Monthly Archives: January 2011

Bracket Ladder for January 31, 2011

As if last week’s seven Big East teams on the top four seed lines wasn’t absurd enough, this week Big East teams take eight of those top seed lines, with St. John’s not far behind and Cincinnati and Marquette potentially appearing later as well! This week’s process went much smoother; I just did some tweaking of last week’s ladder last night, ending it with all four seed lines pretty much set, and thought I could spend most of today extending the ladder downwards… and instead spent it waiting for Internet Explorer to finish refreshing the pages and finding out the ladder changed more than I thought yesterday. And then I was detained after one of my classes for about 15 minutes, already after Georgetown-Louisville, and then IE took forever even when it wasn’t loading any pages… God willing, we’ll actually extend the ladder again next week, and even put it out before any of Monday’s games finish! (I actually find this enjoyable, when I can get IE to stop acting up on me!) “Good wins” and “bad losses” now include the seven teams directly behind you on the ladder for wins and the seven teams directly ahead of you for losses (guesstimated for teams on the 3 and 4 seed lines). Nominally, the committee is constantly comparing you in groups of eight, so this statistic will include any teams you might be directly compared with by the committee.

This edition of the Bracket Ladder is complete through the games of January 30, 2011. This means it does not include any of Monday’s games, including the Georgetown-Louisville game.

How to read the chart: Teams are listed in order of my assessment of their strength based on the criteria established by the selection committee. The large gray number to the left is the team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament if the teams were seeded strictly according to the list order. Teams may receive a higher or lower seed because of bracketing principles. The code at the right side of each team name represents the team’s conference and a running count of the number of teams that conference has in all tournaments. The row beneath the team name packs in a whole bunch of information. In order: The team’s record is on the far left in bold. RPI: Rating Percentage Index rank. SOS: Strength of Schedule rank. R/N: Record in road and neutral-site games. OOC: Record in games outside the conference. RPI T50: Record against teams in the RPI Top 50. Wv≥: Number of wins against teams with the same or better color (more on this later). Lv≤: Number of losses against teams with the same or worse color. The colored bar at the far right side of the team name is the most important element, containing most of the information you need to know. It is color-coded to reflect where each team is in the pecking order and what they have to play for, as follows:

Ovr. #1-4 Gold: Cannot fall below the #1 seed. Listed with the overall seeds (#1-4) the team could get.

Silver: Cannot fall below the #2 seed.

Bronze: Cannot fall below the #3 seed.

Purple: Cannot fall below the #4 seed.

Blue: Could earn a top-4 seed, or might not. Top-4 seeds receive protection in the bracket process to make sure they aren’t sent too far away from home, since they’ll be the top seed in their pod.

Green: A lock to make the tournament, but cannot receive a top-4 seed.

Yellow: “Probably in”. This color marks the start of the bubble.

Orange: On the tip of the bubble, could go either way. Listed as “Barely in” or “Barely out” based on what side of the cutline they fall in the order.

Red: “Probably out”, teams with a longshot chance to make the NCAA Tournament but are more likely going to the NIT (or worse). Teams in this range that are the highest-rated from their conference are listed as “Needs Auto”, to indicate they need the auto bid to get in but are currently listed in the field.

