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Posts Tagged ‘Utah St.’

Conference Report Week 1

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 11, 2015 at 3:07 PM

The new inter-conference week doesn’t start until Utah/Utah St. tonight.  A formerly WAC and Mountain West and currently Pac-12 team against a formerly WAC and Sun Belt and currently Mountain West team.

Louisiana Tech, a former WAC team, is now in the same conference as Western Kentucky, a former Sun Belt team, so that was not an interconference game last night.

A couple of disclaimers and reminders.  In these conference reports, I basically evaluate each conference as if it were a team.  For instance, “team SEC” beat Wisconsin when Alabama beat Wisconsin, and “team Big Ten” lost to Alabama.  So the SEC gets credit for beating Wisconsin just like a team would.  I don’t treat them as “generic Big Ten team”.  So even though only one week has passed, it’s almost like evaulating one season for a team against another since I believe only one conference game has been played.

Another thing to point out is this is NOT picking the conference who has the best team on average.  Alabama can go 0-8 in the SEC, and the important thing is it got that big non-conference win.  Baylor is apparently a very good team, but how good they are won’t matter too much in these because they don’t appear to have any quality non-conference opponents.

Also, records are against FBS opponents unless otherwise indicated.

I always liked this version of the logo.

I always liked this version of the logo.

The SEC was the unquestionable top conference of week 1, going 10-1 with wins over Wisconsin, Arizona St., Louisville, and North Carolina.  The only loss was to that Western Kentucky team I just mentioned.  The Hilltoppers beat Vanderbilt by two points after the SEC ’Doremats failed on a late two-point conversion attempt.  According to most gambling sources, Vandy either beat the spread or came out even, so while it would have been nice for the SEC to get that win, it’s not a huge problem that it didn’t.

The only record by a P5 conference (those are SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, and Pac-12) that came close was that of the 5-1 Big XII.  But the ten teams of the XII only combined to beat one major-conference opponent.  This was TCU’s win over Minnesota.  The other major opponent was when Texas lost to Notre Dame.  The other four wins were nothing special: SMU, Central Michigan, Akron, and Georgia Southern (which just became a full member of the Sun Belt after being in FCS and a transitional year).  Also, that record is not counting the fact that Kansas lost to FCS South Dakota St.  So even if Kansas is the Vanderbilt equivalent, losing to Western Kentucky is probably better than losing to South Dakota St.

The Mountain West went 2-1 with wins over Washington, and Colorado, but they also lost to an FCS team (Wyoming to North Dakota).  I can’t fault UNLV (another possible worst-in-conference team) much for losing to Northern Illinois.

The only other conference with a winning record was the CUSA at 5-4.  The CUSA did not beat any impressive teams, although it was a surprise that FIU beat Central Florida (which is now and American Conference [AAC] team).  The two wins over P5 teams were over Purdue and Vanderbilt, who are possibly the worst teams in their respective conferences.

The ACC is last among the power conferences, although it didn’t really do anything wrong, but there should have been a toss-up or something close where they won.  The only one where the ACC should have had a chance was North Carolina vs. South Carolina (in Charlotte); and the Tar Heels were respectable competition, but they didn’t win.  I can’t hold the losses by Virginia to UCLA, by Virginia Tech to Ohio St., and by Louisville to Auburn against the conference to any large extent.

The Pac-12 was relatively disappointing.  Arizona St. was supposed to be one of the best teams in the conference (based on returning starters anyway), and Stanford was supposed to be a sleeper team in the North Division.  So those losses (to Texas A&M and Northwestern, respectively) are worse than the ACC losses.  As for the wins, they are: Michigan (Utah probably isn’t great, so this is a positive), Virginia (which UCLA should have won easily anyway), UTSA (which Arizona should have won easily and didn’t), and Arkansas St. (by USC in a blowout that was expected).  Colorado might be the worst team in the Pac-12, but Hawaii was certainly a winnable game.  Also, another contender for worst in the Pac-12 is WSU, which certainly should have beaten Portland St.

So I mentioned two big wins by the Big Ten above, but there were somehow six losses.  They were all fairly excusable though.  Michigan and Minnesota put up a good fight in games few expected them to win (I picked Michigan, but hard to win on the road against a P5 opponent with four turnovers), and Nebraska of course lost the heart-breaker to BYU.  The other two wins were against MAC teams that probably won’t even be competitive in that conference, but still I think there were more positives than negatives despite the losing record.

Since we’re down to three independents, I’m not going to go into those as a category this year.  They don’t even play one another, so it’s hard to take pride in each other’s accomplishments, which is kind of the point of this. You might not be happy if your team goes 8-5, but you can take some pride in playing a lot of good teams that did well against other conferences and still making a bowl game.  It was different when Navy was there and played Army and Notre Dame annually, and Notre Dame has also played Army and BYU in recent years (I consider 2010 a recent year anyway).

The rest is mostly just a matter of who had the ugliest losses.  The good news is I mentioned the three relevant FCS losses already.  I’m just going to call it a tie between the MAC and AAC.  On the one hand, the AAC beat Penn St., but on the other hand (as mentioned) it lost to FIU.  The MAC just had vanilla results up and down the line.  Idaho and UNLV are possibly two of the worst teams in the FBS, and I can’t blame them for losing to teams that will likely make bowls.  Illinois and Old Dominion may not, but if the MAC is to beat such teams, EMU (I always wondered why their mascot wasn’t the emus) and Kent St. are probably not going to be the ones to do it.

