We’re extending right up to the last at-large team today, and I’m starting to get a sense of what resumes feel like “NCAA teams”. There are pretty much, right now, 47 of them spread across 10 conferences, exactly enough to fill out the at-large field. You’re going to see some teams on the wrong side of the cutline on Monday, and the way I describe them will seem like a grisly sight: incapable of winning on the road, schedule strengths in the 90s or even out of the top 100, multiple bad if not atrocious losses, exceedingly lacking in wins with wins over teams in the 100-125 range of the RPI counting as “depth”… and yet, their nonconference record will remain superb with rarely more than five losses. As part of the purpose of Bracket Ladder is to show how great even the teams that miss the NCAAs are, I’ll make an effort to show the good in their resumes. I may even dip into what some call “NIT-ology” if only to show that, as bad as the teams we’ll see on Monday may look, it could be worse. (Given how wide the bubble is right now, if I extend all the way to the end of the “Probably outs” I could have most of the NIT field right there, with a little bit left over when you consider the NIT auto bid rule.)
Since the current ladder extends right up to the tip of the bubble, there are no more question mark seed floors. All teams with seed ranges listed have had their floors calculated, and all teams listed as “Probably in” or “Barely in” have a calculated worst-case scenario where they don’t make the tournament. The distinction between “Probably in” and “Barely in” is arbitrary and based on how probable a scenario where a team doesn’t make the tournament is. Generally, if it would take more than one or two major slip-ups to miss the NCAAs, you’re “probably in”, but if you could be left out after one or two slip-ups, you’re “barely in”. Also, the last four at-large teams are listed with an “f” superscript next to their seed on the left side to indicate they’d be playing in one of the new “First Four” games the Tuesday and Wednesday after Selection Sunday. This has zero bearing on who they’d play in those First Four games, other than “one of the other three”, regardless of what seed I have them listed as; there isn’t enough information on how that’s determined, but it almost surely involves the same bracketing constraints as the rest of the bracket.
Meanwhile, I’ve also tried to start recalibrating the ladder with more focus on who you’ve played and how you’ve done against them based on where they stand on the ladder, and I think I’ve been successful for the first seven seed lines. On Monday I’ll introduce a simple yet powerful new tool for measuring performance down the stretch. Also still to come: auto bids (for the last four or five seed lines) and how all this might translate into an actual bracket. At some point I’m going to need to research some of the scenarios for how the Big East could play out for the sake of figuring out accurate seed ceilings.
As promised, a BracketBusters preview. The games involving Old Dominion and George Mason are covered in their respective entries on the ladder below. As for the others:
Kent State @ Drexel (Friday 9pm ET, ESPNU): In my view, Drexel has a surprisingly strong at-large profile, with only two non-RPI-Top-100 losses, a win over Old Dominion, and a road win over Louisville. As mid-majors go, the CAA is strong enough that that deserves a second look. Of course, Hofstra is Drexel’s only other RPI Top 100 win, they have a schedule strength in the 130s and an RPI of 81, and Kent State won’t help very much, since they have an even worse RPI than Hofstra or Drexel. The Golden Flashes have only one RPI Top 100 win, and Miami (OH) barely qualifies, but they won’t be sniffing the tournament even with a win.
Utah State @ St. Mary’s (Saturday 9pm ET, ESPN2): This may be the highlight of BracketBusters. Already suffering, St. Mary’s at-large chances took a major hit with a loss to lowly San Diego. The Gaels desperately need to rebound and get another RPI Top 25 win to prove they’re still the same team that knocked off St. John’s on ESPN’s Tip-off Marathon, or winning the WCC tournament will be vital. And yet, they still don’t need this game more than Utah State. The Aggies, by far the highest RPI team I don’t have in the field, have, to put it simply, no middle ground. Their two losses are to BYU and Georgetown… and their best win, Long Beach State, only barely qualifies as an RPI Top 100 win. This game will completely define how good a team they are. Lose, and forget about at-large hopes with a loss to a team that’s bubbly themselves. Win, and at-large hopes are still a longshot, but you’ve beaten the one RPI 11-50 team you played on the road, so maybe with a tight loss in the WAC Final you can sneak in with other bubble carnage. If the Aggies do win out in conference, this one game could make multiple seed lines’ worth of difference.
Virginia Commonwealth @ Wichita State (Friday 7pm ET, ESPN2): The Shockers may be the Valley’s strongest at-large candidate, which isn’t saying much. Their winning straits aren’t as dire as Utah State’s, with a road win over Northern Iowa under their belts, but they also don’t have all their losses against 2-seeds, including a truly mystifying home loss to Southern Illinois. VCU is a more legit at-large candidate, not only in the CAA where they have a road win over Old Dominion, but even a home win over UCLA. But neither has an RPI over 30, and VCU has a few embarrassing losses. Wichita State has a good enoughg RPI to provide a substantial boost to VCU’s resume, though not a great one, and while a loss would hurt it wouldn’t put them back too far. Meanwhile, VCU would actually be the Shockers’ best RPI win, while still being their third-worst loss. Not that, as a win, it would put them in any bubble contention that serious, especially coming at home.
Missouri State @ Valparaiso (Saturday 5pm ET, ESPN2): Valpo has an interesting resume, with home wins over the Horizon’s other two strong teams for RPI Top 50 wins, and a road win over Oakland is good as well, but they have way too many bad losses, including one to atrocious Toledo. Missouri State might drag them closer to the cut line, but those bad losses will still weigh them down. The Bears don’t have too many total losses or bad losses, as well as road wins over the other two Valley contenders for RPI Top 100 wins, but their strength of schedule is still nose-holding. Valpo could bring them closer to the cutline as well, and if that were to happen I think the results could get very interesting.
Miami (OH) @ James Madison (Saturday Noon ET):James Madison doesn’t have an RPI Top 50 win, but they have enough Top 100 wins, especially Princeton and Marshall at home, to be interesting for at least the NIT conversation. They only have two horrible losses, but they are horrible, coming outside the top 200. Unfortunately, the Redhawks won’t appreciably give them much they don’t already have, and a loss could be disastrous. While not an at-large contender either, wins over Xavier and two other RPI Top 100 teams make Miami (OH)’s resume at least interesting, but likewise the Dukes won’t help them much. And that’s why this is one of the “leftover” games that didn’t make TV.
This edition of the Bracket Ladder is complete through the games of February 16, 2011. This means it does not include any of Thursday’s games, including the Minnesota-Penn State game. (Yes, it’s also being released late enough that I should just include the Thursday games. That’s what working on this for virtually 16 hours straight will do to you.)
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. If a seed has an “f” superscript, that team would play in one of the “First Four” games in Dayton on the Tuesday or Wednesday after Selection Sunday before playing games against teams in the main bracket. 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 TXX: Record against teams in the RPI Top 50 or 100. Wv≥: Number of wins against teams listed seven spots behind them or higher on the ladder. Lv≤: Number of losses against teams listed seven spots ahead of them or worse on the laddera. 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:
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. Numbers inside the boxes for silver through green indicate the seed range a team could receive. The first number is the seed ceiling, the best seed that could result from a reasonable best-case scenario for the rest of the season and the committee’s assessment of the team, the middle number is the current seed based on the current position in the bracket ladder, and the last number is the seed floor, the worst seed that could result from a reasonable worst-case scenario for the rest of the season and the committee’s assessment of the team. The seed ceiling could increase or seed floor decrease in extraordinary circumstances.
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
Read moreBracket Ladder for February 17, 2011