Saturday, March 12, 2011

Is Penn State In? Can The Ivy Get Two Teams?

Penn State 61, Michigan State 48
When the Big Ten regular season got under way Penn State looked like the weakest team... by far. They had gone 7-4 against a soft non-conference slate, losing to Maine and Ole Miss, and their best win (according to the RPI) was over Fairfield. But suddenly Talor Battle's teammates began to support him, and they've been steadily improving, game after game. Penn State has now beaten Wisconsin twice and Illinois, and that Maine loss is still their only RPI 100+ loss. And now they will walk onto the court at Conseco tomorrow afternoon playing for the Big Ten tournament title, with an RPI and Sagarin ELO_CHESS inside the Top 40. Even if they lose that game, I don't see how Penn State can be kept out of the field now. Although Penn State fans will still want to root for Utah State tonight and Richmond tomorrow to be safe.

Even with this loss and the fact that Michigan State finishes the season 18-14 against D-I opponents, I don't think the Spartans have anything to worry about. They have quality wins over Purdue, Wisconsin, Washington, Illinois and Penn State, and only one loss to a team with an RPI worse than 51st (Iowa). Pomeroy rates their strength of schedule #1 in the entire nation, and Sagarin rates it #2. Their RPI is 45th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS should still be in the Top 40. With so few games remaining before the Selection Committee makes their final decision, I don't see any possible strong of results could happen that could leave Michigan State out.

Princeton 63, Harvard 62
This was a very well-played game, and it was topped off by a tremendous buzzer-beater by Douglas Davis to win it for Princeton. Princeton is far less athletic and has less raw talent than Harvard, but they're much more experienced and won this game by being very fundamentally sound (old fashioned Ivy basketball). They also shot 14-for-15 at the free throw line, including a very important pair late by Douglas Davis.

Believe it or not, Princeton finishes the season 24-6 and with a pair of RPI Top 50 wins (okay, they were both against Harvard). Their RPI is 40th and their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will be inside the Top 50. I'll be shocked if they earn worse than a 13 seed, and you can make a good argument they should be a 12, particularly if we have a bid stealer in the WAC or A-10 title games.

Now the question is whether Harvard can earn an at-large bid to give the Ivy League two bids for the first time in conference history. I don't see them getting much attention at all from the national analysts, but I'm going to throw out some hidden resumes anyway. One caveat is that I'll be giving you Sagarin ELO_CHESS numbers, which are only updated once a day, so they won't be entirely accurate for teams that played today, although after 30 games the computer ratings don't move much day-to-day. Also note that the conference ratings and strength of schedule are the RPI ratings, as are "Top 50","Top 100" and "100+":

A:22-8,SOS=79,12-4 in 8th rated conf,1-4 vs Top 50,10-7 vs Top 100,1 100+ loss, RPI=31,ELO_CHESS= 44
B:21-10,SOS=82,11-5 in 5th rated conf,1-5 vs Top 50,6-9 vs Top 100,1 100+ loss,RPI=54,ELO_CHESS=43
C:23-8,SOS=100,11-3 in 14th rated conf,1-4 vs Top 50,3-6 vs Top 100,2 100+ losses,RPI=46,ELO_CHESS=49
D:21-6,SOS=141,12-2 in 15th rated conf,1-4 vs Top 50,3-5 vs Top 100,1 100+ loss,RPI=35,ELO_CHESS=35
E:23-11,SOS=87,12-6 in 10th rated conf,3-6 vs Top 50,8-8 vs Top 100,3 100+ losses,RPI=50,ELO_CHESS=61
F:21-11,SOS=75,9-7 in 5th rated conf,2-5 vs Top 50,8-8 vs Top 100,3 100+ losses,RPI=61,ELO_CHESS=41

Be aware that I am doing that list of resumes for my benefit as much as yours. I'm actually re-thinking of my bracket decisions after staring at it. And now that I think I've written enough words between those resumes and this sentence I feel comfortable posting the names of the teams without people's eyes accidentally seeing the answers without getting to study the resumes blind first. Those resumes, in order (A-F), are UAB, Florida State, Saint Mary's, Harvard, VCU, Virginia Tech. The first thing to note is that Harvard's resume clearly belongs in that group, and they will be in the discussion tomorrow. Their lack of Top 100 games will probably keep them out, but they're clearly good enough to go Dancing and should be in the discussion tomorrow for those last few spots. Also, looking at the resumes convinces me that UAB's resume is a lot better than most people think, and Saint Mary's is in a lot more trouble than most people think. I might have to flip those two teams.

#2 Kansas 85, #10 Texas 73
One of the great things about Championship Week is how much attention we pay to "lesser" games. On any other weekend this would be a premier game, but on this weekend nobody was paying attention to this game unless they were fans of one of the two teams. And the game was never close or exciting, so no casual fans flipped over mid-game. So that's why I'm throwing this game recap at the bottom of a post and making it so short.

This game was for a Big 12 tournament title, and Kansas fans will no doubt be happy to collect another one of those, but Kansas was already locked into a 1 seed in the Tournament. The only thing this result changes will be the #1 overall seed, which Kansas will likely earn if Ohio State falls in the Big Ten tournament title game tomorrow. Texas could have gotten themselves into the 1 seed discussion with a win here, but with the loss they're very likely going to be a 3 seed.


Tom said...

Another fantastic game for the Ivy title. Between Cornell last year and these two clubs this year I think the Ivy is putting on a great display. I think Harvard passes the eye test, but I won't believe them getting an at-large until I see it. I'll be rooting for it though

Jeff said...

I agree. I've complained for many years how there are certain conferences (SWAC, I'm looking at you) that are so bad year after year when the Ivy League is playing so well.

Most fans don't understand just how much more difficult it is to get kids to Ivy League schools. Not only are there no scholarships, but the scholastic work is so much harder.

It's not that there aren't "rocks for jocks" classes at Ivy schools - there certainly are - but in every class athletes end up in they actually have to do the work. In fact, there are some teachers that bias against athletes, because they think the school should be above letting in these "dumb jocks". Kids at Ivy schools don't get to stay on the team when they fail a class or get a DUI. It's so impressive what the Ivies do on the court under those circumstances.