Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Of Several Updates

Ah, conference tournament time - gotta love it. Less than two weeks ago I talked about how more than 300 teams were still alive for the national championship. I didn't want to do the math myself, but I did hear somebody on Sportscenter say that 305 teams get to enter conference tournaments, which has to be in the right ballpark. Of those 300+ teams, more than half of them have already been eliminated as I type this post. There are only around 100-125 teams that are either in the Tournament or still have a shot to get an automatic or at-large bid (using my very liberal standards of who is "still alive" in the at-large race).

While no automatic bids are on the line today, at least 20 bubble teams have "must-win" games today, so there is a lot of action all day. With that in mind, I'll have several updates today. Here's the first look-in:

Charlotte 75, Rhode Island 73

Rhode Island is probably the archetypal Atlantic Ten team this season. They got off to a great start, leading to incredibly inflated RPI. Their out-of-conference resume was all about beating up on mediocre teams, and they went 14-1 against the 196th ranked out-of-conference resume. They got off to a strong start in the Atlantic Ten as well, but a poor finish and a bad A-10 Tournament should seal it. The RPI has plummeted to 74th, and the Sagarin is in the same range. Charlotte, meanwhile, keeps alive their very slim chances for an at-large bid. They need to reach the Atlantic Ten Tournament Championship to have any kind of a shot on Selection Sunday. If they fall in the title game, then we can talk about whether they still deserve to get in. But for now, their season lasts at least one more game.

#9 Georgetown 82, Villanova 63
Yesterday I said that this game was probably a must-win for Villanova. They still have a chance to get into the Tournament, but their odds are probably long at this time. The resume is pretty good: 20 wins, 9-9 in the Big East, computer numbers right around 50th in the country. They are a decent 7-9 against the RPI Top 100, and 8-8 in road/neutral games. If the season ended right now, there's probably a better-than-50% chance that they'd sneak into the field. But there are more than 48 hours left in Championship Week, and the number of available bubble spots is going to shrink. After the smoke clears we can make a casualty report, and Nova will probably get left out. Georgetown, meanwhile, looked very strong in this one. They overcame some very slow moments in the early second half, and finished strong against a dangerous Villanova team. Georgetown is still a long shot for a #1 seed, but they'll be in the discussion if they can take the Big East Tournament. If they win the Big East Tournament they'll be a lock for a #2 seed or better. Even with a loss in their next game, they still won't drop any lower than a #3.

#12 Xavier 74, Dayton 65
A solid all-around game for Xavier as they squeezed the life out of Dayton in this one, and probably put Dayton fans out of their misery. Despite the incredibly inflated RPI (29th as I type this), Dayton is an extreme long shot for an at-large bid. It was never a great likelihood for a team to escape a mid-major conference after finishing with a .500 record. The 9-5 record against the RPI Top 100 seems very impressive until you remember how many of those wins came in conference, where the RPIs are all out of whack. They also have had four losses in the past month and a half against teams with an RPI of 120 or worse, and despite a little spurt at the end of the season will still finish 6-6 in their final twelve games. An interesting note is that I've been validated for sticking by the Sagarin PREDICTOR early in the season (see this post from January for an example). I talked about how even though Dayton's RPI was in the Top 15, their win/loss ratio was far better than it should have been according to its level of play. At the time, their Sagarin ELO_CHESS was in the 20s, while their PREDICTOR was close to 60th. I correctly pointed out that those two ratings will always converge as the season goes on. And usually it's the PREDICTOR that is a lot closer to the final ranking. And indeed, today's loss will put Dayton's ELO_CHESS in the 60s, and their PREDICTOR around 80th. Overall, their total Sagarin Rating will be in the mid-60s... exactly where the early-and-mid season PREDICTOR said that they'd end up. In other words, they balanced out those early close wins with a lot of late close losses. In the long run, these rankings almost always work out... there's the reason that it's called the "PREDICTOR."

Tulsa 78, UAB 68, OT
A lot of people jumped off the UAB bandwagon when they finished the regular season with a 38 point loss at Memphis. In fact, they still had a chance to earn an at-large bid with a solid performance in the Conference USA Tournament. But a loss to Tulsa in the quarterfinals doesn't fit anybody's definition of "solid", and UAB is done. Houston remains in the bubble discussion, but otherwise this conference is only getting two teams into the Tournament if Memphis gets knocked off.

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