Bubble Watch: Musical Chairs

This time of year, the focus always remains on the bubble, but just how many spots are there?

That’s a loaded question, as that depends on who wins their conference tournaments and whether or not any of those champions would have been left out of the field without their title.  We call those situations “bid-stealers”, and they are a bubble team’s worst nightmare.  In this game of musical chairs, a space is removed nearly every day at this point in the season, so who will be left standing?  Let’s find out.

The teams have been broken down into four categories, as described below:

  • Locks:  These teams have, for all accounts and purposes, earned their NCAA berth
  • In the Gym:  These teams are in pretty good shape (get it?)
  • Blowing Bubbles:  These teams are squarely on the bubble
  • Grass is Greener:  These teams are on the wrong side of the NCAA Tourney fence

One-Bid Leagues:

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Summit, Sun Belt, WAC.

Total “Locked” Bids (19)

American:

Locks (1):  Southern Methodist

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (3):

  • Cincinnati Bearcats (21-9, 12-5 AAC) — RPI:  38 — KenPom:  37 — SOS: 101

After a dominant road win at Tulsa this week, the Bearcats are in good shape in comparison to some others on the bubble, but their resume shouldn’t have them breathing easy just yet.  Non-conference wins vs. San Diego State and @ NC State will be staples of their resume along with their season sweep over SMU.  Losses at East Carolina and Nebraska, and a recent home loss to Tulane are definite warts.  Avoid a home loss to Memphis in the regular season finale, and the Bearcats are probably safe.

  • Temple Owls (21-9, 12-5 AAC) — RPI: 36 — KenPom:  58 — SOS: 96

Temple is definitely taking advantage of their non-conference win vs. Kansas right now.  They have beaten two teams in the RPI top 150 since the first week of conference play, and are just 1-5 against the other teams at the tops of the league.  They remain just 9-9 vs. RPI top 200 opponents, the worst of any program currently on the bubble.

  • Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (21-8, 14-3 AAC) — RPI:  46 — KenPom:  74 — SOS:  118

Tulsa is now in a world of hurt despite being 14-3 in league play after getting blown out at home by Cincinnati.  Yes, they swept Temple and own an 8-3 road record.  Trouble lies ahead though, as they close the conference season @ SMU, find a win somehow and they are probably in, lose, and they will have stumbled enough to make people remember that they lost to a Division II opponent earlier this season.

Grass is Greener (0):

Atlantic 10:

Locks (2):  Dayton, Virginia Commonwealth

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (1):

  • Davidson Wildcats (21-8, 13-4 A-10) — RPI:  31 — KenPom:  28 — SOS:  103

Davidson is currently in possession of one of the top slots in Joe Lunardi’s “Last 4 In” category, so you could say they are the face of the bubble mayhem right now.  After dropping back to back games against St. Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure it looked like the Wildcats were done, but they’ve since won 8 straight including a sweep of George Washington, a win @ Rhode Island, and, most recently, a dominating win over depleted VCU.  Avoid a horrible loss at Duquesne this weekend, and the Wildcats will be in good shape.

Grass is Greener (0):

ACC:

Locks (5):  Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (1):

North Carolina State Wolfpack (18-12, 9-8 ACC) — RPI:  47 — KenPom:  41 — SOS:  20

After this week’s win @ Clemson, the Wolfpack are in pretty good shape.  They now have road wins vs. Louisville and North Carolina along with wins against Duke and Boise State. Unfortunately, in the past month they’ve also lost @ Boston College and Wake Forest  A home win vs. Syracuse this week would place them “in the gym”, but a loss would be another blemish that would keep them on the bubble.

Grass is Greener (2):

Miami FL (19-11, 9-8 ACC) — RPI:  65 — KenPom:  63 — SOS:  49

Miami won at Pittsburgh this week without star PG Angel Rodriguez, keeping them alive in the bubble race.  They are still on the outside looking in, but a run in the ACC Tournament could push the Hurricanes on the right side of the fence depending on what happens to the team’s in front of them.

Pittsburgh (19-12, 8-9 ACC) — RPI:  62 — KenPom:  77 — SOS:  52

Simply put, after that disastrous home loss to Miami, the Panthers will need to win at Florida State and at least make the ACC semis to even crawl back into the discussion.

BIG XII:

Locks (5):  Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (2):

Oklahoma State Cowboys (18-11, 8-9 Big XII) — RPI:  41 — KenPom:  32 — SOS;  7

After dropping four in a row, including bad road losses to TCU and Texas Tech, the Cowboys were able to right the ship a bit by beating TCU at home this week.  They are in pretty good shape overall, having played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, and owning 3 top 10 RPI wins.  Unless they find a way to win @ WVU in their finale, they will finish conference play under .500, can the committee overlook that and see their overall body of work?

Texas Longhorns (18-12, 7-10 Big XII) — RPI:  46 — KenPom:  21 — SOS:  8

The Longhorns are still alive after a crucial OT win at home against Baylor.  Before that, Texas hadn’t beaten a Tournament team since mid-January, and even with that result, Texas is just 6-12 vs. RPI top 100 opponents.  Their best resume bullet point?  No bad losses, they’ve lost to just one team ranked outside the RPI top 50 (Stanford at home).

Grass is Greener (1):

Kansas State Wildcats (15-15, 8-9 Big XII) — RPI:  78 — KenPom:  81 — SOS:  5

A win @ Texas in their season finale could garner them some late interest because of their number of quality top-end wins, but Kansas State is just 10-15 vs. the RPI top 200 and 1-9 away from home, so it would be a pretty significant miracle for them to be selected by the Committee at this point.

Big East:

Locks (4):  Butler, Georgetown, Providence, Villanova

In the Gym (1):

St. John’s Red Storm (21-9, 10-7 Big East) — RPI:  34 — KenPom:  31 — SOS:  43

St. John’s is now approaching “lock” status for me.  After avoiding a bad road loss at Marquette, St. John’s closes at Villanova, which will do no damage to its resume should it leave with a loss.  They’ve clinched an above .500 league record, they own three top 25 RPI victories, and nine RPI top 100 wins.  I see no reason they should be left out.

Blowing Bubbles (1):

Xavier Musketeers (18-12, 8-9 Big East) — RPI:  42 — KenPom:  27 — SOS:  18

Xavier’s resume is actually somewhat similar to Kansas State’s, but they’ve found a way to get a few more crucial wins along the way.  They own three RPI top 25 wins, five RPI top 50 wins, but they’ve also lost neutral court to Long Beach State, @ Auburn, @  DePaul, and at home to Creighton, all bad losses.  Their finale is at Creighton, a loss would put the Musketeers in serious jeopardy.

