Monday, February 19, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (week of February 18)

It is amazing how much one week can change things. I wrote in this spot last week, “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.” Up until that point, Louisville was not even a factor in the “bubble” discussions. It had no wins in the RPI 60. That is not easy to do, either. Anyhow, in just six days, Louisville went from being nowhere near the NCAA Tournament to almost being a lock. Wins at Pittsburgh and at Marquette will do that for you. Louisville now stands at 9-4 in the Big East and very well could get to 12-4. I didn’t see it coming. Two teams that got booted from my projections last week are now back. Maryland and Texas Tech managed to stay afloat with 2-0 weeks respectively.

Bracket Buster Saturday didn’t really live up to my expectations. A lot of that had to do with some sour match-ups. The two teams that were helped the most by the Bracket Buster were Bradley and Drexel. Bradley is making a strong push to join the tournament field. Its win over VCU was a big-time resume boost. Drexel’s win over Creighton was also a resume boost but I don’t think that will be enough. Old Dominion also picked up a big win over Toledo not so much because it means a whole lot but because a loss would’ve ended all hopes for an at-large bid. Missouri St. inexplicably lost at home to Winthrop. That puts the Bears in danger of missing out on the tournament.

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: Louisville, Texas Tech, and Maryland

Out: Florida St., Kansas St., and Arkansas

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 Old Dominion
12 MAC Akron
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 Maryland
37 At-Large Boston College
38 At-Large BYU
39 At-Large Tennessee
40 At-Large Kentucky
41 At-Large Louisville
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 Texas Tech
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. Missouri St.

RPI rating: 42
Pomeroy rating: 39

Quality wins: Wisconsin (neutral), @ Bradley, and Bradley
Bad losses: @ St. Louis and @ Evansville

Missouri St. had everything in place for a bid early in the season. It had one of the most impressive wins of the year by any team with its win over Wisconsin. The problem is that Missouri St. didn’t really pick up any marquee wins after that other than beating Bradley twice. I expect the Bears to win their last two conference games to finish 12-6. Assuming at least one win in the MVC, I would think that Missouri St. would get in as the third team from the conference. I can’t see Bradley making it over Missouri St. considering its 0-2 record head to head.

2. Maryland

RPI rating: 19
Pomeroy rating: 13

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

Maryland picked up a huge win @ Clemson on Sunday. That sets up a huge showdown between Maryland and Florida St. I predict that the winner of the game will make the tournament and the loser will not. Maryland obviously has the advantage since it’s at home but Florida St. did smoke Maryland earlier in the season. I doubt many people know just how important that game will be.

3. Clemson

RPI rating: 30
Pomeroy rating: 25

Quality wins: @ Old Dominion, @ Florida St., Florida St., Georgia, and Boston College,
Bad losses: @ Wake Forest

The ACC grind is slowly catching up to Clemson. The Tigers started off 17-0 but now stand at 5-7 in the ACC with a brutal schedule remaining. Clemson will have to win three games out of these four: Duke, @ BC, Miami, and @ Virginia Tech. I don’t see it happening. If Clemson falls short, a run to the ACC Tournament semi-finals may put Clemson into the tournament but I wouldn’t count on it.

4. Oklahoma St.

RPI rating: 36
Pomeroy rating: 69

Quality wins: Missouri St. (neutral), Syracuse (neutral), Pittsburgh, Texas, and Texas Tech
Bad losses: @ Colorado, @ Oklahoma, and Missouri

That Colorado loss is a killer. Colorado’s RPI is in the 200s. In fact, I’d venture to guess that without that loss, OSU would be a lock for the tournament. Instead, it stands at 5-6 in the Big XII with a brutal three-game stretch coming up. I’m guessing that Oklahoma St. will finish the season 8-8 in the conference and be on the bubble with a bunch of other 8-8 and 7-9 teams from the big conferences.

5. Texas Tech

RPI rating: 40
Pomeroy rating: 53

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

I thought Texas Tech was headed to the NIT last week. Bobby Knight turned things around with a 2-0 week and a huge victory at Texas A&M. One would think that Tech only needs to get to 8-8 in the Big XII to get an invite. With games remaining against Iowa St. and Baylor, that should be a shoe-in. But, you never know with Tech.

