NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009


With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and’s InsiderRPI,, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis).’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:


If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

Rose Bowl
USC (Pac-10 champ) vs. Purdue (Big 10 champ): This is definitely one of those cases where the Rose Bowl committees stubborn insistence on maintaining tradition backfires on them. It certainly would have been a more attractive match-up if these conferences decided their conference champion like football does (i.e. without a championship game or tournament). In that case the match-up would have been #15 Washington vs. #7 Michigan State. While the Huskies lack the marquee value of the Trojans and also the following in LA that would fill up an arena (we think), at least they are ranked in the latest polls something that we cannot say about the Trojans. Instead we get a match-up that features DeMar Derozan, Taj Gibson, Dwight Lewis, and Daniel Hackett against E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this game would not  be viewed favorably by the talking heads over at ESPN.

Orange Bowl
#5 Duke (ACC champ) vs. #3 Pittsburgh (At-large): This is probably the second best match-up of all the BCS games and one that would be intriguing on multiple levels. First an explanation of how they got here. Duke was selected because the ACC is the traditional host of the Orange Bowl while Pittsburgh was assured a spot in the BCS by being the #3 team in the final rankings. The Panthers ended up being the 3rd choice among the at-large selections for reasons that will be explained below in describing why those teams ended up in that particular bowl. Fortunately for fans with tickets to the Orange Bowl, the Orange Bowl committee had the 3rd choice in 2009 and were “forced” to take the #3 team in the country. This is actually a rematch of a phenomenal game from last season that Pitt won 65-64 in OT in Madison Square Garden. The key match-ups to watch here are at point guard (Elliot Williams/Nolan Smith/Greg Paulus vs. Levance Fields), small forward (Gerald Henderson vs. Sam Young), and power forward (Kyle Singler vs. DeJuan Blair). One added bonus/disaster is that Dick Vitale would be going absolutely nuts for this game. Coach K and Jamie Dixon!!! Are you kidding me?!? Come on they could turn me into an All-American! They’re awesome baby!!! To which, Jay Bilas would coldly reply that this is a horrible match-up for Duke and that they lack the toughness inside to compete with the Panthers. Unfortunately for the Cameron Crazies, Bilas would be right. This is a horrible match-up for Duke and the only way that Duke would win this game is if Singler could get Blair into foul trouble, but hey at least the ratings would be through the roof.

Sugar Bowl
Mississippi State (SEC champ) vs. #4 Memphis (At-large): This is the biggest mismatch we have. Even if we had the SEC regular season champs in here (LSU), Memphis would still be a prohibitive favorite. John Calipari‘s team got in here thanks to the clause that guarantees a spot to the “champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference or the Western Athletic Conference” if they are in the top 12, which Memphis is. This rule makes Memphis one of the three at-large teams and it ended up being selected 2nd due to its proximity to New Orleans (395 miles), which convinced the Sugar Bowl committee to take a shot on the Conference USA champs. The only potential advantage that the Bulldogs would appear to have in this game would be Jarvis Varnado on the inside, but Memphis can counter with Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggert, who have enough scoring ability on the inside to keep Varnado honest and not let him wander to the help side too much. On the perimeter, Tyreke Evans and Antonio Anderson would destroy Barry Stewart and Dee Bost. If the Bulldogs kept this one within single digits, I would be surprised.

Fiesta Bowl
#9 Missouri (Big 12 champ) vs. #7 Michigan State (At-large): The Spartans were the trendy pick as a darkhorse #1 seed just a week ago and now they end up as the top at-large selection (Fiesta Bowl has the 1st at-large selection in 2009). This choice really came down to Michigan State and Oklahoma because two of the three at-larges were already spoken for as they were essentially automatic spots (Pittsburgh and Memphis). Both teams have fairly big fan bases that would probably travel well for a game of this magnitude, but the Sooners lost out because they had already played Missouri during the regular season, which is something the BCS committee frowns upon. As a result, national player of the year Blake Griffin will be relegated to the equivalent of the college basketball equivalent of the Cotton Bowl, which is slightly less appealing than a potential Elite 8 match-up against Tyler Hansbrough. As for this match-up, the Tigers will have to find a way to neutralize Kalin Lucas who will probably be the best player on the court. The big question will be the status of Raymar Morgan, who in BCS fashion will have an additional month to recover before this game takes place. If Morgan can return to the form he showed before his bout of atypical pneumonia, the Spartans will be very tough to beat. The Tigers will counter with a pair of high-scoring forwards (DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons) and can light up the scoreboard, but will have a tough time matching up against Lucas, Morgan, and Goran Suton. Consequently, the Spartans should be about a 5-point favorite in this one.

BCS Championship Game
#1 UNC (At-large) vs. #2 Louisville (Big East champ): Controversy once again. There’s no doubt the Tar Heels were the best team in the ACC during the regular season, but most analysts believed the absence of Ty Lawson during the ACC tournament would cost them a shot at the national title. However, thanks to the generous computers, the Tar Heels were able to claim the #1 overall spot despite being just 4th in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Regardless of the argument, the BCS formula spit out what might be the best possible match-up in this situation (you know without actually having teams play to get here). It also features the most entertaining coaching match-up pitting Roy Williams against Rick Pitino. With Lawson back at full strength (remember the month off since the last game), the Tar Heels have a decided advantage at point guard going against Edgar Sosa. The interesting match-ups are Wayne Ellington vs. Earl Clark, Terrence Williams vs. Danny Green, and Tyler Hansbrough vs. Samardo Samuels. Just looking at those three match-ups I would give Louisville the edge, but they just don’t have anybody to put on Lawson. Clark and Williams are phenomenal defenders, but neither of them has the speed to match-up with Lawson if he is full healthy. As a result, the Tar Heels would probably pull away late to cut down the nets for their title while Jamie Dixon’s Panthers and John Calipari’s Tigers would be lobbying for a share of the title after knocking off Duke and Mississippi State respectively.

A couple quick points to head-off the inevitable backlash that would probably mirror the real thing if it happened:

  • Where is UConn? Unfortunately for Hasheem Thabeet and the Huskies they ended up being the 3rd highest ranked team in the Big East and as a result were ineligible for the BCS basketball championships.
  • Where is Gonzaga? Memphis took their automatic “small conference” bid and the Zags just aren’t a big enough draw to outrank Oklahoma or Michigan State particularly when the opponent is a relatively obscure national team like Missouri instead of someone like Duke.

Most of the computers seemed to be fairly reasonable, but there were a couple notable exceptions:

  •’s rankings have West Virginia as the #8 team in the country when they only finished tied for 7th in their own conference. They were ranked ahead of 3 teams who finished above them in their own conference. They’re only 30th according to the human voters in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
  •’s InsiderRPI has Utah as the #9 team in the country. They’re only 28th according to the human voters in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
  •’s InsiderRPI has Gonazaga as the #26 team in the country. They’re 10th according to the human voters in the ESPN/USA Today poll and ranked 5th (KenPom) and 8th (Sagarin) by the other computers.
nvr1983 (1398 Posts)

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