

Pac-10 (4)

C-USA (2)

A-10 (1)

MVC (6)
N. Iowa
Wichita St.
S. Illinois
Missouri St.

George Mason
NC Wilmington

Sorting out the MVC

The Missouri Valley Conference is two things if not a mystery; 1). The #6 conference in the RPI and 2). Top heavy. There are six teams from the MVC that deserve bids to the NCAA Tournament. However, it is unlikely the selection committee will reward the MVC with six bids due to “unwritten” quotas for mid-majors allowed in the tournament. The committee claims to take the best 35 at-large teams regardless of conference affiliation but I have to think that a team from a power conference will get the benefit of the doubt when weighed against the 5th or 6th representative from the MVC. It just doesn’t “seem” right that the MVC deserves six bids. As a result, my goal is to a). show that if one team in the MVC deserves a bid, then they all do and b). rank the teams in order from 1-6 no matter how hard that may be. I will rank the teams 1-6 in 10 different categories. A corresponding point value will be given to each slot within each category. The team ranked first in each category will receive six points. The team ranked second will receive five points and so on. At the end, I will add up the total points and rank the MVC teams. I understand that some people may value certain categories more than others but all 10 categories are taken into consideration by the committee with non being considerably more important than any other.

1st=6 points
2nd=5 points
3rd=4 points
4th=3 points
5th=2 points
6th=1 point

Record vs. the top five teams in the MVC:

Wichita St.’s record vs. N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St., Bradley and S. Illinois: 6-5

N. Iowa’s record vs. Wichita St., Creighton, Missouri St., Bradley and S. Illinois: 5-7

Creighton’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Missouri St., Bradley and S. Illinois: 5-6

Missouri St’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Creighton, Bradley and S. Illinois: 4-7

Bradley’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St. and S. Illinois: 7-6

S. Illinois’s record vs. Wichita St., N. Iowa, Creighton, Missouri St. and Bradley: 8-4


Wichita St.: 3rd Place

N. Iowa: 2nd Place

Creighton: 6th Place

Missouri St.: 1st Place

Bradley: 5th Place

S. Illinois: 4th Place


Wichita St.: 4th Place

N. Iowa: 1st Place

Creighton: 6th Place

Missouri St.: 2nd Place

Bradley: 3rd Place

S. Illinois: 5th Place

Record in last 12 games:

Bradley: 9-3

Missouri St.: 8-4

Wichita St.: 8-4

Creighton: 7-5

S. Illinois: 7-5

N. Iowa: 6-6

Best two non-conference wins:

N. Iowa: @ LSU, Iowa

Creighton: @ George Mason, Xavier

Bradley: W. Kentucky, @ DePaul

Wichita St.: @ Northwestern St., Miami (OH)

Missouri St.: @ Wisconsin Milwaukee, N. Illinois

S. Illinois: Kent St., @ Murray St.

# of losses outside of the RPI top 100

Wichita St.: 0

N. Iowa: 1

Creighton: 2

Missouri St.: 0

Bradley: 3

S. Illinois: 4

# of wins inside the RPI top 80

Wichita St.: 7

N. Iowa: 8

Creighton: 6

Missouri St.: 5

Bradley: 8

S. Illinois: 10

Conference Record

Wichita St.: 14-4

N. Iowa: 11-7

Creighton: 12-6

Missouri St.: 12-6

Bradley: 11-7

S. Illinois: 12-6

MVC Tournament finish

Wichita St.: 3/4

N. Iowa: 3/4

Creighton: 7/8

Missouri St.: 7/8

Bradley: 2

S. Illinois: 1

Road/Neutral record:

Wichita St.: 10-6

N. Iowa: 10-6

Creighton: 5-8

Missouri St.: 8-6

Bradley: 7-9

S. Illinois: 11-7

Here is how the teams compare after calculating the point total for each category:

Wichita St. 43
N. Iowa 39
S. Illinois 35.5
Bradley 35
Missouri St. 33.5
Creighton 24

Clearly from this comparison, Creighton is noticeably behind the other MVC teams. With S. Illinois receiving the MVC’s automatic bid, the Selection Committee could easily omit Creighton from this group and take the rest. Wichita St. is clearly the cream of the conference in terms of resume viability. The next four are fairly indistinguishable. Before I compared the teams in the MVC in this manner, I felt that all six teams deserved consideration as there wasn’t much separating them from each other. While there might not be an obvious black mark on Creighton’s resume from the naked eye, it appears that all of the little things add up to a team that is probably less deserving than its league counterparts. Creighton has impressive wins over George Mason, N. Iowa (2), Wichita St., and Bradley. But, when all of the factors that the Selection Committee takes into place are considered, the Blue Jays might be on the outside looking in.

Brief Hiatus

I will be traveling to Ireland for the next seven days, so I will probably not be posting until next Sunday at the earliest.
But, I am hoping to make it to a computer before the selection show next Sunday to project the 65 team field of the NCAA Tournament.
Until then take care,

Friday, March 03, 2006

NCAA Tournament Power Chart

I’ve spent a good amount of time surveying the teams that might make the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday. What I haven’t done up until now is assess the teams that actually have a chance of winning the NCAA Tournament. The following is a power chart that illustrates the teams that I feel have the best chance of winning the tournament. I’ve taken into consideration various factors such as; RPI, head to head match-ups, and injuries to rank the teams. You will notice that I don’t list any mid-major teams in this group. I simply don’t think any mid-major outside of Gonzaga has even the slightest chance of winning the NCAA Tournament regardless of the RPI. There will be upsets but you won’t see George Mason, Wichita St., or Bucknell cutting down the nets anytime soon.