1 – 2 – 2
2 – 3 – 3
3 – 4 – 4
4 – 4 – 5
5 – 6 – 7
Probably In
Barely In
Probably Out
1 Pittsburgh BST #1 Featured
20-2 RPI: 7 SOS: 23 R/N: 7-1 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 4-2 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 2
As I said last week, the Notre Dame loss is hardly calamitous for Pitt. Despite Ohio State remaining unbeaten, Pitt barely holds them off for the overall #1 seed by continuing to have more good wins. Unless they have a collapse of the caliber Syracuse is now having, they should be pretty safe for a #1 seed, especially if they win the Big East. Losing to Cincinnati (Saturday 6pm ET, Big East Network) would help the Bearcats more than it would hurt the Panthers.
1 Ohio State B10 #1 Featured
22-0 RPI: 3 SOS: 43 R/N: 7-0 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 5-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 0
The Purdue win gives the Buckeyes the quality win they needed, but they still have problems coming out ahead of Pitt and UConn. Let’s be clear: If Ohio State doesn’t go undefeated, they cannot get the overall #1 seed, and might not even get into the Midwest Regional. People keep praising the Big Ten for being equal at the top with the Big East, but the problem is those teams don’t have the RPI necessary to make it into the top four seed lines like the Big East schools. The road rematch with Purdue later on will be critically important just to stay on the 1 seed line. Ohio State has an important game this week as well, as they head to Minnesota (Sunday 2pm ET, ESPN) to take on a team that might be even better than Purdue, if the RPI doesn’t show it.
1 Connecticut BST #2 Featured
17-3 RPI: 6 SOS: 7 R/N: 6-2 OOC: 12-0 RPI T50: 6-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
Louisville constitutes a marginally bad loss that could hurt the Kemba Walkers mightily down the road, but it helped the Cardinals more than it hurt the Huskies. UConn still boasts an impressive collection of wins and their SOS picked up a notch, enough to just barely avoid a hard charge from Kansas. Reeling Syracuse (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN) comes next, a game that doesn’t look as impressive now as it would have a week or two ago, then trying to fend off the Seton Hall spoilers (Saturday 7pm ET, ESPNU).
1 Kansas B12 #1 Featured
20-1 RPI: 1 SOS: 9 R/N: 8-0 OOC: 15-0 RPI T50: 5-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
Syracuse lost, BYU lost, San Diego State lost, but Kansas didn’t lose and they move onto the 1 seed line as a result. In fact, with UConn’s loss they might well have moved up another spot. The Jayhawks still need more good wins if they want to stay up here, but the Big 12 should provide sufficient opposition. The Texas loss still haunts them, but the Morris Twins get another shot to improve their resume against Missouri in a week (Monday 2/7 9pm ET, ESPN), and then comes no other shots at quality wins (or any quality road wins) until Texas A&M and the road rematch with Missouri in March.
2 BYU MWC #1 Featured
19-1 RPI: 1 SOS: 11 R/N: 9-2 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 6-1 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
BYU could have benefitted from the Syracuse losses to make it onto the top line, but the stumble in the Pit keeps that from happening. BYU now has two very concerning losses on their resume, but they also have multiple RPI Top 25 wins, which is fairly impressive for a mid-major. That said, the Jimmer Fredettes probably need to win out to remain remotely this high, including reasserting their primacy over the Aztecs in San Diego late in the year. They could still appear and even finish on the top seed line if they can do that. Will the NCAA give them a top seed in that case? Of course not! They’ll disrespect the Mountain West too much.
2 San Diego State MWC #2 Featured
19-1 RPI: 4 SOS: 37 R/N: 11-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 3-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
San Diego State benefitted from losses by Syracuse and Duke and remains one spot behind BYU. The Cougars aren’t a terrible loss, but the Aztecs won’t get another chance against a team in the RPI Top 40 until the rematch in San Diego. That could mean a difference of a couple of spots in the seeding. They’re probably getting a top four seed either way… assuming they don’t take any non-BYU losses.
2 Notre Dame BST #3 Featured
17-4 RPI: 8 SOS: 8 R/N: 4-4 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 7-3 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 4
The Golden Domers played only one game this week, but they obliterated their “no true road wins” problem in a big way. That’s far better than the way Duke handled a similar problem (see below). Now Notre Dame has three RPI Top 10 wins and only Marquette as a truly questionable loss, and look like they’ll be scary come March. If they win out, especially if they win at UConn in the regular season finale, a 1 seed might be a possibility.
2 Georgetown BST #4 Featured
16-5 RPI: 5 SOS: 3 R/N: 9-3 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 6-5 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 5
Georgetown’s iffy start to conference play seems a long time ago, as the Hoyas pick up a huge win over Villanova, their first in the RPI Top 20, and avenge the St. John’s loss. The West virginia and St. John’s losses are still iffy, and the Temple loss very questionable, but the schedule and road/neutral records are fantastic and the quality of their wins seems downright deep. Georgetown could move up even further with the win tonight against Louisville.
3 Texas B12 #2 Featured
18-3 RPI: 10 SOS: 18 R/N: 6-2 OOC: 12-3 RPI T50: 6-2 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 2
Texas spent the week deepening their resume, picking up wins over Oklahoma State and Missouri. But that’s nothing compared to the challenge they now face against Texas A&M (Monday 9pm ET, ESPN). Texas already beat A&M at home, but a road win could put the USC loss almost entirely in the rear view and propel them onto the top two seed lines.
3 Duke ACC #1 Featured
19-2 RPI: 12 SOS: 63 R/N: 7-3 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 5-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
Two things happened on Sunday that might not have been too horrible for Duke on their own, but were calamitous taken together: Duke lost to St. John’s, wasting one of their few chances to beat a good team on the road, and Michigan State, by playing lowly Indiana, fell out of the RPI Top 35. Now Duke doesn’t have any truly impressive wins, two moderately acceptable losses, and probably won’t have another chance to get a win against a team in the Top 35 the rest of the season. It’s looking like Duke has too questionable a schedule, and a conference, to justify their preseason #1 ranking. Duke can probably kiss a 1 seed goodbye, and winning their remaining conference road games could make a critical difference for how easy their road to a repeat is, especially Miami (FL) on February 13 and North Carolina in the regular season finale.
3 Syracuse BST #5 Featured
18-4 RPI: 22 SOS: 32 R/N: 5-2 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
Suddenly Syracuse going 18-0 to start the season seems a long time ago, as the Orange take one heck of a tumble and are basically in the middle of the pack with the Big East teams below. Jim Boeheim has never had a five-game losing streak in his Syracuse tenure, but it suddenly looks like the Orange will face an uphill struggle to snap this skid against UConn (Wednesday 7pm ET, ESPN).
3 Louisville BST #6 Featured
17-4 RPI: 23 SOS: 33 R/N: 3-2 OOC: 11-2 RPI T50: 5-2 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 4
Louisville was being hailed in the polls as one of the top 10 teams in the country despite only one win in the RPI Top 30 and especially coming off a questionable loss to Providence. Two wins over West Virginia and UConn later, and the Cardinals have the quality wins to justify the respect given to them by the national media. Now Louisville looks like a team that can beat other good teams and has a string of top-notch wins that manages to outweigh their losses to Drexel and the Friars. Louisville took a step back against Georgetown, but it might not hurt them too much and in the Big East, a potential good win is always right around the corner (like Notre Dame next week).
4 Villanova BST #7 Featured
17-4 RPI: 14 SOS: 28 R/N: 5-3 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 5-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
The loss to Georgetown is respectable; the loss to Providence less so, though the Friars have taken down other Big East teams in this area. On the other hand, the win over Louisville suddenly became a second Top 25 win, making the Syracuse win look a bit less like a fluke, but the Wildcats can really improve their resume by beating West Virginia (Saturday noon ET, ESPN).
4 West Virginia BST #8 Featured
14-6 RPI: 13 SOS: 4 R/N: 6-5 OOC: 9-3 RPI T50: 5-3 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 3
West Virginia took a tentative step forward with a win over Cincinnati, and then lost to Louisville that helped the Cardinals more than it hurt the Mountaineers but still sent them back to the 4 seeds. The Villanova game (Saturday noon ET, ESPN) could be for a return trip to the 3 seed line.
4 Texas A&M B12 #3 Featured
16-3 RPI: 16 SOS: 47 R/N: 4-3 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 4-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
A loss to Nebraska doesn’t sink the Aggies lower because of other teams losing, strength of schedule improving, and just how head-scratching the resumes start getting once you hit the 6 seeds. They may still have a chance to move into the top three seeds if they beat Texas (Monday 9pm ET, ESPN), avenging one of their losses and giving them a much better pelt than they’ve garnered so far in the process.
4 Kentucky SEC #1 Featured
16-4 RPI: 11 SOS: 16 R/N: 6-4 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 4-3 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 3
Kentucky managed to avenge their loss to Georgia and saw Missouri lose to keep them on the 4 line. (Missouri still isn’t far behind them – it was Texas, after all.) This week will come a chance to improve their resume considerably if they can beat Florida (Saturday 9pm ET, ESPN).

Bracket Ladder for January 24, 2011

I decided to almost start over from scratch using a modified procedure, didn’t have much time on Sunday because of the NFL conference championship games, and spent a good chunk of Monday just trying to fix the coding errors from last week, so this probably shouldn’t be any further advanced from last week, but I decided I was determined to press on and complete the top four seed lines, and spent the next two hours getting increasingly frustrated at not finding a place to work. The blue colored bars on the right side don’t mean anything right now, but eventually they’ll look like the jumble of numbers you see in the explanation below, which I hope to further explain later. Also, the “good wins” and “bad losses” entries are still almost arbitrary, though approaching closer to a more meaningful, if (at the moment) not necessarily consistent, definition.

This edition of the Bracket Ladder is complete through the games of January 23, 2011. This means it does not include any of Monday’s games, including the Notre Dame-Pitt game.

How to read the chart: Teams are listed in order of my assessment of their strength based on the criteria established by the selection committee. The large gray number to the left is the team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament if the teams were seeded strictly according to the list order. Teams may receive a higher or lower seed because of bracketing principles. The code at the right side of each team name represents the team’s conference and a running count of the number of teams that conference has in all tournaments. The row beneath the team name packs in a whole bunch of information. In order: The team’s record is on the far left in bold. RPI: Rating Percentage Index rank. SOS: Strength of Schedule rank. R/N: Record in road and neutral-site games. OOC: Record in games outside the conference. RPI T50: Record against teams in the RPI Top 50. Wv≥: Number of wins against teams with the same or better color (more on this later). Lv≤: Number of losses against teams with the same or worse color. The colored bar at the far right side of the team name is the most important element, containing most of the information you need to know. It is color-coded to reflect where each team is in the pecking order and what they have to play for, as follows:

Ovr. #1-4 Gold: Cannot fall below the #1 seed. Listed with the overall seeds (#1-4) the team could get.

