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Thoughts on the First 2007-2008 Projected Bracket

by David Mihm | November 25th, 2007

Well, the first projected bracket of the new season is up. Many of the preseason invitational tournaments are in the books, and teams are starting to build their “bodies of work” for the Selection Committee. It’s still AWFULLY early to start projecting NCAA Tournament teams; the RPI formula is completely unreliable with so few games to take into account, and the subjectivity factor is high with only four or five games to analyze.

A few observations as I compiled the first bracket this week:

PLEASANT SURPRISES

  • Texas A&M - Even without Acie Law, the Aggies’ backcourt looks pretty good, and DeAndre Jordan is one of the nation’s top freshmen.
  • Illinois - Reports of Bruce Weber’s demise were greatly exaggerated. If Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt stay healthy, the product on the court for the Illini this year might be as good as it’s been since Deron Williams and Luther Head left for the NBA.
  • Washington Statethe Cougs aren’t necessarily underrated at #9 in the polls, but it still doesn’t seem like they get the media attention they deserve.
  • Miami FL - Wins over VCU and Providence have Frank Haith’s club well-positioned for an NCAA bid. Quality games at Mississippi State and against Winthrop loom before ACC play.
  • George MasonAmerica’s favorite Cinderella picked up two really nice wins in the Old Spice Classic over Kansas State and South Carolina. Throw in a win over a Bracket Buster opponent TBD & Jim Larranaga’s crew might get a chance to repeat their miracle run.
  • Baylor - The perennial Big XII doormat, just four years removed from the Dave Bliss/Carlton Dotson/Patrick Dennehy debacle, WON the South Padre Island Tournament, with wins over Winthrop and Notre Dame. That Pac-10/Big XII “snoozer” against Wazzu got a whole lot more interesting…
  • Montana - Head coach Wayne Tinkle looks to finish what Larry Krystowiak started. The Grizz upset Air Force over the weekend, after a close loss to Washington State; Montana looks to be the team to beat in the Big Sky.
  • Vanderbilt - Kevin Stallings’ club picked up a nice win at Bradley, and in a tepid SEC, the ‘Dores have a great chance to make back-to-back NCAA appearances.
  • St Mary’s - Randy Bennett’s team DOMINATED Oregon in a fast-paced game on Tuesday, instantly making the Gaels a legitimate NCAA contender. Patty Mills & co. are a legitimate threat to Gonzaga’s WCC supremacy this year.
  • Seton HallNice N-win over Virginia at the Palestra this weekend for Eugene Harvey & Co. A trip to Moraga to face the aforementioned Gaels and a home date with NC State are the remaining non-conference highlights for the Pirates.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

  1. Notre DameTwo close losses to Georgia Tech and Baylor aren’t serious cause for concern, but for a team that returned so many starters from a year ago, I would have expected more.
  2. USCFrom what I’ve seen so far, O.J. Mayo is good, but is not in the same class as Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, or DeAndre Jordan. Losing at home to Mercer is not a great way to start the season, albeit without Daniel Hackett. PATHETIC showing by Trojan “fans” at the Anaheim Classic, by the way. Average attendance might have been 452 (that’s four HUNDRED and fifty-two) for the three games.
  3. KentuckyGardner Webb? in Rupp? Take heart though, ‘Cats fans, the SEC looks pretty weak this year…
  4. Washington - No time for the Huskies to panic, despite Andy Katz’s assertions in his blog over the weekend. There are still plenty more opportunities for quality non-conference W’s, and the Pac-10 offers even more. They do need to win outside of Hec-Ed Pavilion at some point, though…
  5. Oregon - Aaron Brooks’ graduation was a much bigger loss to this team than I anticipated, as Tajuan Porter is now a liability at the 2. Can Bryce Taylor run the point when he comes back from injury? Because Kamyron Brown may not be the answer…
  6. NevadaYes, Nick Fazekas is gone, but Ramon Sessions might have been the more important loss for the Pack. Nevada’s at-large hopes are on life support after defeats to Central Florida and UNLV, and a win versus Cal is essential this week.
  7. NC State - Wolfpack atoned for the “sin” of losing to New Orleans by winning the Old Spice Classic, but greatness was expected of Sidney Lowe’s team after its magical run through the ACC Tournament last year.
  8. DePaul - Losses to Creighton and North Carolina A&T — yes, the nation’s WORST team two years ago — and a one-point win against lowly Northwestern are not a great way to start the season.

