Conference Report Card – Sweet 16 EditionPosted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009
We’re back with the second annual review of how the major conferences are doing after one weekend of the NCAA Tournament. As we all are aware, the Dance eliminates the pretenders – that means you, Wake and Washington – so that the teams with legitimate chops remain standing. Chalk has predominantly ruled this tournament so far, but that doesn’t keep us from evaluating which conferences are performing better or worse than expectations. We review the conferences with multiple bids below…
Big East (7 bids, 5 remaining, 11-2 record)
The Big East was the most powerful conference all year and they are proving it in the postseason. West Virginia was the only first round loser, and Marquette was outlasted by a tough-as-nails Missouri team in the second round. All other Big East teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, setting a new record for the total number from one conference (5). What’s more is that each of these teams are F4-caliber; there isn’t a single Cinderella in the group. It wouldn’t surprise us if this league managed to get 75% of the F4 entrants this year, and we fully expect all five to play into the national quarterfinals.
Verdict: A. The Big East’s expected # of wins for the tournament is 16.2, and there’s a solid chance that the league will bust through twenty wins this season in setting another new record.
Big 12 (6 bids, 3 remaining, 9-3 record)
For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 had another great first round (6-0), culminating in their three best teams making it to the Sweet Sixteen. The league hasn’t had an upset yet, and the three losing teams – Texas, Oklahoma St., and Texas A&M, acquitted themselves nicely in five of their six games (lone exception: TAMU vs. UConn). Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma all have tough but winnable games if they play well, and the Big 12 should reasonably expect to see one of them playing into next weekend. For a “down” year in the league, this is a great performance.
Verdict: A. The Big 12 already has nine wins against an expected performance of 10.57 wins, which basically means they’re doing really well so far.
Atlantic 10 (3 bids, 1 remaining, 3-2 record)
The A10 got three teams into the Dance and made the most of its opportunity, winning two first round games (one an upset with #11 Dayton over #6 WVU), and sending Xavier to yet another Sweet Sixteen. We don’t feel that XU has much of a chance to advance the league’s banner further against Pitt, but never count out a Sean Miller team. Xaviercruised to the Sweets against two good teams.
Verdict: A-. The league was expected to win 2.52 games and they’ve already won three, so anything beyond that is gravy. How pathetic is it that the A10 is outperforming the SEC by a country mile?
Horizon (2 bids, 0 remaining, 1-2 record)
The Horizon had a chance to make some serious noise in this Tournament, but typically-solid Butler couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain when it lost to #8 LSU (who was probably underseeded). However, Cleveland St. so far has had the upset of the Dance with its throttling of #4 Wake Forest, so we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt here.
Verdict: A-. With a #9 and #13 seed, the league was supposed to win 0.85 games, and CSU’s win should count for more than one.
Pac-10 (5 bids, 1 remaining, 6-5 record)
Much like the Big Ten, the Pac-10 had a great first round, going 5-1. Cal’s loss to Maryland was its only one, and it included #11 USC and #12 Arizona earning upsets over much-higher seeded opponents. But in the second round, the relative weakness of the league showed, as every team except for the surprising Arizona Wildcats (who got a break playing Cleveland St. in the second round) lost. That said, only #4 Washington’s loss to #5 Purdue would be considered an “upset,” but we know better. This league’s performance was better than expected to start, but it regressed to the mean in the next round.
Verdict: B+. Using seed expectation as a standard, the Pac-10 should have only won 6.02 games in this Tournament. With Arizona facing Louisville next, it’s probable that the league will end up right where it should have. Extra points for the two upsets in the first round.
Big 10 (7 bids, 2 remaining, 6-5 record)
The Big Ten is everyone’s favorite conference to bash for its style of play, but the league performed decently considering it received two #10 seeds and a #12 seed. Two of those teams – Wisconsin and Michigan – won a game, while Illinois’ loss to W. Kentucky was the only upset that the league withstood in the first round (we’re not counting OSU’s loss in double-OT to Siena). Furthermore, Michigan St. and Purdue, the league’s two best teams, are still dancing, and both are playing well enough to pull off an upset in the next round. Doubtful, but plausible.
Verdict: B. The Big 10 was expected to win 7.18 games in this year’s Tournament according to seed, and they’re right there if MSU or Purdue wins one more game. We drop them a little for the upset of #5 seed Illinois, but #12 Wisconsin’s upset over FSU evens that out somewhat.
ACC (7 bids, 2 remaining, 5-5 record)
The ACC had another miserable first and second round for the second year in a row. Only Duke and Carolina survived the carnage, and Duke barely at that. Consider that #4 Wake Forest, #5 Florida St., #7 Clemson and #7 BC were all upset in the first round (two of them bad losses), and #10 Maryland’s lone upset over a one-dimensional #7 Cal team doesn’t hold much weight. Especially considering Maryland got run out of the gym in the next round by Memphis. UNC alone may end up carrying the ACC banner again this season, but let’s not mince words here – the ACC was vastly overrated.
Verdict: C-. The ACC’s saving grace was getting UNC and Duke into the Sweet Sixteen (playing in Greenboro, no less). But with an expectation of 10.85 wins and currently sitting at a mere five, the league has a lot of work just to save face here. Especially after we heard all year about how great this league was.
SEC (3 bids, 0 remaining, 1-3 record)
This performance just confirmed what we all thought we knew about this league this season (it wasn’t any prettier in the NIT, as both #1 seeds Auburn and Florida lost on their home floors tonight). Garbage. Only LSU managed to win a first round game, while Tennessee and Mississippi St. were gone before they even got sweaty. To be fair, UT at least played Oklahoma St. tough, but their appalling lack of defense ended up costing the Vols the game.
Verdict: D. Yeah, the expected number of wins was only 1.58, but the SEC couldn’t even get close to that mark. Any BCS conference that looks this bad all season long deserves a near-failing grade.
Mountain West (2 bids, 0 remaining, 0-2 record)
The Mountain West should be ashamed of its performance this year. They got two favorite-level seeds in #5 Utah and #8 BYU, and they proceeded to lay giant eggs against Arizona and Texas A&M, respectively. You can’t do this if you’re a mid-major league trying to earn some credibility.
Verdict: F. Well, at least SDSU made it to the NIT Semis, right?
The WCC (Gonzaga) and CUSA (Memphis) were one-bid leagues so it’s a little weird to grade them based on their overall performances. Special mention should go to the MAAC (Siena) and Sun Belt (W. Kentucky) for their first-round upsets, though.