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Posted on: January 25, 2012 10:54 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 3:26 pm
 

Jan. 25 Bracket

Today's bracket is posted.  Kentucky is the new overall top seed, followed by Missouri, which is the only newcomer to the top line, replacing Duke.

Syracuse and Baylor remain No. 1 seeds despite losses last week.  Kansas is pushing hard, and beat Baylor recently, but the Jayhawks have done most of their damage at home, and still have that extra loss - to Davidson.

Ohio State has also rejoined the fight, but is another team that has struggled away from home.  All three of the Buckeyes' losses have come on the road, to their three best opponents away from home.  They are mighty in Columbus, and the tournament is played there, but Ohio St will be shipped out.

The Big Ten still sports nine teams, but Purdue is hanging on for dear life.  The Boilers have struggled recently, losing at home to Wisconsin and just on Tueday, to Michigan.  They are the only Big Ten team still looking for a win over a ranked opponent.  If the field were more accomplished, Purdue would definitely be on the outside looking in.

Illinois also took a beating this week in the bracket.  The Illini fell from second to seventh after losing at Penn State and at home to Wisconsin.  They are a true six-seed that was moved to seven to help with bracketing considerations, but that is still a sizeable drop.  Also hurting them is that the loss to Purdue looks worse than it did last week.

Cincinnati, despite a 1-2 week, is getting closer to the bracket despite a non-conference schedule rankng 329th out of 344.  That's going to be an albatross around the Bearcats' neck all season long.  The committee, even in an expanded field, still takes a very dim view of that and will eliminate teams for no other reason.

Cinci is also a strange team in that it is better on the road than at home.  The Bearcats are 6-2 in games away from home, but only 9-4 on their home floor, including losses to St. John's and Presbyterian.  That 92 RPI ranking is due to their weak non-conference schedule and their difficulty defending the home floor.

Cincinnati has nothing on Loyola Marymount though.  The Lions are 7-2 on the road, but only 3-6 at home.

And from the Teams Get Bids, Not Conferences departement: Conference USA has four teams in the bracket, but all are 10-seeds or lower.

New to the bracket this week: Ole Miss, Iowa State, Texas and UCF.
Leaving us, for now: Stanford, Northern Iowa, Denver and Colorado State, which is the highest rated RPI team left out.



Posted on: January 19, 2012 6:37 pm
 

Where's Cincinnati?

It's a city in the Southwest corner of Ohio, but that's not really what we're talking here.  Bearcat fans are up in arms at the omission of their team from this week's bracket.  They aren't there for a very simple reason -- they don't have much of a case.

First, let's keep in mind that he bracket was posted Wednesday morning, before Cinci won at Connecticut, so that game isn't considered.  Also, remember that the bracket is as if the tournament started then.  I'm not trying to predict what will happen in March.

Bearcat fans point out their second place position in the conference standings.  That's nice, but irrelevant.  Conference standings don't matter at all in March.  They matter even less in mid-January, when only about a third of the conference schedule has been played.

They also mention having beated two or three top 25 teams on the road.  I count one: Georgetown.  It's the only win among their 14 that is over a tournament-quality team.

In fact, the win over Georgetown is pretty much Cincinnati's entire case.

The Bearcats RPI on Wednesday morning was 101.  One Hundred One.  Do you know how bad your schedule and/or losses have to be to have a triple-digit RPI with a 14-4 record?  Only Wyoming had a better record and a worse RPI.

Cincinnati's non-conference schedule ranks 317th.  That is, to be nice, putrid.  And it's going to take more than a win over Georgetown (and UConn, for that matter) to overcome that.  They also have not one, not two, but three home losses, two of which to teams that won't sniff the tournament.  Those are the Bearcats' only conference loss (St. John's) and a loss to a denomination (Presbyterian).  And of course, they also got "zipped up" by Xavier.

So, while that win over Georgetown is nice, the Bearcats have work to do before they erase the black marks on their tournament profile.

