Friday, February 18, 2011

Conference Differentials, Part 11/02/19

10 Teams with Positive Nets?!...
I have been taking speculation about the Big East pulling in 10 or even 11 bids with a large grain of salt. Per capita comparisons of bids pre and post expansion were misleading in my opinion, because the overall number of bids to give (about 34) remained constant through the period. There are, to my thinking, two sides to this equation -- the number of bids available and the number of conference teams who could present "tournament worthy" resumes to the Selection Committee. Expanding the field by four did not, in my mind, create sufficient at-large bids to favorably influence, on the NCAA Tournament side of the equation, the circumstances. On the conference side, I believed the Big East would have to produce a number (by metrics...) of well regarded candidates. That could not happen unless there were a large number of teams with strong records coming out of the out of conference schedule who managed to cluster at the 0.500 level (plus or minus) in conference play. Hmmm. Coming into confernce play nine teams had, at one time or another, been ranked in the Top 25, with 11 ranked somewhere in the Top 50 RPI. About 75% of the way through the conference season, and eight teams are +3 to -1 within 0.500 in the conference standings, with three others, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Georgetown sitting in the #1 through #3 spots, and atop the other eight. Fully 10 of those teams have positive net efficiencies. The 11th, St. John's, has knocked off four Top 25 teams, including two Top 10 teams, both by double digits.

TeamWLPct.Diff.Win %RtgRnk
Notre Dame1030.7690.0760.6940.87508
West Virginia760.5380.0340.5940.851215
St. John's850.615-0.0180.4480.90181
Seton Hall590.357-0.0420.3770.87489
South Florida2120.143-0.1210.2050.87807

Sorted by net efficiency and including results through Thursday night's DePaul upset of Providence, some distinct tiers are present, though another scrambled weekend could well merge these teams back into the sort of continuous curve that highlighted last Friday's table. Villanova & Notre Dame share a "shelf" around the .8 mark. Though the Wildcats took two losses in the last 10 days, both were by less than three. Their win over Seton Hall Tuesday was by a similar, slim margin.

The Great Divide...
The gap that separates the top and bottom of the conference becomes a chasm between St. John's and Seton Hall. DePaul continues to inch closer to the other four teams below St. John's. For the past month the Demons were off by themselves with a -0.2 net, well below rebuilding South Florida. Those two have drifted towards each other -- note they have a collective 3-24 record -- and along with the next three teams in standing (Providence, Rutgers and Seton Hall), have net efficiencies consistent with their conference records. St. John's is not alone among the out-of-place teams this week. Note Marquette, sporting a sub 0.500 conference won-loss record, nevertheless shows a positive new efficiency.

Looking Ahead...
The standard deviation of the (Pomeroy-derived) conference SOS has shrunk each week over the last month, suggesting the conference schedules are beginning to "balance", though the term may be a bit misused here as these are not balanced schedules. More appropriate perhaps to suggest the disparities among them are diminishing. What difficulties await teams as the scrum for the last 2-3 bye seeds (depending on whether you consider Notre Dame's hold on the #2 spot secure) develops over the next 2+ weeks? Villanova has three ranked teams, Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame left on their schedule. Georgetown plays Cincinnati (whose net efficiency is +0.012) twice along with a visit from #20 Syracuse. Louisville has games with Connecticut, Pitt and a trip to West Virginia. Syracuse has four games remaining, in addition to the aforementioned tilts with Georgetown and Villanova, they have games with Rutgers and DePaul. Connecticut will play Notre Dame, the aforementioned Louisville, Marquette and a trip to West Virginia. Notre Dame's last five games include three on the road (Connecticut and West Virginia should be especially challenging) and a home game versus Villanova.

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