As sports fans prepare for arguably the most exciting time in sports, the NCAA committee will prepare to be the most criticized group over their decisions in setting the field. Every year there are fans and analysts giving their opinions on which teams deserve to make the tournament and what their seed should have been. With the so-called “Mid-Major” conferences improving their level of talent and competition over the years, it will draw even more attention to the committee and the teams themselves. A Mid-Major is the number one team in the country for only the third time in the last ten seasons and it was Gonzaga’s first number one ranking in school history. In addition to individual team success, the Mountain West conference has battled the mighty Big 10 for top spot in conference RPI all season.
So the real question is, just how important are all of these rankings and formulas when comparing the strength of teams? Continue reading
The Murray State Racers (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP)
A national ranking for most of the year, 30-1 record, and OVC title are all great accomplishments for this mid-major program. The purpose of this blog is not to criticize their accomplishments but to dig deeper into the numbers behind Murray State. I will also point out that this is the second time in the last three years that they have put together a 30 win season. Back in 2010 they finished 31-5 and upset Vanderbilt in the first round of the tournament.
Come March 11th I’m excited to see where Murray State falls on the bracket. Some of the key stats used to determine seed and location for the tournament may prevent Murray State from the respect they want. Their strength of schedule for the year was 164 and opponents winning percentage was .500 (source: warrennolan.com). Even with a 30-1 record and high national ranking, they are only coming in at 20 on the RPI and KenPom has them ranked 47 with a non-conference strength of schedule at 63. They did however finish the season with an undefeated neutral court and against the top 50 RPI record, which will also be used on selection Sunday.
Now saying all that, almost completing a perfect season heading into the tournament is not something that happens often. They should be shown some respect from the committee but my prediction is that Murray State will be a 5 seed and wind up being on the opposite side mid-majors have grown accustomed to being on in the dreaded 5 vs 12 matchup. In the end, these are all just numbers and the only thing that counts is how you perform in the big dance. Is this team second weekend material? We will soon have our answer.