What A Winning Big East Record Means

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Jerry Palm is one of the original "bracketologists."  The former sax player in the Purdue Marching Band began using his computer skills to track the Ratings Percentage Index back in 1994.  He eventually started his own website - CollegeRPI.com - and that led to his current job writing about college sports for cbssports.com.


Palm is generally pretty accurate at projecting the NCAA tournament field, so when he wrote the following on New Year's Day, I'll admit to being a bit stunned:


There are still seven undefeated teams in division I-A as we enter 2011, but two of them are considered longshots by most to even make the NCAA tournament.

Cincinnati, which is 14-0 and has two Big East wins already, is way down at 69th in the RPI this morning.  That's a stunning number.  I've been tracking RPI since 1993-94 and could not find a 14-0 team that far down.  The last undefeated team on New Year's Day that far down in the rankings was Texas A&M in 2006 (95th at 10-0).

You have to play a pretty wretched schedule to be 69th at 14-0.  The Bearcats played the 10th worst non-conference schedule, and they played most of those games at home.  So far, they have played only one RPI top 100 team (No. 62 Dayton) and just six that rank better than 250th.

When you play a schedule like that, you are basically saying that you intend to make your case for the tournament in conference.  That means not just muddling through, but doing very well.  Cincinnati probably needs at least 12 wins, and even that may not do it for them.  They cannot afford to be anywhere near the bottom of the at-large pool with a non-conference schedule that bad.


Admittedly, Jerry knows more about this stuff than I do, but after doing a little research, I think (and hope) that he's underestimating the significance of finishing with a winning record in the Big East.


Since the league expanded to 18 regular season games three years ago, 23 teams have finished with a winning regular season record (10-8 or better).  Do you know how many have made the NCAA tourney?  Twenty-two out of 23 or 96%.  The only exception was Providence in 2008-09 when the Friars went 10-8 in the Big East but lost non-league games to Northeastern, Baylor, St. Mary's, and Boston College.  The Friars finished that season with an RPI of 79.


Here's a more detailed look at Big East teams with .500-or-better league records since the league went to an 18-game schedule:


16-2:  (1-1 made NCAA tourney)

15-3:  (4-4 made NCAA tourney)

14-4:  (2-2 made NCAA tourney)

13-5:  (5-5 made NCAA tourney)

12-6:  (1-1 made NCAA tourney)

11-7:  (5-5 made NCAA tourney)

10-8:  (4-5 made NCAA tourney)

9-9:  (1-4 made NCAA tourney)


In other words, a .500 record in the league probably won't do the trick, but a winning record would put the Bearcats in good shape. 


And sorry Jerry, but a team that goes 12-6 in the Big East will not be sweating on Selection Sunday.


Having said that, a win over Xavier on Thursday would be helpful for the Bearcats' resume since the Musketeers are currently a very respectable 57th in the RPI.


Here's what Coach Cronin had to say about Xavier immediately after Saturday's win over Seton Hall:


"I really have not seen them play much, although I saw them against IPFW because they played them right before us," Cronin told me.  "Now Larry Davis - my associate head coach - has been eating, sleeping, and drinking Xavier.  But they're not going to change their system or style, so obviously I'm familiar with the way they play.  I have great respect for how hard they are playing in spite of their injuries.  One thing I know they are going to do is compete.  They may be a little short-handed, but their starting five is really good and they're really, really competitive.  Tu Holloway has emerged as one of the best guards in America and their defensive is excellent.  Chris Mack does a great job with that.  Fortunately, we've got some time to get ready for them.  We'll be back at work on Sunday and back to school on Monday."   


I'd love to hear from you. The address is dhoard@pawsox.com

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad (he's the one with hair).

Me and Sam at Chautauqua.jpg


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