The Sun Belt went winless (apart from against the FCS), so you can’t really do worse.

  1. SEC
  2. Big XII
  3. Big Ten
  4. MWC
  5. Pac-12
  6. CUSA
  7. ACC
  8. (tie) AAC
  9. (tie) MAC
  10. Sun Belt
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Bring Back the Big West

In Bowls, College Football, Realignment on December 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Even though this could have been the promising first year of a reorganized respectable second-tier conference, the WAC as we used to know it seems pretty much dead. All the football members have left or are leaving apart from Idaho and New Mexico St.

As recently as 1995, the top three WAC teams of this year, Louisiana Tech, Utah St., and San Jose St., all competed in the Big West. Nevada, UNLV, and New Mexico St. were also in that conference, and Boise St. joined (along with Idaho) in 1996.

Which got me thinking… since there won’t be a WAC, why can’t there be a Big West in football again? I can’t think of a good reason. In football, the Big East is doing so much expanding from the area near the Mississippi River all the way to Boise and San Diego, so that can incorporate these teams while the rest of the conference can keep operating as it is already, with some possible quality expansion in other sports.

These were the teams in the WAC in 1995:
Air Force
BYU
Colorado St.
Fresno St.
Hawaii
New Mexico
San Diego St.
Utah
UTEP
Wyoming

Boise St. and San Diego St. are actually going to be in the Big West in other sports, and Hawaii is already there. I imagine Utah St. and San Jose St. (which appear to be headed to the Mountain West) could be brought back with just the foundation I’ve mentioned so far. BYU left the Mountain West to become independent in football (WCC in other sports, which makes less sense than the Big West would), but no currently AQ-conference has offered them a spot, and they’re naturals to be playing the likes of Boise St. and Utah St., both of which they’ve played this season.

The East-West alliance along the lines of the previously-discussed MWC-CUSA idea didn’t work out because of all the existing obligations (essentially schools could then leave without buyout fees and without paying the conference shares of post-season revenue), but all those problems aren’t here since administratively, it would still really be the Big East.

Louisiana Tech is a definite for the Conference USA, but that’s fine because they were too far to the East for the WAC anyway. The Big West football conference did extend into Arkansas and Louisiana briefly (inlcluding Louisiana Tech and UL-Lafayette, then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana). There is a bit of a central region in the Big East as well that could provide the anticipated mega-conference some flexibility, so they’re not completely out of the question later.

The Big East has already announced plans to include Memphis, Tulane, SMU, and Houston. With the quality Western teams available, I would think Memphis and Tulane would be playing in the true Big East (by which I mean teams that would be in the Big East in other sports and in the Eastern division in football), but SMU and Houston would be good opponents for them as well. If only one of the four goes out West (in the even both Cincinnati and Connecticut find other conferences), then SMU and Houston could still be permanent opponents.

The only teams left from a couple of years ago (to make up the core of the true Big East) will be Connecticut, Cincinnati, and South Florida.

So this is what I’m thinking as a possible alignment…

Big East Big West
Central Florida Boise St.
Cincinnati BYU
Connecticut Hawaii
East Carolina Houston
Memphis Nevada
South Florida San Diego St.
Temple SMU
Tulane UNLV
Future possibilities Future possibilities
Army Air Force
Louisiana Tech San Jose St.
Navy* Utah St.

*-Navy is already set to join in 2015.

Apart from Navy, the Western future possibilities are more likely in the event of more shuffling of the Eastern teams. The ACC or Big Ten could take teams from the East if they want to go to 16. If the SEC goes to 16, they would likely come from the ACC, which will probably want to replace those two. So if two teams are lost from the Eastern division, they could be replaced by SMU and Houston, whose spots in the Western division could be taken by San Jose St. and Utah St. I could also see SMU and Houston joining the Big XII to make it… wait for it, 12 teams. Then you could simply replace them with San Jose St. and Utah St. Air Force (who could of course be a permanent opponent of Navy) seems like another reasonable possibility

To balance out possible unfairness from permanent opponents, I would be in favor of only counting divisional play toward picking the contestants for the championship game, but this would not rule out one or two games against teams from the other side during the season. If Air Force and Navy were in different divisions, they would still need to play one another. I don’ t know if Army is a possibility, but just for instance, it might be that if all the Commander-in-Chief teams are in this conference, two permanent opponents would be needed. That can’t really be done if it counts as an equal conference game. Other programs may not prefer to play any inter-divisional games.

Also, if circumstances change (which seems to happen every couple of months), maybe there could be too much interest in the East and not enough in the West. Then, you could easily have Memphis and/or Tulane move to the West.

I guess we can expect the Mountain West to have a number of members suitable for a round-robin format, which is sort of why it was created around the turn of the 21st century. So in addition to the three programs mentioned as future possibilities for the Big West, the Mountain West membership includes Wyoming, Colorado St., Fresno St., and New Mexico. I started this off by mentioning Idaho and New Mexico St. They could fit right in if some of the defections take place. Another possibility would be UTEP, which is less than an hour away from New Mexico St. West Texas might be a place to make recruiting inroads. Of course, the Big East is already going to be in East Texas.

