Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Guru's Special Report: Examining the NCAA Mid-Season High Seed Bracket Projection

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Hours after the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Committee did its first-ever reveal Wednesday as to naming the four top No. 1 seeds in order and then 16 more seeds in alphabetical order to make it an overall 20, the Guru used some of the tools available to him to put the deliberations under his microscope and came away with two conclusions:

Off his first impressions when he saw the lists of teams while in transit, he still believes the “eye test,” in which the arguments of basketball trump all the data numbers, got a bit of a black eye in the process.

But considering that the moment of announcement was a “snapshot in time” of where things would stand if today were selection day, which quickly got erased with some Wednesday night results, the “snapshot” was not necessarily photo-shopped all that badly.

Of course, Charlie Crème, the ESPN bracketologist, is right -- the water cooler would have plentiful more discussion around it if the committee actually produced a mock bracket through the first five seed lines.

The between-the-alphabetical-lines translation of what was announced is that the top 16 seeds, as we head into the near future going back to the past, would be able to host unless an arena availability did not exist.

Then the next highest seed in the pod gets a shot. So the potential hosts were all in the group of 20 except it is already known that Louisville and Arizona State if they land in the top 16 will have to go on the road.

So depending if Louisville or Arizona State were either a No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4, then one of comparable seeds No. 7, No. 6, or No. 5 could clearly strike it rich as a host with a lower seed but home court advantage.

The Guru can see that unlike some recent years of calm from the masses on bracket night, we are heading for lively discussions over who got in or left out and how the overall field played out with the pairings.

Pulling Out the Microscope

But given all that, the Guru is about to take you to a dangerous place, a sightseeing tour of his mind, as he worked available tools to put the announcement under the microscope.

Unfortunately, the tools were not all in synch because of the deadlines when the most recent of each existed.

The Guru used the NCAA daily RPI site, as it existed Wednesday morning during the final hours of deliberation, a special nitty gritty site a friend gave the Guru this season, that is not the committee’s actual link but is helpful for forecasting purposes.

However, that site is static and only updated once a week.

Some Things You Should Learn

One other thing, not the Guru is going to use it in this discussion, anytime you see Top 10 wins, etc. Top 20, first 100, the figures do not relate to whatever the weekly Associated Press media and USAToday coaches rankings produce.

Those rankings are the RPI listings and they change daily so you might beat a team in the Top 15 on a certain day but later on if that team goes south, so does your win. Conversely, a win that did not seem much at the time becomes valued if that opponent later on moves up the food chain.

As to strength of schedule, that is the won-loss record of your opponents and also factored is their strength of schedules. The Guru has been told over time that sometimes too much is made about the SOS as a determining factor though it does come into play.

So, other than the actual competitive experience, the Guru believes his media friends up north in Connecticut should stop moaning about being in The American because as the Huskies produce a high non-conference RPI – they are 1 right now – and put a dynamic product on the court – they will not suffer all that much in the pairings. That goes for any other team in a similar situation.

Back to the strength of schedule discussion. Princeton, for example, is getting a bit hammered for what at the moment on the Guru’s read is a 133, far worse than others vying for similar tournament hosting perks.

Well, if the Guru, who has had several Mock Bracket experiences at NCAA headquarters, were having a discussion in the room, he’d say, let’s look at the cause of that.

OK, Delaware and Drexel are regular non-conference opponents of the Tigers with usual decent RPIs but not so this year, especially Delaware, which at the moment is an RPI killer in the system. Same thing for others involved with Penn State and Saint Joseph’s.

But these three are quality programs so you have to be a little smart. In that same vein, the Tigers also saw Fordham and Hartford, which are off their usual marks.

And the Ivies as a group were 9 early this week, quite a growth stat considering 28-32 used to be common not too long ago.

However, the Guru doesn’t believe the committee was off the mark not including Princeton right now, which he’ll get to in a bit, and in the end the Tigers may get the last laugh on their detractors.