Silver: Cannot fall below the #2 seed.

Bronze: Cannot fall below the #3 seed.

Purple: Cannot fall below the #4 seed.

Blue: Could earn a top-4 seed, or might not. Top-4 seeds receive protection in the bracket process to make sure they aren’t sent too far away from home, since they’ll be the top seed in their pod.

Green: A lock to make the tournament, but cannot receive a top-4 seed.

Yellow: “Probably in”. This color marks the start of the bubble.

Orange: On the tip of the bubble, could go either way. Listed as “Barely in” or “Barely out” based on what side of the cutline they fall in the order.

Red: “Probably out”, teams with a longshot chance to make the NCAA Tournament but are more likely going to the NIT (or worse). Teams in this range that are the highest-rated from their conference are listed as “Needs Auto”, to indicate they need the auto bid to get in but are currently listed in the field.

1 – 2 – 2
2 – 3 – 3
3 – 4 – 4
4 – 4 – 5
5 – 6 – 7
Probably In
Barely In
Probably Out
1 Pittsburgh BST #1 Featured
19-1 RPI: 5 SOS: 26 R/N: 6-1 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 4-1 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 1
Despite the overall SOS slipping, Texas made a huge leap in the RPI this week, giving Pitt a fourth RPI Top 20 win, and Tennessee also moved into the Top 20, making the Panthers’ loss to them more palatable. So despite Pitt’s only game since the last update coming to lowly DePaul, I’ve moved them into the overall #1 spot. Monday’s game against Notre Dame (7pm ET, ESPN, already played) won’t hurt them too much if they lose, but if they win expect them to stay in the #1 seed discussion for most of February at least.
1 Connecticut BST #2 Featured
16-2 RPI: 4 SOS: 15 R/N: 5-2 OOC: 12-0 RPI T50: 7-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
Syracuse’s loss to Villanova means there’s no more debate on the #2 team from the Big East. In fact, looked at anew after their RPI leapfrogged Pitt’s, the Kemba Walkers looked like a surprisingly plausible contender for Pitt’s spot. The Tennessee win certainly helps UConn’s case – that’s a team Pitt couldn’t beat – but what impressed me about UConn, looked at anew, was their better strength of schedule, the fact both of their losses are better than Pitt’s one loss, and a better depth of wins. Still, it was hard to get past the fact Pitt has already beaten the Huskies.
1 Ohio State B10 #1 Featured
20-0 RPI: 6 SOS: 54 R/N: 6-0 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 0
Ohio State doesn’t slip because of anything inherent to them; I said last week that I was committed to putting them overall #1 just because they were the best undefeated team. Kansas and San Diego State haven’t impressed me with the quality of their wins; the Sullingers has at least beaten multiple RPI Top 40 teams. The quality of their resume, and of the Big Ten overall, is such that Tuesday’s game against Purdue (9pm ET, ESPN), one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced so far, may be close to a must-win to get a #1 seed (and the road rematch more so), since I doubt there will be a better team on the rest of their schedule.
1 Syracuse BST #3 Featured
18-2 RPI: 9 SOS: 21 R/N: 5-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 2
The Villanova loss certainly hurts but Nova, like Pitt, is in the RPI Top 10, and they have still beaten better teams than the teams below them. In fact, the comparison to UConn is still fairly close, and losing to them February 2 won’t hurt their overall profile that much. Down the road, though, they can’t keep racking up losses down the stretch and expect to remain a top seed, especially in the Big East. Losing either of these two games, let alone both, probably cost them overall #1.
2 Kansas B12 #1 Featured
18-1 RPI: 2 SOS: 14 R/N: 7-0 OOC: 15-0 RPI T50: 3-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
Kansas’ best wins improved this week, giving them four top 50 wins, so the Jayhawks move up despite losing. But they still have a lot to prove if they want to sniff the #1 seed line. Fortunately, the Big 12 might not be as bad as I thought. Texas shot up the RPI with the win over the Morris Twins, so avenging that loss might pay dividends, Texas A&M is still strong, and Missouri has a surprisingly good resume. Still, they’ll be in for a fight to preserve a top two seed.
2 BYU MWC #1 Featured
18-1 RPI: 1 SOS: 19 R/N: 9-1 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 4-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
All the factors favoring BYU over San Diego State last week still apply this week, but this time the loss to UCLA costs them in the comparison with Kansas. (Don’t count out the chances of the Mountain West teams staying this high, either; they’re doing gerbonkers in the conference RPI.) Now, however, comes the game between the two this Wednesday in Provo (10pm ET, CBS CS). The winner takes control of the Mountain West, stays on the 2-seed line, and has a shot at the 1. The loser likely falls behind Duke and still has a very good chance to get back to or even stay on the 2-seed line, but will have this game define their ability to play against Top 20 opposition for the rest of the season.
2 San Diego State MWC #2 Featured
18-0 RPI: 3 SOS: 39 R/N: 11-0 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 3-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 0
See BYU above; it pretty much tells the story. I can’t tease out these top Mountain West teams until after the BYU game, which the Aztecs need to prove they deserve their unbeaten record. The concern for the Aztecs is simply an iffy strength of schedule and only two RPI Top 40 wins, no RPI Top 20.
2 Duke ACC #1 Featured
18-1 RPI: 10 SOS: 57 R/N: 7-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 3-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
The Florida State loss is still Duke’s only true road game against a team in the RPI Top 99, and their strength of schedule has gotten worse, leaving Duke open to a hard charge from Texas for their 2 seed spot (see below). Duke has quite a few pelts (though no true prizes), a flawless nonconference, and a good road/neutral record, and might have edged out San Diego State on the ladder if it weren’t for the fact the Aztecs are, you know, unbeaten. A 1 seed is still possible, but if the ACC is anything like it was last year a slip to the 3 or below is more likely, especially if the Florida State loss is a portent of things to come. Fortunately, ACC RPIs improved this week and #49 Miami (FL) joins #24 North Carolina, #35 Boston College, and Florida State in the top 50 of the RPI. This week is huge for the Coach K’s; first, they host Boston College to add another Top 50 pelt and maintain control of the ACC (Thursday 8pm ET, ACC Network), then comes a huge game at St. John’s (Sunday 1pm ET, CBS) that might still be a must-win to keep 1 seed hopes alive, as Duke needs to prove they can beat tourney teams in true road games. Luckily Duke avoids having to go to Boston, but it could take just two more losses (St. John’s and North Carolina in Chapel Hill) for Duke to be mired in the middle of the pack come Selection Sunday, and a third (in Miami) to really make the committee scratch their heads. Another loss to UNC or BC in the ACC Tournament would leave Duke with an uphill climb indeed for their title defense.
3 Texas B12 #2 Featured
16-3 RPI: 15 SOS: 29 R/N: 5-2 OOC: 12-3 RPI T50: 5-2 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 2
The Longhorns shot up the RPI this week because of wins over Texas A&M and Kansas, and suddenly have a rather impressive resume. The USC loss is inexcusable, but their other two losses are to 1 seeds, and they now boast two RPI Top 20 and five RPI Top 30 wins, four of them at road/neutral sites. That’s the same number of wins as they have against the RPI Top 100, but Texas has sent a clear message that they’re a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12, and maybe even a contender for the conference title. A 1 seed suddenly looks very plausible.
3 Notre Dame BST #4 Featured
16-4 RPI: 11 SOS: 12 R/N: 3-4 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 6-3 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 4
Notre Dame avenged the Marquette loss in South Bend and benefits from upsets to the other 3 seeds from last week but still have not won a single true road game. That means the Marquette loss could be an ugly portent of what might happen to the Irish once they enter conference play. After hoping to escape Pitt alive on Monday (7pm ET, ESPN, already played), Notre Dame may oddly find itself in a must-win at DePaul on February 3. A loss there may well have people in South Bend talking NIT. It’s unlikely conference play will expose the Golden Domers as a bunch of poseurs, but it can’t be left out of the realm of possibility.
3 Villanova BST #5 Featured
17-2 RPI: 7 SOS: 29 R/N: 5-2 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 5-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 1
The win over Syracuse looks like a fluke when the Wildcats don’t have any other wins against RPI Top 30 teams, or road wins against the RPI Top 125… but they do have only two losses, both to respectable opposition. Time will tell if the Wildcats simply caught the ‘Cuse reeling from the Pitt loss, or haven’t had enough opportunities against good opposition. The best opponent they face this week is Georgetown (Saturday 12pm ET, ESPN), but the real test will come February 5 against West Virginia.
3 West Virginia BST #6 Featured
13-5 RPI: 14 SOS: 6 R/N: 5-4 OOC: 9-3 RPI T50: 4-2 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 5
West Virginia had a huge opportunity ahead of them and they squandered it with a loss to Marshall, and are racking up a collection of disturbing losses. At this point the main thing they have going for them compared to the 4-seeds is their great strength of schedule. They don’t face a team truly worth worrying about until Villanova February 5.
4 Texas A&M B12 #3 Featured
16-2 RPI: 17 SOS: 56 R/N: 4-2 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 5-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
An iffy strength of schedule, an iffy loss to Boston College, and no outstanding pelts hold Texas A&M back, but they’re still a two-loss team with neither loss being disastrous. They have a chance to move into the top three seeds next week against Texas (Monday 1/31 9pm ET, ESPN), avenging one of their losses and giving them a much better pelt than they’ve garnered so far in the process.
4 Georgetown BST #7 Featured
14-5 RPI: 8 SOS: 4 R/N: 8-3 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 4-5 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 4
Yes, you read that correctly: seven, count ‘em, seven Big East teams in the top four protected seeds! Every year I see people praising the Big East for putting so many teams in the tournament and think that’s easier to do when you have 16 teams, but to put nearly half of the conference in the protected seeds? Having so many teams arguably makes that more impressive! Georgetown has good wins, respectable losses, and a very strong strength of schedule, but got kind of got unlucky starting conference play with some of the best teams in the conference – Temple is still their iffiest loss. They’re up to four RPI Top 50 wins, but the dropoff still comes fast, and they still have no wins in the RPI Top 25. This week’s games against St. John’s (Wednesday 7pm ET, Big East Network) and Villanova (Saturday 12pm ET, ESPN) should show whether Georgetown really is who we thought they were.
4 Missouri B12 #4 Featured
16-3 RPI: 29 SOS: 77 R/N: 4-3 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 4-2 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 3
Missouri is like Texas A&M lite: a pretty bad strength of schedule and a bad Colorado loss, but a pretty decent win to Vanderbilt, backed up by a win over Illinois, and the other two losses being to the two teams immediately ahead of them keep them in the protected seeds. It helps that, compared to some of the teams below them, the Colorado loss isn’t that bad. They take the week off before a big chance to prove they deserve this lofty position against Texas (Saturday 9pm ET, ESPNU).
4 Kentucky SEC #1 Featured
15-4 RPI: 13 SOS: 23 R/N: 6-4 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 3-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
One atrocious loss, and the only thing keeping Kentucky in the protected seeds is the inconsistency of Tennessee and St. John’s. Coach Calipari’s One-and-Done All-Stars have good wins but not the best collection of them, and will probably need some work to keep their SEC lead. Put the Alabama loss in the rear view mirror and focus on avenging the earlier loss to Georgia (Saturday 4pm ET, ESPN).

