Who’s gonna get in?

It’s the time of year when college basketball fans, at least those of us who follow middling teams, go into power geek mode. We look at various ratings, we read articles about who’s on the bubble and who’s not, and we overanalyze the last few games on the schedule.
Well, count me in!
I’m going to just look at the three ACC bubble teams though, because I just don’t have the interest or stamina to follow the bid arguments of the 3rd team in the Moutain West or the 7th team in the Big East.
So, the three teams I’m looking at are Florida State, Maryland and Virginia, who all stand at 6-9 in the ACC with one game left. FSU and MD have been listed as bubble teams for a few weeks now, while UVA just snuck up there with their last few upsets.
The key indicator that most people look at for NCAA bids is a team’s RPI ranking. The NCAA says it uses the RPI to help select it’s teams. I’m going to include some other more sane rating systems though, because first, those systems do a better job of ranking teams on merit, and second, the selection committee really seems to follow those standards more than the RPI. If you don’t believe me, compare the ratings to the bids and seedings that come out on Selection Sunday. The ratings I’m going to use are those by Sagarin, Ken Pomeroy and Mike Greenfield. You know the first, but you may not know the others. Check them out though, they have outstanding sites.
First, remember that 65 teams get bids and there are (I believe) 31 automatic bids, leaving 34 at-large bids. Basically, it makes sense to figure that the top 40-50 rated teams are going to get it. If you’re in the top 40, you’re gold. 40-60 and you’re iffy.
So here are the ratings for those three teams:

Maryland Florida State Virginia
RPI 32 45 46
Pomeroy 24 21 63
Greenfield 24 25 38
Sagarin 22 26 49
Last 10 4-6 4-6 4-6

So what does that tell us? Well, it’s pretty clear that Maryland should be in. They are solid in all the rankings, and it’s unlikely that a loss to Virginia this weekend would kill that. If they lose to UVA and again in the first round of the ACC tourney, they might be in some trouble. But, of the three teams, they have the best shot, even if they finish at 6-10 in the conference.
Florida State looks surprisingly strong as well. A bit better than I expected. They are one of those teams whose strength ratings look better than their RPI. That’s how teams like New Mexico in 1999 and Minnesota in 1995 got bids with RPIs of 74 and 66 respectively. The RPI didn’t do a good job of rating those teams. So, I think FSU is in good shape, although their numbers will likely drop a bit after they play (and lose) to Georgia Tech this weekend. Like Maryland, a loss this weekend and again in the first round of the ACC tourney could do them in (and keep them out).
Last is Virginia, the late-comer to this party. It looks like they have some work to do. They are solidly on the lower part of the bubble, but they probably can’t afford a loss to Maryland this weekend. If they do lose that game (and they would be expected to), they’ll need to win at least one ACC tourney game, and possibly two. Win at Maryland, and they’ll be tough to keep out. Remember that Pete Gillen’s Virginia teams have never won an ACC tournament game, so they’re probably NIT-bound if they need wins next week to get in.
Should be an interesting (as always) last week of the season.

UGA Academics

Now, I’ve known that Jim Harrick was a snake for a long time. He showed his true nature way back when he was UCLA. He basically dared them to fire him by filling out a faked expense report to cover up an illegal recruiting dinner and then lied to his boss about it. To repeat, he lied about his lie about his cheating. Three strikes and he was out.
Then, at Rhode Island, he skipped town just ahead of the federales when the odor of the Lamar Odom situation started getting strong. (And we all know what that odor was – puff and pass, Lamar, puff and pass).
Lastly, his career finally imploded at Georgia when he and his boy did all kinds of cheating and finally got caught. At first, he did the only honorable thing, by pinning it all on his son. That didn’t do the trick though, and they booted him out on his smarmy ass. When an SEC school kicks you out for cheating, you know you’re a cheater!
One of the many infractions at Georgia was the fake class that little Jimmy Jr. “taught.” Fortunately for all of us, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got hold of the final exam from this class. See if you can pass!

Upsets abound

Well, well, it looks like the Proletariat is rising up. Last night Georgia Tech ended Duke’s 41 game home winning streak, temporarily keeping the Dukies from clinching the ACC regular season title. Hours later, Maryland won at NC State, eliminating State’s chance of catching Duke at the top.
The Georgia Tech win was interesting because they again looked like the team they were early in the year, using their depth and quickness to flumox the opposition. Back in January, GT was as hot as any team in the country and a favorite on SportsCenter (well, Isma’il Muhammad was). Then, they added Arizona transfer Will Bynum to their lineup. I was worried at the time, and my concerns seemed to come to bear. It’s always dangerous to add a significant piece to a team that’s already playing well. Bynum is very good and he quickly took key minutes from both Jarett Jack and Muhammed. Both Jack and Muhammad had been key pieces to Tech’s early success, forming (along with BJ Elder) one of the top backcourts in the country. So, while Bynum looked really good, he affected the team chemistry. Particularly, I think he hurt the team because he’s a strong scoring guard, a Stephon Marbury type, who looks good, but hurts his team because he doesn’t pass enough. When the point guard is driving and shooting every time he has the ball, the other guys start standing around on offense and get frustrated.
Back to last night – Bynum played only 14 minutes and GT looked like the team of old. Coincidence? Maybe, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his minutes stay down below 15 for the rest of the season.
As for the MD – State game, it goes back to what I’ve always said. In an ACC game, if one team clearly needs the game more than the other, that team usually wins. MD had to have that game to keep their NCAA hopes strong, while State really didn’t have much to play for. They were pretty much locked into second in the conference and their NCAA bid was locked up long ago.
So, now there are three ACC teams at 6-9 (FSU, MD and UVA) with one game to go. UVA plays at MD and FSU travels to GT. It’ll be interesting to see which combination of 1 or 2 of those teams makes the tourney. I’ll post an RPI analysis a bit later.

