Sunday, March 04, 2007

And now, the irregular season

The regular season is over; on we move to conference tourneys. Look for my final seeding next Sunday, before those silly amateurs of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee look at the cold, hard numbers. I tell you, where's the heart?

In the meantime, let's answer some lingering questions.

How good is Duke? Not very. While capable of making a run, this team has withered under bright lights and high expectations. So of course the pollsters have to overrate them most of the season. (Watch them still ranked next week despite a 2-game skid and an 8-8 record in ACC play.) I've left them off most of these seeding lists because they haven't been consistent or dominant.

Some very stubborn pundits will place them as a 4 or 5 seed, but it's a disgrace to put them ahead of so many teams that managed to win more conference games than they lost. Yes, they have a high RPI and several quality wins, but what have they really done? They're an average ACC team, and deserve to be seeded as such. If they win the ACC tournament, then yeah, they're a 4 seed. I'd like to see them get a 7-9 seed so they have to work to impress people. When's the last time Duke upset a higher seed?

Is there still an East Coast bias? The Pac-10 got a lot more press this year, to the extent that some people were calling them overrated. But name another major conference where the teams might be scheduled to play late Thursday night and early Saturday morning. That's UCLA that the networks are inconveniencing. The upside is that Pac-10 teams have been playing the equivalent of an NCAA tournament schedule for the past two months.

What does take to secure an at-large bid? The Missouri Valley should claim 3 spots; the Mountain West might snag 4. And then there are the surprise teams who get automatic bids. So mid-tier teams in major conferences should worry. There's no 17-win rule anymore. It comes down to a team's strengths: of schedule, of conference, and performance within that conference. I'm not sure that 21 wins and a 9-7 conference record, without context, guarantees much of anything.

Times have changed, and the days where a conference can boast more than half its teams in the NCAAs are numbered. Frankly, I'd much rather see the 4th best MWC team (San Diego State) make the brackets than the 8th best ACC team (Florida State).

Is this the best freshman class ever? Maybe. I heard that Chase Budinger was the 30th freshman this season to score more than 20 points in a game. Analysts are quick to attribute the strength of the class of 2010 (cough, cough) on the new rule that imposes an age limit on NBA draft entrants. That's certainly a factor, but has anyone considered the other side of the coin: early entry of the older college players who didn't stick around?

Freshmen in big programs make a bigger impact because of the gaping hole these would-be upperclassmen leave behind. Maybe Kevin Durant would have a fantastic season no matter what, but he wouldn't be an obvious Player of the Year candidate if LaMarcus Aldridge were still at Texas.

This week's seeds were tough because almost everyone lost.
Out: Pittsburgh. In: Texas.

St. Louis Regional
01. Ohio State: Thad Five went 15-1 in the Big Ten. Ouch.
08. Louisville: From nowhere to 2nd in the Big East. Bravo Pitino.
09. Texas A&M: Did you see those threes by Acie Law?
16. Winthrop: Like I'm adding UVA after they lost to Wake.

San Antonio Regional
02. Kansas: Self-help gets them to 14-2 in Big 12.
07. Wisconsin: May be without Brian Butch for postseason.
10. S. Illinois: Can't punish 'em for playing their tourney early.
15. Nevada: Lost an OT squeaker to Utah State.

San Jose Regional
03. UCLA: Despite UW loss, finished 15-3 in Pac-10.
06. Georgetown: Beast of the East shipped out West?
11. Texas: I love what A.J. Abrams did with Alias and Lost.
14. BYU: Finished 2 games ahead of ranked Air Force.

East Rutherford Regional
04. Memphis: Top 10 in RPI and polls. Like last year.
05. Florida: Staying a 2 seed because others lost too.
12. North Carolina: 11-5 in ACC for nation's most talented team?
13. Washington State: Just don't play Oregon or UCLA again.


EJ said...

It is all about the older players leaving early or not coming at all. Before this year, Durant, odom, and probably 6-8 others would have jumped straight to the pros. particularly the athletic wings and big men. This years freshman class is more talented because everyone of similar talent is in the pros.
You can make the similar case for all-american teams. Who would you take last year: Reddick/Morrison or lebron James/Dwight Howard/Deng/Livingston and a host of others. Not to take anything away from reddick and morrison, but they potentially could have been lucky to make 2nd team all american.

Quinn said...

Day 1 of the ACC was very interesting. I found that most of my peripherally-attached teams (Oregon, Michigan, Oklahoma, Houston) did well, but then, well, that was it. Still, exciting. Parity's a bitch.

Word verification: mmjadama. Used in a sentence: "Mmjadama scored 14 today to lead Cal..."