Month: March 2012

Bubble To Bubble: Texas – Northwestern

John Shurna is Northwestern's all time leading scorer

Everyone knows the deal by now.  Northwestern has never made the NCAA Tournament.  Not one time… ever.  There are very few of these teams left, and to accomplish this feat in a major conference is virtually impossible.  Word is that the committee shows no sympathy for a team that has a never been there.  I wanted to take a look at how Northwestern stacks up against another team from a big conference.  Texas seemed like a proper comparison for a Bubble to Bubble segment.

I have heard many arguments over the past week that “Texas is the best team not currently in the field”.  OK, that’s fine.  Texas has missed a number of close opportunities.  I also have them ranked much higher than Northwestern.  These two teams have almost identical profiles.  Texas non-conference schedule consisted mostly of hosting small Texas schools, which is fine.  A road win over UCLA and home win over Temple are the highlights.  Northwestern beat LSU and Seton Hall on a neutral floor.

The real difference I believe comes in the number of quality wins.  Without a home win over Michigan State, Northwestern’s profile really falls apart. This team got 11! shots at top 50 opponents and won only 1 of them.  Does this team really deserve to be rewarded for that win with all else ignored?  I don’t think so.  I think Texas took care of business at home and beat quality opponents.  When all is said and done, Texas will have 2 more wins against tournament teams, and I think that makes the difference.  Advantage: TEXAS

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Bubble To Bubble: Drexel – South Florida

Will Drexel be stuck in the NIT?

 

It’s time for another installment of bubble to bubble.  Today we’ll look at two teams that nobody knows what to do with right now: Drexel and South Florida.  For the record, I have both of these teams in as of right now, but there are plenty of people who do not think Drexel will be standing when all is said and done.  The argument boils down to basically one thing: Strength of Schedule.  Let’s look at how these two teams’ resumes compare:

Each team has 3 sub-100 losses.  South Florida is 1-9 against the RPI top 50.  Drexel is 1-2, with a loss also at #57 Saint Joe’s.  Here’s where the strength of schedule argument just becomes completely invalid.  If Drexel had played 6 more games against the RPI top 50 and lost every single one of them, they would be in EXACTLY the same position that South Florida is in.  Because Drexel did not play those games, do you penalize them??  Apparently in some circles, that is the case.

Another feather in Drexel’s cap is the fact that they won 14 games away from home, while South Florida has only won 5.  Now, it’s easy to say that the quality of opponent wasn’t great, but they still won those games.  You have to give them credit for that.  You also have to give them credit for winning 25 out of 26 games.  Only Kentucky, Syracuse, and Murray State achieved that feat this season.

The final piece of comparison is looking at how these teams did against common opponents.  These teams each played VCU, Old Dominion and Cleveland St.  Against these opponents Drexel went 4-1, including 3 wins away from home.  Against these teams South Florida went 1-2, with their only win coming at home.

Strength of schedule is ONE factor, and if that outweighs everything else I’ll be highly shocked.  Advantage: DREXEL

Bubble To Bubble: Seton Hall – Tennessee

Tennessee is playing great basketball

 

With only a week to go until Selection Sunday, this will be the first installment of what I call Bubble to Bubble.  This a look at the cases of two separate teams whose arrows are pointing in opposite directions and how each of them fare.  Our first case will look at two teams from big conferences: Seton Hall and Tennessee.

Just a short time ago, Seton Hall seemed like they were almost a surefire lock for the big dance.  They only had 2 losses outside of the top 50, and still had amassed 7 top 100 wins.  They had solid wins away from home and solid wins in the non-conference.  But now, a week later, a home loss in OT to Rutgers and an absolute beatdown at DePaul have clouded the Pirates’ at large hopes.  The biggest question to ask may simply be: what happened?  Seton Hall at one point was 15-2, and #4 in the RPI.  The committee insists they look at the “body of work”, which I believe.  But is Seton Hall’s strong start enough to carry them into the tournament?  I’m not sure.  Let’s put it this way… If they beat Providence, they would then face Louisville.  If they win 2 games, they’ll be in.  If they get beat by Providence, they’ll be out.  The most likely scenario is that they beat Providence and then lose to Louisville, which will mean that the Pirates will be sitting at home on Selection Sunday holding their collective breath.  Seton Hall’s star is fading, and they’ll have one opportunity to make their case.

A team headed in the complete opposite direction is the Tennessee Volunteers.  After a disastrous start to the season, the Vols have caught fire of late, winning 8 of their final 9 games to remarkably lock up the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament.  In most years, the team with the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament is a virtual lock for the big dance, but that is not the case here.  The major change was the January addition of top recruit Jarnell Stokes.  Stokes decided to be an early entrant to college, and since his arrival the Vols have gone 10-5.  They’ve defeated the likes of UConn, Florida, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and LSU… all who recently were considered tournament teams or close to it.  Tennessee is in a unique position.  They’ll have some opportunities in the SEC Tournament to accumulate a couple more quality wins, and I think they could seize them.  If the Vols reach the final against Kentucky, they probably will have done enough at that point to get in.  Currently with an RPI of 75, if they can get that number into the mid 60’s, they should be able to be one of the last teams in.  A December home loss to Austin Peay has really held them back.

Final Thoughts: Tennessee is a better team than Seton Hall, and if they both were to get in the tournament, the Vols would almost certainly perform better.  Right now Seton Hall has the slight edge, but when all is said and done, I believe Tennessee will have the upper hand.

Who is Florida Gulf Coast?

