Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Printable Brackets and Ten Saturday Thoughts

Sunday Morning Update: MWC tournament bracket added

1) Congrats to Louisville for winning the Big East title outright. I don’t care how weak the bottom of the Big East has been, the top of the Big East is so strong that 16 conference wins is very impressive.

What a bummer for Alex Ruoff to end his home career getting chewed out on TV by Bob Huggins. But hey, nobody should have to face Louisville and their ridiculous defense on Senior Night. Honestly, if you knew you were going to lose, wouldn’t you rather play a team with good offense and bad defense so at least you could see your seniors make some shots one last time?

Also, it was a bit of a bummer to see how subdued the Louisville win came across on TV. I’m sure they’ll celebrate later, but Pitino seemed like a guy describing a pre-season game, not a guy who just won the Big East outright title. Given how Louisville seems to be fighting for the league title year-in and year-out, maybe they should end the season with a home game next year.

2) Quick plug: Thanks to Warren Nolan for not only providing the Nitty Gritty Numbers but also for updating them on a seemingly hourly basis right now.

3) Creighton lost in the semifinals of the MVC tournament today. While the margin of defeat was a bit shocking, Creighton had won 11 in a row prior to that game and I believe they will be in the NCAA tournament field. You can claim that they don’t have very many wins against the RPI top 50, but wins against 51-100 are still very important and they have a ton of those. That’s bad news for bubble teams everywhere as the MVC now looks like a two bid league. Either Northern Iowa or Illinois St. will claim the other bid in the MVC title game on Sunday.

The good news for bubble teams is that Butler held of Wright St. to advance to the Horizon league title game. Wright St. had several chances to tie in the final minute, but couldn’t get a bucket when the margin was 3 points.

The other bubble games are in the WCC, but Gonzaga and St. Mary’s won’t be in action until tomorrow. Although St. Mary’s has been climbing the charts with so many bubble teams losing this week, I still don’t see how St. Mary’s gets in with another loss.

4) The other smaller tournaments may result in some entertaining games, but no meaningful bubble talk. Past tournament heroes Stephen Curry and Eric Maynor both saw their squads advance in the Southern Conference and CAA quarterfinals. Also, Siena and Niagara both advanced in the MAAC.

VMI went down in the Big South tournament which is a bit of a disappointment. I saw some of VMI’s semifinal comeback against Seth Curry and Liberty, and I loved how they eventually imposed their faster tempo on Liberty. The idea of VMI matching up against a Big Ten squad in the NCAA tournament would have been highly entertaining, but it was not meant to be.

5) Nice job by Texas A&M to do what so many other bubble teams have not been able to do and win their way into the field. 6 straight wins capped off by a home victory over Missouri should be enough now that A&M is 8-8 against the Top 100 with no bad losses.

Looking ahead to next weekend’s conference tournaments, we already have a printable Big 12 Tournament Bracket. If you enjoy printing out an NCAA tournament bracket every year, why not print one of these out too?

With Texas A&M stamping their case closed, the bubble ramifications for the Big 12 tournament may be lacking. The conference now seems locked in at 6 bids (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma St.) Although Oklahoma St. doesn’t have quite the RPI top 50 wins, they don’t have the same blemishes as many of the other bubble teams, and I think a strong NCSOS keeps them in regardless of what happens in the Big 12 tournament.

And while Kansas St. was incredibly lucky to win a 4-way tiebreaker for 4th place and to earn a bye in the Big 12 tournament, I really don’t see a scenario where Kansas St. makes it in as an at-large. At 5-8 against the Top 100, the horrible NCSOS is probably enough for the committee to leave them out. Realistically, even with the bye, they may need to beat Texas in the quarters and Kansas in the semifinals to make the NCAA tournament field.

That means the real reason to watch the Big 12 tournament is simply to find out how good a seed Oklahoma and Kansas can get. Oklahoma seems to lack the top 25 wins to get a 1 seed, but their overall profile is still very strong. It seemed like a stretch a few weeks ago, but Kansas has been piling up the wins, and it now looks like even the Jayhawks may be able to earn a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament if they can take home the Big 12 tournament crown and beat Oklahoma again in the process.