Grass is Greener (0):

Big Ten:

Locks (4):  Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin

In the Gym (1):

Iowa Hawkeyes (20-10, 11-6 Big Ten) — RPI:  39 — KenPom:  21 — SOS:  35

The Hawkeyes are in great shape, currently sitting T-3 in the Big 10 standings with their lone “bad” loss of the season coming at Northwestern.  Their win at Indiana this week gives them five RPI top 100 ROAD wins this season, if that doesn’t get you in, I’m not sure what would.

Blowing Bubbles (3):

Illinois Fighting Illini (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten) — RPI:  58 — KenPom:  53 — SOS:  64

Illinois has a bit of a bland resume overall, owning just five RPI top 100 victories, but with just a single bad loss @ Nebraska.  They do own wins vs. Baylor, Maryland, and @ Michigan State, which hold some weight.  Their finale @ Purdue could certainly act as a NCAA Tournament play-in game.

Indiana Hoosiers (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten) — RPI:  53 — KenPom:  56 — SOS:  68

Indiana has taken a turn for the worst down the stretch of the season.  Once a mortal lock for the Dance, they have since failed to beat a Tournament team in nearly 2 months, and are 3-5 in their last 8 conference games, with a bad loss to Northwestern to top it all off.  It would be hard to imagine a team with wins over SMU, Butler, and Maryland, along with five additional RPI top 100 wins getting left out, but the Committee does take momentum into account when determining worthy inclusions in the field, and lately, the Hoosiers have not played like a Tournament team.

Purdue Boilermakers (19-11, 11-6 Big Ten) — RPI:  61 — KenPom:  48 — SOS: 57

It is pretty incredible that a team with home losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb could be in this position in March, but you can’t ignore a team T-3 in the Big 10 standings, especially when they sweep Indiana.  They also own non-conference wins against bubble teams NC State and BYU, which will help them when it comes down to comparing team by team.  Take care of business of Illinois at home, and the Boilermakers will be in pretty good shape on Selection Sunday barring an early exit from the Big 10 Tournament.

Grass is Greener (0):

Conference USA:

Locks (0):

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (1):

Old Dominion (23-6, 12-5 C USA) — RPI:  45 — KenPom:  65 — SOS:  191

Old Dominion is hanging on by a thread after failing to win the Conference USA regular season title.  Their lone RPI top 100 win since beating Richmond, LSU, and VCU in a week-long stretch in November, is a home win over LA Tech.  Over that stretch, they also acquired bad losses @ Western Kentucky, @ Middle Tennessee State, @ UAB, and @ UTSA.  With their signature wins both sputtering to the finish, the committee may fail to be impressed with the Monarchs’ overall resume.

Missouri Valley:

Locks (2):  Northern Iowa, Wichita State

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (0):

Mountain West:

Locks (1):  San Diego State

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (2):

Boise State (23-7, 13-4 MW) — RPI:  35 — KenPom:  37 — SOS:  124

What Boise State has done since dropping their first three league games is incredibly impressive, sweeping San Diego State along the way and likely earning a #1 seed in the MWC Tourney assuming they take care of business at home vs. Fresno State in their finale.  The Broncos do own bad losses at Fresno State, at home vs. Utah State, and a neutral court loss to Loyola Chicago.  With just five RPI top 100 wins overall, they are far from a lock to make the Dance, but avoid a bad loss down the stretch and it would be hard to leave the Broncos out after how they’ve closed the season.

Colorado State (25-5, 12-5 MW) — RPI:  27 — KenPom:  66 — SOS: 158

What Colorado State has done well compared to everyone else on the bubble is acquire wins.  Unfortunately, few of them have come against quality opponents, as they own 11 wins over teams with 200+ RPIs, the committee doesn’t like that.  They didn’t beat anyone in non-conference play that will catch the committee’s eye, and their best road win is at New Mexico State, so the Rams will have to avoid a bad loss to remain on the right side of the bubble most likely.

Grass is Greener (0):

Ohio Valley:

Locks (0):

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (1):

Murray State Racers (26-4, 16-0 OV) — RPI:  67 — KenPom:  71 — SOS:  303

Here’s the thing, yes, they’ve won 24 straight games, that’s great.  The problem is, they’ve played one of the easiest schedules in the country, they are 67th in the RPI, and their lone RPI top 100 win is home vs. Illinois State.  It would be a huge mistake for this team to earn an at-large berth, period.

Pac-12:

Locks (2):  Arizona, Utah

In the Gym (1):

Oregon Ducks (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12) — RPI:  30 — KenPom:  49 — SOS:  67

It would be hard to imagine a scenario that the Ducks get left out at this point, but the Pac-12 is so weak and their top-end resume is so average I can’t quite bring myself to put them in “lock” status yet.  That said, what they’ve done after the off-season they went through is nothing short of a miracle, Dana Altman has to be the national coach of the year.

Blowing Bubbles (1):

UCLA Bruins (19-12, 11-7 Pac-12) — RPI:  51 — KenPom:  50 — SOS:  26

The Bruins will now be in “wait’ and see” mode after finishing up conference play among the top four in the Pac-12.  They’ve played a brutal schedule, and their two “bad” losses come to Oregon State and Colorado on the road, both teams who are very difficult to beat at home traditionally. They are 3-1 vs. Oregon and Stanford, which the committee will take into account.  Unfortunately, despite all the talent they played in the non-conference portion of their schedule, they weren’t able to beat any of those teams, losing to Oklahoma, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Alabama.

Grass is Greener (1):

Stanford Cardinal (18-11, 9-8 Pac-12) — RPI:  64 — KenPom:  42– SOS:  62

After falling late at Arizona State last night, the Cardinal are in ominous territory.  They are just 3-6 in their last 9 Pac-12 games, including losses at Washington State and Colorado, and their only chance to finish above .500 in league play is @ Arizona.  Good luck with that.  Of course, that is a huge opportunity to finish with a huge resume-boosting win, but I wouldn’t say the odds are in their favor to pull that off.  It would be hard to put a team with a 9-9 record in a bad league into the Tournament, especially when they finish 3-7.

