Gonzaga: The Mid-Major Duke?

This should piss off fans of teams in mid-major college basketball conferences.

The West Coast conference has signed a new agreement with ESPN for various sports coverage through 2011. For the most part, it seems to make sense – 10 games on ESPNU per year between all sports, for example.

But then there’s the seven intra-conference college basketball games, each year, split between ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC, plus the semifinals and finals of the WCC tournament. That doesn’t make so much sense.

It should be obvious this is entirely because of the success of Gonzaga. Exactly two WCC games on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC this season covered the Zags – one of them being the other conference semifinal – out of 11 all-WCC. But what, exactly, is the rest of the WCC doing to deserve such national attention?

I’ve seen people look at the WCC’s conference RPI and declare them to be in the top tier of mid-major conferences. This year the WCC is the 14th-highest rated conference in all the land in a down year for the Zags, according to kenpom.com. Factor out Gonzaga, and they fall to 17th – behind the MAC, Patriot League, and Big West.

Last year, the only non-Big Six conferences the WCC didn’t beat were the MVC, MWC, WAC, CAA, and A-10. But factor out Gonzaga in a year they were RPI #10, and the WCC falls six spots – below the C-USA, MAAC, Horizon, MAC, Big Sky, and Sun Belt. It’s evident that the WCC without Gonzaga is near the top of the second tier, and in fact, in 2005 the WCC was behind only the Big Six, the MVC, and the pre-Big-East-robbery C-USA – after factoring out another banner year for the Zags.

But seven WCC intra-conference games? Including spots on ABC, which barely shows any college basketball? Sure, most if not all of them will involve the Zags, but can we control the salivation just a little? Is there any other way for a mid-level mid-major team to get on ABC? Do teams like Duke get this many games against weak opposition in front of such a large national audience?

Without Gonzaga, the MVC, MWC, WAC, CAA, A-10, Horizon, and MAC all have beaten the WCC both this year and last year. With or without the Zags, the MVC has consistently beaten the WCC every year since 2004, and both this year and last year has beaten at least one Big Six conference in the Conference RPI.

But the conference that gives the high majors fits every year signed an extension with ESPN in October for “an expanded number of national appearances” – 28 in all, but 10 of those are on ESPNU, you know, the network no one gets? Only 8 appearances on ESPN(2) are guaranteed each year, and exactly 5 intraconference games this year, all on ESPN2. (According to one report, every game regular ESPN is showing this year involving two mid-major teams involves Memphis or the Zags.) The MVC continues to have the semifinals of its conference tournament on local/regional television – the SEC is the only Big Six conference without a national audience for its semifinals, unless you count the Pac-10’s national agreement with FSN. Even the MWC and (in a holdover from its major days) C-USA have their semifinals on CSTV. The Horizon League has theirs on ESPNU, as does the frickin’ OVC. And need I remind you of the WCC getting their semifinals on ESPN2?

Since that “beneficial” agreement, the Valley has seen Southern Illinois become the #6 team in the RPI. Since 1999, the last year for which kenpom.com has information, the highest the Zags have been able to muster is a #9. In fact, the last time a team outside the Big Six or C-USA was in the RPI Top 6 was #3 St. Joe’s in 2004, also the only time it’s happened since ’99… perhaps because they nearly went undefeated that year. Oh, and even C-USA has only done it three times since 1999. Oops.

I don’t seem to be alone… A search on Google for “the missouri valley is a (major OR high-major) conference” returns 1.1 million hits. By contrast, “gonzaga is a (major OR high-major) team” gets only 631,000 hits. In other Google news, “gonzaga sucks” gets 77,800 hits, comparable to 59,600 for “gonzaga is overrated”. They have a long way to go to catch the 1.06 million for “duke sucks” or the 511,000 for “duke is overrated”. As for the Valley, “the “missouri valley” sucks” gets 18,900 hits, to 23,300 for “the “missouri valley” is overrated” – both of which outpace Gonzaga if you take the quotes around “missouri valley” out, though. Hmm…

Coming Soon: The Mid-Major Conference

If you don’t follow college basketball at all – if you seriously pick 16 seeds to win first-round games over 1’s and pick teams based on whether you like their names or mascots – this post is NOT for you. It gets into a lot of esoterica that you probably wouldn’t care for. But if you’re one of those people who have been clamoring for me to put up some of my numerous projects, today is your lucky day!

Turn on any random regular season college basketball game, and chances are it’s a game involving teams from one of the six high-major conferences. If you get some other conference you probably live in or near it. It’s teams from the six biggest conferences that get the most NCAA Tournament bids, and it’s teams from those six conferences – the same ones that make up the BCS conferences in college football – that get the most attention. They’re the teams from the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Pac-10, Big 12, and Big East.

