New ESPN BPI Rankings are Useful but Far From Groundbreaking

Posted by EJacoby on February 13th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

The Worldwide Leader is again looking to stake its claim in the advanced stat revolution, this time in the college basketball realm. Saturday was the unveiling of ESPN’s new College Basketball Power Index (BPI), which ranks all Division I teams 1-344 based on a number of factors that go beyond wins and losses. The two most obvious questions to ask of this new system are: How does the BPI compare to the KenPom and Sagarin ratings that college basketball purists have come to know so well? And is this BPI ranking system any good on its own? These rankings appears to be quite similar to those of the popular KenPom, though there are a couple of unique additions to this system that attempt to make it stand out.

The New BPI Rankings De-Value Ohio State's Games They Played Without Jared Sullinger (AP Photo/T. Gilliam)

It’s hard to argue with what ESPN is doing here by releasing a brand new metric at the perfect time now that college basketball begins to own much of the sports spotlight for the next month and a half. It will be helpful to read ESPN’s introduction to the index, which gives a chart that points out the features of the BPI compared to RPI, KenPom, and Sagarin, and also describes the benefits of their system that they believe is the most accurate assessment of team rankings. ESPN notes that their numbers include details that are “pretty technical and many people won’t be interested, so we won’t go into detail, but we think they improve how the tool works.” Considering the great technicality with which many purists understand Sagarin and KenPom, it would actually be quite useful to release this ‘technical’ information for comparison’s sake. Regardless, the BPI appears to be quite similar to these accepted ratings. BPI accounts for pace when measuring scoring margin, it awards value to winning close games more than close losses, and it includes detailed strength of schedule numbers.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 7th, 2012

  1. Last week at this time, California sat at #30 in the RPI, one of the factors that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee uses to determine at-large participants. However, after losing at home to Arizona on Saturday, its RPI fell to #48, giving us an excellent example of just how tenuous of a claim Pac-12 schools have toward an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. The win did bump Arizona up to #62 from #85, while Washington, the conference leader, still sits at #72. For perspective, an RPI in the 30s will very likely get you in, while pushing up into the 40s will leave you wondering on Selection Sunday eve. In short, odds are getting stronger that the only team that will be truly comfortable when they tune into CBS on Selection Sunday is the winner of the conference tournament.
  2. We gave our Pac-12 Player of the Week award to Joshua Smith for his big weekend in Washington, but the Pac-12 handed out the hardware to Arizona senior guard Kyle Fogg, a worthy recipient based on his well-rounded weekend leading the Wildcats to a road sweep of the Bay Area schools. It is Fogg’s first ever POTW honor, and the 83rd all-time selection for an Arizona player.
  3. Yesterday we mentioned the injuries that Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Harper Kamp suffered in their game against Arizona State on Saturday, but today Mike Montgomery confirmed that the injuries aren’t anything to worry about and that both players will practice and play this weekend when the Golden Bears head to the Los Angeles schools. Meanwhile, Arizona State junior guard Trent Lockett will likely return to action this week for the Sun Devils after missing six games with a badly sprained right ankle. The team’s leading scorer took over the point guard duties for Herb Sendek following the team’s dismissal of Keala King, but may be able to return to more of a wing role now that junior guard Chris Colvin has had some success running the point. Nevertheless, ASU has gone 1-5 in Lockett’s absence.
  4. The Pac-12 is probably no different than other leagues around the country in that fans from one end of the conference to the other think the officiating, um, isn’t very good. Oregon fans are the latest to take up the call for better officiating, following their loss to Colorado Saturday night on a controversial last-second foul call. Conference commissioner Larry Scott made it a priority to work on improving the work of Pac-12 football officials last year, and here’s hoping a similar initiative is in the works for the basketball side of things. However, there is a significant barrier in the way: Basketball officials aren’t tied to or affiliated with any one conference, but rather work a variety of games with teams from different conferences involved. But, to this point, Scott has worked wonders in his time with the conference, so hope remains that he can work on improving the state of officiating in Pac-12 basketball.
  5. And lastly, speaking of the commissioner, he was awarded with a contract extension to 2016 yesterday, unanimously approved by all 12 university presidents. In his first two years as the Commish, he has expanded the conference to 12 schools (and twice almost bumped it up to 16), scored a huge new television deal with ESPN and Fox that begins next year and will include a Pac-12 television network, and just generally done a great job marketing and promoting the conference not only around the West, but nationally and even internationally. Now, USC fans may not be all that enamored of Scott, but the rest of the conference seems to be mighty pleased with the way things are being done under the new commissioner.
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Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2012