SEC:

Locks (2):  Arkansas, Kentucky

In the Gym (3):

Georgia Bulldogs (19-10, 10-7 SEC) — RPI:  33 — KenPom:  36 — SOS:  17

The Bulldogs are about as close to “lock” status as you can be now.  After inexplicable back-to-back home losses to Auburn and South Carolina, the Bulldogs rattled off consecutive road wins at Alabama and Ole Miss, and played Kentucky down to the wire this week in a fun battle.  They own 8 RPI 100 wins and are 7-4 on the road, they’ll be in the Tournament.

LSU Tigers (21-9, 10-7 SEC) — RPI:  56 — KenPom:  44 — SOS:  77

How frustrating is this team?  Getting blown out at home by Tennessee?  Seriously?  No one is as inconsistent as LSU, but the fact remains, they are 10-5 vs. the RPI top 100 and are 7-3 on the road.  They’ll be in the Dance.

Ole Miss Rebels (20-10, 11-6 SEC) — RPI:  44 — KenPom:  35 — SOS:  44

Ole Miss has quietly put together a very solid resume as wel after posting bad home losses to Charleston Southern, TCU, and Western Kentucky early in the year.  They also own a neutral court win over Cincinati, they won at Oregon and Arkansas, and swept Florida.  Should they avoid a bad home loss to Vanderbilt to close the regular season, I’d be surprised to see them left out come Selection Sunday.

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (1):

Texas A&M Aggies (20-9, 11-6 SEC) — RPI:  48 — KenPom:  43 — SOS:  54

No one is more mad at LSU than the Aggies, who now own 0 RPI top 50 wins after LSU’s latest embarrassment.  They are just 6-9 vs. the RPI top 100 as well, so they are now in precarious position despite posting 20 wins and a top half finish in the SEC.  Of hose 6 RPI top 100 wins, only the sweep of LSU come against teams who will be in the Tournament.

West Coast:

Locks (1):  Gonzaga

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (1):

BYU Cougars (23-8, 13-5 WCC) — RPI:  40 — KenPom:  26 — SOS:  80

It was mighty nice of Gonzaga to take their final regular season game off and give BYU their lone RPI top 25 (and top 50) win of the season just in time for the close of the year.  With Stanford and Umass falling off, it will likely represent their only win vs. a Tournament team, so the Cougars would be wise to avoid a bad loss in WCC Tournament play.

Grass is Greener (0):

 

To crunch the numbers, there are 48 “locks” to date, which leaves 20 open spots for the teams among the other three categories.  There are 28 teams currently “on the bubble”, that it to say, they are listed in the “In the Gym”, “Blowing Bubbles”, or “Grass is Greener” categories.  That means there will be eight teams left out of the Tournament from these categories come Selection Sunday, who are your picks to feel “snubbed”?

It is going to be a wild final week in college hoops, enjoy the madness!

bracketology

We’ve reach February, which means we’ve officially walked through the doors of bubble watch season in college basketball.  This is the fourth season I’ve spent time trying to decipher which teams on the bubble are worthy of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, and without a doubt, it remains one of my favorite projects.  This season, however, has the potential to be the craziest one to date.  The bubble is extremely weak overall, and there are dozens and dozens of teams piled up trying to fight through the muck and earn one of the last eight or so spots into the Big Dance.

First of all, let me talk about what it is, exactly, that I track, and how I determine which teams to include in my data set.  As I’m sure you know, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi puts together bracketology updates throughout the year as we approach March, and he has teams around the bubble broken into these specific categories:  Last 4 Byes, Last 4 In, First 4 Out, Next 4 Out.  Any team that appears in one of those four categories starting February 1 through the end of the season gets included into my data set, because those teams are determined to be “on the bubble”.  As mentioned above, I expect the number of teams included in the data set to be the highest ever, given all of the parody.  Once a team is included in the data set, they are not removed for any reason.  Should teams work their way securely into the field, or off the bubble completely, they still remain in the data and can be used as data points for the other teams to strive for (or against).

I break out each bubble teams resume in various categories, including RPI top 25, top 50, top 100, and top 20 W-L records, RPI 200+ losses (bad losses), strength of schedule, and road W-L records, among others.  Combined, these factors create an image of each team’s resume that can be compared to one another to determine who is worthy of inclusion into the Tournament.

The first version of my data set includes 20 teams, 16 of which sit in the categories we discussed before, and 5 total who moved out of those categories within the past week.  Oklahoma State has worked their way safely into the field, while Michigan, Florida, and Davidson have since dropped off the bubble.  The 16 teams still sitting on the bubble are as follows:  Clemson, Colorado State, George Washington, Iowa, Kansas State, Miami FL, NC State, Old Dominion, Ole Miss, Purdue, Richmond, St. John’s, Temple, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Xavier.

Let’s break down the numbers for this first group:

— RPI considers Colorado State to be the “best” team in the data set, ranked 28th by their metric.

— KenPom loves Oklahoma State, ranked 26th, but of the teams still on the bubble, Xavier is the highest ranked team, at 27th overall.

— No team in the data set owns more than 2 victories against RPI top 25 opponents, in fact, just 4 teams own more than 1 win against such opponents, Tennessee, Kansas State, St. John’s, and Xavier.

— Kansas State and Oklahoma State both own 4 RPI top 50 wins, the most amongst the data set.  Kansas State has also played the most games vs. RPI top 50 opponents (10), while Old Dominion has only played 2 such opponents (should be noted that ODU is 2-0 in those matchups).

— Colorado State, sitting at 19-4, has earned 11 of their victories over opponents ranked outside the RPI top 200.  Outside of Wyoming and Temple, who has 10 and 8 such wins respectively, no other team in the data set has more than 6 such wins against “weak” opponents.  This realization can further be highlighted by their strength of schedule numbers, where Colorado State is just one of three teams in the data to own a SOS outside the top 150 in the country.  Wyoming’s SOS is ranked 306th nationally, among the worst of any team in the nation, and thus, sits last in our data set as well.

— There are just 7 teams in the data set with above .500 road records.  Colorado State, Temple, and Davidson lead the way with 5 victories away from home.  Of the teams in high major conferences, only Miami FL (4-2) and Tennessee (3-2) own winning records on the road.

— Who is overrated?  To me, Iowa and Temple are leading the way right now.

Temple, of course, has a resume built entirely on their win over RPI #1 Kansas.  Of course, you can’t ignore that victory, but does one win make a resume?  That’s up to you, I suppose, but in my eyes, the rest of their body of work is not worthy of inclusion right now.  Outside of that win, they’re next three resume pegs are wins @ Uconn and over La Salle and LA Tech.  Not great.

