Comparing Blind Resumes for 2014 NCAA Tournament Hopefuls

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 4, 2014

Comparing Blind Resumes for 2014 NCAA Tournament Hopefuls

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Nothing will change your perception of a NCAA tournament hopeful quite like blindly comparing its resume to another team's resume, and we've got 12 juicy comparisons for you.

    In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare wrote, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

    How will these "roses" smell when we take away their names? Resumes once believed a lock for the tournament might not seem so pretty once you no longer know the school to which they belong.

    No stone was left unturned. We looked at RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), BPI (Basketball Power Index), KP (Ken Pomeroy's ratings) and JS (Jeff Sagarin's ratings) to determine where each team stands and deserves to stand.

    Aside from removing the teams' names, there's no tomfoolery or data manipulation going on here. We're giving the same amount of data for every comparison and letting you come to a conclusion on which resume is better before revealing all of the teams involved.

    Hopefully this will serve as a tiny peek behind the curtain of what the selection committee will go through next week.

     

    Win-loss records on the following slides exclude games played against opponents not in D-I and are current through the start of play on Wednesday, March 5. All computer rankings are current through the start of play on Tuesday, March 4.

     

Time to Pay Attention to Utah?

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Team A: 17-9 overall, 4-6 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-8 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 81, BPI: 34, KP: 35, JS: 43

    Team B: 21-7 overall, 4-6 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-6 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 33, BPI: 40, KP: 41, JS: 39

     

    If you look at nothing but overall record and RPI, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. Team B deserves roughly a No. 8 seed and Team A might be lucky to make the NIT.

    But let's dig a little deeper, because these teams have an identical record against the RPI Top 50 and are within six spots of each other in each of the "secondary" computer rankings.

    As you might have guessed from their complete lack of recognition in the bubble discussion, the Utah Utes are Team A.

    RPI makes absolutely no distinction between a 50-point loss and a nail-biter that ended in disappointment in overtime. This is quite unfortunate for the Utes, because they haven't been blown out yet this season and have an 0-3 record in overtime games against quality teams. As a result, they have an RPI that is on par with that of Cleveland State and Georgia.

    In every other way, though, Utah is golden. If the season ended today, the Utes would be the poster boys for everyone arguing for the death of overreliance on RPI.

    Meanwhile, Team B just completed a season sweep of Louisville this weekend. Yes, that is the profile for the Memphis Tigers, and it isn't all that different from Utah's.

    After the win over Louisville, Memphis guard Michael Dixon Jr. told reporters"This is a great win. Louisville's a Top 10 team, and we swept them. This year we've had some slip-ups we shouldn't have had, but that happens. I think that going forward we're in pretty good shape."

    What if there are more slip-ups, though?

    With games remaining against Cincinnati and Southern Methodist, could Memphis play its way into some serious bubble danger? And with road games against California and Stanford still on the docket, could Utah finally get into the national bubble conversation?

    We'll find out. All I know at the moment is that if you put these two teams on a neutral court against one another, the end result would be much closer than projected brackets would have you believe.

Don't Hold 2013 Against the Lobos

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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    Team A: 24-5 overall, 6-5 vs. RPI Top 50, 8-5 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 15, BPI: 24, KP: 19, JS: 22

    Team B: 23-5 overall, 2-2 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-4 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 20, BPI: 32, KP: 32, JS: 36

     

    Team B hasn't played anywhere near as many games against the RPI Top 50 as Team A. Given how underwhelming the Mountain West has been this season, you would be correct to assume that New Mexico is Team B.

    It doesn't show up in the splits above, but it's worth noting that both of New Mexico's best wins have come against the RPI Top 25, while Team A has just one RPI Top 25 victory.

    The Lobos are 11-1 in their last 12 games, including wins over San Diego State and Boise State. Despite that hot streak and an RPI in the Top 20, they appear to have reached some sort of artificially created cap as a No. 7 seed in most projected brackets.

    They deserve to be higher. Not only do they have a similar profile to Team A—which is either a No. 3 and a No. 4 seed according to most prognosticators—but New Mexico even won a head-to-head game against Team A, if you're into that sort of thing.

    No, Team A is not San Diego State. It's Cincinnati.

    The Bearcats have lost three out of their last five games but are still getting the benefit of the doubt as a top-rated team because of their incredible defense.

    I wouldn't quite argue that New Mexico should be seeded ahead of Cincinnati, but having three full seed lines in between them is a bit much. I wonder if it would be any different if New Mexico hadn't lost to Harvard in last year's tournament?