1). Connecticut

UConn is the deepest team in the country. Depth becomes increasingly important come tournament time when players can slip in and out of slumps like night and day. If J.J. Redick has an off night, Duke can lose to Florida St. If Rudy Gay only takes five shots, UConn can still beat Villanova by 14. Plus, UConn has the most impressive resume in the country in beating Arkansas, Arizona, Gonzaga, LSU, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Seton Hall (by 42), Villanova, and West Virginia.

2). Duke

Duke is easily good enough to win the tournament. The big problem for the Blue Devils is keeping Shelden Williams out of foul trouble. That was one of the reasons why Florida St. was able to shock Duke this past week. This is a smart team that won’t beat itself. It’s resume is almost as impressive as UConn with victories over; Seton Hall (by 53), Memphis, Indiana, Texas, Bucknell, Maryland (2), N. Carolina St, North Carolina, and Boston College.

3). Villanova

Villanova is rated higher in the RPI than Connecticut but college basketball fans saw last weekend why Villanova faces an uphill battle in lasting longer than the Huskies come the end of March. Villanova is a guard-oriented team which is sufficient against most basketball teams but not against UConn’s frontcourt and Sheldon Williams of Duke. Villanova did knock off the Huskies at home this year but they won’t have the luxury of playing at home in the tournament. ‘Nova split two big non-conference games against the Big XII with a victory over Oklahoma and a narrow loss to Texas. As good as ‘Nova’s record is, the Wildcats lost their only meeting with W. Virginia and didn’t have to play Pittsburgh.

4). Texas

After getting blown out early in the season by Duke and Tennessee, Texas flew under the radar for most of the season. The Longhorns might be underrated by the RPI and human polls but trust me when I say that no #1 seed wants to see Texas in their region as a #2 seed. Few people remember that Texas was without Brad Buckman for the entire second half against Duke. They were without Buckman for the entire game against Tennessee as well as without Daniel Gibson for the second half against the Vols. Texas more than proved that those blowout losses were a fluke with an impressive slew of victories against W. Virginia, Iowa, Memphis, Villanova, and Kansas.

5). N. Carolina

I certainly haven’t rated N. Carolina the fifth most likely team to win the tournament on the strength of their entire schedule. The Tar Heels lost to a number of below-average teams including USC, Virginia, and Miami (FL). However, Roy Williams’ highly-touted freshmen class has gelled leading the Heels to a six-game winning streak entering Saturday’s showdown with Duke. North Carolina pounded NC State in both meetings. It smacked Arizona on national television. The Heels crushed Virginia by 45 points this past week. The Heels are rolling. I expect this team to be even better come tourney time.

6). Memphis

Memphis can beat any team in the country. The Tigers have a mix of veteran leadership and talented youth that has lead to victories over some of the nation’s elite including Alabama, UCLA, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, and Tennessee. The fact that Conference USA was such a weak conference this year will actually hurt Memphis come tourney time. There is such a thing as being “tournament tested”. Despite impressive victories in the non-conference schedule, Memphis has feasted on weak teams this year. The quality of play could come as a shock for the Tigers when they have to play great teams back to back.

7). Gonzaga

Gonzaga is good but not great. Many Zags-supporters around the country are pleading for the Gonzaga to get a #1 seed but they simply don’t deserve it. It has one win in the RPI top 45 (Michigan St.). St. Mary’s is the second best team in the West Coast Conference with an RPI of 120. Gonzaga lost its other three marquee match-ups against Connecticut, Memphis and Washington. Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista form an excellent inside-outside tandem but the depth and athleticism just isn’t there for this team to win the title.

8). W. Virginia

Many people might have forgotten that W. Virginia was written off early in the season when they lost three straight games to Kentucky, Texas, and LSU. Those losses don’t look that bad now since we’ve discovered how good Texas and LSU are. Since then, the Mountaineers have gone 17-5 with wins over Oklahoma, Villanova, Georgetown (2), UCLA, and Pittsburgh. W. Virginia proved last year in the tournament that they could go on a winning streak against great competition. W. Virginia might end up as the most dangerous five seed in the tournament.

9). Ohio St.

Ohio St. has quietly crept to #4 in the RPI with 22-4 record. The Buckeyes won’t wow anyone with flashy play. They’ll simply drain ten three-pointers against you and send you home crying. Despite their gaudy record and first place standing in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes might be the least impressive team in the RPI top ten. They have one good non-conference victory (LSU). Ohio St. is only 3-4 against Illinois, Michigan St., Wisconsin and Indiana. The Buckeyes lucked out by only having to play Illinois and Wisconsin once each. They’ve attained their record by consistently beating the weaker teams on the schedule which is evidenced by their 6-0 record against Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn St. and Purdue. In fact, Ohio St. is the only team in the conference that hasn’t lost to one of those teams. That’s how you win a conference championship.

