Inside the Bracket: Importance of quality wins
Within our latest bracket projection – January 24 Bracketology – seeding remains very fluid in the middle and lower part of the bracket. It’s not uncommon at this point in the season – as a lot of teams have remarkably similar profiles. That’s why quality wins are an important resource used to identify and separate teams most worthy of at-large selection. Many other tools such as road wins, strength of schedule, and “bad” losses are valuable as well. For right now, let’s look at quality wins. We credit CollegeRPI.com for the RPI information.
Within the context of our current bracket, the following at-large teams have yet to win a game versus a Top 50 RPI opponent:
- Washington State (0-4)
- Arizona (0-3)
- Wichita State (0-3)
- Kansas State (0-6)
That’s one reason why all four are 10 seeds or lower. All of these teams have played Top 50 competition and have the scheduling resources to create opportunities. To be in the bracket a month from now, they likely need to win one or more of these games and/or move (stay) at the top of their conference standings. Even as weak as the Pac-10 is this season (again), it’s hard to image a BCS conference failing to place at least two teams in the Field of 68. For now, that helps Arizona.
As a side note, Cleveland State (Horizon) and Utah State (WAC) are also without a Top 50 win. However, each makes the bracket this week as an Automatic Qualifier. If and when they return to the at-large pool, this will be an important selection consideration. For now, it just effects seeding.
A slight step above, the following at-large teams have a single Top 50 win at the time of this update. Note: not all victories are equal. For these two teams, BC has beaten Texas AM and Georgia beat Kentucky …
- Boston College (1-3)
- Georgia (1-4)
Automatic Qualifiers with one Top 50 win this week: St. Mary’s, Missouri State, Memphis. All three are capable teams, and could be difficult opponents if they make the NCAA’s. As of today, however, none should feel too comfortable. It’s why winning a regular-season conference title would be important. Historically, regular-season champions from non-BCS conferences have a greater at-large chance.
As the RPI continues to evolve, so will Top 50 wins. We can’t use Top 50 or Top 100 wins as a pure selection tool. As opponents improve or fall apart, so will Top 50 rankings. However, we can use the Top 50 as a synopsis of why teams are where they’re at, and why building quality wins will be important for Selection Sunday.