Saturday, February 28, 2009

I love brackets (but not this year's mid-major ones)

This is a bit of a bummer.

Siena lost on Friday Night, crushing their NCAA at large hopes and rendering much of my pandering moot. Next weekend is perhaps the most irrelevant set of mid-major conference tournaments ever. While in past years we’ve debated 6 MVC teams, 4 CAA teams, and multiple teams from many other mid-majors, there are basically only 3 teams worth keeping an eye on next weekend: Gonzaga, Butler, and Creighton. Those are the only teams that can lose and still make it as an at-large. If you are a panicked bubble team and want to make sure none of the mid-majors become multi-bid leagues, root strongly for those teams.

Creighton and Northern Iowa each won on Saturday to split the MVC regular season title. Northern Iowa won the tie-breaker and will be the number one seed in the MVC tournament. Here’s the MVC Tournament Bracket. Games start on Thursday Night.

Butler won on Saturday and clinched the Horizon league title outright. Although Butler clearly has a much stronger NCAA profile than the rest of the league, I’m not convinced that they will win the Horizon tournament. Several Horizon teams have played close games against Butler if not beaten them outright this year. Here’s the Horizon Tournament Bracket. Games start on Tuesday Night. As discussed in previous years, the Horizon league slots its first and second place teams into the semifinals, so Butler only needs to win twice to win the tournament. That means only two days of panicked box-scoring watching for bubble teams, Saturday Night and the following Tuesday.

The WCC also slots its two best teams into the semifinals. Portland entered Saturday with a chance at one of the two double byes, but lost in overtime. That means both league favorite Gonzaga, and “the team formerly starring Patrick Mills” St. Mary’s are slotted in the semifinals. St. Mary’s can definitely steal this tournament, but probably doesn’t have enough strength for an at large bid right now. Here’s WCC tournament central. Games start on Friday, but the key games are next Sunday and a week from Monday when Gonzaga will be in action.

The other tournaments will still be fun next weekend (Davidson in the Southern Conference, VCU and Senior Eric Maynor in the CAA, VMI and its high scoring offense in the Big South, Louisville killer Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt, and yes Siena in the MAAC), but with no national implications, I'm finding it hard to get excited.

This is NOT a big game, and that's OK

Note to all announcers: Please stop. Please.

Saying that Georgetown is a bubble team is ridiculous. The team is 5-10. Saying we need to win this game to make the NCAA tournament is an insult. Maybe if we win 5 in a row, you can say we’re playing in a must-win game, but this is just ridiculous, insulting, and highly irritating.

And it isn’t just Georgetown. Let’s say you are calling a Northwestern vs Iowa game. It isn’t a key game for Northwestern either. Northwestern is playing to reward the home fans, to get a better NIT seed, to build confidence for the Big Ten tournament, and to build for next year. But they don’t need to beat Iowa to make the NCAA tournament. That’s just silly.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Predictive Luck vs Close Game Luck

John Gasaway’s Friday column looked at the luckiest and unluckiest teams in the nation. His metric is expected wins (based on performance) as compared to actual wins.

You might expect that the lucky teams on that list will have a lot of close wins and the unlucky teams will have a lot of close losses, but that’s not always the case. To be lucky, all you really need is for your margin of victory in wins to be smaller than your margin of defeat in losses. (And technically when luck is adjusted for strength of schedule, you might have no close wins, but if you don’t blow out the bad teams by enough you are lucky.)

But when fans think of luck, they tend to think of the close games, the heart-breaking 1 point losses where you don’t get the tip-in, ect. And that metric presents a different set of teams this year.

Record in games decided by 3 points or less (major conference teams)

Dayton 6-1
Florida State 6-1
LSU 4-0
UAB 5-1
Arizona State 4-1
Georgia 4-1
Michigan 3-0
Villanova 4-1
Xavier 3-0

On the flip side:

Colorado 1-5
Saint Joseph's 1-5
Stanford 0-3
Mississippi State 0-3

Having cheered for Georgetown last year (lucky) and this year (unlucky), I agree with John Gasaway’s sentiment that you’d rather be lucky than unlucky. But when you are lucky, people say you are over-rated. And when you are lucky and you are winning games by 3 points or less, everybody wants revenge the next year. Georgetown travels to Villanova this weekend, but I doubt Villanova will be overlooking the Hoyas despite Georgetown's 5-10 record.

A Note to the Obsessed

I am very disappointed to hear that the new opening round of the Big East tournament will not be on TV. (It will be streamed online.) Don’t they understand that there are lots of us eager to see if Notre Dame’s late season surge is crushed by a first round loss? Don’t they understand that a Seton Hall vs South Florida elimination game is must-watch material for college hoops junkies?

Also, now that the Big 12 championship game has been moved to the day before Selection Sunday, ESPN had to find a replacement for the Big 12 semifinals in its schedule. The big winner is the SEC which will now have its semifinal games airing on national TV. In a normal year, that sounds exciting, but this isn’t the year to trade two Big 12 games for two SEC games.

But the key development of this move is that there are now more meaningful games on the Wednesday of Championship week. ESPN needs to put the Big 12 opening round on ESPN2 for ideal Wednesday channel flipping. Make it happen ESPN.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

UCLA: Statistical Anomaly or National Title Contender?

Last year Bill Simmons identified the source of the Kevin Garnett playoff curse. Garnett plays hard all the time and thus he doesn’t have an extra gear for the playoffs. Other NBA stars give a half-hearted effort during the regular season and “take it to the next level” in the playoffs.

Sadly, we have no way of measuring effort (except perhaps watching the games). And with a few exceptions, I think the effort level in college basketball is usually pretty high during the regular season. But I can ask a related question:

Would you rather have a lights out shooting team in the NCAA tournament, or a team that is fundamentally sound?

Would you rather cheer for a team like Arizona St. that is mediocre at three of Dean Oliver’s four factors, but has a great offense because all they do is make their shots? Or would you rather cheer for a poor shooting team like Memphis that gets lots of offensive rebounds, doesn’t turn the ball over, and earns lots of free throws?

BCS teams whose offensive efficiency depends heavily on eFG%.
Ohio St.
Arizona St.

Doing the Little Things
BCS teams where the other 3 factors overcome poor eFG%.
West Virginia
Texas A&M
Virginia Tech

So which one of these things would you rather have come tournament time? Well, part of me fears being in the Swoosh group. All you need to do is have one bad shooting night and you are done. And rebounding and ball handling never really take a night off.

More Swoosh
Arizona St.
Louisville (yes, shooting is the best quality on this mediocre offensive team)
Wake Forest

North Carolina

More Little Things
Pittsburgh (off. rebounding and few TOs)
Connecticut (off. rebounding and FTs)
Duke (off. rebounding and few TOs)
Washington (off. rebounding and FTs)
Michigan St. (offensive rebounding)
Memphis (everything else)

But if you had to skew one direction over the other, lately you would choose the hot shooting team. The last four National Champions, Kansas, Florida, Florida, and North Carolina all finished the season in the top 5 in the country in eFG%. Hot shooting was the main reason they were all great offensive teams.

Fun with Anomalies

Speaking of teams with clear strengths or weaknesses, check out these statistical anomalies. (All data is from

Elite defense without defensive rebounding.
John Gasaway wondered if Georgetown could do it, but another team has.
Florida St.

Elite defense without forcing any turnovers.
And now Dyson’s out.

Good defense despite fouling like a mad man.
No two point shots for you, we will foul you if you take it inside.
Kansas St.

We’re still in the top 50 in defensive efficiency despite the fact that you are shooting lights out.
We’re fundamentally sound. And short.

Elite offense despite turning it over a ton.
Hey we’re young.

The only thing we do well is hang on to the ball.
But our adjusted offensive efficiency ranks 61st.
Seton Hall

The only thing we do well is crash the boards.
But our adjusted offensive efficiency ranks 59th.

34th in adjusted offensive efficiency, but we can’t shoot worth a lick.
No turnovers, lots of offensive boards, and a great free throw rate.

UCLA is a truly bizarre team. Their offense is good primarily because they shoot the ball exceptionally well. And their defense is decent, despite the fact that their opponents shoot the ball exceptionally well. It’s like UCLA is fundamentally sound defensively, but they don’t need to do any of the little things offensively.

One final piece of news for Bruins fans: If the streak of great eFG% teams winning the national title is going to continue, there are only two BCS teams in the top 5: Arizona St. and UCLA.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Complete Text Scroll

After a one week hiatus, the text scroll was back on ESPN’s Interactive Tuesday this week. That’s right, all you need is a cell phone and a willingness to pay standard messaging rates and you can see your text on TV. Let’s take a look at this week’s insights:

(Note: We pick this up with 10:45 to go in the first half. I would have been here at the start of the game, but I thought ESPN had dropped the text scroll last week.)

A Pretty Close Game
Let’s Go Aggies. I need my streak to continue.
Jayhawk: Nebraska is tough at home. Just ask Missouri.
If the Aggies don’t stop the ball, it’s going to hurt their team.

Poll? Since Pitt lost to Providence tonight, who should be the new No. 1 team?
Gottlieb likes North Carolina over UConn and Memphis.

The Cookie is about to crumble.
Toney McCray is back.
McCray is going to be a good player.
Best player on the team.
When is Texas A&M going to score?

Come on Cornhuskers, this is your game to win.
Nebraska doesn’t have a chance in this game.

[Note: Nebraska up 4 at this point.]

The Ags are just slow to get started.
Nebraska is playing very good defense right now, but there size down low could hurt them.

[Editorial comment: At this point in the season, small teams are usually pretty good at defending the post. I’m not saying size doesn’t matter, but a casual fan doesn’t understand that Nebraska is doing a great job of fronting the post and denying the ball inside.]

The logical thing would be to make Providence a #1 right? Just kidding.
I want to see Cookie dunk it.
Being the shortest team in the NCAA Nebraska deserves a bid if they get to 20 wins.
Need a 3 ball. Let’s go Ags.
Cookie Miller is an absolute beast.
A&M will step up in the second half in the paint and win.
Cmon Huskers, this is your game to win.
Don’t let the Aggies take it from you.
Texas A&M doesn’t have the offense that Nebraska has.

[Nebraska leads 30-21, 4:05 left]

Go Nebraska!
Huskers hard to beat at home.
The Ags need to guard somebody.
Go Big Red.
The Ags need to step up on defense.
The Aggies are Cookie Monsters. Whoop!
Ade is the man he needs to take it every time he gets it.

Poll answer: America says UConn is the best.

The Aggies will pull through.
Cookie for his size has one of the best all-around games for a point guard!
Dip Cookie in some milk, Aggies
With Dyson out does UConn have a legitimate chance to win a championship?

Poll? Best Bracket Buster win? Butler, Creighton, St. Mary’s, or Siena
I said Siena, but I’m leaning more towards Creighton now.

Any visiting team in the Big 12 is in trouble!
Cmon on B.Davis Whoop!
Nebraska can wiin this game on their swagger alone.
The Aggies are getting frustrated in the paint. Doc’s plan is working.
Let’s go Ags.
I think you have to give Doc some Big 12 coach of the year votes.

[Editorial comment: You might want to wait til the end of the night on that one.]

Aggies are about to go on a roll.
Ade is the man, but he needs to finish.
It’s all about the home court advantage. Go flyers!
Go big red.
Give the ball to Ade! He’s on fire from behind the arc!

