Sunday, March 16, 2008

Where Teams SHOULD Rank on the Bubble

It is very difficult to predict what the NCAA Selection Committee will do, because their criteria seems to be very subjective. They do have a list of things they look at, but often to justify who gets in they stress different criteria. My criteria for the ranking the teams on the bubble is basically as follows:

1. I don't want to rank who is the most talented or who I believe is the BEST team...I want to rank who has done the most to warrant a bid. I value winning games against other tournament teams and winning games against other teams on the bubble. It is also important to prove you can win games away from home. A team that has shown an ability to win games against multiple NCAA teams away from home will get favorable treatment.
2. I have one slight bias. I tend to favor Conference Champions from small conferences over teams from major conferences with a lacking resume. A team like George Mason a few years ago receives very few chances to play teams from the major conferences. If they have shown they can compete with those teams AND been the dominant team in their conference I am inclined to give them the opportunity in the NCAA over a team like say Syracuse from this year which yea has some good wins but has not really done quite enough with the opportunities they have been given. Two teams this year that fit that mold are South Alabama who I have in without being on the bubble and Virginia Commonwealth.

With that here is how I have the bubble. Later today I will be unveiling my NCAA field. The field will not be who I think the committee will chose because I cannot read minds. Instead it is simply who I believe has done enough and deserves to get in.

St Josephs- They beat Xavier twice… they beat fellow bubble team Villanova. They have a win on the road against A-10 tourney champ Temple and two wins over fellow bubble team UMass. I think that is enough to get them in and believe they are in the strongest position among the bubble teams.

Arizona- Arizona played the number 2 strength of schedule. They have victories over Texas A&M, UNLV, Washington State (twice), Southern Cal, as well as fellow bubble team Houston. They lost an overtime game to possible #1 seed Kansas, a game to number 1 seed Memphis, and two games to possible number 1 seed UCLA (once by two points). They only won 4 of 12 down the stretch with half of those wins coming against Oregon State. Arizona is a really tough team to place because they have some huge victories… but really did not help themselves when they needed to down the stretch. Though they have what overall is the strongest profile of the PAC ten bubble teams Arizona State and Oregon, they also went 0-4 against them.

Villanova- Villanova gets credit for tough calls against NC State and Georgetown Pitt, Marquette, and Uconn are all very good wins that go a long way to getting Villanova in the dance. Beating Syracuse twice away from Villanova is big especially because the second was a do or di elimination game. Like many of the teams on the bubble they have not done much away from home.

Arizona State- These PAC ten teams are a bubble headache. No team illustrates that more than Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils. Arizona State played a slew of absolutely abysmal teams to start the season. The list included Princeton (331 RPI), LSU(171), Cal Poly(217), Florid Gulf Coast (293), Delaware State (205), Coppin State (219), Montana State (235), Idaho (299), and St Francis PA (314). They have also played Oregon State twice in PAC ten play (269). These games have effectively killed the Arizona State RPI. However, amidst all of this they beat some pretty good teams. They swept fellow PAC ten bubble team Arizona and split with the other fellow bubble team Oregon. They also managed victories over Stanford and USC in the conference and Xavier outside of the conference. They have 5 RPI top 50 victories.

Virginia Commonwealth University- My one bias in selecting tournament teams is I tend to favor a small conference team that won its conference over a major conference team with a lacking resume. VCU has less opportunities against the top notch teams… here is what they did. They lost to NCAA teams Miami, and Arkansas in close games. They beat two teams on the wrong side of the bubble Maryland and Houston. They also won their bracket buster game against MAC runner up Akron. They won the very difficult Colonial conference by 3 full games (the league has had multiple bids the last two years). With the resumes on the bubble not being as strong this year and the major teams on the bubble not stepping up and winning games to claim their spot… I am inclined to give a team like VCU a chance.

Oregon- Their season sweep of Arizona gives them a case for being ahead of Arizona in PAC Ten pecking order. However, Oregon only managed to go 1-8 against the PAC ten top 4 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, and USC). Their victory over Stanford took place early in the conference season. Their best non-conference win is over Kansas State. They also managed to beat fellow PAC ten bubble teams’ Arizona State late in the season. This means Oregon went 3-1 against the other PAC ten bubble teams. That’s certainly their biggest card with the NCAA selection committee.

Virginia Tech- They had a difficult start to the season… This start included an OT loss to Butler, and a thrashing at the hands of Gonzaga. They did finish alone in forth place in a very difficult ACC (ahead of NCAA team Miami). When they needed to perform down the stretch they did, winning 5 of 7 to end the year. Their only losses were to Clemson by 1 and UNC on a last second shot in the ACC semis. Their victory over Miami was big and it was in an elimination type environment. If VT had lost their NCAA chances were over. VT’s biggest problem is the Miami victory is their only RPI top 50 win. The Maryland sweep is not looking as important because Maryland has fallen off the bubble.

Kentucky- The negatives… Kentucky has ZERO top 250 non-conference wins and they have ZERO road wins against teams in the RPI top 140. They are 5-10 vs. the RPI top 100 with losses to Houston, UAB two teams that are on the wrong side of the bubble. They did, however, go 12-4 in the SEC. They beat Tennessee and Arkansas as well as Vandy in overtime. (though they lost by 40 @ Vandy)

Ole Miss- If you were simply looking at their overall resume and ignoring conference records it would hold up very nicely with some of these other teams. They have wins over South Alabama, Winthrop and a great win over Clemson in the non-conference. They have wins over Arkansas, Mississippi State and Vandy within the conference. They are 2-1 against the RPI top 25 and 3-3 against RPI 26-50. Ole Miss’ biggest problem is they had a month in the SEC where they really struggled to win games. They finished with a losing record in the conference as a result. Ole Miss could have overcome that by beating Georgia and Kentucky in the SEC tourney. At that point I believe their resume would have been strong enough, because really taken as a whole it’s probably better than anyone else’s on the bubble. Ole Miss probably lost their chance by losing to a mediocre Georgia team in a do or die situation.

Ohio State- Ohio State’s biggest problem is they have not won away from Columbus all season. Their best road victory was over Penn State. They do have victories over bubble teams Syracuse, and Florida to go with late season home wins over Michigan State and Purdue. They had a chance to get a big neutral site victory over Michigan State but were unable to. Among OSU’s road losses this season are a 65-46 thrashing from Butler as well as losses to not very good Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan teams. OSU simply did not perform well enough outside of Columbus to warrant and at-large bid.

Dayton- Great wins over Pitt, Louisville... beat Akron… too many losses in A-10

Illinois State- Simply did not do enough. The Missouri Valley was not as strong this season. Illinois State finished in a strong second, however, they really have no key wins. They failed to beat Drake in their three opportunities. Their two RPI top 50 wins were both against Creighton, a team that is not being considered for a spot.

Syracuse- The thrashing they received from Villanova effectively ended their chances. They did win once at Nova, but that win has been negated by losing to them twice. They have victories over Georgetown and Maryland to their credit as well as a victory over fellow bubble team St Joes. They really faced a brutal Big East schedule down the stretch so their slow finish should not be held against them too much. The loss to South Florida is also a killer. Losses to bubble teams Umass and OSU don’t help their case either.

Umass- Not enough good wins to balance out schedule

UAB- UK thrashing looks better now. UAB lost their chance when they got killed by Memphis and lost early in the CUSA tourney to Tulane. They really probably had to win the CUSA tourney anyways.

New Mexico- 1 win against the RPI top 50, 3rd in the Mountain West pecking order…simply not good enough.

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