Bracket Ladder for January 18, 2011

Due to time constraints and how early in the season it is, this is pretty much just a demonstration of the demonstration of the concept. I just picked out the teams on the top three seed lines – that was as far as I got in about four and a half hours – so this is just a bunch of capsules of the top 12 teams, and because a lot can change between now and Selection Sunday I can’t even begin to assess where teams might end up standing in the long term. All these teams, with the possible exception of the very bottom team, have a reasonable chance to end up a 1 seed, so consider this your “1 seed bubble”. The “Featured” stuff next to each team is meaningless now, but I’ll explain their purpose next week. Also, the “good wins” and “bad losses” entries are almost arbitrary. They’re supposed to represent wins to teams ahead of or on the same level as yourself, and conversely losses to teams behind or on the same level as yourself, but this early in the season the definition of “same level” probably needs to be tightened; “same color” (which will eventually tie in to the “Featured” thing) obviously won’t work since all these teams would have the same color.

This edition of the Bracket Ladder is complete through the games of January 17, 2011. This means this does NOT include Tuesday’s games, including Alabama’s upset of Kentucky.

How to read the chart: Teams are listed in order of my assessment of their strength based on the criteria established by the selection committee. The large gray number to the left is the team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament if the teams were seeded strictly according to the list order. Teams may receive a higher or lower seed because of bracketing principles. The code at the right side of each team name represents the team’s conference and a running count of the number of teams that conference has in all tournaments. The row beneath the team name packs in a whole bunch of information. In order: The team’s record is on the far left in bold. RPI: Rating Percentage Index rank. SOS: Strength of Schedule rank. R/N: Record in road and neutral-site games. OOC: Record in games outside the conference. RPI T50: Record against teams in the RPI Top 25. Wv≥: Number of wins against teams with the same or better color (more on this later). Lv≤: Number of losses against teams with the same or worse color.

