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March 7, 2008 Columns No Comments




NCAA Tournament Crystal Ball

by Dan Hauptman and Michael Protos

March 7, 2008

When the selection committee convenes in an Indianapolis board room next week, the members will have an especially daunting task this season when they must winnow the chaff from the wheat. As conference tournaments progress and bubble teams shift momentum, the committee members will face a constantly evolving landscape from which they must pick the final at-large teams. Every day, several teams pick up big wins or bad losses, which create a cascading effect throughout the RPI numbers and team profiles.

For example, Illinois State went from having four wins against the RPI top 50 on March 4 to having zero on March 5. The Redbirds swept Creighton and Southern Illinois, which were 48 and 50 on the first day but fell to 51 and 52 after New Mexico upset UNLV and Kentucky beat South Carolina on the road to move into the RPI top 50. The committee members have to dig deep into all these teams’ profiles to pick apart the differences when the basic numbers can shift so dramatically from day to day.

Crystal Basketballers Dan Hauptman and Michael Protos gave their best effort to weed through the nitty-gritty details to deliver as accurate a field as possible. Despite their work, Hauptman and Protos remain far apart on the field’s final entrants. Hauptman hands out invitations to Ohio State, Florida, Virginia Tech and Western Kentucky. Meanwhile, Protos prefers Arizona State, Villanova, New Mexico and Mississippi.

Hauptman thinks that as long as the Sun Belt championship game features South Alabama and Western Kentucky, the conference will put two teams into the NCAA Tournament. That would give both teams at least 24 wins on the season. Protos disagrees, citing the Hilltoppers’ anemic schedule that ranks No. 157 in strength and includes a 1-9 record against the RPI top 100. Davidson, of the 0-5 record vs. the top 100 and No. 140 strength of schedule, please take note.

Protos gives the nod to an Arizona State team whose RPI has dipped below 70. Hauptman can’t see the committee giving a bid to a team ranked lower than Florida State, Houston, Temple and Stephen F. Austin. However, Protos likes the Sun Devils’ 5-6 record against the RPI top 50, which is more wins than half of the top 50 has against the others.

Conference tournaments will undoubtedly change the landscape, so check back late next week for an updated Crystal Basketball.

Hauptman’s Hoops Horoscope Protos’ Prognostications

North Carolina
Tennessee
Memphis
UCLA

Memphis
North Carolina
Tennessee
UCLA

Texas
Duke
Kansas
Georgetown

Texas
Duke
Kansas
Louisville

Wisconsin
Louisville
Stanford
Vanderbilt

Wisconsin
Xavier
Georgetown
Stanford

Xavier
Indiana
Connecticut
Washington State

Notre Dame
Marquette
Connecticut
Vanderbilt

Michigan State
Notre Dame
USC
Clemson

Michigan State
Washington State
Indiana
Purdue

Purdue
Drake
Marquette
BYU

Drake
Gonzaga
Butler
Oklahoma

Butler
Arizona
Kansas State
Mississippi State

Pittsburgh
USC
Miami
BYU

Gonzaga
Pittsburgh
Oklahoma
UNLV

Clemson
Kansas State
St. Mary’s
Arizona

Illinois State
West Virginia
Arkansas
Miami

Baylor
Mississippi State
West Virginia
Massachusetts

Ohio State
Texas A&M
St. Mary’s
Kent State

Kentucky
Texas A&M
Arizona State
UNLV

Kentucky
Baylor
Florida
Massachusetts

Davidson
South Alabama
Villanova
Kent State

South Alabama
Virginia Tech
Davidson
Southern Illinois

VCU
Illinois State
Arkansas
New Mexico

Western Kentucky
VCU
Oral Roberts
Stephen F. Austin

Southern Illinois
Mississippi
Oral Roberts
Cornell*

Cornell*
Utah State
Winthrop
Santa Barbara

Cal State Northridge
Boise State
UMBC
Austin Peay

Portland State
UMBC
Austin Peay
Siena

Belmont
Rider
Lamar
American

American
Belmont
Morgan State
Robert Morris
Alabama State

Robert Morris
Portland State
Morgan State
UNC Asheville
Alabama State
Last 4 In:
Massachusetts
Virginia Tech
Southern Illinois
Western Kentucky
Last 4 In:
Arkansas
New Mexico
Southern Illinois
Mississippi
First 4 Out:
Texas Tech
Saint Joseph’s
Maryland
Syracuse
First 4 Out:
UAB
Maryland
Florida
Saint Joseph’s
Shooting Stars:
Gonzaga
Virginia Tech
Louisville
Western Kentucky
Shooting Stars:
Gonzaga
Massachusetts
Miami
Virginia Tech
Sinking Ships:
Kansas State
Florida
Baylor
Southern Illinois
Sinking Ships:
Wake Forest
Rhode Island
Arizona State
Kansas State
Conference Breakdown:
Big East: 7
Big 12: 6
SEC: 6
ACC: 5
Big Ten: 5
Pac-10: 5
Missouri Valley: 3
Atlantic 10: 2
Mountain West: 2
Sun Belt: 2
West Coast: 2
20 one-bid conferences
Conference Breakdown:
Big East: 8
Big 12: 6
Pac-10: 6
SEC: 6
ACC: 4
Big Ten: 4
Missouri Valley: 3
Mountain West: 3
Atlantic 10: 2
West Coast: 2
21 one-bid conferences

* denotes a team that has won its conference’s automatic bid.

Whose field looks more accurate to you? Or are both Hauptman and Protos off target? E-mail us your comments on the Crystal Basketball or give us your own NCAA Tournament prognostications. Then check back throughout the next few weeks, as Hauptman’s and Protos’ visions for the Big Dance become clearer. All will be clear soon as Selection Sunday is days away.

     

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