Sunday, March 15, 2009

Making a Case for the Mid Major Bubble Teams

So if you are Creighton and St Mary's. This is it. Selection Sunday. For Creighton, it's been eight agonizing days since their loss to Illinois State in the Valley Semifinals. For St Mary's, they broke up their six day tension of losing to Gonzaga in the finals of the WCC by crushing Eastern Washington Friday. It was a last minute scheduled game that the Gaels were able to setup since they had played less than 30 regular season games (as did Eastern Washington).

Both teams have had to watch at large bubble spots burst as the week progressed. First, Cleveland State stunned Butler on the Bulldogs home Hinkle Fieldhouse court to get the auto bid for the Horizon. Then the Friday 13th evening version of March Madness caused major aggravation for both Creighton and St Mary's. First, another guaranteed spot was taken as both Temple and Duquesne, two teams with very little chance at an large, won their A10 semifinal games over two big dance locks, Xavier and Dayton (the Owls won the A10 championship yesterday knocking off the Dukes). Then the Gaels and Bluejays watched as Maryland resurrected themselves with two wins in the ACC tournament, including a big win over #9 Wake Forest in the quarters. San Diego State caused further havoc by upsetting BYU, complicating matters even further.

Finally, Saturday brought more pain as USC, another team with no chance for an at large bid, came back from a 15 point halftime deficit to defeat Arizona State to win the PAC-10 automatic bid. Missouri, Memphis, and Utah State won the Big 12, Conference USA and WAC automatic bids respectively, so no bubble spots were claimed there. However, there is one last obstacle in today's SEC Championship as Mississippi State, a team with no chance for an at large bid can claim an automatic bid with a win over Tennessee, a lock for the tournament.

The question is whether one or both teams warrant a final at large bid spot. Based on Joe Lunardi's Bracketology, St Mary's and Creighton are battling Maryland, Arizona, San Diego State and Penn State for the three final spots. If that's accurate, then the Selection Committee will be reviewing all the material pertaining to the seven teams.

So, since the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is kind of like the Supreme Court of the Tournament, judging the fates of at large bubble teams, I would like to submit an appeal on behalf of both St Mary's and Creighton.

Dear Members of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee;

As the representative of St Mary's and Creighton, I humbly submit that both teams should be given an at large spot in the Field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament. I offer the following evidence on behalf of both teams.

Your honors, please first review the Moore Selection Committee Primer. The Primer is a three year old document that lists ten guidelines to follow when deciding whether to select a team for an at large berth in the NCAA Tournament. If you decide to follow those procedural guidelines, which I know you will since the Selection Committee is a honest evaluating body of the NCAA Tournament, then you will see that the teams I represent, St Mary's and Creighton
are worthy of induction to the tournament because they have NOT violated most if not all those procedural guidelines.

Now, I will make a case for each of the teams I represent. First your honors, St Mary's, RPI 47, has been a team exemplary of the requirements your committee wants when looking for an at large team. First the Gaels have a very good non conference SOS of 87. Second, they have neutral site wins over San Diego State and Providence fellow bubble teams. Third they have an impressive home win over Utah State, a 30 win team that has made the NCAA tournament by winning the WAC conference. The win over Utah State occurred without the services of one Patrick Mills, whose injury we will discuss later in my brief.

Fourth, the Gaels have one of the best road/neutral records in the country at 13-5. In fact, nine of the thirteen non conference games the Gaels had were either road or neutral games. In those games, St Mary's was an impressive 8-1, including the aforementioned wins over Providence and San Diego State. As you are well aware from my primer, the Gaels' neutral site win over the Aztecs should be a major determining factor in deciding between these two bubble teams.

I also want to note that three games in particular, road wins over Oregon, Southern Illinois and Kent State, were games over teams that last season made the either made the NCAA Tournament (Oregon and Kent State) or the NIT (Southern Illinois). The games with Oregon and Southern Illinois, two teams with a recent history of continued success in making the NCAA tournament, were scheduled in advance. As I am sure you know, the Salukis made the dance six seasons in a row before making the NIT last season. Oregon had made the NCAA tournament the two seasons prior to this one. I know these are facts/evidence that your committee particularly looks at during selection of a team worthy for the big dance.

Now yes, I have to respect the evidence against St Mary's. First, the Gaels overall SOS is 154. Second, St Mary's did struggle down the stretch, going 7-5 over their last 12 games. Third, yes St Mary's lost all three games to Gonzaga, including the embarrassing 83-58 defeat in the WCC Conference Championship.

However, I have rebuttals for all that evidence submitted. First, the overall SOS is low because the Gaels play in the West Coast Conference. However, the figure that the committee should find more important is that Non Conference SOS of 87. Second, yes, the Gaels did struggle down the stretch. However, that was due to the loss of one Patrick Mills, the star guard for the Gaels and the only player in the NCAA who played and actually started in the most recent Olympics. Before Mills was injured, St Mary's was ranked in the Top 25 with a 18-1 record. Also, as noted previously, my client won their important Bracketbuster game over Utah State without Mr. Mills. Also, during that 7-5 stretch, none of the non Gonzaga losses came at home. In fact one of the teams my client lost to, Portland, defeated Washington, the regular season PAC-10 champion, earlier in the season.

