O26 Resume Review: Saint Louis Trending Upward; Harvard, Boise, St. Mary’s Dropping…Posted by Adam Stillman on January 15th, 2014
Conference play is in full swing for every team that falls into the O26 category. It’s a new season of sorts. We’ll see teams that set themselves apart from the rest of their leagues, thus thrusting themselves into the NCAA Tournament at-large conversation. Then we’ll see other teams crumble, taking themselves out of the big picture. It’s time for the contenders to separate themselves from the pretenders, so let’s take a look at a few of the O26 teams that either helped or hurt their at-large cases during the past week of action.
To be honest, there weren’t many O26 teams that really boosted their credentials this past week. Sure, Nevada has had a nice couple of weeks by starting out 4-0 in Mountain West play before Tuesday night’s loss to Boise State. But the Wolf Pack’s lackluster non-conference slate — complete with losses to Cal State Bakersfield, Pacific, Morehead State and Nebraska-Omaha — really remove them from the conversation. George Washington picked up a nice home win against VCU as well, but that loss to La Salle on January 9 prevented the Colonials from turning in a big week.
Saint Louis (14-2). There was only one O26 team that really helped itself last week. Saint Louis went entered the weekend with a gaudy record but didn’t have much meat on its resume (10 RPI 150+ wins). That all changed after the Billikens traveled to Dayton and picked up a huge road win. The 67-59 victory on January 11 handed SLU its first top-50 RPI win of the season, as prior to the victory over the Flyers, the Billikens’ best win was a 17-point drubbing of Indiana State (RPI #65) at home. Now SLU’s 14-2 mark finally has something to stand on. Boasting a #33 RPI doesn’t hurt either. The two losses are to Wichita State and Wisconsin, a pair of top-five teams. The Billikens are now at home for four of their next five games — the one roadie is at Duquesne — meaning SLU should enter the toughest part of its schedule with a 19-2 mark. Not too shabby. Then comes games at Saint Joseph’s and La Salle before a home date with Virginia Commonwealth, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Projected seed for now: #9
There are a number of O26 teams that could fall into this category this week. Far too many of these squads made things tougher on themselves by picking up a bad loss or two. I narrowed the list down to three prominent schools.
Boise State (11-5). Let’s start with Boise State. What a horrible week for the Broncos. Sure, they nearly rallied for a stunning win at San Diego State on January 8 before falling, 69-66. That loss is understandable, even respectable. But then Boise State came home and lost to Wyoming. Yikes. That’s something the Broncos couldn’t afford to do. Even a win against Nevada doesn’t really lessen the blow. Boise State now sits at #65 in the RPI and #52 in strength of schedule. ESPN.com puts its RPI at #79. That’s certainly not where you’d expect the Broncos to be right now. Those numbers are horrible. There is still plenty of time to right the ship, and I wouldn’t bet against Boise State with all that talent, but the Broncos need to start picking up some quality wins and fast.
Projected seed for now: Out
Harvard (13-2). Another team that hurt itself — but ultimately should end up in the NCAA Tournament — is Harvard. The Crimson shouldn’t have to worry about an at-large berth as the heavy favorite in the Ivy League. It also doesn’t hurt that Harvard’s main challenger, Princeton, dropped its league opener to three-win Penn. But should Harvard falter in league play and fail to earn the conference’s automatic bid — again the longest of long shots — the Crimson are in trouble. Harvard missed out on a golden opportunity for a resume-making win with a 61-56 loss at UConn on January 8. Without leading scorer Wesley Saunders, the Crimson just couldn’t get it done. After an earlier miss at Colorado, Harvard is out of chances for statement wins. Now CBSsports.com puts Harvard’s RPI at #33, while ESPN.com has it at #44. Those are pretty strong numbers. But a SOS of #149 looks ugly, and it will only continue to get worse the deeper Harvard gets into Ivy League play. Considering it would take at least two league losses for Harvard to drop into the at-large pool, that scenario would take Harvard out of the equation. It’s again auto-bid or bust for Harvard and the Ivy League. Andy Glockner’s #TwoBidIvy dream is now nothing but a pipe dream, unfortunately.
Projected seed for now: #10
St. Mary’s (12-5). If St. Mary’s at-large bid chances weren’t over following its miserable performance at the Diamond Head Classic around Christmas, complete with losses to South Carolina (RPI #106), Hawaii (RPI #125) and George Mason (RPI #155) — they might as well be now. St. Mary’s dropped a home game to Santa Clara (RPI #152) on January 9. That’s four horrible losses compared with only five top-100 wins. Some of those top-100 wins are a little suspect, too. Victories against North Dakota State (#48), Pacific (#78) and San Francisco (#95) are a little misleading. The victory against Boise State (#79) suddenly doesn’t look so hot, and the win against a strong Louisiana Tech squad isn’t helped by its #100 RPI. Saint Mary’s likely has to win the WCC Tournament or end up in the NIT this season.
Projected seed for now: Out