Rock-M-tology #2 is in the books...
As I alluded on Saturday, I'm a smidge less confident about Mizzou's place in the tourney after the tournament committee completed a mock bracket (with help from the RPI's Jerry Palm) at the end of last week, and instead of being a solid 7-8 seed, Mizzou was a 10. Mizzou was not alone, of course. Nearly every Big 12 team (other than KU, of course) was listed a full seed or two below where I had them placed in last week's Rock-M-tology.
Kansas - Rock-M-tology: 1 seed, Committee: 1
Kansas State - Rock-M-tology: 2, Committee: 3
Texas - Rock-M-tology: 3, Committee: 4
Baylor - Rock-M-tology: 5, Committee: 7
Missouri - Rock-M-tology: 7, Committee: 10
Texas A&M - Rock-M-tology: 8, Committee: 7
Now, in simulating how everything would play out, the committee filled in a couple of underdog conference tournament champions, and Oklahoma State was one of them, resulting in their getting a 9-seed while Rock-M-tology had them out of the field. But in all, four of the six teams above were seeded lower than where I had them, which is worrisome. It's pretty clear that the committee doesn't like the Big 12 as much as my numbers do (and here's a good time to throw out a reminder that my method of picking the bracket here is almost entirely based on numbers and ranks in given categories, meaning my own pro- or anti-Big 12 biases didn't come into play here), and it's pretty clear they value the Big East and ACC more. Shocking, I know. So with that in mind, I made some adjustments to account for that. The Rock-M-tology bracket is meant to both show my own opinions and offer a prediction for what might actually happen; balancing that out is sometimes difficult, but in this case, consider the eight Big East teams in the field a prediction more than my own opinion*.
* My own opinion of the Big East was damaged by my watching most of Pitt-WVU Friday night. It's amazing what overtime can do to perceptions of a game. That game was almost entirely unwatchable for the first 39 minutes. Down the stretch in the second half, both teams looked like they were running Mizzou's offense at its worst. Run 25 seconds off the shot clock, then pull up for a contested 3. Neither team scored for a long time down the stretch, but after the crazy final minute (which involved the Big East's 113th blown call of the conference season ... this time not catching Pitt stepping out of bounds when they clearly stepped out of bounds) and some exciting overtime play, suddenly we were looking at a Game Of the Year To Date candidate. Regardless, even though the end was fun, I came away relatively unimpressed with these two teams.
Now, I may be totally over-representing the committee's mock bracket, and things may not be as they seem. But for now, I'm going to take it seriously and say that their conclusions worried me a little.
A couple of baffling mid-range seedings came from the committee's mock bracket, but nothing egregious.
Illinois - What a strange resume the Illini have. They were tied for the lead in the Big Ten before laying a gigantic egg at home against Ohio State, and they still have a 9-4 record in a solid conference. They own four wins over both the RPI Top 35 and KenPom Top 35, and they have five road wins. However, their RPI is still only 70th, their KenPom rank is only 51st, they have iffy losses against Northwestern and Georgia, and straight-up bad losses to Bradley and Utah. They're certainly in the field right now, and their bid is relatively solid with recent wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin, but they seemed to jump straight from "out" to "8-seed" in a week, and that was probably a bit much. I have them as a 10 right now, but with their tough closing stretch (@Purdue, @Ohio State, Wisconsin among their final five games), chances are they'll either be out or a solid 7-seed when all is said and done.
Marquette - That's right, from underrated to overrated in one week. I mentioned that all of their tight losses showed they were close to being a good team, and they have started to solidify their bid with a 5-game winning streak ... but the committee gave them an 8-seed last week, and that was before their weekend win over South Florida. That probably means they're up to a 7 now, and ... let's tap the brakes a bit. South Florida is the only tourney contender they've beaten in this 5-game stretch, and this is still a team that lost to DePaul (!) and at home to a bad N.C. State team. Yes, they've lost a ton of close game, and yes, I'm all for them getting a little bit of credit for being so close to a much better record, but they zoomed straight from "not enough credit" to "far too much."
Rhode Island - The committee gave the Rams a 7-seed last week, and that's too high for a team a) whose best wins were against Dayton and Oklahoma State, two bubble teams in their own right , b) ranks 74th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, and c) is 0-4 against Pomeroy's top 50. Granted, the 7-seed was given before they lost by 22 at Temple, so they're probably not that high anymore, but let's not overstate their case here.
Ohio State - I'm picking nits on this one. The Buckeyes are #30 in the RPI and #7 in KenPom's rankings; plus, they've won 9 of 10 and have seized control of the Big Ten. But the committee slid them in at 3, and I still don't see them as anything higher than a 4-seed, however; I'm holding their losses to North Carolina and Michigan against them. If they keep winning, they could play themselves not only into a 3, but into a 2 ... but they're not there yet.
Florida - The committee gave them a 12-seed last week, and granted, that was before their 12-point home loss to Xavier, but that was still a bit too high. This team is 1-6 versus the RPI Top 30, and though they've done better against Ken Pom's top teams (3-7 versus his Top 50), they still rank only 54th in KenPom's rankings and 59th in RPI. A 6-4 record in the SEC is decent, but they're not in yet.
