Booms and Busts
March 17, 2014
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POTENTIAL TOURNAMENT BOOMS
The Minutemen are no stranger to big games. They are 6-1 against teams in the RPI top 50 and have non-conference wins over LSU, Nebraska, New Mexico, Clemson, BYU, and Providence. Currently UMass is 12th in RPI & 47th in KenPom and is projected as a No. 7 seed.
New Mexico features one of the top trio’s of scorers with Cameron Bairstow (20.3 PPG), Kendall Williams (16.9 PPG), and Alex Kirk (13.8 PPG). A trustworthy trio can work wonders in tournament time. The Lobos played a tough non-conference sched - W’s against Cincinnati & Marquette, L’s to Kansas and Massachusetts - and are getting hot at the right time (11-1 the last 12 games). The Lobos rank 20th in RPI and 32nd in KenPom and project as a No. 7 seed.
Coach Shaka Smart is no stranger to March Madness after leading the Rams made a big run to the Final Four in 2011. They’ve had their ups (won at Virginia) and downs (lost to Northern Iowa) early in the season but consistently one of the better teams in the Atlantic 10. VCU’s “havoc” defense is one of the toughest to prepare for. When the offense is clicking along with its stout defense, watch out. The Rams are 22nd in RPI & 16th in KenPom and currently project as a No. 7 seed.
A lot of people wrote off the Bears after a 1-7 stretch; but they’re getting hot at the right time. They’ve gone 6-1 over the last seven games and worked their way back into the tournament discussion (currently a No. 11 seed) with quality wins over Kansas State (2x), Oklahoma State, and Iowa State. The Big 12 conference slate was tough in itself and Baylor added a difficult non-conference schedule on top of that. Overall they faced 14 teams in the RPI top 50 (6-8 in those games).
POTENTIAL TOURNAMENT BUSTS
After a 17-2 start, it was hard to envision this team struggling to make the tournament, but with a 4-6 mark over the last 10 and just one win over a projected tournament team (Stanford), this team now finds itself on the bubble. The Panthers are 0-6 against RPI top-25 teams and just 2-8 ATS over the last 10.
The Bucks started 15-0 but have slipped up a few times in Big Ten play. They own an elite defense (2nd nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rating), but struggle mightily on offense. Over the last 10 years, only one team has made the Final Four with an offensive efficiency ranking lower than 100 - Ohio State currently ranks 117th in OEff. They won the Big Ten tournament last year and made a run to the Elite 8 in the Big Dance, but we don’t see it happening again.
This is a talented squad but VERY young. Calipari has worked wonders with youthful squads before (won the tournament in 2011 with a similarly green squad), but that won’t happen this year. The Wildcats only have one win over a current tournament team and are 1-6 against RPI top-50 teams.
The tournament darling of the past 15 years is one you might want to steer clear of come tournament time. The Zags didn’t play any RPI top-25 teams and went just 2-3 against teams ranked 26-50 in RPI. They won the weak West Coast Conference, but overall don’t have an impressive resume. Their best wins include a neutral court victory over Arkansas and a road win over West Virginia (Arkansas is currently one of the last four in the tournament).
The Ducks made a nice run in March last year. They won the Pac-12 tournament and made it to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed before losing to the eventual national champion, Louisville. They’ve currently won seven straight after a 3-8 start in conference play but only two of those six wins have come against potential tournament teams.
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