Monday, February 27, 2006

Top 35 - February 27th

This will have to hold you until the official polling comes out later today. You should be able to figure out why I'm placing teams where they are based on my review of the past weekend's games:

1. Duke
2. UConn
3. Villanova
4. Texas
5. Memphis
6. Tennessee
7. Gonzaga
8. Illinois
9. Ohio State
10. Pittsburgh
11. West Virginia
12. Boston College
13. George Washington
14. Florida
15. NC State
16. North Carolina
17. Kansas
18. Georgetown
19. UCLA
20. Iowa
21. LSU
22. Michigan State
23. Washington
24. Nevada
25. Marquette

26. Wisconsin
27. UAB
28. Oklahoma
29. Alabama
30. Bucknell
31. Wichita State
30. Alabama
31. Missouri State
32. Arkansas
33. Michigan
34. Colorado
35. George Mason

New Mid-Major Top 25

A bunch of moving around in the past week, especially in the Missouri Valley. Here it goes:

1. Gonzaga
2. Bucknell
3. Wichita State
4. Missouri State
5. George Mason
6. Western Kentucky
7. UNC-Wilmington
8. Kent State
9. Northern Iowa
10. Southern Illinois
11. Hofstra
12. Creighton
13. Bradley
14. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
15. Iona
16. Winthrop
17. Akron
18. Northwestern State
19. Manhattan
20. Murray State
21. UPenn
22. Pacific
23. Montana
24. San Diego State
25. Miami-Ohio

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Top Weekend Games

We'll go conference by conference:

#1 Duke 74, Temple 66
Bracketologists were saying that even with a win here that Temple still had a lot of work to do. And, in a sense it was true that Temple probably had the worst resume of any bubble team. But a win over Duke puts just about any team in the tournament discussion. Of course, they didn't win. They put up a good fight, but the only way they're getting in now is by pulling off a few upsets and winning the A-10 tournament. Meanwhile, Duke showed some strength winning on the road against a desperate team without a good game from their star. Certainly a good sign for them as they head into March.

#13 Boston College 74, #14 NC State 72, 2OT
All I can say was that this was a great game all around. Tons of energy, but NC State just couldn't produce a good shot when they needed it. They're a very solid team, but they just don't have a guy who can create off the dribble in the clutch. Besides, BC was clearly invigorated by their disrespected on this website. I apologize, and will boost BC above NC State in my next Top 35 poll.

Virginia Tech 72, Florida State 61
Just a devastating loss for the Seminoles, with their RPI dropping all the way to a very dangerous 64. In a normal year, you'd think that a 17-8 team from the ACC would be a lock for the tournament, but not a team that lacks a SINGLE win over a top-25 team. They are 1-5 vs. the RPI Top 50 and have a 7-0 record against teams outside the top 200 (meaning that they are only 10-8 vs. teams in the RPI top 200). Barring an upset of Duke on Wednesday, they will have to beat Miami in the season finale and then make a run into atleast the ACC tournament Semis to have a serious chance at a bid.

Clemson 90, Virginia 64
The Big East, Big 10 and ACC have clearly been the class of the nation this year, and you feel like the ACC would be snubbed with only 4 tournament teams. But right now, who would be the fifth? Virginia had a good shot to be that team until this drubbing by Clemson. Unlike Florida State, they have a couple of Top 25 wins (over UNC and BC), but the further you look at this resume the worse it gets. They are 5-9 against the RPI top 100. Their strong strength of schedule gives them a good enough RPI to stay in the at-large discussion (68), but they probably need to beat UNC this week to get themselves ahead of FSU in the pecking order at this point.

#21 UNC 81, Maryland 57
Maryland continues the theme of the ACC this weekend. This team feels like it should be an NCAA team, but there is nothing in their resume to support that. Their only Top-25 win was over BC back in early December. They are now 6-8 in the ACC and are only 2-7 vs. the RPI top 50. The only thing keeping them in the discussion is their tough strength of schedule, but scheduling good teams only means something if you win occasionally. They have two must-win games against Miami and at Virginia this week. Even wins in both of those games still puts them on the wrong side of the bubble heading into the ACC tournament.