By the way - the win over UConn bumped up Cincinnati's RPI to 85.  That's a good start.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 6:26 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 11:56 am
 

Jan. 18 Bracket

Readers are great.  Many have pointed out that Davidson won at the Sprint Center, not at the Phog.  Also, that Michigan St lost to UNC by 35 in 2008 to UNC before losing to the Heels again in the title game that season (by a more respectible 17 points).

One of last week's four number one seeds went down this week, but remains on the top line in my latest bracket.  Baylor picked up its first loss of the season at Kansas, but still has a strong enough profile to merit a one-seed.  It's not like there's a lot of shame in losing at Phog Allen.  If you had to win there to be a No. 1, we wouldn't have any.  Well, except Davidson.

Indiana, Michigan State and North Carolina all had difficult weeks.  Both the Hoosiers and Spartans lost twice.  Minnesota took down IU in Bloomington, something Kentucky and Ohio State failed to do, which bolstered the Gophers precarious spot in the bracket.  The Buckeyes got their revenge on Indiana on Sunday.  Sparty lost to Northwestern and Michigan.

That shuffling leaves Illinois on top of the league standings for now.  The Big Ten continues to dominate the RPI and the bracket, with a whopping nine teams in the field this week.  Even placing eight teams in the final bracket in March would be remarkable.  However, as the teams at the top beat each other up, you have to wonder if any team will create enough separation to stay in contention for a top seed at the end.

Last week, I got a lot of grief for having Duke ahead of North Carolina on the bracket, although that was before the 33-point pounding the Heels took at Florida State.  I have not been able to find a team even make the championship game, let alone win it, that suffered that big a loss in the regular season.

That win by the Seminoles not only put them into this week's bracket, but also strengthened the cases for the tournament quality teams that beat them earlier.

New Mexico is out of the bracket this week, despite not losing.  Sometimes, what you do impacts your position.  Sometimes, what your previous opponents do impacts the quality of your profile, even if you had a good week otherwise.  And sometimes, other teams near you in the pecking order just had better weeks that you did.

BYU fell into the First Four, which if it actually happens in March, will put the committee in a bit of a predicament.  Typically, they like to put the PIG winners into Friday-Sunday sites, but BYU cannot play on Sunday.  In this bracket, that means a quick turnaround and a long-distance flight from Dayton to Portland if the Cougars win.  Of course, the same applies to BYU's opponent, Stanford, even though the Cardinal have no qualms with playing on Sunday.


Posted on: January 11, 2012 7:17 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Jan. 11 Bracket

A lot can change in one month, and my latest bracket shows that. Pittsburgh was in the Top 25 a month ago, now the Panthers aren’t even in the field. Louisville and Xavier were 2-seeds in December, and now are opponents in an 8-9 game. Seton Hall went from the First Four to just missing a 4-seed, and Dayton was out a month ago, but now the Flyers lead the A-10.

This bracket shows a whopping nine Big Ten teams.  It's the top-rated league in the RPI by a huge margin.  It's been eight years since a league dominated the RPI like this.  Of course, teams get bids, not conferences, but that is still an indication that the Big Ten will likely be well represented in the field.  That said, nine teams would be ridiculous come March.  Minnesota in particular is in trouble.  It doesn't seem likely the Gophers will be able to withstand the grind without Trevor Mbakwe, who is lost for the season with a knee injury.  Looking long term, other teams that need to be concerned are Purdue, Northwestern, which is still looking for its first ever tournament appearance, and suddenly, Wisconsin, which has lost its Kohl Center mojo.

Ohio State started out among the top three teams in the country, but an inability to win on the road against better teams (best away from home win: Iowa) has the Buckeyes now as a 3-seed.  They blew another game last night at Illinois, after kicking away a late lead at Illinois.  It's hard to imagine they won't come around and eventually win the league, but they need to figure out their road woes to make that happen.

