I may have a legitimately fake doctorate degree in Hoops Forensics, but that doesn’t mean my education is over. I’m always learning! By “learning,” I mean I spend a few hours each week on the internet flipping through articles about sports. A recent column by Sport Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel caught my attention. In the column, Peter discusses the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the extremely deep disparity between at-large bids for Power conferences and mid-majors:
Last March, the five football power leagues, plus the Big East and the American Athletic Conference accounted for an astounding 92% of the at-large bids. And the three teams outside the sport’s highest echelons that got in—Dayton, VCU and Wichita State —wouldn’t be classified as mid-majors by anyone who follows college basketball closely. All three pay their coaches millions, boast first-class facilities and have reached the Final Four. Essentially, no true mid-major received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament last year. Think about that. That’s insane.
I mean, daaaaaaaaaamn. You’re correct, Pete. That is insane. More than insane. It’s flat out wank. And Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports attempts to work it out in his head:
The overall lack of mid-major at-large candidates reflects how much tougher it is to build an NCAA tournament-caliber resume from outside college basketball’s power structure.
Teams in the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12 sometimes get a dozen or more chances to record victories against top 100 competition. Teams in a mid-major league typically have to capitalize on the couple opportunities they get to have any realistic hope of earning an at-large NCAA bid.
What this unbalanced system creates is a glut of mediocre power-conference teams on the fringes of NCAA tournament contention despite not accomplishing much. This year’s group is especially uninspiring, from Cal and its one top 50 win, to Kansas State and its dismal 6-10 league record, to Syracuse and its 13 losses.
Across the board, this year’s slate of March Madness dancers is pretty lame. But still, the stale metrics and the prognosticators continue to favor big brand names like Clemson, Syracuse and Cal while ignoring terrific records posted by UT Arlington, Arkansas State, Colorado State, UCF, Houston, Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. Of these teams I just mentioned, none are considered at-large programs despite that all five have logged 20 or more wins. You know how hard it is to earn 20 wins? Until this year, the Red Wolves hadn’t reached the mark since the late 1990s. But by all means, guys, let’s put Syracuse and Clemson in! They’ve earned it by virtue…of what?
What is ESPN Bracketology (and why is Forgotten Forensics superior)?
ESPN Bracketology is spearheaded by ESPN “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi, who attempts to predict the March Madness Field of 64 based off (we assume) 1) ESPN RPI, 2) ESPN BPI (which is some kind of mysterious power index) and 3) Lunardi’s gut. Forgotten Forensics is a rip off of the more well-funded Bracketology, but using less ESPN-y metrics, like Warren Nolan Live RPI, Sagarin and Kenpom to makes us look smart. Slightly dumbing down the formula: my gut.
Forgotten Forensics, March 3rd Edition
Houston let me down
If the American wanted to slide a 3rd at-large candidate into the Dance, it maybe should have allowed the Cougars to beat SMU or Cincinnati. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A POWER 6 MOVE, MIKE ARESCO! Instead, Houston was beaten by 10 points at home by the Mustangs, then destroyed on the road 65-47 by the Bearcats. Houston still has twenty wins (all the qualifications you need in my book) and maybe they can make some chaos in the conference tourney.
The Sun Belt is some crazy fun
UTA (and its nationally ignored 24-6 record and 37 RPI) cut down the nets Monday to claim its first Sun Belt title. But the scrum beneath the Mustangs is pure entropy. Five teams have a shot at collecting the remaining three Sun Belt Tournament byes, which is crucial because anyone in the SBC is capable of pulling off the upset on a neutral court. Even the Warhawks. UTA should be an at-large team. It’s too bad it must fight among season-hardened Sun Belt gladiators to secure a shot at Madness.
The American is joining the Mountain West for an NIT invasion
According to the last NIT projections from nycbuckets.com, the AAC is making a move to share NIT power with the Mountain West. Three Americans now make the latest projection: UCF, Memphis and Houston. Meanwhile, Boise State, Fresno State, Colorado State and San Diego State are still poised to do some NIT Head Bobbing in 2017. Sorry, MAC and CUSA. Still no love for you.