Monday, February 12, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (week of February 11)

Whereas last week there were 70 teams to fill 65 spots, this week there are 67 teams to fill 65 spots. Only Maryland and Texas Tech have relatively good chances of climbing their way back into the field. I can’t remember a year with so many mediocre basketball teams. Unless there are a slew of upsets in the conference tournaments, this year’s group of bubble teams will be an all-time low. I do wonder what the Selection Committee will do with Louisville if it finishes 10-6 in the Big East. That could happen rather easily. Louisville will still likely see its RPI in the 70s with zero wins of significance. I would think it would be an easy decision but 10 conference wins in the Big East can be a big tease.

My tournament projections are based on putting in the teams that deserve to be in the tournament regardless of conference affiliation and/or mid-major/major status. The Selection Committee did a horrific job last season so I will no longer try to guess what they are going to do. If I picked teams based on which teams I think the Committee will put in, I would have to intentionally pick teams that I don’t feel deserve a bid since that seems to be what the Committee does. Here is how I view the field right now (in no particular order):

Changes from last week:

In: BYU, Kansas St., and Purdue

Out: Michigan St., Texas Tech, and Maryland

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East Pittsburgh
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Wisconsin
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC S. Illinois
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial VCU
12 MAC Toledo
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt Western Kentucky
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Marist
18 Big Sky Weber St.
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Long Beach St.
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Appalachian St.
24 Patriot Holy Cross
25 Southland Texas A&M Corpus Christi
26 Northeast Central Connecticut St.
27 AEC Vermont
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Jackson St.
31 MEAC Delaware St.
32 At-Large Duke
33 At-Large Virginia
34 At-Large Clemson
35 At-Large Virginia Tech
36 At-Large Florida St.
37 At-Large Boston College
38 At-Large BYU
39 At-Large Tennessee
40 At-Large Kentucky
41 At-Large Arkansas
42 At-Large Georgia
43 At-Large Alabama
44 At-Large Villanova
45 At-Large Marquette
46 At-Large West Virginia
47 At-Large Illinois
48 At-Large Georgetown
49 At-Large Notre Dame
50 At-Large Oklahoma St.
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Texas A&M
53 At-Large Kansas St.
54 At-Large Ohio St.
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Purdue
57 At-Large Arizona
58 At-Large Oregon
59 At-Large Washington St.
60 At-Large USC
61 At-Large UNLV
62 At-Large Vanderbilt
63 At-Large Missouri St.
64 At-Large Stanford
65 At-Large Creighton

My projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. There could be five or more 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 five teams in the tourney right now:

1. Purdue

RPI rating: 40
Pomeroy rating: 34

Quality wins: Virginia, Oklahoma (neutral), Michigan St., and Illinois
Bad losses: @ Indiana St., and @ Minnesota

Purdue has to either beat Indiana at home or Iowa on the road. If neither of those things happen, then the best Purdue can finish is 8-8 in an extremely weak Big Ten. If Purdue can split those games, that would set up an easy three-game finish against Northwestern (2) and Minnesota. Purdue still has some decent non-conference wins to boost its profile. Even with the Big Ten being down, I think 9-7 would get Purdue in.

2. Georgia

RPI rating: 43
Pomeroy rating: 28

Quality wins: Gonzaga (neutral), Vanderbilt, @ Arkansas, and Kentucky
Bad losses: none

Georgia might not even be on the list of “last teams in the NCAA Tournament” soon enough. Georgia could easily get to 9-5 in the SEC after its next three conference games. However, if Georgia loses any of those three games, it will struggle to finish better than 8-8 in the SEC. It would have to win one of its last two games against Tennessee or @ Kentucky. I do think 9-7 gets Georgia in.

3. Arkansas

RPI rating: 37
Pomeroy rating: 35

Quality wins: Southern Illinois (neutral), West Virginia (neutral), Alabama, @ Alabama
Bad losses: @ Missouri and @ S. Carolina

Arkansas is not making things easy for its fans. The Razorbacks stand at 4-6 in the SEC. If they lose any more games against teams that they should beat, they could be out of the running for an at-large bid. The good news for Arkansas is that it gets to play Mississippi St. (2), Mississippi, and Auburn. If that ends up being four wins, then Arkansas will probably be invited to the Big Dance.

4. Illinois

RPI rating: 41
Pomeroy rating: 31

Quality wins: Bradley (neutral), Michigan St., and Indiana
Bad losses: none

I had a sense back in early January when Illinois was struggling that it would make the tournament. That had more to do with the Big Ten being weak than anything else. Illinois has all but secured a bid. Its resume probably doesn’t look that impressive but the answer to why Illinois will be getting a bid lies in its remaining schedule. Out of its four remaining games, three are locks and the third is not unlikely. That would put Illinois at 10-6 or 9-7 at worst in the Big Ten. Illinois’ season has been far from special. Two of its best wins aren’t even that impressive. Nonetheless, the Illini are heading to the Big Dance barring a collapse.

