How To Fail At Scheduling 101: Northwestern

I don’t write much about my graduate alma mater on this site, because well, Northwestern isn’t in New York City. (Though the Wildcats are coming to the Barclays Center this season.) But today Chris Collins has provided the college basketball community with a great example of what not to do in non-conference scheduling. Continue reading “How To Fail At Scheduling 101: Northwestern”

NIT Bracketology: Feb. 17

NIT logo

There is no more perplexing team in this week’s NIT Bracketology than the Georgia Bulldogs. CBS’ team comparison tool breaks down conference and non-conference RPI and Mark Fox’s team had the 216th RPI during non-conference games and current is 8-4 in the SEC with the 31st RPI during conference play. It’s mind-boggling. Continue reading “NIT Bracketology: Feb. 17”

NIT Bracketology: March 11

Here we are once again. Selection Sunday is upon us. For this bracket I did a complete scrub of all the seeds. I also started taking into account the fact that some major conference teams can make offers to host that the NCAA just can’t turn down. In the back of my head the Iowa quote about making a competitive offer keeps coming up. The Hawkeyes are definitely in the field in my opinion — they just have so many good wins it’d be hard to turn them down — but for the first time I have them playing Round 1 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Continue reading “NIT Bracketology: March 11”

The Bubble Battle

This is obviously a work of satire. Enjoy nonetheless.

Announcer: Welcome to Bubble Battle! It’s the reality show where your favorite college basketball team has a chance to put up or shut up once and for all. During the next 10 weeks these 10 teams will play a round-robin “bubble conference” schedule. We’ll show you the results in just a minute, but first let’s meet the contestants.

<Pans around the room, see a bunch of head coaches sitting in chairs on stage>

Announcer: First up are the Seton Hall Pirates. They’ve got one good win, over Georgetown, but having played in the Big East are sitting right around the bubble. They didn’t even finish .500 in conference, even with the conference tournament, but head coach Kevin Willard thinks his team should be in.

Willard: We challenged ourselves this season. With wins over VCU, Connecticut and Georgetown at least we beat a couple NCAA teams.

Announcer: Next up is Tim Cluess and his Iona Gaels. Iona has the best offense in the field, but were inconsistent during MAAC play and ended up losing in the semifinals to Fairfield, which is playing in the CIT. Their best wins are over Denver, Nevada and Saint Joseph’s — none of which will be in the NCAAs. Still, they feel they’re deserving of an at-large bid.

Cluess: I think we’ve got a lot of talent on this team. We’re better than the eight or ninth team in the Big East. I’m glad we get a chance to prove it.

Announcer: I’m sure you all recognize Northwestern’s Bill Carmody, South Florida’s Stan Heath, N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried and Cal’s Mike Montgomery. They’ve all been here before. <All nod solemnly> Welcome Marshall’s Tom Herrion, Drexel’s Bruiser Flint, and Dayton’s Archie Miller to the show as well. <Applause> I almost forgot, Miami’s Jim Larranaga is over there in the corner. He’s switching sides this season and got lost in the transition. <Larranaga waves and smiles awkwardly>

Announcer: Well, you all know why we’re here, so why don’t we get the games started? As you know, you’ll be playing 10 weeks of round-robin basketball. Those games alone will determine your status on the NCAA bubble. Same games, same courts. No excuses. Anyone have any questions?

Audience Member: A results oriented process? This surely isn’t run by the NCAA?

Announcer: Nope, this tournament isn’t run by the NCAA. It’s actually sponsored by the People For Common Sense (PFCS), who eventually hope to bring you the CBBCL. Unfortunately, this is the best they could do.

Carmody: But the bids count, right? You’re not going to stick my team in the First Four afterwards so everyone can say we’ve never been a part of the NCAA Tournament’s Top 64, right?

Announcer: Of course they count. Now lets get things started. Here’s a montage of all the games. <Long montage plays with basketball games going in the background, tip-ins, buzzer beaters, all sorts of lucky shots, eventually it fades to black>

Announcer: And here are the final standings. Remember the Top 5 teams from this group are expected to make the tournament. Finishing in a tie for first with 12 wins apiece, Cal and Iona. Congratulations to both of you, by winning 2/3 of your games this season you’ve advanced to the NCAA tournament.

Cluess: Always glad to have the opportunity, thanks for supporting smaller programs everywhere.