Iowa’s resume is also incredibly mediocre.  Lunardi currently has them among the “Last 4 Byes” which means they are almost safely into the field, yet, their resume suggests they are overrated.  They are just 2-7 vs. the RPI top 50, and just 8-9 vs. the RPI top 200.  They’ve swept Ohio State, sure, but they’re best win OOC is currently Pepperdine.  Ohio State remains the only team they’ve beaten all year expected to make the Tournament.

Be on the lookout for the next version of Bubble Math next week!

The Resurgence of the College Big

The adage has never changed.

The NBA is a man’s game, and college basketball is a guard’s game. The college game is riddled with scorers, scorers who are incapable of properly feeding entry passes into the post, or penetrating in order to create opportunities for an easy bucket off the block. Big men rely on perimeter players to allow them to make an impact on basketball games.  Guards bring the ball up the court, if they have no interest in feeding the post, the post stays hungry. Talented bigs have been frustrated for years by their lack of touches in the college game.

In fact, through yesterday’s games, just 25 players in Division 1 college basketball average six assists per game or more, which highlights that many of the same issues remain.  That lack of ball movement is not unique to this season, as evidenced by the presence of just six centers among the NCAA’s top 250 scorers last year.  None of those six played for schools in power five conferences.

That said, the tide appears to be turning for college bigs.  Thus far, you can find eleven centers among the top 250 in scoring, still obviously a small number, but nearly doubling last year’s totals.  Even more notable though, is the number of high-profile guys among that list.  Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas, and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor are listed, powering some of the elite programs in the country.  Kaminsky and Okafor specifically, are considered front runners for National Player of the Year, which would be a rare achievement for a post.  Anthony Davis won the award in 2011-12 (you can make arguments about his “big man” status), but outside of that, just Andrew Bogut in 2004-05, and Marcus Camby in 1995-96 and Tim Duncan in 1996-97 claimed the award for the big man brotherhood.

Even on a more broad scale, college front courts are starting to make a more pronounced impact on the college basketball landscape.  Checking out the current teams ranked among the top ten, they are riddled with teams that possess elite front courts.  Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Duke are considered to be the four premier front courts in the nation, and coincidentally, they also own the top four spots in the current polls.  At #5 sits Louisville, led by another Player of the Year candidate in Montrezl Harrell, who while it would a stretch to call a center, is most certainly one of the best power forwards in college basketball.  At #6 comes Texas, who without Isaiah Taylor, have relied heavily on front court mates Myles Turner and Johnathan Holmes to lead the way.  Gonzaga sits at #9 in the current polls, and most consider them to be the team rounding out the top five in terms of quality front courts, as transfer Duke transfer Kyle Wiltjer and frosh big man Domantas Sabonis lead their team in scoring.

Even NBA draft projections are riddled with front court prospects.  ESPN’s Chad Ford shows a current Big Board that predicts six college big men (PF/C) to be lottery picks and an additional 8 college posts to be selected in the 1st round.  By comparison, the 2014 draft had just six big men selected in the first round, the 2013 draft had nine, and the 2012 draft boasted 12 college bigs.  In fact, should 14 college post players be selected as Ford projects, that would be the highest total in an NBA Draft first round since 1996.

So while guards will likely rule the college landscape more often than not, maybe, just maybe, we’ll see this game mold into a more balanced floor game, where regardless of size, a team’s most talented player will see ample touches.  Enjoy the season of the bigs, college hoops fans!

Colorado Basketball: The Numbers

Game week has finally arrived!

On Friday, Tad Boyle, Askia Booker, and the rest of your Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team will welcome the Drexel Dragons to the Coors Event Center to tip-off the season.

Previously in this five-part series previewing the upcoming season, we spent time breaking down this year’s schedule, and going in-depth on this year’s roster.  If you missed the previous two segments, you can find them linked below, along with a preview of what you’ll see in the final two pieces, coming out later this week.

In this middle ground segment, we break down Colorado basketball through the numbers, a favorite topic of mine on social media outlets and on this blog. The focus will be on several key statistics that the Buffs must improve on to take that next step into becoming an NCAA Tournament threat to advance, as well as some other numbers that I think you all will find interesting.

.85/1

The Buffs assist/turnover ratio last season, ranking them 291st in the country.  This number has been the Buffs biggest off-season priority according to head coach Tad Boyle.  With Spencer Dinwiddie no longer in Boulder, the Buffs lack an elite scorer and their ability to create for others becomes even more vital this upcoming season.  Ball movement would certainly be a solid remedy for the prolonged scoring droughts we’ve seen over the past few seasons.

31.8%

The percentage of three pointers Colorado made last season, just 289th in the country.  This roster once again lacks an elite perimeter shooter, but guys like Xavier Johnson, Xavier Talton, Tre Fletcher, and Askia Booker will be relied upon to improve this number this season.  Even a modest improvement to 35% (a number Tad Boyle has targeted in interviews this off-season as well) would make a significant impact on the offense this season.

14.1/8.4

The points and rebounds per game averages for big man Josh Scott last season.  The casual basketball fan would tell you those numbers are fairly pedestrian, and without context, that might in fact be true.  However, college basketball is a guard dominated sport, and thus, big men traditionally see their numbers stunted.  For proof, just six centers were ranked among the NCAA’s top 250 scorers last season, and none of them played in a power five conference.  His rebounding numbers are good enough to place him 60th nationally, but he’s 10th among P5 players, and 4th in the Pac-12.  No returning player in the Pac-12 averaged more rebounds than Josh Scott last season.

68.2

The points per game that Colorado’s defense gave up last season, good for 119th nationally.  That may seem like an underwhelming statistic, but that ranked the Buffs 4th in the Pac-12, just behind Arizona, Utah, and Washington St.  If they can maintain that ranking within their conference, and improve offensively by working on the aforementioned numbers above, they should find themselves among the league leaders in the standings this upcoming season.

+5.9

Colorado’s rebounding margin last season, 2nd in the conference behind Arizona and among the best margins nationally.  They were first in the Pac-12 in DReb %, and second in the league in OReb %.  Those who follow the program know that Tad Boyle preaches rebounding and defense above all else, so the expectation will be set that these numbers are maintained throughout this season as well.

90.9% / 88.2% / 93.67% / 81.36% / 86.95% / 95.65%

These numbers represent the percentage of returning minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for Colorado basketball this season.  Those are staggering numbers that really highlight the amount of experience we have returning this season, we can no longer use youth as an excuse.