6) Fabulous game between Syracuse and Marquette on Saturday. The final sequence of regulation (Flynn with the steal and 3 point play, McNeal with a 3 pointer, Rick Jackson with 1 of 2 free throws to tie, McNeal with a miss) is everything you hope for in March Madness.

Here’s the Big East Tournament Bracket. First round games are sadly not on TV but can be found online at tournament central. Like the Big 12, the Big East tournament holds very little bubble intrigue this year. The top 7 teams (through West Virginia) are clearly in, but the teams below the cutoff have major work to do to even have a chance.

With Providence losing badly to Villanova, the Friars lack both the quality wins 6-12 against the Top 100, and the quality road wins to make a case for an at-large bid. A 3rd win against Cincinnati in the Big East second round isn’t going to do it and I don’t see them beating Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals.

Instead, the reason to watch the Big East is clearly the later rounds. I honestly feel like a Big East tournament title is almost as prestigious as a Final Four run these days. And given that this year’s field includes 3 Final Four contenders, and 7 Sweet Sixteen contenders, I think there’s no question it will live up to the billing. The race to two #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament is just getting started.

7) Here’s the Pac-10 tournament bracket. The reason to watch the Pac-10 tournament is clearly to see how the bubble teams fare. At 3-9 in road neutral games and 6-10 against the top 100 with 2 bad losses, USC needs a deep run to have a chance. But while teams like Providence and Minnesota seem to have brackets from hell in terms of making a deep tournament run, USC still has a chance because of how wide open the Pac-10 has been this year.

8) I love this old numbers trick.

Utah St.
1-2 vs RPI 1-50
3-2 vs RPI 51-100

South Carolina
1-5 vs RPI 1-50
6-2 vs RPI 51-100

Are you thinking that Utah St. looks better since South Carolina is a dreadful 1-5 against the Top 50? Well, look at it this way instead. Both teams are .500 against the Top 100. Utah St. is 4-4, and South Carolina is 7-7. But South Carolina has better losses. And South Carolina has played more games against quality competition. Which way would you argue it? My read on history is that the committee would lean towards South Carolina.

Now other factors may play a role, Utah St. has a better Top 50 win, South Carolina has a bad loss. But hopefully this explains why I still can’t comfortably put Utah St. in the field if they lose in their conference tournament.

9) John Gasaway should be pleased to see that New Mexico won and clinched a share of the MWC title. (But despite John loving New Mexico’s efficiency, they only won by 1 point.) Here's the MWC Tournament Bracket. In my Friday internal calculations, I had New Mexico moving up into the field, but they may need to make it to the MWC final to get an at-large bid. One more quality win, in this case coming against Utah in the semis, would probably do the trick.

I’m not posting the CUSA bracket. Just watch to see if Memphis wins, starting on Thursday.

Rhode Island suffered a heartbreaker in the Atlantic-10 today. I thought they had played their way into the field thanks to a strong finishing stretch, but a home loss to rival UMass erases that. Here’s the A-10 tournament bracket.

By the way, 6th seeded Richmond pulled off a nice victory over Xavier today. Xavier was clearly overlooking the Spiders after beating Dayton on Thursday. Like Xavier, LSU overlooked Auburn today. (Or maybe they just lost.) LSU has now lost two in a row and the proclamations that the SEC wouldn’t even receive a 5 seed are now looking more plausible. I’ll be back with more on the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC after league play wraps up tommorrow. All three conference tournaments are wide open at this point.

But having done the internal math that Minnesota is now stuck in the 8/9 game, and after crunching the overall profile, I think the Gophers are done. They’ll likely have to beat Michigan St. in the quarterfinals to get into the field, and they’ve been blown out twice by the Spartans.

10) Best Senior night sign for Jesse Sapp. “Forever 21”