During the first few weeks of 2015, I debuted a subtopic in this blog about teams in college basketball mostly flying “under the radar.”
In other words, there usually is a group of teams every season that flirts with perfection by Christmas and then subsequently fizzles to bubble team status by Selection Sunday. Or, they mostly straddle on both sides of the .500 demarcation line–they play well at times against mostly cupcake teams, then mostly play mediocre ball when the games matter the most.
You often may hear other media members and fellow bloggers talk about teams that might be, “tournament worthy.” I try to take a slightly different approach to that notion.
And that is how the headline of “Under The Microscope” was born.
This periodic portion of the blog will have one or two updates per week from now until days prior to Selection Sunday in March. All key information will be courtesy of CBSSports.com and KenPom.com. Each school will have a brief synopsis, followed by my own percentage (mostly a stab in the dark notion, but take it with a grain of salt–fine salt rather than coarse if you asked me).
And if any fan has glanced at some of my past blogs, you should clearly note that the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index for the unknown) is only one factor when the Selection Committee selects the teams and then eventually puts them into seeds and the brackets that we all know and love.
With that part out of the way, without any further adieu…I present my first trio of cases in the 2016 debut of “Under The Microscope”:
First up is a school very few people thought would be in this space–after their Final Four run in 2013 and some thought that their undefeated 2014 outfit was better personnel wise. But Wichita State has taken their lumps in recent weeks, and it is only fitting that they are an interesting case study.
Wichita State Shockers, Missouri Valley Conference
Good Wins: December 5 at St. Louis, December 9 vs. UNLV.
Bad Losses: November 17 at Tulsa, November 26 vs. USC, November 27 vs. Alabama, November 29 vs. Iowa (the last three entries were during Thanksgiving neutral site tournament), and December 19 at Seton Hall.
RPI Breakdown: overall rank 81, with a 7-5 overall record and 2-0 record in MVC play. The Shockers have two wins against the RPI’s Top 100. Their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency ranks 51st in the nation at 109 points per game. Meanwhile, their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per 100 possessions is at 94.4 ppg, which is good enough for 26th in the country.
Analysis: It truly is a good thing the Shockers are in a mid-major conference. This is where Gregg Marshall and his teams really shine the best. My only question that could prevent them from dancing in March–are they going to be vulnerable again during “Arch Madness”, aka the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament?
Percentage chance to reach the Big Dance: 65 percent.
Northwestern Wildcats, Big Ten Conference
Good Wins: December 1 at Virginia Tech
Bad Losses: November 23 vs. North Carolina (during pre-Thanksgiving holiday tournament) and January 2 vs. Maryland.
RPI Breakdown: overall rank 86, with a 13-2 overall record and 1-1 record in Big 10 play. The Wildcats have zero wins against the RPI’s Top 100. Their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency ranks 34th in the nation at 111.6 ppg. Meanwhile, their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per 100 possessions is at an even 100 ppg, which is around the middle of the pack at 118th in the country.
Analysis: Chris Collins is a great coach, and an even better man. He knows how to get into guys heads into playing well, and after spending several seasons learning under Coach K at Duke–this will serve Northwestern well in the next few years. I wonder if they have enough weapons to at least finish in the Top 6, now that Wisconsin has basically fallen off the map for the first time in two decades and Purdue along with Michigan State are not perfect.
Percentage chance to reach the Big Dance: 55 percent, but that could change if they beat Ohio State on Wednesday night or Michigan State later in the month on the 28th.
Florida State Seminoles, Atlantic Coast Conference
Good Wins: December 6 vs. VCU (neutral court) and December 29 at Florida
Bad Losses: November 20 vs. Hofstra (neutral court), December 2 at Iowa, and January 4 vs. North Carolina
RPI Breakdown: overall rank 90, with a 10-4 overall record and are winless thus far in two games in ACC play. Their win in the Swamp at Florida was huge, but their other wins are all against the lower echelon of the RPI ranking 101 and below. Their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency ranks 73rd in the nation at 107.8 ppg. Meanwhile, their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per 100 possessions checks in at 47th place at 96.2 ppg.
Analysis: Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon are really carrying the lumber for the Seminoles. If FSU expects to hold their own against a very rugged ACC including the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, and Virginia, they might hear their name called on Selection Sunday. However, their strength of schedule ranks toward the bottom at 212 according to CBSSports.com and 237 according to KenPom.com.
Percentage chance on reaching the Big Dance: 50 percent, although that number could change provided they beat either North Carolina State in Raleigh on the 13th or in Louisville one week later on the 20th.
I hope this analysis can give fans a deeper appreciation into the finer intricacies of how teams build their resumes into hopefully a winning formula. Similar to your favorite independent rock band that is looking for their one big hit that will make them instant fodder for Twitter and Spotify, these teams will hopefully be rocking beyond March 13.
Another edition of “UTM” will happen sometime over the weekend or early the week of January 11.