"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, January 27, 2011

MU one of only 8 yet to lose by double digits after SDS falls

Tonight San Diego State became the 337th team to lose by double digits, leaving only #1 Ohio State, #2 Pitt, #3 Duke, #7 BYU, #15 Wisconsin, #22 Vanderbilt and unranked Belmont and Marquette as the only seven teams yet to lose by double digits this year. (see note at end)

What is truly amazing is that TV commentators noted last week that MU was one of only five teams to go through the regular season without a double digit loss, so the possibility that MU could do it two years in a row in which they were not ranked would defy all odds.

Buzz’s teams don’t get blown out despite already playing #2 Pitt, #3 Duke, #5 UConn, #15 Wisconsin, #19 Louisville, #22 Vandy and just outside the Top 25 West Virginia.
In determining whether or not a team would be competitive in the NCAA field, that makes MU very attractive if they come down to the bubble. How few teams can match MU’s competitiveness, when:

1. 19 of 25 ranked teams and all but one other unranked team besides MU have been beaten by double digits this season,
2. In #25 Utah State’s only game against a Big East team they lost by 17 points to Georgetown,
3. In #24 St. Mary’s only game against a common MU foe, they lost to Vanderbilt by 19.

This ability to play even the best few teams in the country to a single digit result is one of the reasons Forecast RPI predicts MU as a 9-seed even after the UConn loss, Pomeroy pegs MU as the 29th best team in the country and Sagarin has them just a few spots lower.

Is MU unlucky, or do they choke?
Which still leaves us with the fact that as good as MU is, they are only 13-8 and so probably need to go 6-4 to finish the regular season with a bid.

A 6-4 mark down the stretch is exactly what Pomeroy and Sagarin predict based on how well MU has played so far, leaving a 10-8, 19-12 mark that Forecast RPI would say results in a 9-seed, but which would probably be a couple of seeds lower.

However, critics who believe MU simply chokes away close games are skeptical that the team will win 6 of the final 10, believing they are too prone to “choking.”
When a team loses so many close games to excellent opponents, it always leads to an argument between those who say the team “chokes” and those who say the team is “unlucky.”

For critics, MU is tensing up when they have a lead and/or in the closing seconds, and if they keep doing that they will probably lose several more close games on the road to the NIT.

However, www.kenpom.com statistically measures “luck” by determining how many more wins a team would have if the ball had just bounced their way a couple of times. Pomeroy simply says that MU has been the 3rd unluckiest team this year, which is why he and Sagarin both peg MU to win six of their last 10 with just average luck.

When MU started 11-8 last year with a bunch of close losses, Pomeroy actually calculated that MU was the unluckiest team in the country and – like this year – was a couple of bounces away from having several more wins by then. Critics laughed off the “unluckiest” rating, but the fact that MU went on to get a No. 6-seed for a 22-11 record indicate Pomeroy may have been onto something.

Just make the tournament
The fact is that in basketball it’s all about making the tournament. I went through the football season as an Auburn season ticket holder, and if any of our six close games had gone the other way, we would have been playing in a much smaller bowl.
Thankfully, college basketball allows for close losses if you play in the Big East. Like pro football, where we all know the Packers barely snuck into the playoffs but are now in the Superbowl, the key is just to get into the tournament.

MU is good enough to hang with any team in the country any night out there, so it’s time to rally around the team to try to win 6 of these last 10 and get a bid.
Hopefully, we can then upset somebody in the tourney, and if nothing else it will be great experience for the chance we have at a truly special run next year.

Note: I went through all results for every team in a BCS Conference (73), ranked and/or in Pomeroy's top 70, so basically the best 100 teams in the country. If someone finds someone in a small conference that somehow didn't play any big teams and has no double digit losses, please comment and I will add them.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I like the fact your post is trying to be optimistic, but in reality a loss is a loss. And Marquette isn't remotely in the same category as an Ohio State.

I've tried to take comfort in that our losses were close, but it only leads to more anger because we lose for such nonsensical and pathetic reasons.

Alas, you are right. We can still make the tournament and we better beat Sycrause this Saturday. Oh and can Vander Blue help out more.....