1 Ohio State B10 #1 Featured
18-0 RPI: 8 SOS: 61 R/N: 5-0 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 2-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 0
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m only putting Ohio State at the top because otherwise I’d be putting a team that has lost there. Kansas and San Diego State haven’t impressed me with the quality of their wins; Ohio State has at least beaten a team in the RPI Top 20. Their strength of schedule overall isn’t great, so objectively they should probably be far lower, but at this fairly early stage there’s a lot of volatility and not much data to go on. Saturday’s game at Illinois (Saturday noon ET, CBS) is their best chance for a loss before my next update, and while it’ll improve their SoS profile it won’t improve their long-term prospects all that much. That won’t come until they play Purdue next week. Both games aren’t must-wins, but they’re better-wins because it wouldn’t take much of a collapse for them to shoot through the floor.
1 Pittsburgh BST #1 Featured
18-1 RPI: 5 SOS: 18 R/N: 5-1 OOC: 12-1 RPI T50: 4-1 Wv≥: 3 Lv≤: 1
Pittsburgh has only three wins against teams in the RPI Top 40… but what great wins they are, against fellow contenders for the top few seed lines, helping to vault them ahead of the likes of Syracuse, UConn, and Georgetown. The Tennessee loss came to a team outside the RPI Top 25, but I’ll let that slide since it was on a neutral site and the 4th best team by RPI they’ve played so far, almost on par with some teams’ best wins. Monday’s game against Notre Dame (7pm ET, ESPN) won’t hurt them too much if they lose, but if they win expect them to stay in the #1 seed discussion for most of February at least.
1 Connecticut BST #2 Featured
15-2 RPI: 6 SOS: 12 R/N: 5-2 OOC: 11-0 RPI T50: 6-2 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 2
Syracuse and UConn, I found, was a case of splitting hairs. (Yes, I have three Big East teams on my top seed line that would be the top three teams if it weren’t for my commitment to have an unbeaten team overall #1. Don’t expect three Big East teams to be your #1 seeds come March, though, once conference play gets going.) I chose UConn over the ‘Cuse pretty much solely because of UConn’s strength of schedule. Syracuse beat Notre Dame and UConn didn’t, but Syracuse was at home and UConn went to South Bend. They won’t settle it on the court until February 2, but until then if UConn can beat the team that foiled Pitt, Tennessee in the only game Bruce Pearl will coach in January (Saturday 2pm ET, CBS), they can improve their case for moving up further should Pitt lose one or two more times.
1 Syracuse BST #3 Featured
18-1 RPI: 3 SOS: 22 R/N: 5-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 3-1 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
Syracuse would be my overall #1 had they beaten Pitt, but they still beat teams in the RPI Top 20, something Kansas and San Diego State can’t say. They have a week to stew before facing another big challenge in Villanova (Saturday noon ET, ESPN), but if they want to really improve their chances of ending up with a #1 the February 2 game against UConn is their best near-term bet.
2 BYU MWC #1 Featured
17-1 RPI: 4 SOS: 15 R/N: 8-1 OOC: 13-1 RPI T50: 4-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
The next three form another “tier” like the Big East teams that was hard to tease out between them. For BYU, a better strength of schedule and one more RPI Top 40 win than San Diego State outweighed a rather concerning loss to RPI #53 UCLA that could really drag them down in the long run. (Don’t count out the chances of the Mountain West teams staying this high, either; they’re doing gerbonkers in the conference RPI.) Of course, that’ll all be (mostly) irrelevant once they play each other; the first engagement is next Wednesday the 26th (10pm ET, CBS CS), and this week BYU will get two tuneups against relatively weak conference opposition, though Colorado State (Saturday 9pm ET, mtn.) could be a real trap game.
2 San Diego State MWC #2 Featured
17-0 RPI: 2 SOS: 27 R/N: 11-0 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 0
See BYU above; it pretty much tells the story, with the Aztecs’ only game this week being Wednesday hosting Air Force (10pm ET). I can’t tease out these top Mountain West teams until next week. The concern for the Aztecs is simply an iffy strength of schedule and only two RPI Top 40 wins, no RPI Top 20.
2 Kansas B12 #1 Featured
18-0 RPI: 1 SOS: 17 R/N: 7-0 OOC: 15-0 RPI T50: 2-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 0
Kansas’ problem is that they’ve only faced two teams in the RPI Top 50 and one in the RPI Top 40. They have more to prove if we’re going to anoint them in any way. Texas (Saturday 4pm ET, CBS) is normally good for a good win, but while they’ll help they’re only 40th in the RPI. Texas A&M is the only opponent that would appreciably improve Kansas’ standing, and that game isn’t until March and is at home. Despite their #1 RPI right now, if they don’t go undefeated, they’ll be very lucky to get a #1 or even #2 seed – and unless their only loss is to A&M, maybe Missouri, good luck getting a top four.
2 Duke ACC #1 Featured
16-1 RPI: 10 SOS: 49 R/N: 5-1 OOC: 13-0 RPI T50: 4-0 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 1
The loss to a bubbly Florida State team and the fact that was the only team in the RPI Top 150 they’d played in a true road game, plus an iffy strength of schedule, almost had me drop Duke to the 3 seed. Duke has quite a few pelts (though no true prizes), a flawless nonconference, and compared to my 3 seeds a good road/neutral record, and might have edged out Kansas on the ladder if it weren’t for the fact the Jayhawks are, you know, unbeaten. A 1 seed is still possible, but if the ACC is anything like it was last year a slip to the 3 or below is more likely, especially if the Florida State loss is a portent of things to come. #32 North Carolina and #36 Boston College are the only other teams in the top 60 of the RPI in the ACC, meaning the January 30 game at St. John’s becomes huge, possibly a must-win to keep 1 seed hopes alive. Luckily Duke avoids having to go to Boston, but it could take just two more losses (St. John’s and North Carolina in Chapel Hill) for Duke to be mired in the middle of the pack come Selection Sunday. Another loss to UNC or BC in the ACC Tournament would leave Duke with an uphill climb indeed for their title defense.
3 Kentucky SEC #1 Featured
14-3 RPI: 12 SOS: 24 R/N: 5-3 OOC: 12-2 RPI T50: 4-3 Wv≥: 1 Lv≤: 3
The 3 seeds form another tier, and Kentucky and West Virginia in particular are a case of splitting hairs. Kentucky doesn’t have any major challenges before Georgia in a couple of weeks, so they just need to keep winning. (Which apparently they didn’t, but more on that next week.)
3 West Virginia BST #4 Featured
12-4 RPI: 9 SOS: 5 R/N: 5-3 OOC: 9-2 RPI T50: 4-3 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 4
The Mountaineers have momentum on their side after winning against Purdue. Over the next few weeks they have a chance to earn wins against teams tough enough to test them, but not as tough as the top teams in the Big East. They don’t face a team truly worth worrying about until Villanova February 5.
3 Notre Dame BST #5 Featured
14-4 RPI: 13 SOS: 11 R/N: 3-4 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 6-3 Wv≥: 2 Lv≤: 3
Notre Dame slips behind Kentucky and West Virginia, despite having better losses and better wins than either of them, thanks largely to the fact they have not won a single true road game. That means the Marquette loss could be an ugly portent of what might happen to the Irish once they enter conference play. Notre Dame’s better strength of schedule than Kentucky is trumped by the Wildcats beating the Irish head-to-head on a neutral site. Half of Notre Dame’s remaining road games are against teams ahead of them on the ladder. After hoping to escape Pitt alive on Monday (7pm ET, ESPN), Notre Dame may oddly find itself in a must-win at DePaul on February 3. A loss there may well have people in South Bend talking NIT. That assumes they survive this week’s home tests, neither of which are gimmes… it’s unlikely conference play will expose the Golden Domers as a bunch of poseurs, but it can’t be left out of the realm of possibility.
3 Georgetown BST #6 Featured
13-5 RPI: 7 SOS: 2 R/N: 7-3 OOC: 11-1 RPI T50: 3-5 Wv≥: 0 Lv≤: 3
At this point, Georgetown has good wins, respectable losses, and a very strong strength of schedule. But probably the only reason I include them here instead of Villanova or Texas A&M is because their resume is good enough to at least challenge that of Notre Dame. If it weren’t running late as I was writing this Georgetown would probably show as slipping to the 4 or below. The Hoyas kind of got unlucky starting conference play with some of the best teams in the conference – Temple is still their iffiest loss – but they have only three RPI Top 50 wins and the dropoff comes fast, and no wins in the RPI Top 25. After the Seton Hall game comes no games until St. John’s and Villanova next week, which should show whether Georgetown really is who we thought they were.

