Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thinking about the Resume

335 of the 336 Division teams have played a game already (Temple opens up on Tuesday) so at this point every conceivable tournament team has set some sort of reputation. Some teams have already done serious damage to their at-large resume, while others have emerged as surprisingly possible bubble teams. The biggest positive surprise has got to be Winthrop:

Winthrop 74, Mississippi St. 63
You knew the Eagles would be good, and they entered the season at the favorites in the Big South - but I don't think anyone thought they'd be this good. It's still very early, and a lot can happen, but it's already worth considering the possibility of Winthrop receiving a tournament bid even if they get knocked off in the Big South tournament in March. They're moving up in the new BP 65 for sure.

#18 Texas 77, St. John's 66

The story of this game was the same as the story of the season for Texas: Kevin Durant = wow. He could be an All-American at four different positions. Texas probably only gets one year with this kid, though, since he's almost a lock for a top-5 pick in the draft. Meanwhile, both of these teams showed youth, talent, and inconsistency. Texas went on stretches where they looked outstanding, and stretches where they looked awful. St. John's had a bad habit of getting just far too over-eager whenever they went on a run of their own. Len Elmore made a good point - when the team got too excited they really needed Darryl Hill to step up, demand the ball, and settle everything down. His senior leadership is going to be absolutely essential if St. John's wants to finish in the top half of the Big East.

Nebraska 73, #25 Creighton 61

As I've pointed out in the past, the power of the underdog is overwhelming in college basketball. Being the underdog in a game is a huge psychological advantage in any game. This is often the defininig issue in games between middle-of-the-pack big conference schools and the good mid-majors. The mid-majors are extremely dangerous when they're the underdog, but it's very hard to win when you're suddenly the favorite. It's why teams from the Missouri Valley and the like have been so much more successful over the past few years as a 10, 11 or 12 seed than they've been as a 6 or 7 seed. And it's also why it's been remarkable what Gonzaga has achieved the past few years, cotinuing to make Sweet 16 runs as the favorites. The point of that whole paragraph: No reason to panic in Creighton over this loss. They'll drop out of the top 25 now and be able to play with a lot less pressure.

Drexel 59, Vermont 46
Another psychological issue at stake here. Teams typically regress to the mean over time - they tend to follow good games with bad games and vice versa. Teams usually follow up huge victories with a lot of talk about how great they are, and then they stink it up in the next game. Just look at what's happened to Louisville and Rutgers in consecutive weeks in college football. Both had historic victories, followed it up by 1000 interviews about the national championship game, and expectedly stunk it up the next week. The point: no reason for Vermont to panic. They're still probably the best team in the America East. They just need to make sure that they can keep the attitude of the underdog when they face Albany a few times later this season.

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