  1. Alabama star forward Tony Mitchell was suspended indefinitely on Monday by head coach Anthony Grant, who did not elaborate on specific causes other than to say that it wasn’t the result of a specific action but a series of transgressions. The junior wing who averages 13/7 on the season picked a tough time to fail to come through for his team, as the Crimson Tide travels to Auburn tonight and LSU on Saturday. Sitting firmly on the early February bubble, Alabama cannot afford to lose either game against two lower-tier SEC teams without one of its two best players in the lineup.
  2. From a player forced to sit to a coach choosing to do so, College of Charleston head man Bobby Cremins opened up Monday about his recent leave of absence from the team. Citing doctor’s orders, the 64-year old coach said that he was running himself into the ground: “I got physically exhausted, fatigued and lacked the necessary energy to coach our team. My doctor advised me to take an immediate medical leave of absence, which I did.” Coaches are competitive and stressed-out people in general, so it probably didn’t help matters that Cremins’ team got off to a 9-1 start this season before dropping eight of their next 11 games. Reading between the lines a bit in Cremins’ statement to the media, he didn’t sound like someone ready to stop coaching — let’s hope he gets his energy back in time to lead CofC to a run in the Southern Conference Tournament next month.
  3. If you were like most of America, you didn’t know Duke had lost another home game until sometime yesterday given that Miami’s overtime victory over the Blue Devils finished as most people were either en route or settling into their Super Bowl parties. One man who knew it all too well and no doubt carried it with him into a sleepless night on Sunday was Mike Krzyzewski. Already having assailed his team in the postgame interview for a perceived lack of effort, the venerable coach on Monday took to the airwaves on 99.9 FM The Fan in Raleigh to further chastise his team for not “playing hard” during parts of the loss to Miami. As we all know, Duke’s ridiculous success has always been predicated on its tough man-to-man defense; and its defensive success has derived from equal parts talent and effort. This year’s defense, however, is one of the worst the Blue Devils have fielded since Chris Collins and Jeff Capel were hoisting shots at the rim rather than dry erasers at the white board. Coach K cannot change the talent part of his defensive problem overnight, but he can change the effort issue. We’d expect his players to come at North Carolina like a pack of starving jackals in Chapel Hill tomorrow night.
  4. We’re really not sure what to make of this, but if your goal is to figure out who has the best chance of finding the sunny side of the bubble on Selection Sunday, maybe this simple equation from Drew Cannon at Basketball Prospectus is really all you need. Could it really be that easy — perhaps so. Considering that the RPI is the metric favored by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, it makes sense that teams rated highly in that manner have a bit of a leg up. When you then add Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency-based metrics to the RPI, you’re essentially favoring teams that play the game of basketball (from a possession-by-possession standpoint) a little better than those who do not. Voila, the combination seems to result in a hybrid model that is a fairly accurate predictor of the field.
  5. Seth Davis was back in action Monday with a new Hoop Thoughts column, and although we disagree with him that the Kansas-Missouri rivalry will take very long to see back on the regular season schedule (five years, tops), we completely concur with his sentiment that the entire rabbit hole of conference realignment is a very, very bad thing for college athletics. And yet this is the tip of the iceberg, we’re afraid. The Pac-12 on Monday just rewarded its commissioner, Larry Scott, with an extension of his contract through 2016. How is this relevant, you ask? Recall that it was Scott’s maneuvering two summers ago in trying to lure several Big 12 schools to the Pac-10 that set into motion much of the ensuing hysteria and deal-making among schools and conferences looking out only for themselves. Without Scott’s overtures, would Missouri and Texas A&M be going to the SEC? Would Pittsburgh and Syracuse be ACC-bound? It appears that there’s no honor among the barbarians at the gate, though — say it with us now — Scott’s contract extension was approved… unanimously.
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Tracking The Four: Cuse Get Juiced and Leaves One Unbeaten Team Standing