Announcer: Finishing in third place with 11 wins is Drexel. Congratulations to the Dragons. And winning a three-way tie for fourth place with nine wins are South Florida and Dayton. Congrats to the dancing Bulls and Flyers.


Larranaga: Hey wait, we won nine games too. What about us?

Announcer: You really think any of this is fair? The games were decided by an average of two points. So about 12 points total separates first place Cal from 10th place Northwestern and you think this is fair? It’s like you’d rather a committee figured out what teams get at-large bids.

Carmody: I sort of like the idea of a committee. Process breeds good results.

Willard: Yeah, humans understand the emotions of playing in a college basketball game so much better.

Herrion: Or we could expand to 72 teams?

Carmody: Then we’ll never win.

<Announcer walks off stage>

What does best mean?

What does best mean?

This season more than any other we seem to be stuck in a crossfire from the age old NCAA selection debate about the “good mid-majors” versus “middling majors” and at-large bids. The CAA title game is tonight and the team that loses, either Drexel or VCU, is about to join Iona and Middle Tennessee squarely on the bubble.

The problem is that on that same bubble are teams like Northwestern and Seton Hall. The Wildcats are 18-12 and 8-10 in the Big Ten heading into the conference tournament. The Pirates are in the same boat at 19-11 and 8-10 in the Big East. Iona has 25 wins as do the two teams that will take the court in Richmond tonight. MTSU has 24. Should these teams be rewarded for dominance in a mid-major setting?

It’s tough to decide. The NCAA selection committee is charged with selecting the 37 “best” remaining teams for at-large bids. The criteria of that, as we’ve seen in mock selections, comes from a variety of sources — but too often the RPI. Let’s start there.

RPI for the six teams:

  • Iona – 41
  • Northwestern – 48
  • VCU – 49
  • MTSU – 59
  • Seton Hall – 60
  • Drexel – 63

The best and the worst here are separated by exactly 22 spots. Go further down the chain and the difference of 22 spots in the RPI is the difference between TCU (100) and Oklahoma (122). I dare you to tell me which is better. Obviously it has failed to solve the problem. What about two other metrics stat heads love, LRMC and Ken Pomeroy?

LRMC for the six teams:

  • Iona – 32
  • MTSU – 41
  • VCU – 44
  • Drexel – 47
  • Seton Hall – 56
  • Northwestern – 63

Pomeroy for the six teams:

  • Drexel – 41
  • VCU – 46
  • Northwestern – 49
  • Iona – 56
  • Seton Hall – 62
  • MTSU – 63

Average ranking combining all three:

  • Iona – 43
  • VCU – 46
  • Drexel – 50
  • Northwestern – 53
  • MTSU – 54
  • Seton Hall – 59

It is fascinating to me that the team often called the “best” amongst these six teams, and the safest in bubble predictions, Seton Hall, consistently falls in the fifth place position in these metrics and is sixth in average overall ranking. Why they are they the “safest”? Opportunity.

Best in the college basketball world doesn’t mean, “Expected to go furthest in the tournament,” or “Strongest tempo-free resume.” Instead it means, best “resume,” which is a funny word all in itself. Seton Hall’s resume says that on some nights it can beat really good teams like Georgetown, Connecticut, West Virginia and, coincidentally enough, VCU. Then again, SHU’s resume also includes losses to Villanova, Rutgers, DePaul and fellow bubbler Northwestern.

Similarly, Northwestern has beaten Michigan State. Actually, that’s not similar at all. The Wildcats have one Top 50 RPI win and four painfully close RPI Top 50 losses. That’s why, even with the head-to-head result, Northwestern is behind Seton Hall right now.

But those two teams each had 11 chances to get those Top 50 wins. You know how many chances VCU, Drexel, MTSU and Iona had combined? Seven. They won three of them. (Note: Drexel has a chance to get another Top 50 win tonight if it beats VCU.) Unfortunately, all of those teams also had the opportunity, thanks to leagues they play in, to accumulate some bad losses. The four non-BCS teams have four 201+ RPI losses (two each for Iona and MTSU). Their leagues offered the chance for Iona and MTSU to screw up and unfortunately the Gaels and Blue Raiders fell for it. That thin line meant one screw up in their respective conference tournaments left them in an almost helpless situation.

And they’ll be penalized for it too. Because even though the numbers think that Iona might be the “best,” they didn’t have the opportunity to prove it on the court.