On the outside looking in:

1. Bradley

RPI rating: 29
Pomeroy rating: 60

Quality wins: S. Illinois and VCU

Bad losses: @ Tennessee Tech

Bradley is making things interesting. After seemingly falling out of the “bubble” discussions, Bradley has won three in a row. In that span, it has seen its RPI climb an amazing 17 spots in just one week. The Braves are now in the top 30 which is a huge change from last week. Bradley must win its last two conference games to move to 11-7. Then, it must win a game in the MVC. That would leave Bradley at 21-11 with an RPI in the 20’s. I am not impressed by Bradley’s resume. The Braves only have two wins of significance. It would be interesting to see if the Selection Committee would put Bradley in as a make-up for leaving out Missouri St. last year. Or, Missouri St. could just end up being the precedent the committee needs to keep a team in the 20’s (like Bradley) out of the tournament.

2. Kansas St.

RPI rating: 54
Pomeroy rating: 54

Quality wins: USC (neutral) and @ Texas
Bad losses: @ Nebraska, @ Colorado St., and @ New Mexico

Kansas St’s resume is no more impressive than Bradley’s. Bob Huggins and Co. have beaten up on the lightweights of the Big XII. Only USC and Texas are in the top 70 of the RPI among KSU’s wins. If Kansas St. wins three of its last four games, it will be a lock for the tournament. If Kansas St. wins two of its last four games, it will still be in decent shape. Anything less than that and it’s over. I’m guessing that KSU will finish 10-6 in the Big XII and be either the last team in the tournament or the last team out of the tournament. Its shody resume virtually guarantees a nervous Selection Sunday for KSU.

3. Florida St.

RPI rating: 39
Pomeroy rating: 36

Quality wins: Florida, Providence, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and @ Duke
Bad losses: none

Florida St. still sports a relatively good RPI in the high 30’s despite losing four in a row. FSU can also boast no bad losses which is quite impressive. Unfortunately, FSU fails in many of the categories the Selection Committee values like road/neutral record, record in last ten games, and conference record. If FSU can get to 8-8 in the ACC, it will be a lock for the tournament. That could happen fairly easily. All FSU would have to do is beat NC State, Maryland, and Miami (FL). Suffice it to say that the Maryland game is the biggest game of the season for FSU--and possibly Maryland too.

4. Arkansas

RPI rating: 41
Pomeroy rating: 40

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

Arkansas doesn’t win on the road against anybody—except Alabama. The Hogs are 1-7 on the road this season including a slew of losses to mediocre teams. They still have a chance to make the Big Dance by winning their last four conference games. Even winning three of those games would keep Arkansas’ hopes alive. It’s unfortunate that Arkansas couldn’t just win the games it was supposed to win because it would easily be in the field if it did.

5. Michigan St.

RPI rating: 31
Pomeroy rating: 12

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

I said Michigan St. was done-for last week. I still feel that’s the case but an upset over Wisconsin or Indiana would change things. Even if MSU did win one of those games, it would still only be at 8-8 in the conference. I’m not sure if that would be enough. At that point, you’d have to think the odds would be right at 50/50. My sense is that Sparty will finish 7-9 in the Big Ten, still get some “love” as a bubble team and just miss out on the Tournament. However, its wins over Bradley, BYU, and Texas look a lot better as of late.

7. Drexel
8. Providence
9. Utah St.
10. DePaul

Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#29 Bradley
#31 Michigan St.
#39 Florida St.
#41 Arkansas
#47 Georgia Tech
#50 Drexel
#53 Utah St.
#54 Kansas St.
#56 DePaul
#57 VCU
#58 Michigan
#59 Davidson

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

#60 USC
#52 Georgia
#51 Louisville
#49 Notre Dame
#48 West Virginia
#46 Texas
#44 Illinois
#42 Missouri St.
#40 Texas Tech
#38 Stanford
#37 Purdue
#36 Oklahoma St.

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

ACC (7)

Va. Tech

Big East (7)

W. Virginia
Notre Dame

SEC (6)


Pac-10 (6)


Big XII (5)

Oklahoma St.
Texas Tech
Texas A&M

Big Ten (5)

Ohio State

MVC (3)

Missouri St.
S. Illinois

MWC (3)

Air Force

Yes, these games did happen.