Posted by EJacoby on January 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Welcome back to TT4, where the lowest ranked team of the four in this week’s RTC Top 25 also happens to be the only undefeated squad left in the country. Will Murray State lose a game before the Big Dance? They continue to win in impressive fashion and are now getting a key cog back in the lineup for the stretch run. Meanwhile, our two major-conference teams are coming off poor weeks and UNLV keeps quietly handling their business. All four TT4 teams remained ranked in the Top 20 and have important games this week. Let’s look at what’s new:

Murray State Racers

Isaiah Canaan and Murray State Continue Pushing Towards Perfection (AP Photo/S. Dennee)

  • Trending UP Because… – They are the only undefeated team left in the country! After being down at halftime, the Racers climbed back to defeat Morehead State on Wednesday, 66-60, in a huge road win that was their toughest remaining test. Please raise your hand and leave a comment below if you had Murray State as the last team to lose this season. Not only is MSU unbeaten but they are getting their third-leading scorer Ivan Aska back any day now, as the senior forward has been cleared to play by doctors. All things are looking up for the Racers (20-0, 8-0 OVC), and all of their remaining games have suddenly become must-watch, or at least must-follow action as they try to make history.
  • This Week’s Key CogIsaiah Canaan. The star guard was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week after going for 20 points in the win at Morehead State and 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in a road win over SIU Edwardsville on Saturday night.
  • Play of the Week – The Racers were down by one against Morehead State until Canaan hit this deep three-pointer with 3:58 left to give Murray State a lead they would not relinquish.
  • Talking Point – The head coach of SIU-E, Lennox Forrester, was thoroughly impressed by the Racers on Saturday, and thinks they may have a special season ahead: “They carry a swagger about them. They’re at least a Sweet Sixteen team and maybe Elite Eight. They could be a so-called Butler.”
  • Coaching Tree of Life - The last time Murray State was ranked before this season (1998), Mark Gottfried was the head coach. The last Racers’ rookie head coach to win 20 games was Mick Cronin in 2003-04, and the in-jeopardy MSU single-season wins record of 31 came under Billy Kennedy’s watch in 2009-10. Gottfried, Cronin, and Kennedy are all major coaches at NC State, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M, respectively, today; perhaps coach Steve Prohm is next in line for a big-time job. Then again, Prohm could also be deserving of a major raise and extension there in Murray.
  • Stats Central – They’ve earned praise for proficient three-point shooting, but an underrated aspect of Murray State’s offensive game is their attacking prowess. The Racers have a season-long free throw rate (which measures FTA/FGA) of 45.1%, which ranks 19th nationally. But they’re even more outstanding in conference play, with a rate of 52.8% that ranks third in the country amongst all teams in their conference games.
  • What’s Next? – The Racers have just one game on tap for this week, at home against Eastern Illinois on Saturday (8:00 PM ET). EIU is 2-4 in OVC conference play and coming off three straight losses.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

  • Trending EVEN Because… – They took care of business this week by thrashing TCU at home before then opening up a big second-half lead and defeating New Mexico at home as well on Saturday. The Runnin’ Rebels continue to look the part of a consistent, elite team and they’ve even slid into the Top 10 of this week’s RTC Top 25. UNLV (18-3, 2-1 MWC) has only lost on the road to three teams that are either ranked (SDSU) or receiving votes (Wisconsin, Wichita State) this week. They are ranked sixth in the RPI and should get a very strong look at a top three NCAA Tournament seed if they continue to play this well.
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Rough Panic Index: NCAA’s First Official RPI Released, ACC Teams Do Not Fare Well