2012 NIT Bracket from BPI

Here is the second edition of the NIT bracket using Drew Cannon’s BPI. I want to note a few things. Here are auto-bids by teams that you might be wondering where they are:

  • Iona (MAAC auto, would’ve been the final at-large according to BPI)
  • Akron (MAC auto, would’ve been in NIT)
  • Murray State (OVC auto, would’ve been in NIT)
  • Oral Roberts (Summit auto, would’ve been in NIT)
  • VCU (CAA auto, would’ve been in NIT)
  • Davidson (Southern auto, would’ve been in NIT)
  • Cleveland St. (Horizon auto, would’ve been in NIT)
  • Wagner (NEC auto, would be the 12th team into the NIT)
Final four teams into NCAA via at-large: Northwestern ($), Minnesota, Arizona and Saint Joseph’s
Now that we’ve got that out of the way. Here is the bracket. Note: As I did the last time I preserved the S-curve so there are match ups here that don’t make sense or would be reseeded. What it does mean though is that the ones are the top four teams into the NIT, the twos the next four etc. Hopefully this is informative. I’ll have a fully human authored and seeded bracket on Thursday.

1. Xavier
8. Tennessee
4. Colorado
5. LSU
3. Cincinnati
6. New Mexico State
2. South Dakota State
7. Dayton

1. Wyoming
8. Mercer
4. UCF
5. Oregon
3. Colorado State
6. Stanford
2. Drexel
7. Buffalo

1. Mississippi State
8. Virginia Tech
4. Pittsburgh
5. St. Bonaventure
3. Marshall
6. South Florida
2. La Salle

1. Northern Iowa
8. Denver
4. Missouri State
5. Arkansas
3. Massachusetts
6. Mississippi
2. Washington
7. Villanova

To be honest. This is a pretty nice and quite reasonable bracket. The first four teams left out are: Montana, Tulsa, Kent State and Duquesne. There are good match ups throughout the bracket and an intriguing potential second regional final between Xavier and Cincinnati. My guess is that a couple of these would get flipped in a true NIT bracket, for instance Arkansas would host Missouri State, South Florida would host Marshall, Stanford would host Colorado State, etc. but it seems like the right teams are getting in. It’s also worth noting that there is an 11-13 Villanova team somewhat safely into the field. It’s crazy, but the Wildcats are sitting right around the NIT bubble.

NIT Bracket: February doesn’t mean clarity

Welcome to February. We’re in the thick of conference play, so that means that the NCAA tournament bracket is becoming more clear, right? Wrong. Unbalanced schedules are a death knell to a bracket prognosticator right now. Teams of equal quality can play completely different schedules and ::poof:: no one knows what’s up anymore. Take for instance Northwestern, the reason I started tracking this darn stuff in the first place. Two respectable bubble watch guys, Eamonn Brennan over at ESPN and Andy Glockner at SI don’t even have the Wildcats in their respective watches. Jerry Palm, another respected bracketologist has Northwestern in the NCAA tournament in his latest bracket.

Continue reading “NIT Bracket: February doesn’t mean clarity”

Assist Tracker: Dec. 22

The Northwestern – Creighton game provided plenty of fireworks and also a bunch of notable assist efforts. First I’d recommend reading this great piece by Patrick Marshall. He used some stats I collected about Doug McDermott and Grant Gibbs and ran with it using his insights from watching the Bluejays play all season. It’s really interesting stuff.

Grant Gibbs (G, Creighton) — In keeping with the theme of Marshall’s piece five of Gibbs’ 12 assists in Creighton’s 87-79 win over Northwestern were to Doug McDermott. Gibbs’ assists were mostly for threes (7), but also included two jumpers and three layups. McDermott finished the game with 27 points on 10-14 shooting from the field. Overall nine of 10 baskets by McDermott on Thursday were assisted by a teammate.

Antoine Young (G, Creighton) — That’s because Young added three more (the final one was by Ethan Wragge). Overall Young had seven assists with a relatively even breakdown between four layups and three threes. Creighton had 26 assists on 30 baskets (86.7%). The Bluejays came in having an assist on 66.3% of their baskets, 10th in the country.

Dave Johnson (G, Quinnipiac) — Johnson had 10 assists as Quinnipiac defeated Niagara 85-81. Six of the 10 assists went to Ike Azotam who went 13-18 overall and scored 32 points. Six of Johnson’s assists went for layups, three for threes and one dunk. Johnson, a junior from Jackson, NJ, also scored 13 points. He came in averaging 2.9 assists per game, so this was a bit of a surprise.

