Monday, March 17, 2008

Terps headed to Twin Cities

Not only was Maryland relegated to the NIT for the third time in four years but they won't even have the luxury of playing a game at Comcast Center. Turns out the disastrous meltdown against Clemson was the last game that James Gist and Bambale Osby will probably play at home. In a way I'm glad that this team will have to go on the road if they are going to make a run in the NIT. They didn't deserve to be rewarded with a home game after losing five out of their last six.

Maryland was awarded a five seed and will play the four seed Minnesota on Tuesday night at 9:30pm on ESPN. The Gophers have an RPI of 101 but recently upset Indiana in the Big Ten tournament. They have won four out of the last five at home including a win over Ohio State but also got beaten by Illinois twice during the last 12 games of the season. Seven of their eight Big Ten wins were against Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State. I do think Tubby Smith is a very good coach and the Gophers will be ready for this game, it remains to be seen if Maryland will also be ready. An intriguing matchup against Syracuse looms if Maryland can get past Minnesota.

There are some rumors being circulated that Eric Hayes and Dino Gregory may transfer in the off season. Give that Juco Ken Bowman has been rumored to have a scholarship offer when there are no free scholarships currently available would indicate at least one of those two will be leaving. I wouldn't be surprised if two players leave the team. I'll give my thoughts on that when it happens.

I wasn't surprised that the ACC only got four teams in the NCAA Tournament. The post announcement show on ESPN has turned into a collection of whining coaches who got excluded and analysts who flail at the committee like they were a blindfolded kid hacking at a pinata. The worst "analysts" like Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale gripped about Virginia Tech being left out but offered little to support their opinions besides the fact that the Hokies almost upset North Carolina as if this "look test" as they called it wasn't even more arbitrary. I think the truth is that Virginia Tech wasn't as close to being selected as people thought and that Georgia's SEC tournament win probably knocked out Ohio State or Arizona State. You would expect Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg to advocate for his team but he stupidly claimed on Saturday that anyone who didn't think his team was among the 65 best in the country was "certifiably insane." Tom O'Connor, the selection chair for the NCAA, responded correctly that the Hokies may well have been among the best 65 teams but that there are only 34 at large bids. They didn't think that Virginia Tech was among the 34 best teams and they were right.

I felt it was one of the least controversial selection results in years. As Mike DeCourcy indicated in his level headed column the only team with a real gripe was Arizona State. With a dismal 296th ranked out of conference schedule and sitting at 83rd in the RPI it was a long shot for them to make the tournament. The loss to USC in the Pac-10 tournament, even with the controversy, was probably their undoing.

The reasons why Virginia Tech didn't get in are well laid out in DeCourcy's column. It is about time ACC fans stop bringing up how many conference wins a team had or that the ACC was the number one conference in the RPI. Neither factors in to the committee's decision and they have been very clear on that for a long time. What matters is who you beat and where you beat them. In its last twelve games Virginia Tech had five total chances at North Carolina, Clemson and Miami and only had one win. If they had won just one more game out of those five they would probably be in the NCAA tournament. You shouldn't get a bid because you were competitive against a great team, you actually need to beat someone good.

Virginia Tech set a dubious record of being the only 9-7 conference team to win an ACC tournament game and not get to the NCAA tournament. In addition they have had an ACC tournament bye twice and still missed the tournament which is another record. As I have written before this will become more and more common for the ACC. If you only have 9 wins you had better of beaten a top team in the conference because you won't bet a bid by dominating the dregs of the league like Virginia Tech did. Miami had four games against Duke and Clemson and came away with two wins which is what got them into the NCAA tournament. The Hokies were unable to do that and so they deserved to go to the NIT.

In 2006 Maryland finished 18-12 and 8-8 in the ACC but had a better RPI (49 to the 2008 Hokies 52), had a better record against the top 50 in the RPI, and also had an ACC Tournament victory. Maryland also had no losses to any team below 100 in the RPI while this year's Virginia Tech team had four. That year Maryland also had more top 100 RPI wins with a better overall and non-conference strength of schedule. The Terps didn't get a bid that season either. Florida State also went 9-7 that same season with more top 50 RPI wins and only one loss to a team lower than 100 in the RPI but didn't get into the NCAAs due to a dismal non-conference schedule and weak (63) RPI. There should be little outrage over the Hokies getting passed over. If you had paid close attention to the signs it should have been obvious that unless they had beaten North Carolina in the ACC Tournament they were NIT bound. The fact they were even in the discussion was more a commentary on how soft the bubble was this season.

The four bids again this year should demonstrate that ACC teams should not expect the benefit of the doubt. You have to beat good teams to get into the NCAAs and when you have your chances you'd better win those games. Villanova, Oregon, Kentucky and even South Alabama won those kinds of games and that is why they are in the big dance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw only part of the post-selection debate ("Bracketology"?) before I got tired of the expert opinion saying the same thing in many different ways. While a few commenters actually made some good points justifying their agreement with most selections, Vitale in particular went on and on like a bad Monty Python skit. I've never seen him that bad before. In any event, I thought the selections were generally reasonable and fair. The only possible exception was the comparatively easy path in the West for UCLA. But that was true in Wooden's day also.