Posted by mpatton on January 4th, 2012

The NCAA released its first official RPI (ratings percentage index) standings. You’re probably already familiar with the RPI, but it’s really the most important ranking –despite being a skewed evaluator of a team’s success — because it’s what the NCAA Selection Committee relies on when evaluating teams for selection into the NCAA Tournament. The RPI’s basic formula accounts for a team’s winning percentage (25%), its opponents’ winning percentage (50%) and its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (25%). It also takes into account home and away (which it bluntly multiplies by 1.4 (for a home loss or road win) or 0.6 (for a home win or road loss). This makes the rating very favorable to good mid-major teams that play lots of nonconference road games against good opponents. A savvy BCS-conference coach can also manipulate the rating by playing some of these mid-major darlings at home or a neutral site.

Duke Occupies the ACC's Top Spot in the First RPI from the NCAA

Regardless of its inadequacies, the RPI is hugely important for Selection Sunday. Selection Committee members know and trust the RPI, even if Ken Pomeroy’s or Jeff Sagarin’s rankings are considered better evaluators of a team’s success. The important categories of the RPI are top-25, top-50 and top-100. Wins against the top-25 are gold; losses usually don’t hurt too much. Wins against the top-50 are critical (barring a very, very good record) for an NCAA tournament-worthy profile and a few losses won’t kill you. Wins against teams out of the top-100 are mandatory and losses to said teams should be avoided at all costs.

Now let’s look at the five most likely ACC teams to make the Big Dance: Duke (#2 in the RPI), North Carolina (#10), Virginia Tech (#38) and Virginia (#56).

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The Sun Belt Is Tired Of Gettin’ Pushed Around

Posted by jstevrtc on October 27th, 2010

Having had sand kicked in its face for long enough, the Sun Belt Conference has taken a long, cold look at itself in the mirror, and decided that it’s time to hit the gym.

On Monday, the conference announced that it planned to implement rules designed to increase the conference’s RPI rating. Specifically, the Sun Belt will mandate that its member basketball schools must only schedule non-conference opponents that, as ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported, have a “three-year combined power rating within the top 150,” and/or teams that ended the previous season with an RPI within the top 150. The scheduling of games against non-Division I teams will be forbidden, and programs must constantly endeavor to average an attendance that surpasses the national average of 5,038 fans per game (as Katz reports, the Sun Belt brass are planning to help with this). The theory is that this scheduling upgrade en masse will raise the Sun Belt’s conference RPI and, in doing so, might lead to more than the single auto-qualifier each year in the NCAA Tournament, or at least a higher NCAA seed for the conference tournament winner. This would seemingly lead to other positive effects that all conferences love, like rising attendance at games, an increased television profile, and — to put it frankly — more respect. The rules outlined above will take effect starting in the 2011-12 season.

Troy's New Trojan Arena Will Seat Just Over 5,200 Hoops Fans

The Sun Belt is certainly ripe for a drastic self-determined change, meaning one that’s not being executed just to keep the conference alive. The great Sun Belt schism happened in the off-season of 1991, when most of the conference’s members bolted for other leagues and the remaining schools had to merge with the American South Conference to keep the Sun Belt in existence.  Since that time, the Sun Belt has had more than one representative – its conference tournament winner — in the Big Dance exactly three times: 2008 (#10 South Alabama, at large; #12 Western Kentucky, auto), 1994 (#11 Western Kentucky, at large; #11 Louisiana-Lafayette, auto), and 1993 (#7 Western Kentucky, auto; #8 New Orleans, at large). Note that long drought, there — the span from 1995 to 2007 represents thirteen consecutive tournaments in which the Sun Belt was a single-bid league. And they logged only one win in that interval (#8 Western Kentucky def. #9 Michigan, 1995). In terms of actual conference RPI, the Sun Belt finished last year at its 10-year nadir of 22nd out of 32 conferences, averaging a year-end rank of 17.5 over that time period.

