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).

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