Virginia on the Bubble?

Shhhhh….
No one say a word, but with an 84-82 win over #11 Wake Forest tonight, UVA has moved up onto the NCAA bubble. They are now 6-9 in the ACC. Their only remaining regular season game is at Maryland. It would be yet another upset, but considering they have beaten Georgia Tech, UNC and now Wake in the second half of the season, it’s not unimaginable. If Virginia did manage to win that game, they’d be 7-9 and very tough to overlook for a bid.
This late season run by UVA has to rank as one of the most surprising stories of the season, in a season full of surprises. A month ago, UVA looked dead, and everyone was ready to bid farewell to Pete Gillen. Now, they have not only secured an NIT bid, but they are one win away from a likely NCAA bid. Pretty amazing stuff.

Barry Bonds

Now, normally I don’t care too much about baseball. I used to follow it, but decided that it just bores me now and I don’t have the time for it.
But one thing I always have an interest in is insincerity, especially when it pertains to sports.
This Barry Bonds and steriods things has gone off the charts. For some reason, now that there are formal charges going on all around, people seem to be afraid to make the terribly obvious observation that the guy is juiced like an East German swimmer. Instead, reporters just want to needle him (and other bulked up apes like Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield), asking him questions around the main topic without ever saying the obvious.
Well, I’ve had enough. Barry Bonds takes steriods and God knows what else, and he’s been doing it for a while.
Let’s take a look at the signs of steriod use:
1. The player is abnormally huge – check.
2. The player didn’t used to be abnormally huge – check.
3. The player went from normal sized to abnormally huge in a small period of time – check.
4. The player’s performance suddenly jumped up another level – check.
5. The player seems to actually get better at an age where he should be declining – check.
6. The players head has gotten so huge that his batting helmet sits on top like a chicklet on a pumpkin – check.
7. The player’s trainer and “nutrionist” are indicted on federal charges of distributing steriods, including modern ones that can’t yet be tested for – check.
I think you get the point. Let’s just stop beating around the bush, saying things like “I don’t know if Barry is on ‘roids or not” (actual Jim Rome quote) and move on.
ps. We may actually be getting closer to this point – (Bonds Implicated)

Tiger = Duke?

In the interviews before yesterday’s World Match Play finals, Davis Love III compared Tiger Woods to Duke. Comparing the golf tournament to the NCAA tourney (don’t all tournaments now?), he said about Tiger, “It’s like Duke coming out of the East. You know you’re going to see him in the final game.”
A pretty accurate comparison, but a surprising one, considering that DL3 is a Tar Heel alumnus. Maybe he was just trying to get in a dig at Tiger’s Stanford Cardinal, currently sitting at #1 in the country.
Either way, it turned out just like most Duke-UNC contests in recent years. Tiger whipped Davis for the trophy.

FSU and MD Screw the Pooch

One month ago, it was a given that the ACC, the best conference in the country, was going to get seven NCAA bids.
Things have changed.
FSU lost to Duke last night to drop to 6-9 in the conference, with only a game at GT left. Looks like 6-10 for them.
Maryland has done even worse, falling to 5-9 with a game at NC State and a home game against UVA. Barring a big upset, they’ll probably finish 6-10, although UVA has been coming on strong of late.
I wouldn’t be too sure that 6-10 will get anyone in. I don’t think it should, frankly. And remember, the NCAA committee could care less about giving a certain number of bids to any conference. They look at each team separately. Just because the ACC is clearly the strongest conference this year, they won’t get any favors on Selection Sunday. If the chips fall favorably, a 6-10 might get a bid based on their overall season, but there’s no way that two teams do.

Big Win For Heels

While I was watching the NC State – UNC game last night and UNC’s halftime lead was dwindling, I knew what I was going to write about. I remember back when Dean Smith was the coach at UNC. They were always good and they always came back on you. Even if your team was playing great and built a nice lead, you just knew they would come back. Hell, everyone knew. It was a huge psychological advantage, because once they got a few buckets, their fans would get into it and the opposing team, coaches and players, would get tight.
These days though, that magic is gone. UNC seems to have made a habit of building a lead, usually in the first half, and then blowing it. They’re like the anti-Heels.
But then, UNC did manage to hold on their lead last night.
So, I won’t write all that.
Instead I just say that it was a huge win for them, effectively locking up their NCAA bid, as it’s impossible for Clemson to win in Chapel Hill. That means that the worst UNC can do is 7-9 in the ACC which is good enough for a bid this year.
For State, this loss doesn’t really mean much. And that’s probably why they lost. These days in the ACC, your best bet for predicting a winner is often by assessing who needs the win more. State has second place locked up while UNC is still fighting for an NCAA bid.

Billet does it again

Did you see what Todd Billet did the other night against UNC? He hit a game-winning 3 with about 13 seconds left. It was the third time in four games that Billet has hit a three to win. Three times in four games! Consider also that Virginia was the underdog in all three games, UVA trailed for most of each game and UVA trailed by 1 or 2 when Billet took each shot.
Just incredible.
Three game winning three pointers is the making of a solid career. To do it in nine days is something special.
If the ACC had a Clutch Player of the Year award, he’d be a lock.