Idaho isn’t quite as great of a fit for either conference, but another possibility for Idaho is to go back to the Big Sky, which may also house future FBS programs, by the way.

Anyway, there are definitely suitable teams for an 8-10-team Mountain West as well as an 8-team Big West to be part of the football Big East.

The bowl policies are interesting here. The Fiesta Bowl currently is the Big XII champion’s default destination, but that is going to be the Sugar under the SEC-Big XII contract, so that will open up. Maybe the winner of the football Big East could play there, even if the winner were from the East. An Eastern team might be good enough for the Orange Bowl in some years, but nothing would rule out a Pac-12 or Big XII #2 team playing the MWC champions in the Fiesta Bowl if it worked out that way. I don’t think the MWC under what I’m envisioning would be a fixture in the major bowls, but there may be some years where that would be appropriate. The Cotton Bowl also seems to be taking on increasing importance, but one would think that would be a common location of the SEC-Big XII bowl in the years where the Sugar is a semifinal bowl. In other years, the football Big East might be a good fit as well, regardless of which division the winner comes from.

The Big East doesn’t have to be an unmitigated coast-to-coast disaster, but I’m afraid that is a possibility without the kind of clear direction I would like to see it have with the Western teams. Funny that just a could years ago, many (myself included) were thinking the solution might just be to make the MWC an AQ in lieu of the Big East or simply to remove the Big East from AQ status to make room for more MWC or WAC teams. Now I’m talking about a lot of the teams in question being in the same conference somehow.

Pre-Bowl (Week 14) Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 2, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Notre Dame 1
2 Ohio St. 2
3 Florida 3
4 Alabama 5
5 Stanford 6
6 Oregon 4
7 Kansas St. 8
8 S Carolina 9
9 LSU 10
10 Georgia 7
11 Oklahoma 13
12 TX A&M 12
13 Nebraska 11
14 SJSU 15
15 Clemson 14
16 Florida St. 17
17 N. Illinois 19
18 Oregon St. 16
19 Utah St. 18
20 Boise St. 24
21 Louisville —
22 N’western 20
23 Michigan 23
24 Ball St. —
25 Ark. St. —

Out of rankings: (21) Texas, (22) Rutgers, (25) Kent St.

Full 124 permalink

Prior rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Week 13

Comments
I know people aren’t going to be happy with this necessarily, but I really believe that at least the top 10 or so is exactly as it should be.

Notre Dame has the best collection of wins, followed by Florida. If Florida simply hadn’t played Georgia and played out the rest of the season, they would be ahead of Ohio St. despite having played one fewer game. Also, if you were to give Florida a win over Alabama (while still leaving off the Georgia loss), there is a good chance the Gators would be ahead of Notre Dame.

I do give Ohio St. a poor strength of schedule rating, but that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes were untested. They defeated a 10-win team, a 9-win team, and three 8-win teams. The only team in the top 8 of the Big Ten standings that the Buckeyes avoided playing was Northwestern. All but the most die-hard SEC supporters would not likely be complaining if the Buckeyes were not on probation and were set to play in the BCS championship game as the undefeated Big Ten champions.

As to Florida being ahead of Alabama, I simply think Florida has the better collection of wins.

Florida—LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida St., Vanderbilt
Alabama—LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi St.

When you go much further below the top 40, I don’t think that’s especially relevant for conversations about how to rank the top 5, but even if we cover the top 60, Alabama is still 4-1 while Florida improves all the way to 7-1. Also see my chart in last week’s (actually Friday’s) comments.

I don’t regard Georgia as a worse loss than Texas A&M, but whether you do or not, I don’t think that overcomes the difference in quality wins.

If you think the BCS should have a rule that only conference champions should be considered, then I think many would agree with my ratings that the best two conference champions are Alabama and Stanford. If independents are exceptions to this rule, then this would give you Alabama and Notre Dame, exactly what is going to happen.

Kansas St. would take exception to being behind Stanford among champions, but the Wildcats didn’t beat anyone in my top 10 and only two teams in my top 40. Stanford does have two losses to one, but one of those losses was to Notre Dame, a team that happened to beat Oklahoma, Kansas St.’s best win by far.

Stanford lost to a fairly mediocre Washington team, but there isn’t a big gap between Washington and Baylor. Stanford won six games against my top 40 to Kansas St.’s two. I purposely make wins and losses count a lot here, but it only goes so far.

I can imagine some grumblings over South Carolina being ahead of LSU. LSU did beat the Gamecocks after all. There are a couple of very minor things that could have changed this.
One would have been LSU scoring a couple more points or allowing a couple fewer points against the Gamecocks. While margin of victory is not generally a relevant factor for me, home teams have a historical advantage of around 3 points per game, and home teams win about 5% more often.

Some compensate for this discrepancy by eliminating the point difference (this is done in ratings that include margin of victory of course, usually ones that have something to do with betting since it can be added or subtracted based on the location of a given game), and some compensate by uniformly counting home wins less and away wins more (and usually also home losses more and away losses less).