Bracket Ladder: A new approach to bracketology

One of the most common arguments against a playoff in college football is that it would turn college football into college basketball, where – allegedly – the regular season is completely meaningless.

This is complete bullshit. If you’re going to use the “meaningless regular season” line, college basketball is not the place to use it. (That would be the NBA and NHL, which push more than half their teams into the postseason.)

There are about 347 teams in Division I college basketball. Only 65 get to play in the NCAA Tournament, or 18.7%. By contrast, major league baseball puts 26 2/3% of its teams in its postseason – even counting the NIT, college basketball is nearly as selective, putting 27.95% of its teams in the postseason. But college basketball’s regular season is far more meaningful than baseball’s because its teams only play 30 or so games. We can get a rough estimate of how meaningful the regular season is by taking the reciprocal of the selectiveness percentage and dividing it by the number of games. By that measure, college basketball’s regular season is more meaningful than that of the NFL.

(Incidentially, college football, if it adopted a 11/5 playoff, would still only put 13 1/3% of its teams in the playoffs and have a far more meaningful regular season than any other major sport. Right now, its meaningfullness index number is 5, which means it’s too meaningful because its number is over 1.)

So why does this perception of the meaningless college basketball regular season persist? Undoubtedly, a lot of it has to do with the subjectivity of the process, and its cousin, the unbalanced schedules played by college basketball conferences. In the pros, you know exactly the impact a given game will have on a given team’s chances to make the playoffs. You can’t know that for certain in college basketball. What’s at stake for Kansas entering today’s game? Are they already locked into a #1 seed? Are they in trouble of sinking to a #2 or #3? Are they going to get an ideally situated region, or can they? We don’t know.

The fast-growing field of “bracketology” (a neologism invented out of whole cloth by ESPN) could help answer these questions and help us know exactly what to expect out of a given game. Unfortunately, most bracketologists post little more than their reckoning of where the field stands right now, not how close all the teams are to each other. So we know that North Carolina is (for example, since I’m writing this during 2008′s March Madness!) the second #1 seed. Could they rise up to the overall #1? Could they fall? How far could they fall, and how soon? We don’t know. The closest most bracketologists come, if you’re lucky, is a “bubble watch” feature tracking only whether teams are in or out of the field, not how high they are if they’re in. Often, even that only contains vague descriptions. Seeds matter too – almost all of the national championships in the modern era have gone to the top three seeds. Say what you will about Joe Lunardi and his tendency to get way more play than his accuracy would indicate, but if you’re willing to pay for ESPN Insider, he’ll give you percentage chances for every possibility you could care about. That’s way more than most bracketologists.

If. You’re willing to pay for ESPN Insider. (And the subscription to ESPN the Magazine Insider requires.)

Over the next two months, leading up to Selection Sunday, I’m thinking I’m going to run my own bracketology project, showing the information college basketball fans really want to know: what’s at stake. I’ll tell you exactly who has a shot at the overall #1 seed, the range of seeds a team could get, whether a team’s in or could still be out or if they’re on the bubble or if they’re out but could still be in, using color-coded bars and all the information you could ever need. You’ll get to see exactly where your team is on a ladder extending from 1 to 64 and beyond, and how far they could climb or fall

I’m going to make an effort to use the same information the selection committee uses, but the NCAA seems to be more tight-lipped about what info the selection committee uses than I recall them being in the past. (Is the committee really using game scores now?) So I’m going to use the same information I use for my Golden Bowl selection process, courtesy of CBSSports.com’s RPI Breakdown pages: record, RPI, strength of schedule, out-of-conference record, road/neutral record, record in the last 12 games, record against other teams in consideration, quality of wins and losses. (I’m okay with using injury info and the like.) However, this is not an effort to attempt to predict what the selection committee will do, because the purpose is to demonstrate the format. Rather, this is a record of what I would do if I were on (or rather, were) the selection committee.

I’m spending today and tomorrow going through each team’s resume and forming an initial ranking. I hope to have a first, rough sketch of where I see the field by 5 PM PT Tuesday. And we’ll see where we go from there.

Funnily enough, he’s been speculated to be Ian, he’s called Ian in 758 right after the key line and mentions being called Red before three years of captivity, and while catching up I still didn’t recognize him as Haley’s father before this strip.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized family reunion.)

If you only follow my webcomics posts, you may not know why there have been, well, none of them recently, which is that I’ve developed more of an emphasis on schoolwork recently. And between that and my football posts, I stopped reading OOTS for a while as well over the last few months.

So I missed this.

For all that it’s a revelation of Tarquin’s full Machiavellian plots (Haley was right about the Empress of Blood after all!) in a way not even Elan can ignore and that not even the people who had anticipated something like this could have expected, I would have made a post on it solely because of the penultimate panel, where Tarquin names among the former names of his empires the place we already knew was holding Haley’s father, which we had thought entirely dead and I had thought had been definitively shown not to have had anything to do with Elan’s father. A theory that had been treated as almost canon by the forums, then near-definitively squashed, swung all the way to very nearly confirmed in a single strip, even a single panel, even a single line, even a single word.

With how slow the early part of this book had been going, this might well be far and away the best, most exciting strip of the entire book to this point, and only the original revelation of Tarquin’s identity even comes close.

So as Elan slowly realizes that Haley was right about his father all along, he confronts Tarquin, they duel for a while, and after Tarquin gains the upper hand he reveals that he still plans to help Elan (who, the above-linked strip reveals, he believes to be the leader of his adventuring party). When they resume the conversation, it’s almost entirely about story structure, the sort of conversation you would expect of two people who spend too much time at TV Tropes, and is to the effect that Tarquin is entirely comfortable with his role as the bloodthirsty tyrant doomed to be overthrown by what he now realizes is his own son. I nominate this for the best, most mind-blowingly awesome fourth-wall-bending moment OOTS has ever had, maybe in the history of fourth-wall-bending. A fourth-wall-bending moment is critically important to the plot precisely because of its fourth-wall-bending.

