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The SEC A 2-Bid League? Latest Resumes Show 7 Fighting For Bid #3

Suffolk_Downs_horse_racingAs we roll into February this week the Southeastern Conference remains in NCAA Tournament hot water.  The league’s dominant teams — Florida and Kentucky are a combined 11-1 in conference play — are good to go for their expected tourney invitations.  But who else can work their way in?

Barring an SEC Tournament victory and the league’s automatic bid, it appears as though there are seven teams with some amount of life left.  None are in good shape.  None of those less-than-magnificent seven are even top 50 teams in the all-important RPI.  And with just 30+ at-large bids to be handed out, squads in the RPI 50s and 60s have slim hopes of dancing in March.  Teams in the 70s and 80s are out altogether.  Three of the aforementioned seven are in that range.

Obviously, there’s a lot of work to be done.

According to RealTimeRPI.com’s up-to-date figures, Florida (5) and Kentucky (12) are locks.  Georgia (119), Texas A&M (131), Mississippi State (135), South Carolina (144) and Auburn (193) are already doomed barring fantastic finishes over the season’s final 12 games.

That leaves the following seven teams — and their resumes — on or just off the NCAA tourney bubble:

 

  Category   Tennessee   Missouri   Ole Miss   LSU   Arkansas   Vanderbilt   Alabama
  RPI Rank   52   56   58   62   75   84   86
  SOS Rank   10   110   89   70   85   47   2
  Overall Record   11-7   15-4   14-5   12-6   13-6   10-8   8-10
  SEC Record   3-3   3-3   5-1   3-3   2-4   2-4   3-3
  Top 50 W   2   1   0   0   3   0   0
  Top 100 True Road W   0   1   1   0   0   0   0
  L Outside Top 100   2   1   1   1   2   1   3
  Top 50 Games Remaining   1   2   3   3   1   1   2

 

See any sure things in that bunch?

Tennessee’s combination of RPI and strength of schedule make them the most likely team to gain a third bid into March Madness, but they’re far from a sure thing.  To date they’ve been a .500 team in league play and that will have to stop.  UT has just one game remaining with a top 50 RPI team (Florida at home), but five more contests against teams outside the top 100.  Just playing league games is going to put a dent in the Vols’ SOS rank.  And if they lose to one or two of the league’s flops it could mean expulsion from the NCAA bubble.

Missouri’s SOS isn’t good, but their RPI keeps them in the hunt for a bid.  They still have a home game with Kentucky and a road trip to Florida coming up in the next week and a half.  More importantly, they have two games remaining with Tennessee.  If those teams take care of business elsewhere, the SEC’s third NCAA invitation could come down to how those teams play against one another.

Ole Miss fans can maintain some hope as they have two dates with Kentucky and a game with Florida still remaining.  We don’t expect the Rebels to win at Rupp Arena, but at least the possibility remains of Mississippi toppling UK and UF back-to-back at the Tad Pad (assuming there’s not another rain out in that gym).  A Wednesday nighter at Tennessee this week could be big as well as all the SEC bubble teams jostle one another for NCAA positioning.

LSU is really out of the picture right now.  Their RPI is on the fringe of bubble status, they have zero top 50 RPI wins and zero good road wins (a category that was huge in last year’s tourney selection process).  A road game with Florida and two games versus Kentucky are left to be played, but the odds aren’t good for the Tigers.

Arkansas, Vandy and Alabama appear to have way too much work to do.  They’re on life-support with few opportunities to take down top 50 RPI clubs remaining.  Alabama went out and played some giants (and lost) which is commendable.  But the Tide also lost to Drexel (130), South Florida (166) and Georgia (119)

So might the SEC land just two teams in the NCAA Tournament?  It’s possible, but we suspect a third team will sneak onto the bracket.  The league’s RPI ranks it as the seventh best conference nationally.  It’s still a “power” conference in terms of program size and history.  However, if a surprise team wins the SEC Tournament it’s entirely possible — maybe likely — that that team swipes a bid from the best of the remaining SEC bubble teams.