Where Will the Buffaloes Roam?

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Team A: 20-9 overall, 3-7 vs. RPI Top 50, 7-9 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 30, BPI: 50, KP: 65, JS: 53

    Team B: 20-9 overall, 4-5 vs. RPI Top 50, 8-6 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 51, BPI: 56, KP: 62, JS: 64

     

    One of these two teams is Colorado. The Buffaloes are comfortably seeded as a No. 10 or better in just about everyone's projected bracket.

    The other team is not only on the outside looking in, but would need to leapfrog a handful of other teams just to make it into the First Four.

    Before I reveal which team is which, take another look at those resumes and explain to me how there are upwards of 20 teams in between them.

    Their overall records are identical. Team B has one additional win against both the RPI Top 50 and RPI Top 100.

    You could argue that Team B's top wins are more impressive because they have a higher winning percentage against the RPI Top 100. On the flip side of that coin, simple arithmetic will confirm that Team B has lost three games to teams outside the RPI Top 100, while Team A hasn't lost any such games.

    Should Team B be penalized for a couple of bad losses or rewarded for winning more often than not against quality teams?

    One other footnote to consider: Team A is 0-7 away from home against the RPI Top 150. Team B is 5-5 in those games.

    That's enough suspense for one slide. Colorado is Team A. The Buffaloes have yet to win on the road against a decent team, including Saturday's 11-point loss at Utah. Forget about judging this team with or without Spencer Dinwiddie, because it's time to simply judge it for what it hasn't done at any point this season.

    Who is Team B, you ask? That would be the Dayton Flyers. They had a pretty crazy week, getting blown out by Saint Joseph's before finding redemption in a home win over Massachusetts.

    This is a classic conundrum involving a major conference team and a non-major conference team. If Colorado and Dayton were in similar conferences, they would probably be side by side on the bubble right now. Instead, the Flyers work to do and Colorado apparently has room to breathe.

UMass, Bro?

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Team A: 23-6 overall, 7-3 vs. RPI Top 50, 12-6 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 10, BPI: 11, KP: 7, JS: 8

    Team B: 22-6 overall, 6-1 vs. RPI Top 50, 13-5 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 12, BPI: 31, KP: 48, JS: 46

     

    Here we find a situation very similar to the one presented on the previous slide. Team B has a slightly better winning percentage vs. RPI Top 100, but it's readily apparent that Team B has one loss to a team outside the RPI Top 100, while Team A doesn't have any.

    If you'll recall that Massachusetts has suffered a loss to George Mason, you already know that the Minutemen are Team B.

    There are only five teams in the country that have more wins against the RPI Top 100 than Massachusetts. Of the Minutemen's 13 key wins, seven have come away from home.

    The Minutemen went through a bit of a rough patch in late January and early February, but the list of teams that haven't experienced some sort of swoon in the past month is an extremely short one. They don't rank very well in BPI, KP or JS because they never made much of a habit out of destroying their opponents, but they have that winning gene this year.

    Of course, it's a different story for Team A, because Creighton has been putting up points in bunches all season. The Bluejays' blowout wins over Villanova have left them within a couple spots of No. 10 in all the computer rankingsthough we shall see how Tuesday night's loss to Georgetown affects those numbers.

    Aside from the occasional eye-popping margins of victory, though, what is it that has Creighton battling for a No. 2 seed while Massachusetts is struggling to maintain its spot as a No. 7 seed?

    Creighton obviously wins the eye test, but a separation of five seed lines is pretty extreme.

Cougars' Town

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Team A: 18-11 overall, 3-7 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-10 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 59, BPI: 43, KP: 36, JS: 41

    Team B: 20-10 overall, 3-5 vs. RPI Top 50, 7-6 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 29, BPI: 44, KP: 46, JS: 44

     

    Team B has a better overall record and a better record against the RPI Top 100, but the average of their ranks in the four computer rating systems are extremely close together.

    Of course, this wouldn't be worth discussing if there wasn't a sizable gap between the two teams. Team B is on the right side of the bubble with some room to spare. Team A is on the wrong side of the bubble and has a couple of teams to bypass before they can even consider dancing.

    Both teams played a lot of RPI Top 50 nonconference opponents. Team A went 2-3 with neutral-court wins over VCU and Massachusetts. Team B was 2-4 with wins away from home against Stanford and Texas.

