Home > College Basketball > Bracketology: March 1st Edition

Bracketology: March 1st Edition


Joe Lunardi released his Bracketology today, and with only one week to go in the regular season, the NCAA 65 team tournament field is becoming ever more clear.  There is much less time and opportunity for teams to enhance their resumes.

Once again, I believe Joe Lunardi did a poor job of predicting the final teams in and out of the tournament.  Lets start with the last four in.

Virginia Tech:  The Hokies have lost 3 consecutive games, including an embarrasing 20 point spanking by Boston College, who is a whopping 14-14 this year.  In addition, Tech has a strength of schedule of 152, and has no real quality wins.  Their best win was against Wake Forest, at which point the Hokies embarked upon their current 3 game losing streak.  The other decent win was against Clemson.  With only 2 wins over projected tournament teams, a terrible strength of schedule, a weak in-conference schedule, no wins over ranked teams, and a poor finish to the season (especially including the 20 point embarrassment against BC), there is no way Virginia Tech should be able to smell the NCAA tournament.

Saint Mary’s- The Gales have a 24-5 record, but have no quality wins.  Over anybody.  Period.  The best win Saint Mary’s has is against Cal, a borderline NCAA tournament team.  The Gales haven’t sniffed a victory over a ranked team, or even a sure-fire tournament team.  With a strength of schedule of 142, the Gales dropped every game against a quality team, including against Vanderbilt and Gonzaga twice.  Saint Mary’s also dropped embarrassing games against USC and Portland.  This team does not deserve a NCAA tournament bid because they haven’t done anything to make us think they do deserve a bid.

Mississippi State- The Bulldogs are leading the SEC West, but in reality, that means nothing.  It would mean something if the team won the SEC tournament and received the auto bid, but contrary to popular belief, winning the SEC West regular season title does not ensure a bid to the tournament because the SEC West is so poor this season.  Mississippi State shares the same problem as the other teams in this grouping, and that is the lack of quality wins. The Bulldogs post a 21-8 record, which would be good enough for a bid in most years.  However, with a schedule strength of 128, the record looks much better than it actually is.  Mississippi State is only 6-5 in its last 11 games, with games remaining against Auburn and Tennessee.  The Bulldogs need a win against Tennessee to post a decent win on its resume.  To this point Mississippi State’s best win is against Old Dominion, and 2 wins against Ole Miss are the only other factors holding up the resume.  This means that Mississippi State has wins over exactly 0 ranked teams, and wins over exactly 0 sure-fire NCAA tournament teams, as Ole Miss is not currently in the projected field, and Old Dominion can likely get in only via an automatic bid out of the CAA.

San Diego State- This team has 1 good win, and that was over New Mexico.  The rest of the Aztecs resume is littered with wins over bad teams and losses in every big game of the season, including losses to BYU (twice), New Mexico, UNLV, Arizona State, and Saint Mary’s.  The Aztecs also have backbreaking losses to Pacific and Wyoming.  These two losses to atrocious teams is what should keep the team from the NCAA tournament.  These losses could be overlooked if the team actually had a few good wins, but the Aztecs have no place in the NCAA tournament with the combination of bad losses and only 1 good win.

The main thing Joe Lunardi seems to be missing is that these teams do not have big wins.  He says he looks at the entire body of work, and that is great, but when the teams he puts in do not have any big wins, I don’t see how or why they should be rewarded with a bid.  Lets take a look at some teams who Lunardi did not include that actually have some big wins over respectable opponents.

Notre Dame- The Irish are the first team in Lunardi’s first four out, but the Irish have significantly better wins than any of the above 4 teams.  With wins over Pitt, West Virginia, and Georgetown, all in the top 15 at the time of the wins, Notre Dame has much better claim to one of the last few spots in the tournament than the above teams.  The problem with Notre Dame’s resume is that its non-conference schedule was poor, and the Irish has some bad losses.  However, 4 of the team’s 10 losses were to projected NCAA tournament teams.  This is far and away better than the losses of the teams above, and combined with the impressive wins, the Irish deserve an NCAA tournament bid over the teams that Lunardi has projected will receive bids.

