Take a step back, Big East fans

Editor's note: Charlie Creme will project the 2008 NCAA Tournament bracket right up to Selection Monday in March. Click here for his most recent Women's Bracketology and Charlie's team-by-team analysis. The following questions were submitted after he unveiled his first field of 64 projection of the season on Monday.

Please explain to me how you pick South Alabama over Middle Tennessee to represent the Sun Belt? Go look at the wins they have. Go look at who MTSU has beaten and how close the losses have been, including against Maryland at College Park! We are a lot more credible than South Alabama. We have Tennessee this coming week and LSU at the end of this month, so keep your eyes open to see what happens. The Blue Raiders will be taking the SBC by storm. I don't need to send the comment, though, because the Lady Raiders will be doing all the talking for me.

Kyle Tornquist

I guess Kyle is going to make me explain how this works again. This was all detailed in my column, but sometimes these things get missed, I suppose.

Every league has an automatic bid. So for the purposes of bracketology, I must pick an automatic qualifier from each conference. The idea of the exercise is to take a snapshot of the season and analyze what the tournament would look like today.

Well, Kyle, today (Dec. 13) MTSU is 3-4. That's not good. It's not even good enough. A losing record is a losing record, regardless of how close the losses have been and to whom.

I'm also looking at those wins -- Tennessee Tech, Houston and Arizona. Do you see something special in any of those that I am missing? Those are not good wins, Kyle. Perhaps you were looking at the Blue Raiders' schedule and results from last season.

Meanwhile, South Alabama is leading the Sun Belt with an 8-1 record. That's the best mark in the league to this juncture. That gives the Jaguars the Sun Belt's automatic berth.

Can you please explain how Connecticut gets to stay in Connecticut every year for the tourney. It does not make sense. Now even Maryland does the same -- then Tennessee gets sent to California. Please explain that!!!!



I'll try, Michael, but first, please don't exaggerate to make your point. Tennessee sent to California? That hasn't happened. Here is the breakdown of where the Lady Vols have been sent for the sub-regionals and regionals for the last five tournaments (going back to the beginning of pre-determined sites):

2007: Pittsburgh, Dayton
2006: Norfolk, Cleveland

2005: Knoxville, Philadelphia
2004: Tallahassee, Norman

2003: Knoxville, Knoxville

Now UConn:

2007: Hartford, Fresno
2006: University Park, Pa., Bridgeport
2005: Storrs, Kansas City
2004: Bridgeport, Hartford
2003: Storrs, Dayton

So … you are right. UConn does get to play in its home state as routine. However, it's no secret that one of the aims of the committee is to keep schools as close to home as possible. The higher-seeded teams are given top priority on geography. That's the benefit of a successful regular season. Again, no secret there. The Huskies are regularly one of the best teams in the country, so it stands to reason that they are going to play as close to home as possible more often than not. Since the state of Connecticut typically draws well, cities there are often chosen as one of the pre-determined sites. Thus, UConn plays in its home state. For the same reason, Tennessee also plays at or close to home often.

Enjoy your bracketology and I agree that the Big Ten is down this year. However, not as bad as you portray. Michigan State's only losses are to a 2- and 6-seed (both on the road). If Allyssa DeHaan doesn't get into foul trouble against ODU, the Spartans win that game. Also, MSU just beat Indiana State by 25 on the road -- the same team that beat Vandy by double digits. Yet you have Vandy as a higher seed than MSU? Illinois played Oklahoma well and Penn State beat Duke. In my opinion, Illinois and Wisconsin will prove to be tourney-worthy, along with MSU & OSU. Minnesota and PSU are iffy.


Grand Rapids

Joe, I agree that the Big Ten could get more than the three teams I have in the first projection into the tournament when March roles around. Wisconsin and Illinois are worthy of being in the discussion, but they had better play much better (Illinois' loss to UAB is much worse than Vanderbilt's to Indiana State, which was by five in overtime, not double digits).