This strip is critically important to the plot not only for its insights into Tarquin’s character, but because of the oracle’s prediction for Elan. Prior to this strip, it might have seemed that the only possible interpretation of that prediction would have had to do with the ending of the strip as a whole, and for all the twists (“Elan dies, or ‘ends’, happy”) and turns that the forum applied to that prediction, it was always in that context, and any speculation about it was somewhat muted as a result, certainly compared to V’s “four words” or Belkar’s death. While Elan did ask “Will this story have a happy ending?”, this strip still suggests an alternate interpretation: that the story of Elan’s overthrow of Tarquin would have a happy ending, and so Elan would get a happy ending that wasn’t necessarily connected to the main plot of OOTS. Which really doesn’t bode well for that main plot.

Haley puts the kibosh on directly confronting Tarquin now, citing the unlikelihood of putting him away for good, and instead runs to free her father, which is how we get to the current strip: Haley rushing into the block where Ian is held, talking with Roy and Belkar, and practically gang-tacking him. It gets only a couple of panels and hardly compares to Tarquin’s Empire Strikes Back moment, but it still manages to capture the emotion of the occasion. I expect the next strip to go all-out with the emotion, but this is a momentous enough occasion in its own right to make up for the previous missed milestones.

OOTS has officially picked up at this point. Tarquin’s unmasking got it going, and the past dozen or so strips have ratcheted up the tension considerably, despite a good number of them just being Elan and Tarquin talking. And the best part is, I caught up in time for it to just be getting started. I’m intensely interested in the next two strips and where they could be going. When I left, the strip was starting to bog down again, but for the first time in quite some time (since at least V’s turn to evil, possibly since the Battle of Azure City) OOTS feels like the strip I signed up for.

Predictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selections are performed by a panel of 44 leading NFL media members including representatives of all 32 NFL teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America, and 11 at-large writers.

The panel has selected a list of 15 finalists from the modern era, defined as playing all or part of their careers within the last 25 years. A player must have spent 5 years out of the league before they can be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Players that last played in the 2005 season will be eligible for induction in 2011.

During Super Bowl Weekend, the panel will meet and narrow down the list of modern-era finalists down to five. Those five will be considered alongside two senior candidates, selected by a nine-member subpanel of the larger panel last August, for a total of seven. From this list, at least four and no more than seven people will be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My prediction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 is:

Deion Sanders
Marshall Faulk
Andre Reed
Dermontti Dawson
Ed Sabol
Les Richter

Hall of Fame Game: Falcons v. Rams

Rating the Super Bowl Logos: Part IX

Previously in this series: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII

Super Bowl XLI: Tried to repeat the simplicity of the Super Bowl XL logo, but didn’t work out as well. Can’t say I particularly like the pylon taking the place of the “I” in the Roman numeral; if there’s one place I expect the serifs it’s there. That singlehandedly brings this logo down several notches. And what’s up with that weird twinkle up there? Grade: C.

Super Bowl XLII: Oh. Oh, dear God. How could one of the best Super Bowls ever, the answer to life, the universe, and everything, have one of the worst logos? It’s trying to look like the state of Arizona, but the stripes ruin the effect and it just looks like a bunch of random, disjointed bands. And why is it curving like that? The red and blue streaks with the stars feel shoehorned in, the Roman numeral itself is utterly dull especially with the ugly coloring and stops in the middle of one of the bands for some reason, and having the “Super Bowl” wrap above and below has never looked worse than here. And there’s one band above and two below! Oh god, the more I look at this the worse it becomes! What convinced them this was a good logo? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was their experience with this logo that convinced them to go with a single generic logo instead of unique logos going forward. (Here’s a hint: avoid crappy logos like this one.) And yet, even with all of that, when all is said and done, it still isn’t as bad as Scrappy-Doo. Probably. Grade: D-.

Super Bowl XLIII: Well, after the unmitigated disaster that was the last logo, you probably can’t blame the NFL for going incredibly generic for this one. I’ll be honest, when I first saw this logo, it was so generic I thought it was a fake, or Photoshopped, or a placeholder until they could get a real logo. It’s certainly inoffensive, I’ll say that much, but apparently it’s supposed to look like the specific stadium or something… I don’t know, all I know is that if they wanted a logo to serve as the generic logo of the Super Bowl going forward, you could do worse as a starting point. Besides, anything would be better than the abomination of a Super Bowl XLII logo. Grade: C+.

Super Bowl XLIV: The XLI logo, only without the pylon taking the place of the I, and bulky. Seriously, it looks like a battering ram. The bulkiness is especially apparent when you consider how the L wraps around the goal post. Oh, and the Roman numeral looks like it belongs on an 80s video game for some reason. It’s certainly inoffensive, but it’s sad that this is going to be the last game-specific logo. Grade: C+.

Super Bowl XLV: Get a good look at your new Super Bowl logo going forward. As a game-specific logo, it would actually be quite good, especially if they got rid of the Lombardi trophy and put the emphasis on Cowboys Stadium as the site of the game. As is, the Lombardi trophy kind of dominates the composition, and makes it look overly tall (and a bit suggestive). I wouldn’t have said no to the Lombardi trophy being used in past Super Bowl logos, maybe even as the “I” in a Roman numeral even though I criticized a similar practice in Super Bowl XLI, but apparently the NFL wanted to avoid tainting its trophy by associating it with a single Super Bowl. Personally, I don’t see how that would have happened, and it didn’t stop the NFL from using the logo for the entire league in XXXIV.

Which brings me to this logo as a generic logo going forward, where it falls short in key areas. The Roman numeral, once the key element of any logo, is still more prominent than “Super Bowl”, but it’s now very modular and lazy, and it still doesn’t stand out as much as it used to. The Lombardi trophy dominating the composition and making it too tall becomes even more of a sin, making you barely notice the other elements, especially at a distance. The grey color is just dull and boring – acceptable one year, but not year after year. And what’s the point of even including the stadium when virtually nothing around it will change? (I’ve actually seen quite a few Super Bowl logos recently that exclude the stadium).

But the worst part is that not only will each individual game no longer feel special in relation to the Super Bowl in general, the Super Bowl itself won’t feel special in relation to the rest of the playoffs! In addition to the general logo, the NFL is introducing new logos for the rest of the playoffs to match it, which means the Super Bowl logo will only differ from the logos leading up to it in which trophy it has to represent it and the vestigial inclusion of a Roman numeral. Admittedly the Playoff and Championship Game logos are much more subdued, but they also suck. But how much difference is there, really, between the Super Bowl logo and the Pro Bowl logo? Grade: C-.