Why is Florida in the top 25?  Who is voting for them?  I realize this isn't Poll Attacks (that's Gary Parrish's gig, bless his heart), but this team hasn't done a thing to anyone of substance, and especially outside of Florida.  The Gators aren't in danger of missing the tournament yet or anything like that, but they're a lot closer to 35 than 25.

If they need someonie else to vote for, how about Seton Hall?  The Hall has lost only to Syracuse (the overall No. 1) and Northwestern, while collecting wins over UConn, West Virginia and Dayton.

It's pretty easy to figure out what to do with two of the three remaining unbeaten teams.  Syracuse and Baylor top the field, and will stay there as long as they keep winning.

But what about Murray State?  The Racers have a few decent wins, but nothing that says they should compete for a very high seed.  Now in Ohio Valley conference play, they are essentially done making their case, except for taking on a bad loss or two.  Hard to see them much higher than a 3-seed, even in March, unless one of the teams they've already beaten starts to move up the charts.

With two more months to play, you can expect a lot more wild changes. Buckle up!
Posted on: January 11, 2012 5:52 pm
 

Final 1-120

The final 1-120 ranking is posted.  Guess someone forgot to tell the computer that they gave away a crystal football Monday night.  Oklahoma State is the top rated team in the final rankings.  Maybe we can send them a football made of computer chips.

The rankings don't care about trophies.  It's based on strength of schedule and a how a team performed against that schedule.  Bowl games get no special weighting.  In fact, bowl games are so much like exhibition games that if anything, they should be weighed less.

The Cowboys benefitted from a schedule that only had three opponents not play in the post season.  It also helped that they often won big, because margin of victory is a factor (to a point).  They also didn't play any FCS teams.

LSU stays ahead of Alabama, and that is also based on a stronger schedule over the full season than Alabama did.  Head-to-head gets no special treatment in the ratings, although they split two games, with LSU winning on the road and Bama winning on a neutralish field.

I'm sure Alabama will shed no tears after finishing third in these ratings.  They went home with the trophy.  So, Roll Tide, y'all.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:22 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 12:23 am
 

Mountain West/Big East behind the numbers

The Mountain West has applied for an exemption that would allow it to become an AQ conference for the next two seasons.  They base that in part on their performance over the last four years, and in part because of an exemption granted to the Big East in the past.  So let's look at the numbers.

The league is measure in three categories: highest rated team, average computer ranking of all teams, and a score based on teams in the top 25.  It is measured over a four year period, based on this year's membership.  Therefore, Utah and BYU do not count, but TCU and Boise State do, even though Boise was in the WAC the last three years.

The reason the MWC didn't qualify for AQ status outright and has to apply for an exemption is that the league is good at the top, but has no depth.  The league does well in the two categories that measure top of the league performance.  It is fifth in the highest rated team category, and has a score of 60.2% in the top 25 category (only 33% was required to apply for exemption).

In the category that measures all teams, the league is a distant seventh, with an average computer ranking of 61.3.  The Big East is sixth at 50.2.

The problem is, the top two MWC teams in the rankings the last four years have been TCU and Boise State.  Without them, the numbers aren't nearly as good, and both teams are leaving.  TCU is already gone.  The Broncos have just one more year.  San Diego State is also leaving at the same time as Boise State.  Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii will join.

Without TCU and Boise State, the MWC would be the ninth rated league in the highest rated team category, an even more distant seventh in the average computer category (67.1) and would score only 6.9% in the top 25 category.  Among the new lineup, only Nevada (15th) and Hawaii (24th) finished in the top 25 of any season in the last four years, both in 2010.

Those are numbers the presidents can't ignore, and the reason why the league won't get its exemption.