But… there are a lot of conferences outside the Big Six. Conferences with names like the MEAC, the SWAC, the WAC, the Southland, the Big South, the Big Sky, Horizon, America East, Atlantic 10… that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Every year, teams from these conferences shock the world by beating Big Six conference teams in the NCAA tournament. They valiantly fight their way to bids in the NCAA Tournament, even if they don’t win their conference, and people get mad at them because they think all the bids should go to Big Six teams. Teams like Gonzaga have consistently proved the mettle of teams in the mid-majors by beating the odds and having high levels of success.

In fact, if you took all the best teams from the mid-major conferences and put them in one super-conference… that conference would probably have to be considered on a level with the Big Six conferences, maybe better.

So, at the end of the season, after the Final Four, I will name the eight teams to make up the 2007 Mid-Major Conference. It won’t have any bearing on anything right now – there’s no reward, monetary or otherwise, and it isn’t anything more than something on paper – and probably won’t even be heard of beyond the small group of people who read Da Blog. The goal is to recognize eight teams whose quality of play competes with those in the best conferences in the country.

There are some simple, but restrictive rules governing the selection of the MMC teams, with restrictions higher on the list taking precedence:

  • The Mid-Major Conference shall consist of eight teams representing the best of college basketball, outside the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, and SEC conferences.
  • No conference shall have more than one team in the MMC.
  • Any conference that produces at least one at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament will be represented.
  • Any team that makes it to the Regional Semifinal (“Sweet 16”) or later in the NCAA tournament will automatically be represented. In the case of a conflict between two or more deserving teams under this criterion, the team to have advanced the furthest shall be counted. If two teams from the same conference advance the same distance in the NCAA tournament, the tie is broken by head-to-head record and respective distance traveled in the conference tournament.
  • If conferences with automatic spots under the third criterion have no qualifying teams under the fourth, the tie is broken in this order: whether or not any teams won their first-round tournament game, head-to-head record, respective distance traveled in the conference tournament.
  • If spots remain in the Mid-Major Conference after these criteria have been exhausted, or if there remains a tie in a conference under the third criterion after the criteria in the fourth or fifth criterion have been exhausted, the remaining selections will be made by my discretion. Being in the NCAA Tournament is not a qualification for being selected to the MMC, and in fact it is possible (but rare) for a team that won its first-round game to not get in the MMC while a team that settled for a long NIT run does. This is the “Northwestern State Rule”: getting lucky in one game doesn’t get you an automatic spot in the MMC.

Update on the below "Update"

I never did get around to writing up any sort of defense. I’m going to be leaving the Seattle University residence halls over the weekend and will likely not really bother much with Da Blog until the summer, because of restrictions on my Internet access.

About the only thing I’m certain to take on for Da Blog is a project that I’ll provide more details on before too long.

Update on my current situation

I’ve gotten into big trouble, which could be an understatement. I may be forced to move out of on-campus housing soon. I intend to write up an impassioned defense over the weekend and intend to post it on Da Blog after presenting it on Monday.

If I do get kicked out, it may hamper my ability to work on Da Blog at all.

Although the poll got more responses in one week than comments have produced over the entire time I’ve solicited for them to pick a blog topic or project to post, it still seemed pretty pathetic. In any event, right now I’m not really in the mood for trying to focus on Da Blog, so I won’t be putting up a more serious poll or really paying close attention to what people are saying until this blows over, whatever outcome it may have.

An almost three-year-old poem and the by-now-weekly update on Da Blog

Here’s a poem I wrote in Summer 2004:

45 Degrees on Port

It is sunny.
Several families watch
For the cargo to approach.
A boat rocks
Over the horizon.

It is rainy.
There will be no sailing today.
Far beneath the waters,
A school of fish waits
For their catch for a change.

It is cloudy.
Sailors don’t know what to make
Of the white sky,
For the old saying about red skies
Never said a thing about white.

It is snowy.
No sailor has been here
For two months.
Beautiful patterns appear
On the water.

Gripping, isn’t it?

Well, since I’ve only gotten a smattering of responses, it’s not as though I’m really catering to very many people. In fact, while I’m extending my request to find out what projects you’re interested in (two posts down) for another week, I’m also taking a special sample poll, available on the right side of Da Blog, to find out if I’m even going about this the right way.

I’m a root beer guy, myself…

The random, venting, irrelevant to anything post you have to read

There are a lot of things I don’t take well. Imperfection is one of them. Brain-dead idiocy is another.

I don’t always react to such things, but if I’m already in a bad mood, I might. Generally speaking, if I lash out about it, it’s usually with a bunch of random finger gestures thrown vigorously in your direction.

If you feel threatened, don’t be. No matter how vigorous it gets, it almost never gets more extreme than that, and you’re in no danger if no one takes it to some really dumb extreme. Also, the mere act of doing that is a form of calming me down in many circumstances.

If it isn’t, though, and I don’t storm out of the room, shut up and don’t say anything that might make you look stupid. And don’t dare try and suggest you have a problem with it, that’ll just make me madder.