The Eye Test

From where the Guru sees it, the committee failed the eye test not giving Baylor or Maryland – there are good arguments either way – the nod over Tennessee. But at the same time, if one was a prisoner of the numbers, the committee certainly broke free andc came up with the obvious because the math says: (No. 1) Connecticut 6-RPI with an SOS of 57 while (No. 2) South Carolina is 5 RPI with an SOS of 48.

(No. 3) Notre Dame was 3 RPI with an SOS 3 playing in the ACC, which is No. 3 conference RPI.

Aside: I thought we weren’t suppose to talk about conferences but the Guru heard several references in sentences we were taught in the Mock Bracket not to say.

(No. 4) Tennessee was 6 RPI with an SOS of 1 playing in the No. 3 SEC. Runners up Maryland was 4 RPI with an SOS of 24 playing in the No. 4 Big Ten while Baylor was 2 RPI with an SOS of 16.

The Rest of It

OK, considering that we talk about 20 teams rolled out, 17 were within the Top 20 RPI but the three who were not are (22) Oklahoma, (24) Texas A&M and (28) Stanford.

By the way, at this point in time if we are talking snapshots, giving credit to Stanford for beating UConn in overtime in the first week of the season as if that could certainly happen again right now is overvaluing the Cardinal and under-valuing UConn.

But still, here are the three teams inside the 20 RPI who did not make it: 14-Dayton, 18-Florida Gulf Coast, and 19-Princeton.

The Guru thinks that the outsiders who got in would all be favored over those three – though upsetting Texas A&M or Oklahoma would not be impossible.

Dayton had a 19 SOS by the way, which would help but losses out west to Gonzaga and Washington State negate the math and the Flyers trail George Washington (without regard to Wednesday night) having lost twice to the Colonials.

But since GW is mentioned here, if we were getting the announcement Thursday night following the Colonials’ upset by Saint Louis, they would be gone and Princeton might probably be inside the loop.

As to others on the cusp: 21-JMU, 23-Syracuse, 25-Chattanooga, 26-South Florida, 27-Green Bay. Yes, Chattanooga beat Tennessee and Stanford but using the numbers route in the current snapshot exercise, the Mocs still can’t dislodge those inside the loop based on comparative bodies of work despite the head-to-head results.

JMU is interesting if the Dukes run the table and it is possible they could also land an opposite seed out of the top 16 to Louisville or Arizona State.

One wild card in all this is how the committee might place teams to preserve the integrity of the bracket but factor travel in light of a recent memo to the men and women discussing shortage of available aircraft in the opening rounds.

Meanwhile, in terms of the AP Poll, per what I said earlier, as far as teams in the first 20 this week, not on the NCAA list were 13- Mississippi State (No. 31 RPI, 121-SOS, and 43-NCF RPI), 16-Princeton and 18-Rutgers.

While Rutgers is not close now, the Scarlet Knights would be knocking on the door with a run to the Big Ten title or maybe even narrow loss in the conference title game.

Teams not in the poll who made the list 16-Washington, 20-SOS (deserving), 17-California (by default and already discussed but they wouldn’t be in the Guru’s 16), and 22-Oklahoma (same thing).

In terms of conference Reps as to numbers in the 20 with the conference RPI in parenthesis: (5) PAC-12 Five, (2) ACC Five, 3-SEC Four, 4-Big 10 Two, 1-Big 12 Two, 7-AAC One, and 6-A10 One.

In terms of the conference RPIs not mentioned with teams as also rans, 11-Atlantic Sun, 13-CAA, 20-Southern, 12-Horizon.

And to sign off with the last laugh for Princeton, it is actually looking good for the Tigers, especially if they run the table.

Louisville is looking like a 2 or 3 seed, so Princeton as a 7 or 6 matchup, either an all-time seed for an Ivy, would be a way of rewarding the Tigers.

And there is the chance Banghart’s bunch might still land a four seed if in fact the regional advisory committee of coaches who meet several times during the season and others off personal observation, decide, the heck with the math, the eye test rules.

OK, that’s it for now.

-- Mel









- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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