Since I think the advantage is generally in close games, I do a bit of a hybrid. If a game is decided by three points or fewer (which is also useful because it so happens to be a field goal… often a couple more first downs during the course of a game would have given a team a field goal where in a drive where it ended up with no points or even a touchdown rather than a field goal) or in overtime (obviously, one more point on either side would have avoided overtime in the first place), I only give the home team 90% of the win (not 95% because I don’t give it 5% of a loss), and I penalize the away team 10% less (not 5% because I don’t give it 5% of a win).

So while LSU has slightly better wins and a better second loss (both lost to Florida; Alabama is regarded as slightly better than LSU), it doesn’t show up that way. Lessening South Carolina’s penalty for losing to LSU makes the LSU loss seem to be a better loss than Alabama.

Another way LSU ends up ahead would have been if Washington had not blown an 18-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to Washington St. in overtime.

Maybe the bowl games will sort out this discrepancy anyway.

There may also be some unhappiness over Oklahoma staying ahead of Texas A&M, but this is another very close call. Texas A&M lost to my #3 and #9 while Oklahoma lost to my #1 and #7. As to the wins, while #4 is obviously a much better win than #28, don’t forget that Texas A&M played two fewer games against AQ-level opponents and one more game against an FCS opponent.

While the proper order of the teams beyond this point is not the objective of my ratings and I do not necessarily endorse this order, it does make some sense. If there were a 25-team playoff (god forbid), they would all have good arguments for inclusion.

San Jose St. does seem unusually high, but they were second for a conference championship behind Utah St. In this conference, Louisiana Tech finished 3rd even though the Bulldogs only fell a two-point conversion short of taking Texas A&M to overtime. San Jose St. itself only lost at Stanford by 3 points. San Jose St. may not beat Clemson or Florida St. on a neutral field, but I don’t think many expected them to win 10 games regardless of the opposition. As to Utah St. (San Jose St.’s other loss), the Aggies only lost to Wisconsin (Big Ten champions) by 2 points and to BYU (which San Jose St. beat) by 3 points. I would also note that BYU lost at Notre Dame by only 3 points.

Oregon St. beat Wisconsin and BYU (despite going on to lose three games overall), so it makes sense that the Beavers are ahead of the Aggies.

Florida St. won the ACC. They beat Clemson but had the worse conference loss, to North Carolina St., so they’re a very small distance behind the Tigers.

Northern Illinois won the MAC championship with only a single loss all season (to Iowa), and Boise St. was the best team in the three-way tie atop the Mountain West (with Fresno St. and San Diego St., both of whom finished just out of the top 25). Boise St. also lost to a mediocre Big Ten team in Michigan St., so this is another reminder to give Ohio St. a bit of credit.
Louisville of course wrapped up the Big East and won 10 games this season.

Northwestern and Michigan were also good enough against quality competition to make the top 25. Michigan of course played Ohio St. in inter-division play and Notre Dame and Alabama out of conference, so this helped make up for having one fewer win than Northwestern does, but still the Wildcats have a slight edge.

Ball St. has won six straight since losing to both MAC-title contestants in back-to-back weeks and the Cardinals’ only other loss was to Clemson. The Cardinals beat Indiana and South Florida. Granted, those aren’t great AQ opponents, but the AQ performance looks a lot better than that by either Northern Illinois or Kent St. (which lost to Kentucky). More impressive than that, they also defeated Toledo (which lost to Arizona in overtime and beat Cincinnati) to end the Rockets’ 8-game winning streak.

Arkansas St. won the Sun Belt and hasn’t lost since September. Along with the one in-conference slip-up against Western Kentucky, the Red Wolves’ only other losses were to Nebraska and Oregon.

Week 11 Top 25 and Commentary

In Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 16, 2012 at 8:06 PM

I apologize for this being so late. I’ve been without home internet most of the week. Please check out my blogs about Vanderbilt‘s accomplishments in general and Georgia‘s lack thereof relative to Florida. The Georgia one was just published today, but I thought all of this should be published before games start tomorrow morning.

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Notre Dame 1
2 Kansas St. 4
3 Alabama 2
4 Florida 6
5 Oregon 5
6 Ohio St. 3
7 Georgia 7
8 S Carolina 10
9 LSU 14
10 Nebraska 12
11 Stanford 16
12 TX A&M 15
13 Clemson 11
14 Florida St. 13
15 Oregon St. 8
16 Texas 18
17 Oklahoma 19
18 La. Tech 20
19 Louisville 9
20 Rutgers 22
21 Toledo 17
22 Michigan —
23 SJSU 23
24 UCLA 24
25 Utah St. —

Out of rankings: (21) Northwestern, (25) Mississippi St.

Full 124 permalink

Prior rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10

Commentary

I’m not going to do a separate SEC entry this time since talking about the top 10 is for the most-part a discussion of SEC teams.
If only Alabama had choked with a chance to win last week.

But as it stands, the SEC’s best chance is still the Crimson Tide. I have them behind only Kansas St. and Notre Dame, although Oregon may close the gap and even surpass them in the next couple of weeks.

I have 5 SEC teams in the top 9 and 6 in the top 12 but shut out of the top 2, and as mentioned, the SEC may not even continue to have a team in the top 3.
Florida, who was #2 in the BCS before losing to Georgia, would have been a really good one-loss possibility, but due to the wonders of head-to-head (which disregards strength of schedule and benefits the team that loses to the lesser opponent), Georgia has clinched the SEC East (follow link for my thoughts on this).