For now?  Only two SEC squads have resumes that scream, “We’re in!”  Five teams are already pushing daisies.  And that leaves the seven squads above to scratch, claw, and battle their way into the tourney.

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Hey, A&M And Georgia… The SEC Needs You To Take A Dive

gfx - by the numbersAs noted earlier today, the SEC is once again struggling on the RPI front.  And that’s a front that weighs very heavily come Selection Sunday.

Currently, the league has just two teams in the RPI top 50.  The league itself is once again ranked as the seventh best conference in America.  Add it up and the SEC is looking at yet another three-bid tourney.  From a 14-team league that is embarrassing.

Take a quick gander at the current RPI rankings (and strength of schedule ranks) for each SEC squad:

 

  School   Record   RPI Rank
  Florida   15-2   7
  Kentucky   13-4   15
  Missouri   14-3   51
  Tennessee   10-6   57
  Arkansas   12-5   60
  Ole Miss   12-5   61
  LSU   11-5   63
  Alabama   7-9   96
  Vanderbilt   9-7   102
  Texas A&M   12-5   108
  Georgia   9-7   128
  Miss. State   12-5   136
  S. Carolina   7-10   139
  Auburn   8-7   186

 

Barring some major winning streaks by the teams at the bottom of the SEC barrel, the league has only two locks for the tourney — Florida and Kentucky.  Five more teams rank in the 50s and 60s in the RPI and only a handful of schools from that range each year nab at-large bids.

For Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss and LSU, their games against each other will be enormous in terms of their bubble hopes.  And the last thing any of those squads need are losses to the seven worst teams in the league.  With RPI rankings of 96 and below, those teams are all but dead in terms of at-large bids.

Which brings us to Texas A&M and Georgia.  The Aggies and Bulldogs have gotten off to 3-1 starts in SEC play.  While that’s great news for those teams and their fans, it’s terrible news for the SEC as a whole.

Billy Kennedy’s team has already knocked off Arkansas at home and Tennessee on the road.  This after losing to Missouri State (RPI 76), SMU (RPI 41), Oklahoma (RPI 16) and North Texas (RPI 155) in the non-conference portion of its schedule.

Mark Fox’s Georgia squad has already won at Missouri and beaten Arkansas at home.  But the Dawgs’ non-conference schedule included losses to Georgia Tech (RPI 145), Davidson (RPI 175), Temple (RPI 166), Nebraska (RPI 68), Colorado (RPI 19), and George Washington (RPI 22).

When the teams that failed to build strong resumes outside the conference knock off the few teams with decent resumes inside the conference, it hurts those stronger teams’ RPI scores and the SEC’s reputation as a whole.  Example: Georgia has three losses to teams outside the RPI top 150, yet the Bulldogs have won at Missouri and topped Arkansas.

It’s a long season.  RPI ratings will rise and fall.  And none of those seven teams way outside the NCAA Tournament bubble currently are going to roll over and play dead.

But for a league struggling to improve its reputation and to land more than three teams in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a worst-case scenario for teams with bad RPIs to beat the few SEC teams with good ones.

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Tourney Outlook Remains Bleak For The SEC

calculatorTonight, Georgia will visit #7 Florida and #13 Kentucky will travel to Arkansas.

Florida… Kentucky.

They’re the bell cows of the Southeastern Conference this year — as expected — but the rest of the league’s cattle just aren’t following.  Not closely anyway.  Not yet.

Using RealTimeRPI.com — who we’ve used for years and who have helped us predict the correct number of SEC teams in the NCAA Tourney field numerous times — it’s clear that right now, UF and UK are the only Big Dance locks from the Southeastern Conference.  So much for nixing divisions and strengthening schedules.  As of yet, the league’s attempts to improve itself haven’t brought about the desired result.

Below we provide you with each SEC squad’s abbreviated tourney resume to date.  But be warned.  The results aren’t pretty.