10). Illinois

Illinois is an interesting case study. The Illini have beaten N. Carolina, Wichita St., Georgetown, Michigan St., Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa. Yet, nobody seems to be talking about Illinois as a legitimate threat to win the tournament. I can’t say I disagree with that sentiment either. This team is a far cry from last year’s juggernaut that nearly won the tournament. Last year’s team never would’ve lost to a team like Penn St. on its home court. Having said that, few teams can match Illinois’ seven wins against the RPI top 30. I have Illinois just behind Ohio St. since the Buckeyes clobbered the Illini in their only meeting.

11). Georgetown

The Hoyas are a completely different team than the one that played Illinois early in the season. I watched that game and came away thoroughly unimpressed with Georgetown. Since then, the Hoyas have gone 16-5 with victories over Duke, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. The Hoyas have incredible depth with a powerful inside presence in 7’2 Roy Hibbert. Despite Georgetown’s impressive play of late, it is 0-4 against UConn, Villanova, and W. Virginia proving that the Hoyas aren’t quite ready for the big time. This team reminds me a little bit of the highly-hyped Seton Hall team of the mid 90’s that featured Luther Wright. That team was everybody’s sleeper come tournament time. They promptly bowed out of the tournament without making a peep.

12). LSU

If only LSU could play every game against the SEC, it would be ranked #1 right now. The Tigers are 13-2 in the SEC having beaten Arkansas (2), Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. Outside of the SEC, LSU is only 7-5. Six of those victories came against teams with an RPI of 146 or worse. LSU’s only bright spot in the non-conference was an overtime win against W. Virginia. However, all five non-conference losses came against teams in the RPI top 60 (UConn, Ohio St., Cincinnati, Northern Iowa, and Houston) and none of the losses were by more than four points. LSU is “tournament tested” and could make some noise in the right region.

13). Tennessee

I’m not sold on Tennessee as a threat to win the tournament. The Vols are rated #6 in the RPI but their resume doesn’t merit such a high rating. They did hammer an undermanned Texas team early in the season. However, that win overshadows the fact that the Vols didn’t have another non-conference victory over a team in the RPI top 70. They were also blown out by a below-average Oklahoma St. team. Tennessee’s only claim to fame besides the win over Texas is two wins against Florida. Other than that, Tennessee is nothing to write home about. Tennessee is an upstart program but it lost too many games to top caliber competition to be considered a threat.

14). Pittsburgh

This is how you survive in the Big East while making a name for yourself nationally; only play Connecticut once and avoid playing Villanova all together. The Panthers used that formula to achieve a 10-5 record in the Big East. Pittsburgh went 2-2 against Marquette and W. Virginia proving that it can beat good teams. However, Pittsburgh’s resume is unimpressive for a team that’s rated #7 in the RPI. A non-conference victory over Wisconsin is the best win for the Panthers but that hardly stands out as a marquee win. The Panthers are more than likely the fourth best team in the Big East which stands for something. This team could reach the Final Eight in the right region but don’t expect a lengthy tourney run.

15). Washington

Like Texas, Washington has been flying under the radar lately. The Huskies were plagued by an abysmal RPI for a large part of the season but a seven-game winning streak has catapulted Washington into the top 30. The Huskies don’t have the strongest schedule in the country but wins over UCLA (2) and Gonzaga show that this team is for real. The Huskies probably have just as good of a shot as making the Final Four as last year’s squad which entered with tournament with a #1 seed.

16). Michigan St.

Everybody knows how dangerous Michigan St. can be come tournament time. For every first round exit, MSU seemingly has a Final Four appearance to match. Tom Izzo has built up such a reputation as having “tournament ready” teams that nobody wants to end up in the same region as the Spartans. Still, Michigan St. has depth issues. The Spartans are the only team in the country that has three players averaging over 17 points per game. One injury to the big three or foul trouble for Paul Davis makes Michigan St. an average team at best. If the big three can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, this team has just as good of a chance as any to make the Final Four. Michigan St. has ridden its three playmakers to victories over Arizona, Wichita St., Boston College, Indiana, Ohio St., Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. That is impressive for any program.

17). UCLA

The regular season is just about over and UCLA is still a mystery. The Bruins are 23-6 and stand alone in first place in the Pac-10. Yet, few people really know how good this team is. UCLA’s only solid victories on the season are against Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona (2). The Bruins lost both meetings with Washington leaving no doubt as to which team is really the best in the Pac-10. The Bruins also lost its only other big match-ups against Memphis and W. Virginia. The Bruins won’t scare anybody that ends up in their region but don’t put a big upset past them.

18). Oklahoma

Oklahoma has won four straight games by one point. Has that ever happened before? The odds of that have to be infinitesimally small. Without knowing who Oklahoma played, four straight victories sounds impressive. That is, until you find out that they were against four of the worst teams in the Big XII (Iowa St., Texas Tech, Kansas St., and Oklahoma St.). The Sooners have twelve victories outside of the RPI top 100. They only have eight victories in the RPI top 100. Both totals are among the worst in the country for teams that will make the NCAA Tournament.  The Sooners have beaten two good teams all year (Texas and Alabama). Blowout losses to Villanova and W. Virginia prove that the Sooners will be also-rans come tourney time.