[Nebraska leads 37-24 at halftime.]

Poll question: Hey, we didn’t answer the last one yet?
Who wins the national title UConn, Pitt, Oklahoma, or North Carolina?

Poll answer: America likes Butler.

Husker are rolling. Game over.
Keep using your speed Huskers.
Huskers need to keep up the intensity!
Nebraska is a scrappy little team.
You got to love a team with Cookie as its leader.
Ade rules.
A&M is a second half team. Watch for Elonu and Davis to impose their will in the paint.

Poll answer: North Carolina wins the title.

Nebraska usually gets better in the second half.

[Not today]

Being a 20-year old Husker fan from Texas, this is fun to see.
BJ Holmes will get us back in the game!
Nebraska’s defense is too much for the aggies!GBR!

[Wow, Nebraska has 0 turnovers with 15:57 left in the game. They also lead 46-30.]

Poll? Biggest surprise team? Cal, Missouri, Wake, or Washington.
Gottlieb likes Missouri.

The Huskers are a great non-turnover team.
If NU can hold and win a few in the Big 12 tournament, I like their chances.
There is no stopping the Nebraska offense.
The Aggies can’t handle them. Go Big Red. Woohoo!
The Huskers look like they are ready to play in the tournament.

[Man, these comments are depressing with 20/20 hindsight.]

Nebraska just looks like they want it more now.
Doc deserves to go dancing, go Huskers.
Big or no bid, this has been a surprising season for the Skers!
Here comes BJ Holmes. Watch out Nebraska.
Missouri will beat KU in Kansas.

[27 minutes into the game, Nebraska still hasn’t turned it over. They still lead by 15.]

Poll answer: American likes Missouri. Um, we are watching a Big 12 game.

[At this point Doug Gottlieb calls this a “very solid win” for Nebraska. Game over. Airball follows for Nebraska.]

Bo would be proud of this go Huskers.
The Aggies will need to start making some great defensive stops to get back in this game.
Who thinks Marquette will beat UConn tommorrow?
Aggies are on the comeback trail.
They made huge stops against Arizona too. Don’t count the Ags out yet.
The Huskers don’t need a big guy as long as they play D like this every game.
Nebraska would be a fun team to make the dance.
I think Nebraska is a team that nobody will want to play in the conference tourney.

Poll? Which team will win tomorrow, UConn or Marquette?
Gottlieb likes Marquette.

BJ Holmes is about to heat it up and hit some big 3’s.
Typical Doc Sadler, always out-sized, but never out-worked.
If Nebraska makes the NCAA tournament, I promise you Huskers fans would flood the arena.
If Nebraska gets some wins down the stretch, they have a definite argument to be in the tournament.
Go Nebraska, I love the Marine Corps, Texting Straight out of Afghanistan, Hi Mom!
Doc has put the Nebraska basketball program on the national radar.
Huskers look like they are out to prove themselves tonight!
Josh Carter will take the game over late.

[Is he psychic? Also, at about the 11 minute mark, Nebraska turns it over for the first time.]

Go Big Red!
Anyone think that Maryland could beat Duke?
Nebraska may not have height…

[This post was cut-off by a highlight.]

LA Sportscenter Top 10 for that dunk!
Lot of time yet, Whoa baby!
Let’s go Aggies, kept the comeback going.
Ags gotta box out on D.
Were’ about to get beat.

[Doug Gottlieb, “I was wrong, we have a game.”]

This game is actually starting to get interesting.
Josh Carter is about to shoots some 3’s.

Poll answer: America says UConn is going to beat Marquette. But Wisconsin, South Dakota, Kansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee like Marquette to beat UConn.

Come on Ags, let’s keep it going Whoop!
It isn’t over yet. Go Ags!
How bout them Aggies now?
Go Huskers!
Aggies Rock! No way Nebraska is going to hold off this late run.
Come on Huskers, get it together.

[Lead is down to 5.]

Dagundro needs to take over this game for NU to win.
Now it is on, but the Huskers will get it on.

Poll? Which team is more likely to go undefeated in conference play? Gonzaga or Memphis? Um, Gonzaga doesn’t have many games left. Can I choose both?
Turgeon is too good a coach to let this one slip away.

[Nebraska currently leads by 7. Missed shot by Texas A&M.]

Not looking so good for Nebraska if we don’t get a stop.
These two scrappy teams are fun to watch. Great Game!
Nebraska wanted to go into a shell and run the clock down with no quality shots in, it was only a matter of time.

[Nebraska still leads by 7.]

The Cookie is crumbling.
Dash Harris Coast to Coast = Top 10.
Go Aggies!
Gig em Aggies.
Nebraska was hitting everything in the first half and A&M was turning it over. Now Nebraska has cooled off.
The Aggies need to slow down and set up their offense. Gig em.
Go Husekrs! Beat the Aggies!
Nebraska played Missouri and Kansas tough too, I was really expecting a close game.
Gig em Aggies. You still have time. Play Some D.

Poll answer: Memphis. These polls suck. Nothing like Bratwurst vs Cheesesteak.

If the Huskers could close games they would be third in the Big 12 and a serious threat.
Ags need smarter shots, and we have this in the bag!

[Huskers still lead by 5 points with 3:37 left.]

Close game are Docs specialty. Let’s run the clock and play tough D.
Nebraska has one of the best D’s in the game.
Every possession from now on is key.
No way Nebraska loses this now.
Huskers will go on a run late and win it!
Hope they can hang on.
Come on Aggies, get in the gameeeee!
Ags need to take smarter shots.
This is frustrating. Come on Ags.
Nebraska is no height and all heart.
I would like to see them run the fast break when they have the chance.
Let’s go Nebraska!
Cmon Texas A&M!

[Huskers lead by 7 points with 1:55 left.]

Harley looks poised to hit big shots down the stretch.
Go big Red! Finish this game strong.
Come on Cookie D up!
Nebraska just needs to calm down and they will be fine.
Nebrask’s D is so good! It makes the team a contender in virtually every game.

[A&M hits a basket to cut the lead to 3 points with 1:10 left.]

I absolutely love watching basketball games like this.
Come on Aggs.
Hang on Huskers!

[A&M cuts the lead to 1 point with 50 seconds left.]

Come on Ags, we need this win.
Goooo Huskers!!!!
There’s still a chance!!!
We play in a good conference. Big 12 is weak. Skip 2 Lou.
Huskers have really stepped up this season. Texas and A&M, insane.

[Nebraska is fouled. Timeout.]

Hang on Aggies!
Huskers please come through. Go Huskers!
Aggie McCoy: Defense.
Free throws win games. Go Aggs!

[OK, this makes no sense. First the guy saying “Hang On” when A&M hasn’t led in the second half. Then the Go Aggs poster saying free throws win games. Am I missing something here? Nebraska to the line to shoot 1 and 1, leading by 1 with 20 seconds left.]

Please make them!
Don’t break my heart Aggies!

[Wow, what a sequence. Nebraska misses the free throw. A&M misses the lay-up, Nebraska kicks the ball ahead for a seeming fast-break dunk, but it goes out of bounds! A&M ball, down 1, with 5.4 seconds left.]

Go Ags
Aggies Ball
This is one heck of a game.
What an ending. This is a fantastic big 12 basketball game!
Good come back A&M but it might be a little too late.

[Nebraska gives the foul. 2.6 seconds left. Wow, that’s great coaching. Nebraska still has one more foul to give.]

We can do this Aggies!

[Nebraska tries to foul again, but Josh Carter catches and shoots in one motion. Josh Carter for 3! A&M wins!]

Buzzer beater
What a finish
Craziest game by far
Comebacks have been big this year in college basketball along with tons of upsets!
What a shot!

Things I learned.
-This post is very long.
-“Gig Em” has some meaning to Texas A&M fans.
-There’s really only one good Cookie Monster joke and once its been used, you need to move on.

That Sound You Here is Marquette Fans Screaming

With a 6 point lead early in the first half, the Marquette student section looked like pure bliss. The organized mosh pit was high-fiving and juking in the kind of ecstasy rarely seen even in college basketball. But what they didn’t know and probably wouldn’t know until a painful car ride home was that Dominic James is out. Indefinitely. But a broken foot sure doesn’t sound indefinite to me. That sounds like out for the season.

Last year I was one of the first people to point out that UConn could be even better without Jerome Dyson. When you consider all the transition baskets he gets, you realize how terrible a shooter he is in the half-court. And from an efficiency standpoint, letting his teammates shoot more seemed like a good thing.

(I’m less certain that is true this year as Dyson seems to have taken his defense to another level, but I still view UConn as a Final Four contender even without him. And that’s because of “the run-buster” AJ Price. I call him the “run-buster” because anytime the other team goes on a big run, Price puts UConn on his back and makes a big shot.)

But there’s no silver lining for Marquette. Maurice Acker can’t replace Dominic James. Buzz Williams has managed Acker well this year, and he’s looked good in the situations where he’s been in the game, but the tempo free numbers say he’s an inferior player to James. Acker has a worse assist rate, and as much as James has fallen as a 3 point shooter, Acker is even worse, shooting a paltry 22% on the year. Worse yet, Acker is a huge step down in defense. At 5’8”, he just doesn’t have the size to shut down an elite guard with a hot hand from the perimeter.

James has taken on a mantra of a “defensive stopper” for Marquette, and while I’ve found that’s usually code for “guard who lost his shot”, that isn’t the tone on this Marquette team. James has been the caulk filling in the gaps where the other star guards need him. And on a night like tonight, I think there’s no question he would have tried to be a defensive stopper on AJ Price. Does Price really score over 30 with James in the game? Do the Huskies really pull away at the end with James in the game to spell Matthews and McNeal more? I don’t think so.

But James is gone. And while Marquette isn’t done making noise this year, the odds of them making it to the Final Four just got a whole lot worse.

Oh, and one more thing that should make Marquette fans scream. Despite an organized campaign to eliminate the text scroll after it distracted from a great Marquette vs Villanova game two weeks ago, the text scroll was back this week. More on that in a post later tonight.

Scoreboard Watching

Everyone always says how the bubble is “weak” this time of year, but teams find a way to sneak back in. Rush-the-Court was on the mark when they said how surprisingly strong Texas A&M’s resume is despite a 6-7 Big 12 mark, and Virginia Tech’s win tonight at Clemson was equally huge. Oh, and did anyone pick South Carolina to crush Kentucky and strengthen their NCAA tournament resume? This time of year there’s only one sure way to make the field. Keep winning.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hope for Utah St.

There’s a reason I usually wait until Championship week before I post the Nitty Gritty numbers. And that’s because the Top 100 fluctuates a lot this time of year.

Case in point: Utah St has had a rough couple of weeks. First they lost to Boise St. to end their 19 game winning streak. Then they lost this weekend’s game at St. Mary’s. Worse yet, St. Mary’s was playing without their best player, Patrick Mills. And I was piling on, writing how Utah St. lost its credibility.

But there is a silver lining. On Friday, Nevada was able to beat VCU and move back into the top 100. Plus earlier in the week, Wyoming moved back into the Top 100. Just prior to that, Big Sky leading Weber St. moved back into the Top 100. And Utah St. has beaten all those teams. So the overall numbers end up looking a little better.