 

  RPI Rank   School   SOS Rank   SEC Rec.   Overall Rec.   Top 50 RPI Rec.   Sub-100 RPI L   Rem. Gms Vs Top 50 RPI
  6   Florida   13   2-0   13-2   2-2   0   3
  16   Kentucky   12   2-0   12-3   1-2   0   3
  49   Missouri   108   1-1   13-2   1-1   1   2
  57   Tennessee   29   1-1   9-5   2-2   2   5
  69   LSU   95   1-1   10-4   0-2   1   4
  80   Ole Miss   92   1-1   10-5   0-3   1   4
  87   Arkansas   118   0-2   11-4   2-3   1   4
  107   S. Carolina   30   0-2   7-8   0-3   2   3
  111   Texas A&M   161   2-0   11-4   0-2   1   3
  124   Alabama   14   1-1   6-8   0-5   2   5
  131   Vanderbilt   106   0-2   8-6   0-2   1   3
  147   Miss. State   282   1-1   11-4   0-1   2   3
  178   Auburn   181   0-2   8-5   0-3   1   3
  180   Georgia   191   2-0   8-6   1-2   3   3

 

Alright, let’s start this breakdown with some help from Monty Python…

 

Monty Python-Bring out your dead!

 

While some of these schools may believe they have some NCAA tourney life left, they’re pretty much already pushing up daisies:  Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Texas A&M, and South Carolina.  To reach the tourney from outside the RPI top 100 requires a conference tournament victory.  Good luck in Atlanta, folks.  The holes these teams have dug for themselves are just too deep.  It would be a miraculous turnaround — we’re talking Lazarus here — to see one of these teams land an at-large bid.

Moving up the chart, Arkansas hasn’t helped its cause with an 0-2 start in conference play.  Tonight they host Kentucky in what’s basically a must-win game for the Hogs.  Win it and they’ll have three top 50 RPI wins (good) and hope of reviving their NCAA chances.  But they will only have three more games against teams currently ranked in the top 50 after tonight.  Gotta make tonight count, Razorbacks.

Ole Miss and LSU are very similar.  At #69 and #80 in the RPI, the Tigers and Rebels face steep climbs to get back onto the NCAA bubble.  On the plus side, both squads have four games remaining against top 50 foes, so there are opportunities.  On the downside, both teams are winless versus top 50 competition so far.  Strength of schedule isn’t working in either team’s favor, either.  LSU travels to Oxford tomorrow.  It will be the only meeting of the two old rivals this year (thanks to the SEC’s ridiculously horrible scheduling format).  Tomorrow’s winner will put a serious hurtin’ on the other squad’s tourney chances.

Tennessee has been a major disappointment — two losses to teams outside the top 100? — but the Vols might have the best shot at resuscitating their NCAA dreams.  They’re currently #57 in the RPI which is typically life-support zone for at-large teams.  But UT still has a full five games remaining against top 50 foes.  They also have a strength-of-schedule rank of 29 (good) and a 2-2 record versus RPI top 50 competition (not bad).  But if the tourney were selected today, the Vols would be a bubble team at best.  They have a lot of work to do.

Missouri’s #49 RPI is bubblicious, too.  Worse, the Tigers’ strength of schedule is sub-100 and they have just two games remaining against top 50 competition: Kentucky at home and Florida on the road in back-to-back games at the first of next month.  The Tigers and Vols will face each other twice over the coming weeks.  Duking it out for an NCAA bid, pay close attention to those games.  If one team can pull a sweep over the other, it will definitely give its resume a boost and — possibly — knock a bubble rival off said bubble.

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Six NCAA Bids For The SEC? Looks Like Three Or Four To Us

calculatorEach year as the NCAA Tournament draws near, we do a pretty darn good job of telling you which SEC teams will land bids and which won’t.  That’s not because we’re blessed with a sixth sense or a high basketball IQ; it’s because we’re blessed with a calculator.

Season in and season out, about 95% of NCAA Tournament field can be predicted by us, by bracketologists like Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi, and by you.  If a team’s RPI is within the top 30 in the nation, it’s pretty much a lock to make the 68-team field.  If it’s in the 40s, 50s or 60s, that team’s chances are slim.  If it’s 70 or up there’s a high probability it’s NIT time.

So when we saw ESPN’s Lunardi predict last week that six SEC teams would make the tourney field we did a double-take.  Six?  Try four.  At least going by the math as it currently stands.

