SportsTemps home

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NCAA Conference Power Rankings: Final list of 2011

In January I'll begin doing the Power 16 and soon my NCAATournament predictions while continuing the mid-major rankings.  I've been asked to do another conference power ranking this month and I think now is a good time.  This way we can kind of see how all the conferences stack up with each other before conference play really swings into full gear.

Matt Carlino's transfer from UCLA has been a
revelation for BYU and the entire WCC.
  1. Big Ten - The entire conference enjoyed non-conference play while picking up numerous quality wins including Kentucky and Duke.  Have eight or nine teams with legitimate NCAA Tournament aspirations while Ohio St. may be the best team in the country.  Non-conference record: 123-28.
  2. Big 12 - There's only 10 teams in the Big 12 this year and with the losses of Nebraska and Colorado the conference as a whole is improved.  Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri look like potential Final Four teams.  Non-conferenc record: 91-24.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Looking Back: Last Chance for Quality Wins

Happy Holidays everyone!  This week marked the last opportunity for many teams to make a statement before the conference slate begins this week.  Here are several games from last week that caught my eye:

Resume Building Wins

  • Creighton 87 - Northwestern 79: Creighton is now 3-0 against the best conference in the country, the Big Ten.
  • Oklahoma St. 69 - Alabama 52: This is a big victory by a team who's expected to finish in the middle of the Big 12.  Alabama is a strong contender for the SEC West crown but this loss should only provide further evidence about how much better the Big 12 is than the SEC.
  • Indiana St. 61 - Vanderbilt 55: Another big win for the MVC over a sure thing NCAA Tournament team.
  • Davidson 80 - Kansas 74: This is the biggest win for any team this season.  Davidson is now a legit mid-major at-large team.  
  • UNLV 85 - Cal 68: The Runnin Rebels have effectively moved on after being humbled at Wisconsin.  This is a team that could win a couple of games in March.

Missed Opportunities

  • Illinois 74 - Missouri 78: The Illini hung tough for the entire contest but never could get over the hump. If they struggle in BIG play then this loss will hurt.
  • Missouri St. 68 - West Virginia 70 (OT): This game is one that not only hurts Missouri St. but also affects the entire MVC.  Getting a win versus a quality Big East foe on a neutral court would've added to the credibility of the entire conference.
  • Dayton 64 - Seton Hall 69: Dayton will have a hard time finishing in the top three of the A10 this season so non-conference wins are a great opportunity to prove they're still an NCAA team. Losing at home to a bottom half Big East team does not help.
  • Northwestern 79 - Creighton 87: I know I've already mentioned this game but for a team who has NEVER (seriously, this is the only BCS school to have never made the NCAA Tournament) qualified for the Big Dance marquee wins are important. Finishing in the middle of the Big Ten won't be enough.

Damaging Losses

  • Xavier 82 - Hawai'i 84 (OT):  Their two losses to Oral Roberts and Long Beach St. shouldn't come as a surprise after the fallout from their fight with Cincinnati.  The loss to Hawaii, however, hurts. Xavier is an NCAA Tournament team, no doubt, but this one will hurt their seeding.
  • Purdue 65 - Butler 67: Losing a game you've led for 39 minutes to a team who is not expected to qualify for the NCAA Tournament hurts.
  • Washington 72 - South Dakota St. 93: This loss could really affect the RPI for the entire Pac 12.  Washington is arguably one of the top three teams so a bad loss to an average DI team in a non-power conference could have ugly ramifications.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NCAA Basketball: Mid-Major Conference Predictions

We've gotten some decent traffic on the site when putting a new post up about mid-majors.  As a follow up to yesterday's post discussing my conference predictions and NCAA Tournament predictions, I've construed a similar post for the most successful mid-majors.  Take a look below:

Colonial Athletic Association
Conference Champ: VCU
Other contenders: George Mason, Georgia St., Old Dominion, Drexel
Multiple Bids?: 50%
We all remember what VCU did last season and though they lost several starters they appear to be the best team.  Georgia St. and George Mason are also right there and it's anybody's guess who wins the league. Based on the success of this conference in past NCAA Tournaments I could see a bubble team getting the benefit of the doubt on Selection Sunday.

Horizon League
Conference Champ: Cleveland St.
Other contenders: Milwaukee, Butler, Valparaiso.
Multiple Bids?: 25%
Cleveland St's loss to South Florida may prevent them from earning an at-large bid if they fail to win their conference tournament.  Still, they've looked the best in the early going and remain my pick to win their league.  Milwaukee looks to be their biggest challenger but I refuse to discount Butler after their success the last two seasons.  Valpo may be a stretch but have already beaten Butler to start the conference season.

NCAA Basketball: Conference Predictions

The non-conference portion of everyone's schedules draw to a close this week.  After a weekend off for the holidays, the NCAA basketball season really gets started with conference play.  Some conferences will sort themselves out quickly while others may not ever (see Pac 10 in 2009) have a clear-cut order.  One thing is sure: conference play is where the majority of teams build their resume for postseason qualification.  A strong showing in January and February can override a ghastly start in November.  With the NCAA Tournament now selecting 68 teams to the foray, there's an extra four bubble spots to be won. Below I've gone through all the "Power" conferences and projected how things will shake out.