(East Carolina is clearly the big winner of this category.)

Oral Roberts vs. Panhandle St.
Santa Clara vs.Holy Names
Tulsa vs. St. Gregory
Rice vs. Paul Quinn
Rice vs. Texas Permian Basin
SMU vs. Texas College
Tulane vs. Huston Tillotson
East Carolina vs. Chowan
East Carolina vs. Limestone
East Carolina vs. N.C. Central
New Mexico St. vs. Western New Mexico
BYU vs. Western Oregon
Wyoming vs. Colorado Mines
UNLV vs. Washburn
Colorado St. vs. Montana St. Northern
New Mexico vs. Abiline Christian
Louisville vs. Bellarmine
West Virginia vs. Slippery Rock
Marquette vs. Hillsdale
Seton Hall vs. Caldwell
Villanova vs. Northwood
Rutgers vs. St. Thomas Aquinas

Best Schedulers

East Carolina and Idaho

East Carolina has fives wins this season. Three of those fives wins are against D-II teams. Even though the RPI doesn’t recognize wins against D-II, East Carolina’s AD directly added 150% of the wins that ECU would have had by scheduling three D-II teams. Good job!

Idaho has three wins this season. Two of them are against South Dakota St. The amazing thing here is that South Dakota St. isn’t in the same conference as Idaho. Idaho’s AD scheduled two games against a non-conference opponent. Those two games resulted in 200% of the wins that Idaho would have had. Excellent!

Double Dip

One particular evening, I was bored enough to check out the teams that played a non-conference opponent multiple times. The list is a lot longer than I thought it would be.
Weber St., Longwood, Texas Pan America, and Chicago St. get honorable mention for having three separate two-game stints with non-conference opponents but the big winner in this category is Utah Valley St. with five such occurrences. Arkansas Pine Bluff gets the award for shamelessly trying to manufacture wins by scheduling two games against D-II Philander Smith.

Kansas St.-New Mexico
TCU-Texas San Antonio
Northern Illinois-Duquesne
St. Joseph's-Boston University
Mississippi Valley St.-McNeese St.
Arkansas Pine Bluff-Philander Smith
Tulane-New Orleans
Georgia St.-Alabama St.
Southern-Louisiana Tech
Liberty-St. Francis (PA)
East Carolina-Morgan St.
Long Island-Binghamton
Chicago St.-Wright St.
Chicago St.-New Mexico St.
Chicago St.-Valparaiso
Utah St.-Utah Valley St.
Montana St.-Utah Valley St.
Missouri Kansas City-Utah Valley St.
Southern Utah-Utah Valley St.
Texas Pan American-Texas Arlington
Texas Pan American-Texas St.
Texas Pan American-Texas San Antonio
Coastal Carolina-Savannah St.
Mercer-Savannah St.
IUPUI Fort Wayne-Western Illinois
Longwood-High Point
Winston Salem St.-Georgia Southern
Idaho-S. Dakota St.
Sienna-NJ Institue of Technology
Southern Utah-Weber St.
Portland-Weber St.
Utah St.-Weber St.
Northern Arizona-San Francisco
Montana St.-Fresno St.
Montana St.-Utah Valley St.
Mississippi Valley St.-Central Arkansas
Centenary-Texas St.
Missouri Kansas City-Florida Atlantic
Southern Utah-Denver
Southern Utah-Idaho
Louisiana Lafayette-Cal St. Fullerton
Denver-Northern Colorado
Texas San Antonio-Cal St. Fullerton
San Jose St.-Long Beach St.
Arkansas St.-Bowling Green
New Mexico St.-UTEP
Southern Mississippi-Savannah St.
Bethune Cookman-Savannah St.
Stetson-Savannah St.
New Mexico St.-New Mexico
Idaho-N. Dakota St.

Most ambitious schedule

There were a lot lower-level programs that scheduled a slew of top teams. Some of those teams are; Gardner Webb, Southern, Nichols St., Elon, Texas Southern, Northeastern, Idaho St., Delaware St., and Oakland.

The Big winner, though, is Coppin St.

Virginia Tech
Kansas St.
Ohio St.

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