As Conference Tourneys Approach,the Bubble Picture is Far From Clear

5 Feb

Even before the season started people were talking about how there could be no dominant team this season resulting in a very unpredictable year.  We are less than four weeks away from the beginning of conference tournaments and it looks like that prediction is coming true.

Top ten upsets seem like a nightly occurrence and the weekly rankings have become a game of musical chairs and noted bracketologists who are updating their projections at a faster rate are having a harder time than usual sifting through the pool of eligible teams.

Over the next month or so the fog may clear and teams may separate themselves from the pack but right now the difference between some of these teams is razor thin.  To illustrate this point here is a pair of blind resumes where one team is firmly in the field of three noted bracketologists; Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Shelby Mast of USA Today and the other is on the outside looking in.

Example 1:

Team A: 19-4 (7-3 in conference), RPI Rank 22 (non-conference RPI: 18), Strength of Schedule 82 (non-conference SoS: 107), Record vs. RPI top 50 3-2, Record vs. RPI top 100 3-1, 13-1 vs. the rest.

Team B: 13-8 (2-6 in conference), RPI Rank 47 (non-conference RPI: 23), Strength of Schedule 7 (non-conference SoS 49), Record vs. RPI Top 50 2-6, Record vs. RPI top 100 1-2, 10-0 vs. the rest.

Team A has a better record and RPI but does have one bad loss, something team B has avoided.  Team B has played a much tougher schedule.

Team A is Purdue who is currently listed as a 4 and 5 seed by the three bracketologists.

Team B is Texas Tech who is currently on the wrong side of the bubble.

Example 2:

Team A:  18-4 (7-2 in conference), RPI Rank 19 (non-conference RPI: 49), Strength of Schedule 60 (non-conference SoS: 205), Record vs. RPI top 50 3-3, Record vs. RPI top 100 3-1, 12-0 vs. the rest.

Team B: 15-7 (4-6 in conference), RPI Rank 62 (non-conference RPI: 30), Strength of Schedule 74 (non-conference SoS: 184), Record vs. RPI top 50 1-5, Record vs. RPI top 100 3-1, 11-1 vs. the rest.

Team A has a slightly better record and performed better during conference play.  They also have a better RPI but that is mostly due to conference play.  Team B has a better non-conference RPI but has failed miserably against the RPI top 50.

Team A is Louisville who is seen as a 4 and 5 seed by the bracketologists.

Team B is Butler who is not a tournament team according to 2 of the 3 bracketologists and is one of the last 4 in according to the other.

***Note*** Louisville announced this afternoon that they will self-impose a post-season ban this season due to NCAA violations.

This last example is two teams currently in the field, one is an 11 seed the other a 5 or 6.  Can you guess which one is which?

Team A:  17-5 (6-3 in conference), RPI Rank 18 (non-conference RPI: 29), Strength of Schedule 44 (non-conference SoS: 78), Record vs. RPI top 50 4-4, Record vs. RPI top 100 4-1, 9-0 vs. the rest.

Team B:  18-5 (10-2 in conference), RPI Rank 28 (non-conference RPI: 8), Strength of Schedule 121 (non-conference SoS: 20), Record vs. RPI top 50 2-2, Record vs. RPI top 100 4-0, 9-3 vs. the rest.

Team A has a better overall RPI and strength of schedule but team B clearly challenged themselves more outside of their conference.  Team B has also performed slightly better against the RPI top 100 winning six of eight (one being against team A), while team A has won eight of 13.  One thing that knocks team B down is the three losses to with an RPI of 201 or worse.

Team A is Southern California who is either a 5 or 6 seed.

Team B is Monmouth who is an 11 seed.

These are just a few examples of how close the difference is between being safely in the field and on the fringe or even being left out of the Big Dance.

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