Seton Hall-  The Pirates have one of the toughest schedules in the country (16), and have really been negatively affected by their schedule strength when pundits like Lunardi determine the projected tournament field.  Lunardi’s job is to find the 65 best teams, and when a team has lost 7 of its 11 games to ranked teams, and 10 of its 11 losses to projected NCAA tournament teams, that team deserves a bid without a doubt.  While San Diego State is losing to Pacific and Wyoming, Seton Hall has lost to Syracuse, Villanova, and West Virginia, with the team’s WORST loss coming to South Florida, who was a bubble team until a week ago.  Each of its other losses were to projected tournament teams.  Quality wins include wins over Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Cornell.  This team easily deserves a bid over a team like San Diego State or Virginia Tech.

Minnesota- The Gophers have a 17-11 record, and admittedly have some bad losses.  However, what this team has that the teams do not that Lunardi has included in his Bracketology is quality wins over big teams.  The Gophers have wins over Butler, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  Three wins over top 15 teams is much better than any of the projected last 4 in can claim.

Illinois- The Illini also have big wins to boast that others don’t.  Wins against Clemson, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, and Wisconsin highlight the Illini resume.  That is 3 wins against teams ranked in the top 15.  In addition, the Illini losses are more impressive than those of many of its bubble counterparts.  6 of its losses were against sure-fire tournament teams, and 5 were against ranked teams, with most of them in the top 15.  Therefore, the Illini resume trumps that of teams like Mississippi State and Saint Mary’s.

I think it is important to keep in mind that the NCAA tournament is not just looking for teams with the best records, but the BEST teams themselves.  The committee needs to consider who would beat one another if they played, and who has done quality work against good teams in the regular season to prove that they can beat good teams.  The last 4 teams in for Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology share a characteristic, and that is a lack of quality wins.  I have just identified 4 teams that have decent records, but have much more quality wins to justify their bid for the NCAA tournament.  In addition, most of these teams have much more impressive losses than those of teams such as Saint Mary’s and San Diego State, and these factors are what should separate the good teams from the mediocre teams.  I just am hoping that the NCAA Selection Committee pays more attention to quality wins than Joe Lunardi seems to, and hope that it pays less attention to only records than Lunardi does.

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  1. dj0081
    03/03/2010 at 12:24 AM

    So, why is a loss to USC embarrassing? USC has not only beaten St. Mary’s but UNLV and Tennessee as well. All of the teams in the Pac 10 are athletic and erratic. It’s a joke that the Pac 10 only has one team in Lunardi’s and other projections. It’s only exacerbated by the fact that Cal, which just won the conference title by beating AZ st by 16 garners only a 9 seed in most projected brackets.

    See the rest of my story at:

    http://bleacherscreech.typepad.com/bleacherscreech/2010/03/pac-10-better-than-votes-and-polls-indicate.html

    • 03/03/2010 at 2:11 AM

      The USC loss is embarrassing because USC is 16-12 with losses to Loyola Marymount, Stanford, Oregon (twice), Oregon State (twice), and Washington State (twice). USC’s best win was over Tennessee, who has been the most inconsistent team in the country this year and played terribly. That was the only win over a ranked team all year, and other than that USC hasn’t beaten a sure-fire tournament team. Basically, this means that they are nothing more than a mediocre team, and a loss to USC by a bubble team is a bad loss come Selection Sunday, there are no two ways about it.

      Cal is 20-9 and hasn’t beaten an NCAA tournament team to this point. The best win for the Bears is against Arizona State. Therefore, this record is upheld by a bad conference this year (sorry, no true powerhouses, and the traditional Pac-10 powerhouses, [UCLA and Arizona] stink this year). In addition, their best non-conference win is against Iowa State, and beyond that, I don’t even know (Princeton maybe??). The point is, Cal isn’t a sure fire autobid team because, just like the teams I mentioned above, they haven’t played anyone!

