In what could be one of the most unfortunate bubble stories in recent memory, Middle Tennessee came up short in the Sun Belt semis against Florida International. Immediately, pundits were writing them off and saying how it was a good run but it was over. But is it really over? Here at Crotistics, it is our responsibility to dig a little deeper and see how a team truly performed.
After last night’s loss, Middle Tennessee fell from #21 to #25 in my rankings. Yes, despite the loss, MTSU is still in my overall top 25. For reference, my highest ranked team last year to not make the tournament was #41 Arizona. My rankings are a combination of W/L strength, SOS, Margin of Victory and Home Advantage. I’m aware that these rankings are subjective, but I think this is a point in MTSU’s favor.
W/L strength is an interesting metric, which corrects for a weak or strong schedule played. For every win, you get positive points. The tougher the team, the more points you get. In 2013, there are 347 teams. Beating the #1 ranked team is worth 347, while beating the #347 team is worth 1. The losses work in reverse. Losing to #347 = -347 points. The average of all game points is a teams Win Strength. MTSU currently ranks #38 in this category.
With regards to the Strength of Schedule argument, the only at-large bid that entered the tournament with a worse SOS than Middle Tennessee is Iona. Iona also had a worse record and lower margin of victory than MTSU.
But perhaps the most comparable 2012 case to this year’s MTSU team is VCU. VCU won the Colonial tournament and received a #12 seed. Whether their resume would have been good enough for an at-large with a loss in the CAA title game is up for debate, but let’s look at their actual resume. VCU finished the season 28-6. Middle Tennessee is 28-5. VCU’s win strength was #38. MTSU’s win strength is #38. MTSU’s Margin of Victory is actually 3 points higher than VCU’s was last year, which is pretty impressive. They rank 8th in the nation. MTSU also has won 13 games away from home. Last year VCU had 12 wins away from home. Additionally, MTSU’s schedule this year is slightly more difficult than VCU’s last year.
So what does this tell us? These teams are extremely comparable. Even though Middle Tennessee is lacking “top 100” wins, they have 4 wins that are right outside the top 100, which still count for something. Their record is virtually identical. Their W/L Strength is identical. MTSU has played a more difficult schedule, and in doing so beaten its opponents by more. From a selection standpoint, Middle Tennessee has the advantage. VCU was a #12 seed last year, and I don’t think Middle Tennessee will be disappointed when the brackets are released this Sunday.