April 29, 2014

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Bracketology: Who's In, Out and On the Bubble?

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive


Even if it wins the Big East tournament, it looks like Denver will be on the road for first-round NCAA tournament game. If there's widespread conference postseason surprises this week, the Pioneers could be closer to the bubble than thought. (Andy Lewis)

This much we know: Notre Dame and Loyola are two of the 18 teams in this year's NCAA tournament after they locked up the ACC and Patriot League championships and automatic qualifying bids, respectively, on Sunday.

The rest will be decided over the course of the remaining eight conference tournaments this week and a couple of regular-season finales that could affect RPI numbers. Saturday's Loyola-Johns Hopkins, Charles-Street-bragging-rights battle in Baltimore, for example, has important NCAA tournament meaning for both teams.

There are some interesting possiblities after Notre Dame went on a two-game tear to win the ACC AQ. The Irish went from a bubble team to a likely top-eight seed in one weekend, which means the bubble got smaller for everyone else with the other five ACC teams all but assured spots and a mix of Ivy League teams with cases among a couple other at-large hopefuls.

The race to play in May is broken down below in a special Bracketology edition of "Tuesdays with Corey."

What counts

-- RPI, of which a official variety can be found at NCAA.com.

-- Top 10 opponents average RPI, or RPI Strength of Schedule that is found on LaxPower.com. It is based on a team's 10 highest-ranking opponents in RPI from the season.

-- Record vs. the top 5 RPI, top 10, top 15 and top 20, as well as record versus teams 21 and below. Good wins and bad losses.

-- Average opponents' RPI in wins and average opponents' RPI in losses, which speaks to the quality of wins and the quality of losses.

-- Overall win-loss record

-- Head-to-head results

-- An important note: A team must have a .500 or better record against Division I opponents to be considered for at-large selection.

What doesn't count

-- When a game is played. A February result will have the same impact as an April one. "When a game is played is irrelevant," NCAA tournament selection chair Jim Siedliski said.

-- Unavailable players at the time of a game. If a key player is suspended for a game or multiple games, his absence will not factor into weighing a particular result.

-- Margin of victory

FIRST ROUND AQ QUALIFIERS (6)

Conference Team
(*in)
Record RPI RPI Strength of Schedule Record vs. RPI 1-5 vs. 6-10 vs. 11-15 vs. 16-20 Top 20 Wins Outside Top 20 Losses
ACC Notre Dame*
8-5 6 4 1-2 3-2 0-0 0-1 Syracuse, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina
 
Patriot Loyola* 14-1 4 5 1-0 0-1 0-0 1-0 Duke, Penn St.
 
Ivy
Harvard
9-5
18
8
1-2
0-1
1-1
1-1
Cornell, Yale, Princeton
 
Big East
Denver
12-2
9
33
0-2
1-0
0-0
1-0
Notre Dame, Penn St.

CAA Hofstra 10-4 12 25 1-0 0-0 1-0 2-2 Cornell, Drexel, Fairfield, UMass St. John's, Marquette
America East Albany 9-5
15
21
0-1
0-0
0-2
3-0
Harvard, Penn St., UMass
Bryant, Canisius

The skinny: Notre Dame and Loyola are in. Based on the at-large situation, none of the other four teams is completely safe should it not win its conference tournament. The America East is a one-bid conference and the CAA likely is, too, while the Ivy is a little more complicated (and could send up to three teams) and Denver's standing isn't as steady as observers might think. The Pioneers have a high RPI, but their top 10 opponents' strength of schedule is the worst of this group, and any other team in the NCAA tournament at-large picture. They also have only two RPI top-20 wins. Should they not win the Big East tournament and more suprises happen elsewhere, Denver may be closer to being left out of the big show than imagined, especially if Harvard or Yale win the Ivy, and especially since any Big East tourney loss would come to a team ranked outside the RPI top 20. (Strangely enough, the second-highest ranked Big East team, according to RPI, is St. John's, at 25, and the Red Storm didn't qualify for the conference postseason.) In any event, it looks like the Pios will be on the road for a first-round game even with a Big East title. Cornell and Penn have better overall resumes than Harvard right now, so if either the Big Red or Quakers win the Ivy tournament this weekend, that will add an at-large spot to the fun, and relegate the Crimson to that discussion. A win over Yale is in the Ivy semis is almost a must for Harvard to get an at-large spot.