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The New NCAA Tournament — We Can Live With It

Posted by jstevrtc on July 12th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The NCAA got around to announcing “The Decision” regarding the layout of the now 68-team tournament and specifically the makeup of the competitors in the four “play-in games” today, and the end result?  Punt.

Getting the terminology out of the way first, these games are officially no longer part of the Opening Round, nor are they “play-in games” (not that they ever were). They now make up the entirety of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as the First Four. Those games that get played on Thursday and Friday? Those are now the Second Round, with the weekend games now the Third Round, with the winners there still advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

We knew before today that there were three main options that the NCAA was considering: the final eight at-large teams matching up, the lowest eight automatic qualifiers matching up, or some combination of the two. That last one, that’s what we got. And you know what? That’s probably the best decision.

The NCAA dropped back and punted, here -- but the resulting field position isn't that bad.

If the NCAA had chosen to send only the lowest eight qualifiers to these games, there would have been numerous problems, not the least of which would be a continuation of the idea that those first four games aren’t really part of the NCAA Tournament. The teams that advance from one-bid conferences like the MEAC, SWAC, American East and Big Sky (to name just a few of the usual suspects) would battle it out in Dayton in relative anonymity for the right to advance to their chance to get killed by a one-seed, while your typical college basketball fan would ignore the whole thing. In the process, sure, the teams involved would have a better chance at winning a game in the NCAA Tournament and thereby earning themselves an extra share of the proceeds from the tournament, but once the “actual” tournament started, there would be four less automatic qualifiers sticking around for their chance to get on national television and test out their slingshot against Goliath. Then there’s also the fact that after spending $10.8 billion on the rights to the tournament, the first four games of the package would be a total wash for the television networks, stuck broadcasting games like Mississippi Valley State against Northern Arizona to a national television audience of almost four digits.

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Morning Five: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

  1. Jason King at Yahoo gives his midseason all-americans, and it’s a strong list.  Surprising inclusion – Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh.  Surprising exclusions – Ohio State’s Evan Turner (despite the injury), and Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu.
  2. ESPN.com ranks the decade’s best NCAA Tournament and non-Tourney games.  Pretty good list.
  3. Want to learn how Duke-Carolina became THE rivalry in college basketball sports in the modern era.  A good read by Dan Wiederer who maps it out over the last two decades-plus.
  4. Andy Glockner takes a look at the first two months of the season and the results of the games that will matter most when it comes to Selection Sunday in about 75 days.
  5. We know that the RPI as an objective measurement of the relative strength of teams is (mostly) worthless, but the NCAA Selection Committee still uses it, among other things, so we like to keep an eye on it from time to time.  What’s interesting about this is that the A10 is so high (4th), while the Big Ten is comically below the Pac-10 (7th).

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.13.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009

dynamite

Hello hoops fans, and welcome to our first weekday version of your favorite semi-live journal, Boom Goes the Dynamite.  We’re still feeling the effects of that six-overtime Goliath of a game last night, but we’re caffeinated and ready to rock with you all day while we move through what is traditionally the best day of the conference tournament weekend.  It’ll be hard to top what we saw yesterday, though.  Here are a few of the games you should be tracking; as you can see, today is an absolute blockbuster:

