Playing For Seeds March 4, 2013
I’ve mentioned before how college sports, for me, has a junior high flavor. When we miss a bowl game (and we always miss bowl games), it feels like everyone left lunch early to go play kickball in the gym but nobody asked me to play. When we miss the tournament, Selection Sunday is pretty much me carrying my lunch tray past the Kansas/North Carolina table, not getting the wave-over invite, and sitting by myself in the corner, eventually to be joined by Stony Brook. I mean, Stony Brook’s a nice guy and all, but Sarah Lawrence is never going to go to the movies with a guy who sits with Stony Brook at lunch.
As such, locking up a Tournament bid before the Big Ten tournament feels like a phone call from Kansas on Sunday, inviting me to sit with him and Syracuse at lunch that week. It’s decided. There will be no nerves when I grab my tray and turn. Kansas has said it’s cool with him AND with Syracuse, so I don’t even have to worry about a funny look from Duke when I sit down. Screw Duke. He thinks he’s so much better than everyone. Kansas, Syracuse, and especially North Carolina probably hate him.
We’re in. It just feels so good to say it. Yes, I know there’s still doubters – they tweet me. “But what if every conference favorite loses in their tournament” people who have been Weber’d into expecting the worse. Here, I’ll put you at ease.
The Bracket Project takes 96 different bracketologists and combines their brackets. As of this moment, we’re a middle 7 seed (average of 7.48). Let’s take our worst case scenario (lose two this week and then get upset by Northwestern/Nebraska/Purdue in the first round of the BTT). That would make our resume look like this (and remember, RPI isn’t a used as a direct ranking – it’s used as a ranking of who you beat/who you lost to):
Record: 21-12 (with losses to Ohio State, Iowa, and let’s worst-case it and say we lose to Northwestern in the BTT)
Strength of Schedule: 9
vs RPI top-50: 5-8
vs RPI 50-100: 2-1
vs RPI 100-200: 8-3
Good wins: #28 Butler (neutral), #9 Gonzaga (road), #21 Ohio State (home), #7 Indiana (home), #16 Minnesota (road)
Bad losses: #117 Purdue (road), #142 Northwestern (home), #142 Northwestern (neutral)
Now let’s compare that, our absolute worst case scenario, to the current resumes of some real bubble teams. The Bracket Project puts Boise State right on the bubble. Here’s their resume:
Strength of Schedule: 67
vs RPI top-50: 3-5
vs RPI 50-100: 4-1
vs RPI 100-200: 7-2
Good wins: #36 Creighton (road), #14 UNLV (home), #17 Colorado State (home)
Bad losses: #187 Utah (road), #166 Nevada (road)
Remember, that’s the resume of a team that’s currently IN. But they’re not a big name. What about another bubble team like Kentucky (also listed as currently in)?
Strength of Schedule: 59
vs RPI top-50: 1-4
vs RPI 50-100: 5-5
vs RPI 100-200: 5-0
Good wins: #33 Missouri (home)
Bad losses: #84 Texas A&M (home), #80 Arkansas (road)
Or how about the first team out, Ole Miss:
Strength of Schedule: 132
vs RPI top-50: 1-3
vs RPI 50-100: 4-3
vs RPI 100-200: 5-0
vs. RPI 201+: 11-2
Good wins: #33 Missouri (home)
Bad losses: #204 South Carolina (road), #226 Mississippi State (road)
If any of these teams above go on a little run here at the end of the year (Kentucky beats Florida at home and then wins a few in the SEC tourney; Boise State wins at UNLV on Tuesday), they’re probably squarely in the tournament and no longer on the bubble. And we STILL have a better resume than all of them even if our worst-case scenario happens. Bubble teams just don’t have the wins that we have, and that’s what the committee looks at. You have to climb up to the three seeds to find a comparable list of wins. Yes, our Purdue and Northwestern losses knock us down, which is why I’m not talking about three-seeds right now. But our wins – especially our road wins at Gonzaga and Minnesota (and a little victory over this team called the Hoosiers) – just aren’t matched by three-quarters of the teams that will make the tournament.
So when your worst case scenario to close out the season is still better than 12-to-15 tournament teams’ best case scenario… you’re a lock for the tournament. The only people who haven’t locked us yet are those being paid to pimp the BPI. The committee cares about who you beat, who you lost to, and where those games took place.
Which means we’re playing for seeds right now. It’s never this simple – it’s never as easy as “lose this game we’re a 7 but win it we’re a 6″ – but that’s never stopped me from putting together charts like the one below. Using “if the season ended today” as my BTT guide (we’d be the 6-seed playing Northwestern and then facing Wisconsin in the second round), here’s my seed chart:
Lose @ Iowa, lose @ Ohio State, lose to Northwestern: 8 or 9
Win one of the road games, lose to Northwestern: 7
Lose both road games, beat Northwestern (maybe Purdue at that point), lose to Wisconsin: 7
Win both road games, lose to Northwestern: 6, chance at a 5.
Split the road games, beat Northwestern, lose to Wisconsin: 6 – chance at 5 if the win is Ohio State
Win both road games, beat Northwestern, lose to Wisconsin: 5, slight chance of 4.
After that we’re completely past best-case-scenario, so I’ll just say that a split this week followed by a 2-1 BTT is a solid 5 and probably a 4. Actually, that scenario would mean we could possibly count Butler, Gonzaga, Ohio State (twice), Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as victims. That’s a 4.
Man, with our wins, Selection Sunday is going to be lots of fun…
“Joe, were you surprised to see Illinois as a five seed?”
“Yes, that was quite surprising, especially with 11 losses. But when you see that they beat two of the #1 seeds, plus a 4-seed and a 5-seed and a 6-seed…”
Screw Duke. We’re sitting down at this table. Because we belong.