Saturday, January 17, 2009

Looking In On A Couple Of Mid-Majors

Northeastern 67, Delaware 47
This victory wasn't a big surprise as Delaware is a pretty bad team this year. Maybe it's because this was the only Delaware game I've watched this year, but the Blue Hens seem to me to actually be a pretty talented team. But they're an atrocious basketball team. They just do everything wrong on the floor with bad passing, too much dribbling, and unwise shooting. But the reason I'm writing about this game isn't to bash on a Delaware team that never had any hope for any postseason basketball anyway, but to bring up Northeastern as a team to look out for as a sleeper bubble team. First of all, it's not a surprise to me that Northeastern is good this year. For reasons I spoke about way back in early November, there is a reason that I picked them to finish fifth in a pretty good CAA back in April. But they are playing even better than I thought was possible: They are tied for first place with a 6-0 conference record (11-5 overall) with George Mason. With wins over Providence and on the road at Indiana, they have only one really bad loss (Boston University). Despite a mediocre 1-3 record against the RPI Top 100, the computers all agree that they're a Top 100 team (RPI of 74th, Sagarin of 84th and Pomeroy of 88th). If the season ended now they would not be in the Tournament, but it's possible for them to sneak in if they can go on a winning streak. They will get an opportunity for more Top 100 wins in conference play, as well as their Bracketbusters game on February 21st (opponent still TBA). Of course, getting praised this way can be a curse (just ask Houston), so knowing the way I can curse teams you should definitely watch out for a Hofstra upset today. But if they can survive the BasketballPredictions curse, keep an eye out for Northeastern as the season goes along.

#16 Xavier 67, Rhode Island 65
A really good battle, and a tough road victory for Xavier. This type of game will do a great job of preparing them for the Tournament, where they likely will be heading. They're not locked in yet, but are far enough ahead of the bubble that they can even afford a couple of bad losses at this point. They are a very solid 8-2 against the RPI Top 100, including wins over Memphis, Missouri, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech. The RPI is now 6th, although that's overrating them a bit. To me they're more like the 20th best team in the land, but even that is plenty good enough to get them an at-large bid. For Rhode Island, they missed a huge opportunity for a resume-defining victory here, but are still firmly on the bubble. Their 11-6 record doesn't seem impressive for a mid-major, but their schedule has been very rough. Only two of those losses have come to mid-major teams, and they were both against good mid-major teams (Xavier and St. Joe's). The 3-6 record against the RPI Top 100 isn't good enough for a bid right now, but they'll get plenty of opportunities to improve that. The fact that they have no bad losses means that they can earn an at-large bid if they can finish second in the Atlantic Ten. Assuming Xavier runs away with the conference, Rhode Island will probably be in a battle with Dayton for a second Tournament bid out of the Atlantic 10. There are other A-10 teams that could contend for an at-large bid (Temple being the most likely), but I think it's going to come down to Dayton and Rhode Island.

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