  • ACC – UNC vs. Virginia Tech – Noon, Maryland vs. Wake Forest – 7pm, Duke vs. BC, 9:30pm
  • Patriot – American vs. Holy Cross – 4:45pm
  • Big 10 – Michigan St. vs. Minnesota – Noon, Illinois vs. Michigan – 6:30pm, Purdue vs. Penn St. – 9pm
  • Big East - Louisville vs. Villanova – 7pm, Syracuse vs. West Virginia – 9pm
  • Big 12 – Baylor vs. Texas – 7pm, Oklahoma St. vs. Missouri – 9:30pm
  • Mountain West – San Diego St. vs. BYU – 9pm
  • Pac-10 – Arizona St. vs. Washington – 9pm, USC vs. UCLA – 11:30pm
  • SEC – Florida vs. Auburn – 9:45pm

Another couple of PSAs before we get started.  Be sure to check the site throughout the weekend, as we’ll be doing these BGTDs each day, in addition to a revised bracketology on both Saturday and Sunday, all leading to a liveblogging of the Selection Show on Sunday.  We’ll also be putting up the information for RTC’s Second Annual Bracket Challenge later this afternoon.

12:20 pm. Let’s get started here.  UNC looks flat so far against Virginia Tech, and they should, given that Ty Lawson is over on the bench sitting next to Roy Williams.  He is dressed, though, so it wouldn’t surprise us if his Big Toe makes an appearance.  That crafty Roy – always using the element of surprise.  Or something like that.

12:27 pm.  Over at the Big Ten, Minnesota is leading Michigan State 22-20 in a high-scoring game.  Yes, we said high-scoring and Big Ten in the same sentence.  Wow, ESPN is already re-showing the Syracuse-UConn game on ESPN Classic.  Tivo time.  If these two games get worthless, we’re definitely moving back over there.

12:33 pm. They’re really hyping that game from last night – looks like they’re going to show the whole thing on ESPNU at 3pm.  Getting back to business here, Virginia Tech looks poised right now, playing like a team that wants to keep playing in March should be playing.  Carolina looks a little flat, but the question will be whether they can still make a patented run with Lawson sitting.

12:42 pm. Most of the ACC people are annoyed with the conference tournament being in Atlanta this year, but we think it’s refreshing that it’s not in the same old tired venue of Greensboro or Charlotte again.  The home-state advantage that Carolina gets in those two building is ridiculous.  Speaking of advantage, it looked like UNC was about to make a run until Va Tech came down and hit two consecutive threes.  Ed Davis is going to be a player someday.  He has really nice touch around the rim, and his per-40 rebounding average is in the 15 rpg territory!

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Make Your Case: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2009

makecaseAs part of our ongoing quest to provide you with the best college basketball coverage in the nation, we have enlisted the help of some of the finest team-specific bloggers on the planet to help us. With the NCAA Selection Show coming up on March 15th there are still several teams on the proverbial “bubble”. We figured it might be interesting to see what kind of nonpartisan arguments these bloggers could make for their team deserving a spot in the NCAA tournament. We welcome any discussion of their arguments and praise or criticism of their reasoning in the comment section. If your team is on the “bubble” and you would like to submit something, please contact us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Kansas Statesubmitted by TB at Bring On The Cats.

Kansas State Profile
Record: 19-10
RPI: 72
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 3-5
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 5-7
Best Wins: Missouri (home), Texas (road), Texas A&M (road), and Cleveland State (road)
Worst Loss: Oregon

After Tuesday night’s loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, K-State’s chances at receiving an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament are smaller than ever. Still, because the proprietors of RTC asked me to make K-State’s case, and because I’m an insufferable homer (OK, not really), I’m going to do my best. Also, ESPN’s Andy Katz still has us in consideration, so it’s still worth looking at what K-State needs to do.

As you can probably tell from the profile above, K-State’s non-conference schedule is bereft of, well, anything. The best teams we played in the non-con schedule were Kentucky, Iowa, and Cleveland State, and we only managed to defeat CSU among those teams as we dropped two-point decisions to both UK and Iowa. You might be wondering why I don’t have Iowa listed in the “Worst Losses” category, considering they’re at 105 in the RPI and 14-15 (4-12 Big 10). At the time, Iowa was at full strength, whereas later in the season several key players would lose time to injuries or suspensions. The Hawkeyes were never going to challenge for the Big 10 title, but they were a decent team at 11-4 before Cyrus Tate’s injury, and had decent wins over Northern Iowa and Iowa State.

