026 Resume Review: GW, Toledo Up; New Mexico, Harvard & Dayton Down…Posted by Adam Stillman on January 22nd, 2014
We are less than two months away from the NCAA Tournament and the bubble picture is slowly beginning to take shape. With just 36 at-large bids handed out this year thanks to the addition of the American Athletic Conference, securing one of those precious final spots becomes just a little bit tougher. That certainly could end up haunting an O26 team with its eyes on the prize. Who knows, VCU, a First Four team in 2011, could have been left out of the Big Dance had the AAC existed then. However, with a dearth of traditional one- or two-bid conferences boasting at-large candidates, could that help hopeful teams in the Atlantic 10 or West Coast Conference? Let’s see which O26 squads helped and hurt their resumes in the past week.
George Washington (15-3). George Washington, one of the best turnaround stories in the nation, saw its RPI jump all the way from #30 to #22 as of Monday night. While victories against VCU (76-66 at home) and St. Bonaventure (79-71 on the road) help, especially considering the former came against another potential bubble team, the Colonials certainly were aided when Creighton lambasted No. 4 Villanova on Monday night thanks to a school and Big East-record 21 three-pointers. George Washington’s neutral-site win in early December against the Bluejays keeps looking better and better. The Colonials own a 3-1 record in the Atlantic 10, with the lone loss coming January 9 at a resurgent La Salle but a rematch with the Explorers (along with George Mason) on the docket over the next week. Real tests come down the road in February, however, as VCU, Massachusetts and Saint Louis all dot the schedule then. The Colonials have the look of an NCAA Tournament team for now, although the loss of second-leading scorer Kethan Savage (13.4 PPG) definitely hurts.
Projected seed for now: #9
It was difficult finding another team to place in this category, but I wanted to find one more considering Saint Louis was the only team I had here last week. I figured Green Bay might have fallen under this umbrella but the Phoenix’s RPI fell from #35 to #41 as of Monday. Louisiana Tech also suffered a loss to Southern Miss, while BYU still has too many losses (seven overall, two in WCC play) with home-and-homes against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s to come. So that’s where Toledo comes in. Toledo’s RPI jumped from #50 to #37 after a home win against Buffalo and a road win at Akron last week. The Rockets don’t own a marquee win — take your pick for their best victory between Boston College, Sam Houston State, Stony Brook and Akron— but the record sure looks nice. Would 14 more conference wins — thus a 17-1 mark in the Mid-American Conference — combined with a loss in the conference title game be enough to earn Toledo the MAC’s first at-large bid since 1999? Toledo is favored in all but two of its remaining games, according to Ken Pomeroy, with away games at Ohio on February 1 and at Eastern Michigan two weeks later as the projected losses.
Projected seed for now: #12
New Mexico (14-4)
Talk about a precipitous fall. New Mexico saw its RPI drop from #21 to #45 thanks to an ugly home loss to an underachieving UNLV group on January 15. The Lobos present themselves as a microcosm of the Mountain West as a whole this season. Last season the MW boasted the best conference RPI in the nation and sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament (the league’s performance once they got there, notwithstanding). Now the MW has the 10th best RPI in the country and projects to send only two teams to the Big Dance, maybe three in a best-case scenario. New Mexico lost just one major contributor from last season’s team that earned a #3 seed, Tony Snell, but this Lobos team is far different from that squad. After ranking 18th in defensive efficiency last season (90.6 points allowed per 100 possessions), this year’s teamposts an ugly 102.2 efficiency mark, good for 133rd in the country. The Lobos have one strong win against Cincinnati in early December but not much else on the resume. A home win Tuesday night against Boise State helps, but New Mexico might need to steal at least one game from San Diego State to find itself playing in the NCAA Tournament again.
Projected seed for now: #11
Dayton (13-5). It appears Dayton has cooled off a bit from its hot start. The Flyers have lost two of their past three games, including a road game at Richmond on January 18. While losing on the road to the Spiders isn’t a killer, it’s probably a game an at-large team should win. Dayton saw its RPI drop from #43 to #50 as of Monday night, and that’s probably not where Flyers’ head coach Archie Miller wants that number to be. A big week — hosting VCU tonight, at Rhode Island on Saturday, and against St. Joseph’s next Wednesday — looms large. Luckily for the Flyers, the Atlantic 10, which ranks sixth in conference RPI, provides plenty of resume-building opportunities. Dayton can still hang its hat on wins against Gonzaga and California in the Maui Invitational, the latter of which is looking better and better. The Flyers will be a fun team to keep an eye on for the rest of the season, as they figure to be on the bubble until the very end.
Projected seed for now: #13
Harvard (14-3). Well, that sets it in stone. There will be no at-large bid for Harvard this season. The two-bid Ivy dream is no longer feasible. The Crimson suffered a horrible 68-53 loss on the road to Florida Atlantic on Tuesday night against an Owls’ team with an RPI of #272. Harvard’s at-large resume was already on thin ice before then, though. There was a solid win against Green Bay but not much else. The Crimson had missed on their other two big chances, falling at Colorado in November and at UConn on January 8. While Harvard is certainly still the favorite to take the Ivy League’s automatic bid, the Crimson can forget any aspirations of an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament this season.
Projected seed for now: #12