Monday, January 21, 2008

NCAA Tournament projections look like Tom Coughlin's face

I may be chasing the "White Rabbit" but I wont rest—except when I need to—until I project all 65 teams correctly. Last year, I missed a perfect projection by one spot. Syracuse—my only miss—was no lock but it was the best option as the 65th team. The team that the Selection Committee put in over Syracuse—Arkansas—had no business making the tournament. The Selection Committee has made some terrible decisions over the last two years. So, trying to emulate terrible decision-makers might seem a bit insane. And, I admit that it probably is. Nonetheless, come March, I'll throw out a 65-team projection with hopes that I'll get them all correct. I am not alone in my pursuit of perfection, though. Famed bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, has been projecting the 65-team field since 1998 and has yet to be perfect.

This first week of projections won’t feature the normal extracurriculars (last five out, last five in etc). I moved back the first week of projections as it is because there is just too much clutter after the top 10-15 teams. It was difficult to even find 65 teams that were worthy of being classified as “in the field.” But, that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy the projections so much. With each passing week, the projections mold into a more accurate depiction of the field. The parity in the major conferences thus far (the ACC and Big XII only have two teams in the RPI 25, the Big Ten, SEC, and Big East only have three) and the rise of the mid-majors (eight of the RPI 25 are not from one of the six major conferences) have created too much ambiguity to take these projections seriously. But, we have to start somewhere. Things should look a whole lot better two weeks from now.

Don’t Mess with the A-10

After catapulting itself into semi-major status over the last couple years, the Missouri Valley Conference will struggle to get two bids this year and even if it does continue its streak of at least two bids for the 10th straight year, it will do so in less impressive fashion. That would normally mean more bids up-for-grabs for the major conferences but "not so fast, my friend". Contrary to what we have been led to believe over the last decade, the A-10 still exists and it’s pissed. The A-10s list of non-conference victims is shocking. The conference has 25 wins over the RPI 100 (the Big Ten has 18) despite having the most difficult non-conference schedule of any of the top 10 conferences. Despite its grueling SOS, it has managed a non-conference record of 116-66 (.637 %) which is considerably better than its 98-83 (.515 %) record a year ago. The A-10 has six teams in the RPI 60 including four in the RPI 20. The result will likely be at least four A-10 teams receiving tournament-bids which is the most it has had in 10 years. Even more surprising is that George Washington, Temple, and St. Joe’s aren’t fueling the charge. Rhode Island (hasn’t made the tourney since ’99) and UMASS (hasn’t made the tourney since ’98) along with Xavier and Dayton have done the most damage thus far. Tyson Wheeler and Lari Ketner must be proud. I can’t say I saw this coming but I’m glad it did. College basketball is better off when the A-10 isn’t terrible. On a side note, the A-10 has had 20 basketball members since its inception in 1975. One million pretend dollars to anyone who can name every existing team in the A-10 and pretend ownership of the world to anyone who can name all 20 schools that have participated in the A-10. Answer.

Teen Wolf

The much ballyhooed freshman class of 2007 has yielded a wealth of stars (Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley just to name a few) but I haven’t seen a better freshman than Eric Gordon. He reminds me of Teen Wolf. Remember the scene when Scott Howard turns into “The Wolf” and throws down dunk after thunderous dunk in a video montage set to "Way to Go" by Mark Vieha? That’s what Gordon reminds me of. He dunks like Charles Barkley. He is “lights-out” from 3-point range (42%). He can get to the rim on anyone at anytime. He could be a star in the NBA right now. The closest thing to Teen Wolf in the NBA is Baron Davis (the beard is just "icing on the cake") and I think Davis is Gordon’s NBA-equivalent.

