In the February 27th vlog, I discuss VCU's chances for an at-large, Wichita State controversy, Gonzaga remaining a 1 seed, and what UVA needs to do to get back on track.
VCU - Start
Wichita - 4:30
Gonzaga - 10:35
UVA - 16:00
As we head into conference play, the narrative dominating the A10 universe is that the conference is having a an off year. While there's a shade of truth to this concept, things are not nearly as bad as they seem. The league is still in decent position to land a few bids, and our Monday three points blog demonstrates why.
2. The computer numbers are good enough
People love to give me a hard time about how much I talk about the RPI, but the fact of the matter is that this is still the primary selection tool that the Selection Committee uses. So roll your eyes if you want, but the A10 has three teams in the RPI top 50, EIGHT in the top 100, and is ranked 7th in the RPI....just like 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. You want more than that? Fine, let's use Kenpom instead. The A10 still has three teams in the top 50 (okay, VCU is 52nd, but we all know that they're going to rise into the 40's in no time). There are five teams in the top 100, and La Salle and St. Joe's sit just outside at 101 and 102. What's even more significant are the SOS numbers of the teams contending for a tournament bid. Dayton, Rhody, VCU, and Davidson all have top 50 non-conference strength of schedules. The Selection Committee has demonstrated time and time again that even without a signature out of conference win, a high non-conference SOS can put you in good favor come March.
3. Conference scheduling will work in favor of the top teams
If not for favorable scheduling from the A10 I almost might agree that the conference will fail to get multiple bids. However, Bernadette McGlade worked her usual magic and got the following:
-VCU gets Dayton and Davidson twice, and SLU only once (unlike previous years, helping the Rams SOS)
- Dayton gets Rhody and VCU twice, which could give the Flyers two signature victories they currently lack
- Rhody gets Dayton twice, as well as VCU, St. Bonaventure, UMass, and Davidson at home.
- Davidson will play Rhody and VCU twice and gets Dayton at home
- St. Bonaventure gets Dayton twice, and VCU at home
While it's likely that only VCU, Dayton, and Rhode Island will be in strong position for bids come March, getting the mid-upper tier of the conference key home games is masterful RPI engineering. Even if Davidson isn't competing for an at-large bid, they'll likely have a top 50 or 75 RPI, giving the very top tier more quality wins by the end of the year.
And 1: The Selection Committee will be sympathetic to the injury situations of Rhode Island and Dayton
When Josh Cunningham broke his leg on a game ending dunk at Alabama in mid-November, a lot of Dayton fans figured their season would be an uphill climb to make the NCAA tournament. After all, Kendall Pollard missed the first several games of the season, making them extremely depleted. Despite narrow losses to St. Mary's and Northwestern, the Flyers avoided bad losses and still made it to conference play at 8-3. This puts them in position to score a couple of signature wins with more complete roster and demonstrate that they're one of the best 38 at-large teams at the end of the year. The same goes for Rhode Island, except despite some close road losses with a thinned roster (Hassan Martin missed several games), they narrowly lost road contests against top 100 teams. When they were at full strength, they beat a very good Cincinnati team, as we discussed above. If they can avoid more than a couple of bad losses and beat VCU and Dayton at home, the Rams will be more concerned with seeding than getting a bid.
It's that time again, friends! Selection Sunday is now less than 100 hours out, and the action on the bubble already began Tuesday night. Let's get right to some quick hitting points:
My initial selection list is up
While the seeding still needs to be worked out, I have the at-large field up on the Bracket Projection page. The seeding and pairings should be worked out by Friday. If you want me to discuss your team, hit me on Twitter (@Bracketmarch) and I'll do my best to do a piece on them before Selection Sunday.