Those returning percentages rank 1st in the Pac-12 in every single category outside of assists, where the Buffs rank 2nd behind Utah.  In fact, no other team outside of Utah has 80% returning production in any single category.

3

The number of Buffs that rank among the top ten returning scorers in the Pac-12 conference.  Josh Scott (5), Askia Booker (6), and Xavier Johnson (10) make Colorado the lone team to boast three players among this list.  This number also represents the number of Buffs among the top eight returning rebounders in the conference.  Josh Scott (1), Wesley Gordon (6), and Xavier Johnson (7) once again make Colorado the only team to have three players appear on that list.

Finally…these two Askia Booker stats made me double take…

81.8%

Askia Booker’s FT % last season, 7th in the conference and the 2nd highest returning percentage this season (behind Oregon’s Joseph Young).  He shot just 3.9 FTs per game, however, a number he needs to improve on this season to take advantage of his improved numbers there.  Josh Scott’s 81.0% ranked 9th in the league last year, and makes him the 3rd best returning FT shooter in the conference.

1.32/1

Booker’s A/TO ratio last season, which shockingly, ranked 11th in the conference last season and 6th among players returning this year.  For a player who has been crucified (and before I saw this, I would have said rightfully so) for costly turnovers, that is a pretty respectable number.

Colorado Basketball: The Roster

November has arrived, ladies and gentlemen!  Just in time, too, after watching the football program blow yet another 2nd half lead with costly turnovers and mind-numbing mistakes.

We are now just nine days away from #RollTad, well, rolling in to the Coors Event Center for the first time this season.  A few weeks ago, we took the inaugural step in reviewing this year’s version of the BasketBuffs by breaking down the schedule, and here we’re moving on to the second step, the roster.

This year’s group should represent the deepest we’ve seen in the Tad Boyle era, with a plethora of talented second unit players, and a starting five who’ve started 224 career games. Boyle has hinted that he will use that depth to try and play more uptempo this season, a move that would further take advantage of Colorado’s unique built in asset, the altitude.

Here is a reminder on what else we have on tap in the coming days.

  • Colorado Basketball:  The Schedule
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Roster
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Numbers
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Pac-12 Breakdown
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Predictions

I wanted to move away from ranking the players individually so I’ve grouped them by their likely impact on the team, and placed them into three separate groups.

The Walk-Ons:

Walk-ons are always the crowd favorite, everyone loves an underdog, and typically their insertion into the line-up marks a comfortable victory for the Buffs.  This year, the roster features four walk-ons, including newcomer Josh Repine, formerly of local Kent Denver HS.  Returning are Geoffrey Bates, Brett Brady, and Kevin Nelson.  Nelson probably boasts the most decorated career, originally signing with MWC power New Mexico out of high school.  Injuries derailed his time there and he’s played in spot minutes here in Boulder.  Brett Brady, also from a local HS (Highlands Ranch) dazzled the crowd at a recent open scrimmage by playing tenacious defense and turning that effort into several easy buckets in transition.  He’s a plus shooter but don’t get too far ahead of yourselves, he won’t see minutes outside of garbage time like the rest of this lot most likely.

The Bench:

The highest rated prep Colorado prep hoopster outside of Josh Scott since Chauncey Billups, Domonique Collier has generated quite the buzz since his commitment to Tad Boyle and the Buffaloes in May 2013.  He’s also the first Denver-area kid to commit to play in Boulder in nearly 40 years.  Collier is an undersized PG prospect, but he’s already added noticeably weight since his arrival on campus, and his tenacity as a defender has to have Boyle drooling.  He’s shown a knack for creating for himself and others while attacking the paint, and his long ball has improved drastically in recent years.  Unfortunately, he rolled his ankle a few weeks back and has been unable to participate in practice, further delaying his development.  The Buffs need his presence in the back court, especially defensively, so hopefully he’s able to get back on track soon.

Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury obviously had a major impact on the team last season, but lost among that hoopla was the absence of TreShaun Fletcher, arguably the Buffs’ most impressive freshman throughout the first half of last year’s campaign.  Fletcher, who was progressing at the time of his injury, had played double digit minutes in seven of his previous ten appearances.  His significant knee injury kept him out for essentially the rest of the year, as his rust was evident upon his return in the Pac-12 Tournament and he scored just two combined points in the four games he saw action in after his return.  He flashed signs of brilliance attacking the rim, and possesses a smooth lefty release on the perimeter that suggests he could be a reliable weapon from outside the arc in future seasons.  Additionally, he uses his length effectively on the defensive side of the court, and could be the perimeter stopper the Buffs lacked in the second half of last season.

Unquestionably, the most productive true freshman season belonged to Jaron Hopkins.  The ultra-athletic combo guard started 9 games for the Buffs last season, averaging a respectable 4.9/2.5/1 while playing a healthy 638 minutes.  He also shot 38% from 3PT range, a pleasant surprise for a player who has a noticeable hitch in his release and has never been viewed as a quality perimeter shooter.  Boyle initially tried to slot him into more of a ball-handling role, which, to put it simply, turned out to be a failed experiment.  His questionable handles made it difficult for him to avoid turnover spells, and he struggled to enter the ball into the post.  He appeared much more comfortable on the wing and slashing off-ball to the cup, a role that played to his strength as an athlete and a finisher.  Jaron also committed 77 fouls last season, the second most on the team despite playing the 6th most minutes.  He’s an aggressive defender who excelled as a prep athlete, but this level comes with a healthy dose of humble pie.  As he gets more accustomed to the speed at the college level, I’d expect his defensive prowess will start to show.  The rumblings are that Boyle has focused with J Hop improving his PG skills in the offseason, so we can expect to see him in that role again this season.  We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Lack of size has been a consistent roster flaw for Colorado.  Tad Boyle made it a priority to find an additional big to take pressure off of Wesley Gordon and Josh Scott to body up with some of the conference’s bigger teams in the post.  Enter Tory Miller.  Miller is a physical specimen who played at New Hampton Prep (like former walk-on Beau Gamble and current walk-on Josh Repine) and also played AAU ball with fellow frosh Dom Collier.  He’s a brute rebounder with sufficient athleticism and a developing touch around the hoop.  He’s the perfect complement to Josh Scott and will no doubt be a frustration for opposing big men.

