Oklahoma State Cowboys, Big 12 Conference
Current Record: 16-9 overall, 5-7 in conference play.
RPI: 29 in both CBSSports.com and RealTimeRPI.com, 20 in KenPom.com
Key Wins: January 23 vs. TCU, January 28 vs. Arkansas, and February 4 at West Virginia.
Bad Losses: Twice to top ranked in the RPI at that time Baylor (January 7 on the road and February 8 at home), January 14 at Kansas, November 22 vs. North Carolina on neutral site, December 3 at Maryland, December 30 vs. West Virginia, January 18 vs. Kansas State, and January 4 at Texas.
Analysis: The Cowboys are 0-5 against the RPI’s Top 50. In most years, that would spell instant doom as far as reaching the NCAA’s is concerned. However, they have picked up three key wins involving schools ranked between 26 and 100. Even more of an eye-popper of a statistic is that Ken Pomeroy has them second behind UCLA at 123.8 in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency.
Percentage Chance of Reaching the Big Dance: 40 percent, because more often than not, the Big 12 always has a handful of teams that somehow has the Selection Committee baffled and confused. Their conference leading average of 86.4 points per game (good enough for 8th in the nation) will have to step up playing at TCU on Wednesday night, followed by road matches at Kansas State on February 22 and Iowa State six days later. But everyone is pointing toward Senior Day vs. Kansas and the loyal following inside historic Gallagher-Iba Arena would like nothing more than see their fans go ballistic if Kansas somehow goes into their periodic shooting slumps. That game will be on Saturday, March 4 to close out the regular season. But with not too many teams since 1985 reaching the Big Dance having finished no worse than sixth during conference play definitely raises some red flags.
Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, Atlantic 10 Conference
Current Record: 20-5 overall, 10-2 in conference play.
RPI: 27 in both CBSSports.com and RealTimeRPI.com, but 43 in KenPom.com.
Key Wins: December 17 vs. Middle Tennessee State and January 27 vs. Dayton.
Bad Losses: November 23 on neutral court to Baylor (ranked #1 in RPI at the time), January 14 at Davidson, and January 18 at Fordham.
Analysis: They have their 20 wins, that is good. They lead in their conference and are projected to get a bye in the A10 Tournament, very good. However, losing to a team ranked #209 in the RPI is major cause for concern if the Rams do not end up winning their own conference postseason tournament. VCU is going to have to ride on their defense if they can somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat like they did last year in Brooklyn.
Percentage Chance of Reaching the Big Dance: 65 percent, I think they are peaking at this time of year and VCU has often been the classic case of flying under the radar and starting to get some attention from eager media writers and bloggers, myself included. But come the week of March 5, will they be one of the schools sweating it out or will they lock up their conference’s automatic bid? Only time will tell.
William & Mary Tribe, Colonial Athletic Association
Current Record: 14-11 overall, 8-6 in conference play.
RPI: 103 in both CBSSports.com and RealTimeRPI.com, and 126 in KenPom.com.
Key Win: January 28 vs. UNC-Wilmington.
Bad Losses: November 14 at Louisville, November 23 at Duke, December 3 at Hampton, December 22 at Rhode Island, January 12 at UNC-Wilmington, and February 9 at Drexel.
Analysis: The Tribe are on their last gasp similar to what Northwestern went through the last two years. They cannot win on the road, their non-conference schedule is mostly considered soft in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Even with a strength of schedule that is currently ranked 97th in the country (90 during non-conference play), they would have to win their conference tournament or else it is NIT/CBI/CIT/Vegas 16 bound for them.
Percentage Chance of Reaching the Big Dance: 15 percent, because UNC-Wilmington and the College of Charleston are fighting it out to get that number 1 seed in the CAA Tournament.
Enjoy your Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, and I will hope to see you again later in the week–barring any major upsets.