Sunday, March 29, 2009

NCAA Tournament, Fun With Numbers

Most of this has been summarized elsewhere, but it is fun to look back.

Through Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Games (58 games)

Fastest Paced Games
Possessions, Teams
87 North Carolina vs Radford
83 Memphis vs Missouri
81 UConn vs Chattanooga
78 North Carolina vs Gonzaga
75 UConn vs Missouri

Slowest Paced Games
56 Florida St vs Wisconsin
57 Arizona St. vs Temple
59 Marquette vs Utah St.
59 West Virginia vs Dayton
59 Gonzaga vs Akron

Interestingly, Gonzaga played a game in both categories.

Let’s now move to the PPP or points per 100 possessions.

Most Impressive Wins
Largest PPP Differential
69.1 UConn defeats Chattanooga
56.4 Louisville defeats Arizona
49.7 North Carolina defeats Radford
40.4 Oklahoma defeats Morgan St.
39.5 UConn defeats Texas A&M

Best Offense
Highest points PPP
148.9 Louisville vs Arizona
140.0 UConn vs Texas A&M
134.4 Memphis vs Maryland
132.2 Pittsburgh vs Oklahoma St.
130.8 Gonzaga vs Akron

Worst Offense
Lowest PPP
57.9 Chattanooga vs UConn
60.0 Dayton vs Kansas
63.5 Stephen F. Austin vs Syracuse
67.0 Radford vs North Carolina
73.1 Duke vs Villanova

Who would have guessed that Duke would have had one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament?

Win without defense award
Highest PPP for loser
132.2 over 119.6 Pittsburgh defeats Oklahoma St
118.3 over 115.3 Oklahoma St. defeats Tennessee
117.1 over 114.1 Villanova defeats Pittsburgh
116.3 over 113.5 Gonzaga defeats Western Kentucky
116.8 over 111.1 Missouri defeats Marquette

Win without offense award
Lowest PPP for winner
83.8 over 60.0 Kansas defeats Dayton
85.2 over 63.5 Syracuse defeats Stephen F. Austin
89.3 over 86.9 Siena defeats Ohio St.
93.1 over 76.0 Xavier defeats Wisconsin
95.4 over 87.5 Pittsburgh defeats Xavier

The story of Pittsburgh has been the improved offense (through offensive rebounding). But in this tournament, Pittsburgh’s story was going from one extreme to the other. Pittsburgh won a “no offense” game and went 1-1 in games with “no defense”.

Best eFG%
68.2% Louisville vs Arizona

Worst eFG%
25.0% Dayton vs Kansas

Dayton really played tough in that game against Kansas, but they couldn’t buy a basket.

Best TO%
6.5% Missouri vs Cornell

Worst TO%
31.5% Kansas vs Michigan St.

Michigan St. fans have come to dread the word “turnovers”, but things went well against Kansas.

Best OR%
54.3% Pittsburgh vs Oklahoma St.

Worst OR%
12.3% Gonzaga vs North Carolina

A lot of people felt Gonzaga was soft, and this number will back that up.

Best FTR
72.6 Missouri vs Memphis

Worst FTR
8.1 American vs Villanova

Memphis probably thought when the whistles came out early against Missouri that this was good news. How wrong they were.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


My response to the people that said the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament was boring was to say that this could be one of the most entertaining Sweet Sixteen fields of all time. With the lowest total seeds in Sweet Sixteen history, and with everyone having at least a decent efficiency margin, the stage was set for some outstanding basketball.

And this is what we got? 6 games that were blowouts, a game where Pitt won ugly, and one pretty good game between Kansas and Michigan St.? Where are the buzzer beaters this year? Where is the one-shining moment? I mean, I know Levance Fields hitting a 3 pointer was huge against Xavier, but there are thousands of games with 3 pointers to take the lead in the final minutes. I’m talking about the kind of moment you’ll remember in 2 years? So far, I just don’t see it.

Now, I’m the guy who loves championship week more than the NCAA tournament to begin with. I love that the end times of games are staggered (and not simultaneous). I love that there are all kinds of scenarios and reasons to watch random games (like Memphis vs Tulsa). But I don’t think I’m alone in panning this year’s NCAA tournament games.

Perhaps when you see my Sweet Sixteen notes, you’ll understand my frustration. Here they are, and there are only two of them:

1) It was nice to see Gus Johnson earned the announcing duties in one of the four regions. (Behold the power of Bill Simmons and others who have begged for more Gus.)

2) I feel like Jim Nance isn’t a big fan of Clark Kellogg. Kellogg doesn’t feel the need to talk when nothing is going on, and Nance never likes there to be any dead airtime. Thus I get the impression that Nance is frustrated with Kellogg.

Also, due to travel and my attendance at the Minneapolis pod, I missed one story from the early rounds:

3) I’ve written a lot about it in the past, but I thought the best story of the year was what Travis Ford was able to do at Oklahoma St. After Ibrahima Thomas left in December (and left Ok. St. with no true post players), Travis Ford was able to build on his team’s strengths and put together a team that challenged 1 seed Pittsburgh in the second round. It is one thing for coaches to be successful with their own players running their own system, but I think it is even more impressive when a coach is able to adapt and win with the types of players he has one hand. Absent any true post players, Travis Ford adopted a 4-guard lineup mid-season, and as the smaller team increased the pace of games, it was dynamic in wins over Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament and then Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Consider this stat-heads: Last year Oklahoma St. had an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 110.1, which was 65th nationally. This year it ended up at 116.7 or 15th in the Pomeroy’s rankings. That was a tremendous improvement. And while the defensive efficiency slipped slightly due to the smaller lineup, from 93.6 to 96.3, Travis Ford clearly earned my respect for how he handled his team this year.

Most importantly, Byron Eaton, my target for the last 4 years finally delivered some clutch performances. His 7 of 10 from the field, 6 of 7 from the free throw line, 7 assist performance against Tennessee provided a terrific exclamation mark on the season. I can’t be happier to say I was wrong about Eaton and that he finally turned into a terrific clutch player.

4) Finally, Billy Gillispie is out at Kentucky. Let the coaching dominoes begin to fall. And Anthony Grant is in as the coach at Alabama. If I was an Auburn fan, I’d say something like this: A lot of people could make the NCAA tournament twice with Eric Maynor. But I’ve followed the CAA and for VCU to make the field 2 out of 3 years was a lot tougher than it looked. And even if Grant didn’t bring Maynor to VCU himself, he’s had success recruiting in the south when he was an assistant at Florida, so he has a chance to be very successful at Alabama.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Minneapolis Pod

On Sunday, Michigan St. forward Draymond Green went to the line to shoot a free throw and suddenly noticed that his shoe was untied. He quickly leaned over to tie his shoe just as the referee passed him the ball. The ball bounced off his head. You just can’t make this stuff up.

It is funny how Tom Izzo can get different types of players to be successful. On the one hand, you have a player like Delvon Roe who looks like a complete athlete and future superstar in the post. And on the other hand you have a player like Draymond Green who pretty much doesn’t look like a basketball player. His gut sticks out from his tight shirt. He is winded and you can see the sweat dripping off his nose after just one trip down the floor. And yet, on a weekend when Raymar Morgan continued his illness / plague / missing-in-action phase, there was Draymond Green running and dunking on Friday and making critical free throws on Sunday.

I also enjoyed seeing Kansas guard Sherron Collins continue to play superman. I’ve read so many articles about how similar Collins is to Dee Brown in terms of energy and leadership at under 6 feet tall. But what you really don’t think about until you see it in person is how thick Collins is. He has a very broad chest and he is a very strong frame for a perimeter player.

The Collins moment of the tournament happened on Sunday when he drove into the lane, lost control of the ball, picked it up, spun around 180 degrees, and calmly knocked down an 8 footer. 180 degree spin moves are very, very hard.

Dayton Flyer Band

Of course, the real highlight of the weekend may have been the Dayton Flyer band. First, they had the costume changes, the airplane hats, basketball hats, and aviator hats. Then they had the band leader with his sequined jacket. But most importantly, they pulled they old “suck-up” and try to gain additional fans trick. During Sunday’s action, they tried to gain the support of the Michigan St. fans by playing the Michigan St. rouser inter-mixed with the Dayton rouser. (Sneaky, sneaky.) I think I’ve seen Dayton do this before, but it was still highly entertaining.

As for the fans at the tournament, North Dakota St. descended in droves for Friday’s session, and things were very quiet after that. Kansas and Michigan St. seemed to be saving their cheering for Indianapolis, and many of the other schools with no local ties (like USC, Boston College, and West Virgina) had virtually invisible cheering sections. But Dayton’s small group of red-clad fans were very loud in watching their team pull off the upset on Friday.