The Mountain West document states that the Big East was granted an exemption after the 2007 season to retain its AQ status.  While I don't doubt that, I have been told repeated by Bill Hancock that there is no provision for removing AQ status from a league, which is why the Big East's status isn't in doubt for the next two years, so I am confused as to why such an exemption would have been necessary in 2008.  In any event, the only category the Big East fell short in was the top 25 percentage, where it scored 49.11%, just below the 50% requirement.  The MWC, even with it's current membership, cannot say is just barely missed in the category in which it failed to meet the standard.

The new Bigger East, which along with the Mountain West schools, has added Houston, SMU and UCF from Conference USA, is doing ok for the first two years of the cycle that the new members will count for, which is the 2010-13 seasons.  The league is fifth so far in the high ranking category and a very comfortable sixth in the average computer rankings.  They only score 29% in the top 25 category, but only three leagues, the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 are doing better than 50% so far.

Of course, if this turns out to be true, all this will be moot.

Posted on: December 7, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 6:37 pm
 

December Bracket

There is a new bracket up and, as you might expect, there have been some changes from the preseason bracket I did back in October.

North Carolina, the overall No. 1 back then, is now a 2-seed.  I have a feeling the Heels will be back on the top line in short order, and may eventually become the overall No. 1 again.

The Big Ten has nine of its 12 teams in this bracket.  Realistically, that's a couple more than the league can expect in March.  That's a function of not having begun conference play yet.  The league is the top-rated by a pretty wide margin at this point.

I put this together using a combination of RPI, poll rankings and just my own subjectiveness.  RPI data can be pretty comical still at this time of year.  Texas A&M, which is in the top 25, has an RPI of 163.  If the Aggies are still in the 160s in March, they won't be worrying about playing in the postseason.

St. Mary's is the top team in the RPI currently.  They are in this bracket, but they have only played four games that count, so the Gaels are still hard to judge.

So, there are some teams in here that we probably won't see again (TCU, Seton Hall, Minnesota, which lost its best player to injury).  I would caution Virginia Tech fans against false hope though.  You are likely to have your noses pressed against the glass door again.

Indiana and North Carolina are in the same pod.  One of them is undefeated.

Hey, Alabama fans!  I think we'll be on the same page this year.  Barring injury, your team should spend the season comfortably in the top half of the field.



Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:06 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 8:30 am
 

Close, but no Cowboys

It was close, relatively speaking.  Oklahoma State came up .0086 short of catching Alabama. That is the closest No. 2 and No. 3 have been since the BCS formula was changed for the 2004 season. In 2006, Florida beat out Michigan by .0101, which was coincidentally the last time we debated the merits of a rematch.

OSU ended up 74 points short of what it needed in the Harris poll to finish ahead of the Tide. That's still a decent sized number. So, it's not like we were in a position where one or two voters could have impacted the outcome.

I can almost always explain why a team got picked for a bowl (it's my job, after all), but I am stunned by the selection of Virginia Tech for the Sugar Bowl.  There were, of course, higher rated teams available, but we all know that rankings don't really mean much.  It's about selling tickets and creating an attractive matchup.

The Hokies haven't traveled especially well to the Orange Bowl in recent years. They aren't necessarily a great TV draw. They lost their conference championship game, which is usually perceived as a big negative by the BCS bowls. I can't think of anything they have over Kansas State.

Boise State might have traveled well too, although they are considerably farther away. Even Baylor, which was eligible to get picked, would have at least given us Denard vs RG3.

Virginia Tech's selection seemed to be a last minute change too. The Sugar appeared to be committed to Kansas State initially.

TCU didn't make it. The Horned Frogs finished 18th, same as they were last week. I felt that three of the teams ahead of them that lost this week had to fall behind them, and that they couldn't get jumped by Clemson or Baylor in the polls. They got the first part. Houston, Georgia and Oklahoma did drop behind the Frogs, but Clemson jumped them. If TCU and Clemson switched point totals in the polls, TCU would have finished 16th and qualified for the BCS.

Houston dropped like a rock after losing to Southern Miss.  The Cougars fell from sixth to 19th.

 
 
 
 
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