It is in the realm of possibility for Georgia to end up in the top two, but that would require two teams among the BCS top 3 (Kansas St., Notre Dame, and Oregon) losing. I’m only slightly less sure that’s necessary with Alabama, but the best chances for a one-loss SEC champion would have been Florida or LSU. I would have enjoyed seeing that happen, by the way, but we’ll never know if this kind of strength at the top of the SEC would have been enough for either team.

Apart from Florida’s pending contest against Florida St., none of the four have any really high-quality out-of-conference games, but the key is the interdivisional games. Alabama played Missouri and Tennessee, Georgia played Ole Miss and Auburn, LSU played South Carolina and Florida, and Florida played Texas A&M and LSU. So Florida is 3-1 against the SEC top 6. I think that should merit being considered the best team in the SEC right now, and going into the SEC Championship game, there is a good chance my rankings will support that.

By the way, I think it’s outlandish that people are acting like Texas A&M is a better team than LSU when they lost to the Tigers at home. So much for head-to-head. Of course, if that were the only reason, that wouldn’t be good enough, but LSU also beat South Carolina. Texas A&M doesn’t have a strong interdivisional win (no, Missouri doesn’t qualify). As to the Alabama game, the Tide made the play it needed against LSU but not against A&M. I don’t see that as over-riding the A&M/LSU result just because LSU has lost more recently as a result of these events. Not to mention that LSU has been a more serious top team lately with a total of 3 losses in the last two seasons combined and 6 losses in the last three seasons combined. Also, LSU finally found a well-rounded offense against Alabama.

I read somewhere that if Oregon is in the BCS title game and the Rose Bowl opts not to pick another Pac-12 team (which seems like something they’d do, given that they picked Illinois of all teams a few years ago), they would pick Texas A&M to play Nebraska (for instance). Why would a potential Big XII title game a couple of years ago be more compelling than Florida/Nebraska or LSU/Nebraska? I don’t see it.

Anyway, speaking of the BCS top 3, I can definitely see Oregon moving into the top 2. USC, Wake Forest and a bye doesn’t stack up to Stanford, Oregon St., and a Pac-12 South champion (probably USC). Kansas St. may be stuck behind Notre Dame—both teams’ best win is over Oklahoma, Kansas St. also has a bye and a mediocre opponent (Baylor). Texas is better than USC, but not by much (especially since USC would improve somewhat by beating UCLA). USC can improve by upsetting Oregon or Notre Dame of course (and would improve at least somewhat by beating UCLA), but that would make this all a moot point. If I were Kansas St., I would be cheering for UCLA this weekend for sure. It might be counter-intuitive, but I also suspect it would be better for Oklahoma to lose Bedlam since Kansas St. beat Oklahoma St. and Notre Dame did not.

Too bad Texas isn’t playing Texas A&M this year. That could have been a contentious event for all involved in this discussion.

I can already see people asking me why Texas A&M is so low, and with the Aggies playing Sam Houston St. this weekend, I expect even more such questions next week. First of all, it doesn’t help much to play two FCS teams and SMU out of conference. Louisiana Tech is nice, but the Bulldogs have a very weak strength of schedule, so they count less as an opponent than they do in their own right. Also, the Aggies are going to play Missouri Thanksgiving weekend. This won’t help much either. Of course, my ratings don’t differentiate winning a big game last week from winning a big game (in hindsight) in Week 1. So how high would Texas A&M realistically be in that situation?

I think it’s pretty clear why Texas A&M is 6th in the SEC here if you think about it that way. And also, they followed the same script, go out to a big lead, then run into a wall. Alabama just wasn’t as competent against the A&M defense as they have been against defenses all year.

But it’s not as clear why Nebraska and Stanford are ahead. It’s having that good second or third win, I think. #2 and #3 for A&M are probably Louisiana Tech and Mississippi St. That’s not a top-10 resume. Granted no one outside of the top 9 really has one anyway, but Nebraska has good enough depth of wins: Wisconsin, Michigan St., Michigan, Northwestern, Penn St. The Big Ten has had better seasons, but Nebraska played all the desirable games against the other division, even though of course Ohio St. didn’t have a desirable result for the Huskers. The other loss was to UCLA, which of course is a much worse loss than any Texas A&M has suffered, but I think when you get toward the middle of the top 25, it’s fair to rank teams higher that have good (but not great competition) on a regular basis given that there may only be one win or no wins against the top 10 and perhaps only a couple against the top 25.

Stanford’s schedule lags behind Nebraska’s for the moment, but with the potential to steal the Pac-12 North from Oregon by beating the Ducks and Bruins, that’s going to change. Of course if they lose and Nebraska doesn’t, the Huskers will probably stay ahead though.

What can you say about the top of the ACC? Ball St., Auburn, and Furman don’t knock your socks off as non-conference opponents, but that just tells you how poor the Noles’ non-conference schedule is thus far that a team who played that slate and lost to the Seminoles is still ahead. But don’t forget that losing to Florida St. doesn’t hurt as much as losing to North Carolina St. does.
Oregon St. has fairly similar results as Stanford, but the Beavers didn’t play USC and Notre Dame. Wisconsin might make up for USC, but it doesn’t make up for both.