With the arrival of Collier, there may be limited minutes for Eli Stalzer this season.  A late addition to the 2012 class, Boyle loved the focus Stalzer brought to the intangibles of the game.  He’s the consummate team guy, does what he’s asked, moves the ball, and only shoots when open.  His development hasn’t progressed how many had hoped when he arrived here, but in spot minutes, he can be relied upon to make the right play.

There probably isn’t a guy on the roster looking forward to this season more than Dustin Thomas.  Thomas had people buzzing leading up to last season, where the word was that he was an elite scorer with a repertoire of offensive moves that would make him dangerous for opponents.  His feathery stroke made it seem like every single shot would fall, but last year, not many did.  His confidence clearly diminished as the season got underway, he couldn’t make shots, he couldn’t defend without fouling, and he struggled to box out bigger opponents.  Thomas played small school ball in Texas, and he clearly struggled to tweak his game to succeed against bigger and more athletic opponents.  He also turned the ball over 49 times, an incredibly high number for someone who played limited minutes and didn’t have the ball in his hands much.  In summary, last year didn’t go as planned for Thomas, and he’s itching to get some revenge.  The talent is there, we saw that in brief glimpses last season, if he can trust his game and stay within the flow of the offense, and work hard defensively, Thomas could be the X-factor that pushes this team to the next level this season.

The Starting Five:

The little engine that could… more like the little engine that must.  That “little engine” is Askia Booker, the single-most important piece for this year’s Colorado basketball program.  When he plays well, this team is extremely dangerous, when he doesn’t, it all falls apart.  Last season, Booker shot better than 40% in just two of Colorado’s losses.  This team often goes how he goes, and now he’ll be relied upon to lead this team, both off the court and on it.  He must continue to push the pace and finish with efficiency on the break, but he also needs to be able to balance that attack with persistent patience in the half-court set, limiting turnovers and drastically improving his assist totals.  He’s worked hard to gain weight in the off-season hoping to improve his finishing ability as he’s severely undersized.  He also needs to become a defensive leader, not a gambler, in his senior season.  He’s got the quickness, but he hasn’t shown consistent effort on that end.  There aren’t many players as entertaining to watch as “Ski”, but that sentence would be true if you replaced entertaining with frustrating as well.  That must change for the Buffs to become an elite team.

There isn’t a player on the roster I was harder on than Wesley Gordon last season.  His defensive reputation seemed to exceed his effectiveness on that end last season, but there’s little doubt the foundation is in place.  Gordon is an elite athlete and a natural rim protector, but he’s undersized for that role and he doesn’t rebound as well as his skills would suggest.  Of course, I often forget Gordon was just a redshirt freshman last season, and his development is still in the beginning stages.  Last season, he was hesitant to impact the game offensively, often passing up quality looks for nearly impossible passes, causing a slew of unforced turnovers.  He also struggled to finish at the foul line, and was ineffective on jump shots.  Gordon worked hard in the off-season to gain weight, and now looks more prepared to take on a season’s worth of paint pounding.  If he can improve his impact on the offensive end of the floor, and make more impact players defensively, he has a chance to be one of the league’s more improved players this season.

I think most, himself included, would characterize last season as a disappointment for Xavier Johnson.  After a promising freshmen season, Johnson took a step back in many ways.  He shot just 46% last season (down from 52% as a frosh), and just 36% from 3PT range (also down from 44% as a frosh).  It also can’t be denied, though, that he turned it up immensely after Spencer Dinwiddie got injured.  In his first 15 games, Johnson averaged just 10.1ppg, and attempted more than 10 FGs exactly 0 times.  In the 18 games post-injury, he put up 13.6ppg and took on a more productive offensive role, putting up 10+ FGs in nine games.  He’ll be asked to shoulder a similar load this season, and his focus should be on maintaining positive energy after dealing with adversity.  He’s hard on himself, too hard on himself.  His energy is infectious, and when he’s engaged, this team is fun to watch, but when he sulks, the energy quickly gets sucked out of his teammates.

Josh Scott has often been unfairly compared to Tim Duncan because of their similar focus on basketball fundamentals, similar build, and average verticality.  He’ll never be “The Big Fundamental” but Scott could easily be called “The Big Reliable”.  Scott tallied double digit scoring efforts in 31 of his 35 appearances last season, and posted at least seven rebounds in 27 of those games.  His footwork is unmatched by any college-level big, and his ability to finish with both hands makes defending him a headache.  Oddly, he favors his left (he’s a natural righty), and at times, relies on that too heavily.  A more balanced attack would serve him well around the rim.  He continues to put on pounds of muscle, and he’ll now compare favorably physically against most bigs he faces.  He struggled to pass out of double teams last season, a skill he’s worked hard at this summer, and hopefully he’ll focus on finishing with authority at the rim as well.  The college game is dominated by guard play, but Askia Booker and the rest of the guards must hammer the ball into Scott in the post until his hands bleed, he’s that good.

The final piece of the starting puzzle was probably the Buffs’ most improved player last season.  Xavier Talton has been overlooked his entire life, so when he’s the guy most pundits want a younger player to replace in the starting line-up, he isn’t phased.  He’s a capable defender with long arms, and he’s really come on as a spot-up shooter.  He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but he’s a well rounded guard who fits well next to Askia Booker’s game.  He often passes up shots in favor of ball movement, but those are shots he needs to start taking more often as one of the Buffs’ better shooters.  His defensive mindset has always been good, but he goes through stretches where he earns silly fouls, if he can avoid that this season he should find himself more effective against Pac-12 guards.

Be on the lookout for the third piece of this series, Colorado Basketball:  The Numbers, coming soon!

Colorado Basketball: The Schedule

The answer to the hashtag Colorado hoops fanatics have made famous still remains the same.  No, it isn’t November quite yet, but we’re definitely knocking down the door.  Less than one month from now, Drexel will be in town to open up the college basketball season at Coors Event Center.

The expectations remain high for Colorado hoops despite the departure of Spencer Dinwiddie to the NBA.  The Buffs return every other key member of last year’s NCAA Tournament team, and for the first time since the 2012 tourney run led by seniors Nate Tomlinson, Austin Dufault, and Carlon Brown, this year’s group boasts a touch of veteran leadership.  Askia Booker, the team’s lone senior, is complemented by a trio of experienced juniors in Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and Xavier Talton.  Add redshirt sophomore Wesley Gordon to the equation and the entire starting five is now entering at least their third full year in the program.

