Let's look at the mid-major candidates on the bubble. I've got 15 teams that, in my view, warrant a look. For the purposes of this discussion, the following conferences do not count: The Big 6, AAC and A-10, MWC, WCC, and MVC.
Let's compare them to each other. Why to each other? Because not everyone's making it as an at-large, so we need to decide which ones have the best chance.
Akron (20-6) (10-4) RPI 39 SoS 137 avg win 183
Vital signs: 9-6 R/N, non-con SoS 237, 0-1 vs. Top 50, 2-2 vs. Top 100
Princeton (17-5) (8-1) RPI 41 SoS 135 avg win 234
Vital signs: 8-5 R/N, non-con SoS 100, 0-3 vs. Top 50, 1-5 vs. Top 100
Arkansas-Little Rock (22-3) (14-2) RPI 42 SoS 219 avg win 207
Vital signs: 13-3 R/N, non-con SoS 244, 2-1 vs. Top 50, 2-1 vs. Top 100
Monmouth (23-6) (15-3) RPI 46 SoS 154 avg win 194
Vital signs: 15-5 R/N, non-con SoS 56, 2-2 vs. Top 50, 6-2 vs. Top 100
South Dakota St (19-7) (10-4) RPI 47 SoS 143 avg win 177
Vital signs: 11-7 R/N, non-con SoS 151, 0-1 vs. Top 50, 3-2 vs. Top 100
Stony Brook (21-5) (14-1) RPI 51 SoS 199 avg win 225
Vital signs: 11-5 R/N, non-con SoS 60, 1-1 vs. Top 50, 3-3 vs. Top 100
Yale (17-6) (9-1) RPI 54 SoS 155 avg win 235
Vital signs: 8-6 R/N, non-con SoS 152, 1-4 vs. Top 50, 1-5 vs. Top 100
Valparaiso (22-5) (14-2) RPI 58 SoS 187 avg win 201
Vital signs: 10-4 R/N, non-con SoS 44, 1-1 vs. Top 50, 3-2 vs. Top 100
UNC-Wilmington (19-6) (13-3) RPI 61 SoS 161 avg win 177
Vital signs: 10-5 R/N, non-con SoS 295, 0-0 vs. Top 50, 4-2 vs. Top 100
Chattanooga (22-5) (13-3) RPI 62 SoS 198 avg win 197
Vital signs: 12-4 R/N, non-con SoS 165, 1-1 vs. Top 50, 2-1 vs. Top 100
IPFW (20-7) (11-3) RPI 64 SoS 148 avg win 201
Vital signs: 10-6 R/N, non-con SoS 258, 1-3 vs. Top 50, 1-4 vs. Top 100
Hofstra (19-8) (12-4) RPI 67 SoS 124 avg win 178
Vital signs: 10-6 R/N, non-con SoS 157, 1-1 vs. Top 50, 4-6 vs. Top 100
UC-Irvine (18-8) (9-3) RPI 73 SoS 130 avg win 218
Vital signs: 11-6 R/N, non-con SoS 72, 0-2 vs. Top 50, 2-8 vs. Top 100
Hawaii (20-3) (11-1) RPI 76 SoS 231 avg win 215
Vital signs: 6-1 R/N, non-con SoS 268, 0-2 vs. Top 50, 4-3 vs. Top 100
William & Mary (16-9) (10-6) RPI 77 SoS 97 avg win 164
Vital signs: 6-6 R/N, non-con SoS 58, 0-2 vs. Top 50, 3-5 vs. Top 100
So what metrics matter the most for mid-majors?