Finally, as for the mascots, my wife was partial to the Boston College Eagle, partly because he did a spin move on the head of one of the cheerleaders. But we also liked the NDSU Bison and the Robert Morris Colonial who did cartwheels in their mascot costumes. But the best may have been a small child in our section who was wearing a minature Kansas Jayhawks outfit.

More on the tournament in a few days when I return home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

PASE Expectations

I've talked a lot in the past about PASE, Performance Against Seed Expectations. The idea is that better seeds are more likely to win more games in the NCAA tournament. For example, 1 seeds win 3.42 games on average, 2 seeds win 2.41 games on average, ect.

And this year, even though the Big Ten and Big East each earned 7 bids, they obviously weren't of equal quality. Here's a look at how many wins each conference is expected to earn based on the seeds its teams received.

ExpW, Bids, Conference
16.38, 7, Big East
10.88, 7, ACC
8.18, 6, Big 12
7.18, 7, Big 10
5.99, 6, Pac10
2.47, 3, A-10
2.41, 1, CUSA
1.83, 2, MWC
1.50, 3, SEC
1.49, 1, WCC
0.83, 2, Horizon

That leaves a total of slightly less than 4 wins expected for the other 1 bid conferences in the field.

Obvious Note: Memphis is expected to win more games than the SEC and MWC.

I'm expecting the Big 10 to flame out pretty bady this weekend, but realize that it won't take very many wins for the Big 10 to meet expectations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A look at the BCS coaches missing the cut

I’m flying to Minnesota for the Michigan St. and Kansas pods. Much like the Old Spice Classic, it seems unlikely I will update the blog until I return, but you never know.

John Gasaway is all over the log5 analysis at Basketball Prospectus. Check it out for those of you who want help with your brackets. For whatever reason, I don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking about the NCAA tournament games ahead of time. I like to let the tournament unfold and be surprised.

But what I have been thinking about is the possibility of coaching vacancies. John Gasaway recently wrote how their might be few vacancies this year besides Alabama and Georgia. Well, we did get one new vacancy on Monday. Andy Katz is reporting that Dave Leitao is out as coach at Virginia.

Is Leitao the last candidate to be let go? Let’s look at the BCS schools that didn’t make the tournament and render some judgments on their coaches. Realistically I should limit this to coaches with at least 4 years tenure, but given the situation in Kentucky, that rule may not apply anymore.

Big East

Georgetown – Obviously JT3 is safe, but with a talented team, the finishing stretch definitely raised some eyebrows.

Notre Dame – High expectations and a miserable performance make this about the worst possible season for Mike Brey. I’ve never been a big believer in Brey based on his team’s historical unwillingness to play defense, and I have to believe at some point this is going to cost him.

St. John’s – Norm Roberts had a very young team this year that seemed to be playing better late in the year. (Besides the Georgetown wins, they gave a spirited effort in a comeback against Duke.) Roberts has been at St. John’s long enough that you wouldn’t be surprised to see him let go, but this doesn’t seem like the year.

DePaul – They kept talking during the Big East tournament about how Jerry Wainwright was safe, but how can a coach with zero Big East wins in the regular season be safe? I don’t see how DePaul winning a game in the Big East tournament is enough to be viewed as progress. Remember how Georgia coach Dennis Felton kept his job thanks to an SEC tournament run last year? Now he’s unemployed.

Cincinnati – Cincinnati finished about where you might expect in a tough league and should bring back Deonta Vaughn next year. Assuming that happens, next year will be more of a litmus test for Mick Cronin.

Seton Hall – Bobby Gonzalez seems to be finding himself in about the same position that Tim Welsh did a few years ago. They were good enough to beat USC and Virginia Tech early in the year, good enough to beat some bad Big East teams, but not good enough to inspire any confidence.

Rutgers – Fred Hill brought in freshman McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario this year and the question is whether he can build a team around Rosario into the future. Rutgers is a tough place to win, but the team showed shockingly little progress this year.

South Florida, Providence – With Stan Health adding a lot of transfers mid-year, and Keno Davis not bringing in any of his recruits until next year, it is too early to evaluate things here.


Georgia Tech – Paul Hewitt was definitely unlucky this year (in a Pomeroy Ratings sense) and he is bringing in one of the top high school players in the country next year in Derrick Favors. So Hewitt is probably safe. But remember, Georgia Tech hasn’t had a winning record in the ACC since 2004. Of course, that just happens to be the year they went to the Final Four.

Miami – In 5 seasons under Frank Haith, Miami has yet to have a winning record in conference play. Miami qualified for the tournament at 8-8 last year and won a game, so it hasn’t been all bad. But at this stage of the game, he’s using all players he recruited, and if they aren’t good enough to get it done (including an embarrassing loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament), he can no longer feel safe.

Virginia Tech – Seth Greenberg also has only one NCAA tournament win in 6 years and only two winning conference marks. But I feel completely different about his teams because they seem to compete at the highest level even with a very limited talent base. Basically his job security comes down to this: Could someone else bring elite talent to Blacksburg? If so, then Greenberg might be shoved aside at some point. But if no one can do better, Greenberg really seems to maximize what he has. Also, it isn’t clear to me whether throwing your jacket after you lose to North Carolina endears you to the fanbase or makes you look out of control.

NC State – Sidney Lowe was a puzzling non-college hire. NC State fans are already jealous that Herb Sendek has taken Arizona St. to the NCAA tournament, and Lowe’s clock is definitely running.

Big 12

Baylor – Scott Drew had a similar year to Mike Brey, but a win against Texas in the Big 12 tournament, the first in 24 tries, should lead some Baylor fans to give Drew the benefit of the doubt.

Iowa St. – Former Northern Iowa coach Greg McDermott might have made Iowa St. more successful in the state of Iowa, but at what point are the Cyclones going to be relevant nationally?

Nebraska - Doc Sadler did enough this year. He won some nice home games and got Nebraska to 8-8 in what was predicted to be a down year.

Kansas St. – Frank Martin’s team performed admirably without Michael Beasley. But can they make the tournament next year?

Colorado, Texas Tech – Jeff Bzdelik and Pat Knight are new enough that they are going to get some time to bring in their recruits.

Big 10

Penn St. – Obviously Ed DeChellis saved his job this year. But the key will be lowering expectations next year, because many of the stars not named Talor Battle will not be back.

Northwestern – I don’t know how Bill Carmody kept his job heading into this year, so obviously he isn’t losing it now.

Indiana – Tom Crean proved he could coach this year as the Hoosiers continued to play hard all year. And pretty soon he’s going to have some players too.

Iowa – Todd Lickliter’s crew could be a trendy pick to finish last in the Big 10 next year. It is too early for him to be fired, but Iowa needs some reason for optimism.

Pac 10

Oregon – Expectations were lower this year at Oregon due to a number of key players graduating. But were they 2-16 low? Is Jamil Wilson enough of a recruit to keep the faith? Much like Mike Brey, Ernie Kent’s teams never seem to play enough defense for me to believe in him.

Washington St. – Tony Bennett’s team seemed to play better later in the year. After losing several players to graduation, there was nothing embarrassing about an 8-10 campaign.

Stanford, Oregon St. – Johnny Dawkins and Craig Robinson can bring in their first full recruiting classes next year.


Florida – Back to back titles, back to back NIT. Billy Donovan’s coaching career has been nothing if not inconsistent. But who wouldn’t take occasional NIT bids for 2 National Titles?

Arkansas – Beating Texas and Oklahoma in the non-conference might have been the worst thing that could have happened to John Pelphrey.

South Carolina – Darrin Horn’s team seems to be making progress and was very exciting to watch this year with the increased tempo.

Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings seems to put his team in the field every few years. This year was a miss, but they still finished 8-8 in the SEC.

Auburn – I really thought Jeff Lebo was going to be gone this year as he was 19-45 in SEC play coming into this year. But the late run might have saved his job.

Ole Miss – In 3 years at Ole Miss and 1 year at Cincinnati, Andy Kennedy has never finished above .500 in conference play. Given the weakness of the SEC this year, that hurts. Plus there was that whole cab driver incident.

Kentucky – Hmm, they didn’t make the NCAA tournament despite having the most rabid fans in the country. This could sting a little bit.

Other Notable

Southern Illinois – Remember when Chris Lowery was a hot commodity? What a huge step backward this year.

George Washington – Remember a few years ago when Karl Hobb’s team went 26-2 in the regular season? This year they didn’t even qualify for the A-10 tournament.