19). Boston College

BC may have an impressive record at 22-6 but the RPI is certainly not impressed with what Boston College has done this year. The Eagles stand at #34. A quick look at BC’s schedule shows why. BC only has two victories that could be construed as being good; N. Carolina and North Carolina St. The rest of the schedule is an embarrassment of wins over bad teams in and out of conference. BC has the 90th rated schedule and only seven wins against the RPI top 100. If you’re going to move into the ACC, the best way to achieve a 22-6 record in your first year is to schedule bad teams and play Duke and N. Carolina once each and miss Maryland entirely. I can’t believe any team in the ACC could luck out so much as to play that conference schedule. If Maryland had BC’s ACC schedule, the Terps might be headed for the tournament.

20). Iowa

Iowa is a good team but does anyone really see the Hawkeyes making a run in the tournament? This team is probably the most overrated team in the RPI with the exception of Tennessee. Iowa has impressive victories in the Big Ten over Ohio St., Michigan St., Indiana (2), Michigan, and Illinois. But, Iowa has also lost to Northwestern and Minnesota. A rule of thumb that I usually go by is never expect anything out of a team that lost to Northwestern. Iowa was impressive in two non-conference wins over Kentucky and North Carolina St. However, those two teams are not as good as many people thought they were entering the season.

21). North Carolina St.

The Wolfpack has three victories of note this year. It beat Alabama and Boston College on the road and gave George Washington its only loss of the season. Three good victories out of 21 hardly stands out as an impressive percentage. NC State went 1-4 against Duke, NC, and BC leaving it as the fourth best team in the ACC.
22). Florida

At one point in the season, Florida was 17-0. Now, the Gators are 23-6. Of Florida’s first 17 games, one came against a team in the RPI top 50. Of Florida’s last 12 games, six came against teams in the RPI top 50. Notice a trend? The Gators lost to S. Carolina twice which doesn’t bode well for a team looking to make a run in the tournament. Florida was ousted as merely a mediocre team in the SEC as Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee won every match-up with Florida this season. The Gators have a lot of talent but that hasn’t translated into much lately.

23). Wisconsin

Some of the least talented Wisconsin teams of the last ten years have made runs in the NCAA Tournament. For all I know, this team could do the same. In looking at the Badgers schedule, nothing jumps off the page as being overly impressive. However, their schedule is littered with wins over teams from the RPI top 60. Wisconsin has beaten Old Dominion, Marquette, NC Wilmington, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Louisiana Tech, Iowa, Michigan St., Indiana and Ohio St. None of those teams are overly athletic which is why Wisconsin was able to win the majority of its games this year. If Wisconsin can get into a region with teams that like to slow the ball down, the Badgers could be on their way to another Great Eight appearance. However, Pittsburgh proved how difficult it is for Wisconsin to beat an up-tempo team.

24). Marquette

I don’t think three wins has ever taken a team farther than Marquette’s wins over Connecticut, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh. Marquette has no other wins inside the RPI top 50 and actually have a losing record against the RPI top 50 (3-5). Yet, the Golden Eagles are well on their way to another tournament appearance. One has to wonder if Marquette would be going to the tournament without a win over UConn. Marquette lost to Winthrop and Nebraska in non-conference play which is probably the worst tandem of losses of any team I’ve discussed thus far.

25). Kansas

Kansas was on a roll until it played Texas last weekend. The Longhorns handed Kansas an embarrassing 25-point loss leaving no doubt as to whom the best team in the Big XII is. However, that shouldn’t hide the fact that Kansas was 2-4 to start the season and now stands at 20-7. The Jayhawks have beaten California, Kentucky and Oklahoma since their 2-4 start. Their RPI has climbed from the low 100’s all the way to 39. Kansas, like North Carolina, was crippled by departures from last year’s team. Although Kansas likely isn’t on the same level as N. Carolina right now, this team could be dangerous come playoff time.

26). Kentucky

Kentucky is much like Michigan St. in the fact that regular season play has little impact on how this team does in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky’s low point on the season was likely a 27 point loss at Kansas. Kentucky did beat W. Virginia but the Wildcats were beaten in virtually every other high profile game against teams like Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and LSU.  Kentucky has won four in a row including a victory over Tennessee which could be a sign that this team is coming around. I can assure you that no #1 seed wants to see Kentucky as a #8 seed in its region.

27). Arizona

How Arizona has an RPI of 19 is beyond me. The Wildcats only have two wins over the RPI top 50. They beat a struggling Kansas team in its first game of the season and then beat Washington in overtime. That’s it. Arizona lost to UConn, Michigan St., UCLA (2), and N. Carolina. It’s OK to lose to good teams but you have to beat some too. Arizona has played better lately but they have been mostly unimpressive. The reinstatement of Chris Rodgers combined with an array of talent could propel this team to a few victories in the tourney but this team isn’t anything close to Lute Olsen’s teams of the past.

28). George Washington

I heard some guy on talk radio today complaining that GW deserved a number one seed and that there’s a conspiracy against the Colonials. GW has played ONE team in the RPI top 45. ONE! It would at least help GW’s case if it had won that game but it turned out to be a loss to North Carolina St. There was a UNLV team in the early 90’s that went something like 29-2 in the regular season and didn’t even make the tournament. GW should be happy to even make the tournament with a strength of schedule ranking of #211.