Anyway, that one loss doesn’t change things for K-State. Given that we inexplicably lost to woeful Oregon and didn’t have a big win in the non-conference, we needed to separate ourselves in conference play. With wins over Missouri, Texas (on the road), and Texas A&M (on the road), we gave ourselves a chance. But with last night’s loss to Oklahoma State, the best we can hope for is a tie for fourth place in the Big 12 at 9-7, a tie we will win by virtue of our head-to-head win over Texas. The problem is, with Texas, Texas A&M and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma State having more impressive non-con resumes, we needed to have a clearly superior conference resume to even the playing field. While our conference run still stacks up favorably with all our intra-conference bubble competition, we failed to clearly distinguish ourselves.

One thing that plays in K-State’s favor that wouldn’t have been true in the recent past is the strength of the Big 12 North this season. Coming into this week, the unofficial divisions were 14-14 against each other, but after Kansas’s inexplicable loss to Texas Tech and Colorado’s continued woefulness, the South now owns a 16-15 advantage. But with KU owning wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M; Missouri owning wins over every South opponent it has played, and K-State picking up road wins over Texas and Texas A&M, it’s clear the North is not the South’s little brother this season. If you compare the records of the teams from each division, you will notice that the South did not fare markedly worse against itself as compared to its record against the North, indicating the South didn’t beat each other up and pick off easy wins against the North. The divisions actually appear to be pretty evenly matched.

  • Oklahoma: 4-2 North, 8-1 South (Oklahoma State remaining)
  • Texas: 2-3 North (@ KU remaining), 7-3 South
  • Oklahoma State: 4-2 North, 5-4 South (@ OU remaining)
  • Texas A&M: 3-2 North (Missouri remaining), 5-5 South
  • Kansas: 9-1 North, 4-1 South (Texas remaining)
  • Missouri: 7-3 North, 5-0 South (@ Texas A&M remaining)
  • Kansas State: 5-4 North (Colorado remaining), 3-3 South
  • Nebraska: 5-5 North, 2-3 South (@ Baylor remaining)

(Note: I omitted the bottom two teams from each side because, really, does anyone care what Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Colorado did? Yeah, me neither.)

So, our last shot at an at-large bid is to impress in the conference tournament. If K-State does manage the four seed, it will likely play Texas in the 4/5 game on Thursday in Oklahoma City. A win there would be a big resume boost and would affirm the earlier win in Austin, not to mention giving the Wildcats a third shot at KU on Friday. The Jayhawks will be the top seed in the Big 12 and are one of the hottest teams in the country right now, Wednesday night’s debacle in Lubbock notwithstanding. If K-State could somehow come away with the win there, they would have two impressive wins on the last weekend and would be playing in the conference tourney finals on Saturday. Of course at that point, you might as well just win the title game and eliminate all doubt, but it would at least give us a chance. Beyond the two impressive wins, our “Last 12” record would be 9-3 at that point, another selling point to the committee.

Undoubtedly, K-State is still in the “Work Left to Do” category, and at this point it’s probably more like “A Whole Lotta Work Left to Do.” However, using the scenario outlined above, I believe it’s possible for K-State to remain in consideration for one of the last at-large berths. A win over Colorado would push K-State to 20-10 overall, and two games in the conference tournament, likely against Texas and KU, could push the record to 22-10 with impressive wins on the last weekend of the season. Given that other bubble teams aren’t exactly making huge statements right now, either, a late run could impress the committee. While we’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt K-State if Texas A&M and Oklahoma State would lose this weekend – their opponents are Missouri and Oklahoma, respectively – and go quietly into the night at the conference tournament in Oklahoma City.