Xavier - The committee gave Xavier a 10-seed last week. Ten! For a team ranked in both the RPI and KenPom Top 20! Does not compute. That probably went up a bit with XU's win at Florida, but it shouldn't have been that low to begin with. Yes, the Musketeers blew golden opportunities with ultra-tight losses to Wake Forest, Temple, Butler, and Baylor, but a) all of those games were still ultra-tight, and b) they still have four wins over the RPI Top 50.
Baylor & Texas A&M - These two teams don't seem to be getting nearly enough respect at the moment. ATM is probably on its way to respect after recording its fourth straight win over an RPI Top 50 team in Lubbock on Saturday, but they still seem to be hovering in the 7-seed range, when they should be at LEAST a 6-seed. At 7-3 in a tough conference, with five wins over the RPI Top 50 and four over the KenPom Top 50, however, they have a very good case for at least a 5. Baylor, meanwhile, very much passes the eyeball test; plus, they're now 17th in the RPI and 15th from KenPom. They should absolutely be in the discussion for a 4-seed, but it doesn't appear they are just yet, with the committee giving them a ridiculous 7 last week.
Old Dominion - The Monarchs are #21 in KenPom's ratings and #33 in the RPI. This should signify a strong 7-8 seed, but they were given an 11 by the committee last week. The road win over Georgetown is damn impressive, they've beaten an NCAA gimme team in Charlotte, and they've swept an underrated William & Mary team. Plus, they own tight losses to Missouri, Richmond and Dayton, all away from home. To me, they are safely in the field right now, but it appears the committee might disagree.
San Diego State - I don't know what it is about the Aztecs, but for the second straight year, they continuously show up on my bubble or even in the field, even though nobody else has them even on the bubble. Let me make a case for them: SDSU owns wins (albeit at home) over tourney shoo-ins New Mexico and UNLV. They rank in both the RPI (#40) and KenPom (#46) Top 50. They've beaten Arizona, and they avenged their only truly egregious loss (at Wyoming) with a 30-point home shellacking. I don't have them in the field right now, but they should at least be on the bubble.
Louisville - I don't really know if the Cardinals are overrated or underrated, but it will be interesting to see how the committee handles a team who, just this week, took an unforgivable loss (blowout at St. John's) and snagged a resume-building win (at Syracuse). They are 7-5 in the Big East, which is obviously a good thing, but they have been extremely up-and-down. Syracuse was their first true good win, but does it balance out the fact that they lost to Western Carolina at home and were crushed by St. John's and Charlotte (at home)?
Last 8 In
I love me some St. Mary's, though I think getting blown out by Gonzaga and then losing in overtime to a decent Portland team might have been a death blow for them. I'm keeping them in for now, but I might be the only one.
Right now, if UTEP or California didn't get the automatic bid, they'd be in the Last 8 In. Siena would probably be the first one out.
First 8 Out
San Diego State
8: Big East
7: Big 12
6: ACC, Atlantic 10
5: Big Ten
3: Mountain West
2: Conference USA, West Coast
Midwest Region (in St. Louis)
1 Kansas vs 16 Stony Brook
8 Clemson vs 9 Charlotte
in Oklahoma City
5 Vanderbilt vs 12 South Florida
4 New Mexico vs 13 Siena
in San Jose
6 Gonzaga vs 11 Utah State
3 Georgetown vs 14 Wofford
7 Tennessee vs 10 Maryland
2 Purdue vs 15 Morgan State
West Region (in Salt Lake City)
1 Syracuse vs 16 Arkansas State
8 UNLV vs 9 Florida State
5 Baylor vs 12 California
4 Temple vs 13 Cornell
6 BYU vs 11 UTEP
3 Texas vs 14 Kent State
in New Orleans
7 Northern Iowa vs 10 Marquette
2 Duke vs 15 Coastal Carolina
East Region (in Syracuse)
1 Villanova vs 16 Lehigh
8 Missouri vs 9 Rhode Island
5 Butler vs 12 Virginia Tech
4 Ohio State vs 13 Sam Houston
6 Pittsburgh vs 11 Ole Miss
3 Wake Forest vs 14 Weber State
in New Orleans
7 Xavier vs 10 Illinois
2 Kansas State vs 15 Belmont
in Oklahoma City
South Region (in Houston)
1 Kentucky vs 16 Jackson State / UC-Santa Barbara
8 Oklahoma State vs 9 Old Dominion
5 Richmond vs 12 Louisville
4 Michigan State vs 13 Murray State
in San Jose
6 Texas A&M vs 11 St. Mary's
3 Wisconsin vs 14 Oakland
7 Georgia Tech vs 10 Dayton
2 West Virginia vs 15 Robert Morris
My At-First-Glance Final Four
Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State (why not??), Kentucky
Second glance: Georgetown, Texas (they're going to turn it around), Villanova, Michigan State
Missouri's inevitable path to destiny™ (ahem)
Rhode Island, Villanova, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Kansas