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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Let's do this a different way

Predicting what seeds teams will earn is an exercise in futility right now. Too many games still need to be played, and while I can give each team a seed for where they stand right now, it's not necessarily likely they'll keep that seed by the time the tournament starts in two weeks.  Instead, I've decided to do a conference run down of who is locked in in order to see how many bubble spots are available. Once this is done we will have a greater understanding of the pecking order and what needs to be done for these bubble teams to get in.

Thirty two (32) of the 68 available spots are determined via automatic bid.  The other thirty six spots are up for at-large consideration. Several of these teams are already locks. The ones that aren't are considered "bubble" teams.
Below is a list of current conference leaders in line to receive their conference's auto bid:
1. America East: Vermont
2. Atlantic 10: Xavier
3. ACC: Duke
Continued after the jump.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My guess at the current bracket (Part 2)

Yesterday I did the 1-4 seeds.  Those really weren't too difficult as most anyone can identify the top teams in the nation. Now we start to get into teams who are finishing in the middle of their respective conferences which can be a little more challenging to sort out.

1. Louisville (20-7, 9-5) - Game on Sunday vs. Pitt will say a lot about this team.
2. Vanderbilt (20-6, 8-4) - SEC stinks but Vandy has wins over UNC, St. Mary's, Marquette, Belmont, and Nebraska in non-conference play.
3. St. John's (17-9, 9-5) - Do huge home wins (G'town, ND, Duke, UConn, Pitt) offset bad road loss to Fordham (RPI 246)?  I think so.
4. Syracuse (23-6, 10-6) - Last night's win inches them closer to Louisville. This is the most tightly bunched teams of any seed line in my opinion. A win over Georgetown this week clinches a 5 for them.

1. Kentucky (19-7, 7-5) - Wildcats are 5-5 vs. RPI top 50 and 7-7 vs. RPI top 100. 
2. West Virginia (17-9, 8-6) - Have played nine games against RPI top 25 and are 4-5 in those games. Teams that hold their own this well are worthy of a mid-seed.
3. Xavier (21-6, 12-1) - Hitting their stride at the right time. Teams that finish well are rewarded by the committee.
4. Texas A&M (21-5, 8-4) - Their qualification isn't in doubt but their seeding definitely is. 0-2 against RPI top 25 but 4-1 against 26-50.

1. George Mason (23-5, 14-2) - When you don't play a lot of good competition you need to make the best of your opportunities. 2-1 vs. RPI top 50.
2. Washington (18-8, 10-5) - Undefeated at home but some strange conference road losses (Oregon St., Stanford) probably knock them down a rung.
3. Temple (21-5, 11-2) - Beating Georgetown qualifies as a key win. Getting a win @ Duke this weekend would qualify them as a six seed. No pressure.
4. Missouri (21-6, 7-5) - Need to finish at least fourth in the Big 12 and win a conference tournament game. Thin line between here and a 9 seed.

1. UNLV (20-7, 8-5) - 1-5 record vs. top 25 in the RPI hurts. Winning their conference tournament would give them at least one, maybe two, more of those wins. If that happens the committee will have to evaluate this team closely
2. Florida St. (19-7, 9-3) - Key wins: Duke. Bad losses: Auburn. Advantage: Push.
3. Cincinnati (21-6, 8-6) - Rough, rough remaining schedule. Go 2-2 and will stay at worst as an 8.
4. Utah St. (25-3, 12-1) - This is one tough team for me to gauge how the committee will be judging them. They've dominated their conference and whipped St. Mary's. Then again they've only played three games against potential tournament teams (1-2).

Separating 8's from 9's is nearly impossible. That's why each has won roughly 50% of the time in the NCAA Tournament. Tomorrow things start to wind down as I do 9 - 12's and let you know who the last four at-large teams will be.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My guess at the current bracket

In the last post I did a rundown of all the major conferences (plus Ivy) and listed where the teams hoping for an NCAA bid stand. Now it's time to put some sense into that post and attempt to create a bracket.

1. Ohio St. (25-2, 12-2) - #3 in the RPI and their only two losses are on the road to undefeated home teams
2. Duke (25-2, 12-1) - Most top 100 wins in the country
3. Pittsburgh (24-3, 12-2) - 6-2 against the top 25 in the RPI
4. Texas (23-4, 11-1) - Get the tiebreaker over Kansas due to leading the Big 12
1. Kansas (25-2, 10-2) - If they win the Big 12 Tournament without a stumble inbetween, they'll pass Texas
2. San Diego St. (27-1, 12-1) - Need to beat BYU this week to have thoughts of moving up
3. BYU (25-2, 11-1) - Not sure they can get a #1 seed with their remaining schedule
4. Notre Dame (21-5, 10-4) - 8-4 vs. top 50 teams
1. Purdue (22-5, 11-3) - Mediocre road record (7-5) prevents them from grabbing the last 2 seed
2. Florida (21-5, 10-2) - Don't think they can get a 2 but seem nearly locked in here
3. Wisconsin (20-6, 10-4) - No shame for being 3rd in Big10. Conference tourney is key
4. Georgetown (21-6, 10-5) - This seed goes to whoever finishes 2nd in the Big East
1. North Carolina (20-6, 10-2) - Still play FSU & Duke. Wins there move them up to perhaps the second 3 seed
2. Arizona (23-4, 12-2) - Lead the Pac10 but just 2-3 against top RPI top 50
3. UConn (20-6, 8-6) - Despite losing to Louisville, they're still hanging on here. 7-6 vs top 50
4. Villanova (21-7, 9-6) Loss to Syracuse may move them off this line before the week is over

Remember, this is how I think the committee would seed these teams.  Tomorrow I'll work on the 5-8's which is where things start to get tricky.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So Who's IN and Who's OUT?