Utah St.
Monday, Feb 9th
1-1 vs RPI 1-50
1-0 vs RPI 51-100

Monday, Feb 23rd
1-1 vs RPI 1-50
4-2 vs RPI 51-100

Utah St. hasn’t earned any new quality wins over the last 2 weeks, but they’ve still added 3 quality wins to their resume. And that’s the difference between being a “bubble in” team and a “bubble out” team right now.

(I want to give Joe Lunardi a ton of credit here. For people like me who use a back-of-the-envelope calculation to determine NCAA bids, changes like this are very irritating. While I want to write how it was a bad weekend for Utah St., when I look at the actual numbers, they look about the same. But Lunardi usually keeps very good tabs on teams on the border for the top 50 or top 100 and he usually allows his bracket to fluctuate with relatively few unnatural bumps.)

Another thing I want to emphasize is that Utah St.’s Non-Conference Strength of Schedule isn’t nearly as terrible as some BCS bubble teams. Utah St. played St. Mary’s, Weber St, Utah, and Wyoming, and Utah St.’s NCSOS is near 200.

Meanwhile, Penn St. and Kansas St. are both staring at NCSOS over 300. Penn St. only played three non-conference teams in the RPI top 150, and games against NJIT just don’t count for anything. Oh, and Kansas St., did you have to add NC Central in the middle of Big 12 play? Were the games against Emporia St., Florida A&M, and Southeast Missouri not hurting your NCSOS enough?

Bottom line: Nothing is definitive until the last few days of the season. But assuming the BCS leagues and MWC are guaranteed multiple bids this year, here are the top candidates from outside the top 7 leagues:

CR   Team          T50 N50 BL L11+      RN RPI
12-0 Memphis       3-3 7-0 0 WWWWWWW   10-2  8
10-3 Xavier        4-3 6-1 1 WWWLLWLW   9-4 14
12-0 Gonzaga       3-4 3-0 1 WWWLWWWW  11-3 40
13-3 Butler        2-1 6-1 2 WWLWWWLLW 11-3 20
9-3  Dayton        2-1 5-0 3 WWWLWWL    7-4 29

12-4 Creighton     1-0 8-4 2 LWWWWWWWW  9-4 48
12-1 Utah St.      1-1 4-2 0 WWWWWLWL  10-3 28
15-1 Siena         0-4 5-0 2 WWWWLWWWW  8-6 26
8-4  St. Mary’s    2-2 1-1 2 WLLWLLWWW 10-4 51
9-3  Temple        1-4 4-3 2 WLWWWWW    9-8 35

15-2 Davidson      1-4 1-0 2 WWWLWWLL  11-3 59
12-4 Northern Iowa 1-3 5-1 6 WWWWLWLLL  8-6 81
11-5 Illinois St   1-0 3-3 3 WLWWLWWWL  9-5 58
9-3  UAB           1-4 1-4 0 LWWWWWW    7-8 39
8-4  Tulsa         2-6 2-0 3 WWWWLLW    6-6 69
9-4  Rhode Island  1-5 3-2 1 WWWLWWWW   9-7 68
12-4 Green Bay     1-3 1-1 3 WWWWWLLWW  8-6 67
13-3 W. Kentucky   1-1 2-3 4 WLWWWWLWW  7-8 60
12-4 VCU           0-1 4-4 4 WLWLWWLWL  7-8 71
8-4  Houston       1-2 2-2 4 LWWWWLW    6-6 88
11-5 Northeastern  0-1 4-4 5 WWWLWLLLW 10-6 84
12-4 Niagara       0-2 2-0 5 WWWWWWWLW 13-5 63

Teams in the middle group better keep on winning. I just don’t see how teams in the bottom group can overcome their overall resumes.

Siena has been the inverse of Utah St. While they added a credibility building win this weekend, their past opponents are falling out of the Top 100.

Temple has a huge game at Dayton on Saturday and that’s a needed opportunity to boost their resume.

Can you believe Northern Iowa has 6 losses outside the RPI top 100?

UAB has avoided bad losses, but not done much else.

CR is conference Record.
T50 is record vs the RPI 1-50.
N50 is record vs the RPI 51-100.
BL is bad losses.
L11+ is the team’s record starting with the 11th to last regular season game. I do this because each team will play in at least one conference tournament game.
RN is road/neutral record.
RPI is the team’s RPI rank.
All RPI and vs RPI numbers come from Warren Nolan’s site.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bracket Busters and Other Thoughts

Conference Results
WCC 2-0
MVC 7-3
CAA 8-4
MAAC 6-4
Horizon 5-5
MAC 4-8
WAC 5-3 (Hawaii score not included)

-I sort of called it on Monday when I said the biggest opportunity belonged to the MAAC. Siena’s win over Northern Iowa and second place Niagara’s win over Illinois St. pretty much cemented Siena as the best mid-major bubble team. Beyond the obvious choices like Butler and Gonzaga, there are very few mid-major candidates with solid resumes this year, but Siena is clearly the best of that group.

-And as I also suspected, Utah St. really hurt their at large chances with the loss at St. Mary’s. I’ll want to see how the RPI Top 100 shakes out after the Bracket Busters before I declare a final verdict, but 25-3 looks a lot better until you realize that includes 13-0 against teams 200+ in the RPI.

-So was Stephen Curry moving more slowly because of the injury or were the Butler defenders just doing a better job shutting him down? There were several times when he was guarded one-on-one and couldn’t get a good shot. I actually thought his teammates played with a ton of energy, especially early in the game, but this was a bad televised loss for Davidson. With just one win against the RPI top 50, Davidson needed to show they were in the same league as Butler to have a chance at an at large bid.

-A lot of these Bracket Buster stadiums looked deceivingly empty. The problem is the TV cameras kept showing the area behind the basket. For example, they show this shot every time a player shoots a free throw. But most fans choose those seats only if every sideline seat is taken, so these seats aren’t necessarily representative. I think that’s unfortunate because the atmosphere in some of these smaller stadiums can be pretty amazing.

(I thought the same thing happened at the general admission seating Old Spice Classic. It was sold out for several sessions and yet the TV highlights would always be zoomed in on the set of empty seats under each basket.)

-On the flip side, I think the Bracket Busters has been great advertising for teams like Creighton (and Butler in past years) because they really show how some mid-major schools can draw huge crowds.


“Out of bounds, Washington St. ball.”

“Again, are you kidding?”

UCLA fans had to be screaming as their furious comeback came short against Tony Bennett’s squad. In the final two minutes, I counted about 6 different plays where UCLA’s pressure defense caused a ball to ricochet out of bounds, and despite every one of those calls being very close (i.e. could have been off UCLA or Washington St.), the Cougars got the call every time. Hey, sometimes in the history of basketball you get a break. Washington St. is now 2-50 at UCLA.

Washington St.’s Taylor Rochestie scored 33 points and made 10 of 10 clutch free throws to seal the one point win. He and Kyle Weaver used to be a lethal combination, as perfect bookend distributors in Washington State’s slow paced attack. Without Weaver, Washington St. is a lot weaker this year, but you can’t blame Rochestie who is having another fabulous year shooting 40% from three point range with one of the leading assist rates in the country. Rochestie is also now on my list of favorite Pac-10 players. (Remember, these aren’t necessarily the best players, just my favorites.)

Taylor Rochestie, WSU “Don’t pass it kid, you’re shooting too well”
Jordan Hill, Arizona, “Box out, box out, he’s killing us!”
Derek Glasser, Arizona St., “Go ahead, double team Harden, I dare you”
Alfred Aboya, UCLA, The Bruins really need about 3 of him in the paint
Jerome Randle, Cal, The “other” short guy in the Pac-10

Washington isn’t the only team with a dominant player under 6 feet tall. Despite leading Cal in scoring and assists, I’ve barely heard any national publicity for Jerome Randle this year. But no one has improved more consistently. Just look at these numbers.

PPG - 3 Pt % - ORtg - Year
6.5 - 30.2% - 97.8 - 2007
11.8 - 39.7% -101.8 - 2008
18.4 - 46.1% -122.4 - 2009
As always, ORtg is from

Randle’s improved ability to knock down threes early in the year has kept defenders honest, and he’s punished them by taking the ball to the basket and earning a ton of free throws. Perhaps the reason for the lack of publicity is that his shooting percentage is down slightly in conference play relative to the way he started the season, but I think the main culprit is that Cal just isn’t on TV.

Of course, as soon as I wrote this I checked the box score for California at Oregon St. and Randle went 1-7 from the field with only 1 assist, while California took the loss. With UCLA, USC, Arizona, and Arizona St. left on the schedule, the odds of Mike Montgomery winning the Pac-10 in his first season just took a big hit. Still, you have to be happy with what this team has done this year and if Randle can take another jump in his production next year… wait, is that even possible?

Quick Thoughts

-I turned off the Maryland vs UNC game figuring Maryland wasn’t coming back. For Gary Williams sake, I’m hoping the Maryland fans didn’t do the same thing.

-Oklahoma better hope Blake Griffin’s concussion isn’t too serious because they still have games against Kansas and Missouri.

-Oklahoma St. beat Baylor in a huge bubble game. Oklahoma St. still has work to do, but getting to .500 in conference play was a big step.

-The margin of victory numbers hate Dayton and that finally caught up to them as they lost to St. Louis. Rick Majerus finally earns a big win in A-10 play.

-Oregon won. Good for them.

-I’m really glad the Big East has a double bye. I don’t need to see Pittsburgh or UConn play South Florida or DePaul ever again.

-Can we all just admit that Providence is done? They are going to lose to Pitt and Villanova, finish the year 9-9 in the Big East, and not have an NCAA resume. Still, the more I think about timing, the more I think Providence had the perfect timing when they hired Keno Davis. Coaches normally don’t get a push of recruits until their second year with the team and with 8 seniors leaving, Davis has a nice class of 5 players coming in next year. Providence will be good again, but not yet.

-Home court watch: I knew it was going to be a long day for Georgetown when a fan shouted “[obsenity] Marquette” during the national anthem. There’s just no good karma coming out of that one. One word I would use to describe Marquette is “relentless”. No matter what you throw at them, they aren’t phased. And having typed that, this article explains why. Buzz Williams has basically motivated his team by saying that they are responsible for maintaining the flow of the game.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Toughest Remaining Schedules and A Better Source For Nitty Gritty Numbers

A few weeks ago I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a free website with a summary of every team’s records against the RPI top 50 and RPI top 100. I spent about 20 minutes looking, gave up, and decided to just write a program to calculate it myself. Normally I don’t publish Nitty Gritty details on my blog until Championship Week, but figuring that I probably wasn’t the only person to experience this frustration, I decided to post my Nitty Gritty numbers on the blog for the last three Mondays.

But at some point in the last few weeks, I re-discovered this Nitty Gritty report by Warren Nolan. I had visited that website before, but at the time Ken Pomeroy was providing the same numbers, and I just forgot about it. The Hoops Report has also added an RPI Nitty Gritty report. Given that both these sites update regularly, I highly recommend you go there for your “free” daily Nitty Gritty fix.

(As a bonus, the Hoops Report also regularly updates the performances of the nation’s top freshman in its Freshman 15 article.)