CONFERENCE THOUGHTS

  • Congrats to the Atlantic Sun on all of the non-conference W’s on the road(Belmont over Cincinnati and Alabama, Mercer over USC, and Gardner-Webb over Kentucky). The A-Sun will still be a one-bid league, but here’s hoping it pays off in the form of a higher seed for the conference champ.
  • The Big XII is going to be really interesting this year. I thought Kansas would run away with things before the season started, but A&M, Texas, and Mizzou have impressed early, and I think the Jayhawks will have their hands full.
  • The top of the Big Ten looks pretty good–Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue could all make Final Four runs this year. The bottom of the league is AWFUL, however, with Penn State and Northwestern losing to Rider and Brown, respectively, so far in the early-going.
  • By no means am I an East Coast apologist, but the ACC once again looks to me like the nation’s best league. The Pac-10 or Big XII could still prove me wrong, but UNC and Duke are as good as ever, and there’s a lot of new blood in the lower tiers of the league.
  • This year’s SEC might be the NCAA version of last year’s NBA Eastern Conference. Tennessee and Vandy look like the only truly quality teams at this point in the season…
  • Memphis may not go undefeated in CUSA this year. UCF is playing great basketball right now, Houston is 5-1, and UAB gets Robert Vaden back after his transfer year hiatus.

“A+” SCHEDULERS

Billy Gillispie / Mark Turgeon, Texas A&M
Bruce Weber, Illinois
Mike Anderson, Mizzou
Rick Barnes, Texas
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Jim Larranaga, George Mason
John Calipari, Memphis
Sean Miller, Xavier
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Roy Williams, North Carolina
Mike Kryzyzewski, Duke

“D-” SCHEDULERS

Trent Johnson, Stanford
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Steve Alford, New Mexico
Al Skinner, Boston College

Noticeably absent from this list is Jim Calhoun, who got his team into the Coaches vs Cancer Tournament, added a neutral game against Gonzaga, and is headed to Indiana in the middle of Big East play. There’s also a game against surprising Central Florida just before New Year’s. No one would ever call the Huskies “Road Warriors,” but there’s significantly more meat on the scheduling bone this year than in the past.

As always, I welcome the comments of BracketNation & rely on you guys to keep me straight!

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14 Responses to “Thoughts on the First 2007-2008 Projected Bracket”  

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  1. scootmandu Says:

    I am a bit surprised that you have pretty much ignored Wisconsin’s surprising start so far this year. Yes, I no the oppnents have not been world-beaters, but they have been fairly dominant, except for one half. This team ALWAYS does better when they are flying under the radar.

    I think Kam Taylor’s departure will actually help. As much as we will miss Alando Tucker. he was not the best at getting the other players into the game. I think Trevon Hughes is gonna be turning a lot of heads on both ends of the court.

    The Duke game should be quite interesting, even if they don’t come out of Cameron with a “W.”

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  2. Jameson Says:

    Boeheim actually went out and scheduled this year so you can take his name off your list of coaches who schedule poorly. He got them into the Preseason NIT. Plus he has games against the top A-10 teams, goes to Virginia, and faced a tough Siena team that already beat Stanford. They also play the Ivy League’s best team in Cornell. There are only really two pushovers on the Orange schedule this year.

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  3. Rick Says:

    Just because he did better than usual doesn’t mean it’s still borderline terrible.

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  4. Nick Wolf Says:

    Purdue making a Final Four run this year? Im a diehard fan and all but I would say thats a bit of a stretch.

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  5. David Mihm Says:

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    @scoot – I haven’t ignored Wisconsin’s start by any means, but as you say, the opponents haven’t been world-beaters, and they’ve all been home games. I seeded them one line below the Illini purely for neutral vs home reasons; I think the caliber of opponents beaten is the same.

    The Badgers could definitely sneak up on a lot of teams in the Big Ten, not to mention Duke tonight. I did mistakenly leave them out of the ‘could make Final Four runs’ argument though. No question they should have been in there with Purdue and Illinois (see below)

    @jameson – Notice that I didn’t give Boeheim an “F” this year–which he clearly earned for himself and his team by missing out on the NCAA Tournament last year. When you have to go out of your way to say how quality Siena and Cornell are, it’s obvious there’s just no meat. The road game at Virginia is a nice improvement, but what happens if the Orange lose that one? N-Washington and H-St Joe’s may not be enough to get into the Tournament without 11+ Big East wins…The Committee has no problem with scheduling lesser teams, as long as you play a few of them on the road. They also have no problem with playing a bunch of home opponents, as long as the caliber is higher.

