Key Thoughts Heading into Selection Sunday

by David Mihm | March 16th, 2008

1) UPDATE: I agree with Joe Lunardi, the Big XII champion will be a #1 seed in the Midwest.  The loser gets the #2 in the South.
We saw last year that the Big XII Final has essentially no impact on the seeding of the final bracket, given that the game finished about 11 minutes prior to the start of the Selection Show.  The exception is when Kansas and Texas are so close to the #1 line–Kansas only if the Jayhawks win.  We saw an undeserving Florida get the #1 over a deserving UCLA last year…the same thing is probably going to happen this year with the Jayhawks as the ‘perceived’ better team than Tennessee.  If Texas wins the Big XII Final, there’s a clear argument to place the Longhorns ahead of Tennessee, and I’d have absolutely no problem with that.

2) Bracket History 101:

Gonzaga (2002) – RPI 20, 28-3, WCC Reg. Season & Tournament Champion, N-Texas (22), N-St John’s (38), N-St Joe’s (73)
Result: #6 seed

Butler (2008) - RPI 16, 29-3, Horizon Reg. Season & Tournament Champion, N-VaTech (53), N-Texas Tech (66), Ohio State (46), Southern Illinois (61)
Result: predicted #6 seed, and certainly no higher than a 5.

3) The Play-in Game will likely feature the two worst teams, even though both of their conferences are almost always placed there.

Coppin State and Mississippi Valley State are SO much lower-rated in the RPI than Mt St Mary’s that it would be a pure tragedy for The Mount if they were relegated.

4) The Bubble: Comparing “Apples to Apples”

Hopefully this is an informative comparison of what I feel are the most difficult Bubble decisions. Ignoring “power numbers,” and only looking at games won and lost, how would you rank the following teams?


Arizona: 9-11 in de facto #1 league, 8-8 away from Tucson, 4-8 in its last 12 games, with significant injury to Nic Wise for several games
Best wins: @USC, @WSU, WSU, @UNLV, Texas A&M, San Diego State, @Houston
Bad losses: none.

Ohio State: 10-9 in #6 league, 5-10 away from Columbus, 4-8 in its last 12 games
Best wins: N-Syracuse, @Cleveland St, Florida, MD-BalCo, Purdue, Michigan State
Bad losses: @Iowa, @Michigan (both in last 12 games)

Villanova: 10-10 in de facto #2 league, 8-9 away from home, 7-5 in its last 12 games
Best wins: N-George Mason, @Temple, Pittsburgh, @Syracuse, N-Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut
Bad losses: @DePaul, @Rutgers

Arizona State: 9-10 in de facto #1 league, 6-8 away from Tempe, 5-7 in its last 12 games
Best wins: Xavier, Oregon, Arizona, @Arizona, Stanford, USC
Bad losses: none

Oregon: 9-10 in de facto #1 league, 6-10 away from Eugene, 6-6 in its last 1 games
Best wins: @Kansas State, @Arizona, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona
Bad losses: @Oakland-Michigan

Virginia Tech: 7-10 in de facto #3 league, 7-11 away from Blacksburg, 6-6 in last 12 games
Best wins: N-Miami
Bad losses: @Old Dominion, @Penn State


A) Villanova – Villanova’s best wins (UConn and Pittsburgh) compare favorably with Stanford and USC. They closed the season much better, and have four wins against NCAA level or Bubble competition away from home. Their loss to Georgetown was on a questionable call.
B) Arizona - The Wildcats did some great winning away from home, and despite a .500 record and a struggle to the finish, UA was hurt by an injury to Nic Wise, who’s now healthy. Their loss to UCLA was on a questionable call.
C) Arizona State – The Sun Devils’ good wins are as good as Villanova’s, including an “extra” win over Xavier. They also swept the Wildcats head-to-head, and lost to a good USC team on a questionable call. Stanford’s #318 non-conference SOS isn’t being questioned for their seeding…why should ASU’s count more?
D) Oregon – The Ducks are the hardest call for me. They have a nice win out of conference in Manhattan, KS, which is thoroughly offset by the loss to Oakland. Also, now that K-State has slipped into the 9-10 seeding range, that win doesn’t look quite as good. Nor does an overall 6-10 R/N record. The sweep of Arizona looks great, and having seen the Ducks in person on four occasions this year, they certainly pass the “eye test.” But are they better than some of the mid-majors below? I’m not sure…
E) Ohio State – A poor finish and so-so good wins (both at home) place the Buckeyes pretty far down the pecking order, in my opinion.
F) Virginia Tech – No bubble team has fewer true quality wins than VaTech, with the exception of VCU. I don’t think this team is all that close.
BUSHEL #2: The Atlantic-10
Saint Joseph’s: 12-8 (if they lose the auto bid) in #7 conference, 12-6 away from Hawk Hill, 6-6 in last 12 games
Best wins: @Siena, @UMass, @Temple, UMass, Villanova, Xavier, N-Xavier
Bad losses: Holy Cross, LaSalle, Saint Louis