Below are the up-to-date tourney resumes for each SEC squad as we enter the conference portion of the 2013-14 schedule.  You’ll see there’s a pretty wide gap between the top schools and those bringing up the rear.  We compare each team’s record, RPI and strength of schedule ranking (from RealTimeRPI.com), and record against top 50 RPI teams.  Finally, we tally each squad’s remaining games against top 50 RPI competition to see which teams have the most chances to improve their standing with the selection committee:

 

  School   Record   RPI Rank   SOS Rank   Vs Top 50 RPI   Rem. Gms Vs Top 50 RPI
  Florida   11-2   16   48   3-2   3
  Kentucky   10-3   19   12   2-3   3
  Missouri   12-1   29   105   1-1   2
  LSU   9-3   53   67   0-2   4
  Tennessee   8-4   54   27   2-2   5
  Ole Miss   9-4   79   86   0-2   4
  Arkansas   11-2   83   212   2-1   5
  Vanderbilt   8-4   94   108   0-1   4
  S. Carolina   7-6   95   37   1-3   4
  Alabama   5-7   119   9   0-5   5
  Auburn   8-3   161   259   0-2   4
  Texas A&M   9-4   177   242   0-2   3
  Miss. State   10-3   183   336   0-0   4
  Georgia   6-6   257   264   0-2   4

 

So what do we know at this point?

 

1.  The SEC is once again a pretty bad basketball league.  In fact, a terrible weekend dropped the league from sixth in conference RPI all the way back down to eighth, where it languished for most of last season.

2.  The SEC is just 11-28 versus current top 50 RPI clubs.  That’s horrible.  Especially considering the fact that eight of the conference’s teams have played two or fewer top 50 teams.  To generalize, most SEC teams haven’t scheduled well —  Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, MSU and Georgia all rank below 200 in strength of schedule — and those that have tested themselves against stiff competition have mostly flopped.

3.  Looking at the far right column you’ll find that teams can’t expect to do a lot of real resume-boosting in conference play.  At the moment there are only three SEC squads in the top 50 of the RPI.  Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama all have five games against league-mates, but most schools will only play three or four top 50 teams inside the league.  Missouri will only play Florida and Kentucky once each… that’s it… no other top 50 RPI games for the Tigers.

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14-Team SEC Looking Like A 3-Bid League Again

little-icon-man-and-calculatorSo much for improved basketball in the Southeastern Conference.  A recent downturn in the number of NCAA Tournament bids sent to the SEC’s inbox prompted the league office to this offseason hire specialists to help with both scheduling and the hoops image of the conference.  One problem: It takes time to bail water from a sinking ship.

SEC basketball just isn’t very good at the moment and no amount of scheduling or spin can quickly fix that situation.

Last night the SEC picked up a pretty good win with Florida’s takedown of Memphis, sure.  But elsewhere Wichita State was beating Alabama (after topping Tennessee on Saturday), Vanderbilt was struggling with Austin Peay, and South Carolina was getting blown out by Manhattan.  Hey, the Jaspers are 8-2, but still.

Below are the latest RPI rankings provided by ESPN.com.  The network claims that Joe Lunardi and “his team of Bracketologists” have cracked the NCAA’s code and “have replicated the RPI” that they use during the tourney selection process.  So how does the SEC stack up?  Not well…

 

  RPI Rank   School   Record   Vs RPI Top 50
  17   Florida   8-2   1-2
  18   Missouri   10-0   1-0
  23   Arkansas   7-2   0-1
  39   LSU   6-2   1-1
  45   Kentucky   8-3   1-3
  47   Ole Miss   7-2   0-1
  91   Vanderbilt   6-3   0-2
  94   Tennessee   6-3   0-1
  98   Alabama   4-5   0-3
  101   S. Carolina   2-4   0-2
  176   Texas A&M   8-2   0-0
  218   Miss. State   7-2   0-1
  240   Auburn   4-3   0-2
  318   Georgia   4-4   0-0

 

Folks, that’s awful.  The tournament bubble typically starts around the 35-40 mark.  Which means if the NCAA selection committee were crunching the numbers today, Florida, Missouri and Arkansas would be the only locks from the SEC.

