There's been some interesting chatter on the message boards on whether or not the Big East's rank in the RPI (currently 6th overall) will have an impact on NCAA tournament bids.
If the Big East isn't doing as well, who's doing better?
The Big East's drop in the Conference RPI is a result of a decline in overall winning percentage, down from .775 last season to .752 so far this year. The Big 10 has an even bigger drop, falling from .802 last year to .737 so far this year.
The Pac 10 is the big gainer, with a .793 percentage, up from .696. The MVC is up modestly, and the other major conferences are largely unchanged. Based on this, we might expect to see the collective teams in the Pac 10 and MVC get another bid this year, and those in the Big 10 and Big East to receive one less.
We've all heard the offical NCAA party line that teams receive bids, not conferences. But that's only part of the the story. The other part is how concentrated the wins and losses are within the conference. For example, last season, the Missouri Valley conference had 6 teams with 11+ wins. But eveyone else was 3 or more games below .500.
What were the overall statistics last year?
By conference, lets compare overall winning percentage, number of NCAA teams and percentage of that league's teams that made the NCAA tournament last year.
Big 10: .802 overall winning percentage, NCAA selected 6 of 11, or 55%, of their teams
5 teams over .500, 2 teams .500, 4 under .500
Big East: .775, NCAA selected 8 of 16, or 50% of their teams
7 teams over .500, 1 team .500, 8 teams under .500
ACC: .797, selected 4 of 12, or 33% of their teams
5 teams over .500, 1 team .500, 6 teams under.
SEC: .758, NCAA selected 6 of 12, or 50% of their teams
6 teams over .500, 6 teams under
Big 12: .761, NCAA selected 4 of 12, or 25% of their teams
5 teams over .500, 7 teams under
MVC: .710, NCAA selected 4 of 10, or 40%
6 teams over .500, 4 teams under
P10: .696, NCAA selcted 4 of 10, or 40%.
5 teams over .500, 5 teams under.
With the exception of the ACC, there's more or less a trend that the higher non-conference winning percentage, the more teams make the tournament.
What was wrong with the ACC? The two teams over .500 not invited were Florida State and Maryland. Maryland finished 5-8, with all five wins against bottom division teams (Virgina twice, Georgia Tech twice, and Miami once). They didn't have a single conference win against Duke, UNC, BC or NC State. Florida State was marginally better, with a win over Duke--but probably lost their bid with a conference tournament loss to Wake Forest in the opening round. Wake last year had the 2nd worst performance in the ACC since 1999.
What does that mean for the Big East.
How many conference wins do you need to get a bid? You better be over .500 in conference to expect a bid. Not .500--better than .500. And hitting that magical 9-7 record is as close to an NCAA lock as you can get. Of the 39 teams over .500, 34 were NCAA tournament teams.
Flordia State (19-9 / 9-7), Colorado (20-9 / 9-7), MIssouri State (20-8 / 12-6), Creighton (19-9 / 12-6), and Stanford (15-13 / 11-7) were the only teams with better than .500 records not to make the NCAA.
Lets face it, 15-13 isn't going to get you in--Stanford lost too many non-conference games. Florida State was discussed above. Colorado has a suspect record out of conference, and won just one game against an upper half team in the Big 12. And the MVC teams were probably shafted. The bottom line is that unless you've collected all your wins against bottom dwellers (or have no outside quality wins like against, say, Duke), 9-7 is a pretty safe NCAA record, and outside the MVC, 10 wins is a lock.
Is .500 good enough in a power conference? In a word, No.
Only 1 of 4 teams with .500 records were selected (Michgan State yes. Michigan, Maryland and Cincinnati no).
And below .500? Forget it. Only 1 team--Syacuse--was below .500 and made the tournament. And they won the Big East's automatic bid. There were no sub-.500 at-large bids.
The bottom line is that the current 6th place rank of the Big East in the RPI ranking of conferences probably isn't a killer. Parity in the conference is, however. The number of bids will probably be a funtion of how many teams finish with 9 or more wins.