At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I need to assert how foolish Joe Lunardi has been in his bracketology over the past few weeks. For those who think that I shouldn’t be criticizing Lunardi because of his past success with regards to correctly picking the teams who make the tournament, please realize that he has NEVER picked the teams correctly halfway through the season. There is NO way right now to predict or assume what the NCAA committee is considering at this point, especially because the committee isn’t even in session consistently at this point in the season. Therefore, I have every right to criticize his bracketology because there is no reason to assume he knows who the committee would pick if it were to convene right now.
This week was more of the same from previous weeks in terms of Lunardi’s bracketology (See 1/25/10 “Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology Miscues). This week, however, Joe Lunardi’s bracketology has become even more one-sided towards the small conference teams (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/bracketology). He put 6 A-10 teams in the tournament. That’s right, 6. Temple, Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, Charlotte, and Rhode Island. Even though the highest A-10 seed is Temple at 5, and the rest of the teams are from 7-12 seeds, the fact that 6 A-10 teams are in the tournament is a slap in the face for the rest of college basketball.
Here is one of my problems. Temple lost 2 games in 2 weeks, to Charlotte and Richmond, and moved only from a 4 seed to a 5 seed in the tournament. While I realize that a lot of other teams have lost in the stretch, as it has been a difficult 2 weeks for ranked teams, Temple should have moved down to a 6 seed at least. Charlotte and Richmond are 2 of the most important games of Temple’s conference schedule, and to lose these games in succession, while also being tied for 3rd place in the A-10 with Richmond and Rhode Island, is not very impressive. Temple’s last 2 losses were by double digits, and 3 of Temple’s 5 losses have come to non-ranked teams, with another loss coming by 32 points against Kansas. The Owls’ best win was against Villanova, and Nova was its only victory over a ranked team. Doesn’t sound anything like a 5 seed resume to me.
On a conference scale, the fact that Lunardi has 6 A-10 teams in the tournament is completely ridiculous. The conference has 14 teams, and 7 of them are simply atrocious. Other than the top 7 teams in the conference, the best record among the rest is George Washington with a 12-10 record. However, GW has a pitiful 2-7 conference record, exemplifying their obviously weak non-conference schedule. The next best record among the bottom 7 is Duquesne, with a 12-11 record and a 3-6 conference record. The rest of the teams are under .500. It really shows who these top 6 teams are beating every week in conference. For one, the A-10 isn’t even a major conference. Second, the bottom of the A-10 is so poor that these teams can not even attempt to challenge the top teams. Therefore, when the top 6 teams in the A-10 have respectable, but not great, non-conference schedules, and then run through conference play with more than half of their games against absolutely terrible teams, it is quite obvious that these teams will have impressive records on the surface. However, ESPN is specifically PAYING Joe Lunardi to look past the fluff of a decent non-conference schedule and a good record, and he has not done so to this point.
Let’s look specifically at Xavier. The Musketeers have 7 losses on the season and are a 7 seed in the tournament. Compare this record to the records of Florida State and Ole Miss, who both have 17-6 records out of the ACC and SEC, respectively. One would expect teams from major conferences with better records to be seeded higher than a team from a mid-major conference with a worse record, right? It sounds ridiculous, but this is not the case according to Lunardi. Florida State and Ole Miss are seeded 8th and 9th respectively in the Midwest region. With 5 losses in the non-conference and the only big non-conference win against Cincinnati, who isn’t even predicted to be a tournament team right now, one cannot even give the argument that Xavier earned its seed because of its non-conference performance. Xavier’s 7 seed is simply an example of what happens when the most prominent bracketology expect completely overrates an entire conference.
The other 4 teams from the A-10 that made the tournament were Richmond, Rhode Island, Dayton, and Charlotte. At absolute most, 2 of these teams should go to the tournament. Dayton should not go, because the Flyers have a 16-6 record, with the only true good wins coming against Georgia Tech very early in the season, and a recent big win against Xavier. They still have not come up with a marquee win like Temple has against Villanova, and do not have a stellar record at this point to rest upon. Charlotte should also not be in the tournament, because although the 49ers have an 8-1 record in conference, they have a 18-5 record overall with complete drubbings by Duke, Tennessee, Xavier, and Old Dominion. Their lone good wins were against Lousiville, which was very early when the Cardinals were playing like they wanted to lose, and against Temple recently, who has gone on a 2 game losing streak that has consisted of no offense by the Owls. Therefore, the 49ers do have a good record, but cannot be considered a tournament team at this point because of their lack of big wins and the prevalence and magnitude of their big losses. Finally, it can be argued that Richmond does not even deserve a bid to the tournament. Richmond has an 18-6 record, with impressive wins over Missouri, Mississippi State, Florida, and recently Temple. However, the Spiders have had several bad losses, such as against Saint Louis, South Carolina, VCU, and William and Mary. Richmond has a better resume than Charlotte and Dayton because of its big wins, however, and should be a bubble team at this point. Based upon this thorough evaluation based upon records, big wins, and big losses, I have determined that the A-10 rightly deserves 3, potentially 4 teams in the tournament (Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island, and maybe Richmond).
Who should replace these A-10 mid-major teams? Exactly who Joe Lunardi snubbed in his first four out. Marquette, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and South Florida were all left out by Lunardi because he put all these mid-majors into the tournament, including Old Dominion, which I did not even mention above. If these four mid-majors that I mentioned were left out, each of these teams above would make the tournament. There are no teams in the country that will play tougher conference schedules than Big East teams, and to this point they have not been compensated for their efforts in conference. It is impressive when a team like Marquette narrowly loses to teams such as Villanova, Syracuse, and West Virginia with wins over Georgetown and Xavier, while still having more opportunities more big wins. It is more impressive than when a team like Richmond loses to Saint Louis and VCU, with wins over Mizzou and Florida, and almost no opportunities remaining for a big win on the national scale. Couple that with the fact that Richmond ONLY has 2 less losses than Marquette, in the A-10, and it really makes no sense that Richmond gets in the tournament over Marquette. Therefore, the fact that many more losses are built in to Big East teams’ schedules, or almost any big conference team’s schedule, needs to be considered when comparing the records of these teams with mid-major’s records.
Until next time, Joe Lunardi, do your work, look past the records, and evaluate the big wins and losses more thoroughly before you post your next bracketology next Monday.