Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nitty Gritty Kick-Off

I have a tradition of posting the Nitty Gritty numbers prior to the kick-off of the major conference tournaments. Sadly, I’m already tired of bubble talk this year. (Why does it have to start in December instead of February like it should?) But I’m not ready to break my tradition yet.

As usual, here’s my slogan: Why depend on other people when you can look at the numbers and decide for yourself who is in the field. I’ve highlighted likely NCAA tournament teams in green. Right now, I’m only highlighting 30 “likely” at-large teams in green. I leave it to my readers to choose the last four teams.

T50 is record against RPI 1-50
N50 is record against RPI 51-100
BL are bad losses vs RPI 100+
CR is conference record
Last 11+ is my measure of the final stretch. The NCAA tracks the last 12 games. I track the win-loss order in the last 11 regular season games, assuming at least one conference tournament game. With each win in the conference tournament, a team can erase the first game from the WL ordering.
RN is road/neutral record.
Best wins are the best RPI wins on the season for each team.
You may have to click the scroll button to see the entire chart.

Ah, the joy of clarity. Oklahoma St. holds wins over the top three teams in the conference, Kansas, Baylor, and Kansas St. Texas holds non-conference wins over Pittsburgh and Michigan St. There’s no question this league is getting 7 teams in the NCAA tournament.

Duke lost at Maryland, at Wisconsin, and at Georgetown. There’s no shame in those losses, but that’s why people are reluctant to give them a one seed. They want to see Duke win a big game. But the overall profile is there.

Georgia Tech sits at just 7-9 in ACC play, 5-9 on the road, and 5-6 in the last 11 games. I don’t know how many games they’ll have to win in the ACC tournament. It depends how other things break. But they need to win at least one, and maybe more.

I list St. John’s for one simple reason. Conference record means something even in leagues with unbalanced schedules. Some people still think UConn is a bubble team. But if you think that, you might as well think St. John’s is a bubble team. St. John’s has a better road/neutral record and just as many top 50 wins. As I heard Joe Lunardi say on the radio, only one team four games under .500 in the conference has made the NCAA tournament as an at-large. That was Iowa St. at 5-9 in the Big 8 conference in the 1990’s.

Seton Hall has a sneaky profile right now. They don’t have any bad losses and with a couple wins in the Big East tournament, they can make the last 12 look a whole lot better. I’m actually starting to believe the Big East is closer to 9 bids than 7.

I give Florida the nod because they beat Ole Miss and Tennessee before the three game losing streak. But they cannot afford to lose to Auburn and fall to 5-7 in the last 12.

I’m starting to regret saying “Ole Miss is done”. UTEP has now won Conference USA’s regular season title and given Ole Miss a second quality win. But Ole Miss is 0-6 against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida, and Mississippi St., and that’s not the kind of fact the committee misses.

If you truly ignored conference record, Georgia’s numbers are not horrible. But 1-12 in road/neutral games is pretty bad.

Illinois has 5 quality wins and 13 losses. Illinois has lost 5 of 6. I don’t see how they are really in the discussion at this point. Sure 4 Top 50 wins are nice, but they aren’t everything. Let me emphasize again. St. John’s has 3 wins against the Top 50. Georgia has 3 wins against the Top 50.

These tournaments are where the real action is. Simply getting to the championship game may provide an at-large opportunity for a number of teams.
-P-10 runner-up Arizona St. holds a win over MWC bubble team San Diego St.
-UAB is in the same boat as Ole Miss. They were swept by UTEP and Memphis.
-With Coach Mark Fox now at Georgia, Nevada is missing the signature wins this year.

No mid-majors have stolen bids as St. Mary’s certainly earned one. But that could change Tuesday with Butler in action.

Kent St. likely has to win the MAC tournament to get in.

What’s not to like about Wichita St? They hold 10 wins against the Top 100 and went 1-2 against Northern Iowa. I guess 7-5 in the last 12 doesn’t cut it. And the signature non-conference wins are missing.

But what about the CAA? They hold non-conference wins against Utah St., Richmond (twice), Kent. St., Rhode Island, and the often mentioned wins over Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgetown. Unfortunately, Northeastern finished 7-5 in the last 12 and I’m not sure William & Mary did enough to overcome a two game deficit in the league standings.