29). Arkansas

Arkansas was on the bubble until a recent three-game stretch that included victories over Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee. I can’t figure out why or how Arkansas is rated so low in the RPI (48). The Razorbacks have beaten Kansas, Missouri St., Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee which is better than most teams in the RPI top 30. The Razorbacks are a lock to make the tournament but inconsistent play will likely be their downfall.

30). Alabama

Alabama will probably be the most improbable tournament team of all the teams chosen next Sunday. The Tide was 7-6 after its first SEC game. Its RPI was horrible. Three of the six losses were to Notre Dame, Temple, and Mississippi. Fast forward two months and the Tide are 10-5 in the SEC with victories over every good team the conference has to offer (Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee, and Florida). Alabama is the only team in the conference to beat all of the top teams in the conference. Despite Bama’s incredible run, losses to S. Carolina and Georgia show how inconsistent this team can be.

31). Michigan

The amazing thing about Lester Abram’s injury is that he’s been questionable for the last ten games or so. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy unsure of his playing status for that long a period of time. Now the word is that Abram might be ready for the Big Ten Tournament. There’s no question that Michigan has considerable depth when healthy. If the Wolverines can get Abram and Chris Hunter healthy for the NCAA Tournament, this team could win a couple games. Michigan beat three of the Big Ten’s best in Michigan St, Illinois and Wisconsin. However, those were Michigan’s only wins in the top 50 this season. Its record in games against the RPI top 50 is a paltry 3-7. The success or, lack thereof that Michigan experiences in the NCAA Tournament should not overshadow the most important development for the Michigan program which is simply making the tournament for the first time in eight years. Michigan fans will relish the chance to watch the Wolverines suit up on national television in a meaningful March game. The anticipation will be intense on Selection Sunday.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2006 NFL Mock Draft

This is the year to have a pick outside of the top 10 in the NFL Draft. The talent pool this year is possibly the deepest in recent memory. Offensive tackles and linebackers are in abundance. In fact, there are so many OT’s and LB’s to go around that players who may have been first round picks last year will certainly not be taken until the middle of round two and possibly not until the third round. The tight end position is as deep as any draft has ever yielded. There are 4-5 marquee running backs to choose from. The safety and defensive tackle positions are also noticeably deep. Denver has two first round draft picks. Although they don’t come until 22nd and 29th respectively, the Broncos will be pleasantly surprised with the value those two picks yield.

This years draft is akin to being extremely low on food in the old Oregon Trail computer game and then coming across 15 buffaloes and 15 bears. Everybody is fat and happy until the next winter. That should be the case this year. One thing that I noticed after compiling my list of top 100 players and conducting the mock draft is that despite their being depth at almost every position, defense will rule in 2006. The depth on offense will disappear after the first two rounds. Defense will be available through day two of the draft.

The NFL Draft is notoriously hard to predict with such variables as trades, personal draft boards, injured players, and small-school players playing a factor in who goes where. Players like Antonio Cromartie could go anywhere from the first round on “potential” alone or as late as the third round due to “injury concerns”.  Having said that, I did the best I could in addressing each team’s needs as well as the “best player available”.

First Round

1     Houston Texans     Reggie Bush RB USC

Unless a trade goes down, the Texans will take Reggie Bush. The only other pick that makes sense here is D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Although that might not be a bad pick, pressure from fans and the desire to make the “right” pick will force the Texans to take Bush. Also, the last time a situation like this presented itself, the Green Bay Packers opted for Tony Mandarich over Barry Sanders. Houston might not have a need at the running back position but it would be hard to pass on Bush if a trade doesn’t occur.

2     New Orleans Saints     Matt Leinart QB USC

The Saints finally sent Aaron Brooks packing which allows them to go after a quarterback with the second overall pick. I won’t claim to have any idea how various teams are differentiating between Leinart and Vince Young. For all I know, Jay Cutler could be on top of some draft boards. Leinart seems to be the most NFL-ready and fits the bill as a prototypical drop back NFL quarterback.

3     Tennessee Titans     Vince Young QB Texas

The Titans are in dire straights. They will likely face the unenviable situation of having to take the best player available when there are so many other positions that are lacking. Still, with Steve McNair playing on fumes and Tennessee’s obvious reluctance in naming Billy Volek the future of the franchise, Young will provide excitement for the hometown fans and give the franchise a face to rebuild around.

4     New York Jets          Jay Cutler QB Vanderbilt

I don’t get the fascination with Jay Cutler. At the end of the college football season, Cutler was considered a borderline first round draft pick well behind Leinart and Young. He then participated in the Senior Bowl where he posted underwhelming numbers. Strangely, that same Senior Bowl proved to be the launch for Cutler-Mania among NFL scouts and Draft Gurus. One thing I do know is that the Jets seem to be in the market for a quarterback to replace the injury-prone one they have now in Chad Pennington.

5     Green Bay Packers     D'Brickashaw Ferguson OT Virginia

Ferguson might be the best player in the draft. Unfortunately for him, he comes in the same draft class as some of the most hyped college football players in recent memory. I doubt he’ll make it to the 5th spot but assuming Bush, Leinart, Young and Cutler keep stealing the show, the Packers could end up as the luckiest team in the draft.