      As to the rest of your article, I don’t see how you say that Arizona is good or talented (the are 14-14). Portland sucks, by the way. They are 20-9, third place in the West Coast Conference as you mentioned, with the best win coming against Minnesota, and beyond that it is anyone’s guess as to who they have beaten. So don’t tell me Washington has quality wins over Texas A&M and Portland. Face it, they got 1 good win, and that is Texas A&M. No way that is close enough to getting them in when Notre Dame has 3 wins over top 25 teams and even more against NCAA tournament caliber teams.

      Overall, your article seemed to be a stretch that you were trying to make work. You seem to be a Pac-10 proponent, and gave little or no facts with regard to the teams in general, but instead claimed that, for example, Arizona is a good team, when in fact they are terrible (14-14 as I mentioned). The Pac-10 is a 1 bid league unless Cal goes deep in the Pac-10 tournament but then loses. Anything less and it is a 1 bid league.

      • dj0081
        03/04/2010 at 11:23 PM

        You seem to hone in on the fact that I mention that a .500 major conference team is good. Which may be a stretch. My problem lies with teams like San Diego State, which Arizona St beat and Rhode Island. Also a major problem with the West Coast Conference. If St. Mary’s deserves to be the 2nd team in from what I regard as a weak West Coast Conference, how can Portland suck? They must be good, because St. Mary’s has beaten no one this year. Still contend that if UCLA or Arizona were in the shoes of Washington and Arizona St there would be 2 Pac 10 teams in the projected brackets. Cal ran into a non-conference buzz saw this year. Lost to Kansas and New Mexico on the road and Syracuse and Ohio St at home. Didn’t really play anyone of note out of conference they could beat. Still doesn’t make them a #9 seed. USC beat UNLV, St. Mary’s and Tennessee. St. Mary’s should be so far off the bubble it would need a bus ticket to get to the bubble.

        Really think the Pac 10 has a lot of better than average to average teams from 6 to 10. Just a lot of good teams with young, raw talent and no one to take charge of the conference.

        At any rate, why I write. Love sports. Thanks for taking the time to read the piece.

      • 03/05/2010 at 1:18 AM

        I wasn’t trying to say that you thought all .500 major conference teams were good. I mentioned Arizona because you specifically said that they were talented, which they have proven that they are not.

        To San Diego State, I wrote in this article specifically that they have no place in the tournament, so I agree with you on that.

        And to your St. Mary’s comment, they haven’t done anything either. They lost their two biggest games of the year, Gonzaga twice. In my book you have to beat someone before you call yourself an NCAA tournament team, you can’t just post a good record against unproven talent in a “bad” conference (ie. Northern Iowa).

        Should be a fun week and a half though, I just hope the committee takes all the right factors into consideration.

    • 03/04/2010 at 1:04 AM

      TCU almost got New Mexico at home tonight. TCU (13-17) was within 3 points with under a minute left. The Horned Frogs have won exactly 3 games in over a month and a half, and they almost beat a projected 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Would Pittsburgh or West Virginia have allowed TCU to stay that close? No way in heck. They haven’t been in a truely close game against as bad of a team as TCU is all year. Why not? Because they are much more talented and much better than New Mexico. I’m sorry, but the Lobos haven’t proved anywhere near enough for me to believe they are a legitimate contender.

  2. KQ
    03/01/2010 at 7:12 PM

    i actually agree with you on this, but its not that hard because espn analysis guys in my opinion come up with their theory or whatever they call them but they always leave out atleast one key factor in their decisions and in total do a poor job

    i only take opinions mostly from the people on around the horn(although some stink) and pardon the interuption(unless tony or wilbon isnt there)

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