    I'm not arguing that Team B should fall out of the projected field, because I've come to grips with the fact that BYU has a worthy tournament resumeprovided the Cougars don't lose an ugly game to either Portland or Loyola Marymount in the WCC quarterfinals.

    Instead, I'm making the case for Team A, because Florida State belongs in the tournament right now.

    The Seminoles have a lot of losses, but they have played seven games against the RPI Top 17. That's more than any other team in the country, and they still have (at least) one more remaining against Syracuse on Sunday. If there's a team that deserves some slack for playing too many uber-quality opponents, you're looking at them.

    They only have one "awful" loss this season—and that home loss to Miami doesn't look quite so bad when you consider that Miami ranks in the top 85 of all the computer ranks except for RPI, where the Hurricanes are No. 102.

    Even if the Seminoles lose to Syracuse on Sunday, they would finish the season with a .500 record in ACC play and would likely draw the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament. As long as they can avoid losing to a team like Notre Dame or Wake Forest in their first ACC tourney game, I like Florida State's chances of ultimately making the NCAA tournament.

Huge Drop Bruin?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Team A: 22-7 overall, 7-4 vs. RPI Top 50, 8-6 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 19, BPI: 14, KP: 15, JS: 18

    Team B: 21-8 overall, 7-8 vs. RPI Top 50, 11-8 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 25, BPI: 42, KP: 39, JS: 40

     

    Let's end some of the suspense right away and reveal that Team A is UCLA.

    Both UCLA and Team B are ranked somewhere in the vicinity of a No. 5 or No. 6 seed depending on who you ask, but do they really deserve equal treatment?

    UCLA went 0-3 against the RPI Top 100 during the nonconference portion of the season. Team B had a 3-2 record, including a road win over North Carolina. UCLA is also 0-2 vs. RPI Top 25, while Team B is 3-5.

    According to BPI, Team B's strength of schedule ranks 11th-most difficult in the country, while UCLA's ranks 39th. So let's go ahead and forgive that one-game difference in the loss column—considering Team B has yet to lose a game to a team outside the RPI Top 50.

    Have you been thoroughly convinced that Texas should be seeded way ahead of UCLA?

    I like the Bruins where they currently are, but Texas deserves better.

    The Longhorns have lost four consecutive road games to drop out of the AP Top 25, but they belong with Michigan State, North Carolina and San Diego State in the conversation about which team would be most deserving of a No. 3 seed the next time such a position opens up.

     

Cardinal Numbers

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    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Team A: 22-7 overall, 3-4 vs. RPI Top 50, 7-7 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 22, BPI: 21, KP: 16, JS: 26

    Team B: 24-5 overall, 4-5 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-5 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 32, BPI: 6, KP: 5, JS: 5

     

    If not for those supplemental computer ratings, Team A would rank ahead of Team B, right?

    Team A has more losses but a better RPI, and more games against high-quality opposition would seem to put it slightly in the lead in my book.

    Fortunately for Team B, it has been absolutely destroying its lesser competition all season. Against teams outside the RPI Top 50, Louisville is 20-0 with an average margin of victory of 27.6 points per game. And as it turns out, beating bad teams by nearly 30 points a night is more valuable in the new-age computer ratings than consistently beating quality teams by a minimal margin.

    Outside of a 69-38 win over Southern Miss, though, the Cardinals haven't looked very good against tournament-caliber teams. But they have been regarded as roughly a No. 4 seed because of a combination of their domination of bad teams and for the national championship they won 11 months ago.

    Team A hasn't been quite as dominant, but it has arguably been more effective and more consistent.

    So why is VCU hovering three or four seed lines behind Louisville in most projected brackets?

    Sure, the Rams lost three out of four games during a two-week stretch in mid-February, but allow me to assure you that there is no shame in road losses by single digits to Massachusetts, Saint Joseph's and Saint Louis.

    The A-10 is going to send at least as many teams to the NCAA tournament as the AAC is going to send, and those top teams have just been taking turns beating each other up (and struggling with George Mason).

    If VCU really does end up getting a No. 7 seed on Selection Sunday, I hope we get to see the live reaction of the No. 2 seed that would be forced to play the Rams in the round of 32.

OK State Corral

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Team A: 20-10 overall, 5-9 vs. RPI Top 50, 8-9 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 45, BPI: 19, KP: 24, JS: 15

    Team B: 18-10 overall, 5-8 vs. RPI Top 50, 6-9 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 40, BPI: 36, KP: 37, JS: 31

     

    Oklahoma State is the owner of one of the above profiles.

