In the middle of December, the college basketball season briefly grinds to a slow crawl, like one of those heavy coal trains plodding along and leaving you stuck at an intersection for an interminable amount of time.
We also have now passed the one-month mark for the season, so it’s a good time to take an early look at some RPI numbers. It’s still early in the season, and there is still too much upcoming volatility with individual team RPI numbers to worry about those too much yet, but we’re starting to get a drift of the pecking order for conferences.
Using data from CBSSports.com, here are the top 16 Division I leagues in conference RPI as of Monday:
1. Big 12
3. Big East
4. Big 10
7. Atlantic 10
11. Mountain West
15. Conference USA
16. Ivy League
Looking over these numbers, a couple early impressions:
- The SEC at second is obviously a huge surprise. Kentucky is responsible for a good share of that, but LSU also has two top 50 and five top 100 wins already. The conference also has just one loss to a team ranked below 175 in the RPI thus far.
- The ACC is getting drilled by its bottom teams, who have helped the league pick up already 10 losses to teams below 100, including four sub-200 losses. Incidentally, though, the weakness of the league’s floor could be a strength when it comes time for totaling NCAA bids. Separation in highly ranked conferences often equals more bids for those conferences.
- The top six are pretty much no surprise. The Atlantic 10 is not at the level it was last year, so there is little chance of it breaking into that top bracket.
- The Mountain West is down. It is just .0002 behind the MVC for 10th, but currently is nowhere near going any higher than that. Early on, this already looks like a league with no more than three real at-large threats.
- The CAA is holding surprisingly steady at 13th. The league is just 2-23 against the top 100, but is generally avoiding the bad loss-just five sub-200 losses, or one more than the ACC.
- We go to No. 16 to note the case of Harvard and that the Ivy League has a sliver of hope for an at-large bid for Harvard, if needed. The league is 0-4 vs. the top 50 (including a pair of one-point losses) but after that is a respectable 6-7 vs. teams 51-100. If Harvard and Yale go down to the wire for the title, it’s possible the Crimson (currently 16th in the RPI) could have a shot at an at-large.
Again, it’s still way, way early. But conference numbers aren’t going to change a ton once we hit January and most non-conference play has been completed. That’s when we’ll begin seeing the team RPI numbers sort out, allowing us to start plotting the dots on the map as we hit the road to Selection Sunday.
- Duke disposed of Elon 75-62 in a rusty performance. The Blue Devils hadn’t played since defeating Wisconsin almost two weeks earlier. Jahlil Okafor had 25 points and 20 rebounds.
- Unlike fellow ACC member Virginia Tech earlier in the season, Georgia Tech took care of business against Appalachian State, 70-57. The Yellow Jackets’ big frontline was the difference.
- South Florida got off to a 5-1 start this year but now has lost three in a row, the latest and most disappointing of those yet coming last night in a 68-63 loss to Georgia Southern.
- Memphis blew out North Carolina Central 81-47. While obviously the Tigers needed this, perhaps more notable is how poorly the Eagles played in this one.
- Oral Roberts has been up and down so far this year, but the arrow pointed back up in a surprisingly easy 80-61 win over Missouri State. A complete performance for ORU, with five players scoring in double figures.
- Tennessee-Martin is now 6-2 after defeating Illinois-Chicago 81-78. The Flames rallied from a 17-point second half deficit to send the game into overtime but couldn’t close the deal.
- Late out west, Pepperdine defeated South Alabama 78-68. The Waves are a quiet 6-2, and star Stacy Davis may not have been on those all-underrated lists, but perhaps he should’ve been.
- BYU scoring machine Tyler Haws may be out for a couple weeks…or may not be. The school is currently listing Haws as day-to-day with an ankle sprain; however, ESPN’s Andy Katz is reporting that Cougar head coach Dave Rose says Haws has a bad sprain and is likely out a couple weeks, with hopes of having him back in time for Brigham Young’s WCC opener against Gonzaga on Dec. 27.
- Illinois State guard DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell is out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, CBSSports.com reported last night. This is a big blow for the Redbirds, who are off to a surprisingly good 5-3 start that includes wins over Old Dominion and DePaul and narrow losses to Seton Hall and VCU. Akoon-Purcell was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.1 points per game. A good sign is that ISU did survive his having minimal impact on Sunday’s game against DePaul, in which he was injured. The junior scored just three points but the Redbirds rallied late on the strength of Daishon Knight, MiKyle McIntosh and Reggie Lynch for a solid road win.
Alabama at Wichita State (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2) These two are meeting for the fourth time in the last five years, and the Shockers are 3-0 in those three previous recent meetings.
Belmont at Virginia Commonwealth TV networks can find time to show us Duke’s guaranteed win against Elon, yet can’t be found for a very good matchup like this?
Arizona State at Marquette (9 p.m. EST, FS1) Marquette’s first game with Indiana transfer Luke Fischer.
Middle Tennessee State at Oklahoma State (9 p.m. EST, ESPNU) Curious to see the Blue Raiders’ development, as well as how OSU handles this game. Kermit Davis has a very young team this year and it showed early, but MTSU has two straight one-point road wins at South Alabama and Akron.
Oral Roberts at Oklahoma (7 p.m. EST, ESPNU) ORU is playing for the second straight night. Some good matchups on the perimeter, but Oklahoma should have the advantage in the paint.
Eastern Washington at Sam Houston State You should know about the Eagles by now-good team with a win at Indiana and nearly at Washington on Sunday-but the Bearkats are also a solid squad. Sam Houston is 5-4 with narrow losses to UNLV (by 2), Texas A&M (by 3), LSU and Wofford.
Lipscomb at Texas If you’re looking for another of those games where a heavy favorite struggles at home against a scrappy underdog (see: Elon vs. Duke, NC-Wilmington vs. Louisville), this is a good candidate. The Bisons (yes, that’s plural) are 4-5 but have four road losses (to Vanderbilt, Belmont, Colorado and Tennessee Tech) all by 10 points or less.
Have a great Tuesday.