    Everyone gripes about how Arizona has made the Tournament the past couple of years with middling Pac-10 and Last-10 records. The reason is that Lute is a warrior when it comes to scheduling & there are ALWAYS one or two major scalps in the non-conference season, not to mention a perennial Top 5 SOS. I’m not saying Boeheim needs to schedule to that extreme, but he needs to spend more time studying how the Tournament is selected and seeded, rather than lobbying for its expansion.

    @Nick – Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that Illinois and Purdue (and Wisconsin) could make Final Four runs. But I think if you compare those teams to others similarly placed (4-5-6) in some other leagues (particularly the SEC and Big XII), the quality is noticeably higher, at least based on play to date.

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  6. Jameson Says:

    I understand where you are coming from, but at least Syracuse plays good teams every single game almost. They may not play top tier teams but they are challenged every game. You can’t say that about the other Big East teams. Look at Pitt, UCONN, and others, they are absolutely pounding the crap out of teams that are 20-30 point underdogs. S.U. plays two teams of that stature this year while most other Big East teams have 5+ games against those teams.

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  7. David Mihm Says:

    Jameson, I agree that a bunch of the Big East coaches leave something to be desired in terms of scheduling. I’d probably give Dixon a C or C-, because his team is quite a bit younger than Syracuse, and he has done well with his scheduling strategy in the past. A relatively weak schedule makes more sense for Dixon than for Boeheim, who should be trying to make a stronger impression on the Committee after last year…

    …but remember, I don’t actually have a vote on the Selection Committee :)

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  8. Tony Chapman Says:

    David — Check me if I am wrong, but I don’t think North Dakota State is eligible for the tournament until the 2008-2009 season. They could certainly win the Summit League, but won’t be able to make the tournament because they are in the final year of their Division I transition.

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  9. Steve Says:

    I know it just happened a few hours ago, but after our huge upset win over Clemson I really deserve the Ole Miss Rebels deserve a little consideration as a force to be dealt with in the SEC this year. If we can get by Southern Miss next week we should be going into our SEC schedule at 13-0. The only games I feel Ole Miss might have trouble in is our games with Tennessee, Vandy, Arkansas and MS State, which is our biggest rival, and we know with rivalries the record doesnt matter. If we continue playing great basketball, I think getting at least a 4 seed in the tourney is achievable. Just do not forget the boys down in Mississippi!

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  10. Dale Says:

    Memphis is tough. I saw the Georgetown game and unless they have a mental breakdown no one in C-USA can run with them.

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  11. Rick Says:

    I find it hard to believe you are working so hard to make sure at least 4 SEC teams make the field. Maybe 3 teams max are worthy. The league is getting wiped off the floor by teams in the top 50 and barely breaking even against the remaining top 100. All we heard saturday on ESPN is how Memphis is going to walk through a weak C-USA, yet that same weak C-USA is 4-2 against the SEC. Memphis has yet to play a SEC school this year so that means the rest of those weak teams are winning against the SEC.

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  12. Jeff Says:

    A Plus Scheduling …..I dont know how you can leave Arizona out of that list…..They went to Kansas and lost a tough one in OT…..went to Memphis and were in the game until the end with out Bayless…..went to Houston ….went to UNLV…..brought in Texas A&M and brought in Virginia ….not to mention how tough the PAC 10 is playing this year you have to add them to that list

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  13. David Mihm Says:

    @Jeff – You’re right Jeff, I should have included Arizona on the list. I was more trying to get some fresh blood on this particular one.

    Long-time readers know, however, that I have LONG held the ‘Cats up as a model for scheduling in a manner that benefits them most on Selection Sunday. Note the number of mentions of Lute Olson’s tactics in my article on “Scheduling 101″.

    Fans scream every year about Arizona being overseeded with double-digit losses, but those in the know realize that this is exactly the kind of scheduling behavior the Committee rewards.

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  14. TC Says:

    Well, returning to this issue late in the season…it turns out that the Cuse’s OOC SOS is an impressive 18 and their OOC RPI is a 30. URI (home L), UMass (home L) and St Joe’s (home W) were all a bit better than most pundits thought, as was the A-10 as a whole. tOSU (neutral site L) is probably a tournament team. UVA (road W) was playing much better when the Cuse went to their house and won – of course now they’re in a free-fall.

    All-in-all, hindsight being 20-20, I’d give Jimmy B. just that: a solid B for scheduling, but perhaps only a C or C- for dropping a number of those OOC tilts, especially at home.

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