Truthfully, I don’t see a lot more changes across the board. But the dominoes are just beginning to fall.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tempo Meter

Watching the selection show, the following stood out to me. You mean fast-paced and fun to watch Missouri is going to have to play slow-footed Ivy league Cornell in the first round? But after reviewing the numbers, I discovered Cornell isn’t that slow at all. They are actually in the middle of the Pomeroy Ratings for adjusted pace. Here’s a quick scan of the tempo match-ups to watch:

Fastest paced games: Oklahoma St. vs Tennessee and North Carolina vs Radford

Slowest paced game: Arizona St. vs Temple

Biggest Contrast in Styles:
Utah St. (slow) vs Marquette (fast)
Cleveland St. (slow) vs Wake Forest (fast)
Michigan (slow) vs Clemson (fast)
Stephen F. Austin (slow) vs Syracuse (fast)
Ohio St. (slow) vs Siena (fast)
Texas A&M (slow) vs BYU (fast)

Looking back at my final bracket projection, I had Creighton and San Diego St. in and Minnesota and Arizona out. I guess I’m just a sucker for the non-BCS teams, and that is a position I am not interested in changing even if it does cause me to miss two NCAA teams every year.

Creighton and San Diego St. did receive 1 seeds in the NIT bracket that was announced at 9pm. (Here’s the printable NIT bracket.) How does Cincinnati feel to know they don’t even get an NIT invitation despite finishing 8-10 in the “greatest” Big East of all time, or whatever they are calling it? They probably feel about the same as NC State, Seton Hall, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Stanford.

The SEC, stealing bids two years in a row

What a crazy ending to the Mississippi St. vs Tennessee game. First we have the two foul calls that could have been travels. (The first one was clearly a travel for Mississippi St. because there was no contact made by the Tennessee defender.) Then we had Tennessee getting called for a very quick 5 second in-bounding call when it looked like they called time out. Then we had the Mississippi St. player stepping out of bounds on the double team, but only because his upper body was clearly shoved. And finally, didn’t Tennessee foul with 1 second left? No call, game over, Mississippi St. in the NCAA tournament, and the bubble teams left out of the NCAA tournament in a few hours are clearly going to be cursing the officials from this one.

I never released my favorite SEC players team because I quite frankly haven’t watched many games this year. Here it is anyway:

Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi St., more blocks than Hasheem Thabeet
JaMychal Green, Alabama, a younger version of Arizona’s Jordan Hill
Marcus Thornton, LSU, 118.2 offensive rating despite shooting a ton
Brian Williams, Tennessee, when they must play half court, he gets the boards
Devan Downey, South Carolina, Mr. Run and Gun

South Carolina went from 179th in adjusted tempo last year to 9th this year in large part to Downey’s speed and his ability to create turnovers. He’s 11th nationally in steal percentage according to Sadly, it looks like South Carolina will be relegated to the NIT and we may have to wait until next year to see their run and gun attack in the NCAA tournament.

I’m embarrassed to even put Thornton on a favorite players team because he’s such a clear star, but I really don’t hear many people mention him nationally.

Bracket Update

I continue to stick by my Saturday prediction with USC and Mississippi St. knocking out Auburn and New Mexico in my contingency scenarios.

Relative to Joe Lunardi, my bracket has San Diego St. in and Minnesota out.

Relative to SI, my bracket has Creighton in and Arizona out.

Relative to the bracket project compilation, my bracket has Creighton in and Minnesota out.

The bracket is almost here!

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bid Stealing Time

I love the NCAA tournament and its one-and-done format. The only thing I love more is a burst-your-bubble game. That’s a situation where a team from a major conference can only get into the NCAA tournament by winning their conference tournament. For that team, it is win or go home. But if they win the automatic bid, the eliminated team is unknown. And so millions of random fans across the country need to bite their fingernails and cheer for the juggernaut over the plucky underdog.

Today features several of these games, and tomorrow might too.

CR   Bid Stealing?  T50 N50 BL L11+        RN  RPI NCS T N
16-0 Memphis        4-2 11-1 0 WWWWWWWWWWW 12-2  8 19  4 6
12-4 Tulsa          3-6 3-0  3 WWLLWWWWWWW 10-6 57 121 5 0

12-4 Missouri       7-4 4-2  0 WWWWWWLWLWW 9-6  10 107 4 1
5-11 Baylor         5-9 4-2  2 LLWLLWLLWWW 7-8  55 97  2 3

11-7 Arizona St.    7-4 5-3  1 WWWWWLLLWWW 11-5 24 138 2 3
9-9 USC             4-8 4-2  2 LLLWLLLWWWW 5-10 45 67  2 2

13-3 LSU            1-3 10-2 1 WWWWWWWWLLW 7-4  33 258 3 1
10-6 Tennessee      2-6 8-4  1 WLWWLLWWWLW 10-6 22 1   7 1
10-6 Auburn         2-3 4-6  1 LWWWWLWWWWW 6-7  58 213 2 1

9-7 Mississippi St. 1-3 7-5  4 WLLWLLLWWWW 8-7  72 185 1 3

Plus Temple and Duquense have already crashed the party by defeating Xavier and Dayton in the A-10 yesterday. So how are things going to shake out over the next two days?

Well, let me start by posting my projected tournament teams below in green. The key for these charts can be found at the end of this post. And I also see several contingency scenarios.

If Mississippi St. wins today, the committee will likely set up a contingency bracket for tomorrow where if Miss St. wins, Auburn is out.

If USC, Baylor, or Tulsa win, New Mexico is out. If multiple teams from that group win and San Diego St. does not win in the MWC final, San Diego St. is out. And if multiple teams win and San Diego St. wins, Michigan and Wisconsin may be out as well.

CR   ACC            T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
13-3 North Carolina 6-2 8-1 0 WWWWWWLWWWW 13-2  3 89  1 4
11-5 Duke           8-5 8-1 0 LWLLWWWWWLW 10-5  2 42  4 4
11-5 Wake Forest    7-2 5-2 2  7-5        10-5 15 275 1 3
10-6 Florida St.    5-5 5-3 0 WWWLWWLWLWW 11-5 17 101 3 3
9-7 Clemson         4-5 4-1 2  6-6        10-5 29 115 2 1
9-7 Boston College  5-5 2-3 3  7-5        7-7  60 224 2 1
7-9 Maryland        4-7 4-3 2 LWWLWLWLLWW 6-8  49 125 3 3

7-9 Miami (Fla.)    3-8 3-2 2  4-8        6-8  64 218 2 1
7-9 Virginia Tech  2-10 4-2 2  4-8        9-9  61 166 2 2

I wouldn’t be shocked if Maryland missed the field, (no team with a sub-.500 record is automatic), but they’ve beaten Michigan St., North Carolina, and Wake Forest and I think they are in regardless of what happens the rest of the weekend.

CR   Big 10        T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
15-3 Michigan St  13-3 3-2 0 LWWWLWWWWWW 14-3  4 24  5 1
11-7 Illinois      9-6 3-2 0 WLWWWLWWLLW 10-5 19 110 2 2
11-7 Purdue        6-7 5-2 0 LLWWWWLWLLW 8-6  30 200 2 2
10-8 Ohio St.      6-8 4-1 0 WWWLLLWLWWW 6-6  35 129 2 2
10-8 Wisconsin    4-10 5-1 1  7-5        6-9  44 35  3 2
9-9 Michigan      6-11 4-1 1  6-6        6-10 42 59  5 1

10-8 Penn St.      6-9 1-1 1  6-6        7-8  68 311 1 1
9-9 Minnesota      5-8 4-2 0  5-7        6-7  40 193 1 1
8-10 Northwestern 6-10 0-1 2  6-6        4-9  76 219 2 0

Nowhere is going to be more controversial than the Big 10. I really think it comes down to two things that knock Minnesota and Penn St. out. First, they didn’t play anyone in the non-conference schedule. Minnesota’s NCSOS isn’t 300+ like Penn St., but they only played 2 teams in the RPI top 100 in the non-conference. And when you add in a 5-7 record down the stretch for the Gophers, I have them out. Michigan’s big non-conference wins, and 3 more wins against the RPI top 100 allow them to leap a very similar Penn St. team.

CR   Big 12      T50 N50 BL L11+       RN RPI NCS T N
14-2 Kansas      9-3 5-2 2  9-3        7-7  9 33  6 1
13-3 Oklahoma   10-4 7-0 1  8-4       11-4  5 79  5 3
12-4 Missouri    7-4 4-2 0 WWWWWWLWLWW 9-6 10 107 4 1
9-7 Texas        6-6 3-4 1  7-5        9-9 38 117 4 1
9-7 Texas A&M    4-5 4-3 1  8-4        7-7 37 161 1 3
9-7 Oklahoma St 4-10 5-1 0  8-4        8-9 20 37  4 2

9-7 Kansas St    3-6 2-3 2  8-4        6-8 81 314 0 2
5-11 Baylor      5-9 4-2 2 LLWLLWLLWWW 7-8 55 97  2 3

No controversy here. Kansas St. has a terrible NCSOS. Case closed. Will Baylor give the Big 12 seven bids?

