Monday, March 05, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (Week of March 5)

There were some big-time choke jobs in college basketball last week. San Diego St. had an at-large bid seemingly wrapped up before inexplicably losing to Utah. Oklahoma St. simply needed to beat Baylor and Nebraska in its last two games but Mario Boggan got himself suspended for the Baylor game which OSU promptly lost. Kudos to Sean Sutton for choosing integrity over an NCAA Tournament bid because that’s what his suspension of Boggan ended up meaning. Michigan had a bid-clinching win in hand against #1 Ohio St. before falling apart at the end of the game. Alabama blew any chance it had at making the tournament by losing to Mississippi St. to cap a 2-5 finish to its season. While those teams were throwing their seasons away, Georgia Tech seems to have entered the 65-team field with authority having beaten North Carolina and Boston College to climb to 8-8 in the ACC.

I am fairly confident with regards to which teams will make up 63 of the 65 spots. The last two spots are going to depend on the conference tournaments. Teams like Kansas St. and DePaul will have a chance to validate themselves to the committee. If Nevada, Xavier, Butler, and Memphis don’t win their conference tournaments, then that will eliminate an opening. Likewise, if any of the teams that I don’t have projected from the major conferences win their conference tournament, then that will also eliminate a bid. There are teams that look to be safely in the tournament that could be out of luck if craziness presides this week.

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 it is 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: Georgia Tech and VCU/George Mason winner

Out: Missouri St. and San Diego St.

(Automatic bids in Bold)

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East Georgetown
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Ohio St.
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC Creighton
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial VCU/George Mason
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 Eastern Kentucky
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Davidson

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 Michigan St.
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 Drexel
43 At-Large Ga. Tech
44 At-Large Villanova
45 At-Large Marquette
46 At-Large West Virginia
47 At-Large Illinois
48 At-Large Pittsburgh
49 At-Large Notre Dame
50 At-Large Syracuse
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Texas A&M
53 At-Large Texas Tech
54 At-Large Wisconsin
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 Old Dominion
64 At-Large Stanford
65 At-Large S. Illinois

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. West Virginia

RPI rating: 58
Pomeroy rating: 38
SOS: 98
W/L: 20-8
Record vs. RPI50: 2-6

Quality wins: Villanova, DePaul, and UCLA
Bad losses: @ Cincinnati

I really have no idea what the Selection Committee will do with West Virginia. The Mountaineers have two wins over tournament teams. That is way too low for any team to feel confident about receiving a bid. I’m guessing that the next mid-major to unexpectedly win a conference tournament will bump West Virginia out of the field.

2. Drexel

RPI rating: 46
Pomeroy rating: 83
SOS: 96
W/L: 22-6
Record vs. RPI50: 3-4

Quality wins: @ Villanova, @ Syracuse, @ Hofstra, and @ Creighton
Bad losses: @ Pennsylvania, @ Rider, and @ William & Mary

Creighton winning the MVC Tournament definitely helped Drexel’s profile. Drexel won at Creighton earlier in the year. George Mason’s run in the CAA Tournament has also helped Drexel since Drexel defeated George Mason, too. What didn’t help Drexel was not making it to the CAA Tournament semi-finals. I do think an impressive road record and a number of quality wins will be enough to get Drexel an invitation.

3. Illinois

RPI rating: 35
Pomeroy rating: 22
SOS: 36
W/L: 21-10
Record vs. RPI50: 3-8

Quality wins: Bradley (neutral), Missouri (neutral), Indiana, Michigan St., and Michigan
Bad losses: @ Iowa

Illinois is hiding behind its 9-7 Big Ten record. That really is all it has in the name of compelling reasons to receive an at-large bid. Illinois is also benefiting from the fact that there are so many “bubble” teams that have wasted opportunities to solidify a bid. There is no doubt in my mind that if Illinois loses its first game in the BTT, it will be out.

4 Stanford

RPI rating: 57
Pomeroy rating: 53
SOS: 23
W/L: 18-11
Record vs. RPI50: 5-6

Quality wins: Texas Tech, @ Virginia, Washington St., USC, UCLA, and Oregon
Bad losses: California and Santa Clara

Stanford is a lot like Georgia Tech and Texas Tech. They all have very impressive wins without gaudy overall records or conference records. The candidates for at-large bids are so weak that I don’t think a team with as many good wins as Stanford will be left out. Stanford’s low RPI will be troubling to the Selection Committee but no team that I have projected “out” of the tournament can compete with the six wins I have listed above.