Crashing the Dance also has the “vs RPI” numbers, but I find the +/- is a little hard to read. The information is all there, but I happen to prefer 3-6 vs RPI Top 50 over 3 -3. But that’s not why I’m mentioning Crash the Dance today. I’m mentioning them because that site is thinking of adding team sheets based on the actual sheets used by the NCAA selection committee. Andy Cox, let me just say that if you add team sheets, you will be the coolest basketball blogger in the universe. (At least for a few days.)

And if you are wondering how to use the Nitty Gritty, Dave Revsine of the Big Ten Network has a pretty detailed discussion of the selection process based on his participation in mock media day.

Top 10 Toughest Finishing Stretches

Now that the Nitty Gritty numbers are readily available, I’m probably going to cease my Nitty Gritty reports until Championship Week. But that’s good because it gives me more time to look at other things. For example, let’s look at teams with brutal finishing schedules.

1. Marquette
@37 Georgetown, 3 Connecticut, @17 Louisville, @1 Pittsburgh, 19 Syracuse
We’ve talked about this gauntlet since January. Georgetown has been on a major skid, but the rest of these games are scary.

2. Maryland
4 North Carolina, 5 Duke, @91 North Carolina St., 16 Wake Forest, @90 Virginia
Boy, Maryland must be looking forward to those road games.

3. Virginia Tech
20 Florida St., @10 Clemson, 5 Duke, 4 North Carolina, @20 Florida St.
A brutal finishing schedule means the Hokies are going to regret last night’s loss at Virginia.

4. Kentucky
18 Tennessee, @42 South Carolina, 41 LSU, Georgia, @45 Florida
Kentucky lacks quality wins on its NCAA resume, but it has a good chance to earn them down the stretch.

5. Oklahoma
@40 Texas, 12 Kansas, @Texas Tech, @14 Missouri, 38 Oklahoma St.
Finally, Oklahoma gets some tough games. They aren’t as much a lock for a #1 seed as some people think.

6. Washington
@32 UCLA, @44 USC, 27 Arizona St., 43 Arizona, Seattle, Washington St.
If the Huskies want to win the Pac-10 title, they are really going to have to earn it over the next two weeks.

7. Duke
@St. John´s (N.Y.), 16 Wake Forest, @61 Maryland, @49 Virginia Tech, 20 Florida St., @4 North Carolina
OK, pretend St. John’s isn’t on the schedule. The rest is tough, right?

8. Texas
2 Oklahoma, Texas Tech, @38 Oklahoma St., 54 Baylor, @12 Kansas
Not only is Texas a bubble team, there are no guaranteed wins left (except for Texas Tech.)

9. Louisville
@48 Cincinnati, @37 Georgetown, 24 Marquette, 87 Seton Hall, @13 West Virginia
Not nearly as tough as Marquette, but do you really want to go on the road and play 3 bubble teams?

10. Michigan
36 Minnesota, @Iowa, 28 Purdue, @29 Wisconsin, @36 Minnesota
Do you think playing at Iowa is easy this year?

The numbers to the left of the opponents are the RPI rankings from Monday’s official NCAA feed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Annual Mock Media Bracket

The NCAA has done a good job making the NCAA selection process more transparent, and I think the media mock bracket has cleared up a number of misconceptions over time. For example, I think people have a much better understanding how the RPI numbers are used to sort opponents, how conference affiliation does not enter directly into the discussion, and how the committee does not look to schedule fun match-ups. (Those happen naturally.)

I’ve also seen a lot of criticism of this year’s media mock bracket. But hold off on your criticism until you read about the process. For example, Georgetown was projected into the field, but the mock committee was given the mock scenario where Georgetown went on a run to the Big East Tournament title game. Thus the media may have had a reason for putting the Hoyas in the field, even if it doesn’t make sense based on the real numbers. (Please excuse me now while I celebrate my team’s mock tournament run.)

I think the absolute must-read story was written by Kyle Whelliston.

At 2:10pm, he shows a great picture of the team sheet for St. Joseph’s. Seth Davis has posted these previously on This is basically why we all want to look at the Nitty Gritty (Last 12, vs RPI 1-50, home/away, NCSOS, ect.)

But I think the best part of Whelliston’s article was the tagline. “The biggest takeaway from the 11 hours detailed above is that selection, seeding and bracketing is a team event, subject to the laws and policies of any flawed clusterhump groupthink. It's definitely not a sudoku puzzle. In order to properly replicate the process, the prospective bracketologist is invited to find nine other like-minded people and spend five days locked in a room hashing it all out (daily ice cream deliveries optional).”

At the end of the day, every decision not only has to survive the numbers, it has to survive the argument test. It has to survive someone saying, “Minnesota beat Louisville, but we all know that wasn’t the same Louisville team we see today, and the rest of the Gophers non-conference schedule was terrible.” It has to survive someone saying “I’m not sure Missouri should be that far behind Kansas. They’ve beaten them head-to-head and look pretty similar overall.” It has to survive someone saying, “Have you looked at LSU’s non-conference schedule? I’m not even sure this team should be in the field?” And if you can replicate all these arguments in your head, you are to be admired.

Maybe the bracket project does the best job, because it summarizes collective group think, but two things bother me. 1) How many brackets are influenced by the opinions of other brackets? 2) Can we really conclude that the average of a group of people would be the same as a collective voted decision?

And that’s why I don’t project a bracket. I have my own back-of-the-envelope formula that I use to give myself a rough sense of where teams stand, but at the end of the day, I provide the Nitty Gritty Numbers and let people make their own arguments.

More Mock Media Links

NCAA Official Blog. For people like Seth Davis, this is old hat, but for people like Greg Anthony, who recently joined CBS as a college basketball analyst, I think this is a very valuable process.
Seth Davis, SI. Nice to hear Seth Davis echo my feelings on Utah St.’s resume.
Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports
Tim Gardner, USA Today

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bracket Buster Games That Matter and Can You Name Oklahoma's Best Win?

I find that if I have too many columns, 1-25, 26-50, 51-100, these tables become impossible to read, but this week I’m adding a new column for the best RPI wins for each team. (This way you can see that Boston College has two great wins against Duke and UNC.) My finding from past tournaments is that wins against the Top 10 really impact the seeding of the elite teams, but marquee wins have less impact for the final teams in the field. A single marquee victory cannot make up for a terrible overall profile. So give wins against the Top 10 some weight in your evaluation, but not too much weight.

RPI is the NCAAs official figures posted Mondays on
RN is road/neutral from the same RPI post.

I calculated the rest of the figures for games through Sunday, February 15th
CR is conference Record.
T50 is record vs the RPI Top 50.
N50 is record vs the RPI 51-100.
BL is bad losses.
L11+ is the teams record starting with the 11th to last regular season game. I do this because I assume that each team will play at least one conference tournament game.
BW(RPI) is a teams best RPI wins and the RPI rank of the defeated teams.

I only list teams in the Top 100.

CR  ACC            T50 N50 BL L11+   RN RPI BW(RPI)
9-2 North Carolina 6-1 7-1 0 WWWWWW  11-1 4 Duke(5)MichSt(6)Clemson(10)
7-4 Duke           7-3 5-2 0 WLWLL   6-4  5 Xavier(8)FlSt(20)Purdue(28)
6-4 Clemson        6-3 3-1 0 WWLWL   9-2 10 Duke(5)Illini(15)Temple(34)
6-4 Wake Forest    5-2 5-1 1 LLWLW   8-3 16 UNC(4)Duke(5)Clemson(10)
6-4 Florida St.    4-5 6-1 0 LWWWL   9-3 20 Clem.(10)Cal(23)Florida(45)
6-4 Virginia Tech  2-4 4-3 1 LLWWL   7-6 49 Wake(16)MiamiFL(47)BC(51)
7-5 Boston College 4-6 4-0 2 WWWWLLW 6-4 51 UNC(4)Duke(5)UAB(39)
5-5 Maryland       3-6 3-1 1 LWLWW   3-6 61 MichSt(6)MiaFL(47)VTech(49)
4-6 NC State       2-8 0-1 0 LWLWW   2-6 91 Wake(16)MiamiFL(47) 
4-7 Miami (FL)     2-7 3-2 0 LLLWLL  5-5 47 Wake(16)FloridaSt(20)BC(51)
2-8 Virginia       1-9 0-3 1 LLLLW   1-7 90 Clemson(10)

The ACC has wins against Michigan St., Xavier, Illinois, Purdue, and California that really show how dominant this conference has been. The only thing that’s going to stop the ACC from getting as many as 8 teams is that some of these teams are going to look pretty bad in the last 12 games of the year.

Would you rather face Miami (28th in the Pomeroy Rankings) or Boston College (58th in the Pomeroy Rankings)? Well Boston College has defeated Duke and UNC, while Miami has come up just short against Duke and UNC. The net result may be that Miami stays home while BC makes the NCAA field. Is it fair? Well, the results of the games do matter after all. As I mentioned on Saturday night, the only good news for Miami is that the Hurricanes have a favorable schedule to end the year.

CR   Big East     T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
12-1 Connecticut  8-1 8-0 0 WWWWWW 12-0 3 Nova(9)WestVirg(13)Louisv(17)
10-2 Pittsburgh   7-2 2-0 0 WWWWW  7-2  1 WVirg(13)WVirg(13)Syrcuse(19)
10-2 Marquette    5-3 4-0 1 WWLLW  6-4 24 Nova(9)WVirg(13)Wisconsin(29)
10-2 Louisville   5-2 3-3 0 WLWLW  6-3 17 Pitt(1)Nova(9)WestVirg(13)
8-4 Villanova     5-5 6-0 0 WWWWL  7-4  9 Pitt(1)Syrcuse(19)Marqtte(24)
8-5 Providence    3-5 2-4 0 WLLLWW 4-6 66 Syr(19)Cincin(48)Cincin(48)
7-6 Syracuse      5-5 3-2 0 LLWLLW 5-5 19 Memphis(7)Kansas(12)WVirg(13)
7-6 Cincinnati    3-7 3-2 0 WLWWWL 5-6 48 Gtown(37)Gtown(37)UAB(39)
6-6 West Virginia 3-7 5-1 0 LLWLW  8-6 13 Nova(9)OhioSt(26)Gtown(37)
5-7 Seton Hall    3-6 0-2 2 WWWWL  5-5 87 Gtown(37)USC(44)VirgTech(49)
5-7 Notre Dame    3-9 1-0 1 LLLWW  4-8 74 Louisv(17)Gtown(37)Texas(40)
4-8 Georgetown    3-8 3-2 0 LLWLL  3-7 37 UConn(3)Memphis(7)Syrcuse(19)

Everyone in the Big East has some fine individual victories, but how do the overall profiles look?

Syracuse is in fine shape thanks to non-conference wins away from home against Memphis and Kansas. (How odd is it to be applauding the Orange’s non-conference away schedule?)

The interesting case is obviously Providence, Cincinnati, and West Virginia. My read of these numbers has West Virginia at the head of that class (8-8 vs Top 100), with Providence (5-9 vs Top 100) edging Cincinnati (6-9 vs Top 100) thanks to a head-to-head sweep. In conferences like the Big East where the schedule is greatly imbalanced, I think you can almost throw out the conference record.