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Make Your Case: Providence Friars

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2009

makecase1

As part of our ongoing quest to provide you with the best college basketball coverage in the nation, we have enlisted the help of some of the finest team-specific bloggers on the planet to help us. With the NCAA Selection Show coming up on March 15th there are still several teams on the proverbial “bubble”. We figured it might be interesting to see what kind of nonpartisan arguments these bloggers could make for their team deserving a spot in the NCAA tournament. We welcome any discussion of their arguments and praise or criticism of their reasoning in the comment section. If your team is on the “bubble” and you would like to submit something, please contact us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Providencesubmitted by Dave at FriarBlog.com.

Right now, the Providence Friars deserve an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. The big reason? 10 conference wins (possibly 11 if they can knock off Villanova on the road Thursday night) in arguably the “Greatest Conference in the History of the Universe” (or something like that). While it’s true the Friars have a few warts in their computer numbers, it can be argued that they have no bad losses. Providence has done a great job beating all the teams it should have, and have also picked up a few signature wins along the way.

Technically One Bad Loss
The one loss that is going to be consistently brought up come Selection Sunday is the Friars’ first game of the season against Northeastern. However, there is a perfectly cromulent reason for this loss. First off, this was the debut of the new Providence coach Keno Davis, who was bringing an entirely new system to a veteran team who mostly played 3 years under former coach Tim Welsh. Things obviously took some time to gel, and I have no doubt in my mind that PC would defeat Northeastern soundly if they came back to THE DUNK today. Another huge turnaround from how this team performed against Northeastern and early on in the season is a healthy Sharaud Curry.

Rust be Gone
Point guard Sharaud Curry missed all of last season due to a broken foot. In most of the non-conference schedule this year, Curry was clearly not himself. His quickness wasn’t quite there, and he had several poor shooting nights (averaged only 8 PPG shooting shot 30% including 1/8 FG and 2 points versus Northeastern). However in Big East conference play, Curry has arguably been Providence’s MVP. In 17 conference games, Curry is averaging 13.9 PPG, ranks #1 in FT% (87%), #2 in three-point FG% (44%), and #3 in assist/turnover ratio (2.5). A healthy Sharaud Curry clearly makes a difference on this team, which is why the early season non-conference losses should not be so heavily weighted.

The 10 Wins
For most of the Big East season, everyone was quick to point out how Providence had not beaten anyone of note in the conference. However, nobody seems to want to give them credit for what they have done on the road. The Friars are a solid 4-4 away from home in Big East games (with a chance to get to 5 Ws against Nova), beating Cincinnati, Seton Hall, USF, and Rutgers. While those teams aren’t the powerhouses of the conference, winning on the road in the Big East always tough — just ask Georgetown and Cincinnati after last night. Combine that with an amazing win versus #1 Pittsburgh and another big home win against #15 Syracuse, PC has performed very well in the BBBE (Big Bad Big East). They are guaranteed to finish in the top half of the standings, which should count for something.

The Biggest Blemish: RPI

  • As of Wednesday morning, Providence has an unsightly 69 RPI ranking. The team is hurt by a few things:
  • The aforementioned home loss to Northeastern. As BaseLineStats.com recently posted, “Don’t you dare lose at home: The story of the ‘new’ RPI”
  • Playing fellow Rhode Island teams Bryant (#304 in RPI) and Brown (#314) are just murder on PC’s RPI. Throw in another team over 300 (Dartmouth at #310), and the RPI is going to take a big hit.
  • I don’t trust RPI as far as I can throw it, but hopefully the committee doesn’t put too much stock into it.

The Friars could also be penalized by their 3-7 record versus teams in the RPI #26-100 (which could surely change in the last two weeks as teams move in and out). Four of those losses came early on during the non-conference schedule. However, a 7-5 record over the last 12 Big East games proves just how different this Friar team is than they were back in November/December.

I think it’s clear that this team belongs.

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Conference Over- and Underachievers

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

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Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

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Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

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Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

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Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   --J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

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Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.

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