5. Purdue

RPI rating: 45
Pomeroy rating: 26
SOS: 48
W/L: 20-10
Record vs. RPI50: 4-6

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

Two different college basketball experts will likely have two totally different views on Purdue. One person may be impressed by Purdue’s relatively impressive group of non-conference wins (Virginia, DePaul, Missouri, and Oklahoma) while another may be repulsed by the ease of Purdue’s Big Ten schedule. Purdue got to play Northwestern, Penn St. and Minnesota twice each which is a huge asset in the Big Ten. At the same time, Purdue only had to play Wisconsin, Michigan St., and Illinois once. There is no doubt in my mind that had Purdue had Michigan St. or Michigan’s Big Ten schedule, the Boilermakers would have been under .500 in the conference. I’m sure that the Selection Committee will be aware of that. Purdue must win its first game in the BTT or it’s out.

On the outside looking in:

1. Missouri St.

RPI rating: 38
Pomeroy rating: 43
SOS: 38
W/L: 21-10
Record vs. RPI50: 3-5

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

IMO, Missouri St. was the first victim of a conference tournament upset. Neither VCU nor George Mason was going to get an at-large bid so that squeezes one team out of the tournament field. Missouri St. was, by far, the third best team in the MVC. Unfortunately for MVC, Creighton was by far the second best team. There is such a large gap between Creighton and Missouri St. that I think the Selection Committee will feel comfortable making a cutoff between those schools.

2. Kansas St.

RPI rating: 59
Pomeroy rating: 51
SOS: 95
W/L: 21-10
Record vs. RPI50: 1-5

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

This one is a 50/50 toss-up. A 10-6 conference record has been enough to get a team from a major conference an at-large bid 99% of the time. Very few of those schools had schedules as easy as KSU’s though. If I had to make an argument for KSU, I would have a hard time doing so. The Wildcats haven’t beaten anyone of note in the conference with the exception of one win over Texas. This is a team that benefited from, quite possibly, the easiest major conference schedule of all-time. KSU’s resume doesn’t compare favorably to any of the at-large teams, let a lone a team like Michigan who has no chance of an at-large bid. Ten conferences wins is a magic number. For that reason—and that reason only—KSU has to be near the top of the “bubble” list.

3. San Diego St.

RPI rating: 55
Pomeroy rating: 77
SOS: 78
W/L: 19-9
Record vs. RPI50: 3-5

Quality wins: California, Air Force, BYU, and UNLV
Bad losses: @ Western Michigan, Wyoming and @ Wyoming

Unbelievable. I was in shock when I saw that San Diego St. lost to Utah last week. All SDSU had to do was beat Utah and it would have been headed to the NCAA Tournament. No single loss was more damaging to any team in the NCAA this season. The only chance SDSU has now is to knock off one of the Mountain West’s big three and reach the finals of the MWC Tournament. It’s possible but unlikely. SDSU blew it big time.

4. Appalachian St.

RPI rating: 62
Pomeroy rating: 87
SOS: 156
W/L: 22-7
Record vs. RPI50: 3-2

Quality wins: Virginia (neutral), Vanderbilt (neutral), @ VCU, and @ Davidson
Bad losses: @ Wake Forest, Elon, @ NC Greensboro, @ Furman, and College of Charleston (neutral)

Appalachian St. has the bad combination of being a mid-major with a poor RPI. Some major schools can get away with a poor RPI but mid-majors almost always need an impressive RPI to garner consideration. Appalachian St. has some good wins but they are outnumbered by the amount of bad wins. I think this team would have received an at-large bid had it not lost three games to teams with an RPI of 190 or worse.

5. DePaul/Clemson/Oklahoma St./Massachusetts/Michigan/Alabama/Florida St.

I’m not going to bother with the statistical breakdown of these teams. None of these teams have a real good shot at making the tournament. Any team that loses its first conference tournament game will be out. Michigan needs to make it to the BTT Semi-Finals. DePaul needs three wins (two if one of them is against a very good team). Oklahoma St. needs to make the Big XII Championship game. Alabama needs to do the same in the SEC. Massachusetts needs to make the A10 Championship game. Clemson and Florida St. need to get to the ACC Semi-Finals. None of those things are guarantees for a bid. They are merely requirements to stay in contention.

Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#36 Clemson
#38 Missouri St.
#42 Alabama
#44 Bradley
#47 Florida St.
#48 Arkansas
#52 Oklahoma St.
#53 Michigan
#55 San Diego St.
#56 Massachusetts
#59 Kansas St.
#60 Mississippi

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

#58 West Virginia
#57 Stanford
#54 USC
#50 Syracuse
#46 Drexel
#45 Purdue
#43 Virginia
#41 Louisville
#40 Texas Tech
#39 Old Dominion
#37 Vanderbilt
#35 Illinois

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

ACC (7)

Va. Tech
Ga. Tech

Big East (8)

W. Virginia
Notre Dame

SEC (4)


Pac-10 (6)


Big XII (4)

Texas Tech
Texas A&M

Big Ten (6)

Ohio State
Michigan St.

MVC (2)

S. Illinois

MWC (3)

Air Force

CAA (3)

George Mason/VCU
Old Dominion

No comments:


Powered by Blogger