CR   Big East      T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
16-2 Louisville    8-3 8-2 0 WLWWWWWWWWW 11-3  7 32  3 3
15-3 Connecticut   8-3 9-1 0  9-3        13-2  6 92  3 3
15-3 Pittsburgh    8-3 8-1 0  10-2       9-4   1 18  2 4
13-5 Villanova     6-6 7-1 0  9-3        11-5 13 165 2 2
12-6 Marquette     3-8 7-0 1  5-7        8-7  36 152 3 1
11-7 Syracuse      6-5 6-3 0 LLWLWWWWWWW 10-5 11 29  2 2
10-8 West Virginia 3-8 9-3 0  8-4        12-8 21 56  1 6

10-8 Providence    2-8 4-5 0  5-7        6-9  73 171 1 4
8-10 Cincinnati    2-9 5-3 2  5-7        4-9  86 86  4 2
8-10 Notre Dame   2-12 3-1 1  6-6        6-11 77 225 4 0
7-11 Georgetown    5-8 2-4 2  4-8        5-9  62 10  4 1

Again, no controversy here. Back in January I thought this about my team Georgetown, “Wow, no matter what happens, we’re going to have 2 really nice wins over Memphis and UConn on our profile. You just can’t take those wins away from us.” Well, thanks for ending 4-8 in the last 12 guys, I guess you can make those wins obsolete after all.

CR   Pac 10     T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
14-4 Washington 6-5 4-2 1  9-3        7-7  14 41  2 2
13-5 UCLA       5-6 5-2 0  8-4        9-6  32 196 2 2
11-7 Arizona St 7-4 5-3 1 WWWWWLLLWWW 11-5 24 138 2 3
11-7 California 5-7 6-0 3  6-6        6-8  39 112 3 2

9-9 Arizona    6-10 2-2 1  7-5        5-10 63 63  5 2
9-9 USC         4-8 4-2 2 LLLWLLLWWWW 5-10 45 67  2 2
8-10 Wash. St. 3-11 2-2 2  5-7        7-8  90 160 3 2

I find it really hard to leave Arizona out. But that 7-5 last 12 mark masks 5 losses in the final 6. Plus, Arizona has been genuinely terrible away from home this year. Based on their tough Non-Conference scheduling, Arizona usually gets the benefit of the doubt with the committee, but with the situation in the A-10 yesterday, I have to drop them out.

CR   SEC            T50 N50 BL L11+        RN  RPI NCS T N
13-3 LSU            1-3 10-2 1 WWWWWWWWLLW 7-4  33 258 3 1
10-6 Tennessee      2-6 8-4  1 WLWWLLWWWLW 10-6 22 1   7 1
10-6 Auburn         2-3 4-6  1 LWWWWLWWWWW 6-7  58 213 2 1

10-6 South Carolina 0-4 7-4  1  7-5        5-7  59 288 1 1
9-7 Mississippi St  1-3 7-5  4 WLLWLLLWWWW 8-7  72 185 1 3
9-7 Florida         1-5 7-4  1  5-7        7-9  53 244 3 1
8-8 Vanderbilt      2-3 4-5  4  7-5        6-8  93 295 2 0
8-8 Kentucky        3-4 5-7  2  4-8        8-7  78 181 3 2

You have no idea how many conversations I’ve had with people where I have defended South Carolina over the last few weeks. The 0-4 mark against the RPI top 50 is not everything. But South Carolina could not afford to lose their opening tournament game and they did, and now they are headed to the NIT.

Florida and Kentucky have simply been unable to win down the stretch in a weaker than normal SEC.

As stated above, Auburn is in for now, but if Mississippi St. wins the tournament, Auburn is likely out.

CR   MWC          T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
12-4 Utah         4-5 4-2 1 WWWWWWLLWWW 10-7 12 6   5 2
12-4 BYU          4-4 2-3 0  10-2       11-5 27 72  3 1
12-4 New Mexico   3-5 2-2 4  9-3        6-9  66 164 2 2
11-5 San Diego St 2-5 4-2 1 WWLWLLWWWWW 9-6  31 118 2 1

9-7 UNLV          4-5 4-2 3  6-6        6-6  65 150 2 4

UNLV falls to 6-6 down the stretch and that’s not going to get it done in the MWC. New Mexico simply could not afford to lose to Wyoming in the MWC tournament. I have them in now, but as I said at the start, I think by the end of the weekend, New Mexico is out.

CR   A10          T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
12-4 Xavier       5-4 5-1 2  7-5        11-6 16 3   5 4
11-5 Dayton       3-2 5-2 3  7-5        8-7  28 134 2 3
11-5 Temple       2-5 3-3 3 WWWWWLLWWWW 12-9 34 23  4 3

11-5 Rhode Island 3-5 3-2 3  9-3        10-8 67 128 4 3
9-7 Duquesne      2-6 1-2 3 WLLWWLWLWWW 11-6 71 209 3 1

With Xavier and Dayton losing, the conference is now going to get 3 bids. But Temple only gets in if they beat Duquesne today.

CR   CUSA    T50 N50 BL L11+        RN  RPI NCS T N
16-0 Memphis 4-2 11-1 0 WWWWWWWWWWW 12-2  8 19  4 6
12-4 Tulsa   3-6 3-0  3 WWLLWWWWWWW 10-6 57 121 5 0

CR   WAC     T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS
14-2 Utah St 1-2 1-1 1 WWWLWLWLWWW 12-4 25 184
11-5 Nevada  2-3 0-1 7 LLWWWLWWWWW 10-5 80 78

Will CUSA get one bid or two?
I don’t see Utah St. getting in if they don’t win tonight.

CR   Lost       T50 N50 BL L12  RN  RPI NCS
15-3 Butler     2-1 10-2 2 8-4  12-3 23 17
14-4 Creighton  2-2 7-3  2 11-1 11-5 41 145

10-4 St. Mary’s 2-3 1-1  2 8-4  13-5 47 91
18-2 Davidson   1-4 0-0  3 8-4  13-4 69 13

CR   Won           T50 N50 BL L12  RN  RPI NCS
14-0 Gonzaga       7-3 1-1  1 11-1 15-3 26 16
14-4 Northern Iowa 4-3 6-0  7 8-4  12-6 56 113
16-2 Siena         0-4 7-1  2 10-2 12-7 18 2

CR is conference record.

T50 is record vs the RPI Top 50.
N50 is record vs the next group, RPI 51-100.
BL is bad losses.

RN is road / neutral record.
All the above figures are from Warren Nolan’s website.

L11+ is the teams record in the last 11 games for teams that are still alive in their conference tournaments.

NCS is non-conference strength-of-schedule from RPI forecast.
T is the number of non-conference games against the RPI Top 50.
N is the number of non-conference games against the next group, RPI 51-100.

I end with two caveats:
-I provide all the numbers, so form your own opinion.

-I haven’t looked at anyone’s bracket projections since Thursday. And I have purposely been flipping away anytime Joe Lunardi comes on TV. For some strange reason, (the same illogic that leads me to try to calculate NFL playoff scenarios myself), I prefer to look at the numbers myself rather than listen to Joe Lunardi or other experts. I provide these because I spent the time to look at them and figure some of you might want a 37th opinion.

Believe in the Improbable

-After 24 straight losses to the Longhorns, Baylor has defeated Texas.
-And for the first time since 1981, Duquesne is playing in the A10 title game.
The improbable can change the world. (Or at least shrink the bubble.)

-Wow, did Indiana and the Big Ten miss out on Devin Ebanks. He was a one man show for West Virginia against Syracuse in the loss.

-North Carolina, Florida St., and Duke were all very lucky to win on Friday. On Sunday night, no one is going to care.

-The Big Ten’s three main bubble teams (Minnesota, Michigan, and Penn St.) all lost. I still say there is no way the Big Ten gets 8 bids this year. Tomorrow I may tell you who I’m kicking out of the field.

-The SEC’s expected bubble teams also all continued the three week slide into obscurity. Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida all made me shake my head in confusion. How does the SEC get 3 bids right now? LSU, Tennessee, and who else? Is it Auburn? I don’t like the quality of the wins yet, but Auburn has one thing going for them that none of the other bubble teams have achieved. They are winning games in the last 12.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Six Overtimes, Are You Kidding Me?!

1) Syracuse vs UConn featured everything. A miracle full court pass and 3 point shot waved off, a miracle 3 to tie in OT, a 3 pointer that bounced about 10 feet in the air before not going in to end another overtime period, rarely used Syracuse walk-on Justin Thomas playing the last 7 minutes of the game for Syracuse because so many people fouled out. Six overtimes. Let me say that again. Six overtimes. Plus, and this might have been my favorite part, the game featured some of the most ridiculous flopping of all time. Somehow the game involved a ton of un-necessary shoves and a ton of over-the-top flops at the same time. At times I wondered if some of these guys had trouble walking down the street on a windy day. But all kidding aside, if you didn’t enjoy Syracuse vs UConn, you just don’t enjoy college basketball.

