I'm going to devote a whole post to the Colonial Conference, because it's the talk of the day after last night's exciting Final. After George Mason led almost the whole way (VCU only had one lead the entire game until the final few minutes), Eric Maynor went off and almost singlehandedly dragged VCU to the title. In a lot of ways that made things easier, since VCU was a true bubble team that we can stop worrying about now. And George Mason has no shot at an at-large, so a win for them would have stolen a spot from the rest of the bubble hopefuls. George Mason did end Hoftra's NCAA chances during the Quarterfinals, which leaves us with Drexel and Old Dominion:
The first step if to analyze which team should get in before the other. Drexel has the early lead with the superior out-of-conference resume. They had an excellent trio of games in December, where they won at Villanova, Syracuse and Temple. Best of all was probably the win at Creighton during Bracketbusters. Old Dominion played more top tier teams, but just didn't win enough. The win at Georgetown was excellent, but that's it. Still, that doesn't say to me that Drexel is a better team than Old Dominion, just that they had different opportunities. I don't think the Dragons could have won at Virginia Tech or against November's version of Clemson either. And I think Old Dominion would have had a great shot against Drexel's wins.
Moving into conference play, Old Dominion was clearly superior to Drexel, and I think that's where the real difference is. Not only did the Monarchs finish with the better record (15-3 to 13-5), but they were clearly better against the top teams. They swept Drexel and split with VCU. Drexel got swept by both Old Dominion and VCU. It's always better to judge teams against common opponents, and Old Dominion really looked a lot better against the common opponents. And, of course, both teams had pretty identical Colonial Tournament runs, so that's a wash.
Moving onto the computer numbers, Old Dominion's 37 RPI is a wash with Drexel's 38. Drexel's 12-5 road record is outstanding, but not much better than Old Dominion's 8-5. In conference, Old Dominion went 6-3 on the road, to Drexel's 7-2. Old Dominion does have better numbers against the top teams, with a 4-3 record vs. the RPI top 50 to 3-4 for Drexel. Jeff Sagarin isn't as impressed with both teams, but he again gives them a near wash: 68th for Old Dominion and 74th for Drexel.
It's getting time for a conclusion, which I think needs to come in three parts. The first is that on overall body of work, Old Dominion seems to just be a little bit better. Just a little bit of a better record, RPI, conference performance, head-to-head, Sagarin, vs. RPI Top 50, etc. I don't think anyone will disagree there. They even have finished stronger, with 12 straight wins before the Semifinal loss to VCU, vs. Drexel's 7 of the last 10. But that immediately brings us to the George Mason scenario - last year Hofstra swept George Mason, but missed out on the bid because of George Mason's superior out-of-conference resume. And this year, Drexel has the better out-of-conference resume. So shouldn't that overcome ODU? I disagree. For one, last year George Mason's resume against the rest of the conference was atleast as good as Hofstra's. They finished with a share of the regular season title while Hofstra was a game back. They also had pretty identical performances against the other top teams in the conference. This year, Old Dominion finished two games ahead of Drexel and had a better performance against the other top teams.
In the end, I don't think anyone can look at these performances and really think Old Dominion isn't the better team. Drexel could still get the bid first because they have more name reputation, and are getting more play on Sportscenter and other analysis shows. But I think Old Dominion's overall resume gets them in first. Both teams could still possibly get in, but the Horizon isn't getting three teams in unless a lot of stuff breaks right during the rest of this week. So for now I'm putting ODU in and keeping Drexel out, but I'm keeping both teams firmly on the bubble and we'll see how the rest of the week plays out.