Rating the Super Bowl Logos: Part VIII

Previously in this series: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII

Super Bowl XXXVI: A good enough logo for the first Super Bowl after 9/11. The United States and flag motif is used very well, the fonts are agreeable, it looks dynamic, and the whole thing really makes it feel like America’s game. Primo! (Sadly, it doesn’t look so good in 2-D.) This is going to sound insensitive, but 9/11 certainly saved the NFL from the awful logo they previously had in mind for this game. Yes, apparently that thing is not a fake and really would have represented a sizeable step backwards from the recent trend. Grade: A+.

Super Bowl XXXVII: Well, the lighthouse motif works a bit better than the Semaphore flags, and this time they managed to make the width of the Roman numeral not quite so distracting as in XXVII. (Now if there were more lighthouses over to the sides it would be a different story.) It’s a perfectly serviceable logo where the elements all make sense for what they’re trying to accomplish. I even like the big “V” in the Roman numeral. Grade: B.

Super Bowl XXXVIII: Simple, yet effective. Nice and symmetrical, with the orbit motif being easily recognizible and associated with Houston. The one thing that bumps it down is that it’s arguably too simple, and doesn’t feel special enough for a Super Bowl. And what’s for the vaguely electronic font for “Super Bowl”? Grade: B+.

Super Bowl XXXIX: Remember when I said that the XXXVII logo managed to avoid the Roman numeral looking too awkward? Yeah, you can’t say that for this logo. Whatever that thing at the top is, it’s barely recognizable (is it a bridge, or the stadium itself?), which makes it a perfect symbol for Jacksonville, and both it and the “Super Bowl” are dwarfed by that huge Roman numeral just sticking out there, with legs holding it up and the pointless little wave at the bottom. They actually made it worse that the “I” is stranded among the Xs. All in all, not the best effort. Grade: D+.

Super Bowl XL: A very different, simple approach. They deliberately went for the “car” look, with the “Super Bowl” looking vaguely like hub caps. You just have the huge Roman numerals and the red and blue stars that would be repeated for the next four Super Bowls. It’s the simplest logo in years, yet it still manages to look modern. Overall, a quite appealing logo. Grade: A.

Next time, we wrap up with Super Bowl XL’s cousins and the worst Super Bowl logo ever!

Rating the Super Bowl Logos: Part VII

Previously in this series: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI

Super Bowl XXXI: Now this logo says “New Orleans” to me. Although it’s also a chaotic logo: the colors are too similar and weird in their own right (seriously, teal and purple?), the ribbons are hard to make out in close-up and impossible, and the Roman numeral just looks weird and hard to read. The crown would work better and maybe even save this logo if it were easier to make out. All told, there were probably better ways to say “Mardi Gras” than this logo. Grade: C+.

Super Bowl XXXII: Now they decided to get cute and have the Roman numeral represented by Semaphore flags, because… um… San Diego isn’t known for much. But I guess a sea mammal would be mistaken for Miami, and they couldn’t figure out how to represent comic book nerds in a Super Bowl logo. It actually works pretty well and is surprisingly readable (and it’s really surprising no one would mistake the II for a III), but it’s still kinda distracting. The compass rose points are almost pointless, and the “Super Bowl” itself, viewed in close-up, almost makes this look like a place where you can get fish and chips for $9.95. Which would be weird if they combined that with a comic book store. Grade: C+.

Super Bowl XXXIII: This logo almost looks like it belongs in Las Vegas. I knew Miami was weird, but not that weird (though admittedly this is probably the most Miami-like of any of their Super Bowl logos). While previous logos looked triumphant, almost trophy-like, this logo subtly goes in a different direction – literally. What is it even supposed to be? A casino sign? Yeah, because that’s what you want to associate with the Super Bowl. What’s with the little dots over to the side? What’s going on? At least it’s readable, and works for whatever it’s trying to accomplish, and is actually vaguely iconic as Super Bowl logos go, once again making it feel like a party, because when you really analyze it it looks like D material. Grade: C.

Super Bowl XXXIV: For the new millenium, the NFL basically just reappropriated its own logo for a Super Bowl logo. I’ll get into the stupidity of that later. It’s generic and works for what it does, though the tilt makes it look like it’s about to take off, but the real star of this logo is the awkward Roman numeral, now fat in a different way from some of the 80s logos. And the NFL logo has always looked like a highway logo and especially so here. I almost don’t get the point of appropriating it, because it’s clearly the NFL logo, but it looks different enough that a lot of its impact is dulled. Grade: C.

Super Bowl XXXV: I don’t get this. On the one hand, it’s trying for a pirate motif in Tampa, which is good because it’s appropriate and pirates are cool. On the other hand, the Roman numeral is really fat and colored similarly to the background, like it’s trying to hide. That’s something the tiny “Super Bowl” banner can’t really save. And what is it supposed to look like, anyway? Grade: D+.

Rating the Super Bowl Logos: Part VI

Previously in this series: Part I | II | III | IV | V

Super Bowl XXVI: A return to the XIX and XX era. This logo looks really retro; it almost looks like a jukebox. The Roman numeral isn’t grotesquely fat and in fact reminds me of the good Super Bowl XXII logo, but it’s not as readable for some reason on long shot, and I can’t get past the old-fashioned “Super Bowl” wording, and what’s with the weird motif of a football shooting up? Well, on the plus side, that’s the most football-related element we’ve yet had. Grade: C-.

Super Bowl XXVII: This is another milestone in the march to modern logos. This logo and the next one will slowly transition the Super Bowl logo away from using blue all the time. The rose motif is better integrated with the rest of the logo this time, and the effect would look really nice…except the Roman numeral is so wide and dominates the logo. It’s still a good effort, it just makes an odd mixing with the roses when the Roman numeral is like that. Or maybe my problem is that the roses are so far apart, I don’t know. Grade: B-.

Super Bowl XXVIII: Now we’re getting really modern. We’ve finally escaped the fonts of the 80s and early 90s, and now we have a serviceable circular logo of a peach (no butt jokes, please, although can you find the moon?) surrounded by a banner (which doesn’t really help the butt metaphor) with the Roman numeral. The circle would look generic if it weren’t for the peach that helps represent the host city, and the Roman numeral, despite the colors and blending together, is actually quite readable. Grade: B+.

Super Bowl XXIX: I’d expect this for a Super Bowl in Arizona, but more on that in a minute. This motif really doesn’t say “sun” to me. And what’s up with the way the Roman numeral bulges out like that? And what’s up with the font for “Super Bowl”? This logo actually looks pretty good from afar, but it is a bit generic and confusing, and doesn’t say anything in particular. Grade: B-.

Super Bowl XXX: This isn’t the best logo for getting away from the pornographic implications of the Roman numeral, but it certainly could have been worse. It actually reminds me of those Vin Diesel/Ice Cube movies from the early part of this millenium. The overall motif actually works pretty well if you know what it’s going for, although you could argue that it looks like a bunch of random shapes, the Roman numeral itself is kind of hard to read, and the “Super Bowl” is tiny. Grade: B-.