Monday, March 12, 2007

Why Dog the Hogs?

Vandy is our primary concern, but considering that they beat us in the SEC tournament and so many "analysts" around the country seem to be whining about their selection for the NCAA Tournament, it's worth giving the Arkansas Razorbacks a little ink.

I don't understand the Dick Vitale rant against Arkansas getting in the tournament. If you include conference tournament games (which you should unless you're saying they count for nothing, which would be ridiculous), then Arkansas was 10-10 in the SEC.

Compare this to a team like Stanford, who got in with an 18-12 record compared to Arkansas's 21-13. Stanford was 10-9 including the Pac 10 tourney.

Stanford's RPI is 67. Arkansas's is 35 (higher than Vandy by the way). Arkansas has played the #10 strength of schedule in the country, Stanford the #35 SOS. Arkansas is 7-3 in their last ten, with one of those losses coming in the SEC Championship game against the team who got the #1 overall seed. Stanford is 4-6 in their last 10.

All of this, and Stanford not only gets in, but they get a higher seed than Arkansas. Drexel over Stanford would make this a better tournament in my opinion. For their part, Stan Heath and his boys earned it.

Why are so many people pointing the finger at the Hogs and not the Cardinal?

As for the argument that the SEC is a weak conference, it may be true that it's a down year down south, but it's still the #1 RPI and #1 SOS conference. Give 'em a break.


Bobby O'Shea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobby O'Shea said...

Surprise, surprise, I agree with Seamus.

Boyer in the District's desire to go coach-shopping aside, Stan Health did a great job to get his team a spot in the NCAA Tournament and deserves to keep his job. As for Arkansas getting dogged on, they are more deserving than Stanford (RP1 67) and Purdue (42).

As for teams that really got hosed, Drexel had a RPI of 39, Missouri State an RPI of 36, and Air Force an RPI of 30. Air Force was 4-6 in their last 10 so I understand why the committee didn't think them deserving. But Drexel was 7-3 and Missouri State was 6-4. Syracuse did finish ahead of Villanova in the Big East and was Georgetown's sole loss in their last 16, but with an RPI of 50 and a very weak out of conference schedule, I think I would rather see Missouri State and Drexel ahead of them. As for the Hogs, they have every right to be in the dance.

Stanimal said...

In pretty much every sport teams evolve throughout the season, and this is especially the case for basketball. Some teams start rough and get much, much better, and then some teams just flat out get worse. But with selection committees and bowl committees, I really think its less about how you start and more about how you finish.

If you start the season off well and then hit a slump, you don't have much to worry about as long as you finish the season ok. But if you finish the season in a slide, chances are you're going to be in trouble (perfect example: Clemson).

Arkansas started the season off well with wins over out-of-conference opponents like Southern Illinois, Marist, and West Virginia, but then got blown out in a couple of games by a Texas Tech team which really is lucky to be in the dance themselves, and a Mizzou team which isn't dancing at all. Then they hit a slide in the SEC and finished in-conference at 7-9. Winning 6 of their last 7 and finishing strong down the stretch keeps the Hogs in the minds of the Selection Committee (Well if they pull this off, they might sneak in).

I think Alabama's and LSU's under-achievements really helped pretty much anyone who beat them because those wins were regarded as impressive ones. The out-of-conference victories, the wins over Bama and LSU, and the strong finish pretty much set the Hogs up to take a lower at-large bid.

Anonymous said...

You wrote an in-depth article on a Vandy site to complain about the injustice of Arkansas' 12 seed: that's fine, but, as fashionable as it is to criticize the pick right now, let's have a little perspective on Stanford's season. I was myself (pleasantly) surprised with Stanford's selection, though I wouldn't say shocked, but this does not a bad committee decision make. You can cite RPI and W/L over the last 10 games til you're blue in the face and that's all perfectly valid, but there are other things at stake here that ought to at least flit across the frontal lobe before one joins the chorus of Chris Russos and, I imagine, Jim Boeheims in killing Stanford. They are a team with about as high an upside as any in the tournament, though I don't believe they could run with KU or UNC. This is a very young team with an extraordinarily high beta: a couple of months ago they showed both extreme sides of their quality in a single game against UCLA - just look at the halftime score and the final score for a second. So, my point is, they legitimately have a real, if varying, shot at beating essentially 61 other tournament teams: that is more than you can say about the vast majority of selections. And I'm not just talking about the proverbial "hot streak" here where anyone can win if hot, what I'm talking about is real talent that fluctuates simply due to youth. Nobody has an answer for the Lopez twins, however. Nobody. Also, and I have to run now, but they have a more real quality wins than all other seemingly borderline at large picks: dominant blowouts over oregon and usc, wins against ucla and wsu, road wins at texas tech and uva, etc.