As we approach the start of this year’s campaign, TheAirUpHere will be releasing a five part series previewing this year’s Colorado Buffaloes basketball season.  This piece focuses on the schedule, breaking it down into key fragments for you to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

  • Colorado Basketball:  The Schedule
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Roster
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Numbers
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Pac-12 Breakdown
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Predictions

Grouping One: “The Wake-Up Call”

  • Nov 14:  Drexel
  • Nov 17:  Auburn
  • Nov 22:  @ Wyoming

The Buffs will need to be ready for this season with this opening schedule.  Drexel is a quality opponent who gave Pac-12 opponents UCLA and Arizona legitimate scares early last season, and Damion Lee will be back from injury.

Auburn is led by one of college basketball’s best minds, Bruce Pearl, so we can expect vast, rapid improvement from the Tigers when they come to town as a part of the ESPN Tip-Off Classic.

The Buffs are just 11-26 vs. Wyoming all-time when the game is in Laramie, and last year’s close win marked the Buffs’ first win vs. Wyoming in any location since 1996. Bottom line, we struggle with Wyoming, and this will be one of the biggest games of the season.  They were closing in on an NCAA Tournament berth before leader Larry Nance, Jr. went out with an ACL tear late last season, but he’s expected back for the season and Wyoming will once again be very tough.

Grouping Two:  “Getting on Track”

  • Nov 25:  Air Force
  • Nov 30:  Lipscomb
  • Dec 3:  San Francisco

This stretch should provide Colorado with an opportunity to work on rotations, acclimate to the grind of the regular season, and boost the team’s confidence. Air Force and San Francisco lost vital pieces to transfer this off-season, and Lipscomb won’t cause any concern for a Buffs team that is lethal inside the Coors Event Center.

Grouping Three:  “The Preparation”

  • Dec 7:  @ Georgia
  • Dec 10:  Colorado State
  • Dec 13:  Northern Colorado
  • Dec 22:  Diamond Head Classic Round 1:  DePaul
  • Dec 23:  Diamond Head Classic Round 2:  George Washington OR Ohio
  • Dec 25:  Diamond Head Classic Round 3:  TBD

This group will go a long ways to prepping the Buffs for conference play, as they will play 4 of the 6 games away from home.  Additionally, Georgia should provide a quality road test as they return a majority of their talent from a team who went 12-6 in the SEC last season and advanced to the 2nd round of the NIT.  Chemistry will be key for Colorado State this season, who has enough talent to make a serious NCAA Tournament run, but with so many new pieces, it’s a bit up in the air as to how they will fit together.  Potentially, that match-up could represent Colorado’s best shot for a resume boosting win in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

The Diamond Head Classic could also provide the Buffs with an opportunity to make a name for themselves on a national level.  Their opening round game vs. DePaul is a must-win vs. an inferior opponent, as they were one of the worst high major programs in the country last season. A match-up with either George Washington or Ohio awaits in the following round, with GW representing the opportunity for the more impressive victory as they are coming off an NCAA Tournament berth and return 4 of their top 6 players.  Ideally, Tad Boyle and Co. would find themselves battling either Wichita St. or Nebraska in the Championship or 3rd place games which would provide an additional opportunity for an attention-grabbing OOC victory.

Grouping Four:  “The Test”

  • Jan 2:  UCLA
  • Jan 4:  USC
  • Jan 7:  @ Utah
  • Jan 15:  @ Arizona
  • Jan 17:  @ Arizona State

The opening weeks of the Pac-12 schedule provide no favors for the Buffaloes. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Colorado could leave this 5 game stretch at 1-4 in league play. To avoid that, the Buffs must find a way to beat UCLA, a feat they haven’t accomplished since joining the Pac-12. UCLA, while still talented, should be more vulnerable than in years past, and Colorado must find a way to take advantage of home court.  USC is without a doubt a must-win game in a stretch of difficult tests.

The good news in road-tripping to Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State is the timing.  They’ll get by far their toughest road trip of the year out of the way, and it will likely toughen the Buffs up for the road grinds thereafter. Additionally, they will get a full week to prepare for Arizona, a necessary luxury as the Buffs will be prepping for their toughest game of the entire year. Utah is expected to be vastly improved, with nearly all of their producers returning, most notably Delon Wright, who is probably the front-runner for Preseason Pac-12 Player of the Year.  Arizona State actually provides an opportunity to sneak out a victory away from home, as they lose a majority of their high-end talent from last season and aren’t expected to pose the same threat they did last season.

Grouping Five:  “The Must Haves”

  • Jan 22:  Washington
  • Jan 24:  Washington State
  • Jan 29:  @ USC

Colorado will have to take advantage of favorable match-ups in the next three games after going through their brutal opening stretch. Washington returns likely 1st Team All Pac-12 performer Nigel Williams-Goss, along with several other key pieces that will make them tougher than many have given them credit for thus far.  That said, at home, Colorado needs to win these type of games if they want to take it to the next level.  Washington St will again be on the bottom of the conference despite returning some definite talent including another likely 1st Team All Pac-12 performer in DaVonte Lacy.  USC, improving in their own right and enjoying the presence of transfer Katin Reinhardt and an impressive freshman class, will still find themselves a few steps below a majority of the conference and the Buffs will again enjoy a home-like atmosphere inside the Galen Center, which has become Coors Event Center West in recent years.

Grouping Six:  “The Measuring Stick”

  • Jan 31:  @ UCLA
  • Feb 7:  Utah
  • Feb 12:  California
  • Feb 15:  Stanford

This grouping of games might be the true determining factor about where this team is headed this season. All four games match up the Buffs vs. opponents likely to finish among the top six in the conference, but three of the four also tip-off within the friendly confines of the Coors Event Center.  This theoretically would give the Buffs an advantage as they try to separate from the other contenders in the league.  A road victory in Pauley Pavilion is probably unrealistic, but a win and Colorado suddenly finds themselves in very good position moving forward.

The three-game stretch vs. Utah, Cal, and Stanford is crucial for Pac-12 tournament seeding implications.  The Buffs are fortunate enough to face Cal and Stanford just once each this season, and with those match-ups coming at home it is imperative that they find a way to come out on top.  Stanford loses NBA talents in Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, but also return Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Chasson Randle, the league’s reigning Most Improved Player in Anthony Brown, rapidly improving big man Stefan Nastic, and boast a quality freshman class led by Reid Travis. Cal enters the season minus Richard Solomon and Justin Cobbs, two crucial pieces for them last season.  But, returning sophomores Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews are expected to take huge leaps forward this season to pair with established combo guard Tyrone Wallace and one of the league’s better big men in David Kravish.  Last season, Utah struggled mightily on the road, but this year the expectations are much higher and they won’t a pushover in Coors Event Center.  This home match-up may be the single-most pivotal of the entire conference slate.

