Friday, February 1, 2008

We despise you, but we wish you were playing better!

I ran my tournament projections again and I’m not surprised to see that the Pac10 projects to 7 bids. But I was surprised to see that after the win at Washington St., California is currently holding one of those 7 dance tickets. (Keep in mind that I don’t factor in “last 10” at this point in the season.)

Only dreadful Oregon St., Washington 0-8 vs the RPI top 50, and Arizona St. NCSOS over 300, are out in my projections. There is reason to believe Arizona St. is a better team than Cal at this point, but when your NCSOS is that high and you are on the bubble, the committee often likes to make an example by leaving you out.

You have to love the increased fairness the round-robin schedule brings to the conference, but I wonder if the current scheduling system still might have some inequality. In particular, I wonder if the current procedure is actually hurting the Oregon Ducks (and it is all Oregon St.’s fault.)

Every week Pac10 teams have to prepare for a geographic pair of teams. For example, you might host Washington and Washington St. or play at USC and UCLA. In most cases both games appear to be tough on paper, and both games require a detailed game plan. But, in the Oregon and Oregon St. week, coaches can focus most of their attention preparing for Oregon without worrying too much about Oregon St.

With 9 of the conference teams having strong profiles this year, only Oregon really faces this predicament. Perhaps they can take it out on their cross-state rivals on Saturday.

Useless stat of the day
Last year Syracuse got dinged from the tournament and the consensus was that it was a mistake. Besides the Drexel angle, the one legit criticism may have been Syracuse’s non-conference schedule. It wasn’t that Syracuse didn’t play good teams in the non-conference schedule -- they did -- but Syracuse played exactly one non-conference road game. And that one road game was in nearby Buffalo, NY against Canisius which was ranked #247 in the RPI.

Well, Syracuse didn’t exactly turn over a new leaf, but they did schedule a game at Virginia this year. But in more amazing fashion, Syracuse lucked into a group of pay-for-play opponents who are all having good years. So far not a single one of Syracuse’s opponents ranks outside the RPI top 200. (Colgate ranks the lowest at #188.) There’s always some luck involved when something like this happens, and it isn’t as if the committee puts a lot of emphasis on wins over teams 100-200 relative to 200+, but this should keep Syracuse’s RPI a few slots higher than you might expect all season long.