    What in the world are we to do about the Cowboys? Having a double-digit number in the loss column before the end of March is usually a surefire way to ensure you don't receive a single-digit seed in the tournament.

    But we have to view them in a different light because of everything that transpired in January and February. Oklahoma State was one of the best teams in the country before everything went haywire for about six weeks. The Cowboys have now won four straight games, though, including hugely important home wins over both Kansas schools.

    If we look at their entire body of work and pretend that there weren't precipitous peaks and valleys throughout their season, the resume of Oklahoma State (Team A) isn't much different from that of Stanford (Team B)and the Cardinal are projected to earn something in the vicinity of a No. 11 seed.

    Would Oklahoma State really get that kind of treatment? Things got rough there for a while with the Cowboys, but it's pretty clear that they're back to playing at a Top 25 kind of level.

    After Monday's win over Kansas State, I'd expect to see Oklahoma State in a No. 8 vs. No. 9 game in most projected brackets, and I already feel terrible for the No. 1 seed that would draw the Cowboys in the third round in that situation.

The Pitt of Despair

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Team A: 22-8 overall, 1-6 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-8 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 45, BPI: 18, KP: 26, JS: 25

    Team B: 20-9 overall, 3-2 vs. RPI Top 50, 7-7 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 57, BPI: 41, KP: 60, JS: 57

     

    This one isn't quite a TKO, but it sure seems like Team B is the winner.

    Team B has more quality wins and a better winning percentage against quality teams than Team A. Team A has a much better BPI, KP and JS than Team B, but as we've discovered elsewhere, a discrepancy like this between RPI and the other computer metrics typically indicates blowout wins over bad teams and close losses to good teams.

    If that sounds a lot like Pittsburgh's modus operandi, that's because Team A is Pittsburgh.

    Despite an 0-6 record against the RPI Top 100 since Jan. 27, people are still insistent on keeping the Panthers in their projected brackets. They were playing some great basketball back in November and December but played a grand total of two nonconference games against the RPI Top 100—beating Stanford and losing to Cincinnati.

    However, the rationale seems to be that there needs to be 68 teams in the tournament field, and it's easier to keep Pittsburgh in than it is to find another team that is more deserving.

    Team B looks like one of those more deserving teams, which is really saying something about Pittsburgh's resume, because Team B is the Missouri Tigers. And in case you haven't noticed, Missouri is perhaps the bubbliest team in the entire country.

    Yet, the Tigers' resume is, at worst, comparable to Pittsburgh's.

    It might be in the Panthers' best interest to really deliver a message in their season finale at Clemson.

Undeserved California Love

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    Team A: 18-11 overall, 4-8 vs. RPI Top 50, 6-9 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 50, BPI: 67, KP: 64, JS: 60

    Team B: 17-12 overall, 4-7 vs. RPI Top 50, 6-8 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 74, BPI: 62, KP: 58, JS: 52

    Team C: 17-13 overall, 3-9 vs. RPI Top 50, 5-10 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 66, BPI: 63, KP: 59, JS: 61

     

    Outside of RPI, these three teams are almost identical.

    But—wouldn't you know it?—Team A is smack dab on the bubble while Teams B and C allegedly have a ton of work left to do. In fact, in Joe Lunardi's most recent bracket projection, Team A is a No. 10 seed while neither Team B nor C appears on his list of the eight teams closest to making the jump into the field.

    Even the staunchest RPI supporter would have a tough time rationalizing a gap of 15 or more teams between Profile A and Profiles B and C.

    Now, let's add in the fact that Team A has lost seven of its last 11 games while Team B has picked up consecutive wins against the RPI Top 50 and Team C just ended a streak of three straight wins against the RPI Top 50.

    Sure, one of Team A's wins was against Arizona, but I think we can all agree that California wouldn't have won that game if not for Brandon Ashley's injury. That win is almost single-handedly responsible for the Golden Bears' RPI remaining as good as it is.

    Meanwhile, Indiana (Team B) and Illinois (Team C) can't seem to buy a ticket into the RPI Top 60 because of how badly they struggled in their first 12 or so B1G games. But right now, they are both playing much better than California.

    The Golden Bears aren't just losing games. They're getting destroyed. Not a single one of their 11 losses has been by less than seven points. Their seven losses in Pac-12 play are by an average of 15.4 points per game.