2) Stat of the night in the 6th overtime. Syracuse is shooting 38% (38 of 100).

3) Bill Simmons refers to the Madden Moment as the time when the game randomly decides you are going to lose. No matter what you do, the worst possible outcome happens. Well, that was pretty much what happened to Syracuse Forward Paul Harris at the end of the 4th overtime. Despite numerous point blank looks he absolutely could not put the ball in the basket or draw a foul. But in the 6th overtime, Andy Rautins started a run with a big three and all is forgotten.

4) My archives are full of stories about Byron Eaton and James Anderson not living up the hype at Oklahoma St. And I couldn’t be happier to see them pick up the huge victory in the Big 12 quarterfinals. Eaton was absolutely un-guardable down the stretch despite being completely winded at the 4-minute mark. He’s always been an ankle-breaker, but never a finisher. With Eaton hitting big baskets in the lane, and James Anderson hitting two big free throws with 2.3 seconds left, the Cowboys secured a spot in the Big 12 semifinals. The game also featured a very bizarre ending when Oklahoma tried a miracle full-court pass and shot, but got a second opportunity because the game clock never started. The second tip was no good, and Oklahoma went down, but if the tip had been good, it could have been very controversial.

5) So does anyone want a 1 seed? Oklahoma and Kansas seemingly gave up the opportunity. And Pitt and UConn lost too. The door is definitely open for Michigan St. if they can win the Big Ten tournament.

6) If Missouri wins the Big 12 tournament, is it possible for them to steal a first round slot in Kansas City? Are they even eligible to play in Kansas City? Well, I suppose even if they jump Oklahoma on the S-curve (big if), Memphis and Kansas will still block them out of the K.C. pod, but you never know.

7) Cracked Sidewalks is right on the money. This season has just been a big kick to the gut for Marquette. First they lose Dominic James, then they suffer a miserable losing streak to end the year, then they come all the way back from a 17 point deficit against Villanova only to lose on a last second shot. Ouch. But hey, if you turned away from the Marquette game because they were down by 17, shame on you. I picked them out yesterday as a likely comeback-game team. And on the flip side, an absolutely amazing pass and lay-up won the game for Villanova.

8) I’ve already said that Cal PG Jerome Randle is one of my favorite Pac-10 players. And his floater in the lane that tied the game against USC with 10 seconds left was a thing of beauty. But after USC regained the lead with 3 seconds left, the ball was in-bounded to Randle and he proceeded to dribble it off his knee instead of getting a shot. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his reaction, shoving Tim Floyd and taunting a USC player was definitely uncalled for.

Is anything really a surprise anymore?

If you watch enough basketball, it doesn’t seem like anything really stand out as a shocker. Let’s look at today’s upsets:

West Virginia upsets Pitt: Well, according to the Pomeroy Ratings, West Virginia is a top 10 team. They just happened to be one of the unluckiest teams in the country.

Georgia Tech upsets Clemson: Yes, this was a real upset, but Georgia Tech is also one of the unluckiest teams in the nation.

Baylor upsets Kansas: Well, Baylor was an NCAA tournament team last year, and they’ve under-performed this season.

Oklahoma St. upsets Oklahoma: Well, Oklahoma probably had the least impressive Pomeroy rating of any team competing for an elite seed in the NCAA tournament.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

On Monday night I projected my NCAA field. Other than having Creighton in the field (and San Diego St. out), I pretty much matched Joe Lunardi’s Tuesday morning bracket.

Since then, little has changed. Cleveland St. upset Butler in the Horizon final, shrinking the bubble by one team. But elsewhere, potential bubble teams and long-shots have been sinking like flies.

Cincinnati – Done
Georgetown – Buh Bye
Notre Dame – Bye
Providence – Nice Knowing Ya
And the Big East is locked in at 7 bids.

Kansas St. – Sorry folks
Miami (FL) – Um, thanks for not showing up
Northwestern – Someday
Rhode Island – Keep dreaming

Texas A&M, UNLV, and Arizona also fell, but I’m not completely counting them out yet. And a few teams are still alive, at least for one more day:

Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals
USC in the Pac 10 semifinals
San Diego St. in the MWC semifinals
Maryland and Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals
Minnesota, Michigan, and Penn St. in the Big 10 quarterfinals
All the bubble teams in the SEC

So let’s go play a few more games. Welcome to Friday.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday, March 12th is Under-rated

Even if you don't get ESPN Full Court, look at the games on free TV in the Washington DC area this afternoon. (I'm sure your area has an equivalent slate of games.)

Local Channel: Virginia Tech vs Miami (Bubble vs Bubble)
ESPN: Providence vs Louisville (Bubble vs Quest for 1 seed)
ESPN2: Baylor vs Kansas (Quality Longshot vs Quest for 1 seed)
BTN: Minnesota vs Northwestern (Bubble vs Quality Longshot)
MASN: Xavier vs St. Louis (If Xavier loses, the bubble gets smaller)

Local Channel: Clemson vs Georgia Tech (No comment)
ESPN: Marquette vs Villanova (McNeal vs Reynolds, Rd 3)
ESPN2: Michigan vs Iowa (Bubble vs Capable)
MASN: St. Joes vs Temple (Philly Rivalry)
CSN: Arizona vs Arizona St. (Bubble and Rivalry)

Oh, and some of you probably have
Kentucky vs Ole Miss (Just watch the Kentucky fans)
Texas vs Kansas St. (Solid vs Bubble)
Georgia vs Mississippi St. (No comment)
BYU vs Air Force (No comment)

To me this is as good if not better than the first day of the NCAA tournament. And even if you don't agree, you can still look forward to the first day of the NCAA tournament in just a week.

No afternoon posts today. I'll be recovering from the Minnesota vs Northwestern game.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Offense is Entertaining

For past NCAA tournaments, I’ve said this:

Based on Notre Dame’s offensive firepower and lack of defense, Greg Gumbel is going to say this, “Well your game between the Fighting Irish and their opponent has gotten out of hand. It’s a 17 point lead so we’re going to shift coverage to this other game.” And then, 2 minutes later “Things have tightened up between the Fighting Irish and their opponent. Let’s take you back to that game.”

And even though West Virginia ended up winning tonight, the Big East tournament second round match-up between Notre Dame and West Virginia delivered exactly that kind of game. West Virginia leads by 20. Now it is 9 points. Now West Virginia is up by 20. Now it is 7 points. Rarely does a 7 point lead seem so precarious.

Now that Notre Dame is officially out of the NCAA tournament field, which team is most likely to repeat this type of performance? Well, let’s find an NCAA tournament team with a close scoring margin, lots of offense, no defense, and a non-Big Ten pace.

To find the top candidates let’s take John Gasaway’s conference efficiency ratings and add up the offense and defense.

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.08 1.09 2.17 Notre Dame

1.08 1.11 2.19 BC
1.10 1.09 2.19 Arizona
1.12 1.04 2.16 Marquette
1.09 1.07 2.16 Oklahoma St
1.09 1.07 2.16 Cal

I throw Marquette in there despite a larger scoring margin because without Dominic James, the scoring margin is likely to be less. (Hey moron, didn’t you see the St. John’s game today. Oh, right.)

Oklahoma St. is also a likely candidate due to their strong 3 point shooting and lack of a post presence. Hey, speaking of Oklahoma St., they were also in action tonight.

Notice how this post covers three conference tournament games from today without saying anything about the action? Well here’s a real comment on Oklahoma St.’s comeback win over Iowa St:

“How can there be that many mo-hawks in one game?”

Illinois is the Least Entertaining Team in the Nation

Not only do high offense, bad defense teams make for big comebacks, they can also make for fun games. Offense is exciting. Let’s add the total efficiency rating for all 73 BCS teams.

By this measure, UCLA is the most entertaining team in the nation. And Illinois is the least entertaining team. (Hmm, seems about right to me.)