So yeah it will certainly be an easily defensible, popular stance to take that Stanford has no right to be here, but it doesn't really gel with anyone who takes the difficult trek to watching late night, non-ESPN Pac10 games.

And Stanford is going to beat UL and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they went further than that.

Good luck to Vandy.

Anonymous said...

It was stupid of Arkansas NOT to fire Stan Heath before the SEC Tournament. It got leaked during the start that if the Hogs didn't make the Dance, that he'd get bought out, Arkansas would not accept an NIT invite and would immediately start the search for a new coach.

The word I'm hearing from back home (Arkansas = God's Country), is that despite making the NCAAs, that if the Hogs show a poor performance against USC and get spanked, that Heath is gone anyway.

What I predict will happen - Arkansas will beat USC in one of the usual 12 vs. 5 upsets, then put up a decent showing, but lost, against Texas. That's going to be enough to keep Heath around for at least another year, primarily because of the youth that the Hogs have right now. Patrick Beverley is an amazing talent, and "only a fressshhhman!!!" (ala Bill Raftery).

As for those that didn't get in - 'Cuse, Drexel, Air sucks, but I'm sorry.

People in sports have short memories - this scenario happens every freakin' year. The last one in gets criticized for not being worthy enough, and the small handful that didn't get in gets a lot of positive publicity for being mediocre at best.

To all the fans of teams that "barely" missed: SUCK IT UP.

Boyer in the District

Seamus O'Toole said...

With respect to Lister's and Boyer's comments:

1) The post was intended to defend Arkansas against the likes of Dickie V and the many others who, as far as I can tell, have thrown much more criticism at the Hogs than at any of the other controversial at-larges from big conferences (Stanford, Illinois, Purdue, Villanova, Georgia Tech). Stanford was used as a basis for a "by-the-numbers" comparison, not (intentionally anyway) as a whipping boy.

2) There is no question Stanford has the ability to make some noise in the tourney, but what we're talking about is a values issue (see point #3).

3) Boyer says it sucks for Air Force, Drexel, Syracuse, and Appy State (among others) that they didn't get in, but "let's move on" (in so many words). The issue with this tournament selection is not that some deserving teams got left out (as always happens), but rather that only 6 mid-majors were chosen from a VERY strong pool of bubble contenders, in what many see as a Billy Packer-esque bully move skewing the tournament in favor of major conferences.

This frustrates a lot of people (myself included) because a huge part of the charm and excitement of March Madness is the Cinderella mid-major making a run (ala George Mason of last year), or at the very least the possibility that they could.

This apparent anti-mid-major bias on the committee this year is only reinforced when we see that they matched up Butler with ODU in a first-round game, limiting the possibilities for mid-majors to prove their mettle right off the bat.

Thus, under the circumstances, I don't think there is anything wrong with comparing the big-conference bubble teams that DID get in as a means of figuring out which selections (which we know will dilute the romance of the tournament simply by virtue of keeping out a potential Cinderella) are more justified than others.

I am an SEC and Vandy homer, but I try to look at the numbers wherever possible, and I'd argue that the statistical comparison between Arkansas and Stanford (or other big-conference bubbler) is not an unwarranted project.

Anonymous said...

But you're making two unrelated points.

First as a point of comparison, you use Stanford against Arkansas to propose that Arkansas should have a superior seed #. Fine.

Then you seem to suggest that, more or less having shown that quantitatively Arkansas>Stanford, Stanford should not have gotten a bid, look at all the mid-majors they shut out, etc. I don't see the logical relationship between the two points, each of which probably could be valid on its own.

