Inside the Bracket: Eight teams with lighter-than-you-think profiles
With two months until Selection Sunday, there are a few curious profiles among name-heavy teams. As an illustration, let’s look at an interesting group of eight. None are having bad seasons, but their profiles are lighter than you might think. Combined, the eight have five wins against teams that were included in the January 14 bracket update. Three of the teams have yet to beat a team currently in the Field. When it comes to Top 50 RPI wins (through games played on January 16), these eight squads have a combined six wins and none has more than one …
Louisville – The defending NCAA champions are 1-2 vs. the Top 50 and have no wins against teams in the current field. Their non-conference schedules ranks No. 174. Their best wins are bubble teams SMU and Southern Miss. Eleven of their 15 wins are against teams ranked 150 or worse in the RPI.
Gonzaga – The Bulldogs are 0-2 vs. the Top 50 and also have no wins against the current field. GU’s best wins are bubble teams Arkansas and Saint Mary’s, plus a victory at West Virginia. The Bulldogs are 5-2 vs. the Top 100. They also have a loss at Portland. Note: Had the bracket been updated Friday, Arkansas would have returned to the Field after beating Kentucky.
Missouri – The Tigers are 1-1 vs. the Top 50 and have beaten UCLA – a team in the current field. However, they have only two other Top 100 wins and only one of those – NC State – is currently on the realistic bubble. Mizzou’s non-conference SOS comes in at No. 157.
New Mexico – The Lobos have a home win over Cincinnati, but that’s their only Top 50 victory. Other wins of note include Marquette, New Mexico State, Wyoming, and perhaps UAB. But none of those would be realistic at-large bubble teams right now.
UCLA – Until the Bruins beat Colorado on Thursday they had zero Top 50 wins. Their other notable victory would be bubble team Arizona State. What they have is a collection of wins over teams like Alabama, UC-Santa Barbara, USC, and Drexel. UCLA’s non-conference SOS is a very average No. 159.
VCU – The Rams entered the year as the Atlantic 10 favorites and may still win the league. For now, however, they are 1-3 vs. Top 50 teams, 2-4 vs. Top 100 teams and only their November win over Virginia counts as an NCAA-level victory. Their next best win, Belmont, will only make the NCAAs as an automatic qualifier.
Pittsburgh – Heading to Syracuse on Saturday, the Panthers have played only one Top 50 opponent (Cincinnati) and lost – albeit a one-point game. They do have a victory at Stanford – which counts as a win against the Field, even if the Cardinal were among the final teams “IN” on Tuesday. The good news is that Pitt also has wins over bubble teams like Wake Forest, NC State, and perhaps, Maryland. The Panthers also own a non-conference SOS ranked No. 208.
Ohio State – Battling a three-game losing streak, the Buckeyes are 1-3 vs. Top 50 teams. To be fair, OSU is 9-3 vs. the Top 100 – so their profile is far from poor. But the Buckeyes have yet to beat a team in the current bracket. Their top wins are Marquette, Purdue, Notre Dame, and Maryland – and maybe North Dakota State. Are the Buckeyes a good team? Yes. But like the others listed here, their profile is a lighter than it seems.
It’s likely that most of the teams listed above will make the 2014 NCAA Tournament. But none has the rock-solid NCAA profile we might have expected.