JR Swift’s Blog

What I’m Thinking About Today

A few more thoughts and teams

Posted by jrswift on March 5, 2007

Well…there are three more teams that have made the field of 65 tonight.  Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial), Niagara (Metro Atlantic) and Gonzaga (West Coast) earned automatic bids.  Those results are good news for teams still trying to fight their way into the tournament as both VCU and Gonzaga could have made strong arguments as at-large teams if they had lost.  Now they get scratched off the list of bubble teams.  Another team probably scratched themselves off the “potentials” list tonight and that was Oklahoma St.  Losing to Nebraska was the last straw and even their list of good non-conference victories can’t save them now.  They finished 6-10 in the not-that-tough Big 12 and finished the season 0-8 on the road.  Every other team in Division 1 won at least one road game so that’s pretty awful.  Their only hope now is to win the Big 12 Tournament and that doesn’t seem too likely.

I have also added another team to my “in” list today and that is Xavier out of the Atlantic 10.  They won the regular season title in their league and their RPI and other power ratings are all in the top 40.  While the Atlantic 10 was not that good this year, Xavier’s non-conference wins are fairly impressive:  Villanova, Virginia Commonwealth, Kansas St and Illinois.  They did have a couple of bad losses to Cincinnati and Duquesne but they have finished the season strong.  They aren’t a lock just yet but they likely only need to win their first round tournament game to get to that point.

While the conference tournament season is well underway, the top leagues won’t get started until mid-week and won’t finish up until Sunday afternoon.  That is one factor that makes predicting the field so tricky at this point and also a factor that gives the major conferences such an advantage in the battle for the last few berths.  Even a good run by a middling bubble team like DePaul or Mississippi St could turn them from an “out” to an “in” in a matter of days.  Why?  Because they’ll get a chance to play a number of teams that are ranked high in the RPI on a neutral court and victories in those kinds of games make the computer numbers look awfully good.  Also, the selection committee pays particular attention to how a team finishes their season (record in last 10 games) so running off two or three wins and making the conference finals can be enough to tip the scales in their favor.  At this point, a team like Old Dominion or Missouri St. can’t do anything to improve their standing but it is almost certain that 3 or 4 teams from major conferences will.  What “feels” more like a tournament team to you?  A team that lost badly in their conference semifinals a week ago or a team that won three games in three days against good opposition only to fall valiantly to a top 10 team in a nationally televised thriller?  See the dilemma?  Watch for it as the week moves along.

Tomorrow night three more leagues will select a NCAA representative:  The Sun Belt, the Horizon and the Mid Continent.  For “bubble watchers” the game of most interest is the Wright St./Butler matchup in the Horizon.  Butler is almost certainly in the field, win or lose, but Wright St. pretty much has to win to earn a bid.  A Butler loss means one less slot for another at-large team and that makes our job even tougher.  We’ll analyze a few more teams and talk about some conference tournament scenarios tomorrow night so I hope you’ll check in.  Have a great day.

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