Friday, January 24, 2014

The Friday Appraisal: Mid Majors and the #1 Seed

Welcome to the Friday Appraisal, where the Bracket Briefer covers several important college basketball questions. We'll also preview Saturday's most important games. First up, who do you got? Wichita State or San Diego State?
  1. Let's say Wichita State wins out and so does San Diego State. Who gets the #1 seed?

    So, first, we're presuming that Arizona, Syracuse, and Michigan State (or perhaps Kansas depending on how things go) ends up with a #1 seed, leaving one spot. I am also presuming that the committee will leave a #1 seed for an undefeated Wichita State or a one-loss San Diego State ahead of some other team, which is a pretty safe bet.

    I'm going to say in that scenario, San Diego State gets the nod. It will have run through the entire season losing only one game: to Arizona in a closely-contested affair. It would have wins over Kansas and Creighton, both away from home, and the teams in the Mountain West Conference are superior to Wichita State's competition. If San Diego State wins out, it is getting a #1 seed, without a doubt (which Arizona needs to be careful of so as to not lose the Anaheim regional).

    So let's modify the question: what needs to happen for Wichita State to get a #1 seed on Selection Sunday? First, they have to win out in almost every scenario. I suppose Wichita State could lose at Indiana State, and a MVC championship game loss might be acceptable depending on who it is against. But Wichita State's non-conference schedule is simply not as good as Gonzaga's was last year, and Gonzaga ran the WCC table, losing to no bad teams the entire season.

    Second, Wichita State needs San Diego State to lose another game. One should be good enough, though a loss at Boise State or New Mexico may keep SDSU around. Two would be plenty.

    Third, Kansas probably needs to lose once or twice at some point. The Jayhawks will get a #1 seed if they end the season on a 21-game winning streak. Besides KU, I think it is unlikely that any other team could keep out Wichita State. Kansas would need to have the combination of strength of schedule and wins, and no one else near the top right now has that.

  2. Can Washington make the tournament?

    Let's be clear that Washington's computer numbers right now are not good. It is sitting at 105 in Ken Pomeroy's, 106 in Jeff Sagarin's (though the PURE_ELO may be better, and UW's is a better 79th), and RPI Forecast has the Huskies at 99.

    So things are not great for Washington, but they are looking up. For one, Washington was terrible in the non-conference season, when it had one of the easiest schedules in the entire country and still lost 5 games, beating only one team in the Pomeroy Top 200. But when the Pac-12 schedule hit, Washington turned everything up a notch. It blew out Arizona State in Tempe, hung tough at Arizona (having a lead in the last 10 minutes), beat Utah and Colorado (the game where Spencer Dinwiddie blew out his knee, but UW was still playing well prior to that), and beat Oregon last night.

    Washington's lone bad spot was its trip to the Bay Area where it was handled easily by Cal and Stanford. But those teams are looking like at-larges currently, and road games are always tough. UW at least demonstrated an ability to win on the road so far when it beat ASU.

    Washington doesn't get a return trip to Arizona this year, so a bonus points upset is out of the question. It is sitting at 12-8 and 4-3 right now. Five games are must wins: the two with Oregon State, the two with Washington State, and one at USC. That puts UW at 17-8 and 9-3. The Huskies need to defend their home court against Cal and Stanford, which would put them at 19-8 and 11-3. Already, that record could be good for fourth in the Pac-12 and a good bet for a bracket spot.

    But it can't just lose every other game (at Utah, at Colorado, at Oregon, and vs. UCLA). Go 1-3 in those games (a possibility given Colorado and Oregon's recent fortunes), and Washington shows up to the Pac-12 tournament 20-11 and 12-6. Barring a weird loss in the Pac-12 tournament, that should be good enough for a tournament berth. But anything less, and Washington will probably rue setting such an easy non-conference schedule and failing to defeat anyone good in it.

Friday night's big game was out in the America East between Vermont and Stony Brook. Stony Brook opened up a big lead at home, but Vermont, a consistent America East power, battled all the way back. Stony Brook, relatively new to Division I, has never made it to the NCAA tournament. But tonight, the Seawolves hung on, taking a huge step towards getting that first Big Dance berth.

@Manhattan 67, Rider 51
@Stony Brook 67, Vermont 64

The two games that I would like to highlight out of a full day of Saturday basketball are at opposite ends of the bracket. We'll first see Michigan head to a game at Michigan State for a game of the last unbeatens in the Big Ten. Michigan has been extremely hot since narrowly losing to Arizona at home in mid-December. But Michigan State is still the class of the Big Ten and would likely look even better on paper if not for all the injuries.

Then keep an eye on the Pac-12 to see how the fortunes of Colorado and Arizona State will play out. Colorado has simply not been the same without Spencer Dinwiddie, but after a decent second half performance at Arizona on Thursday night, there is reason to think that CU can pull the upset, especially since Arizona State nearly already lost at home once this week to Utah. Colorado needs this game to prove to the committee that it can win tough games without Dinwiddie, and ASU needs this game simply because it has too many losses on a ho-hum schedule.

#3 Iowa at Northwestern
#5 Florida State at #7 Duke - good ACC match for fourth place
#13 Delaware at Towson
#4 Xavier at #8 Providence - XU can cement erasing Bahamas disaster
#8 George Washington at George Mason
#10 VCU at La Salle
#1 Syracuse at Miami (FL)
Georgia at #6 Kentucky
#8 Texas at #11 Baylor - UT can knock Baylor off bubble
#10 Kansas State at #4 Iowa State - tough game for ISU to try to stop bleeding
#2 Villanova at Marquette
West Virginia at #5 Oklahoma State
Stetson at #14 Mercer
Virginia Tech at #5 Virginia
#11 Tennessee at #2 Florida
#8 Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Wagner at #16 Robert Morris
#15 American at Army
#11 New Mexico at Colorado State - UNM needs wins desperately, almost out of bubble
(NFO) Dayton at Rhode Island
Saint Joseph's at (LFI) #12 Richmond - surprising win by Richmond continues
South Carolina at (FFO) Missouri
#16 North Carolina Central at Coppin State
#4 Wisconsin at Purdue - Wisc. should win with ease, but...
#13 North Dakota State at South Dakota State
#15 Georgia State at UL Monroe
#14 Stephen F. Austin at Central Arkansas
#4 Pittsburgh at Maryland
Auburn at (LFI) #12 Arkansas - Ark. can afford no losses like this
San Jose State at (NFO) Boise State
Alabama A&M at #16 Southern
#3 Michigan at #1 Michigan State
#7 Connecticut at Rutgers
#16 UNC Asheville at High Point
(NFO) Southern Miss at East Carolina
#9 Colorado at (FFO) Arizona State
#16 Elon at Samford
Marshall at #12 Louisiana Tech
Eastern Kentucky at #15 Belmont
(FFO) LSU at Alabama
Georgetown at #3 Creighton
#1 Wichita State at Drake
#2 Kansas at TCU
Texas Pan-Am at #14 New Mexico State
Sacramento State at #16 Northern Colorado
Hawaii at #14 UC Irvine
BYU at #9 Gonzaga - BYU needs major wins after 3OT loss at Portland
#2 San Diego State at Utah State

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