PLAY-IN GAMES 'FIRST FOUR' AQ QUALIFIERS (4)

ECAC
Fairfield
11-3
16
47
0-0
0-0
1-1
1-0
Yale, UMass
Air Force, Providence
MAAC Siena 9-5 30 49 0-1 0-0 0-2 0-0   St. John's, Robert Morris
NEC
St. Joseph's
11-3
31
55
0-1
0-0
0-1
0-0

High Point
Atlantic Sun Mercer 55 66 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0   Michigan, Detroit, UMBC, Air Force, Jacksonville, Bellarmine

The skinny: These are all one-bid conferences. Fairfield is the top seed in the ECAC tournament and plays Michigan in the semifinal round, while Ohio State takes on Air Force, both games in Columbus, Ohio. The Stags would be the most bubble-ish of any should they not win the tournament, but it would be an uphill battle should it come to that. Ohio State is 6-7 right now and needs to win the tournament to get a seat at the May Madness table for the second year in a row. Watch for Bryant in the NEC and High Point in the Atlantic Sun as well.


AT-LARGE TEAMS (8)

ACC Duke 12-3 2 1 1-2 5-1 0-0 1-0 Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia, Penn, North Carolina, Denver, Harvard  
ACC
Syracuse
10-4
1
3
2-1
2-3
2-0
0-0
Duke, Notre Dame, Cornell, North Carolina, Johns Hopkins, Albany
 
ACC Virginia 10-5 7 2 2-2 1-3 2-0 0-0 Syracuse, Loyola, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Drexel  
Ivy
Cornell
11-3
5
6
1-1
1-0
1-1
1-1
Penn, Virginia, Yale, Princeton
 
ACC Maryland
10-3 8 15 2-0
2-2
0-1
0-0
Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia
 
Ivy
Penn
9-3
3
9
0-2
1-0
1-0
1-1
Denver, Yale, Harvard
 
ACC
North Carolina
10-4
10
7
0-2
2-2
1-0
2-0
Virginia, Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Harvard

Independent Johns Hopkins 10-3 11 12 0-1 1-2 1-0 1-0 Maryland, Albany, Princeton  

The skinny: Duke and Syracuse are the class of this group and will be the top two seeds in the tournament, barring major upsets by Boston University or Colgate in their season-finales. Virginia may sneak up and surprise some come Selection Sunday. The win against North Carolina in the ACC Showcase did them a lot of good, and the Cavs are idle this week. Taking a close look at the Cavaliers' resume compared to Syracuse, aside from a difference in RPI, of which the Orange has the best, Virginia's stats are nearly identical, and it beat Syracuse this year. That was very early in the season, but the time of a result does not matter to the selection committee. Cornell is in pretty good shape and shouldn't be hurt even if it loses to Penn in the Ivy semifinals. Penn has a great RPI and strength of schedule, and it would be hard to keep the Quakers out of hosting a first-round game, even with a relative lack of big wins compared to the rest. The Tar Heels were hurt by the loss to Virginia. Johns Hopkins will be on the road somewhere for a first-round game if the Blue Jays don't beat Loyola on Saturday. Somewhat related, Johns Hopkins made a good decision signing up for a conference next year to have two routes to the NCAA tournament. It's a thin line between in and out. If there's a lot of chaos this week, the Jays could be on the bubble.



FIRST FOUR OUT

Ivy
Yale
9-4
14
14
0-2
0-0
0-0
1-2
Princeton

CAA
Drexel
10-4
13
20
0-0
0-1
1-1
2-0
UMass, Albany, Penn St.
Villanova, Bryant
Ivy
Princeton
7-6
17
11
1-1
0-1
1-2
0-1
Penn, Hofstra
Brown
CAA
Penn St.
7-6
19
17
0-1
1-1
1-2
0-1
Notre Dame, Hofstra
Villanova

The skinny: The best chances for Yale and Drexel to see their names in the bracket on Selection Sunday is to win their conference tournaments. If not, neither would have a particularly strong at-large resume compared to the projected "in" teams right now. Princeton and Penn State have nearly identical profiles, each with a top-five win, six losses and ineligible for its conference postseason tournament, for different reasons. The Nittany Lions probably don't want to hear it now, but comments about their demise in early March may have been a bit premature given where they've finished the year, although they certainly could have used one or two more quality wins.


PROJECTED BRACKET 

Delaware quarterfinal

1) Duke vs. Saint Joseph's/Mercer winner
8) Penn vs. North Carolina

Long Island quarterfinal

5) Cornell vs. Denver
4) Virginia vs. Hofstra

Long Island quarterfinal

3) Notre Dame vs. Albany
6) Loyola vs. Harvard

Delaware quarterfinal

7) Maryland vs. Johns Hopkins
2) Syracuse vs. Fairfield/Siena winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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