BYU hasn't done enough to deserve an at-large
Gonzaga defeated BYU last night to earn the WCC title for the third straight year. While the Cougars have played much better basketball of late and racked up a huge victory at Gonzaga a couple of weeks ago, that alone is not enough to get into the tournament. For starters, the selection committee took no longer considers end of season play as a selection criteria. Additionally, they had multiple opportunities to get an additional signature win out of conference, but never did (San Diego State, Utah, Purdue). This can change, however, if other teams on the bubble lose.
NC State is safe
The Wolfpack could take a nap at half-court against Pitt tonight and still get into the tournament. Unlike the Cougars, NC State has plenty of great wins to make its resume sufficient. Beating Boise State, Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina will do that for a team, even if it has several bad losses. Also, Beejay Anya scares me.
Miami is in a do or die scenario
Not only do the Hurricanes need to beat Virginia Tech tonight, I think they need one more win against Notre Dame on Thursday. While the win at Duke is stellar, their resume looks a lot like BYU. Yes, they beat NC State and also Illinois at home, but those wins are marginal and they have too many confounding losses to the likes of Eastern Kentucky, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest. The Hurricanes are enigmatic, and I think they need one more signature win away from home to prove they belong. Time to go nuts, Angel Rodriguez.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey clearly had a unique take on how to contain Duke prodigy Jahlil Okafor on Wednesday night: he didn't. His strategy was to let Okafor do his thing and focus on attacking Duke in other areas. The approach was commendable, because Okafor mauled the Irish with 22 points and 18 boards on 10-18 shooting. Yet Brey stuck with a four guard approach and punished the Blue Devils on the perimeter for most of the evening. Jerian Grant did as he pleased all evening and was a pleasure to watch. Anyone who shoots 9/15 for 23 points against one of America's most talented teams is truly impressive. But that wasn't stat that stood out the most for Grant: he had TWELVE assists. Collectively, the Irish buckled down defensively late, and Duke struggled mightily in the final minutes after being extremely efficient for most of the game. Oh, and a little luck never hurts either.
At this point, with wins over Miami, at NC State, at North Carolina, and now Duke, Notre Dame being the real deal is no longer up for debate. This team is winning big games that a 2 or 3 seed would. The Irish are 5-2 against the top 50 with no bad losses. However, Notre Dame's non-conference slate is truly laughable. I'll leave you a list of good wins they accumulated in non-conference play and then list the bad programs they beat:
Out of Conference Good wins: (RPI)
Michigan St. (42)
Out of Conference Wins against Cupcakes: (RPI)
Coppin St. (315)
Chicago St. (347)
Farleigh Dickensen (282)
Mt. St. Mary's (166)
Northern Illinois (209)
This list alone is bad enough, but the Irish had a composite out of conference strength of schedule of 324 and played ZERO road games. There is absolutely zero excuse for an ACC school to put together that kind of pre-conference slate. The selection committee will have a dilemma on March 15th. They've said time and time again that non-conference scheduling matters and makes an impact on seeding and selection. While the Irish don't have to worry about getting selected for the field, they can probably kiss any hopes of a 2 seed goodbye. The highest they can climb with that embarrassment of a schedule will be the 3 line....that is, if the Selection Committee follows through on their clearly defined expectations for scheduling.
We'd like to extend a warm welcome to Jeff Kotlarczyk to the Bracketmarch family. A Michigan State alumnus living in San Antonio, Jeff has an extensive knowledge of college hoops, especially the Big Ten Conference. Jeff will be contributing his Top 25 each week and will also be making his own bracket. In time, we might even merge our picks together to resemble a smaller selection committee. We look forward to seeing his rankings, projections, and thoughts as the season rolls on!
Jeff K's Top 25
3 ) Arizona
6) Notre Dame
9) Wichita St
10) Iowa State
13) North Carolina
17) West Virginia
21) Colorado St.