If you type “Florida Gulf Coast” into Google Images, you’ll get pictures of beautiful beaches.  What you won’t get much of, pictures of the men’s basketball team, may soon be much more prevalent.  After defeating Mercer on their home floor to advance to the Atlantic Sun Final, Florida Gulf Coast could be dancing in their first eligible postseason since reclassifying to Division I.  The win over Mercer was arguably the biggest in the program’s history.

What awaits the Eagles in the finals is a Belmont team that is not only in consideration for an at-large berth, but also defeated the Eagles twice this season by a combined 62 points.  Something tells me that when the two teams take the floor in Georgia tonight, neither will be intimidated.  USC Upstate had beaten Gulf Coast twice this season, but couldn’t finish when it matters.  Mercer had beaten Gulf Coast twice this season, but couldn’t finish when it matters.  And now, Belmont has beaten Gulf Coast twice this season, and more than likely need to win this game to get into the NCAA Tournament.

March is a crazy thing, and sometimes there is nothing more dangerous than a team on a roll, with nothing to lose.  Gulf Coast shouldn’t be here in their first eligible season.  They shouldn’t be in position to make the big dance, where they would surely be in one of the play-in games.  But none of that matters.  Every kid has the same dream, and dreams are difficult to take away.  Despite being under .500, the Eagles are a tested team.  They went all over the country in the non-conference schedule and came up just short on many occasions.  They lost at TCU by 1, at SMU by 1, at Miami by 10, at Maryland by 6, at Loyola by 3, at Nebraska by 1.  Sooner or later, some of those losses turn into wins.

A week before Selection Sunday, we could have our first Cinderella squad.  One thing is for sure… after being thoroughly embarrassed in their first two meetings with Belmont, Gulf Coast will not back down in this game.  Best of luck as both teams look to lock up a spot to the NCAA Tournament.

Tourneys That Change The At-Large Picture

We have reached the second to last weekend before Selection Sunday, and now we have finally reached some conference tournaments where teams are looking to play their way into the tournament.  Let’s get right into it.

Colonial: Being a CAA alum, I do have a slight bias towards the Colonial.  I think both Drexel and VCU should be in, and I believe that their wins and RPI numbers support their case.  They each have a number of quality wins, each has few losses, and each certainly looks like a tournament team.  But we know that at least one of these teams will be sitting on Selection Sunday hoping to hear their name called.  All signs point to a Drexel/VCU final, and if that is the case, they both deserve to be in regardless of the result.  A dark horse team could be Delaware, who if they manage to reach Drexel in the semifinals, will be riding a 10 game winning streak.

MAAC: One team that has been getting very little attention on the bubble is Iona.  Perhaps being in first place in the MAAC has everyone assuming that they will win the tournament, but that is not a certainty.  If they lose, they could very well steal a bid from another bubble team.  Iona is 24-6, and has played a remarkable 19 games away from home before the MAAC tourney, winning 14 of those.  They’re 5-3 against the RPI top 100, and are 9-3 against the RPI top 130.  I think that if they do lose in the tournament, they’re almost a lock for an at large.  The Gaels are going to be a very tough out come tourney time.  Loyola could give them a run in the final, but I think Iona locks up an automatic bid.

SoCon: Just like the MAAC, Davidson has made a pretty decent case for an at large bid should they not win the Southern Conference tournament.  The case obviously is almost entirely based on a win over Kansas in Kansas City.  It’s not the Phog, but it was a Kansas home game.  I don’t think they would make it if they lose; being that their average RPI win is 216.  That’s almost unheard of.  The team that intrigues me here is UNC-Greensboro.  After a 2-14 start (with the only wins over Towson and a non D-1 school), Greensboro made a coaching change, and it was like a light switch was flipped on.  The Spartans finished 10-4, and actually finished first in the SoCon North.  What a story that would be if they won this tournament.

There will be some great action this weekend.

It’s The Shockers’ Time

Joe Ragland is one of the most underrated guards in the country

3 more conference tournaments start today.  The Missouri Valley aka Arch Madness, and the slightly less mad Northeast and America East tournament.   Here’s how each tourney will shape up.

America East: This should be a pretty exciting tournament, as the Harftord location is truly neutral for all of the contenders.  One of Stony Brook, Vermont and Boston University should win the crown and end up dancing.  The highest remaining seed hosts the championship game, and barring an upset of Stony Brook, the final will be on Long Island.  Despite a capacity of only around 4,000, University Arena is one of the most electric home courts in the country.  I think Stony Brook comes away as champions.

Northeast: Perhaps Wagner is a bit overrated in many circles.  A December win at Pitt really put the Seahawks on the map.  That game, however, was played without Tray Woodall.  If they met again now, the result would most likely be much different.  The real team to watch out for here is Long Island.  Their junior forward Julian Boyd is 3rd in the country in Rebounds per 40 minutes.  The real key will be keeping him out of foul trouble.  A second round matchup with Quinnipiac could also prove tricky.  Quinnipiac pulled an amazing 60 rebounds during their first meeting.  I think in the end, Long Island will be too much and win the crown at home.

Missouri Valley: This is one of the few years where no Valley team is really on the bubble.  Wichita State and Creighton are locks, and nobody else will be selected as an at-large.  That being said, there always seems to be a team that makes a run to the finals in the Valley.  Bubble teams everywhere are hoping that one of Wichita State or Creighton win this tourney, so as not to steal another bid.  I personally thing a Wichita State/Creighton final would be great to watch.  I have Wichita State as a 3 seed right now, and I think with a Valley championship, the Shockers may be able to make a case for a #2 seed.  Against teams out of the RPI top 25, the Shockers are 23-1, with the only loss being a triple overtime defeat at Drake.  Very, very impressive.  I think they take the title this year.

We are in the full swing of things, and it is do or die for so many teams.  This is the best time of year.  March is finally here.