6     San Francisco 49ers     A.J. Hawk LB Ohio St.

Hawk is an Urlacher-type linebacker with toughness and speed. The 49ers are soft on defense. Mario Williams and Haloti Ngata are both possibilities for the 49ers but Hawk rates out as one of the best linebacker prospects of the last ten years.

7     Oakland Raiders     Mario Williams DE NC State

In the right year, Williams would be considered a top three draft pick. During the college football season, Mathias Kiwanuka from Boston College was generally considered the best defensive end in the draft. Williams has since surpassed him. The Raiders need a pass rusher among many other things. Ngata could work here but Williams seems to be the better prospect.

8     Buffalo Bills     Haloti Ngata DT Oregon

At this point, the Bills will likely take the best player available. That will obviously depend on Buffalo’s draft board but Ngata is the best defensive tackle in an extremely deep draft class. I would not be surprised to see Michael Huff or Jimmy Williams go to Buffalo.

9     Detroit Lions     Michael Huff S Texas

The Lions have many needs. GM Matt Millen has publicly stated the team’s need for help on the offensive line. There is also a glaring deficiency in the secondary which seems to be a consistent of any Lions team. Huff’s blazing 40-time (4.3) at the NFL combine could be enough to put him over Jimmy Williams as the top safety prospect. If the Lions take Huff, Lions fans will be holding their breaths as they wonder aloud if Millen just drafted the next Roy Williams or the next Bryant Westbrook. If Millen opts for a lineman, look for Auburn’s Marcus McNeil or USC’s Winston Justice to go here.

10     Arizona Cardinals     LenDale White RB USC

Although the Cardinals drafted J.J. Arrington in the second round last year, they still need consistency from the running back position. D’Angelo Williams or Laurence Maroney could grade out higher on various draft boards but White is a big, punishing running back that is capable of taking NFL punishment. The Cardinals are one reliable running back away from having a potent offensive attack.

11     St. Louis Rams     Jimmy Williams CB Va. Tech

There were two constants in St. Louis under Mike Martz; 1). The Rams avoided the running game like the plague and 2). The Rams made terrible draft picks. It remains to be seen whether both will be present next year but picking Williams at 11 would hardly qualify as a bad pick. The Rams have enough firepower on offense. They will likely address the defense and pick the best player available. Williams can play corner or safety which is a valuable commodity in the NFL.

12     Cleveland Browns     D'Angelo Williams RB Memphis

Despite having Reuben Droughns at running back, the Browns are looking for a game-breaking back to jumpstart the offense. If White goes to Arizona, chances are the Browns will jump on D’Angelo Williams. I would caution against rating Williams too high because his college competition left a lot to be desired at Memphis. He could very well pan out like LaDanian Tomlinson did coming from TCU but a lot of players look good playing in weak conferences.

13     Baltimore Ravens          Winston Justice OT USC

The Ravens struggled mightily running the ball last year which was probably equal parts injuries and Jamal Lewis’ nonchalance. Nevertheless, the Ravens have the defense in place. They could use a quarterback but nobody worth the 13th pick will be available. Vernon Davis would be an excellent value at 13 but the Ravens already have Todd Heap. Justice is the best player available that fits into Baltimore’s needs.

14     Philadelphia Eagles     Vernon Davis TE Maryland

With the billboard size void left by T.O. in the passing game, Davis would be a perfect fit in Philadelphia. He would give Donovan McNabb a game breaking tight end in the mold of Tony Gonzalez. The Chiefs have shown that it’s possible to have average receivers if you have the game’s best tight end. The Eagles are a veteran team with many needs but Davis could have an instant impact.

15     Atlanta Falcons     Tamba Hali LB Penn St.

With Atlanta’s ball control offense, points will be at a premium. That makes it all the more important for the Falcons to have a dominating defense. Despite having solid players like D’Angelo Hall and Keith Brooking on defense, the Falcons need a reliable pass rushing threat. Hali is a linebacker/defensive end hybrid in the mold of Derrick Thomas. Boston College’s Kiwanuka could be higher on Atlanta’s draft board but Hali has impressed more since the end of the season.

16     Miami Dolphins     Chad Jackson WR Florida

The Dolphins need a quarterback but they won’t get one with this pick. Miami’s offense needs an upgrade and Jackson’s 4.3 40 at the NFL combine catapulted him to the top of the wide receiver board. Jackson would combine with Chris Chambers to give Miami a solid 1-2 punch at wide receiver.

17     Minnesota Vikings     Laurence Maroney RB Minnesota

I have been surprised by the lack of attention paid to Maroney. In my opinion, he’s the second best running back in the draft. He can do everything a running back is supposed to do. He’s fast. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and he can block. He was impressive in the defensive-oriented Big Ten. This was likely not lost on the Vikings as they would gladly take Maroney and make him their running back of the future.

18     Dallas Cowboys     Marcus McNeil OT Auburn

McNeil rates higher than this on most draft boards (including mine). However, he may be victim of not fitting team needs. The Cowboys are in dire straights on the offensive line. Their primary need may be at the offensive guard position but no guard rates this high. The Cowboys would get one of the best value picks of the draft if McNeil is available here.

19     San Diego Chargers     Mathias Kiwanuka DE Boston College

The Chargers are just the type of team that will benefit most from the depth of this draft. No team in football (including the Colts) has a better offensive attack than the Chargers. There could be a slight adjustment period with Phillip Rivers taking over for Drew Brees but the Chargers won’t be looking on offense in the first round. Kiwanuka was widely considered a top ten pick as recently as two months ago. If his stock falls, the Chargers could be happy beneficiaries.