Big 12:
#7 Texas 80, #18 Kansas 55
This game puts Texas in the driver's seat for the Big 12 regular season title and, more importantly, proves that on any night they have the potential to be as good as anyone. Kansas had been playing great lately and Texas just lay down the hammer. You could make a good argument that Texas deserves that last #1 seed over Memphis.

Colorado 78, Missouri 60
Certainly an important win for Colorado, moving them up to 8-6 in conference and into the top 50 in RPI. They have a Top 25 scalp in Oklahoma, and can pretty much clinch a bid if they can pull out a win in Kansas on Wednesday. In lieu of that, a win over Iowa State and then a win or two in the Big 12 should be enough.

Texas A&M 66, Nebraska 55

Probably means the end for the up-and-down Huskers. They need to win their final 2 games and probably need a marquee win in the Big 12 Tourney. Right now they're lined up to play Oklahoma in the Quarterfinals - the same team which Nebraska beat back in January to get their name in play. A win there and anything's possible. As for A&M, this game probably puts them on the good side of the bubble for now. But they need to beat Texas or Texas Tech to avoid possibly falling to 6th place, and setting up what could be an elimination game against Oklahoma in the Conference Quarterfinals.

Big East:
#4 Connecticut 89, #2 Villanova 75
More people should have seen this coming. Villanova squeaked by UConn a couple weeks ago, at home. To me, that shouldn't have put them ahead of UConn in the rankings (as you'll note that I did not in my own list below). So, a raucous Storrs crowd was enough to help the Huskies win this one fairly solidly. If there's any justice, UConn should move up to #2 in the polls - I really don't see why Memphis should be rewarded the #2 spot for beating UTEP and Tulsa.

#23 Georgetown 68, Syracuse 53
Not what Jim Boeheim needed. The West Virginia win nearly put them in, and they have a great RPI due to an outstanding strength of schedule (9), but they're not quite in yet. A win at Depaul and another one in the first round of the Big East tournament should be the trick. But nothing is assured for the Orange quite yet.

Depaul 67, Seton Hall 64
Proving that they belong in the Big East, Depaul dealt a crushing blow to Seton Hall. The Hall have been up and down all year, but I think they need atleast 2 more wins ( in the regular season or in the conference tourney) to feel good on the morning of Selection Sunday.

Big 10:
#12 Ohio State 64, Michigan 54
The Wolverines blew a shot to clinch a spot in the dance, but they're still in good shape. They have an RPI of 25 and are 10-7 vs. the RPI top 100. A win over Indiana in Ann Arbor next week should seal the deal.

Indiana 78, #16 Michigan St. 71
This effort by the Hoosiers surprised me, and puts them back in the discussion for the tournament. Working for them are strong RPI numbers and wins over Kentucky, Michigan State, Illinois and Ohio State. Working against them is the fact that most of their damage came early in the season, and they are 3-7 in their last 10. I think they need to win their last 2, plus atleast one game in the conference tourney to have a legitimate argument.

Wisconsin 80, Minnesota 74
You've got to win those "must-win" games, and Minnesota didn't. It's tough to ask a team to win in Madison, but even that probably wouldn't have been enough for the Gophers. I really can't see them making the tournament without the automatic bid.

Missouri Valley:
Southern Illinois 46, Northern Iowa 45
ESPN 2 tried to do the Missouri Valley a favor by putting them on national tv Saturday. They might have done more harm then good, by suggesting to people who haven't seen too much Missouri Valley action live this year (like me) that the low scores in conference games have a lot less to do with hustle defense and a lot more to do with bad offense. UNI had looked golden for a bid just two weeks ago, but they have looked awful lately with 4 losses in their last 5 games. They're still 22-8 with a good strength of schedule and some marquee wins. But something tells me that they won't be too comfortable on Selection Sunday unless they can beat Missouri State in the first round of the Valley tournament. As for SIU, this win (along with some generous tiebreakers) puts them in 2nd place in the Missouri Valley. That alone could be enough for a bid, but they need to take care of business against whoever they end up drawing in their first Valley tournament game to feel good about their chances.