Conference Champ: North Carolina
Likely Tournament Teams: Duke, Virginia, Florida St.
Need a few breaks: Clemson, Virginia Tech,  Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina St.
Wait til Next Year: Maryland, Wake Forest, Boston College
The two things that stick out the most to me about the ACC are 1) the conference isn't nearly as good as everyone thinks it is and 2) the only team capable of winning a championship is North Carolina.  Virginia has been a pleasant surprise and Florida St. is consistently a tournament team.  The middle of the conference will have a couple of teams receive bubble interest but I doubt more than five schools make the tournament with four the most likely outcome.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mid-Major Rankings: December 2011

It’s time for another Mid-major Power Ranking!  I’ve done a lot of thinking and have decided to overhaul the teams eligible.  There is no clear-cut definition of a mid-major in college basketball.  Obviously the Big Six are excluded (Big East, Big Ten, Big12, SEC, ACC, Pac12) but what about leagues such as the Mountain West which routinely sends multiple schools to the NCAA Tournament and has teams ranked all year long?  
I’ve decided that mid-majors should be classified as:
  • Leagues that do not have Division I football and
  • Leagues that hope - not expect - to have a school selected as an at-large bid.

For instance, even though the Missouri Valley Conference is at this juncture are the best mid-major conference, they do not have DI football and will therefore be included.  The Atlantic 10 does not have Division I football (the schools that do join another conference such as Temple with the MAC) but routinely expect multiple schools to participate in the NCAA Tournament and are thereby excluded.  Thus, the precedent is set and these are my rankings:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Major League Steroids

I'll save the longer, more in-depth analysis for Anderson, but with the announcement last night that 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun has been busted for juicing, I had to write something.

I've heard there are studies out there that "prove" that steroid use does not correlate or cause increased performance. There is also the res ipsa loquitur approach of "the thing speaks for itself" that players getting busted are the ones putting up outstanding performances.

Whatever side you fall on, I need to say this...
  • Top 6 single-season Home Run Performances: Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, McGwire, Sosa, Sosa. All either proved, admitted, or super-duper highly suspicious users.
  • All-Time Home Run Leader: Barry Bonds. Also in the top 10: McGwire, Sosa, A-Rod...see above.
  • Oldest pitcher to win a Cy Young: Roger Clemens...same story. Also #3 all-time in strikeouts.
Even if you don't think PEDs can make you swing harder or throw faster, most people would agree that they speed recovery. That's the type of thing that can keep you on top of your game late into your 30s or even your 40s, thus padding the career/all-time stats.

If you take the "suspect" players off the single-season HR records list, only Babe Ruth (twice) and Willie Mays have hit more than 51 HRs after age 31. That's 3 completely honest performances by guys over 31 out of the top 31 overall. That should make you think that maybe power-hitting after 30 is quite a rare, HOF-worthy feat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marlins find money under couch cushions, add Jose Reyes

ESPN reported today that Jose Reyes agreed to a six year $102 million contract. I blogged earlier that the Marlins had money to spend but still actually seeing them use it is a bit of a shock. In 2011 Reyes led the league in batting average and triples and even scored 101 runs despite playing in only 126 games.  It was perhaps the finest all around season of his nine year career which is a good thing for a player in their prime years but perhaps a sign of caution for any team looking to sign him to a long-term deal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Champions Crowned - Top 25 (12/4/11)

So many chances to give the BCS Committee a collective middle-finger this weekend.....squandered. Or maybe not. As Oklahoma State puts the finishing touches on Oklahoma, and Wisconsin  just took the lead after their own version of the Hail Mary revenge against Michigan State, I think it's safe to say we know who will be playing for the National Championship. But few outside the SEC are happy about it.

Read on, young souls.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mid-Major Watch: Ranking Potential At-Large Teams

I don't know how much basketball everyone is watching and it's way too early to start talking about bubble teams for March Madness, but the talking heads over at ESPN keep saying it's going to be a "chalk year" in the NCAA Tournament.  What they mean is they expect the top seeded teams to move along without many upsets occurring along the way.  After watching several games the last few weeks, I've come up with the opinion that the major conferences are not that deep this season.  It may be a chalk year but I believe we can expect several mid major conferences to have multiple schools qualify for the Big Dance and this is something I like.
Below I've ranked a baker's dozen schools who could earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton may rely upon Doug McDermott too much.
Then again, he's so good why not use him as much as possible?
  1. UNLV - When you beat the best team in the country your NCAA Tournament profile looks good.  They'll look for an encore in a bout with Wichita St. this weekend.
  2. Gonzaga - Play Illinois this weekend in a game that will say a lot about where the Zags are right now.  I believe they're the best team in the West Coast Conference and new addition BYU will only add to the conference resume.  Other non-conference games include Michigan St., Arizona, Butler, and Xavier.