Temple: 13-6 in #7 conference, 10-8 away from home, 9-3 in last 12 games
Best wins: Xavier, UMass, @Saint Joseph’s, Charlotte, N-Charlotte
Bad losses: N-College of Charleston, Fordham

UMass: 10-7 in #7 conference, 10-7 away from Amherst, 8-4 in last 12 games
Best wins: @Syracuse, @Dayton, Charlotte
Bad losses: @Northern Iowa, @Saint Louis, Fordham


UMass is clearly third in this pecking order, not having beaten Xavier. Saint Joe’s has nice wins away from home @Siena and over Xavier in the tournament, and also swept the Minutemen. Temple might be more vulnerable if they lose the final because their wins aren’t really all that great. But their record down the stretch is, and they have an outright 2nd place finish in conference play.


South Alabama: 17-3 in #15 conference, 9-5 away from home, 9-3 in last 12 games.
Best wins: N-San Diego, Mississippi State, Western Kentucky, @Western Kentucky
Bad losses: @North Texas

VCU: 16-4 in #13 conference, 12-6 away from home, 9-3 in last 12 games.
Best wins: N-Houston, N-Maryland, @Akron
Bad losses: @Hampton, @James Madison, Old Dominion, N-William & Mary

Illinois State: 15-6 in #8 conference, 9-8 away from home, 9-3 in last 12 games.
Best wins: @Creighton, Southern Illinois, Creighton, @Southern Illinois
Bad losses: @Eastern Michigan, @Northern Iowa

Stephen F. Austin: 14-4 in #19 conference, 12-4 away from home, 10-2 in last 12 games.
Best wins: @Oklahoma, @San Diego
Bad losses: @Nicholls State, @UT-Arlington, N-Northwestern State


South Alabama has an awfully good resume. If the win over Mississippi State hadn’t been at home, I’d say there’d be no question about their resume. I’ve gotta think the Committee will give them a free pass on North Texas, which also won @Oklahoma State earlier in the year. Both VCU and Stephen F. Austin have a lot of bad losses. The fact that VCU won its bracketbuster matchup on the road and the fact that they won the CAA, historically a well-respected league, by a full three games works in their favor. But are they better than Oregon or Arizona State? Better than Temple or UMass? I’m just not sure.

Illinois State is a very tough call. The Valley is a really good league, and other than the Eastern Michigan loss, none of their losses is all that bad. But none of their wins is all that impressive either. Virginia Tech’s resume looks pretty similar, and they’re in the ACC…I think it’ll be tough for the Redbirds to get much love from the Committee.

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31 Responses to “Key Thoughts Heading into Selection Sunday”  

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  1. Joe Says:

    Arizona also has another big win against Cal St.- Fullerton, if you can have MD-BalCO for Ohio State. You gotta have the same standards.

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  2. Sam Says:

    Illinois is a bad loss for Arizona State. Now it’s explainable since ASU is a young team and probably wasn’t fully ready for the season at the beginning, but it still should be listed in bad losses.

    Bubble teams better hope Georgia doesn’t win the SEC final.