Because you shouldn’t have a problem with it. You shouldn’t have a problem with anything anyone does. I don’t believe there should be any one definition of “normal”, and I think people should be open-minded enough to accept anything that doesn’t kill them.

The original topic poll I refer to in various posts below is now closed with no resolution, so if the results of the new poll in the post immediately below raise too many problems with me, I’ll reopen it. Also, I’m modifying Da Blog to show 10 posts per page instead of 7, and I should be hitting 100 page views any minute now.

Update on the future of Da Blog

Of the three total responses I’ve received, I received two requests for more information on my “grandiose projects”, one of which actually contrasted it to mere coverage of sports, as though covering projects precluded covering sports.

Getting grandiose projects is a given no matter which topic gets chosen. It isn’t really a topic in itself, and I don’t know that I’m confident enough to simply lay them all on you, not to mention that I wouldn’t know where to start or what to put on or anything. (By September at the latest, you’ll have a very good view on just how grandiose my projects can get, regardless of final topic.)

So what I think I’m going to do is extend this another 24 hours, looking for some clarification as to what projects I would want to post. But I’m also instituting a new poll. Below is a list of just some projects I have and are working on. It’s far from an exhaustive list, but it’s intended to provide a list of options and provide a feel for what I mean. Tell me if you want to see any of these projects or any similar ones you want to suggest in an area of your interest.

  • Ranking the presidential candidates (see the post immediately below)
  • Whether Sports Watcher should continue
  • Ranking America’s professional sports leagues
  • A different, maybe insane, method of determining champions in certain team sports, closer to the methods used in combat sports like boxing and wrestling
  • Determining the greatest movies of all time from a composite of other similar lists (I can also come up with other “greatest lists” even if they’re limited to my own opinion. Inquire within!)
  • Any kind of simulated tournament, or any kind of simulated game.
  • Or you can help me iron out the rules for a new sport I’m developing.
  • I actually have already written some short poems and stories.
  • And the proverbial much, much more!

I’m setting the deadline for this new poll for Friday night at midnight Pacific, with an option to extend if I get another dearth of replies.

Ranking the Presidential Candidates… not!

I’m not really a political junkie, but I do pay a lot of attention when election season rolls around. We’re just two years away from a unique election cycle, when neither a sitting president nor vice-president will be running for president.

As with most of the things I’m intensely interested in, I have a project I’m working on for it. In this case, it’s a ranking of the potential nominees from each party based on their chances of winning the nomination. Positions on the issues play no role in this; I base it entirely on polls and fundraising.

And right now, both are failing me. The FEC’s web site doesn’t yet contain any financial data for the current election cycle. As for polling, it works very well near the top but is worthless at the very bottom.

Consider this ABC-Washington Post poll. Note that there are six Republican candidates that got 1% in the poll and three that got 0%. The sample size of Republicans is 344, so 1.72 would be the number of respondents that represents .5% of the poll, anything below which shows up here as 0%. How am I supposed to separate those three at 0% when they either got 0 or 1 person saying their name?

It gets worse. The threshhold for 1.5% would be 5.16 respondents. Therefore all those people at 1% got 2, 3, 4, or 5 respondents saying their name. I am left to assume that the poll results are sub-sorted by how many respondents said a name, but ties still exist, and worse, if they’re in alphabetical order, I don’t know which comparisons of two back-to-back candidates represent ties and which represent a different number of respondents! And it all reflects the luck of the draw! I’m ignoring margin of error in my rankings but even I can’t ignore this!

This poll was conducted on a national sample of 1000 adults. That’s how many should be polled from each party. The poll’s total sample should be closer to 2500.

Then I got an idea. Perhaps we could combine the results from several polls, thus adding to the sample size and lowering the margin of error. The chances of two polls contacting the same person are astronomical, so it’s like taking one big poll. For example, there are three similar polls from this month in the same field: the Gallup Poll has 412 Republican respondents, and the Zogby Poll has 301 Republican respondents. All have, ultimately, the same problem, but when you add their sample size together you get 344+412+301=1057 respondents in the sample. That means 5.285 respondents represent .5%, enough for some separation, weak though it may seem; meanwhile, 15.855 respondents represent 1.5%, enough to rest easy that six candidates would have at least some separation.

I would love to be the person to create this “superpoll”, which would be important far beyond this context, but unfortunately, the sort of raw data of pure numbers of respondents is treated as fairly proprietary. Either I have to get into a subscription service to get them (always for a fee) or they don’t offer it at all. Why, I’m not sure. I could guesstimate it by weighting the results of the various polls, but it’s an inexact science to say the least.

Which leaves nothing for me to work with, at least in the back of the field, but the analysis of others. I know it’s early and a lot can change, but predicting the future isn’t my priority so much as determining what’s going on right now, despite my emphasis on fundraising. Judging by polls from 2004, the sample size of polls won’t be increasing from here, though it might see a little more separation. It probably won’t get there very quickly, though – not with a field of this size.