Saturday, March 08, 2008

Shrinking The Bubble

As the season comes to a close, the crop of pure bubble teams gets smaller and smaller by the day. Some teams are playing their way into the Tournament (West Virginia) while others are playing their way out of it (Southern Illinois). As for the games with important bubble implications that were completed early this afternoon, here we go:

#10 Georgetown 55, #13 Louisville 52
This game actually had no bubble implications, but I figured it was important enough to discuss anyway. With this win, Georgetown earns the outright Big East Championship. They will be favored to win the Big East Tournament, which would earn them at least a #2 seed. They have an outside shot for a #1 seed, but only if they get a lot of help. At worst, there's no way Georgetown gets worse than a #3 seed. As for Louisville, you can't ever feel bad about a 3 point loss on the road against a Top Ten team, but at the same time it's pretty painful to end up that close to a conference title. Still, you can make a great argument that Louisville is playing as good as any other team in the country over the past month or so. When they are completely healthy, they are an incredibly balanced team that excels in almost any situation. They could actually earn as high as a #2 seed if they win the Big East Tournament, although they're probably more likely to find themselves in the #3-4 range.

Florida State 75, Miami (Fl) 72, OT
I might sound like a broken record here, but I'll say it again. Anytime you have a team playing at home on Senior Day, with an at-large spot on the line - always bet on them to win the game. Emotion and psychology are such important parts of basketball that they can't possibly be overstated. A loss here would have ended any chance for the Seminoles to earn an at-large bid. A win doesn't put them in the Tournament, but it keeps them in the conversation. They now finish 7-9 in the ACC, and they are currently 18-13 overall. Despite a tough strength of schedule, the RPI is still in the low-60s. They are a solid 4-5 against the RPI Top 50, as well as 8-12 against the RPI Top 100. None of that screams at-large team, but it's in the ballpark. FSU will get a chance to earn an at-large bid during the ACC Tournament, but it will be tough. They will have to escape a first round game (probably against Georgia Tech). After that they'll probably get the winner of tonight's UNC/Duke game. It will be a tough game, but it will be a game that they'll probably need to win to get into the Tournament. Miami's Tournament chances are obviously a lot better than FSU's, although they aren't locks yet. The 8-8 ACC record is okay, but not great. They are 20-9 with an RPI inside the Top 30, so they'd be in the Tournament if the season ended now. They will probably end up facing BC, Virginia or NC State in the first round of the ACC Tournament, and I think they need a win there to truly wrap up a Tournament bid. If they lose their first ACC Tourney game they can still get into the Tournament, but they'll have to sweat out Selection Weekend.

West Virginia 83, St. John's 74, OT
A nice taking-care-of-business win for West Virginia, which got a bit of a scare with the 48% three-point shooting by the Johnnies. This win moves the Mountaineers to 11-7 in the Big East, which might just be the at-large clincher. The RPI is 32nd, although the Sagarin Rating is in the low-20s. They have wins over Marquette and Pittsburgh, and are a solid 7-8 against the RPI Top 100. The RPI is only depressed because they played five games against teams that ended up with RPIs of over 300 - and a rule of thumb for inflating your RPI is to never ever play teams with RPIs that poor. West Virginia will probably get into the Tournament whether they win in the first round of the Big East Tournament or not, but they can lock up a bid for sure by taking care of business in the first round.

Baylor 86, Texas Tech 73

A very impressive win for Baylor over a dangerous Texas Tech team. LaceDarius Dunn had the game of his life with 38 points, including 6-for-9 from behind the arc. This was an absolutely essential win for a Baylor team that entered this game firmly on the bubble. They now finish a solid 9-7 in the Big 12, to go along with a nice out-of-conference win over Notre Dame. The 7-9 record against the RPI Top 100 is fine, and the RPI jumps into the Top 40. Baylor isn't a lock for the Tournament by any means, but they're in decent shape with this solid victory. If they can pull an upset to reach the Big 12 Semifinals, that should lock things up for the Bears. A roller-coaster season (really a roller-coaster five years) for Baylor University, but they might just get a bit of a happy-ending this year.

USC 72, #7 Stanford 60

This was Senior Day, so this can't be considered too big of an upset. USC managed to out-hustle Stanford en route to 13 extra rebounds, and certainly earned this victory. If they hadn't locked up an at-large bid before this game, they've certainly locked it up now. They enter the Pac-10 Tournament worried only about how high of a seed they'll be able to slide up to. Stanford, on the other hand, is playing their way out of a top seed. There's nothing to be ashamed about losing at UCLA or USC, but it's never good to end the regular season with two straight losses. Any long-shot chance they had at a #1 seed has disappeared, although I think they can still earn a #2 seed if they win the Pac-10 Tournament and get a little bit of help.