20     Kansas City Chiefs     Santonio Holmes WR Ohio St.

The Chiefs have been getting by on offensive behind a power running game and smoke and mirrors. Kansas City has not had a legitimate wide receiver corps in a number of years. Although the defense needs addressing, Holmes could give Kansas City the deep threat and consistent route runner the franchise has been lacking.

21     New England Patriots     Tye Hill CB Clemson

Judging from the play of New England’s defensive backs following Ty Law’s injury in 2004, the future looked bright. However, injuries and inconsistent play were a fixture in 2005. The Patriots are in the enviable position of being able to take the best player available. Hill rates as the best “pure” corner back in the draft. He solidified that claim with a 4.3 40 time at the NFL combine. The Patriots would gladly take a player of this caliber at 21st overall.

22     Denver Broncos     Leonard Pope TE Georgia

Leonard Pope might be one of those players that takes off in the NFL after being merely consistent in college (i.e. Tom Brady). Pope has skyrocketed up draft boards recently with is tremendous size and athletic ability. The Broncos would love to give Jake Plummer a big target to bail him out from having to morph into “Mistake Jake”. If the Broncos reel in T.O., the addition of Pope would give the Broncos a scary offense.

23     Tampa Bay Buccaneers          Jonathan Scott OT Texas

It became apparent last year that Jon Gruden loves to run the football. Scott is a Texas-sized offensive lineman who would pave the way for 2005 First Round pick Cadillac Williams. There are a number of players that Tampa Bay could pick here but Scott might just be the best player available.

24     Cincinnati Bengals     Chad Greenway LB Iowa

Greenway was a victim of the NFL’s intense focus on measurables at the NFL combine. Apparently, Greenway only bench pressed 225 pounds for 16 reps which is strong for the Donald Trumps of the world but not for the linebacker position in the NFL. It has also been rumored that Greenway lacks sufficient leg strength. This could all lead to Greenway plummeting down draft boards. Regardless, Greenway is a first round talent and might just be a steal at pick 24.

25     New York Giants     DeMeco Ryans LB Alabama

If the NFL loved DeMeco Ryans as much as Mel Kiper Jr. does, he would go first overall. Ryans is a superb talent who happens to be stuck in the middle of the best linebacker class in a number of years. The Giants had serious depth issues on defense last year especially at linebacker. I would not be surprised to see the Giants look for help in the secondary with this pick but Ryans probably rates higher than any defensive back at this point of the draft.

26     Chicago Bears     Mercedes Lewis TE UCLA

The Bears publicly stated their desire to give Rex Grossman a reliable target at tight end. Even though two tight ends have gone off the board already, the third best tight end in this draft will be sufficient for the Bears. Lewis is a game-breaking tight end that could be the second rated tight end on many draft boards. The Bears will get their tight end which should pay dividends on offense next season.

27     Carolina Panthers     Darnell Bing S USC

The Panthers are an interesting team to project a draft pick for. They seem to be average to strong in every area with no glaring weaknesses. Every team likes to improve but nothing stands out for Carolina. My guess is that they will take the best player available and bolster their secondary with Bing. Although Carolina is a run-oriented team, I would not be surprised to see them target available tackles (possibly Eric Winston) or the top guard candidate in Max Jean Gilles from Georgia.

28     Jacksonville Jaguars     Eric Winston OT Miami (FL)

Jacksonville is a lot like Carolina. The Jags have a strong defense and have invested in offensive skill players in the last few years. At this point, there is only one first round talent left on the offensive line. I would be surprised to see Winston go much lower than 28th to Jacksonville.

29     Denver Broncos     Manny Lawson DE NC State

The Broncos complete their double-dip in the first round with a high value pick in Lawson. The Broncos are a solid football team with few weaknesses. Lawson will bolster an already talented defense by providing the Broncos with a formidable pass-rusher to get to the quarterback. If there was one thing missing from the Broncos D last year, it was just that.

30     Indianapolis Colts     Broderick Bunkley DT Florida St.

If Winston is available, the Colts would gladly take him. Peyton Manning called out his offensive line in the playoff lost to Pittsburgh which will get management’s attention. However, the first round tackles will all be gone by this point leaving the Colts the option of picking one of the talented defensive tackles. Bunkley would likely be a steal at this point giving the Colts even more firepower on a potent defense.

31     Seattle Seahawks     Gabe Watson DT Michigan

Seattle will likely get more out of Watson than Michigan ever did. Ever since Watson’s last game at Michigan, he has been impressive to scouts. His size and athleticism are extremely valuable commodities in the NFL. The Seahawks won’t think twice about adding a presence like Watson to the defensive line.

32     Pittsburgh Steelers     Antonio Cromartie CB Florida St.

The Steelers want to address the running back and wide receiver positions in the off-season. However, there are no available receivers worth the 32nd pick. Also, Joseph Addai is the only running back that could garner interest at this spot but the Steelers want a Jerome Bettis-type power runner to pair with Willie Parker. Addai doesn’t fit the bill. So, the Steelers will use their pick to take a player that could become a superstar in Cromartie.

