Sunday, March 15, 2009

Final Thoughts

1) This is all running together now. I’m pretty sure the only thing that woke me up tonight was Kristof Ongenaet of Syracuse landing on his head.

2) You know how states can force a high school conference to take a team? I wish someone would force the Big Ten to take Memphis. (They’ll never admit the Tigers based on football.) But watching the Tigers beat up on Conference USA is getting really old. Do I believe Memphis is good? Absolutely. I think they have the best defense in the country. But I think it is completely ridiculous to give them a 1 seed when there were so few late season chances to truly evaluate their quality.

3) I stick by my Saturday morning prediction of the field. USC knocked New Mexico out as I indicated in the contingency scenario. And in Sunday’s contingency scenario, Mississippi St. may knock out Auburn.

I have two different outcomes from Joe Lunardi.
-He has Minnesota and St. Mary’s in and I don’t.
-I have Auburn and San Diego St. in and he doesn’t.

First, let me say that I completely understand Lunardi’s bracket math. Based on my raw formula, I would put Minnesota in and leave Auburn out. But I don’t see it playing out that way.

The argument against Minnesota and for the Big Ten getting only 6 bids is that the committee is made up of people, and few real basketball fans will honestly tell you that this is a great year for Big Ten basketball. There are a bunch of very similar teams who avoided bad non-conference losses, and rigged the RPI to look a little too nice, just like the Missouri Valley conference a few years ago. Sometimes you just get lucky that way. But at the end of the day, the committee involves people and those people making honest evaluations can find a reason to disqualify teams. For example, they can keep Minnesota out based on a poor last 12. I just don’t see the Big Ten getting two 9-9 teams in the field this year, even with the strong RPI ratings.

The argument for Auburn is that the NCAA committee tries to keep life as simple as possible regarding the Sunday Scenarios. In the past they’ve freely admitted that they have ignored the Big 12 tournament final. And because leaving one slot for Auburn or Mississippi St. is the simplest scenario to still follow all the bracketing rules about location and not playing other SEC schools, I believe the committee will use it. And based on Auburn’s improved performance down the stretch (winning 5 of last 6, 9 of last 11) including a win over LSU in the regular season finale, I think the committee will be able to justify that decision and reach a consensus.

As for St. Mary’s over San Diego St. (and Arizona for that matter), I don’t agree with Lunardi here.

The MWC had five legitimate at-large contenders. San Diego St. played three of the other contenders in three days in the MWC tournament. They beat two of them and lost by 2 points in the MWC final to the third. They clearly passed UNLV and New Mexico on the S-curve this weekend, and I think they played well enough in that final stretch to get in.

I’ve heard the Patrick Mills injury scenario for St. Mary’s, but it wasn’t like they were racking up Top 100 wins with him in the lineup. And there are too many injuries over the course of the season for the committee to give this factor that much weight. Today I heard that Purdue, Michigan St., and USC were all undefeated when they had healthy lineups on the floor.

Keep in mind, I am almost always wrong. I also think that I may be biased against Minnesota based on the fact that I watched them play 20 times this year. (As much as I’d like the Gophers to be in the NCAA tournament, I wish they would have earned it.) But I really see no reason to change my predicted bracket even if I have two differences from Lunardi.

I’ll be back at some point in the next few days with thoughts on the NCAA tournament bracket. Then I’ll be flying to Minnesota to watch the 1st and 2nd round games in Minneapolis.