1) non-con SoS: The committee wants to see mid-majors control their own destiny and schedule up to impress the committee. Among those who helped themselves:
- Monmouth, Valparaiso, William & Mary, Stony Brook
Those who practically disqualify themselves, or come close:
- UNC-Wilmington, Hawaii, IPFW, Akron, Arkansas-Little Rock
2) road/neutral record: The committee wants to see road dominance. Good is not good enough, you have to be great in this metric. The studs:
- Monmouth, Chattanooga, Arkansas-Little Rock, Valparaiso, Hawaii, Stony Brook
Those who are in trouble:
- William & Mary, Yale, Akron, Princeton
3) road games: Just going on the road a bunch in itself is a key metric. Those who loaded up:
- Monmouth, South Dakota St, UC-Irvine, IPFW, Chattanooga, Stony Brook, UALR
Those who are in trouble:
- Hawaii, William & Mary, Princeton
4) top 100 wins: Gotta have some wins. Quantity matters; these teams don't have many chances:
- Monmouth, UNC-Wilmington, Hofstra, Hawaii (although Monmouth dwarfs everyone here)
Those in trouble:
- IPFW, Yale, Princeton
5) signature win: Who has wins over probable tournament teams?
- Monmouth, Chattanooga
Those with maybes:
- Hofstra (St Bonaventure), Valparaiso (Oregon St), UALR (Tulsa and SDSU)
So what can we learn from the numbers? How many of these 15 teams are in play?
1) The two Ivy teams (Princeton, Yale): how did they get the computer numbers they have? They're not viable
2) The MAC had a really strong year. If Akron had scheduled up, they'd have a legitimate chance. Instead, they wasted this year. They're out.
3) The CAA had a really strong year. However, the one team without at-large credentials in UNC-Wilimington rose to the top, stopping Hofstra from really having a fighting chance. W&M have a couple bad negative as well. It's a shame JMU and Northeastern couldn't help out. The CAA has 3 teams, all not in play.
4) The Summit had a strong year, but IPFW never planned accordingly. South Dakota St kind of did, but not winning the conference will be a big issue. They're both out.
5) Hawaii is in an interesting position - they virtually never went on the road in the non-con. Now, there's a practical reason for that. But for the committee, such considerations don't matter. They're out for refusing to go on the road. Irvine is automatically out because of the same reason as South Dakota St.
We have 5 teams left: Monmouth, Chattanooga, UALR, Valparaiso, Stony Brook.
- No one doubts Monmouth's place here.
- Chattanooga doesn't really have a black mark, and has a signature win and solid road/neutral marks. The SoS is merely middling, though. Why is it middling? They played the Emerald Coast Classic, which gave them shots at Illinois (success) and Iowa St (failure). But they also absorbed games against Alabama St and Jax St that killed the SoS. They'd have been better off skipping that tourney and taking a buy game against an Illinois-like team. Such is life as a mid-major - they schedule up to give themselves chances, then it turns out that the chances they took were unnecessary and it ends up hurting them. I can definitely see the committee look at this and put them in on the back end, but I'm not betting on it.
- UALR did good winning at Tulsa and SDSU. The problem is schedule depth. Even the road games (Idaho, Central Arkansas, etc) end up hurting them. They only played 2 home games against D-1 teams, yet managed to be 244 in the non-con SoS. That's tough to do. I think they lose the head-to-head battle with Chattanooga because of this.
- Valpo's SoS is better than UALR or Chattanooga. Their signature win (@Oregon St) trails both Chattanooga and UALR, I think. They also trail in the road/neutral metric. Does the SoS considerations erase the margin between the teams? I think so. The difference is Valpo scheduled IPFW, Iona, Belmont x2, and @URI, helping themselves. They were much better in scheduling a depth to their schedule, much better than Chattanooga or UALR
- Stony Brook. I couldn't disqualify them on any metric. However, their top 50 win is Princeton, and the other Top 100 wins are Albany and Hofstra. So their metrics have a bit of fool's gold in them. They're clearly 5th here. They deserve to be ahead of some of these other teams, but the committee traditionally likes to seed these teams based on conference RPI, and the A-East is going to bury the Brook.
- Monmouth is a legit bunch.
- Valparaiso/Chattanooga/UALR is a tightly knotted group right on the bubble
- Stony Brook is a step behind and therefore out
- everyone else has a fatal flaw