How important are early-season results?
When it comes to teams in the Big 6 (BCS) conferences, you can argue that early-season NCAA basketball games are not absolutely critical to post-season aspirations. That’s true to a point, assuming the team in question wins enough conference games or beats enough of its league’s heavyweights. But without some significant out-of-conference wins, NCAA selection becomes more questionable. That’s why Bracketville posts Key Games throughout the season as a way to look at potentially meaningful games.
How do results matter? Take two examples from last year. Syracuse finished 19-13 overall and 9-9 in regular-season Big East play, losing to Villanova in the opening round of the Big East tournament. Their quality conference wins included Georgetown and Marquette (they also lost @ Cincinnati and @ South Florida). Ultimately, the Orange missed the NCAAs not simply because of a 9-9 league mark, but because they beat only one team in the Top 50 of the RPI in non-league play (St. Joe’s). Part of that was a scheduling problem; SU had few chances to post a marquis win before January.
Meanwhile, Kentucky made the NCAA’s as one of the final at-large teams at 18-12, even though the Wildcats finished their non-league schedule at 6-7 which included a home loss to Gardner-Webb. The difference? UK finished 12-4 in the SEC with wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee (both highly-seeded NCAA teams last year). Was 12-4 in the SEC that much better than 9-9 in the Big East? Hard to say. Certainly the Big East was better top to bottom. The point is, both teams squandered their non-conference schedule and one paid dearly with a trip the NIT.
Is it mandatory at power conference teams win big in November and December? No. Does it make a difference? Yes. It can make a difference in selection and – perhaps just as important – seeding. Why do you think Big 10 teams haven’t fared well in seeding (or selection) the past few years? They haven’t won many big out-of-conference matchups. Once January arrives, teams beat up on each other. Often, the best way to separate yourself is big early season wins over quality teams – especially on the road.
That in mind, here are upcoming games that make a difference (Thursday and Friday, December 4&5). You can always find updates, the current schedule and recent key results under Key Games here at Bracketville. As always, send us a Rebound – Bracketguy.
Upcoming Schedule under “Key Games” above …
THURSDAY - December 4
- USC @ Oklahoma – Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series; visiting Trojans have missed chances for early-season notible wins but get another chance here.
- UCLA @ Texas – Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series; another battle of heavy weights. Both teams plan on having a long dance in March.
- Butler @ Cleveland State – Two of the Horizon league favorites go head-to-head. Can young Bulldogs take an early lead in the standings?
FRIDAY – December 5
- Arizona @ Texas A&M – Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series; both of these teams could use a quality out-of-conference win. This would qualify.