Grouping Seven:  “Proving Grounds”

  • Feb 18:  @ Oregon
  • Feb 21:  @ Oregon State
  • Feb 26:  Arizona
  • Mar 1:  Arizona State
  • Mar 5:  @ Washington
  • Mar 7:  @ Washington State

The closing stretch of the Pac-12 conference schedule presents quite the conundrum.  On the one hand, just one of the six opponents are likely to find themselves among the top half of the league (Arizona).  On the other, four of the games are away from home, and one of the two remaining home games comes against Arizona, hardly a guaranteed victory, and in fact, the Buffs are likely to be an underdog.  In order to find themselves enjoying a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, Colorado must prove they can consistently win on the road, and this stretch provides plenty of reasonable opportunities.  Oregon has had one of the most brutal off-seasons I’ve ever seen, losing essentially everyone outside of stud Joseph Young due to graduation, academics, and a sexual assault scandal.  Oregon State is likely to be the worst team in the conference, so there is absolutely no excuse to come back from that road trip empty handed.

As mentioned above, holding your breath for a victory over the league’s clear favorite is probably not wise, there are just too many weapons on Arizona’s roster to legitimately expect victory. Is it impossible?  Definitely not, but that doesn’t make it probable. Arizona State at home is another must-win game against an over-matched opponent at home.  It would be disastrous to go 0-2 on any home stand, let alone one sandwiched by four road games to close the season.

The Buffs will close the Pac-12 campaign on the road versus Washington and Washington St, another pair of winnable away games.  Washington will undoubtedly be the tougher of the two, and a loss would not be devastating, but it would mandate a victory in Pullman. I would think that, at minimum, the Buffs need to navigate this stretch at 3-3, with 4-2 being the benchmark of a successful close to the season.

On a big picture scale, this year’s non-conference schedule does not provide as many marquee match-ups as in years past, but there are a slew of quality opponents that will keep the Buffs’ RPI figures strong.  The Pac-12 should also experience a down-tick from last season, as the league lost a significant amount of talent to early departures to the NBA, along with a very quality group of seniors.  Tad Boyle was able to concoct a schedule filled with tests, and this team should find themselves battle-tested and adequately prepared for postseason play.

Stay tuned in the next few days for the next piece of this series:

Colorado Basketball: The Roster.

Projecting the Field and Selecting the Bubble

It’s finally here.  Selection Sunday.

Capable of creating the most euphoric memories of a die hard fan’s life, or leaving a scar so deep your grandchildren will show curiosity towards its origin.  Colorado’s experienced both in the past few years, getting left out of the field despite being comfortably in according to most bracketologists, and since earning back-to-back berths.  Once again, the Buffaloes expect to see themselves placed into a region during the Selection Show at 6pm EST today, but there will be some nervous tension among the fan base.

That feeling will be shared by many NCAA Tournament hopefuls around the country, most notably the teams currently coined to be “on the bubble”.  In what will be one of the weakest bubbles of the past decade, no team will have a true argument should they be excluded from the field. That said, the battle for the final few spots has been tightly contested, so how can you separate one resume from the other?

Every analyst views a resume differently, but for me, I want to know that your team is capable of beating quality opponents. Sure, losing to a bad team isn’t a fantastic trait, but it’s secondary in my eyes to your record vs. RPI top 50 and 100 opponents.  Here’s a breakdown of my “Last 4 In” and “First 4 Out”:

The “Last 4 In”

  • Dayton Flyers
    • 4-5 vs. the RPI top 50 and a very impressive 10-6 vs. the RPI top 100
  • BYU Cougars
    • Solid RPI, non-conference Ws vs. tourney teams Stanford/Texas, but does injury knock them out?
  • SMU Mustangs
    • Horribly overseeded in most brackets, horrible OOC SOS, just 4 RPI top 100 Ws, along with 3 RPI 100+ Ls
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers
    • Incredible late run but their resume is less impressive than talk about them suggests…just 3-8 on the road and 15-12 vs. RPI top 200 opponents

The “First 4 Out”

  • California Golden Bears
    • Respectable 7-11 Ws vs. RPI top 100 and 4-6 road record, but low RPI figure and weak close to the season will likely leave them out of the field
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
    • Extremely similar resume to Cal, below .500 in Big 10 league play
  • Florida State Seminoles
    • Fantastic SOS, but at some point you have to win, just 11-13 vs. RPI top 200
  • Arkansas Razorbacks
    • Current RPI of 77 would make them lowest ranked at-large RPI inclusion ever, that doesn’t give any confidence they will be get in. Just 3-6 away from home.

Mid-Majors Left Out:

  • Southern Miss – RPI of 33 keeps them alive, but just 1 RPI top 50 win and multiple RPI 100+ losses
  • Wisconsin-Green Bay – RPI figure in the 50s spells doom for a team with just 1 RPI top 50 win and three losses to opponents with 100+ RPI.

Now let’s seed the remainder of the field, here are my full predictions for the 68 team field:

  1. Arizona—Florida—Wichita St—Michigan
  2. Villanova—Virginia—Kansas—Duke
  3. Iowa State—Michigan St—Louisville—Wisconsin
  4. Syracuse—Cincinnati—Creighton—San Diego St
  5. UConn—Kentucky—North Carolina—Oklahoma
  6. VCU—Ohio St—UCLA—New Mexico
  7. Texas—Baylor—UMass—Saint Louis
  8. George Washington—Gonzaga—Kansas St—Oklahoma St
  9. Colorado—Oregon—Memphis—Stanford
  10. Arizona St—Pittsburgh—Iowa—Saint Joseph’s
  11. Xavier—Providence—Tennessee—Dayton—BYU
  12. SMU—Nebraska—Harvard—North Dakota St—New Mexico St
  13. Delaware—Manhattan—Tulsa—Stephen F. Austin
  14. Mercer—UL-Lafayette—North Carolina Central—Western Michigan
  15. UW-Milwaukee—American—Eastern Kentucky—Weber St
  16. Texas Southern—Wofford—Coastal Carolina—Mount St. Mary’s—Albany—Cal Poly

Let’s go Buffaloes!