LSU, Kentucky and Ole Miss are all still alive.  Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Alabama have a pulse, but the overall weakness of the SEC suggests their wounds are mortal.  For the Dores, Vols or Tide to make the NCAA field they’ll need to win out through December and then win no less than 12 league games… probably no less than 13. Either that or win the SEC Tournament.

And the bottom of the league poses real problems for anyone now in the bubble zone.  Beat an A&M, State, Auburn or Georgia and it will do absolutely nothing for the ol’ RPI.  Lose to one of those teams and it’s an RPI destroyer.

Granted, we’re still in December.  One of the 11 SEC squads currently playing catch-up could go on some sort of unforeseen win streak.  But when there are more coaches on hot seats than there are RPI top 30 teams, it’s not a good sign for the conference.  And Anthony Grant, Cuonzo Martin, Billy Kennedy, Tony Barbee and Mark Fox could all be gone by season’s end.

We’ll update these numbers from week to week, but the current data points to another disappointing Selection Sunday across Dixie.

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The SEC Has Done Little So Far To Improve Its Weak Hoops Reputation

gfx - by the numbersFlorida, Missouri and Ole Miss.  Those were the three teams from the 14-team Southeastern Conference who reached the NCAA Tournament last year.  That low number is indicative of the SEC’s total number of tourney bids in recent seasons.

From 1995 through 2008, the SEC sent either five or six teams to the Big Dance in 13 out of 14 seasons.  The lone exception was a four-bid season in 1996.

Starting in 2009, however, the SEC has received three bids, four bids, five bids, four bids and once more those three invitations to UF, MU and UM sent last March.  Respect for SEC basketball has waned.

For that reason, Mike Slive and the SEC created the position of “associate commission for men’s basketball” for Mark Whitworth this summer.  Whitworth will serve as a sort of hoops overseer (we’d previously call for the SEC to create a “basketball czar” position).  The league also brought in former NCAA Tournament official Greg Shaheen to help member schools put together better schedules to aid on the RPI front.

So how is the SEC’s tournament resume looking at this point?  About the same as last year.  The site RealTimeRPI.com shows the SEC as the 8th best hoops league in the land behind (in order) the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, new Big East, ACC, Mountain West and Atlantic 10.  What that means is that SEC teams had better start rolling up the non-conference wins right now because the league won’t be good enough to provide much of an RPI boost in January, February and March.  Florida’s win over Kansas last night was a step in the right direction, but there’s more to be done.

Below is a thumbnail breakdown of each SEC school’s resume to date…

 

  School   Record   RPI   Top 50 Ws   Sub 100 Ls   Schedule Strength
  Missouri   9-0   22   1   0   114
  Arkansas   6-2   29   0   1   15
  LSU   5-2   38   0   0   37
  Florida   7-2   42   1   0   82
  Ole Miss   6-2   57   0   1   93
  Kentucky   8-2   72   1   0   144
  S. Carolina   2-3   83   0   1   21
  Vanderbilt   5-3   95   0   0   120
  Tennessee   6-2   96   0   1   179
  Texas A&M   7-2   111   0   0   180
  Alabama   3-4   140   0   1   46
  Miss. State   5-2   231   0   1   335
  Auburn   4-3   254   0   1   280
  Georgia   3-4   331   0   2   330

 

Admittedly, it’s a bit early in the season to be studying the RPI numbers.  They’ll change some (though we don’t think the league’s overall number will improve by much at all).

For a better look at why the SEC’s reputation is in the tank, let’s take a team-by-team look at losses and matchups with “name” schools…

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SEC Hoops Warning: It’s Not Just Who You Play, But Where You Play Them

plane-travelIn an effort to improve the SEC’s strength of schedule in basketball next season, Mike Slive invited former NCAA Tournament executive Greg Shaheen to this week’s league meetings in Destin.  Shaheen prepared a 20-page dossier for the SEC’s hoops coaches and athletic directors to peruse.

