Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

March 11, 2010

From 347 to 65: Thursday morning

Filed under: Uncategorized — jsheehan @ 11:48 am

Updates from Wednesday’s action as we get set for moving day:

Oklahoma State moves off the bubble and in with a thumping of Oklahoma. Avoiding the bad loss was all they needed to do given four top-25 wins, an RPI of 27 and a solid finish in a good Big 12. In the future, however, they might want to work harder in the nonconference. Had they not beaten Kansas, a NC SOS of 157 and a complete lack of quality wins outside of the Big 12 would have been an issue. They were hurt a bit by down years for Utah and Stanford; on the other hand, they played three SWAC teams. In any case, they’ll play next week no matter what happens today against Kansas State.

Missouri took the bad loss, and in fact, got blown off the court by the worst team in the conference, Nebraska. Their standard profile is now unimpressive, with an RPI of 45, a 4-7 mark against the RPI top 50 and three bad losses. The Tigers have one win over a tournament team, a home win over Texas, since January 30. They’re probably going to squeak in, but it will depend on the performance of teams around them now, and they’re not going to get off the bubble until Sunday. Note that the Tigers look much better if you consider possession-based stats, and I acknowledge the arguments by John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy that these should have a place in this discussion. I’m just not sure they do, at least not enough to push Missouri over the top at this point.

In the Big East, South Florida’s loss to Georgetown ends their run at a bid, as does Seton Hall’s loss to Notre Dame. Louisville’s loss to Cincinnati, while not as bad as Missouri’s, leaves them in a tough spot. Quite frankly, the only thing they have going for them is the sweep over Syracuse, and while that’s incredibly impressive, it’s weighed against some of the ugliest second halves any team has had. Louisville has simply tanked against St. John’s, Marquette and Cincinnati, and I’ll again make the point that if any BCS team has the “eye test” working against them it’s the Cardinals. This is maybe the most interesting situation on the board.

Cincinnati’s win keeps them in the picture, although they need at least one more win to get a bid, and perhaps two. The Bearcats are 3-9 against the RPI top 50, 7-14 against the top 100. That’s evidence that you don’t belong, not that you do. (It’s the main reason Seton Hall, 3-7 and 6-12, is an easy drop.)

I shouldn’t be hesitating as much as I am with Notre Dame and Marquette, both of whom are into the Big East quarters and cannot take a bad loss any longer. I’m held back by the RPIs in the 50s, which seem to high to make any team a lock at this point. Those RPIs are driven by bad losses, three for the Irish, two for the Golden Eagles, which serve to counter the good wins. While Marquette finished ahead of Notre Dame in the Big East, Notre Dame won the head-to-head matchup in Wisconsin and has much stronger records against the top 25, top 50 and top 100. It’s that last data point that pushes me over on Notre Dame, which I now consider a lock. They are 3-2 against the RPI top 25, 3-3 top 50 and an impressive 11-7 against the top 100.

I’ll reserve judgment on Marquette for one more day. Win and they’re in, lose and I want to see the data.

Here’s where we stand through Wednesday:

Automatic Bids (14): East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Montana (Big Sky), Winthrop (Big South), Old Dominion (Colonial), Butler (Horizon), Cornell (Ivy), Siena (MAAC), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Robert Morris (Northeast), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Wofford (Southern), North Texas (Sun Belt), Oakland (Summit), St, Mary’s (West Coast).

In (1): Gonzaga.

Locks (30): Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State, Temple, Xavier, Richmond, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Brigham Young, California, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee.

Those 30 teams will take at least 22 and up to 30 at-large bids,leaving three to 11 bids for 25 bubble teams. I’ve taken Virginia Commonwealth off my board, as they would be behind William and Mary (and maybe even Northeastern). Here’s about where those teams stand:

Texas-El Paso
Nevada-Las Vegas
Utah State
San Diego State
Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
Arizona State
Rhode Island
William and Mary
Kent State
Wichita State
Mississippi State
Saint Louis

Just about every game today matters. I’ve said it before, but in some ways, today and tomorrow are better than their big brothers next week.

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