Texas also has two losses, but the ’Horns are being more and more weighed down by West Virginia. I mentioned Bedlam. A Cowboys win would also hurt Texas. Also, their best non-conference win is Ole Miss, which has a fair chance of losing to LSU and Mississippi St., although I wouldn’t bet the farm on the latter.

Oklahoma doesn’t even have a non-conference win as good as the one Texas has, but they should pass up the ’Horns due to playing West Virginia this week while Texas is idle. The tables might turn once again if Texas upsets Kansas St.

I don’t think Nos. 18-20 are likely to beat any of these teams (although La. Tech sure put a scare into A&M), but the important part is despite their respective records, they’re nowhere near national-championship consideration. I would much rather have the top 5 be in a satisfactory order than ensure the most deserving teams are in the top 20. But a three-loss team like Michigan being even farther away doesn’t bother me too much anyway. If Michigan shocks me and wins the Big Ten, they’ll be rewarded though.

Toledo is ahead of Michigan, but the MAC is strong enough this year to put a team with one conference loss in the top 25 when that team played a strong non-conference schedule, even though that schedule included a loss.

And then the WAC is strong enough to put a second and third team in the top 25. Utah St. is undefeated in conference with respectable losses to Wisconsin and BYU. San Jose St.’s only conference loss is to Utah St. and their non-conference loss is to Stanford.

I mentioned that UCLA has to play USC, the Bruins will also play Stanford, so two wins there would allow them to pass up several of these second-tier-conference schools. UCLA also has a shot at playing for the Pac-12 title. But (in Veruca Salt voice) why aren’t they higher now? For one thing, they could have picked a better team to lose to than Cal. Bad losses hurt, that’s done on purpose. If there are two teams in the top 5 with comparable wins, I want to knock out the one with a bad loss. Again, I’d rather make sure the teams 1-5 are the way I want them instead of teams 16-20 or 21-25. They also lost to Oregon St. and chose to play both sides of the Houston Derby. Nebraska was a really good win for them, but it’s not a cure-all.

#27 USC has the best chance of making it back into the top 25 with a win, but that would likely open up a spot for someone else. #26 Boise St. is idle and #28 Northwestern plays Illinois. #29 Texas Tech may jump both if it can get past Oklahoma St. The MAC had a big game this week between #30 Northern Illinois and Toledo, so they may essentially switch spots, although the Huskies may not get quite as high.

The next 5 out are Arizona, Washington, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma St. This gives a little more context to the parts where I talk about these teams in respectful terms. I kind of left it assumed the people know LSU beat Washington and Washington beat Stanford, but I guess it’s worth mentioning more explicitly.

My take on the NCAA Selection Committee

In College Basketball on March 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM

In giving itself a chance to beat West Virginia, Clemson confirmed again (as they did initially in the UNC game and again in the UAB game…I will discuss some of the other controversial inclusions and exclusions below) that they do have skills necessary to win games in this tournament, but my feeling is if you don’t beat an RPI top-50 team before the tournament, you don’t belong in the tournament as an at-large.

For the record, I began writing this when Clemson was ahead by 9 points, and it was partly written in my head before the game started. I just haven’t had time earlier this week to either watch the tournament reaction or write a blog, especially since I filled out around 30 brackets (I have two ESPN accounts, and I filled out all the ones I came across, as many as I could. It’s partly to cover my bases from not having watched enough games this year, but it’s also because I’m much better at individual match-ups than I am at, “This team is going to win this region”…of course most people who show confidence at the latter effort are frequently wrong.)

As for Clemson and its athleticism, I don’t care if they look like Bill Russell’s Celtics if they don’t beat anyone of note. There are few phrases more annoying in the football context where less than 2% of the teams can play for the BCS title at the end of the year, but in basketball, the “eye test” is arguably appropriate as an argument when it’s a close call for #40-something. But not when you can plainly rule out a team based on a lack of accomplishments. Being unable to keep a convincing lead against North Carolina was repeated against West Virginia. So maybe that game was a cause for concern as much as it was a credit to Clemson. (Roy Williams isn’t a particularly good conference-tournament coach anyway. Even his national-championship teams lost in the second game of their respective conference tournaments.)

I know the RPI is flawed, but come on. I wouldn’t require beating a top-25 or top-30 RPI team, but I think counting #50 and above gives enough leeway to factor in the RPI’s weaknesses.

Even Alabama, who had an RPI of 80, beat a top-50 team, Georgia, twice in a row right at the end. I have no reservations about leaving Alabama out, by the way. They didn’t beat anyone worth much out of conference, and they played in the SEC West, so I don’t care if they did beat Georgia twice, their 12-4 SEC record isn’t really better than Georgia’s 9-7 without even looking out of conference.

Speaking of 9-7, that’s how Clemson finished in the ACC, and given their givens, I think they had to distinguish themselves better than that. I’m definitely more impressed with Harvard (especially considering their out-of-conference accomplishments) tying Princeton for the Ivy League crown than I am with 9-7 in the ACC this year.

The other “first four” at-large winner, VCU, is a team I wanted to see in this tournament. They had three wins over top-50 teams going in. People talk about recent losses in criticism of VCU’s selection. They had 6 losses since January 3, including one to George Mason and two to Old Dominion. During that time, they also beat Old Dominion and George Mason. The win over Old Dominion was on the road.