What they found amidst all the RPI and strength of schedule data surprised more than a few of them.  According to Florida’s Billy Donovan, “One of the things that was eye-opening to coaches was how much every team’s schedule impacts the other teams.”

But it’s not just a matter of SEC squads adding better teams to their schedules.  Shaheen says schools have to be willing to hit the road, too:

 

“It’s not only who you play.  It’s where you play them.  They need to be serious about this from the first game to the last.  If they don’t go on the road and don’t play quality competition, it will be reflected at the end of the year.”

 

Last year the SEC’s poor scheduling led to an measly three NCAA tourney bids for the conference.  As we noted yesterday, fewer bids means less revenue for the league.  And that’s why Slive has decided that the SEC office should take a look at team’s non-conference schedules before they’re finalized.  That’s a decision that Florida AD Jeremy Foley backs:

 

“The commissioner overseeing (scheduling), that’s a good business decision.  If scheduling is holding us back, holding some institutions back, it needs to be fixed.”

 

Overseeing scheduling, creating an SEC/Big XII Challenge, bringing in a tourney insider for a crash course on how RPI and SOS work… clearly Slive is trying everything he can to fix what needs fixing.

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SEC Office To Get Involved In Non-Conference Hoops Scheduling

mini-cream-puffs-boxThis past March, SEC basketball took another hit to its reputation when the NCAA selection committee decided to invite just three league members to its annual tourney.  That’s three bids for a 14-team league.

Ouch.

With the SEC’s overall strength of schedule so poor last season — the league spent much of the year ranked seventh among conferences — it’s no wonder commissioner Mike Slive has decided to get the league office involved in non-conference scheduling, as he announced yesterday at the SEC meetings:

 

“In men’s basketball we talked about scheduling.  Particularly non-conference scheduling… One of the things our athletic directors did in the most recent meeting was agree that all of our schools would submit their basketball non-conference schedules to the conference office for review, so that we can take a look at those, we can put the analytics to it, and help our institutions schedule in a way that is going to be helpful not only to them in terms of postseason but helpful to us (as a whole).”

 

Before anyone says the commissioner has no business telling Hometown U. how to put its schedule together, keep in mind that one of Slive’s main duties is to help the league’s 14 schools make as much money from athletics as possible.  The more NCAA Tournament bids the conference receives, the more money it will make.  So, yes, Slive and the SEC office have every right to step in and try to make sure that each school schedules wisely.

When it comes to RPI, strength of schedule and the other metrics used by the NCAA selection committee, a school isn’t just graded on its own opponents.  The records of its opponents’ opponents are also factored in to those calculations.  For that reason, even if a school at the bottom of the SEC is in a rebuilding mode, it should not be allowed to gorge upon cupcakes and creampuffs.  Doing so will bring down that program’s RPI and SOS and, therefore, the RPI and SOS numbers for all of its conference partners… including those on the NCAA tourney bubble.

Take it from South Carolina coach Frank Martin:

 

“Our non-conference strength of schedule last year was (ranked) 336.  That’s unacceptable.  That impacts every team in our league in a negative way.  For example, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky got left out of the NCAA Tournament.  They had decent RPIs.  If my non-conference strength of schedule would have been 230 instead of 330, then their RPIs are in the 40s and now I think maybe two of the three of them get in.”

 

Kudos to Martin for admitting he spent too much time at the pastry shop while making out Carolina’s 2012-13 schedule.  And kudos to the SEC for identifying a problem and working to fix it.

Earlier this month the SEC also announced that it had reached an agreement to begin an annual basketball “challenge” with the Big XII.  That, too, should help in terms of RPI and strength of schedule.

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Teams & Leagues Will Play A Guessing Game With Schedule Strength In New Playoff

confused-guy-scratching-headYesterday we told you that Nick Saban would like to see the SEC add more in-conference games to it yearly football schedule.  In addition to seeing rival institutions more often, adding more conference games would boost SEC team’s strength of schedule — if an additional league game replaced one of the three cupcakes usually found on an SEC’s squad’s schedule.  And strength of schedule is something Alabama’s coach wants to see emphasized in the new playoff selection process:

 

“Anytime you do a subjective evaluation of who should be in the playoff, there’s going to be a lot of debate as to whether that was done correctly.  Some of the part of the old system that we had were very, very good.

