Sunday, March 14, 2010

The End of the Line - Will Utah State Be Left Out?

You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring
Waiting for someone to tell you everything
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring
Maybe a diamond ring

For some teams on Selection Sunday, no lyrics are more true. Besides, I have always wanted to put a Traveling Wilburys' song into a blog article. As much as I like Petty, I love the Traveling Wilburys even more. "Handle with Care" is one of my life theme songs. But with this being the last day before "the end of the regular NCAA season" and the start of the NCAA Tournament, I thought "End of the Line" was appropriate. The original song is on Youtube here, but there is no embed code ( "Why Wilburys, why?"). So why not put the Petty version on! YES!

Jerry Beach tweeted early in the week stating "Why can't I shake the feeling that more mid-majors than usual are going to get screwed this year b/c the bubble is so lousy?" I responded with "Nah. All the good teams that r deserving won conf tournaments sans Utah St. W&M is possibility but Wake loss to the U hurt."

And despite stating the case for W&M a couple of days ago, I believed deep down the bad losses to Towson, UNCW, James Madison, and the televised Bracketbuster to Iona, were the nails in the coffin. And Wake struggling down the stretch, including their 20 point first round loss to Miami in the ACC tournament, was weakening that W&M win.

And I really thought it was a good tournament season for the mid majors. Northern Iowa, Butler and Gonzaga were already in. Two of them, the Panthers and Bulldogs won their conference tournaments anyway. Outside of W&M and perhaps Wichita State, all the other mid major possible bubble teams got the job done - Old Dominion, Siena, and most importantly St Mary's won their conference tournaments. Cornell won the Ivy title, which has no post season tournament. Despite my respect for the Tribe and the Shockers, I thought they are more flawed than other teams that have been left out before. This year, I believed there would be no St Mary's, no Missouri State, no Drexel and especially no Hofstra.

Then "Last Night" occurred (cue another Wilburys' song) as potentially, both Beach's and my tweets might have sadly been a foreshadowing. Last night, New Mexico State stunned number one seed Utah State in the final of the WAC 69-63. The 27-7 team that went 14-2 in the WAC regular season is now sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Hoping for that diamond ring - the NCAA Tournament. I think they are in. But I am not a member of the No Clue At All Tournament Committee.

Utah State had won 17 straight games before the loss to NMSU, had going into yesterday a RPI of 26, and a non conference SOS of 83. The Aggies best win is a ten point home win over BYU, a "lock" to make the NCAA Tournament. The question is, will a 27-7 team be left out of the equation?

Right now, as I write this Lunardi's last two teams in are Virginia Tech and Minnesota. He has Utah State in as well right now as an eleven seed. His first three teams out are Mississippi State, Illinois and Florida. But will the NCAA see it that way. Not sure. Let's compare the teams in, shall we? And for further breakdown of how these teams' fates should be decided, read the Moore Primer.

Utah State - 27-7 . RPI- 26, Non Conf SOS-83, vs RPI Top 25 - 1-0, vs RPI Top 26-50 - 1-0, vs RPI 51-100 - 8-4. Last 12 games record - 11-1. Best wins - BYU, Wichita State (both home) Worst Loss - at Utah
(Utah RPI - not good).

Virginia Tech - 23-8. RPI - 57, Non Conf SOS -344, vs RPI Top 25 - 0-3, vs. RPI Top 26-50 - 3-1, vs. RPI 51-100 - 5-3. Last 12 games record - 7-5. Best wins - at Georgia Tech, Clemson (home). Worst Loss - at Boston College (BC RPI - 119).

Minnesota - 21-12. RPI - 69, Non Conf SOS - 61, vs. RPI Top 25 - 3-3, vs RPI Top 26-50 - 2-3, vs. RPI 51-100 - 1-2. Last 12 games record - 8-4. Best wins - Michigan State, Purdue (Big Ten Tournament), Butler (neutral site). Worst Loss - at Indiana (Indiana RPI - 215 - Ugh!).