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.17 1.04 2.21 UCLA
1.08 1.11 2.19 BC
1.10 1.09 2.19 Arizona
1.17 1.01 2.18 Pitt
1.16 1.01 2.17 NorthCarolina
1.08 1.09 2.17 NotreDame
1.07 1.10 2.17 Providence
1.06 1.11 2.17 Stanford
1.05 1.11 2.16 NCState
1.12 1.04 2.16 Marquette

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.09 1.07 2.16 OklahomaSt.
1.09 1.07 2.16 Cal
1.05 1.10 2.15 Baylor
1.13 1.02 2.15 Oklahoma
0.97 1.17 2.14 Oregon
1.06 1.07 2.13 Miami
1.08 1.05 2.13 TexasA&M
1.02 1.11 2.13 TexasTech
1.10 1.03 2.13 Florida
1.09 1.04 2.13 Tennessee

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.04 1.08 2.12 VirginiaTech
1.10 1.02 2.12 Syracuse
1.02 1.10 2.12 Cincinnati
1.07 1.05 2.12 OhioSt.
1.05 1.07 2.12 OleMiss
1.10 1.01 2.11 Villanova
1.03 1.08 2.11 SetonHall
1.09 1.01 2.10 Clemson
1.03 1.07 2.10 Northwestern
1.07 1.03 2.10 Texas

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.10 1.00 2.10 Washington
1.09 1.01 2.10 ArizonaSt.
0.92 1.17 2.09 DePaul
1.07 1.01 2.08 WakeForest
1.08 1.00 2.08 Wisconsin
1.03 1.05 2.08 Alabama
1.02 1.05 2.07 KansasSt.
1.04 1.03 2.07 USC
0.98 1.09 2.07 Arkansas
1.08 0.98 2.06 Duke

OE, DE, Total, Team
0.99 1.07 2.06 Iowa
1.03 1.03 2.06 MississippiSt.
1.02 1.04 2.06 Vanderbilt
0.93 1.12 2.05 Indiana
0.99 1.06 2.05 Maryland
1.10 0.95 2.05 Connecticut
0.96 1.09 2.05 OregonSt.
1.08 0.97 2.05 LSU
1.06 0.98 2.04 WestVirginia
1.01 1.03 2.04 Georgetown

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.01 1.03 2.04 Michigan
1.00 1.04 2.04 PennSt.
1.08 0.96 2.04 Missouri
1.09 0.94 2.03 Kansas
1.01 1.02 2.03 WashingtonSt.
0.96 1.06 2.02 Virginia
0.95 1.07 2.02 St.John's
0.95 1.07 2.02 IowaSt.
0.92 1.10 2.02 Colorado
1.04 0.98 2.02 Auburn

OE, DE, Total, Team
1.02 0.99 2.01 SouthCarolina
1.02 0.98 2.00 Kentucky
1.06 0.93 1.99 MichiganSt.
1.00 0.98 1.98 FloridaSt.
1.06 0.92 1.98 Louisville
0.93 1.05 1.98 S.Florida
0.92 1.06 1.98 Rutgers
1.02 0.95 1.97 Purdue
0.98 0.98 1.96 Minnesota
0.97 0.98 1.95 Nebraska
0.92 1.02 1.94 GeorgiaTech
0.88 1.06 1.94 Georgia
0.98 0.93 1.91 Illinois

Not just the Big East, the Big 12 is underway

Last year it seemed like every time you turned around Curtis Jerrells was hitting an off-balance 3 as his team pulled off a big victory. This year his numbers are only slightly worse than last year, but the big game player has definitely been missing. Jerrells was back on fire today against Nebraska shooting 8 of 10 and 3 of 4 on threes, but will he have his magic against Kansas tommorrow?

Nice halftime feature during the Nebraska vs Baylor game showing how Nebraska denies the post-feed despite having no tall players on the roster. But with Jerrells so hot, that strategy eventually failed. And by the second half, even Baylor's center Josh Lomers was dunking to complete a 5-5 night and Baylor advances.

I've really been a big fan of Nebraska this year with its streaky 3 point shooting and steals, but when a guard-led team can't make open threes against a zone defense, it is over.

Finally a TRUE bubble team in action

Providence did little to prove they deserved an NCAA tournament spot, struggling against DePaul, but that's not really fair. This game was all about 3 DePaul players playing well above their ability. First, as I mentioned yesterday, Will Walker remains on fire, scoring over 30 points. And Dar Tucker pitched in with 30 himself. Plus, a seldom used reserve was 3 of 3 from downtown, despite hitting only a hanful of threes all year. But the rest of DePaul's players didn't show up and these three wonderful performances were only enough to make Providence sweat.

With about 5 minutes left in the game, Providence finally took the lead, and as soon as they went up by 2, it was like a wrapper had been removed from the top of the basket. The lead was immediately extended to 8 points, and Providence was finally able to coast after a very stressful afternoon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is Ben Woodside this year's Stephen Curry?

We talked to a relative in North Dakota today. Apparently they just had a blizzard and the snow drifts are covering the windows of the house. Well, at least there is something to be excited about in the state. North Dakota State is headed to the NCAA tournament. After trailing for virtually the entire game, Michael Tveidt (which seems to be pronounced Tweet) hit a three pointer to give NDSU a two point lead. Then, after Oakland tied it, NDSU chose not to call time out. Instead, Ben Woodside calmly dribble down, passed on a guarded three, acted like he was going to drive to the bucket, and calmly knocked down a jumper for the game winner.

Is Ben Woodside this year's Stephen Curry? Eh, probably not. North Dakota State won't get that good a seed. But Woodside could still give some elite team a big scare next week. He averages 23 points a game, 43% on threes, with an ORtg of 120.1.

By the way, if you are ever really bored, check out the wikipedia pages for each Division 1 conference. By far the most ridiculous is the Summit League where teams stretch from North Dakota to Louisiana to Utah to Michigan. That seriously cannot be worth the travel costs.

Oh, and if you are so busy as to not catch the obvious, John Gasaway has unveiled the final tempo free conference numbers. Log5 predictions for the conference tournaments are also rolling out on BP Unfiltered. (Yeah, about Georgetown having an easy path to the semifinals? Not so much.)

Not Winless Anymore

Thanks to the Big East tournament adding an opening day and allowing teams 13-16 to participate this year, DePaul will not end the year winless against Big East teams. Despite an 0-18 record in regular season play, the Blue Demons used an early second half run to build a comfortable lead on Cincinnati and they held on for victory.

Three thoughts:
1) DePaul's Matija Poscic is really annoying. On defense he just walks around and keeps running into the other teams guards from behind. I guess that's how some people act when they don't have anything to play for.

2) Dar Tucker may be the lead scorer on the year for DePaul, but Will Walker is absolutely on fire. Starting with the 2/21 game against Pittburgh he's scored 17, 23, 15, 31, and 20 points. He scored 17 points again today in the win.

3) Cincinnati was already out of the NCAA tournament, and there's no doubt now. The real question is how this impacts Providence. I think it is probably good. Another win against Cincinnati wouldn't have done much for the Friars, and maybe if Providence can coast to victory tommorrow against DePaul, the Friars can be rested for the game against Louisville on Thursday.

Red Storm Survive

St. John's has played Georgetown twice this year, and they haven't shot over 36% in either game. But, just like in the first meeting, St. John's picked up the victory today in the Big East first round. When the teams met last week, it was the rebounding edge that made up for the poor shooting by St. John's. This week John Thompson made a concerted effort to go big, using Henry Sims quite a bit in the first half when Summers and Mescheriakov got in foul trouble, in an effort to combat that rebounding problem. It worked, as Georgetown did not have a pronounced rebounding disadvantage in this one. But St. John's won anyway thanks to a few more clutch free throws down the stretch.

This was a very whistle-happy game with both teams combining to shoot over 50 free throws. More suprisingly, for only the second time this season, Greg Monroe fouled out of a game. One of the big indicators of Greg Monroe's strange freshman maturity is his ability to avoid fouls, but that was not the case today. He fouled out and the Hoyas late season collapse finally came to a resounding end.

The Favored Seed Wins

I said it last week, but it remains true. How can Notre Dame be this poor at their two point shooting? In today’s game against Rutgers, the Fighting Irish were just 12 of 38 or 31.6% inside the arc, while they were 8 of 18 or 44.4% outside the arc. The announcers were complimenting Mike Brey for resting Luke Harangody so much, but it might not have been such a dynamic strategy. Harangody was just 3 of 17 from the floor in the game. Perhaps he was sitting on the bench because he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn tonight. Well, here’s hoping he shoots better tomorrow so we get an entertaining game. Tomorrow is the classic bubble match-up with bubble “in” team West Virginia taking on a bubble “out” team Notre Dame.

Side note: One feature of as compared to actual television is that they don't have cut-aways to a studio. There are plusses and minuses to this. On the minus side, all you get is a "Please Wait" screen during halftime and between sessions. But on the plus side, they also go to the stadium earlier than the normal coverage. As a result, we get to see the introductions of the starting lineups for the games. I'm not saying I want to see this all the time, but given that this is the final game for a lot of these teams, it is kind of fun to see the players introduced.

Nitty Gritty Kickoff

Once again, I like to start championship week with the Nitty Gritty. I post this so that you understand my frame of reference. If on Thursday I say, “Virginia Tech’s quest for an NCAA tournament bid is officially over”, it is based on these numbers. But don’t take my opinion as fact. And don’t take Joe Lunardi’s as fact either. Look at the numbers and make up your own mind.

CR is conference record.

T50 is record vs the RPI Top 50.
N50 is record vs the next group, RPI 51-100.
BL is bad losses.

RN is road / neutral record.
All the above figures are from Warren Nolan’s website.