CR   Big 10      T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
10-2 Michigan St 8-1 3-3 0 WLWWW  11-2 6 Kansas(12)Illini(15)OhioSt(26)
9-4 Illinois     5-4 4-1 0 LWLWWW 8-4 15 Missou(14)OhioSt(26)Purdue(28)
8-4 Purdue       4-5 4-1 0 WLLWW  7-4 28 Wiscons(29)Wiscons(29)Minn(36)
7-5 Ohio St.     4-6 3-0 0 WWWWL  4-4 26 Butler(21)Purdue(28)Minn(36)
7-6 Minnesota    4-4 2-2 0 WWLLWL 5-4 36 Illini(15)Louisv(17)OhioSt(26)
7-6 Wisconsin    3-7 5-1 1 LLWWWW 5-6 29 Illi(15)OhioSt(26)VirgTech(49)
7-6 Penn St.     3-6 2-2 0 WWLLLW 5-5 70 MichSt(6)Purdue(28)Minn(36)
6-7 Michigan     3-8 4-2 0 LLWLLW 4-7 53 Duke(5)Illinois(15)UCLA(32)
4-8 Northwestern 4-5 0-4 1 WWLLL  2-6 82 MichSt(6)FloridaSt(20)Wisc(29)

What a difference two weeks makes. Wisconsin now looks to be on track for 10 or 11 conference wins and clearly has the makings of an NCAA tournament team.

Let’s say Michigan gets to 9-9 in the conference, wins a first round Big Ten tourney game and then loses in the second round. Is that an NCAA tournament team? Well, Michigan would likely be 5-8 against the RPI top 50, 9-10 against the Top 100 as a whole, and a critical 6-6 in the last 12 (because the first round win would give them another game and eliminate that L at the start of the last 12.) It will be close, but I think that will be good enough. Since the Wolverines play Minnesota twice at the end of the season, the Wolverines essentially need to steal the bid from the Gophers.

CR   Pac 10     T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
10-3 Washington 4-5 3-0 1 WLWWW  5-5 22 ArizonaSt(27)UCLA(32)OklSt(38)
9-4 Arizona St  6-3 3-1 1 LLWWWW 9-3 27 UCLA(32)UCLA(32)BYU(35)
8-4 California  5-4 2-1 1 LLWWW  4-5 23 Utah(11)Wash(22)Wash(22)
8-4 UCLA        4-5 3-1 0 WWWLL  6-5 32 Cal(23)Arizona(43)USC(44)
8-5 Arizona     6-5 2-3 0 WWWWWW 5-6 43 Kansas(12)Wash(22)Gonzaga(30)
6-6 USC         3-7 1-1 1 WWLLL  3-8 44 Cal(23)ArizonaSt(27)Arizona(43)
4-8 Stanford    2-6 1-0 2 LWLWL  3-5 86 Cal(23)Ariz(43)Northwestern(82)

Unlike the ACC, Big East, and Big Ten, the dearth of high RPI wins starts to show up in the Pac 10. All these teams are good, and the Pac10 might even get 6 bids, but will anyone distance themselves? Will a UCLA winning streak to end the season provide enough quality wins for a high seed?

USC should be able to get to 10-8 in conference play. They would only need to beat Stanford, Washington St., and the pair of Oregon schools to get there. But is that enough? Two more losses against the Top 50 might make things pretty dicey. The Trojans probably need to go 5-1 down the stretch and finish at least 11-7 to feel comfortable.

Look at that profile for Arizona! I still can’t believe the turnaround this team has made since the Houston game.

CR   Big 12     T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
11-0 Oklahoma   7-0 9-0 1 WWWWWW 10-1 2 Utah(11)Purdue(28)OklSt(38)
9-1 Kansas      5-4 5-0 1 WWWLW  6-4 12 Tenn(18)Washington(22)Siena(31)
9-2 Missouri    5-2 3-2 0 LWWWWW 6-4 14 Kansas(12)Cal(23)OklSt(38)
6-4 Texas       4-3 3-3 1 LLLWW  7-5 40 Villanova(9)Wisc(29)UCLA(32)
6-5 Kansas St   2-3 2-3 2 WWWWL  4-5 76 Missouri(14)Texas(40)TexA&M(52)
5-5 Nebraska    2-5 2-0 3 LWWWL  3-5 64 Missour(14)Tex(40)Creighton(56)
4-6 Oklahoma St 1-7 4-2 0 LWLLW  4-7 38 Siena(31)TexA&M(52)RhodIlnd(63)
4-7 Baylor      2-7 3-1 1 LLLLLW 4-5 54 ArizSt(27)OklSt(38)TexasA&M(52)
3-7 Texas A&M   3-5 1-3 0 WWLLL  4-6 52 OklSt(38)LSU(41)Arizona(43)

The only thing that could hurt Oklahoma’s seeding is the lack of wins against elite quality opponents. While North Carolina is claiming wins against Duke and Michigan St. and while the Big East teams are claiming wins against one another, the Sooners best victory is Utah. (And remember that Utah has a terrible non-division 1 loss that doesn’t hurt the RPI but does hurt their reputation.) The Sooners still need to beat Kansas and Missouri to hold onto a 1 seed.

The Big 12 would like to thank Oklahoma St. for providing a tough NCSOS and high RPI and then losing to all the elite Big 12 teams.

What does it say that the best wins for Kansas all came in the non-conference portion of the schedule? I think it say the middle of the Big 12 is very weak.

CR  SEC            T50 N50 BL L11+ RN RPI BW(RPI)
9-1 LSU            2-2 4-1 1 WWWWW 4-3 41 Tenn(18)SouthCar(42)Miss(68)
7-3 Tennessee      5-6 2-2 0 WWLWW 7-4 18 Marqtte(24)Siena(31)Gtown(37)
7-3 South Carolina 1-4 5-0 1 WWLWW 4-4 42 Flrda(45)Baylor(54)Kentky(59)
7-3 Kentucky       3-4 3-2 1 LLLWW 7-3 59 WestVirg(13)Tenn(18)Flrda(45)
6-4 Florida        2-4 4-1 1 WLWLL 6-6 45 Wash(22)SouthCar(42)Miss(68)
6-4 Mississippi St 0-3 4-2 4 LWWLL 5-5 85 Ktky(59)WstKtky(65)Houstn(88)
5-5 Auburn         1-4 2-4 1 LLWWW 2-6 93 Tenn(18)MissSt(85)Vrginia(90)
4-6 Vanderbilt     0-5 3-2 2 LWWWL 5-5 100 VCU(67)Miss(68)Auburn(93)
4-6 Mississippi    0-7 3-2 2 WWWLL 3-9 68 Ktky(59)MissSt(85)Auburn(93)

What does it say that the best wins for Tennessee all came in the non-conference portion of the schedule? Oh, I think we all know the answer to that one.

It is easy to look at the SEC standings and think “Maybe there are 6 NCAA tournament teams here.” After all, the four teams from the east, LSU, maybe even Mississippi St. But if you think that, you just aren’t looking at the numbers. Mississippi St. isn’t even close at this point.

LSU may be ranked now, but they still only have two wins against the RPI Top 50.

CR  MWC          T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
9-2 Utah         4-4 4-1 2 WWWWWW 7-5 11 Gonzaga(30)BYU(35)LSU(41)
8-3 San Diego St 1-4 2-1 1 WWWWLW 6-5 46 Utah(11)UNLV(55)NewMexico(75)
7-3 BYU          2-3 3-2 0 LWWWW  8-3 35 UtahSt(33)SDgoSt(46)Tulsa(71)
7-3 New Mexico   1-2 2-4 3 WLWWW  4-7 75 BYU(35)UNLV(55)Mississippi(68)
7-4 UNLV         4-3 2-1 2 WWLLWW 6-3 55 Utah(11)Louisville(17)BYU(35)

CR  A10          T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
9-2 Xavier       6-3 5-0 1 WWWLLW 9-3  8 Memphis(7)Missou(14)Temple(34)
9-2 Dayton       2-0 5-1 2 WWWLWW 7-3 25 Xavier(8)Marqtte(24)GMason(57)
7-3 Temple       1-4 4-3 2 WLWWW  9-8 34 Tenn(18)RhodIsld(63)PennSt(70)
7-3 St. Josephs  0-5 1-2 3 LWWLL  7-6 79 Rhode Island(63)
7-4 Rhode Island 1-5 4-2 1 WWWLWW 7-7 63 Temple(34)VCU(67) Penn St.(70)
5-5 La Salle     0-6 1-1 3 LLLWW  5-6 98 St. Josephs(79)  

CR   CUSA    T50 N50 BL L11+  RN RPI BW(RPI)
10-0 Memphis 4-3 7-0 0 WWWWW  9-2  7 Tennessee(18)Gonzaga(30)UAB(39)
7-3 Houston  1-2 2-2 3 LWWWW  6-5 88 UAB(39)WesternKentucky(65)UTEP(81)
7-3 UAB      1-5 1-3 0 LWWWW  6-8 39 Arizona(43)UTEP(81) 
7-4 Tulsa    1-6 3-0 3 WWWWLL 6-6 71 UAB(39)TexasA&M(52)UTEP(81)
6-4 UTEP     0-3 3-4 2 WWLWW  6-6 81 StMrys(60)NewMexico(75)Houston(88)

Memphis, Xavier, and Utah all have pretty strong profiles and all three could very likely be seeded ahead of LSU.

This week’s win against Xavier was huge for Dayton’s at large hopes.

Bracket Busters Thoughts

CR  MVC            T50 N50 BL L11+   RN RPI BW(RPI)
12-3 Northern Iowa 0-1 4-1 6 WWWWLWL 8-5 83 Creig(56)IllSt(58)Aubrn(93)
11-4 Creighton     1-0 4-4 2 LWWWWWW 9-4 56 Dytn(25)NewMex(75)StJoe(79)
10-5 Illinois St.  0-0 4-1 4 WLWWLWW 9-4 58 Creig(56)WrgtSt(94)Evns(97)
7-8 Evansville     0-2 2-4 4 WWLWLL  2-7 97 WestKentucky(65)Buffalo(84)

CR   MAAC      T50 N50 BL L11+    RN RPI BW(RPI)
14-1 Siena     0-4 6-0 2 WWWWLWW  7-6 31 Niagr(62)BoiseSt(78)StJoes(79)
12-3 Niagara   0-2 3-0 4 WWWWWWW 13-4 62 Buffalo(84)Fairf(95)Fairf(95)
8-8  Fairfield 0-6 1-2 4 LLWWWLLL 7-9 95 American(80)

The Missouri Valley is starting a challenge with the Mountain West next year, concluding that they aren’t really getting anything out of the Bracket Busters. Still, the MVC has the games I am most interested in watching this weekend.

Northern Iowa at Siena: Call me crazy, but I think Siena still has a chance at an at large bid. Sure, it might just be the affection I gained for Kenny Hasbrouck, Edwin Ubiles, and Alex Franklin down at the Old Spice Classic, but a win against Northern Iowa would give Siena 7 wins against the RPI top 100, with another win against Ivy league leading Cornell in their pocket as well. But Northern Iowa’s new guard trio has been playing well all year and Siena will have to earn it.

Illinois St. at Niagara: If Niagara can get a win here too and climb into the RPI top 50, the case for Siena starts to look plausible.

