Posted on: December 20, 2010 7:50 am
Edited on: December 21, 2010 12:02 am

RPI Stability

by Jerry Palm

Since the RPI is a rating that has no preseason bias -- everyone starts at zero and builds from there -- early season numbers can be a bit, shall we say, counterintuitive.

For example, teams like Cleveland State, Boston College, Miami and Southern Miss are in the top 25 of the RPI, but are not likely to be getting too many votes in the polls.

Ohio State, which looks like one of the few teams capable of challenging Duke, sits at No. 10 this morning.  The Dukies themselves only rank fourth.

Baylor will almost certainly be the lowest rated RPI team among the top 25 that comes out later today.  The Bears are 92nd after their loss to Gonzaga.

Purdue is barely in the top 50.  Michigan State is 61st.  Both will be in the top 20 of the polls.

That kind of thing is not unusual for big conference teams, which have the bulk of the better teams on their schedule in conference.  Part of that though is that some smaller conference schools that play very tough non-conference schedules don't look as good in the RPI now to the teams that played them as they will later on.

Oakland is a prime example of that.  The Grizzlies are the favorite to win the Summit, but are currently only 6-6 (0-4 in the Big Ten).  However, they are likely on their way to roughly 22 wins if they play as you'd expect, which will be a lot more helpful to their opponents' RPI ratings than their current 6-6 record is.

So, don't get too worked up about team RPI numbers yet.  The further we go along, the better and more stable it will get.

Conference RPI numbers are a little more reliable because they are heavily influenced by non-conference performance, and most of the non-conference schedule is in the books.

Posted on: December 15, 2010 9:27 pm

Quiet Time Interrupted

By Jerry Palm

Usually, this is the quietest week of the season.  Most schools have final exams this week, so the schedule is pretty light, and the games that do get played are usually pretty lightweight.  That quiet time got interrupted on Tuesday night though when Oakland won at Tennesssee (no, that's not a NFL result) and Drexel took down Louisville.

Oakland has played a schedule even Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee would admire.  West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State.  The Grizzlies lost to all of them, but were increasingly competitive, including a one-point loss to the Spartans.  It all came together finally for them against the Vols.

In bracket terms, this is likely a bigger win for Oakland than it is a bad loss for Tennessee.  The Vols can still go on to be a #1 seed, even with this loss, but for Oakland, it could end up being the difference between being a 14 or 15 seed and a 12 or 13.  Who else among the teams they would be competing with in that part of the bracket would have a win like this?  Of course, Oakland still has to go out and win the Summit League.  This probably isn't good enough to put them in as an at-large team.

The Drexel-Louisville result is a little harder to gauge in terms of impact.  The Cards are off to a great start, but have yet to play away from home.  We don't have a good feel for how good they really are.  Until we know that, we don't know how much help this win will be to Drexel's at-large chances or seed.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 14, 2010 4:48 pm

WAC Auto Bid May Be Safe After All

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson, whose league seems to be under attack from all sides, got in touch with me after reading the blog entry below to assure me that one of those sides is not likely to be the loss of the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

At the very end of that blog entry, I mentioned that the WAC might have to get a rule changed to keep that bid.  Benson sent me an e-mail saying that, in fact, some changes are in the works.  He described some proposed legislation that would loosen the requirements for having an automatic bid to the tournament.  He said the new rules would create a definition of a "multisport conference," and that any league that met that definition and had seven basketball playing memebers would receive an automatic bid.  He said the WAC would meet those requirements and that those new standards would be in place, if passed, effective with the 2011-12 season.  The vote on the propsed changes is scheduled to take place in January.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: WAC
Posted on: December 12, 2010 3:52 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2010 4:37 pm

Every Game Matters

That is the slogan of the BCS, but it's probably more true in basketball, at least for teams that want to be in the postseason or are playing for seed.

Saturday, we had Tennessee and Pittsburgh.  Both of those teams are in the top 10 and barring injury, don't figure to have to worry about missing the tournament.  However, they could be in a battle for a top seed.  It's not too hard to imagine the committee sitting there in March debating these two as the fourth #1 seed.  Tennessee's 83-76 win over the Panthers could be the deciding factor.

For teams like Gonzaga and Butler, these early games are where they make their case for selection and seeding.  They just don't get enough quality games in conference play to put all their eggs in that basket.  Unfortunately for these two, not much is going well.

Gonzaga lost at Notre Dame yesterday to fall to 4-5.  Four of those five losses are to likely tournament teams, and the fifth - Washington State - isn't terrible, but the Zags so far are proving beyond a doubt that they cannot beat tournament quality opposition.  They do have more chances though, with Baylor, Xavier, Oklahoma St and Memphis still on the schedule, and all of those but Baylor at home.

Butler is in even more trouble.  Like Gonzaga, the Bulldogs are without a quality win, and have already lost to Louisville, Duke and Xavier, as well as home loss to Evansville.  Unlike the Zags, Butler doesn't have many chances left.  They are in a tournament with Florida State and Baylor, but that's it.

The committee is watching as closely now as they will in February, so teams need to be juast careful not to give their tournament chances away now as they do then.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 11, 2010 12:05 am
Edited on: December 11, 2010 12:22 am

WAC Automatic Bid in Danger

With the announcement today that Hawai'i is leaving the WAC for the Big West beginning in 2012-13, the WAC is now in danger of losing its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

As of now, the WAC roster for the 2012-13 season is Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico St, San Jose St, Texas-San Antonio, Texas St., Utah St.

The NCAA Bylaw that governs automatic bids in men's basketball says that a conference must have seven "core" institutions, and that six of those must have played together in the same conference for five years.  A core institution is one that has been a Division I member for at least eight years.  The WAC will have seven core institutions, but Hawai'i leaving drops the league to only five that have played together for five years.

Now, there is a two year grace period to try to get things back in line, but UTSA and Texas St. won't join until 2012-13.  They'll have to play in the league five years before the WAC meets both requirements again.  The grace period only covers the first two.

That means three years without an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the WAC.  That is, unless they can get the rule changed.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: WAC
Posted on: December 9, 2010 9:20 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2010 10:22 pm

New blog, New bracket

Welcome to the Bracketology blog, a new blog here at  I'll be posting here mostly with regard to how some of the news may impact the tournament selection process, and try to answer as many questions as I can.

To celebrate, a new bracket projection has been posted .  We're barely a quarter of the way through the season, and have yet to get into conference play, so teams haven't really established much in terms of tournament resumes yet.  There is a lot of how good we think they are vs how accomplished they actually are.  Especially for the big schools, accomplishment tends to come much more in league than out.

Certainly though, there have been surprises.  Michigan St, a preseason top five team, is really struggling against better teams.  Connecticut, picked for around 10th in the Big East, is now in the top 10 nationally.

I went ahead and put every undefeated team in the bracket, even Cincinnati and Northwestern, who still have pretty horrible RPIs for teams without losses.  Gonzaga and Butler are in the process of playing their way out of at-large consideration, if they need it.

Anyway, take this bracket for what an early December bracket is worth.  My brackets are always "as if the season ended today."  I can pretty much guarantee the bracket will be very different in March.

At least Ohio St didn't make this first in-season bracket look totally stupid tonight, but they sure gave it a good try.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or