The worst comparison I have ever heard in the history of comparisons was when the announcers of the Michigan-Indiana game two weeks ago (don’t quote me on this but I believe Musberger was involved with said comparison) compared him to Jason Kidd. There has never been a player in the history of great point-guards who compares less favorably to Eric Gordon than Jason Kidd. Gordon is a prolific 3-point shooter with freaky athletic ability who shoots first and dunks second. Kidd is a questionable shooter who passes first and second and rarely—if ever—dunks and certainly never dunks in traffic. So, please keep Gordon-comparisons to Teen Wolf, Baron Davis or anyone not named Jason Kidd.

As everyone in the free-world knows, Gordon originally committed to Illinois before Kelvin Sampson politely redirected him to Indiana. Generally, one recruit doesn’t make a team or a season. In this case, that couldn’t be more wrong. If Gordon kept his commitment to Illinois, the Illini would be better than Indiana and would easily be ranked in the top 10. Instead, Gordon went to Indiana and now the Hoosiers are clearly better than Illinois and ranked in the top 10. However, Illinois shouldn’t be too pissed. Gordon will likely take his monster-dunks to the NBA next season. Missing out on four years of Gordon would’ve been unbearable. One season isn’t nearly as bad. Plus, I’m not sure Alex Legion transfers to Illinois if Gordon were around. It’s possible those four years of Legion end up being better than one year of Gordon. It's also possible that Legion transfers to four more schools.


Here is how I view the field right now (at-large bids are sorted by conference):

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Tennessee
3 Big East Georgetown
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Michigan St.
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC Drake
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial George Mason
12 MAC Akron
13 WCC St. Mary’s
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt S. Alabama
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Niagara
18 Big Sky N. Arizona
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Cal St. Northridge
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Brown
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Holy Cross
25 Southland Sam Houston St.
26 Northeast Wagner
27 AEC MD Baltimore County
28 Big South NC Asheville
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Southern
31 MEAC Hampton
32 At-Large Gonzaga
33 At-Large Duke
34 At-Large Clemson
35 At-Large NC State
36 At-Large Notre Dame
37 At-Large Marquette
38 At-Large Pittsburgh
39 At-Large West Virginia
40 At-Large Villanova
41 At-Large Providence
42 At-Large Louisville
43 At-Large USC
44 At-Large Arizona St.
45 At-Large Arizona
46 At-Large Washington St.
47 At-Large Stanford
48 At-Large Oregon
49 At-Large Kansas St.
50 At-Large Texas A&M
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Oklahoma
53 At-Large Baylor
54 At-Large Wisconsin
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Ohio St.
57 At-Large Vanderbilt
58 At-Large Mississippi
59 At-Large Florida
60 At-Large Mississippi St.
61 At-Large Dayton
62 At-Large Massachusetts
63 At-Large Rhode Island
64 At-Large Cleveland St.
65 At-Large Illinois St.

*I don't look at other projections—Lunardi's included—at any point in the season. Everything I do is based on researching each team's resume. My projections are based on who I think will be there based on the results of games played and the difficulty of remaining schedules. This isn’t a “if the season ended today”-deal.

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. There could be anywhere from 5-10 teams that make the tournament who wouldn't have otherwise made it just from the conference tournaments alone. 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.

Big Games this Week


Syracuse @ Georgetown


Drake @ Creighton


Massachusetts @ St. Joe’s
Baylor @ Texas A&M
Akron @ Kent St.
San Diego St. @ BYU


Dayton @ Xavier
UCLA @ Oregon
Washington St. @ Arizona


St. Joe’s @ Temple
Connecticut @ Indiana
Minnesota @ Ohio St.
Wisconsin @ Purdue
Oklahoma @ Baylor
Texas Tech @ Texas
Georgetown @ West Virginia
Notre Dame @ Villanova
Gonzaga @ Memphis
Creighton @ S. Illinois
UNLV @ San Diego St.
New Mexico @ BYU
USC @ Oregon
Washington St. @ Arizona St.
Mississippi @ Mississippi St.


Xavier @ Massachusetts
Clemson @ Miami (FL)
Duke @ Maryland
Providence @ Syracuse
Vanderbilt @ Florida

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