George Mason at Creighton: This is a legitimate resume opportunity for Creighton as George Mason has climbed up to 57th in the RPI. If the Blue Jays win their final 4 games, make it to the MVC final and lose to Northern Iowa, could the MVC get two bids? Oh, who am I kidding? Even though these are some of the best games, there isn’t much to cheer for this year.

CR   WCC      T50 N50 BL L11+   RN  RPI BW(RPI)
10-0 Gonzaga  3-4 3-0 1 WWWLWW  11-3 30 Tenn(18)Tenn(18)OklahomaSt(38)
7-4 St. Marys 1-2 1-1 2 WLLWLLW 10-4 60 SanDiegoSt(46)Providence(66) 

CR   WAC      T50 N50 BL L11+  RN  RPI BW(RPI)
12-1 Utah St. 1-1 2-1 0 WWWWWL 10-2 33 Utah(11)BoiseSt(78)WeberSt(96)
7-4 Boise St. 1-3 0-0 4 LWWLW  5-6  78 Utah St.(33)  

Probably the most important game of the weekend is Utah St. at St. Mary’s. Nobody needs a credibility boosting win more than Utah St. If Utah St. can’t win that game and loses to Boise St. in the conference tournament, they’ll fall to 3-4 against the Top 100, and I think the committee will find a way to punish them for a very questionable non-conference schedule. A win may not carry the same value because of the injury to Patrick Mills of St. Mary’s, but Utah St. absolutely needs this game if they want to have an argument for an at-large bid.

CR   CAA          T50 N50 BL L11+   RN RPI BW(RPI)
11-4 VCU          0-1 4-3 4 WLWLWWL 7-7 67 GMason(57)NewMex(75)Hofs(89)
11-4 Northeastern 0-1 4-4 4 WWWLWLL 9-6 77 GeorMason(57)Prov(66)VCU(67)
10-5 George Mason 0-1 2-2 5 LWLWLLW 5-8 57 Northeastern(77)Hofstra(89) 
9-6  Hofstra      0-1 1-4 4 WWLLWWW 9-6 89 Northeastern(77)  

CR  MAC       T50 N50 BL L11+ RN RPI BW(RPI)
9-2 Buffalo   1-2 1-2 2 WWWWL 9-4 84 Temple(34)Miami(OH)(69) 
8-3 Miami(OH) 1-5 2-1 2 WWWLW 8-6 69 Temple(34)WrightSt(94)WeberSt(96)

CR  Sun Belt          T50 N50 BL L11+    RN RPI BW(RPI)
12-2 Ark Little Rock  0-1 1-2 3 WLWWWWW 10-3 92 Creighton(56)  
11-3 Western Kentucky 1-1 1-3 4 LWWWWL   6-8 65 Louisville(17)ArkLR(92)

Heads they lose, tails they lose.

In the CAA, VCU travels to Nevada. That’s always a tough venue, and Nevada isn’t even in the RPI Top 100 right now. Northeastern gets a trip to Wright St. in the Bracket Busters, but if they win they’ll probably knock Wright St. out of the Top 100. Same story for Hofstra who travels to Fairfield and can knock them out of the Top 100 with a win. Good times.

Same story in the MAC, where Buffalo gets a team not in the Top 100 and Miami (OH) gets an Evansville team that will probably fall out of the Top 100 with a loss.

It is stuff like this that makes the Sun Belt say “Why bother?“ and not participate in the Bracket Busters.

CR   Horizon      T50 N50 BL L11+   RN  RPI BW(RPI)
13-2 Butler       2-1 6-1 1 WWLWWWL 10-2 21 Xav(8)UAB(39)GreenBay(72)
11-4 Green Bay    1-3 2-1 4 WWWWWLL 7-6  72 Butlr(21)ClvSt(73)WrgSt(94)
10-5 Cleveland St 1-3 2-3 2 LWWWWWW 7-6  73 Syr(19)GrBay(72)WrighSt(94)
10-5 Wright St    0-3 2-4 3 WWLWLWW 8-7  94 ClevSt(73)ArkLittleRock(92)

CR   OTHER      T50 N50 BL L11+    RN RPI BW(RPI)
15-1 Davidson   1-3 1-0 1 WWWLWW  11-3 50 WestVirginia(13)NCState(91)
9-1  American   0-2 0-2 3 LWWWWWW  9-6 80   
11-1 Weber St.  0-4 0-1 3 WWWWWWW  9-6 96   
10-3 Binghamton 0-0 0-0 8 WWLWWWWW 8-6 99   

The unofficial main event of the Bracket Busters is Butler at Davidson, but with Stephen Curry day-to-day, that match-up is a lot less exciting. Davidson did catch a big break this week with NC State moving back up into the Top 100, but it is clear that they still need another quality win to keep at large hopes alive. Butler is just playing for a better seed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ten Saturday Thoughts

Listening to Verne Lundquist call a game and hearing the CBS basketball music has me ready for March Madness. I don't care if both my teams lost on Saturday; I love this game. My spirit can no longer be crushed.

1) Why does UCLA keep playing games at 10am Pacific Time?

2) Just when it looked like the CAA was becoming a two team race between Northeastern and VCU, both lost road games on Saturday. There are now 7 teams within 2 games of first place in the CAA.

3) Seton Hall remains perfectly predictable. The Pirates are undefeated against the bottom 5 teams in the Big East and winless against the rest of the league. Seton Hall actually lucked into the easiest schedule in the conference (with Rutgers and St. John’s twice each.) The Pirates can get to 7-11 in conference play by simply beating up on the bottom of the league. That’s great news for Big East tournament seeding, but terrible news for their NCAA tournament hopes.

Wake Forest is the inverse Seton Hall, beating the top 4 teams in the ACC, but posting a record of 2-4 against the rest of the league.

4) Last year Georgetown needed a ton of close victories to win the Big East outright title. This year Georgetown has lost 2 OT games in a row. For margin-of-victory stats people, that means that last year’s team was over-rated and this years team is under-rated, but I truly believe that execution in late game situations is a vital characteristic of a team. Hibbert, Wallace, and Ewing had a special ability to thrive in high pressure situations and that was something to be admired and not criticized.

The amazing thing about Big East leaders UConn and Pitt is that neither team has played in a one-possession game in Big East play. (Louisville won a white-knuckler at Villanova, while Marquette lost a heartbreaker at USF) Is it time for UConn and Pitt to play a close game on Monday?

5) Missouri got revenge for an early season loss to Nebraska and based on fantastic margin-of-victory numbers is a great sleeper pick for the NCAA tournament.

6) Taylor Battle finally ended a mini-slump in a win against Minnesota including a key steal at the end. If I were to pick my favorite Big Ten players right now the list would be:

Talor Battle, PSU, the all-everything PG
Kalin Lucas, MSU, the one-man secondary break
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin, the true athlete and next year’s go-to-star
Damian Johnson, Minnesota, no one gets more blocks and steals
Mike Tisdale, Illinois, terrible rebounding, but Mehmet Okur-like touch

These aren't the best 5 players in the Big Ten, but they are my favorites. The best part is that all 5 of these players should be back next year.

7) Maryland is back to .500 in conference play, but the remaining schedule is brutal (at Clemson, vs UNC, vs Duke, vs Wake). If Gary Williams can win one of those 3 home games, he probably keeps his job. On the flip side, Miami (FL) has a very favorable schedule after UNC tomorrow night. The Hurricanes end the year against the bottom 3 teams in the ACC. Want another scheduling quirk? After Sunday, Boston College only has 4 regular season games left.

8) Texas avoided what would have been a catastrophic loss, winning in OT at Colorado. And Purdue avoided a catastrophic loss, winning by 4 at Iowa. Both the Buffaloes and Hawkeyes play at an excruciatingly slow pace so that every game is close and no one looks good against them. (Colorado even came within 5 points of Kansas.) But Colorado and Iowa are still terrible basketball teams and I refuse to watch them. (For the record, Texas did somehow manage to get Colorado to play at a faster pace today.)

9) Florida was not so lucky suffering a terrible, terrible loss at Georgia. For a Florida team that wants to avoid bubble talk due to a weak NCSOS, this is crippling. Congrats to the Bulldogs for picking up their first win of the year. Hey, if Georgia is only going to win one game, it sure is nice to beat an arch-rival.

10) But no team suffered a more crushing loss than Utah St. As I may discuss again on Monday, Utah St.’s Nitty Gritty numbers are not very impressive and their only claim to an at-large bid was going to be a ridiculously long winning streak. Utah St. has been left out of the NCAA tournament before with a gaudy record and don’t be surprised to see it happen again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rare Call

-Rare Call of the Week: In the final minute against Arizona St., UCLA’s Alfred Aboya fell for a pass fake, slapped the ball while it was still in the Arizona St. inbounder’s hands, and was called for an automatic technical foul for interfering with the ball before it was inbounded. Moments earlier, a questionable charge call on Darren Collison probably decided the game, but Aboya's silly mistake sealed the victory for the Sun Devils.

-According to the FoxSports broadcast, Arizona players have apparently decided not to shave until they lose. Playoff beards for regular season basketball? Well, Arizona was left for dead a few weeks ago. The Wildcats have now won 6 in a row, so stick with what works.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Four Links

I almost never link to anything, so you better click on all of these:

Iowa hates losing to Wisconsin. Yep, that’s pretty much what happens every year.

Card Chronicle Duke vs UNC picture. Classic.

Spartans Weblog presents a VORP like stat. So if this is really measuring value over a replacement player, shouldn’t the value for Iowa be huge this year? I mean the Spartans might be able to bring in Ibok, but who can the Hawkeyes really bring in? I’m kidding. This is really a great idea by the MSU bloggers.

And finally, I’ve been waiting for this. Pythag Win % > .9576 is a better predictor of overachievement in the NCAA tournament than Scoring Margin > 10.8 PPG. This year that group includes North Carolina, UConn, Memphis, Duke, Pittsburgh, UCLA, and Louisville and not Oklahoma. Keep this in mind when filling out your bracket.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bratwurst, Hands Down

“Both teams are treating the basketball like Nuclear Waste” I’m not sure what that means, but that was the quote for an Indiana – Minnesota first half where the teams combined for 26 turnovers, nearly half the available possessions.

Meanwhile on ESPN2, Villanova and Marquette were engaged in some beautiful basketball, and yet the producers apparently assumed a college game that’s 50-45 at half-time couldn’t hold our attention.

Yes folks, the message board scroll has arrived. Across the top of the screen flashed a text message board filled with super long comments that provided no insight or humor.

“Let’s go Marquette I love this years team I think you beat Villanova by 8 points tonight. Warriors forever best team ever.”

And moments after a run gave Marquette a 2 point lead, “Marquette really needs to get it together if they are going to win this game.” Oh the curse of the delay.

But it wasn’t just the scroll. It was the never-ending polls? Who wins Syracuse vs Connecticut? Which was the greatest upset of all time? Marquette over North Carolina in 1977 or Villanova over Georgetown in 1985. We even got a Rollie Massimino videocast stating why it was no contest for Villanova.

Then we had a poll about who was the best dressed? I have to be honest, I didn’t even know Rick Barnes was in the discussion. Pitino wins the poll hands down, but I thought Jay Wright would have fared better.

And finally, the poll that made it all worthwhile. Bratwurst or Cheesesteak. Len Elmore staring at the two products in front of him. “Are they going to cook that thing? That’s a raw bratwurst.” And then the text message scroll comment of the night. “Bratwurst, hands down.”