5. Alabama

RPI rating: 30
Pomeroy rating: 58

Quality wins: Xavier (neutral) and Georgia
Bad losses: @ Auburn

In ten days, Alabama could easily be sitting at 5-8 in the SEC. Two weeks after that, Alabama could easily finish 8-8 in the SEC. ‘Bama would do itself a huge favor by not losing anymore games to the weaker teams in the SEC. I’m not sure that 8-8 would be enough to get Alabama into the Big Dance. I know they are “viewed” as a top 25 team so that may help them get in. But, if the Selection Committee really looks at resume only and not perception, then an 8-8 Alabama team should struggle to get an invitation.

On the outside looking in:

1. Maryland

RPI rating: 33
Pomeroy rating: 19

Quality wins: Michigan St. (neutral), @ Illinois, Clemson, and Duke
Bad losses: Miami (FL)

If Duke wasn’t currently in a free-fall, then Maryland’s win over Duke last night might have been enough to get them into the projections. Since a win over Duke isn’t as impressive as it usually is and Maryland is only 4-6 in the ACC, it falls short this week. With victories over Michigan St., and Illinois, Maryland has the makings of a competitive resume. If Maryland can get to 8-8 in the ACC, I think it will make the tournament. That would require two wins over NC State, and then two wins out of the following: @ Clemson, Florida St., North Carolina, and @ Duke. I don’t see it happening.

2. Texas Tech

RPI rating: 45
Pomeroy rating: 57

Quality wins: @ Arkansas, Oklahoma, @ Kansas St., Kansas and Texas A&M
Bad losses: @ Baylor, @ Missouri, and Nebraska

Texas Tech has pulled a classic “choke job”. It’s one thing to lose but it’s another thing to lose to a bunch of teams you have no business losing to. Texas Tech has wins over Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas St., Kansas, and Texas A&M. That’s one of the best collections of five-wins in basketball. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, they have lost to Baylor, Missouri, and Nebraska. All is not lost though. If Texas Tech can beat Colorado, Baylor, and Iowa St. (the three worst teams in the Big XII), then it will only need to win one against Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma St. to get to 8-8 in the Big XII. Considering the wins over Kansas and Texas A&M, I think 8-8 would put Texas Tech in.

3. Michigan St.

RPI rating: 42
Pomeroy rating: 27

Quality wins: Texas (neutral), Bradley, BYU, and Illinois
Bad losses: @ Iowa

Stick a fork in the Spartans. They are done. I can’t believe it either. I thought for sure that MSU was headed to the Big Dance. I suppose a run in the Big Ten tournament could make things interesting come Selection Sunday but MSU has to win a game against Wisconsin (2) or Indiana just to finish 8-8 in the Big Ten. I don’t see that happening. And, even if MSU does win one of those games, Michigan could accidentally win one of its two games against MSU. It would take a miracle for MSU to finish 8-8. Maybe Izzo has another trick up his sleeve. I wouldn’t bet on it.

4. Old Dominion

RPI rating: 58
Pomeroy rating: 62

Quality wins: @ Georgetown, @ Drexel, Drexel, and Virginia Commonwealth
Bad losses: @ Marist and @ James Madison

Old Dominion was lingering around for a little while just outside of the “bubble” radar but it is hard to ignore the Monarchs now. They don’t have the greatest RPI in the world but they have four wins in the RPI 50. They won at Georgetown. They are 12-3 in the CAA including two wins over Drexel and a win over Virginia Commonwealth. Old Dominion could end up being the automatic bid from the CAA which would put VCU squarely on the bubble. With Hofstra and Drexel playing good basketball, it would surprise me if the CAA didn’t at least get strong consideration for a second bid.

5. Bradley

RPI rating: 47
Pomeroy rating: 60

Quality wins: S. Illinois

Bad losses: @ Tennessee Tech

Bradley has a chance to make or break its season. With the MVC having so much success, it will get every opportunity to get teams into to the tournament. I’m guessing that a team that finishes 11-7 in the conference would have to get serious consideration. In order for Bradley to get to 11 wins, it would have to win its remaining three conference games. Even then, it might have to win a game or two in the MVC Conference Tournament to be in the running for an automatic bid. Luckily for Bradley, all three games are very winnable. The fourth game is a Bracket Buster showdown with VCU. Winning all four would put Bradley at 20-10 on the season with an RPI likely in the top 40. I don’t think Bradley can get it done but it’s certainly possible.

6. Oklahoma
7. Louisville
8. Providence
9. Hofstra
10. Drexel

Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#33 Maryland
#42 Michigan St.
#45 Texas Tech
#47 Bradley
#50 Drexel
#52 Providence
#53 San Diego St.
#55 Mississippi
#56 Georgia Tech
#58 Old Dominion
#59 Michigan
#61 Oklahoma

Lowest rated RPI teams projected “in” the tournament as at-large selections

#54 Texas
#51 Notre Dame
#49 Kansas St.
#48 Vanderbilt
#46 USC
#43 Georgia
#41 Illinois
#40 Purdue
#39 Stanford
#38 West Virginia
#37 Arkansas
#35 Virginia

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

ACC (7)

Va. Tech

Big East (6)

W. Virginia
Notre Dame

SEC (7)


Pac-10 (6)


Big XII (5)

Oklahoma St.
Kansas St.
Texas A&M

Big Ten (5)

Ohio State

MVC (3)

Missouri St.
S. Illinois

MWC (3)

Air Force

1 comment:

csd said...

Great article. The shakeup games yesterday might change the Big Ten up a little. Thanks for taking down the Hoosiers!


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