Before I start to assemble my bracket I like to do a quick run-down of all the conferences and see who's a lock and who's on the bubble.  After this is done I can start to rank the teams and give them seeds.  This weekend's games were pretty important so I feel confident I have most of the teams grouped appropriately.

Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple
Should be In:
Firmly on Bubble: Duquesne, Richmond
Duquesne and Richmond play each other in their final conference game. There are likely significant ramifications tied to the outcome. Richmond's win over Purdue provides them a huge boost.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Should be In: Florida St.
Firmly on Bubble: Virginia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, Boston College
Currently only Virginia Tech appears to be on the inside track of the bubble teams. Maryland and BC need to win out and do some damage in the ACC Tournament.

Big 12
Locks: Texas, Kansas
Should be In: Texas A&M, Missouri
Firmly on Bubble: Kansas St., Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma St.
Nebraska gave Texas their first conference loss and has placed themselves firmly into the bubble discussion. Of the three bubble teams, K St. has the hardest row to plow (@Neb, Mizzu, @Texas, ISU). A stumble could allow Nebraska and Baylor to push them out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bracket Buster Weekend

This weekend is quite possibly the most important weekend for many mid-major programs as it is the last chance for several programs to pick up a quality win. Unfortunately it can also break schools that have nothing much to gain and everything to lose. That being said, it's an exciting time that should feature lots of close games and helps set the tone for the final month of the season before March Madness begins. Below I've offered a quick synopsis of the five match-ups I'm really excited about.

1. Utah St. (24-3) @ St. Mary's (22-5)
Two of the three best mid-major programs go head to head here. Utah St. has no quality wins although they lost at BYU in a close one and Georgetown won on a very controversial call in December. St. Mary's is this year's Gonzaga but recently lost to San Diego who is one of the worst teams in Division I.  I think this game could turn into a classic.
Who gains more with win: Utah St. - A win here secures an at-large bid even if they don't win their conference tournament.
Who loses most with loss: Utah St.- They really needed to run the table in conference and although they'll probably finish 15-1, many on the committee will point at no quality wins and knock them down a few pegs.
Who wins: I really think St. Mary's gets it done at home. I'm pulling for the Aggies though.

2. VCU (20-8) @ Wichita St. (22-5)
VCU is currently second in the CAA (behind George Mason) but is only 1-3 when facing quality non-conference opponents. They even have a bad loss to Georgia State.  Wichita St. has a decent enough resume but has lost 3 home games in conference--not a sign of a strong mid-major. They're currently 0-2 against quality non-conference opponents.
Who gains more with win: VCU - That bad loss to Georgia St. may haunt them to the end
Who loses most with loss: Wichita St. may fall out of favor for bubble consideration if they lose this one
Who wins: Wichita St. is a great rebounding team and that will be the difference in this one.

3. Cleveland St. (23-5) @ Old Dominion (21-6)
Cleveland St. is in a dog fight for the automatic bid in the Horizon league. Old Dominion is starting to really roll. It's funny how a bad loss affects some teams and not others, right? ODU lost to Delaware early on but also has quality wins over Clemson and Xavier. An at-large bid seems probable.
Who gains more with win: Cleveland St. - A big road win is just what this team needs
Who loses most with loss: Cleveland St. - Their best non-conference win is Iona so, yeah, this is important.
Who wins: As what often happens in tournament games, take the team with the best player. Cleveland St. in a nail biter.

4. George Mason (22-5) @ Northern Iowa (19-9)
How UNI landed such a quality opponent at home baffles me.  George Mason is playing some of the best ball in the country with twelve straight wins.  They even spanked Duquesne in their one quality non-conference game.  UNI on the other hand is really struggling and isn't nearly the same team they were last year.
Who gains more with win: UNI - Brings some credibility to the MVC
Who loses most with loss: UNI - The committee puts a fair amount of emphasis on how team's close the season and a loss here would drop UNI to 1-4 in their last 5.
Who wins:  George Mason by double digits.

5. Missouri St. (21-6) @ Valparaiso (19-8)
Two teams that weren't expected to be serious conference title contenders meet in Indiana.  This will likely be the premiere game on ESPN since Dickie V announced he'll be calling the game, baby!
Who gains more with win: Valparaiso. - A win here locks up an at-large bid.
Who loses most with loss: Missouri St. - The win over Wichita St. is nice but they've got nothing else on their profile.
Who wins: Valpo.