With under one month to go until THIS. IS. MARCH, BHGP will provide a weekly rundown of potential bracket scenarios, straight from the mouths of nation's preeminent bracketologists. Note: If you attempt to claim "bracketologist" as a form of employment the IRS will audit you immediately. Don't do it.
CURRENT STATUS: TWO SEED.
Joe Lunardi, ESPN: 2 seed, Des Moines, vs. Weber State
Jerry Palm, CBS: 3 seed, Des Moines, vs.Princeton
Chris Dobbertean, SBNation:: 2 seed, Des Moines, vs. New Mexico State*
Dave Ommen, NBC Sports: 2 seed, Des Moines, vs. Montana
Bracket Matrix: 2 seed.
* - Chris's piece doesn't specify the location but as he's got Kansas as a one seed and the Jayhawks are unanimously projected to play in Des Moines, it's not a stretch to assume he's got the Hawkeyes there as well.
There was a time when RPI was thought of as the end-all-be-all of college basketball statistics. If you had a good RPI you were a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Nothing else mattered.
And then Colorado State happened.
Last season Larry Eustachy coached the Rams to a 27-7 (13-5) record and notched wins over Georgia State, New Mexico State, Boise State, and UTEP. CSU's RPI was 29 to finish out the regular season. There's no way they could get left out, right?
Matt Stephens of the Coloradoan dove into CSU getting "snubbed" from the NCAA Tournament field last season and spoke with then Utah State Athletic Director Scott Barnes. Barnes, now the AD for the University of Pittsburgh, is the chair of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament selection committee. Barnes had this to say about RPI:
"We look at RPI really as an organizer in terms of top 50 and 100, but we spent a lot of time, more time than I remember, in comparing (RPI) in the swings to metrics such as the Sagarin, Ken Pom, BPI...Those are used in the room as well and talked about quite extensively. We review those metrics each week, and that carried over to this week."
Translation: RPI is just one of many.
Keep that in mind when you consider bracketology. For example Utah, Miami (FL) and Maryland all have a higher RPI than Iowa but are consensus lower seeds than the Hawkeyes per Bracket Matrix. Why? Well, consider that Iowa is ranked higher than the Utes, Canes and Terps in Ken Pom, BPI and Sagarin. Bracketology is part prediction and part statistical analysis and the statistics come from multiple sources.
Iowa's loss to Penn State seemed like a reason to set a couch on fire in the middle of East Burlington Street but OH HI THERE MINNESOTA. The Hawkeyes were sitting at a three-way tie with Indiana and Maryland following their less than inspiring performance in State College. Worse, Indiana and Maryland had the tiebreakers with their home victories over Iowa. Then the Golden Gophers came along and knocked off Maryland in Minneapolis.
And say what you want about Penn State, who is ranked 106 in RPI, 123 in BPI and 128 in Ken Pom. Minnesota is not Penn State. Minnesota is bad. They're ranked 217 in RPI, 153 in BPI and 171 in Ken Pom. If Penn State is bad then Minnesota is Battlefield Earth bad. Sorry to pile it on Goldy but a spade is a spade.
Maryland's loss means that Iowa once again controls their own destiny in the Big Ten. All the Hawkeyes have to do is win out and by beating Indiana at home, they'll finish at 15-3. Simple enough, right? RIGHT? ... It's going to get ugly isn't it?
Right now, top four seed candidates include Villanova, Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Xavier. Villanova seems a lock as they've already beaten Xavier once and have a one-game lead in the Big East. For that reason, I'm thinking Xavier won't make it as a one. It's also tough to believe that two teams from the Big 12 could make it in when there can only be "one true champion." Kansas has a two-game lead on Oklahoma and has already beaten them twice. It's easy to look at OU's ranking, SOS and resume and slot them as a one seed but it's going to be a tough pill to swallow if they don't even finish the regular season first or second in the Big 12 or don't win/finish as a runner-up in the conference tournament.
It's late February and Michigan State has won six out of their last seven so the Tom Izzo hype train is chugging along at full speed. Besides Iowa, they're the only other consensus Big Ten team projected as a top two seed in the Tournament. I'm of the opinion that whoever wins the Big Ten will take the final number one seed, be it Iowa, Maryland or Indiana.
"But Mike what about Michigan State winning the Big Ten?"
Well, when Michigan State isn't 5th in the standings and 2.5 games back maybe we'll have that conversation.
WHAT TO WATCH ON TUESDAY:
Kansas takes on Baylor at 7:00 PM CT on ESPN2 in Waco. The Jayhawks smoked the Bears last time they met in Lawrence and Baylor recently suffered an embarrassing home loss to Texas Tech. However, the Bears bounced back by beating a #13 Iowa State and #24 Texas.
WHAT TO WATCH ON WEDNESDAY:
Number one seed candidates Villanova and Xavier meet in Cincinnati for the second matchup between the Wildcats and Minutemen. Nova won the last matchup 95-64 and hasn't lost a game in nearly a month. It tips off at 6:00 PM CT on FS1.
Oh and you can also watch the Hawkeyes on Wednesday. This too is important.