The Value of Conference Play
March is here and the Madness is right around the corner. Everyone is searching through data, looking back at teams schedules and the highlighted the teams losses and what teams those teams lost to. It is very confusing.
We measure the strength of schedule, the RPI – what the does that mean for anyway??
I just googled and it is “The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) has been used by the NCAA since 1981 to supplement the selection of at-large teams and the seeding of all teams for the NCAA basketball tournament.”
That doesn’t tell what it means! I am sure it is like BCS for college football, so it is some made-up factor to give someone something to do, somewhere.
Moving on. Another highlighted stat is “key wins and losses”. It is something that must be mentioned in determining if a team should be “rewarded” with the chance to play for the championship.
Conference play is the great equalizer, I have said this all season, and I stand by it. So when evaluating a teams overall resume, it is tough to pull “key wins or losses” out of the conference record.
So what is the criteria for judging conference wins? Big East wins are impressive because the teams are ranked in the polls, but the Big-Ten is not as unless it is against the ranked.
Take Connecticut for example. UConn has beat a ton of ranked teams – all in the Big East. But there only out of conference “statement” win was over then No. 7 Gonzaga in overtime.
Granted, six of the top seven teams in the Big East are ranked in the top 25 polls, but how much weight do you give those conferences wins?
Let’s take a look at the Big-Ten, who have two teams many think should be out for the Madness. After No. 8 Michigan State, No. 11 Purdue, and No. 23 Illinois, there is a log jam of six teams that are right around .500 in conference play.
Michigan is one and one against Illinois this season, and has quality wins of Duke and UCLA. If there were”quality losses” that would get won for an eight point loss to UConn. But there conference record is 8-and-9 in the Big Ten.
Minnesota is 20-8, 8-8 in the Big Ten and has a statement win over Louisville on a neutral site and destroyed Illinois, 59-36 a couple weeks ago.
UConn is in the tourney, no questions. But experts have Michigan and Minnesota just on the outside looking in at the field of 65, even after beating teams like, Louisville, UCLA and Duke. To be fair, both teams have been playing poorly lately. Michigan has won only five out of the last fourteen games and Minnesota has gone 7-7. But that is exactly my point.
They are losing to, and beating, teams that would win 95% of the Mid-Major Conferences out-right.
So if the whole of a conference is is better than the top of a “mid-major” conference, how can you judge against a team that is .500 against better talent?
In previous years, all I team needed was a solid non-conference record, .500 in conference and a couple statement wins. But with the awareness and talent of “Mid-Majors”, mid-level teams in major conference need to have a stronger resume.
Luckily, I do not pick the teams, I just try to win the bracket tourney pools – yes I do more thanone! But I hope that we get to hear why decision were made in a season where parity is the “Catch-phrase”.