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  3. Mike Says:

    I’m concerned with your use of the words “de facto” to describe the conferences that always get treated with “kid gloves”. You can up-play the ACC, SEC, and PAC-10 all you want but they are easier to play in this year that either the Big East or the Big 12. Kansas has the #1 rated offensive efficiency and #1 rated defensive efficiency by the Pomeroy ranking system and has been ranked #1 on that ranking structure for months. Tennessee has been overrated for a long time because of the failures of the RPI system and it’s starting to show. UCLA wouldn’t even be a top 10 team if it wasn’t for a couple of officiating calls. They’ve managed squeak out games for the last month that should have been won by double-digits by a top-5 team. The ACC won’t even get a single team into the final 4, the SEC won’t get a single team into the Elite 8, and the Pac-10 will be lucky to get UCLA into the Elite 8 and if they do, that’ll be the only team. Even pretending that teams like Arizona deserves to take a spot away from someone else only proves the bias towards the most unimportant stat . . . their conference. I can only pray that the selection committee is true to their word and doesn’t pay attention to the name of the conference. The Big East and the Big 12 will take 50% of the elite 8 this year . . . maybe we can still salvage some good games even if the brackets get loaded by elitists . . ..

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  4. Mike Says:

    For Arizona, you say “Bad losses: none”. What about:
    (123) Virginia at home
    (83) Arizona St. (twice) – and how is an RPI 83 team even on the “bubble”? How many better teams lose a spot if they get in?
    (122) Washington (by 9)

    Having a tough RPI schedule strength doesn’t mean anything if you lose all the games that are ranked above you. They beat 3 teams that were ranked above them and lost to 6 teams that are ranked below them. Their average loss is to RPI 43.5 by almost 8 points across those 14 losses (regular season) Their last regular season loss to (58) Oregon (18-13) was by 9 points. There are better schools out there. The only reason Arizona is ranked where they are in RPI is because of the artificially inflated schedule strength – and as I said, they lost the games that are driving that score up. Why should a bunch of losses make you look better?

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  5. Matt Says:

    Kentucky was beaten by Georgia. Would everyone agree this is kind of is a blessing in disguise in that it will get them a seed other than the dreaded 8 or 9?

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  6. Mike Says:

    Kentucky shouldn’t get a seed at all. They’ve played 9 games against teams that they may (or will for sure) see in the dance (counting San Diego who will be there). They are 2-7 against them. They’ve split their only two victories of any magnitude with losses (Vanderbilt and Tennessee) and their loss margin to Vanderbilt barely a month ago should disqualify them by itself (41 points). Again, the only reason they’re getting any attention is because they’re from the overrated SEC and they’re the only team other than Memphis to ever have 3 consecutive 30+ wins in a season. This is not their year. It may not be their fault (injuries, etc) but there are other teams that are much more qualifited (as I said in a previous post). You’re not rewarding Kentucky by letting them in, you’re punishing a more deserving squad by replacing them.

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  7. Matt Says:

    Kentucky will get in because of the number of bubble teams that lost early. Kentucky’s play down the stretch has really helped them. There simply isn’t many teams with a better resume at this point.

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  8. Mike Says:

    Since when was the Pac 10 the #1 conference “bar none” (de facto)? They have the same percentage of teams in the top 50 RPI as the Big 12 and the SEC. They have fewer total teams in the top 50 RPI than the Big 12, the SEC, and the Big East. They have a lower average RPI than the ACC. They only have 4 teams (40%) with fewer than 12 losses. That’s less than the Big 12 (50%), SEC (58%), Big East (44%), and fewer total teams than the Big 12 (6), the SEC (6), the Big East (7), and the Atlantic 10 (5). Heck, the Big East has 6 teams in single-digit losses.
    All of those numbers are from the regular season.

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  9. Mike Says:

    Matt Says:
    “Kentucky’s play down the stretch has really helped them. There simply isn’t many teams with a better resume at this point.”

    Posted on March 15th, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    So, the 41 point loss to Vanderbilt only a month ago isn’t part of that “down the stretch” period? If you discount everything before that, they’re 6-2 in their last 8 games including a loss to #97 Georgia today. If you do include those other conference games so that you can “boost” their “resume”, then you have a 41 point loss AND a loss to #97 . . . exactly which teams are you comparing to them when you say “There simply isn’t many teams with a better resume at this point”? Division 2? They’ve allowed teams to shoot 50% or greater against them 12 times during the regular season, 3 of those were >60%. They’ve shot under 50% 11 times and 1 of those was under 40%! Exactly which resume are you comparing them to? RPI 100-200?