Maybe this doesn’t make up for losses to Northeastern, Drexel, and James Madison, but that’s a different argument. It’s still true that they finished the seaon on an overall upswing despite the losses.

I would also give them credit for playing the non-conference schedule they played. That probably contributed to making them the team they are now, even though again there were some losses to non-tournament teams. Winthrop and Wake Forest have had better years (one neutral-court win, one road win), but it was clear they were not dodging competition. These are the other non-conference highlights: loss to Tennessee (neutral), win over UCLA (neutral), loss to South Florida (road), win over VMI (home), loss to UAB (road). The loss to Tennessee was by 5, the loss to South Florida was by 1 in overtime, and the loss to UAB was by 3.

I heard it said in watching the ODU game that VCU would not get an automatic bid (I had not been following “Bracketology,” which I think is silly until the last week), and although I normally am for ODU, I said aloud, “That’s a shame” that VCU lost because I felt that the tournament would be missing something without them.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that because they looked really good in this game, that they deserved an at-large bid. I’m not discussing them to the exclusion of any contender who did not make the field. I’m not here to argue that they belonged ahead of Colorado, Virginia Tech, and St. Mary’s. Certainly had those three made it and VCU went to the NIT along with UAB and Clemson, VCU would not have had a right to complain. As a side note, from the two St. Mary’s games I’ve seen recently, VCU looked better even in the loss to ODU than the Gaels did during the WCC tournament. My objection is to the statements made on ESPN (by Jay Bilas for example) that VCU doesn’t pass the laugh test. I think dismissal of VCU to that extreme is a continuation of the bias against mid-majors. I don’t know how many Butlers or George Masons or Bradleys these people need. Incidentally, VCU’s profile is not a whole lot different from that of the George Mason team that went to the Final Four. Granted, that team making the Final Four was a bit of a fluke, but George Mason could have easily been excluded from the tournament that year, and few would have been outraged or even moderately annoyed.

It is not an aberrant event for a team to look like a tough out in losing a conference title game and having that team end up in the tournament. About 7 years ago, Utah St. barely lost in the final and surprised most (including Lunardi, if I remember correctly) by making the field. The defense from the committee (which used to take more questions, by the way) was the type of game they played, and obviously some consideration was given for the quality of the WAC and the narrow loss of an automatic opportunity. The committee did seem to move away from that in recent years (Mississippi St.’s snub after the 1-point overtime loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final last year, for instance), but I don’t believe they should have. In the case of VCU, I think it’s worthwhile to consider that losing in a rubber match to a clear tournament team (ODU is seeded 9th, and you could easily argue they should be higher) by five points is a good showing even though obviously it does not result in an automatic bid.

I think UAB’s inclusion was a somewhat misguided show of respect for winning (in the regular season of course) a Conference USA that has highly respectable programs including UTEP and Memphis, and a recognition of the type of program at UAB in recent years. However as far as this season, there is no way one top-50 win goes ahead of the six that Colorado had. I don’t care if Colorado played no non-conference games or if they were the ugliest six games since the shot clock was implemented, that’s still more impressive. So I think I’m with the UAB critics, but the people outraged about VCU (especially if they’re not also complaining about Clemson) didn’t give this a fair hearing, they just over-reacted due to having assumed VCU was not on the committee’s menu. The committee got this one wrong, but I think I understand where their impression of UAB came from at least.

More Conference Changes? + My Bowl Projections

In College Basketball, College Football, Realignment on November 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Surprise, surprise, TCU is changing conferences again.

The Horned Frogs will join their fourth conference since the dissolution of the SWC in 1996. First, it joined the WAC superconference. Shortly after the MWC teams left the WAC, it moved to the CUSA. Then it jumped to the MWC. Now it will be in the Big East, starting in 2012.

I understand that football teams must start in a new conference by 2012 in order for its statistics to count in the new conference for BCS purposes. The current evaluation period is between 2008 and 2011.

It has driven me crazy that a team in Fort Worth, TX, belonged to the Mountain West Conference since they joined, but they’re moving to a conference that, at least as compared to the current MWC, makes even less sense geographically.

Plus, TCU has a basketball team, so that will be 17 members of the Big East. That’s beyond ridiculous. I think they should make it two separate conferences for the purposes of other sports. Will there now be a play-in game to reach the 1st round of the basketball tournament, where the four winners then get a chance TO PLAY FOR a spot in the quarterfinals?

The travel times listed below are based on Google Maps driving directions.

TCU will leave a conference whose closest rival was 10 hours, 19 minutes away to join one whose closest rival will be 13 hours, 48 minutes away. (South Florida, in Tampa, may be closer in the air than Louisville, but I’m not sure.)

The longest trip will be 28 hours away (it doesn’t give minutes when you go over 24 hours). In the MWC as currently constituted, the longest trip (San Diego St.) was 21 hours, 19 minutes.

But to be fair, it could have gotten worse had TCU stayed. Boise will be 26 hours away, but Hawaii (if they choose to join the MWC) would have been even farther away, about 2900 miles, almost 1200 more than the distance to Connecticut. There is of course no driving time to Hawaii. Confirmed new additions to the MWC, Nevada and Fresno St., would have also been farther away than any current MWC team.