L11+ is the teams record starting with the 11th to last regular season game. I provide this because I assume that each team will play at least one conference tournament game.

NCS is non-conference strength-of-schedule from RPI forecast.
T is the number of non-conference games against the RPI Top 50.
N is the number of non-conference games against the next group, RPI 51-100.

Teams I project in the field are listed in green.

CR   Big East      T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
16-2 Louisville    8-2 6-3 0 WLWLWWWWWWW 9-3   9 32  2 4
15-3 Pittsburgh    9-2 7-1 0 WWWWWWWLWWW 9-3   1 18  2 4
15-3 Connecticut   8-3 8-0 0 WWWWWWLWWWL 13-1  4 92  3 2
13-5 Villanova     5-6 8-0 0 WWWWLWWWLWW 10-4 14 165 2 3
12-6 Marquette     5-7 5-0 1 WWLLWWWLLLL 7-6  30 152 3 1
11-7 Syracuse      6-6 3-2 0 LLWLLWLWWWW 7-5  17 29  3 1
10-8 West Virginia 3-7 7-3 0 LLWLWWWLWWL 10-7 26 56  1 6

10-8 Providence    2-8 4-4 0 WLLLWWLLWWL 5-8  70 171 1 4
8-10 Cincinnati    4-9 3-3 1 WLWWWLLWLLL 4-8  74 86  4 2
8-10 Notre Dame   3-11 2-1 1 LLLWWLWWLLW 5-10 72 225 4 0
7-11 Georgetown    4-8 3-4 1 LLWLLWLLWLW 5-8  48 10  3 2

Wins against the RPI Top 50 matter, but so do wins against RPI 51-100. That’s why West Virginia is in pretty good shape.

The bubble picture looks incredibly clear right now in the Big East and in several other leagues. I can’t remember the distinction between the “in” and “out” teams ever being so clear across the board.

CR   ACC            T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
13-3 North Carolina 5-1 8-2 0 WWWWWWWLWWW 12-2  2 89  1 4
11-5 Duke           7-5 8-1 0 WLWLLWWWWWL 9-5   3 42  5 3
11-5 Wake Forest    6-1 6-2 2 LLWLWWLWWWW 10-4 10 275 1 3
10-6 Florida St.    4-5 6-3 0 LWWWLWWLWLW 10-5 16 101 3 3
 9-7 Clemson        4-5 4-1 1 WWLWLWWLLWL 10-4 19 115 3 0
 9-7 Boston College 4-4 3-3 3 WWWWLLWLWLW 6-6  57 224 2 1

 7-9 Miami (Fla.)   2-7 4-2 2 LLLWLLLWWLW 6-7  53 218 2 1
 7-9 Maryland       3-8 4-2 2 LWLWWLWLWLL 4-8  67 125 4 2
 7-9 Virginia Tech  2-8 2-3 2 LLWWLLLWLLL 8-8  62 166 2 1

North Carolina has only 5 RPI Top 50 wins. That’s 3 fewer than Louisville, 4 fewer than Kansas, and 7 fewer than Michigan St. But at the very top, wins against other elite teams matter. And North Carolina has beaten Michigan St. and swept Duke.

I really thought the ACC was going to get 8 teams this year, but the bottom of the league came up and bit Miami, Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

Maryland’s tournament draw (facing Wake Forest in the quarters) is a great opportunity to get in, especially given how close Maryland played Wake last week. Winning a couple of games in the ACC tournament could solve all of Maryland’s flaws (late season losses, poor record away from home.)

Virginia Tech is virtually done at this point. They already have 8 losses in the final 12 and at 2-8 against the Top 50, I’m not even sure a win against North Carolina would be enough.

CR   Big 10       T50 N50 BL L11+       RN RPI NCS T N
15-3 Michigan St 12-2 3-3 0 WLWWWLWWWWW 13-3 6 24  4 2
11-7 Illinois     8-6 3-2 0 LWLWWWLWWLL 9-5 20 110 2 2
11-7 Purdue       6-7 4-2 0 WLLWWWWLWLL 7-6 31 200 2 2
10-8 Ohio St.     5-8 4-1 0 WWWWLLLWLWW 5-6 36 129 2 2
10-8 Wisconsin    4-9 5-1 1 LLWWWWWLWLW 6-8 38 35  3 2
10-8 Penn St.     6-8 1-1 1 WWLLLWWLWWL 6-7 63 311 1 1
 9-9 Minnesota    5-7 3-2 0 WWLLWLLWLWL 5-6 41 193 1 1
 9-9 Michigan     6-9 4-2 1 LLWLLWWLWLW 5-9 42 59  4 2

8-10 Northwestern 6-9 0-1 2 WWLLLWLWWWL 4-8 71 219 2 0

Despite projecting 8 in the field right now, I’m convinced the Big Ten won’t get more than 7 bids. I think at some point the committee is going to say the numbers are a little skewed and punish one of a number of teams for late season slide or weak NCSOS.

Either Penn St., Minnesota, or Michigan will likely be left out of the field, and it all depends who looks the worst this weekend. Since Minnesota plays a losable game against Northwestern, and then a Michigan St. team that has blown the Gophers out twice, I think the Gophers are the most likely to miss the field.

As far as the NCAA 1 seeds, I think the Big East gets two of them, North Carolina gets one, and the other one is clearly up for grabs this weekend. I don’t think Memphis can win out when the BCS conferences are as deep and strong as they are this year. (Michigan St. has 12 RPI Top 50 wins!) I can always be wrong, but I think Michigan St., Kansas, or Oklahoma will get the final 1 seed, in that order. I think if Michigan St. wins the Big Ten tournament, they’ll get it, and if they slip up the winner of the Big 12 tournament will get it.

CR   Big 12      T50 N50 BL L11+       RN RPI NCS T N
14-2 Kansas      9-3 5-1 2 WWWLWWWWWLW 7-6  7 33  6 1
13-3 Oklahoma    8-3 9-0 1 WWWWWWLLWLW 11-3 5 79  3 5
12-4 Missouri    5-4 4-2 0 LWWWWWWWLWL 7-6 12 107 3 1
 9-7 Texas A&M   4-5 4-3 0 WWLLLWWWWWW 7-6 28 161 1 3
 9-7 Texas       6-6 3-3 1 LLLWWLWWLWL 7-8 35 117 4 2
 9-7 Oklahoma St 3-9 5-1 0 LWLLWWWWWWL 6-8 25 37  4 2

 9-7 Kansas St.  3-5 2-3 2 WWWWLWWLWLW 6-7 76 314 0 2
 8-8 Nebraska    3-7 2-1 3 LWWWLWLLLWW 4-7 68 206 2 0

Do 2 losses outside the top 100 disqualify you from a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament? I don’t think so. I think if you look at the body of work for Kansas and combine a Big 12 tournament title with the Big 12 regular season title, they definitely have an argument. I’m more concerned that Kansas is only 7-6 away from home this year. But again, 3 wins in the Big 12 tournament would solve that problem.

At the risk of redundancy I think the difference between Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. is colossal at this point. Oklahoma St. has only 1 loss to teams above 50 in the RPI and a great non-conference schedule. Kansas St. has 5 losses to teams above 50 in the RPI and one of the weakest non-conference schedules.

CR   Pac 10     T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
14-4 Washington 4-5 6-1 1 WLWWWLWWWWW 6-6  13 41  3 1
13-5 UCLA       3-5 6-2 0 WWWLLWLWWWW 8-5  29 196 2 2
11-7 Arizona St 5-3 5-4 1 LLWWWWWLLLW 9-5  32 138 2 3
11-7 California 4-5 7-1 3 LLWWWWLWLWL 6-7  33 112 3 2
 9-9 Arizona    5-8 4-3 1 WWWWWWLLLLW 5-9  52 63  5 3

 9-9 USC        2-8 4-2 2 WWLLLWLLLWW 3-10 60 67  2 2
8-10 Wash. St.  3-8 2-4 2 WLLLWLLWWWL 6-7  89 160 3 2

I tried to make a case for USC on Saturday, but it just isn’t there. Really, it seems like the most intriguing story is the 4/5 game between Arizona and Arizona St. A loss would leave Arizona with 5 losses in the last 6 and only a 5-10 record away from home.

CR   SEC            T50 N50 BL L11+       RN RPI NCS T N
13-3 LSU            3-3 7-2 1 WWWWWWWWWLL 6-4 37 258 3 1
10-6 Tennessee      7-6 3-4 1 WWLWWLLWWWL 9-6 24 1   8 0
10-6 South Carolina 1-5 6-2 1 WWLWWLWWLLW 5-6 50 288 1 1

10-6 Auburn         2-5 3-4 1 LLWWWWLWWWW 5-7 64 213 2 1
 9-7 Florida        2-6 6-2 1 WLWLLWWLLLW 6-8 49 244 3 1
 9-7 Mississippi St 2-3 5-5 4 LWWLLWLLLWW 6-7 82 185 0 4
 8-8 Vanderbilt     2-6 4-2 3 LWWWLWLLWWW 6-7 85 295 1 1
 8-8 Kentucky       4-6 3-4 2 LLLWWLWLLLL 7-6 80 181 3 2

Kentucky has 8 losses in the final 12 in a weak SEC. That more than makes up for a 4-6 record against the RPI top 50. This is a league I really can’t peg. I like South Carolina’s 6 wins against the RPI 51-100, but that’s about the only good thing on their resume. Will Florida still sneak in there? This tournament is wide open.