Seamus O'Toole said...

You're misreading what I wrote. I could care less what Arkansas and Stanford are seeded. I was defending Arkansas against the critics who are saying they kept worthy mid-majors out of the NCAA Tournament. Most of the critics I have listened to (and perhaps the sampling is too small, so my apologies for that) have fumed about Arkansas and ripped their selection apart, but haven't made nearly as much noise about teams like Stanford or Illinois or Purdue or Georgia Tech.

My initital point was that there is at least one (and, as Bobby O'Shea elaborated, probably a handful) of teams whose bids are more deserving of criticism than Arkansas'.

As I said in my last post, we see that criticism at this time every year, but it is especially noteworthy this year because of the low number (compared to the last several years, very low number) of mid-major teams that were given bids to the Dance, having been snubbed in favor of the big-conference teams just mentioned.

Regardless of where Arkansas is seeded, I'm arguing that the critics' energy is better spent elsewhere, and if my more or less objective statistical comparison is any indication, Palo Alto is probably a better target.

Anonymous said...

Stanford has no chance. Pitino won't lose in Rupp Arena.

Stanimal said...

The problem with mid-majors is that they take on so few opponents with high RPI ratings that it makes it hard to ignore. For instance, Drexel had a phenomenal winning % and conference record, but by my count they played only three teams in the top-50 RPI (Villanova, Syracuse, and Old Dominion). Compare that with most of the major conference teams who take on a great deal more.

Part of the reason why the MVC earns a lot more respect than most mid-major conferences is because they tend to schedule opponents well that are inside the top 50 of the RPI. Obviously you can't predict how a team will be in the RPI by season's end, but you can garner a general idea and that certainly can be used to boost your resume for the tourney.

I still agree with you, however, that there are too few mid-majors this year.

Boyer in the District said...


Hey Drexel - way to pile on Towson, Hofstra and Florida Gulf Coast!

Maybe next year you'll schedule someone worth a damn.

Bobby O'Shea said...

While I agree with Stanimal's general point about mid-majors not playing that many top-50 RPI teams because of the conference they are in, I don't think that is necessarily (all) their fault. How many at-large teams currently in the tournament played as many as two teams that were top-50 RPI out of conference? I would be surprised if it was over half.

For a team like Drexel (and all mid-majors) the problem in scheduling is that either a) the big schools won't schedule you at all, or b)when they do it has to be at their place and they refuse to play a home and home. Of Drexel's two out of conference wins against top-50 RPI opponents, they were 2-0. They also happened to win both those games on the road.

Stanimal said...

I can't say that it's all their fault either. Part of the problem is that mid-majors don't really have much choice in-conference and as you say it's not neccessarily easy to get the big boys to play you. What I do like is that the MVC urges its teams to try and schedule tough out of conference games. That's the reason they have the no. 6 conference in RPI rating and that's the reason they've produced a number of sleepers (Bradley and Wichita State) last year. The conference has gotten stronger by making efforts to ensure stronger out of conference play, and so has represented all mid-majors very well.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Exactly. Drexel had to fight to get those games, on the road no less, because they knew that's what it would take to get an at-large bid (Bruiser Flint and Eric Zilmer will tell you as much). They played 18 road games and won 13 of them, including at Villanova, at Syracuse, and at Creighton.

I realize there is more to consider, but these factors combined with their #43 RPI definitely make you scratch your head.

Stanimal said...

But Villanova and Syracuse didn't pan out the way they hoped. Nova was 19 in the RPI, but Syracuse was 50.

I'm not denying that Drexel has a legitimate claim to be in the field. I'm simply stating that the job of the mid-major AD is a tough one because you have to overcome the obvious disparity in schedule from major conference teams. Unfortunately that's the way the cookie crumbles, so to speak. Is it a problem? Maybe. But does Stanford go 18-12 in the CAA? I'd argue probably not.

Stanimal said...

I do want to say that I don't think the CAA is a particularly weak conference, as George Mason proved to us last year and Old Dominion (I hope so I can win some money) will prove to us this year.