    Can the occasional quality win really make up for California playing like garbage the rest of the time? And if so, why aren't Indiana and Illinois getting the same treatment for their recent marquee wins over Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State?

The Land of 10,000 Losses

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Team A: 19-10 overall, 1-6 vs. RPI Top 50, 4-7 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 76, BPI: 53, KP: 50, JS: 55

    Team B: 18-12 overall, 1-7 vs. RPI Top 50, 4-9 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 61, BPI: 49, KP: 52, JS: 58

    Team C: 17-12 overall, 3-9 vs. RPI Top 50, 6-10 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 47, BPI: 55, KP: 54, JS: 49

     

    Teams A and B are not very close to the projected field, and deservedly so.

    The point on this slide isn't to argue that those teams belong in the field so much as it is to argue that Minnesota (Team C) does not.

    The Golden Gophers have three quality wins, but they could not have possibly been any luckier in the timing of facing those opponents. They played Ohio State at home in the third leg of the Buckeyes' four-game losing streak. They also played Wisconsin at home, handing the Badgers their third consecutive loss during a stretch where they lost five out of six games.

    More recently, they won a home game against Iowa during a period in which the Hawkeyes had to play four B1G games in a span of nine days.

    I'm certainly not saying that Minnesota's three biggest wins of the season don't count, but I do think they should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Even if those wins are viewed at full value, 12 losses is an awful lot. And even though conference records don't matter at all in the grand scheme of things, Minnesota is 7-10 in B1G play with a 4-8 record against conference teams in the RPI Top 100.

    Despite their quality wins, the Golden Gophers have very similar computer rankings to Clemson (Team A) and North Carolina State (Team B).

Undefeated No. 2 Seed?

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    Wichita State: 30-0 overall, 2-0 vs. RPI Top 50, 10-0 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 7, BPI: 4, KP: 6, JS: 16

    Team A: 25-5 overall, 4-3 vs. RPI Top 50, 11-5 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 10, BPI: 8, KP: 2, JS: 7

    Team B: 22-7 overall, 12-7 vs. RPI Top 50, 17-7 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 3, BPI: 3, KP: 9, JS: 4

    Team C: 26-3 overall, 4-3 vs. RPI Top 50, 14-3 vs. RPI Top 100, RPI: 4, BPI: 7, KP: 8, JS: 3

     

    There's no point in even trying to conceal Wichita State's identity, but do the Shockers have a better resume than these other three teams?

    As a spoiler, none of these mystery teams is Florida or Arizona, and I think we can all agree that both the Gators and Wildcats have pretty much clinched a No. 1 seed. Thus, these are the primary teams fighting for the final two spots on the top line.

    We can probably immediately rule out Team A. Certainly a strong profile, but not nearly enough quality wins to make up for the five losses. The Virginia Cavaliers have had an incredible season and could absolutely still play their way into a No. 1 seed by winning the ACC conference tournament, but they are a No. 2 seed for the time being.

    Team B has nearly twice as many RPI Top 100 wins as Wichita State and six times as many RPI Top 50 wins. The seven losses might be too much to stomach for a No. 1 seed, but the Kansas Jayhawks rank in the top four of three of the computer rating systems evaluated. And, on the bright side, at least all of their losses were to teams in the RPI Top 50.

    When you play 19 games against that collection of teams, you're bound to lose a few. Kudos to Wichita State for getting up to play its two games against the RPI Top 50, but Kansas has literally played 66 percent of its games against tournament-caliber opponents. If it wasn't for the Jayhawks' two conference games against TCU, they would have only played one team all season outside the RPI Top 120.

    Is an undefeated record really enough to keep the Shockers in front of a seven-loss team that is pretty clearly better than they are?

    In my opinion, though, Team C is the really intriguing one. They have three losses, but are undefeated against teams outside the RPI Top 10. Of their 14 RPI Top 100 wins, 12 have come against the RPI Top 75, and seven have come away from home.

    And yet when is the last time you heard Villanova mentioned in the No. 1 seed debate? The Wildcats were certainly embarrassed in their losses to Creighton, but I'm not sure how one goes about arguing that they aren't one of the four best teams in the country.

    Should they close out the season with wins over Xavier and Georgetown to improve to 16-3 vs. RPI Top 100, would that be enough to vault the Wildcats past an undefeated Wichita State?

    That's just one of the multitude of story lines to keep an eye on as we head into Championship Week.

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.