Obviously, there are other reasons, but it’s interesting that three teams have now left the MWC since it was announced that Boise St. was joining. No one wants to play them, unless it’s another team that wants to go out its way to prove itself (I’m sure Fresno St., for instance, was happy to follow them to the MWC).

As I referenced in the second paragraph, I also read that apparently these moves are all about jockeying for automatic qualifier status. TCU’s BCS appearance last year will count toward the Big East, Boise’s will count toward the Mountain West, and Utah’s in the 2008 season will count toward the Pac-10.

Hawaii’s BCS appearnce in the 2007 season apparently doesn’t matter, so the WAC could really be deprived even if Hawaii stays. The WAC might be the new Sun Belt when all is said and done. Idaho, Utah St., and New Mexico St. were all Sun Belt teams at one point, incidentally. San Jose St. isn’t much better. Louisiana Tech (another severely out-of-place team) actually won the WAC in their first season in the conference, but it’s been pretty much downhill since then. Those five teams are the only ones left if Hawaii also leaves. Maybe they’ll add some California FCS teams, but I think the last thing we need is more FBS teams. The Sun Belt is getting bloated, maybe a some of them will go out West (there are two Louisiana teams and one Texas team who might go well with Louisiana Tech).

The Sun Belt is currently scheduled to have 10 football teams with the addition of South Alabama in 2013. I don’t know if Denver plans to field a football team, but they are moving to the WAC, where BYU will also play in sports other than football.

The Big East is also considering adding Central Florida and Villanova, should the latter choose to move up to FBS. Central Florida would increase the number of basketball teams to 18.

I don’t know if there is any interest in bringing Temple back to the Big East, but that would be a more logical fit than the MAC, especially since the Owls have been improved in the last couple of years. It would also be a good basketball program to add, though its previous membership in the Big East was football-only. Temple would also of course be a natural rival with Villanova. The teams have already played each other multiple times in recent years and have an intense basketball rivalry.

Bowl projections

National championship:
Oregon vs. Auburn

I don’t think either team will have it easy this week, but I expect both to come out on top. I just don’t think the opposition is good enough. On the other hand, just ask Bobby Bowden how tough it is to face a rematch with Steve Spurrier.

A Pac-10 or Big Ten national-championship-game team would automatically send TCU to the Rose Bowl. It’s not right for Stanford, but that’s the breaks. So the Rose Bowl doesn’t really get to pick a team.

So there is the second match-up: Wisconsin (projected Big Ten champion based on BCS standings) vs. TCU.

This would probably leave an automatic #4, probably Stanford, Oklahoma or Nebraska as the Big XII champions, Virginia Tech or Florida St. as the ACC champions, and probably either Connecticut or West Virginia (Pitt would only make it if both lose) as the Big East champions. This leaves open the possibility of two non-automatic at-large teams.

The Sugar Bowl gets the first two real picks, the replacement for Auburn and the regular first pick. I think they’d definitely pick Arkansas (leaving only one other non-automatic slot). They might like to pick the Big XII champion, but they’re contractually obligated to the Fiesta Bowl, so my guess is they knock out that last non-automatic spot and pick Ohio St. The Buckeyes were in a New Orleans bowl game in 2007 (the national championship game), but I still think the team and fan base are the most attractive option. I don’t think there is enough of a gap between Stanford and Ohio St. to ignore all the other positives for Ohio St.

So there is our third match-up: Ohio St. vs. Arkansas

The Orange Bowl will have the ACC champion automatically, and they’ll get to pick a second team. Especially if it’s Connecticut, I don’t think they’d want the Big East team instead, so my guess here would be they’d take Stanford. Even if WVU wins the Big East, I don’t know if you pick a team that’s 20 spots worse because their fans are better.

So the fourth match-up: ACC vs. Stanford

The Fiesta Bowl will automatically get the Big XII champion, and they’d be stuck with the Big East Champion, assuming no one else selects that team.

Fifth match-up: Big XII vs. Big East

Select other bowl projections:
CapitalOne: LSU vs. Michigan St.
Cotton: Oklahoma St. vs. Alabama
Outback: South Carolina vs. Penn St.
Peach: Virginia Tech vs. Florida or Florida St. vs. Mississippi St.
Gator: Florida or Mississippi St. vs. Illinois or Iowa (The Ron Zook Bowl sounds interesting, but if it’s Mississippi St., they might go with Iowa instead)
Alamo: Texas A&M vs. Arizona
Insight Bowl: Nebraska vs. Michigan
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Illinois or Iowa
Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Washington
Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame vs. U. Miami (I don’t know why they’d pass that game up, I don’t care how bad Miami looked against South Florida)

I also think it would be interesting if maybe the Sun Bowl (which used to be somewhat important) matched Notre Dame and Boise St., since there aren’t enough Pac-10 teams and Notre Dame can go to the Big East bowls, but Notre Dame would probably prefer not to play Boise St. anyway. It would be a shame for Boise St. to have to play a team that’s even worse than that. Boise St./Utah would be a good out-west game (the Las Vegas Bowl would be a possibility, since that’s another open Pac-10 spot), but Boise might be possessive and the Broncos could be stuck on the blue field for the Humanitarian Bowl.