Revisiting Predictions

A little over a month ago, on January 6th, I made some predictions of who would move up in the Pomeroy rankings. Let’s see if the teams I picked have actually improved. I list the change in Pomeroy Rank in parentheses.

Miami (30th to 26th): I liked the idea of shortening the rotation, and whether by choice or fate, Eddie Rios was cut loose.

Washington (18th to 16th): Again, I liked the promise of a shortened rotation. This was a really tough call given that Washington was already 18th.

UCLA (14th to 6th): Ben Howland is very good.

Michigan St. (25th to 11th): This one was easy.

Wisconsin (48th to 36th): The day after I made this prediction, Wisconsin blew out Northwestern by 29. That moved the Badgers up and they’ve stayed up despite a massive losing streak.

Syracuse (33rd to 35th): It takes the Orange to let a Hoya fan down.

Louisville (19th to 7th): Louisville’s offense had nowhere to go but up, and the defense has held strong.

So I was basically right about 6 of the 7 teams improving, although some of these changes are pretty trivial.

What Can Change in a Month?

A couple days after making these predictions and bashing the sample size for the Pomeroy Rankings, I made a screen shot of the Pomeroy Rankings. I hoped to be able to document how much things changed in conference play. And while some teams’ fortunes have definitely changed, surprisingly only 15 of 73 BCS teams have moved up or down more than 20 spots in the rankings. Is that because few teams change their spots? Or is it because the non-conference slate still occupies more than half of the season total? Either way, I’m thinking of being more cautious when I attack these ratings for small sample sizes in January.

Let’s take a look at the BCS teams Pomeroy Ranking on games through January 8th, on games through February 9th, and the change:

Jan Feb  Ch Team
  1   1   0 Duke
  5   2   3 Connecticut
  4   3   1 North Carolina
  3   4  -1 Pittsburgh
 13   6   7 UCLA
 16   7   9 Louisville
  2   8  -6 West Virginia
 11   9   2 Missouri

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Duke is still on top.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
 27  11  16 Michigan St.
  7  12  -5 Arizona St.
 19  13   6 Kansas
 32  14  18 Villanova
 15  15   0 Clemson
 23  16   7 Washington
  9  17  -8 Wake Forest
 18  18   0 Oklahoma
 20  19   1 Purdue

At about the time I made this screen shot, Spartans Weblog said something similar to this. “Well, Pomeroy predicts us to go 11-7 in conference play and lose several of the upcoming games. Time to change those numbers.” Indeed the Spartans have risen up to become a legitimate Final Four team.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
 24  22   2 Illinois
 29  23   6 Marquette
  6  24 -18 Georgetown
 31  26   5 Miami FL
 22  27  -5 Texas
 21  30  -9 California
 26  31  -5 Kentucky
 46  32  14 Southern California
 14  34 -20 Kansas St.
 35  35   0 Syracuse
 34  36  -2 Wisconsin
 41  37   4 Florida
 84  39  45 Louisiana St.
 28  40 -12 Tennessee

Has anyone improved more than LSU? Kansas St. probably fits the description of “falling back to earth”, but they are still in competition for an NCAA tournament spot.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
 44  41   3 Ohio St.
 50  43   7 Arizona
 30  45 -15 Baylor
 42  46  -4 Oklahoma St.
 54  48   6 Minnesota
 77  51  26 Florida St.
 52  53  -1 South Carolina
 60  54   6 Washington St.
 36  55 -19 Notre Dame
 40  56 -16 Stanford
 75  59  16 Nebraska
 89  62  27 Virginia Tech
 55  63  -8 Northwestern
 66  65   1 Boston College
 90  66  24 Cincinnati
 62  68  -6 Michigan
 51  69 -18 Maryland

Did anyone expect Virginia Tech, Florida St., Nebraska, and Cincinnati to pull together and get this much better?

Jan Feb  Ch Team
 87  73  14 Texas A&M
 67  76  -9 Penn St.
 86  78   8 Mississippi St.
 80  80   0 Providence
 57  81 -24 Vanderbilt
 53  85 -32 Iowa
 79  89 -10 North Carolina St.
 70  90 -20 Auburn
103  93  10 Seton Hall
 92  94  -2 Mississippi
 99  96   3 Georgia Tech
 88 102 -14 Virginia
148 104  44 South Florida
109 108   1 Texas Tech
 73 112 -39 Arkansas

Iowa has lost players to injury/suspension, but what is Arkansas’ excuse. Actually, prior to the Oklahoma and Texas games, Arkansas was performing at about this level. Those two wins appear to be flukes.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
111 118  -7 St. John's
105 124 -19 Iowa St.
122 125  -3 Alabama
130 138  -8 Rutgers
173 145  28 Colorado
126 148 -22 Oregon
207 153  54 Oregon St.
157 187 -30 Georgia
160 189 -29 DePaul
217 208   9 Indiana

Indiana was performing at such a low level, they had to improve.

Note the biggest improvements:
Oregon St. – New coach, takes time to learn system
LSU – New coach, takes time to learn system
South Florida – Some mid-season transfers joined the team

And here are some notable non-BCS teams:

Jan Feb  Ch Team
 10  5   5 Memphis
  8 10  -2 Gonzaga
 17 20  -3 Xavier
 12 21  -9 Brigham Young
 38 25  13 San Diego St.
 33 28   5 Utah
 25 29  -4 Butler
 49 33  16 UAB
 78 38  40 New Mexico
 37 42  -5 Davidson
 64 44  20 Temple
 61 47  14 Nevada Las Vegas
 43 49  -6 Utah St.
 65 50  15 Houston
 68 52  16 Tulsa
 59 57   2 St. Mary's

My instinct was that these teams would suffer in conference play. For example, in order to maintain its spot, Davidson has to blow out most conference opponents by 20 points. And I don’t care how good you are, blowing a team out game-after-game is hard. But lo and behold, most of the notable non-BCS teams have held strong. And as mentioned yesterday, John Gasaway favorite New Mexico has been on fire.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
 83 58  25 North Dakota St.
 48 60 -12 Rhode Island
 39 61 -22 Cleveland St.
 58 64  -6 Miami OH
 74 67   7 Creighton
 76 70   6 George Mason
 71 71   0 Texas El Paso
 56 72 -16 Virginia Commonwealth
 97 74  23 Akron
 95 75  20 Wisconsin Green Bay
 69 77  -8 Siena
 63 79 -16 Niagara
 93 82  11 Oral Roberts
 45 83 -38 Dayton
101 84  17 Wright St.
 47 86 -39 Illinois St.
118 87  31 Vermont
100 88  12 Northeastern
106 91  15 Saint Joseph's
102 92  10 Buffalo
141 95  46 Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa’s dominance in the MVC has raised them up significantly, but Siena actually looked better in losing to elite teams than they do against their conference opponents. I find that pretty surprising given that Siena has dominated the MAAC this year.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
168 265 -97 Air Force
198 274 -76 Harvard
167 241 -74 San Francisco
129 200 -71 Virginia Military Inst
161 229 -68 Jacksonville St.
163 230 -67 Southern Utah
196 263 -67 Florida Atlantic
156 221 -65 Lamar
218 277 -59 Georgia Southern
 72 129 -57 Belmont
 85 140 -55 Middle Tennessee
216 270 -54 Missouri Kansas City
 82 134 -52 Drake
174 225 -51 Texas St.

Just before the January number, Harvard upset Boston College. And VMI won at Kentucky this year. It was a nice run.

Jan Feb  Ch Team
186 136  50 Massachusetts
154 101  53 Kent St.
276 222  54 The Citadel
199 142  57 Tennessee Martin
247 183  64 Nicholls St.
185 109  76 Sam Houston St.
266 188  78 Troy
190 106  84 Robert Morris
246 160  86 Arkansas Little Rock
235 147  88 Holy Cross
268 176  92 Princeton
228 131  97 Boston University
279 180  99 Texas A&M CC

Thank goodness for conference play!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Good Resumes or Good Teams?

Today’s post hopes to answer two questions:

1) Which good teams have the weakest resumes thus far?

Call them John Gasaway favorites. Example: “Someone needs to explain to me how UCLA is being overlooked right now.” Well, UCLA has about the same profile as Villanova:

Team      CR  Conf     L11+ T50 N50 BL
UCLA      8-2 Pac-10   WWW  3-4 5-0 0
Villanova 7-3 Big East WWW  3-4 6-0 0

I think UCLA is a legitimate Final Four team. (I’ll have more on that in the coming weeks.) But the Pac10 posted one of those head-scratcher non-conference slates, dominating some games but losing a lot of close games to bad teams. The net result is that while the Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings for the Pac10 are strong, the RPI is terrible. And now all the Pac-10 teams are going to be under-seeded in the NCAA tournament.

2) Which weaker teams have posted the strongest resumes thus far?

On the flip side, you can pretty much put the whole Big Ten here. As I stated a few weeks ago, the Big Ten avoided the bad non-conference losses and the net result is that the RPI is great. Even teams like Wisconsin, that seemed dead in the water, have quality resumes, assuming the last 12 works out. Let’s get to the numbers.

First the key for new visitors:

RPI is the NCAA’s official figures posted Mondays on
RN is road/neutral from the same RPI post.

I calculated the rest of the figures for games through Sunday, February 8th.
CR is conference Record.
T50 is record vs the RPI Top 50.
N50 is record vs the RPI 51-100.
BL is bad losses to teams outside the top 100.
L11+ is the teams record starting with the 11th to last regular season game.
And in today’s post only, PO is Pomeroy Rank.

Weak Resumes, Good Teams

PO Team          CR  Conf     L11+ T50 N50 BL
21 Brigham Young 5-3 MWC      LWW  2-3 2-2 0
25 San Diego St. 7-2 MWC      WWWW 1-2 2-2 1
38 New Mexico    6-3 MWC      WLWW 1-2 3-4 3
42 Davidson     13-1 Southern WWWL 1-3 0-0 1

BYU currently has a Pomeroy rating of 21, but I don’t think anyone is confusing them with a 6 seed.

I told you these were John Gasaway favorites. Last week John mentioned that New Mexico was criminally under-rated. But where was their PPP dominance in a home loss to Central Florida or against a terrible Texas Tech team? New Mexico’s improvement may ultimately lead them to be an NCAA team, but they have a lot of work to do to make up for those 3 bad losses.

Davidson got completely unlucky with how their Non-Conference schedule broke. They now hold just 1 win against the RPI top 100. I have a hard time believing they’d be left out of the tournament, but those numbers are brutal.

PO Team          CR  Conf     L11+  T50 N50 BL
31 Kentucky      5-3 SEC      LLL   2-4 2-2 1
7  West Virginia 5-5 Big East LLW   2-6 7-1 0
24 Georgetown    4-7 Big East LLWL  3-5 3-4 0
26 Miami (Fla.)  4-6 ACC      LLLWL 3-6 3-1 1

When Kentucky wins, they look great. But they keep finding ways to lose the close games this year and the net result is a team without an NCAA quality resume yet. Against a weak SEC, they don’t have much more room for slip-up.

Can a top 7 efficiency team be a bubble team? That’s what a 2-6 record against the RPI top 50 means for West Virginia.