Bradley 86, Drake 66
Bradley just will not go away, and will have to get serious at-large consideration. Nothing on their resume screams at-large bid, but they won their last 5 games to finish 5th in the conference (ahead of UNI, which has been calling a tournament lock for weeks). So, is this hot finish enough to get them in? Unfortunately, probably not. It's simply not possible for the MVC to get six bids, and right now Bradley is still 6th in the pecking order. They absolutely need to beat Creighton in their first Valley tournament game to have a serious shot. I still will have them on the wrong side of the bubble unless they can reach the tourney championship game.

Missouri State 60, Creighton 54
A very important game for both teams. The win means that Missouri State finishes the regular season with the best RPI in the conference (20). That alone means that they should be in, but they shouldn't feel comfortable unless they can what may be a very desperate UNI team in the Valley tourney. A win there would almost definitely guarantee a bid. As for Creighton, they can't be feeling too good right now. 3 losses in their last 5 games means that their tourney game against Bradley could be an elimination game for both teams.

Stanford 39, Washington St. 37
What an awful game. Stanford probably still needs to win their last two regular season games to have a good shot at the tournament. Honestly, the Pac-10 doesn't deserve a 4th team.

#19 Washington 73, Cal 62
Not too devastating of a loss for Cal, but they're still on the outside looking in. Winning their last 2 games will be enough to get in the tournament, I think.

#24 LSU 71, Kentucky 67
Kentucky feels like they should be a mortal lock for the tournament, but the numbers on their resume are almost hard to believe. They are 2-8 vs the RPI Top 50 with only 2 wins over Top 25 teams (one of which, over Louisville in December, sure isn't looking like a marquee win anymore). With two very tough games to go, could find themselves 8-8 in the SEC and having a must-win game in the first round of the SEC tourney.

Alabama 82, #9 Florida 77
Should be the clincher for the Tide. The only way I can see them missing out on the Big Dance is with losses in every game left in the season. Their easy schedule makes that very unlikely.

Arkansas 73, #11 Tennessee 69
Should be the clincher for Arkansas, as well. However, they are still behind Alabama in the pecking order. This means that losses in their final two regular season games could very well knock them right back on the bubble.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Mid-Major Top 25

In addition to the national Top 35, a Mid-Major Top 25 is in order as well. There will be teams on this list who, again, will be dangerous in March, yet would not make even a Top 35 list nationally. Of course, there's no reason to go beyond 25 teams here, because if your team isn't even on this top 25 list, you probably aren't going too far in March. Here it is, again through Thursday the 23rd:

1. Gonzaga
2. Northern Iowa
3. Bucknell
4. Creighton
5. George Mason
6. Wichita State
7. Western Kentucky
8. Missouri State
9. UNC-Wilmington
10. Iona
11. Hofstra
12. Kent State
13. Southern Illinois
14. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
15. Winthrop
16. Akron
17. Bradley
18. Murray State
19. Old Dominion
20. Montana
21. San Diego State
22. UPenn
23. Butler
24. Miami-Ohio
25. Manhattan

Top 35

Time for the first BasketballPredictions poll. The top 35 teams will be listed, since a top 25 ranking will leave off some teams that could be dangerous in March. This is through games of Thursday, February 23rd:

1. Duke
2. Villanova
3. UConn
4. Memphis
5. Texas
6. Tennessee
7. Illinois
8. Gonzaga
9. Pittsburgh
10. Ohio State
11. Florida
12. NC State
13. West Virgina
14. George Washington
15. Kansas
16. Michigan State
17. Iowa
18. North Carolina
19. Georgetown
20. Boston College
21. Wisconsin
22. UCLA
23. Nevada
24. Washington
25. Marquette

26. Northern Iowa
27. UAB
28. LSU
29. Oklahoma
30. Bucknell
31. Creighton
32. Michigan
33. George Mason
34. Wichita State
35. Arkansas

First Post

Here's the first post of Just making sure that everything is in order. The meat of this blog will be up and operational within a week of the end of the NCAA tournament, in time for the first predictions for next year. Of course, that doesn't mean I can't post on other topics related to NCAA ball in the meanwhile. Here we go, I hope you all enjoy the ride.