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  10. Joe Says:

    Arizona wins against tournament bound teams…..

    Washington State (2)
    @ USC
    Texas A&M
    @ UNLV (Mountain West tournament champs)
    Cal State Fullerton (Big West tournament champs)

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  11. Mike Says:


    They’re 10-12 in their last 22 games! You can list the occasional win, but they haven’t strung together more than 4 wins in a row and 2 of those 4 were #92 and #122! You gotta be kidding me!

    How about losses against tournament-bound teams? (as many as 12)
    How about losses against non-tournament-bound teams? (as many as 6)
    How many of those 10 wins were against teams that aren’t even in the top 50 RPI? (70%)
    How many of those 12 losses were against teams that aren’t even in the top 50 RPI? (42%)

    Give me a break. That is the most obvious NON invite that I’ve ever seen. If the committee lets them in, they are really screwing over someone else. Especially this year when there are fewer “at large” bids left because of upsets in the auto-bid conferences.

    Why should a team waste a spot that someone who can actually play basketball this season could take when they lose more games than they win?

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  12. Joe Says:

    Georgia running through the SEC shows how terrible that conference is. Even with a short bench and playing 2 games in a row they still beat tournament bound teams.

    USC and Washington have road wins against the SEC teams LSU (Florida lost @ Home) and South Carolina (Arkansas lost). The SEC championship game Arkansas, the supposed tourney team lost to Georgia an under .500 team.

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  13. Sam Says:

    I have a question. So let’s say that Illinois somehow beats Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship. They’ll be a game under .500, but will be conference tourney champs in a power conference. What will they’re likely seed be? It’s hard to justify giving a sub .500 team anything better than a 15 seed, but that could be unfair to a top seed who has to play a team that’s just won the Big Ten tournament.

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  14. David Mihm Says:

    Sam, I’ve gotten that question a lot (re: Illinois or Georgia) today. I think the Committee will probably slot either or both of them on the 13 line. The reason is that they can work out the last Bubble teams’ regular-season rematches / conference conflicts much more easily in that scenario, as the 12′s and 13′s are virtually interchangeable being in the same pod.

    If they were to drop either to a 14 or 15 seed, it would involve a much larger shake-up of the bracket.

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  15. Tom Says:

    You guys who self-proclaim college tournament ranking expertise amaze me. You totally overlook team records and national rankings. The comment about Butler’s six seed maximum is totally amazing and underscores the weakness of your analysis. Butler was a 5 seed last year. This year it has a far better record, much better RPI, the conference regular season and tourney championships and a much higher ranking. A three seed is clearly in order. The bracket analysis about key wins and losses wholly overlooks record and overall performance. I guess a team can be beaten any number of times by average teams so long as they win over 20 games and beat some high ranked schools and avoid losses to the terrible teams. Why do you wholly discount the evaluations of the sportswrters and coaches who rank Butler 10 and 12 (and the ranking will go higher this week). Almost every team below and above Butler in proximity to it in the rankings lost without getting to the finals of their tournaments and lost, in the most part, to average at best teams. I strongly questioned your analysis before those losses were registered, and your faulty analysis is highlighted by those losses. I look forward to comparing your predictions with reality when the seeding comes out today.

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  16. James Says:

    Butler a 3 seed?

    Tom, are you an idiot or just a Butler fan?

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  17. Larry Says:

    Pitt should be a three at least, Same with Arkansas if that beat Georgia today. Louisville should drop. So should Xavier.

    Texas or Kansas should be a #1 instead of Tennesse

    Do not think Oregon should be in.

    I think Umass or Virginia Tech should be ahead of them.

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  18. Dex Says:

    Arkansas a 3 seed? Are you serious? Yeah they should definitely be given a 3 seed for beating Georgia in the final. Why don’t you take a look at the rest of their resume before saying that they are better than Xavier.