Dayton 79, St. Joseph's 67

I warned about this earlier today. Dayton manages to keep their slim at-large hopes alive with this win. The RPI is inside the Top 40 and they have 20 wins, but the 8-8 Atlantic Ten record is really tough to explain away. They have three straight wins to end the regular season, but that comes immediately after eight losses in their previous eleven games. All season they've pointed to the wins against Louisville and Pittsburgh, although they beat versions of those teams inferior to the versions you now see on television. They're going to end up a solid 8-6 against the RPI Top 100, and many of the rest of the numbers still look good. The question is whether people will be able to look past that 8-8 conference record and the fact that their record over their final twelve games is going to be worse than most other bubble teams. This win means that they enter the A-10 Tournament with a chance to win an at-large bid. But they'll need to go on a little bit of a run. As for St. Joe's, this is a pretty tough loss to swallow. They slip to 9-7 in the A-10 with an inferior out-of-conference resume to teams like Dayton and UMass. They are 7-6 against the RPI Top 100, although still find their computer numbers in the mid-50s. Like Dayton, they enter the A-10 Tournament with a chance to earn an at-large bid. But they have work to do.


Anonymous said...

What may help Dayton is that they've been without Chris Wright who went down in Dec with a broken foot and was the leading rebounder and 2nd leading scorer on the team (as well as a 4x A10 newcomer of the week) and he may be back for the A10

In addition they were without the team's leading rebounder (Charles Little) for a few weeks with a broekn bone in his foot - however he is playing again.

Finally, team leader Brian Roberts was suffering from a respitory illness for a couple of weeks that severly limited his effectiveness

The committee will take that into account, but the question is how much

Jeff said...

Yes, but we can also discount the injuries that Louisville and Pitt suffered before facing Dayton (not to mention the big injury that Pitt suffered while facing Dayton).

It's hard enough for teams with .500 records to get at-large bids out of major conferences - and we've never come close to a situation where a team could get an at-large bid with a .500 record in a mid-major conference.

If you're inclined to take a .500 Dayton team, don't you have to take teams like Arizona State, Oregon, Syracuse, Florida, Kentucky and Virginia Tech ahead of them? How can you deny a +.500 team from a major conference?

Dayton fans act like they're the only team to have injuries. And it's not like they've been stellar since they've gotten healthy either. Dayton is still a very long long-shot in my mind. I'd definitely take St. Joe's and UMass well before I'd take Dayton right now - and no way will the A10 get four teams.

Anonymous said...

I only mentioned the injuries because in discussing Dayton you seemed mystified as to what happened. Losing Wright was a big loss for this team. Sorry if I hit a nerve causing you to go off.

I do agree with you that I’d give the edge to UMass over UD; however, I’m confused how you can say you’d take SJU well bfore UD

RECORD: 20-9 (8-8)
RPI: 37
SOS: 41
LAST 10: 5-5 (winning their last 3, 2 of them on the road)
Record top 100: 8-5
Head to head match-up: Won

RECORD: 18-11 (9-7)
RPI: 54
SOS: 59
Last 10 games: 4-6 (losing 3 of their last 4, 2 at home)
Record top 100: 7-6
Head to head match-up: Lost

If I didn’t list the name of the teams, I would think most would give the edge to the first team. In some areas UD is stronger (RPI, SOS, In your analysis you even stated SJU had an “inferior out-of-conference resume” compared to UD.) and others (conference record) I give the edge to SJU.

Before the game today I have them neck-neck for a bubble spot figuring the winner would get the upper hand. I’m very curious as to your reasoning as to why you would take SJU “WELL BEFORE” UD?

I haven't been examining the bubble as close as you have, but I'm willing to bet that if UD and SJU win the same number of games in the A10 and if one of them gets an at-large bid, it will be UD

Jeff said...

I've already gone into this plenty of times. Just so you know, just because you post as "anonymous" doesn't mean that you are. I know you've posted here in the past, and you're clearly a hardcore Dayton fan. Which is fine - but you have to realize that you have a bias.

Honestly, I don't think St. Joe's is all that close to an at-large bid either. UMass is the only team with a good shot at being the A-10's second bid.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm strongly against people using anonymous names. It's just a way to be able to attack other people without having to stand up for your mistakes when you end up being wrong. I got a lot of grief from you and your fellow A-10 fans this season, and it turned out that I was right. Not one has come back to admit that I was right about the A-10 most likely getting two Tournament bids, with a chance at three if everything broke right.

Anonymous said...

As a fan I know I have biases, but I'm up front about them. I said that I agree that Umass and x are the only 2 teams with a lock.

I also believe that Dayton is the only other A10 team that has a chance to get an at-large. Maybe this is a bias, but I think I'm being realistic. I think if you match up UDs resume with the other at large hopefulls, UD has the best chance and it will be difficult for another team to be taken ahead of them (if a 3rd team is taken)

If UD makes it to the semis of the A10 they'll get serious considerations being 22-10, winning their last 3 regular season and 2 in the A10 (since the A10 bracket is out that would include a win over x), an RPI in the 30s and a good SOS, and the committee will take into account the injuries adn see they are playing well at nearly 100%

If they make it to the A10 finals, they'll be a lock (especially if they play Umass). Of course we'll know for sure in one week (i've also seen a lot of other blogs that have disbaled Anonymous posting, maybe that would be an option)!