22) Northern Iowa
Under consideration: Ohio State, Dayton, San Diego State, George Washington, SMU, LSU, Miami FL, Oregon State, Tulsa, Providence
Welcome back to the blog and happy belated 2015, everybody! We decided to wait a little bit longer to post our first bracket of the season, partially due to real life commitments (Chris and I both have day jobs). The other (and primary) reason is because late January is when the signal starts to get separated from the noise. I've already heard chatter on Twitter about how it's "TOO EARLY" to do a bracket, and that this is a totally useless exercise. For starters, we look at bracketology sites because we're unabashed college hoops nerds and we get our kicks out of it. We run Bracketmarch mainly for enjoyment. But also to troll the hell out of all of you. Stop taking it so seriously, guys! Secondly, there is some value in looking at where things stand in late January. Let me make a rather ridiculous (but poignant) analogy via the Earth's geologic history.
Around 200 million years ago, the super continent Pangea looked like a huge amalgamated mess. What are now the continents looked nothing like what they do today. However, the tectonic plates started to shift, and 50 million years later, the Earth began to show what the continents were going to look like today. If you were alive around that time and looked down from space, you'd be able to differentiate South America from Africa and North America from Asia. Take a look:
In a nutshell, Pangea is what the college basketball picture looks like in late December and early January. The out of conference schedule is largely finished, but we have no idea who is going to hit a wall and break down in conference play. This year, there are teams like UNLV, which beat Arizona, that looked like they had a serious shot at an at-large, only to quickly fold after the new year. With a few weeks of the conference schedule under our belt, we have a solid idea of who can sustain solid play through most of the season. I looked back at my bracket from late January 2014, and roughly 80 percent of the teams in that bracket made the field. More than 60 percent of teams were within 2-3 seed lines of their final standing on Selection Sunday. So while yes, this is primarily for our entertainment, there's something to be gained if you want to know where your team stands about 60% of the way through the college hoops season. So kick back, relax, and enjoy the madness! We'll be updating the bracket at least weekly as well as throwing in blog posts/podcasts in between. Happy hoops season!
I had Green Bay as my last team in on the at-large board this evening, and contrary to opinions of other bracket folks, I did NOT believe that Providence was deserving of an at-large. Why I thought this is another discussion for another day, but the reality is a bid thief swooped in and grabbed a spot in the field. This means that one at-large must be moved off the board. Unfortunately I feel like Green Bay has the flimsiest of all the cases for teams currently in, especially when Tennessee also beat Virginia, except they did so by 35, and had several other wins that were just decent enough to make them in the field.
Nebraska has a terrible OOC, but you can't keep out a team that's beaten Ohio St, Wisconsin, and Michigan State on the road. They had players added to their roster after January, and they've shown they are a completely different team now. St. Joseph's had the same OOC issue, but they've done so much away from home this season that it's next impossible to keep this team out. Perhaps if Green Bay had held on to that seven point second half lead against Wisconsin back in November, things would be different. But in the case of the Phoenix, a win over Virginia just isn't going to cut it after one of their at-large competitors received a ticket to the dance.
As the tournament picture becomes more clear, the number teams who are probably safe is slowly growing, and we're starting to focus in on the handful of teams who will be sweating out their fate on March 16th. With only 3-4 games remaining for most teams (conference tournaments included), most of the teams on the bubble have just as many blemishes as assets on their resume. So let's take a moment and go through three blind resume tests. If you only had to pick one team from each group, which team would you choose?
