Thursday, January 7, 2016

A quick look at conference RPI

Now, as a preface, remember:  teams get bids, not conferences.  However, the strength of a conference can help support a bid (or hurt it).  It's useful to see the conference RPI because it gives a quick snapshot of if conference play can generally help or hurt a team.  Let's look at the standings and see if we can get ahead of some trends.

I've broken these down into tiers based on the raw values of the RPI, which I'll list.

Tier 1:
1) Big 12  .5991
2) Pac-12  .5913

These two have separated just a little bit from the other power conferences.  The Big 12 has a ridiculous 4 teams currently inside the Top 10 RPI and 6 inside the top 25.  This is a big help to Baylor.  They have a pretty poor non-con SoS but will make it all up.  Texas Tech is the other notable.  They have a top 10 SoS right now despite their signature win probably being UALR or South Dakota St.  They completely avoided sub-250 teams, and completely gamed the system.  And now, conference play will support them.

The Pac-12 might only have one lock in Arizona, but there are a total of 9 teams with an RPI between 14 and 49 right now.  Plus UCLA in the 70s.  Bottom line is that with no bad teams in the conference, several will make the tournament.  We just don't know who yet.

Tier 2:
3) Big East  .5819
4) ACC  .5802

They'll both get half their teams in the field of 68, give or take one.

Tier 3:
5) SEC  .5676
6) B1G  .5627

The big story is the B1G being this far down, essentially even with the SEC.  Problems are that they have a few deadweights and a few relatively weak bubble teams.  There will be enough quality wins available for the B1G to get a 5th and maybe a 6th team, but it's tough to envision anything more.  The SEC is rallying back a bit, they've finally caught one of the conferences typically in the top 5.

Tier 4:
7) A-10  .5427

The usual spot for the A-10.  They'll be in line with recent years.

Tier 5:
8) AAC  .5254
9) CAA .5223

Problems for the AAC.  Even though they're 8th, their raw numbers have them closer to 12th than 8th.  Multiple bids will be an issue because they have exactly 1 Top 70 RPI team:  SMU.

The CAA is the first outlier.  Without a true bubble team, they have several teams that built good records against okay competition.  This will result in a high seed for their champion, but I can't find an at-large resume to rally around at the moment.

Tier 6:
10) Summit  .5130
11) Mountain West  .5121
12) Big West  .5052
13) MAC  .5019
14) MVC  .5008

Big problems for the MWC and MVC.  They're not supposed to be slumming it down here.  The threat of 1 bid is real for these conferences.  The Summit is a big surprise, and I wish I could explain why.  They have avoided having a truly awful team, but outside of South Dakota St there's not a lot of strength here.  The Big West is here again thanks to some brutal SoSs, and the MAC is in line with recent years.

Tier 7:
15) Horizon  .4901
16) West Coast  .4852
17) SoCon  .4836
18) Sun Belt  .4805
19) Ivy  .4785
20) MAAC  .4758
21) CUSA  .4716

Even bigger problems for the WCC.  Sun Belt has UTA and UALR; MAAC has Monmouth.  Those are the 3 at-large resumes to look out for from the bottom half of these standings.  Both conferences are down, but they're closer to 15th than 23rd.  So both conferences will hurt those teams, but not more so than we're usually accustomed to.

The big lesson?  Teams in conferences from 8th on back aren't really in great shape.  Good news for the A-10 perhaps.  The MWC, MVC, and WCC are having catastrophically bad seasons so far.  And the AAC needs SMU to start providing quality wins to the rest of the conference.

If South Dakota St can dominate the Summit, they might have a shot.  If someone dominates the CAA (which I highly doubt because there are several good teams), they'd have a shot also.  UTA, UALR, and Monmouth more or less have to dominate to stay in favorable position.

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