Mississippi State - 23-10. RPI - 64, Non Conf SOS - 209, vs. RPI Top 25 - 1-4, vs. RPI Top 26-50 - 1-0, vs. RPI 51-100 - 6-2. Last 12 games record - 7-5. Best wins - ODU neutral site, Vandy (SEC Tournament), Florida (SEC Tournament), Worst Loss - Rider at home (Rider RPI - 140)

Illinois - 19-14. RPI - 70, Non Conf SOS - 130, vs. RPI Top 25 - 3-3, vs RPI Top 26-50 - 2-5, vs. RPI 51-100 - 1-1. Last 12 games record - 6-6. Best wins - at Clemson, Wisconsin (road and Big Ten Tournament), Michigan State (home). Worst Loss - Utah (neutral site - Utah RPI - 156 eek!)

Florida - 21-12. RPI - 54. Non Conf SOS - 121, vs. RPI Top 25 - 1-8, vs. RPI Top 26-50 - 2-0, vs. RPI 51-100 - 5-2. Last 12 games record - 6-6. Best wins - Michigan State (neutral), Tennessee (home). Worst Loss - South Alabama at home (South Alabama RPI - 211, OMG!)

Now the Bulldogs could win the SEC tournament today vs. Kentucky and that would mean Minnesota would be last in. But then the Gophers could win the Big Ten Tournament today as well and make that moot as well. Only Va Tech and now Utah State would have their fates to be determined.

Let's say both lose and these are the last six teams we are debating. Immediately eliminate Virginia Tech for that horrible non conference SOS and not having one good non conference win. Also for similar reasons, let's eliminate Mississippi State for that bad non conference SOS and because we think they will lose to Kentucky today. And we will eliminate Florida for a mediocre last 12 games record, the loss in the SEC quarters, plus the bad loss at home to the Jaguars.

That leaves Minnesota, Illinois and Utah State getting in. I believe Minnesota is going to get in because they have a) a good neutral site win over Butler, b) a good record over the last 12 games - 8-4, plus a good record vs. the RPI Top 50 (5-6). Similar, I think Illinois gets in because of their record vs the RPI Top 50 (5-8). And finally, Utah State sneaks in with their record over the last 11 games and the BYU win is better than any non conference wins Miss State or Virginia Tech have.

Here's the 65 Teams I have making the tournament;

America East - Vermont (auto)
Atlantic 10 - Three - Temple, Richmond, Xavier.
ACC - Six - Duke, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson and Florida State.
Atlantic Sun - ETSU (auto)
Big 12 - Seven - Kansas (auto), Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State
Big East - Eight - West Virginia (auto), Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Marquette and Notre Dame.
Big Sky - Montana (auto)
Big South -Winthrop (auto)
Big Ten - Six - Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois
Big West - UCSB
Colonial - Old Dominion (auto)
Conference USA - Two - Houston (auto), UTEP (though don't be surprised if they are on the bubble)
Horizon - Butler
Ivy - Cornell
MAAC - Siena
MAC - Ohio
MEAC - Morgan State
Missouri Valley - Northern Iowa
Mountain West - Four - San Diego St
(auto), New Mexico, BYU, and UNLV
NEC - Robert Morris
Ohio Valley - Murray State (auto)
PAC 10 - Two - Washington (auto) and California
Patriot - Lehigh
SEC - Three - Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee
Southern - Wofford
Southland - Sam Houston State (auto)
SWAC - Arkansas Pine Bluff (auto)
Summit - Oakland (auto)
Sun Belt - North Texas (auto)
West Coast - Two - St Mary's
(auto) and Gonzaga
WAC - Two - New Mexico St
(auto) and Utah State

But we have been here before. St Mary's last year. Drexel three years ago And of course, Hofstra and Missouri State four years ago. So I don't know what Dan Guerrero and friends have in store for all of us, especially Utah State.

Two things Selection Sunday has taught me over the years. One, controversy is what the No Clue At All lives for apparently. And most importantly, two, what team has a friend on the ten member committee. There is a bright side. It won't be three years in a row that Arizona controversially gets in the dance. That streak ends this season thank God! (Sorry Mo Goldman).

As for Utah State, as far as the NCAA Tournament goes, hopefully it's not really "The End of the Line".

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