Group 1 (Pick One Team):
Record vs top 50: 4-7
Record vs top 100: 6-10
OOC Key Wins: 33
Other Key Wins: @19, 17, 19
Bad Losses: @135, 194, @124
Record vs top 50: 1-1
Record vs top 100: 5-3
OOC Key Wins: 46
Other Key wins: None
Bad Losses: @266, 140, @214
Record vs top 50: 3-8
Record vs top 100: 8-9
Key OOC Wins: 34-N
Other Key Wins: 61, 33, 14
Bad Losses: @120, 161, @193
Group 2 (Pick One Team):
Record vs top 50: 1-3
Record vs top 100: 0-0
Key OOC Wins: 45
Other Key Wins: None
Bad Losses: 116-N, @162
Record vs top 50: 3-4
Record vs top 100: 6-8
Key OOC Wins: None
Other Key Wins: 8, 42, @45
Bad Losses: 111-N, @143
Record vs top 50: 2-7
Record vs top 100: 9-9
Key OOC Wins: None
Other Key Wins: @34, 40
Bad Losses: 148, @144
Group 3 (Pick One Team):
Record vs top 50: 3-7
Record vs top 100: 6-10
Key OOC Wins: @64,
Other Key Wins: 38, 5, 27
Bad Losses: 130, @126
Record vs top 50: 3-5
Record vs top 100: 7-6
Key OOC Wins: @41, 24-N
Other Key Wins: 25
Bad Losses: @168, @125, @153, @193
Record vs top 50: 1-1
Record vs top 100: 4-3
Key OOC Wins: 10
Other Key Wins: None
Bad Losses: 170, @177
Thursday night commenced the Madness before March even started. What wasn't surprising was that good teams lost. What was suprising was who those teams lost to. St. Louis, with their two month winning streak in tow, was stunned by lowly Duquense. Kentucky lost to Arkansas (leading to a season sweep). Ohio St. lost a head scratcher in Happy Valley. Memphis lost to a Houston team that has been decimated with injuries and transfers. None of these teams are on the bubble (at least not yet). They're all going to make the tournament. However, (St. Louis aside) those losses only reinforced the fact that despite carrying cache and marketable brands, their profiles aren't that good and neither will their seed be on Selection Sunday unless they rack up significant wins in the next two weeks. Let's take a look at the profiles of some of the teams close to the 6/7 seed line and look at who could leapfrog them.
Teams that look to be leapfrogged:
Kentucky (7 seed):
Away: 5 -3
Notes: Very strong OOC schedule but only 1 OOC quality win (Louisville-H), only other quality win is at Mizzou (11 seed), only quality win away from home is at Mizzou as well.
Ohio St (6 seed):
Notes: 0 quality OOC wins, one quality win away from home (Wisconsin), nearly 2/3rds of all games played at home and played 11 home games, one road, and one neutral game in OOC (the selection committee will notice this).
Iowa (7 seed):
51-100: 2- 1
Away: 4 - 5
Notes: 1 OOC quality win (Xavier), one quality win away from home (Ohio St), lost three straight (Wisconsin, @Minnesota, @Indiana).
UConn (7 seed):
Notes: Signature OOC win vs Florida, only other quality wins vs Memphis (twice).
Teams that look to do the leapfrogging:
Stanford (7 seed):
Neutral 1 - 2
Notes: Signature OOC win at UConn, wins vs UCLA, at Cal, Arizona St, @Oregon, overall strong resume and will probably stay at least on the 7 line or move up if they hold strong until Selection Sunday.
VCU (8 seed):
Neutral 3 - 2
Notes: Signature OOC win at Virginia. Four of six quality wins have come away from home. All losses to quality opponents but one were one possession games under a minute to play. Will play St. Louis at home on Saturday.
Kansas St (8 seed):
Notes: Two bad OOC losses to No. Colorado/Charlotte, two good OOC wins vs GW/Gonzaga, 0 top 100 road wins. Defeated Kansas, Texas, and Oklahama (all top 5 seeds). All three remaining games are vs top 50 opponents.(Iowa St. @Oklahoma St, Baylor).
George Washington (8 seed):
Notes: Signature OOC win vs Creighton (neutral). No bad losses. Defeated five top 100 opponents in OOC schedule.
PODCAST: Weekend recap hitting on lots of great college basketball action. Listen to the podcast as we cover New Mexico, Indiana State, VCU, and UMass. Check it out and hit us back with your take!
Growing up outside of Richmond, Virginia in the heart of ACC Country, college hoops was set into the fabric of Rusty Tutton at an early age. A 2008 graduate of VCU, he lives in the Fan District of Richmond and works full-time in higher education.