CR   MWC          T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
12-4 Utah         4-5 5-2 2 WWWWWWWWLLW 8-7  11 6   5 3
12-4 BYU          4-3 3-3 0 LWWWWWLWWWW 10-4 21 72  3 2
12-4 New Mexico   3-4 2-3 3 WLWWWLWWWWW 6-8  58 164 1 3

11-5 San Diego St 1-5 3-2 1 WWWWLWLLWWW 7-6  43 118 2 1
9-7  UNLV         4-4 4-2 3 WWLLWWLWLWL 6-6  55 150 2 4

OK, UNLV is in serious trouble now. They are 6-5 in the last 12 and they are likely to fall to 6-6 if they don’t win the MWC tournament. That might be OK in the ACC, but that’s not going to cut in the MWC. And New Mexico still has only 5 quality wins to go with 10 losses on the year. So why are these teams in? Well, because there really isn’t anyone listed above with a good enough profile to merit a bid.

CR   A10          T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS T N
12-4 Xavier       5-3 6-1 2 WWWLLWLWWWL 10-5 15 3   5 4
11-5 Dayton       4-2 5-1 3 WWWLWWLLWLW 7-6  23 134 3 2

11-5 Rhode Island 2-5 4-2 2 WWWLWWWWWWL 10-7 65 128 3 4
11-5 Temple       1-5 5-3 3 WLWWWWWLLWW 10-9 40 23  4 3

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you believe in the power of the Pomeroy Rankings, you absolutely positively want to see your team facing Dayton in the NCAA tournament.

CR   WCC       T50 N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS
14-0 Gonzaga   6-3 2-1 1 11-1        15-3 34 16
10-4 St. Marys 2-3 1-1 2 LWLLWWWWWWL 13-5 45 91

CR   MVC           T50 N50 BL L12 RN  RPI NCS
14-4 Northern Iowa 4-3 6-0 7  8-4 12-6 56 113
14-4 Creighton     3-2 7-3 2 11-1 11-5 39 145

11-7 Illinois St.  2-1 5-5 3  7-5 11-7 47 208

Northern Iowa and Gonzaga have earned their way in.

As of Monday afternoon, Joe Lunardi had Creighton out and St. Mary’s in. And while I understand the Patrick Mills argument for St. Mary’s, he was only 2 of 16 in the WCC final tonight. The committee has said that injured players need to not only come back, but that they have to demonstrate a strong contribution to the team. See Chris Wright of Dayton last year. In other words, I’m not holding my breath. Note that St. Mary’s does play a bonus game later this week.

Creighton still looks solid to me. 11 straight wins was impressive, even in a down MVC. If you want to put St. Mary’s in and knock someone out, why don’t you pick one of those Big Ten teams?

CR   ALSO    T50  N50 BL L11+       RN  RPI NCS
16-0 Memphis 4-3  9-0 0 WWWWWWWWWWW 12-2  8 19
15-3 Butler  2-1 10-1 2 WLWWWLLWWWW 12-3 18 17
14-2 Utah St 1-2  2-1 1 WWWWWLWLWLW 10-4 27 182

Will these leagues get one bid or two? Bubble teams everywhere are nervous. And I’m still not sure if Utah St. is in or not.

Utah St. should make like Siena and VCU and eliminate any doubt. Don’t be a Davidson and lose in your conference semifinals.

16-2 Siena     0-4 5-1 2 10-2 12-7 22 2
14-4 VCU       2-1 1-4 4  9-3  9-8 59 50

18-2 Davidson  1-4 0-0 3  8-4 13-4 69 13  

I'll be back with Big East tournament coverage after Tuesday's afernoon session. The major conference tournaments are here!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yes we lost, but did we have to lose like that?

In what seems to be an annual tradition, a friend of mine attended the MVC tournament again this year. Allow me to paraphrase her comments:

"This weekend was painful for a lot of fans. First, Wichita State came back from a 20 point deficit only to lose on a crushing shot at the end of regulation.

Then, Creighton got stomped by Illinois State and looked awful. It is never good to get crushed in your final game before selection Sunday. Also, several Creighton fans were kicked out of the stadium for raging against the reality that Creighton can actually lose.

Finally, Illinois St. lost in overtime in the Championship game, coming up just short of an NCAA tournament bid. The loss was all the more painful when you remember that Northern Iowa won a double overtime game against Illinois St. two weeks ago on a last second tip-in. (Also, what a crazy ending to regulation. First you had an airball that doesn’t go in and should have resulted in a shot-clock violation, but Eldrige got it back and puts up another shot. If that shot goes in, can they go back and correct for the shot-clock violation? Well, it didn’t matter as Eldrige ultimately air-balled the second shot too, but it could have been very controversial.)"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tell somebody to tip over the Gatorade Jug. We need more time before tip-off.

Can you imagine this exchange in November? “Folks, we’ll be joining the Ohio St vs Michigan game as soon as things wrap up here between Akron and Toledo. Remember, the winner of this Akron vs Toledo game will play in the MAC Championship next week. And Ohio St. vs Michigan is for a trip to the Rose Bowl. But our game is in overtime. I’d like to let you know that Beanie Wells has already broken a TD for Ohio St. to open the game. But we’ll take you there as soon as our MAC coverage is over.”

The idea of the game of the year getting cut-off because of a non-BCS game seems hard to imagine in football. Instead I’d expect a 2 hour pregame. But hey, this is college basketball. The fun of the NCAA tournament is the shear volume of games and buzzer beaters. It isn’t just about the elite teams. Every NCAA tournament bid matters. And for teams like Northern Iowa and Illinois St., teams good enough to beat a 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, the drama of the elimination game is good TV.

So whether the quest to become the 45th best team in the NCAA field cut off the start of Duke vs North Carolina in your TV market, or whether the start of Duke vs North Carolina cut off the end of the MVC game in your TV market, get used to it. CBS will be back with their live look-ins and game jumps in just 11 days.

If you hate it, but the DirectTV package. But casual fans love the jump-around. They love being taken to the next big game already in progress. And for those of you who claim to hate it, just know that in two weeks, they’ll take you to a Davidson-level upset in the final seconds, and you’ll be screaming. This is March Madness.

Uh, Davidson, Right. About that.

Speaking of Davidson, Stephen Curry will not be back in the NCAA tournament after Davidson lost in the Southern Conference semifinals. If you know how to find this blog, you’ve almost certainly looked at the numbers and can understand that they don’t have the quality wins to get an at-large bid this year.

Hey, I was bummed when Eric Maynor and VCU got left out a year after beating Duke. These things happen. And there will be another Cinderella, even if it isn’t Davidson. Hey, it might even be VCU. VCU takes on George Mason in the CAA final on Monday.

Random Game Note

After Duke vs North Carolina game was over, I flipped on a random New Hampshire vs Binghamton game. New Hampshire was down by a point and I put the game on mute. They zoomed in on the New Hampshire huddle and the coach was clearly giving it his all. I’ve never seen someone so intense and instructive in the huddle.

So what play did New Hampshire draw up? We’ll never know. They threw away the inbounds pass which was taken down for a lay-up, and then they threw away the following inbounds pass too. Instead of a shot to win the game, they turned it over twice as Binghamton advances to the American East title game next weekend. Sometimes defense wins games too.

By the way, Binghamton will face UMBC next weekend. UMBC is the 6th seed in the American East but they were able to win at Nebraska earlier this year, so don’t count them out.

Three More Brackets

Here’s the Printable ACC Tournament Bracket. (Until the graphics person shows up, you may have to manually fill in the bracket with these tournament pairings.) Does Maryland need to beat Wake Forest in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament to get an at-large bid? And can Miami or Virginia Tech beat North Carolina to get another one?

Here’s the Big Ten Tournament Bracket. Does Michigan need to beat Illinois in the Big Ten quarterfinals to get an at-large bid? Does Penn St. need to beat Purdue? And can Minnesota or Northwestern beat Michigan St. to earn another one?

Here’s the SEC Tournament Bracket. Is anyone safe? Will Kentucky lose in the first game of the SEC tournament again?

I already rambled on enough yesterday about the Big 12 and Big East tournament, but rest assured, I’ll have a lot more to say about the bubble in the days ahead.

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”