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  19. Mark Says:

    Again…I ask the question What about the Badgers? Had Michigan State or Michigan or OSU do what the Badgers have done this year they would be a LOCK for a duece seed AND in the discussion mix for a one. Instead people are talking about Texas being a one..??? Seems to me that Wisconsin Beat them on their home court this year AND now TX is going to be seed higher??? PLEASE explain to me HOW a team ranked lower in ALL the polls to Wisconsin and a lower RPI should be seeded ahead of them.

    TALK about a JOKE!!

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  20. jeff mcglone Says:

    If the Missouri Valley Conference is a really good league how come 11-7 in the league doesn’t even warrant consideration i.e. Southern Illinois and 8-9 in the Pac-10 is practically a lock. I mean Arizona State with an 83 RPI is in Spouthern with a 61 RPI is out, and they both have 5 wins against the RPI top 50. Southern is 6-4 their last 10 games Arizona State 5-5. Southern Ilinois has played, I love this the 15th rated schedule Arizona State the 77th rated schedule. It gets even better Southern Illinois played the 4th rated non conference schedule the almighty Sun Devils played the 304th rated non conference schedule. I mean what’s the purpose of Bracket Buster Saturday if you guys are going to continue to limit mid majors while you set quotas for the amount in the big to get in?

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  21. miles Says:

    Do you think Xavier can beat butler

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  22. Larry Says:

    First off, I am a BIG Xavier guy. I have actually been thinking they should be a #2 until their last game in the Tournament, true I should not let that change my view. I just think Pittsburgh should be rewarded for their effort in the BIG EAST Tournament. So I am moving Louisville down to a #4

    Here you go:
    #1′s North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, KANSAS/TEXAS winner
    #2′s TEXAS/KANSAS winner, Tennessee, Duke, Georgetown
    #3′s Wisconsin, Stanford, Xavier, Pittsburgh
    #4′s Louisville, Wash St., Clemson, Drake
    #5′s Uconn, Notre Dame, Butler, Michigan St.,
    #6′s Marquette, Arkansas, USC, Purdue
    #7′s Indiana, Temple, UNLV, Oklahoma
    #8′s BYU, Davidson, Texas A&M, St. Joseph’s
    #9′s Gonzaga, Kent St., Miami/FL, Kentucky
    #10′s St. Mary’s, Kansas St, West Virginia, Vanderbilt

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  23. Dex Says:

    You have Vanderbilt as a 10 and A&M ahead of Miami, Gonzaga, and K-State? Are you a crazy?

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  24. indigdoc Says:

    Oh…by the way. On the subject of the Last 4 In…

    Creighton gets in…as the should…as one of the most deserving of all of the non-deserving middle-of-the-pack BCSer’s & non-BCSer’s alike. Go Big Blue.

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  25. Maximum Smith Says:

    I think Butler should be a 4, USC a 5, Stanford a 4, Oregon out, Ariz. St. out.

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  26. play in game Says:

    will be Mt St MArys and Coppin State

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  27. Nick Evans Says:

    At halftime of the SEC Championship Game, Georgia is leading Arkansas, 36-26. If they are able to hang on it would be their third victory in two days and fourth since Thursday. This from a team that won four games all season in conference play! It is quite evident that seniors Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss are not going to allow their season to end without a fight.

    The likes of Ohio State, Arizona State, Virginia Tech and others are hoping that fatigue finally becomes an issue for the Bulldogs. If not, Georgia and Dennis Felton will burst the bubble of another tournament hopeful.

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  28. Philly Dog Says:

    I’m not trying to belabor the point – I have nothing against Arizona State – but it seems ridiculous to me that a team can get credit for “no bad losses” when they play teams between 200-300 in the RPI. Any major conference team is going to take Florida Gulf Coast (291), Idaho (299), Cal Poly (218), and St. Francis PA (315) to the woodshed.

    Va. Tech gets dinged for “bad” losses to Penn State (155), Old Dominion (129), and Richmond (120). Those opponents have half the RPI of ASU’s cupcakes mentioned above.

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  29. Swin S. Says:

    How did Baylor get In??

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  30. RE: Tom Says:

    Hey.. how you like Butler’s 7 seed?? Seems like you should leave the predicting to the experts.

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  31. James Says:

    ya, how is that Butler 4 seed working out for Tom now????

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