Discussion

California’s Unique Resume

by David Mihm | March 1st, 2010

California won its first Pac-10 title in 50 years over the weekend by sweeping the Arizona schools at Haas Pavilion.  Congratulations to Mike Montgomery and all of the players.  Ordinarily that feat would mean a top-four seed, and with this year’s host sites, a first-round placement in San Jose.

Not this year, however.  The Pac-10 is so dreadful (currently #8 in the RPI standings, according to Warren Nolan) that none of the Bears’ 12 conference wins came against a top 50 opponent!  So the Bears aren’t even guaranteed an at-large bid just yet, let alone a top-half seed.

In tweeting with RPI guru Jerry Palm yesterday morning, I was curious to get his take, given the Bears’ regular season championship and formidable RPI rating (somewhere in the mid-20′s).  His response: “I’m not THAT heavy. Win P10 tourney or sweat it out.”

I decided to do a little research using Ken Pomeroy’s amazing archives and find all of the comparable teams over the last six years.  That meant a regular-season conference champion in the #7, #8 or #9 RPI conference.

The problem was–out of 18 possible matches–there were almost NO comparable teams. No conference champion had near the number of conference losses as Cal, and few had its power rating.  Nonetheless, I did gain a bit of insight by comparing second-place teams with comparable records, and there was one champion–2006 San Diego State–with a similar resume.  Further complicating matters is that San Diego State WON the Mountain West Tournament that year and was still given an 11 seed, so we don’t really know what the Committee would have done if forced to make an at-large decision on the Aztecs. In fact, with the exception of last year’s Tulsa team–which, importantly, was left home–all of the other teams on this list won their conference tournaments and were still given #11 or #12 seeds.

The closest matches I found follow below, and for those who are interested, here is a link to the full spreadsheet.

Conference Champion:

2006 San Diego State
RPI: 56
Conference Record: 13-3
Top 50 Wins: NONE
Conference Tournament Result: WON
NCAA Seed:11

Second Place teams:

2005 New Mexico
RPI: 41
Conference Record: 10-4
Top 50 Wins: 2
Conference Tournament Result: WON
NCAA Seed: 12

2008 Temple
RPI: 65
Conference Record: 11-5
Top 50 Wins: 1
Conference Tournament Result: WON
NCAA Seed: 12

2009 Tulsa
RPI: 63
Conference Record: 12-4
Top 50 Wins: 3
Conference Tournament Result: Final
NCAA Seed: NONE

2009 Temple
RPI: 47
Conference Record: 11-5
Top 50 Wins: 2
Conference Tournament Result: WON
NCAA Seed: 11

Further complicating matters for bracket analysts this year is the fact that Dan Guerrero, UCLA Athletic Director, is the Committee chairman, and is allowed, under NCAA regulations, to make a case for the team that won his conference.  Should the Bears get into the field at the expense of a more deserving team, or be given a seed that seems out-of-whack with their profile, conspiracy theorists (which I am not–the Committee is made up of thoughtful men and women with considerable integrity) are going to have a field day.

For me, “out-of-whack” would be anything above the 8-9 line, although because this year’s Bubble is so weak, I can certainly see the case for the Bears being seeded in that game–along with other mid-major regular season champions UTEP, UNI, or Old Dominion.

In the end, I tend to agree with Jerry Palm that even a trip to the Final at the Staples Center may not be enough for the Bears, if a number of bids are “stolen” in other conferences.

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6 Responses to “California’s Unique Resume”  

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  1. John Says:

    I don’t think the Committee would ever leave a regular season power conference champion home under any circumstances.

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  2. James G Says:

    David – I think those ranks from the Pomeroy archive are the Pomeroy log5 rankings, not RPI. For RPI, I think you will have to use Warren Nolan’s archive. The problem with both, though, is they include the postseason.

    I just think Cal is wrapped up. I know they don’t have any top 50 wins, but their 0-4 against the top 50 is actually 0-3 against the RPI top 10, (Syracuse, New Mexico, Kansas), plus a loss to Ohio State with Evan Turner. I just don’t see how a team with an RPI ranking of 21st and an SOS ranking of 10th that’s also a regular season conference champion gets left out. And you know who does get credit for top 25 win? Anybody that beat Cal, including Arizona State and Washington. Certainly, I don’t anbyody would argue that Washington’s 53rd ranking in RPI but 2-2 against the top 50 is better than Cal’s 21st ranking, but 0-4 against the top 50.

    Yet, it seems like non Pac-10 teams with resumes similar to that of Washington or Arizona State are considered superior to Cal.

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  3. James G Says:

    Let me follow up. The most comparable to Cal in my opinion? 2004 Southern Illinois. 25th in RPI, 0-2 vs. the RPI top 50. Regular season winners of the Missouri Valley (11th in conference RPI that year). Northern Iowa won the tournament, and then Southern Illinois got a #9 seed.

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  4. Dr Bob Says:

    To even be debating whether Cal will get in is ridiculous. Cal’s non-conference losses were to great teams Syracuse, Kansas, Ohio State and New Mexico – all away from home, so to use the Bears’ 0-4 mark against top-50 teams as a negative is unfair given that all of those games were against top 15 teams away from home. Also, 3 of those 4 losses were played without unsung star Theo Robertson and the one game he did play against those great teams was a pretty competitive game at Kansas in which the Bears were down by just 5 points with 7 1/2 minutes remaining. Robertson averages 14.0 points on 50% shooting and 44% 3-pointers and is also the best defender among the starters, so not having him against Ohio State, Syracuse and New Mexico has to be a factor. Despite the poor performances in 6 games without Robertson, Cal is still ranked 18th in the Pomeroy ratings and 16th in Sagarin’s Predictor rating. Cal is one of the top 25 teams in the nation with Robertson in the lineup (I’m a professional handicapper and you’d get that same assessment if you asked a Vegas odds maker), so even having this discussion is ridiculous.

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  5. David Mihm Says:

    James, SIU was 17-1 in The Valley that year…a little different than 13-5 / 12-6…

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  6. NoeValleyJim Says:

    Somehow you forgot to include any teams with a 20 RPI. What is the usual seed for a conference champion with a 20 RPI?

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