Second Round

33     Houston Texans     Jesse Mahelona DT Tennessee
34     New Orleans Saints     Max-Jean Gilles OG Georgia
35     NY Jets          Joseph Addai RB LSU
36     Green Bay Packers     Ernie Sims LB Florida St.
37     San Francisco 49ers     Daryn Colledge OT Boise St.
38     Oakland Raiders     Bobby Carpenter LB Ohio St.
39     Tennessee Titans     Charles Gordon CB Kansas
40     Detroit Lions          Dominique Byrd TE USC
41     Arizona Cardinals     Claude Wroten DT LSU
42     Buffalo Bills          Ko Simpson S S. Carolina
43     Cleveland Browns     Sinorice Moss WR Miami (FL)
44     Baltimore Ravens     Greg Eslinger C Minnesota
45     Philadelphia Eagles     D'Qwell Jackson LB Maryland
46     St. Louis Rams     Ashton Youboty CB Ohio St.
47     Atlanta Falcons     Rodrique Wright DT Texas
48     Minnesota Vikings     Richard Marshall CB Fresno St.
49     Dallas Cowboys     Ryan O'Callaghan OT California
50     San Diego Chargers     Orien Harris DT Miami (FL)
51     Miami Dolphins     Andrew Whitworth OT LSU
52     New England Patriots     Nick Mangold C Ohio St.
53     Washington Redskins     Tatusi Lutui OG USC
54     Kansas City Chiefs     Thomas Howard LB UTEP
55     Cincinnati Bengals     Abdul Hodge LB Iowa
56     New York Giants     Kai Parham LB Virginia
57     Chicago Bears          Jason Allen S Tennessee
58     Carolina Panthers     Maurice Drew RB UCLA
59     Tampa Bay Bucs     Davin Joseph OG Oklahoma
60     Jacksonville Jaguars     Jeremy Trueblood OT Boston College
61     Denver Broncos     Jonathan Joseph CB S. Carolina
62     Indianapolis Colts     Charles Spencer OG Pittsburgh
63     Seattle Seahawks     Derek Hagan WR Arizona St.
64     Pittsburgh Steelers     Martin Nance WR Miami (OH)

Third Round

65     Houston Texans     Bernard Pollard S Purdue
66     Houston Texans     Anthony Fasano TE Notre Dame
67     Green Bay Packers     Kamerion Wimbley DE Florida St.
68     San Francisco 49ers     Greg Blue S Georgia
69     Oakland Raiders     Will Blackmon CB Boston College
70     Buffalo Bills          Ray Edwards DE Purdue
71     NY Jets          Cedric Griffin CB Texas
72     Arizona Cardinals     Joe Klopenstein TE Colorado
73     Buffalo Bills          Gerris Wilkinson LB Georgia Tech
74     Detroit Lions          Omar Jacobs QB Bowling Green
75     New England Patriots     Brian Calhoun RB Wisconsin
76     Philadelphia Eagles     Demario Minter CB Georgia
77     St. Louis Rams     Roman Harper S Alabama
78     Cleveland Browns     Kyle Williams DT LSU
79     Atlanta Falcons     Devin Hester WR/CB Miami (FL)
80     Dallas Cowboys     Dee Webb CB Florida
81     San Diego Chargers     Daniel Bullocks S Nebraska
82     Miami Dolphins     Darryl Tapp DE Va. Tech
83     Minnesota Vikings     Stanley McClover DE Auburn
84     Washington Redskins     Hank Baskett WR New Mexico
85     Kansas City Chiefs     Jonathan Lewis DT Va. Tech
86     New England Patriots     Elvis Dumervil DE Louisville
87     New York Giants     Kelly Jennings CB Miami (FL)
88     Chicago Bears          Pat Watkins S Florida St.
89     Carolina Panthers     Tim Day TE Oregon
90     Tampa Bay Bucs     John McCargo DT NC State
91     Cincinnati Bengals     Rob Sims OG Ohio St.
92     Jacksonville Jaguars     Kevin Simon LB Tennessee
93     Denver Broncos     Fred Matua OG USC
94     Indianapolis Colts     Anthony Schlegel LB Ohio St.
95     Seattle Seahawks     Greg Lee WR Pittsburgh
96     Pittsburgh Steelers     Leon Washington RB Florida St.

Players that could end up going in rounds 1-3 that don’t appear in my mock draft: Freddie Roach LB Alabama, Spencer Havner LB UCLA, Donte Whitner S Ohio St., A.J. Nicholson LB Florida St., James Wyche DE Syracuse, Roger McIntosh LB Miami (FL), Dusty Davoracek DT Oklahoma, Derek Martin CB Wyoming, Derek Morris OT NC State, Mike Hass WR Oregon St., Brodie Croyle QB Alabama, Jerome Harrison RB Washington St., Mark Setterstrom OG Minnesota, Anthony Smith S Syracuse, Joe Toledo OT Washington, Victor Adenyaju DE Indiana, Gerald Riggs RB Tennessee, Albert Toeaina OT Tennessee, Maurice Stovall WR Notre Dame, LeKevin Smith DT Nebraska, Troy Reddick OG Auburn, DonTrell Moore RB New Mexico, Andre Hall RB S. Florida, Daniel Manning CB Abiline Christian, Jason Avant WR Michigan

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