I don’t think there’s enough weight put on the quality of your schedule and the opponents that you play, which in our league is very, very important, because we had six teams in the top 10 last year at the end of the season.  We play each other, and that has a huge impact on the quality of team you have, regardless of how many games you lose.  There are thing like that that I think we can do better.”

 

The FBS presidents behind the new playoff have said that schedule strength will indeed play a big role in the process.  Just how big, no one knows.  In fact, there’s still no knowledge of just how the selection committee will look or who’ll be on it.

One thing is for certain, however — when the new playoff kicks off next year, someone will learn the hard way about the value of strength of schedule.  Early on, you can bet that some schools (and their conferences) will continue to schedule with a “business as usual” attitude.  That’s a risk.  Especially if rivals increase the difficulty of their own schedules.

There seems to be a belief that a shift to a nine-game schedule in the SEC would lead to teams dumping a good non-conference game — most SEC teams try to play one per year — in favor of keeping three cupcakes on the menu.  That would be a risk as well.  If other leagues start playing 10 quality foes and SEC teams play nine it bite those SEC squads in the rump come selection time.  The opposite could be true as well.  If an SEC team schedules 10 quality games and loses one of them, might it get left out of the playoff mix because another team swept through nine quality games and three creampuffs?

Consistency is always an issue when discussing the NCAA Tournament selections.  In that process, a team’s RPI and strength of schedule will usually give you a great idea as to who 95% of the at-large bids will go to.  But the remaining 5% changes from year to year as the committee changes members.  For example, this past year, road wins seemed to be a bigger than usual factor in selection who got those last few bids.

Get ready for those types of issues with the new football selection format.  Especially early on as teams and leagues try to figure out just how tough their schedules need to be.

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FGCU Capable Of Playing David To Florida’s Goliath

david-and-goliathOne school has a pair of national championships, three Final Fours, and five Elite Eight appearances under its belt since March of 2000.  The other has been playing Division I basketball for all of two years.

With Florida Gulf Coast University into the Sweet Sixteen — the first #15 seed to ever go so far, in case you haven’t already heard 30 times — and facing off with big, bad Florida Friday night in Austin, Texas, you should prepare yourself to see plenty tale-of-the-tape comparisons between the two neighbors.

Not unlike this one:

 

  University of Florida   Florida Gulf Coast University
  Established   1853   1991 (Classes opened in 1997)
  Enrollment   49,589   12,683
  Endowment   $1.295 Billion   $57.1 Million
  NCAA Tourney Appearances   15 (2 vacated)   1
  NCAA Tourney Wins   34   2

 

The two schools are separated by 200 some-odd miles on a map, a million miles in terms of name recognition and past basketball achievements.  One is famous for the Gator chomp.  The other might be more famous for its coach’s ex-model wife.

FGCU’s Andy Enfield has been a head coach for two seasons — his school’s only two Division I seasons — and has won 40 games in his career.  UF’s Billy Donovan is in his 19th season.  A win on Friday over Enfield would be Donovan’s 45o career victory.

So do the underdog Eagles have a legitimate shot against the Gators, one of America’s top programs?  Of course.  And FGCU forward Eric McKnight is looking forward to it.  “That is going to be a great deal,” he said yesterday after the Eagles’ win over San Diego State.  “It’s going to be so much fun because we’ll have a chance to prove who’s the best in Florida.”

When asked who is the best in Florida, McKnight didn’t hesitate: “FGCU.  FGCU.”

Gator fans shouldn’t laugh.  The Eagles have an RPI of 67 which puts them in the same company with several SEC bubble teams this year.  They’re also a pretty respectable 3-3 against RPI top 50 teams.  They beat one #2 seed in Georgetown to begin their tournament run.  Back in November they beat another eventual #2 seed — Miami — 63-51.

If McKnight and can crew topple Miami and Florida in the same season the Eagles really will be able to call themselves Sunshine State champs this year.

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