Finally, there is the matter of the 25 point loss to Gonzaga. Yes, that was a bad loss. However, that loss came in the West Coast Conference final to the #12 team in the country in Mr. Mills second game back from his broken hand injury. But before Mr. Mills was injured at the end of the first half during the first game at Gonzaga, the Gaels had a 39-33 lead over the Bulldogs. I submit to you that the Gaels with a fully healthy mid season Patrick Mills is a worthy opponent for the Bulldogs. Furthermore, the Gaels are not the only bubble team under consideration that has lost by Gonzaga by twenty or more points. Maryland lost to Gonzaga 81-59 earlier in the season in the Old Spice Classic. Therefore I submit to you that the 25 point loss be a minimal consideration in considering the fate of St Mary's.

Having made the case for St Mary's, I now submit evidence for Creighton's submission into the NCAA Tournament. Creighton, RPI 41 has also been an exemplary team worthy of entrance to the NCAA Tournament. The Bluejays were 26-7 overall and 14-4 in the Missouri Valley, the strongest mid major conference in the country (as your honors know, I do not consider the A10 a mid major conference). The Bluejays have a RPI of 41 and a very good road/neutral record of 11-5, two factors your committee seriously consider.

The Bluejays also have wins over Dayton, an at large lock for the NCAA tournament, and New Mexico, a team that was in serious consideration for an at large bid until the last couple of days. The Bluejays also have a road win over Northern Iowa, the regular season and conference tournament champion in the Valley. Creighton also was very strong down the stretch having won eleven games in a row before their loss to Illinois State

Yes, I know that there is evidence against Creighton's submission to the NCAA Tournament. Both of the wins over Dayton and New Mexico were home wins. Second, the non conference SOS of 141 is not terrific. Finally, the twenty four point loss in the semifinals to Illinois State does not leave a good impression with such a distinguished body as yours.

However, I submit to you that the Bluejays schedule, which includes the wins over Dayton and New Mexico, are more worthy of consideration than the non conference schedules of fellow bubble teams Penn State and San Diego State, neither of which have a signature non conference win over any team of note in the NCAA tournament or of bubble consideration. Also, unlike Arizona or Maryland, Creighton had an excellent conference record of 14-4, which tied them for first in the MVC with Northern Iowa. Arizona was .500 in the PAC-10 and Maryland was 7-9 in the ACC, both violations of the Moore Selection Primer.

Now that I have humbly submitted my case for St Mary's and Creighton, I must now make the case against each Maryland, Penn State, Arizona and San Diego State, as their consideration adversely affects my clients.

Penn State is perhaps the easiest to make a case against. Despite their 10-8 Big Ten conference record, the Nittany Lions have a RPI of 68, the worst of any the six teams considered for the last three at large spots. They also have the worst non-conference SOS at a truly awful 314. They have no significant non-conference wins of note as compared to fellow Big 10 Ten bubble teams Minnesota (Louisville) or Michigan (Duke, UCLA). And finally, they lost in their conference quarterfinals to Purdue by 14, having been down for a good part of the game by 20 plus points.

San Diego State is the next easiest to make a case against. Though the Aztecs have a very respectable RPI of 31 and a non conferences SOS of 92, they have no significant non conference wins of note. Second, their RPI vs top 5o RPI teams is a poor 2-5 with both wins being over fellow conference teams BYU and Utah. They do have three wins over UNLV and a win over New Mexico, two former bubble teams. However, the last key piece of evidence in ruling out San Diego State is that they have a neutral site loss to my client St Mary's (as well as a road loss to Arizona, who I will get to in a second).

As for Arizona, another strong case can be made. First, Arizona have a second worst RPI among the bubble teams considered at 63. The Wildcats have a truly absymal 2-9 record, a major violation of the Moore Selection Primer and a category your humble committee looks at very closely. All their significant conference and non conference wins were at home. Also, the Wildcats lost in the quarterfinals to Arizona State by double digits.

A strong case can be made against Maryland, RPI 51. The Terrapins were 7-9 in conference this season, a major violation of the Moore Selection Primer. Maryland's non conference SOS of 128 is lower than St Mary's. Their road record is a weak 2-6. And until they won their last two games in the ACC tournament, they were 5-7 in their last 12 games. They do have a signature neutral site win over Michigan State and did manage to make the semifinals of their ACC tournament but the other factors should outweigh that when choosing among St Mary's and Creighton.

So there you go your honors, thee is enough evidence to support my claim that both St Mary's and Creighton deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament over other teams such as San Diego State, Maryland, Arizona and Penn State. Please carefully consider the evidence before rendering your decision at 6:3o pm this evening.


Gary Moore
Mid Major Hoops

Hey what did you expect from someone that works at a law school. I may not have a law degree and my background is IT, but I have learned a few things from osmosis.

Enjoy the day and root for Tennessee to win the SEC championship. Then hope tonight the committee follows the evidence. Its elementary, Watson.

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