PO Team       CR  Conf   L11+ T50 N50 BL
10 Gonzaga    8-0 WCC    WWWL 3-3 3-1 1
12 Arizona St 7-4 Pac-10 LLWW 3-3 4-2 0
5  Memphis    8-0 CUSA   WWW  3-3 6-0 0
6  UCLA       8-2 Pac-10 WWW  3-4 5-0 0

All of the above teams look like deep NCAA tournament contenders to me, but none of them have an elite resume.

I know I’ve seen Gonzaga play well this year, but they’ve seemingly thrown away their great Pomeroy ranking and richly talented team with a mediocre non-conference season.

Good Resumes, Weaker Teams

PO Team        CR  Conf   L11+ T50 N50 BL
11 Michigan St 9-2 Big 10 WLWW 8-1 3-3 0
17 Wake Forest 5-3 ACC    LLW  6-2 2-0 1
18 Oklahoma    9-0 Big 12 WWWW 9-0 6-1 0

The committee is going to love these teams. Is it right? Is it fair? Are they really the best? All I know is that all of these teams can make a case for a 1 or a 2 seed.

PO Team        CR  Conf   L11+ T50 N50 BL
20 Xavier      8-1 A-10   WWWL 4-2 5-1 0
23 Marquette   9-1 BEast  WWL  4-2 4-0 1

Marquette and Xavier still have sensational profiles despite borderline Pomeroy ranks. But how crushing was Marquette’s loss to South Florida? A week ago, there was no way you could even argue that UCLA deserved a higher seed than Marquette. And while the overall profile still looks good, that one loss is going to be all the ammunition people need to start knocking them down.

One piece of good news for Marquette? According to Hoya Prospectus’ latest Big East aerial, South Florida is the most improved team in Big East play.

PO Team      CR  Conf   L11+ T50 N50 BL
22 Illinois  7-4 Big Ten LWLW 6-5 3-0 0
40 Ohio St.  7-4 Big Ten WWWW 6-5 2-0 0
48 Minnesota 6-5 Big Ten WWLL 4-4 4-1 0

I said there would be a lot of Big Ten teams who have great resumes.

PO Team           CR  Conf  L11+  T50 N50 BL
35 Syracuse       6-5 BEast LLWL  4-4 3-2 0
41 Tennessee      5-3 SEC   WWL   5-5 2-2 1
52 Florida St.    5-3 ACC   LWW   3-4 4-1 0
65 Boston College 6-4 ACC   WWWWL 3-5 4-0 2
62 Virginia Tech  5-3 ACC   LLW   3-5 2-1 1
81 Dayton         7-2 A10   WWWL  1-0 4-1 2

There are not nearly as many Top 100 recruits on Boston College and Virginia Tech as other ACC schools and sometimes they get blown out. But to have winning records in the ACC at this point in the season? I don’t care what the efficiency stats say, these are teams deserving of NCAA bids.

At the end of the day, both the resume and the margin of victory matter. Whether you prefer to cheer for the Type 1 Gasaway favorites, or the Type 2 marginal teams who just get the job done, there’s always something to argue about.


I only list teams in the Top 100:

CR  ACC            T50 N50 BL L11+  RN  RPI
7-2 Duke           8-3 4-0 0  WLW   6-3 1
7-2 North Carolina 4-2 6-0 0  WWWW  9-1 6
6-4 Boston College 3-5 4-0 2  WWWWL 6-4 49
5-3 Wake Forest    6-2 2-0 1  LLW   8-2 14
5-3 Clemson        6-3 1-0 0  WWL   8-1 8
5-3 Florida St.    3-4 4-1 0  LWW   9-2 19
5-3 Virginia Tech  3-5 2-1 1  LLW   7-5 40
4-5 Maryland       3-7 2-0 1  LWLW  3-6 68
4-6 Miami (Fla.)   3-6 3-1 1  LLLWL 5-5 41
1-7 Virginia       0-9 0-1 2  LLL   1-6 100

CR  Big East      T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
10-1 Connecticut  7-1 6-0 0  WWWW 11-0 4
9-1 Marquette     4-2 4-0 1  WWL  6-3 24
9-1 Louisville    5-2 3-2 0  WLW  6-2 11
8-2 Pittsburgh    5-2 4-0 0  WWW  7-2 2
7-3 Villanova     3-4 6-0 0  WWW  7-3 12
6-5 Syracuse      4-4 3-2 0  LLWL 5-4 23
6-5 Cincinnati    3-6 3-2 0  WLWW 5-5 51
6-5 Providence    1-6 4-3 0  WLLL 3-6 67
5-5 West Virginia 2-6 7-1 0  LLW  8-5 16
4-6 Seton Hall    3-5 0-2 2  WWW  4-5 94
4-7 Georgetown    3-5 3-4 0  LLWL 3-6 38
3-7 Notre Dame    2-8 1-1 1  LLL  4-8 78

CR  Big 12       T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
9-0 Oklahoma     9-0 6-1 0  WWWW 9-1 3
8-0 Kansas       6-2 3-1 1  WWW  5-3 17
7-2 Missouri     4-2 2-2 0  LWWW 6-4 22
5-4 Kansas St.   3-2 2-4 1  WWW  4-5 70
5-4 Nebraska     2-4 2-0 3  LWWW 3-4 66
4-4 Texas        4-3 2-4 0  LLL  6-5 45
3-5 Oklahoma St. 2-7 3-1 0  LWL  4-6 31
3-6 Texas A&M    1-5 4-2 0  WWLL 4-5 46
3-6 Baylor       2-7 3-0 1  LLLL 4-5 54

CR  Big 10       T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
9-2 Michigan St. 8-1 3-3 0  WLWW 10-2 7
7-4 Illinois     6-5 3-0 0  LWLW 6-4 15
7-4 Ohio St.     6-5 2-0 0  WWWW 4-3 20
6-4 Purdue       6-5 2-1 0  WLL  6-4 37
6-5 Minnesota    4-4 4-1 0  WWLL 5-3 25
6-5 Penn St.     3-6 2-1 0  WWLL 5-4 84
5-6 Wisconsin    3-7 4-2 0  LLWW 5-6 28
5-6 Michigan     3-7 4-2 0  LLWL 3-7 48
4-6 Northwestern 4-5 0-3 0  WWL  2-6 62
3-8 Iowa         1-8 3-1 2  LLLW 2-9 92

CR  Pac 10         T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
8-2 UCLA           3-4 5-0 0  WWW  6-3 26
8-3 Washington     4-4 4-1 1  WLW  5-5 18
7-4 California     4-4 4-1 1  LLWW 4-5 29
7-4 Arizona St.    3-3 4-2 0  LLWW 9-3 39
6-4 USC            2-5 4-1 1  WWL  3-6 42
6-5 Arizona        4-6 2-2 0  WWWW 5-6 53
4-7 Stanford       1-5 3-1 1  LWL  3-4 82
4-7 Washington St. 1-7 2-4 0  WLLL 5-5 96

CR  SEC            T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
7-1 LSU            2-3 4-0 1  WWW  3-3 52
6-2 Florida        2-4 3-0 0  WLW  6-4 30
6-2 Mississippi St 0-0 6-4 3  LWW  5-4 79
6-3 South Carolina 1-3 4-1 1  WWLW 3-4 43
5-3 Tennessee      5-5 2-2 1  WWL  7-4 21
5-3 Kentucky       2-4 2-2 1  LLL  6-3 74
4-5 Vanderbilt     0-4 2-2 2  LWWW 5-4 93
4-5 Mississippi    0-5 3-4 1  WWWL 3-8 63
1-7 Arkansas       2-2 1-4 2  LLL  2-5 99

CR  MWC           T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
7-2 Utah          2-4 4-1 2  WWWW 7-5 13
7-2 San Diego St. 1-2 2-2 1  WWWW 6-4 47
6-3 New Mexico    1-2 3-4 3  WLWW 3-7 75
5-3 Brigham Young 2-3 2-2 0  LWW  7-3 34
5-4 UNLV          3-2 3-2 2  WWLL 6-3 55

CR  A10          T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
8-1 Xavier       4-2 5-1 0  WWWL 9-2 5
7-1 St. Josephs  0-4 2-1 3  LWW  7-5 72
7-2 Dayton       1-0 4-1 2  WWWL 7-3 33
6-3 Duquesne     1-4 0-1 2  WWLW 6-4 89
5-3 Temple       1-4 2-3 2  WLW  7-8 44
5-4 Rhode Island 1-5 3-2 1  WWWL 7-7 65

CR  CUSA          T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
8-0 Memphis       3-3 6-0 0  WWW  8-2 9
7-2 Tulsa         2-5 3-0 2  WWWW 6-4 69
6-3 UAB           0-5 3-3 0  LWWW 6-8 32
5-3 Houston       1-1 2-4 2  LWW  5-5 91
4-4 UTEP          0-3 4-4 2  WWL  6-6 87
3-5 Southern Miss 0-2 2-4 3  LLL  5-6 97

CR  MVC            T50 N50 BL L11+  RN  RPI
11-2 Northern Iowa 0-1 3-2 4  WWWWL 8-4 83
9-4 Creighton      1-0 4-3 3  LWWWW 8-4 60
8-5 Illinois St.   0-0 2-1 4  WLWWL 7-4 77
7-6 Evansville     0-2 2-3 3  WWLW  2-6 81

CR  Horizon        T50 N50 BL L11+   RN  RPI
12-1 Butler        2-1 4-1 0  WWLWW 10-2 10
11-2 Green Bay     1-3 1-0 3  WWWWW  7-4 58
8-5  Cleveland St. 1-3 0-2 3  LWWWW  7-6 86

CR  WCC       T50 N50 BL L11+  RN  RPI
8-0 Gonzaga   3-3 3-1 1  WWWL  9-4  36
6-3 St. Marys 1-1 1-1 2  WLLWL 10-4 59

CR  WAC       T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
11-0 Utah St. 1-1 1-0 0  WWWW 9-1 35
6-3 Boise St. 0-3 0-0 3  LWW  5-5 80

CR  CAA           T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
11-2 Northeastern 0-2 4-2 3 WWWLW 9-5 64
10-3 VCU          0-1 4-3 3 WLWLW 7-6 73
9-4 George Mason  0-1 1-2 4 LWLWL 5-7 57
7-6 Hofstra       0-1 1-4 4 WWLLW 8-6 98

CR   MAAC      T50 N50 BL L11+   RN  RPI
12-1 Siena     0-4 6-0 2  WWWWL  7-6  27
10-3 Niagara   0-2 2-0 4  WWWWW  11-4 71
8-6  Fairfield 0-6 1-1 3  LLWWWL 7-8  88

CR  MAC          T50 N50 BL L11+ RN  RPI
8-1 Buffalo      1-2 1-2 1  WWW  8-3 76
7-2 Miami (Ohio) 1-5 0-1 1  WWW  8-5 56

CR   OTHER            T50 N50 BL L11+  RN  RPI
13-1 Davidson         1-3 0-0 1  WWWL  9-3 50
11-2 Western Kentucky 1-1 0-3 3  LWWWW 6-7 61
7-1  American         0-2 0-2 3  LWWWW 8-6 85
7-2  S. F. Austin     0-1 1-1 4  WWLW  5-6 90
12-1 North Dakota St. 0-2 0-1 2  WWWWW 8-5 95