Saturday, March 14, 2009

Can Louisville Earn A 1 Seed? Is San Diego State In?

#5 Louisville 69, #11 Villanova 55
Louisville came out pretty flat in this game, but whatever Rick Pitino said at halftime clearly worked. They now have a wonderful situation in the Big East finals as they play a Syracuse team that has now played 155 minutes of basketball in the last three days, rather than a well rested Pitt or UConn team. At this point I think they're in with a 2 seed even if they lose, but with a win they'll be a very likely 1 seed. One thing that doesn't help their case for a 1 seed are the numbers: 8-3 against the RPI Top 50, RPI of 7th and a Sagarin of 6th. Great numbers to be sure, but 2 seed numbers - not 1 seed numbers. But what they have going for them is what I said in this post: most college basketball analysts mistakenly believe that the Big East is the best conference in the country, and they're going to want to give a 1 seed to a team that sweeps its regular season and tournament titles. No matter what, they'll end up behind Pitt and UNC by the Selection Committee, and a Louisville team that wins the Big East tournament will probably be in a battle with UConn, Michigan State and Memphis for the final two top seeds. In other words, right now they're rooting for Tulsa and Ohio State. As for Villanova, I think this game seals them into a 3 seed. Every year the bracket has some quirks, and in my opinion the biggest quirk this year is the massive gap between the 1/2 seeds and the 4/5 seeds. Villanova is right in the middle, and I don't even think there's a chance that they'll get anything other than a 3 seed.

San Diego State 64, BYU 62

San Diego State has been something of an afterthought for most of this season, with almost nobody aware of them outside of Mountain West fans, but boy are they making a great run for the NCAA Tournament right now. They finished 11-5 in the Mountain West, which put them only one game out of first place, and they are a very solid 6-7 against the RPI Top 100. One thing that I really like is that they went 15-1 against the Division I RPI 100+, which is outstanding for a mid major school. The RPI is up to 31st, although while a BCS team with an RPI inside the Top 35 is a lock, that's not true for teams outside of the BCS conferences (just ask Missouri State fans). Sagarin has them up to 36th, although they'd probably drop out of the Top 40 if they lose to Utah tonight. I would argue that their overall numbers are not quite as good as a team like Arizona or South Carolina, but what they've really got going for them is the great finish. They have won their last five games, and 10 of their last 13. And the Mountain West is really a very good conference this season, and nobody will argue that they don't deserve a third team. With San Diego State clearly the third team in the Mountain West pecking order, I think that puts them into the Tournament. But they're not a lock, and they could really use that automatic bid on the line tonight.

#24 Purdue 79, Penn State 65
Purdue is still not playing quite as well as they were earlier in the season, but Robbie Hummel's back is clearly getting better and they're going to be a very tough out for anybody in the Tournament. Remember, this was a team that had Final Four hopes before Hummel got hurt. Right now, the overall large number of losses has them around a 5-6 seed right now, but they could move up as high as a 3 if they can win the Big Ten tournament. As for Penn State, they join a slew of Big Ten teams on the Bubble. Of the eight teams in the Big Ten that currently think they are in, or have a great shot at getting in to the Tournament, I would argue that Penn State's resume is the worst. Their 10-8 Big Ten record is better than that of Michigan and Minnesota (both of whom went 9-9), but they had the weakest out of conference resume. Pomeroy rates their out of conference schedule 320th, which takes a lot away from that 11-2 record. They only played two teams in the RPI Top 100 out of conference (Temple and Rhode Island), and lost to both of them. Their best win was over Mount St Mary's. They did get that win over Michigan State, but plenty of teams on the Bubble have that one big upset. The Nittany Lions are rated 68th by the RPI and 36th by Sagarin (both of which are the worst of the aforementioned eight Big Ten teams). Without any strong finish either, I think it's pretty clear that Penn State would be the eighth team out of the Big Ten. But that said, they've still got a great shot. In fact, at the moment I think they are in the Tournament. They now just have two things to worry about. The first is that teams like Tulsa, Baylor and Maryland will play their way into the Tournament and bump Penn State out. The other is that the Selection Committee won't want to give an eighth bid to a Big Ten conference that is so unpopular nationwide. The Committee is never supposed to consider things like that, but as I always point out: the Selection Committee is made up of humans, and all of them bring a bias to the table. But like I said: with 29 hours left until Selection Sunday I've still got them in the bracket.

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