To take the Indiana State example a step further, if you are going to use Michigan State beating the Sycamores as your defense for the league, then you really just made my point for me. That really can't be seen as a quality win. Vanderbilt is seeded higher than the Spartans because its résumé, to this point, is better. Vandy has beaten Iowa State, Western Kentucky and Duke. All are better wins than Indiana State. You used Penn State beating Duke as an argument for the Big Ten, but then left out the Commodores' victory over the Blue Devils when making the case against Vanderbilt. Hmmm.

I'm curious about Notre Dame's seed as a 6, when some teams who are 4s or 5s have three losses or lack an impressive win. Notre Dame as of yet doesn't have that big win, but Western Kentucky and Bowling Green could easily be Top 50 RPI teams, while Michigan and Purdue could come around.



Joe, you have answered your own question. Notre Dame doesn't have a truly impressive win. That would be the reason. Western Kentucky is decent, but not great. The only real argument you might have would be against Arizona State. Truth be told, the difference between ASU and Notre Dame on the S-curve was one spot, 20 and 21. That's all it takes in some cases to be a lower seed despite the fact that a negligible margin exists between the two clubs.
I also wouldn't suggest hanging your hat too firmly on the Michigan and Purdue wins either now or down the road.

In this week's poll, the Big East has five teams in the top 17. You feel they have six of the top 64. The drop-off in talent doesn't seem to be that great. Since the poll reflects 50 opinions, it's easier to ask you to maybe explain why the Big East gets five of the first 17 and only one of the next 47 teams?


Plantsville, Conn.

I love the analytical way you've looked at this, Len, but unfortunately, you are missing something rather large here. The tournament is not, and has never been, the top 64 teams in the country. Don't forget there are 31 automatic bids to conference tournament champions. Based on your analysis, you'd have me saying Prairie View A&M is better than Louisville. Of course, I'm not saying that. But a team from the SWAC has to make it. Thirty-three at-large bids exist and that is the pool of which the other Big East teams are competing.

A more accurate description to the way you have looked at it is this: Pittsburgh was 35th on the S-curve, which puts the Panthers in the field by six spots (other automatic bids were higher like a UConn or Maryland). Louisville was the first team out (of the at-large candidates). That makes the difference between the two, in my mind for this bracket projection, seven spots. I should think that would make you feel better.

It's also worth noting that the polls and the tournament selection process are completely separate areas that don't have a connection (let it be known that this was the first of many times I will write that before Selection Monday arrives).

I don't see how the Big East gets less teams in the women's tourney than the Big 12 and ACC. Every Big East women's team is above .500 and the Big East has more quality wins than the Big 12 or ACC -- including St John's over N.C. State, and you don't even have St John's women in there. Also, Louisville's women spanked Florida and beat Chattanooga by more points than the Lady Vols. Syracuse spanked Penn State while Duke lost to Penn State.The Big East also has wins over Maryland, Duke, Stanford, California, Florida State, George Washington and Virginia -- which should all help the Big East RPI out. You always want to stick it to the Big East!


Easy, Margaret, easy. I don't try to "stick" it to anyone. I'm merely trying to mimic, as closely as possible, what the committee might do if the season were to end now. Also, keep in mind that I, like the committee, select teams, not conferences. These are team-by-team comparisons.

Yes, Louisville beat Florida. But the Gators aren't in the field and weren't even close to making it. The Cardinals' margin of victory over Chattanooga exceeding that of Tennessee does not make them better than the Lady Vols, nor does it make the Big East superior to the SEC. The former would be a laughable assessment and the later is not that meaningful as to which teams do or do not make the field.

Incidentally, the Big East cannot take credit for wins over Maryland, Duke, Stanford, George Washington, Virginia and Cal. UConn and Rutgers can, but not the Big East. St. John's and Georgetown had nothing to do with it. And, as No. 1 seeds in this projection, the Huskies and Scarlet Knights can't be rewarded any more.

It should also be noted that Notre Dame, Syracuse, South Florida, Marquette, Pittsburgh and Rutgers all have losses to ACC or Big 12 opponents. So, as you can see, that same argument can be turned around. Which is why this is about the individual teams, not comparing the league.

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