Zac Swansey (G, Tennessee Tech) — Swansey really spread his 10 assists around in the Golden Eagles’ 81-68 win over Kennesaw State. Jud Dillard got three assists and scored 16 points. Liam McMorrow also got three and scored 15 points. TTU’s leading scorer, Kevin Murphy, had 21 points, but got just one assist from Swansey in the game.

Michael Bizoukas (G, Missouri State) — Even though Missouri State fell in overtime to West Virginia 70-68, Bizoukas continues to thrive with the Bears. He had 10 assists against Mountaineers. Five of them went to Kyle Weems and another four were to Caleb Patterson. Bizoukas is getting help from his teammates as seven of his assists were either on threes (4) or jumpers (3) – though to be fair three were also on dunks.

Aaron Craft (G, Ohio State) — Usually it is Craft’s defense and not his offense that’s making headlines, but in Ohio State’s 69-40 win over Miami (OH) he had nine assists and just one was to Jared Sullinger. Instead it was William Buford that benefitted the most from Craft’s passing with six of his eight baskets coming off assists from the sophomore. Buford led the Buckeyes with 18 points. Overall Craft had assists on five jumpers, three layups and one three. It’s also worth noting that the box score gives Craft for eight assists, but the play-by-play says the total was nine.

John Shurna (F, Northwestern) — Northwestern’s loss was disappointing for the Wildcats and one of the reasons is that Shurna didn’t really show up. He went 6-14 from the field and scored 18 points while mostly being a non-factor in the outcome. It’s worth noting though that Shurna did have nine rebounds and six assists. Those six assists were evenly distributed with two each to Davide Curletti, Luka Mirkovic and Drew Crawford. That means Shurna contributed to both of Mirkovic’s two baskets – another problem for the Wildcats – and two of Curletti’s four. Overall Shurna assisted on three layups, two jumpers and one three.

Two big names that didn’t do much? Junior Cadougan had just one assist in Marquette’s win over Milwaukee. He took on more of a scoring role against the Panthers, leading the team with 15 points. Shabazz Napier had five assists in Connecticut’s close win over Fairfield. Only four of them are in the ESPN play-by-play, one is a dunk by Andre Drummond.

Assist Tracker: Dec. 18

Not much happened in the world of assists during a slow day in college basketball. Only one player went over 10 assists, and that was even with some of the top assist guys in college basketball playing. Here’s a look at five of the highlights.

Shabazz Napier (G, Connecticut) – Napier had 13 assists in the Huskies’ 77-40 win against Holy Cross. Five of the 13 assists (38.5%) were for dunks. That’s pretty consistent with his season average. Also worth noting is that he had two assists for threes, both went to Jeremy Lamb.

Jordan Daniels (G, Boston College) – The Eagles proved their not terrible, with a 75-55 win over Bryant in which Daniels had nine assists. Six of those assists went to Lonnie Jackson, who led BC with 26 points. In all the two combined to account for 17 of Jackson’s 26 points and five of Jackson’s seven made threes came from Daniels.

Tim Frazier (G, Penn State) – Frazier is one of the most fascinating point guards in the nation and he didn’t disappoint against Mount St. Mary’s. He finished with 15 points and eight assists in 38 minutes in a 72-43 victory. His eight assists went to six different people and six of the eight were for threes. Frazier is the definition of a drive-and-kick point guard.

Nate Wolters (G, South Dakota State) – After turning some doubters into believers with 34 points and seven assists in a 92-73 win over Washington Wolters has to be feeling pretty good right now. The Jackrabbits’ guard, who is beloved by tempo-free wonks, played all 40 minutes against the Huskies and was the best player on the court. None of his assists went to a teammate close to the basket. He assisted on two jumpers and five threes on the night.

Luka Mirkovic (F/C, Northwestern) – Like Wolters, none of Mirkovic’s seven assists in Northwestern’s 87-72 victory over Eastern Illinois went to a teammate near the basket. The assisted on four jumpers and three threes, welcome to a center in the Princeton Offense. Want to know why David Sobolewski shot so well against the Panthers (he was 5-6 for 12 points). It was the two-man game with Mirkovic, who gave Sobo four of his seven assists. Oh, two of John Shurna’s record-tying threes were off Mirkovic assist as well.