Commentary

Maryland or Rutgers? The answer isn't set in stone

Updated: February 2, 2008, 12:32 PM ET
By Charlie Creme | Special to ESPN.com

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 a new projection on Monday.

Rutgers instead of Maryland?????? Yes, both teams have lost two games this season to ranked opponents that are currently in the top 10. But Rutgers lost one game at home; Maryland didn't. Rutgers won seven of its games by no more than eight points and won only four games by 20 points or more, while Maryland won five games by eight or fewer points and won 10 games by 20 points or more. Rutgers also did not travel any further than Marquette and its January schedule was a walk in the park compared to Maryland. Should I mention the Terps' two-game West Coast trip on Thanksgiving weekend only two weeks into the season with two wins in three days? I am skeptical that Rutgers will hang on to that ranking or come out of the regular season with only two losses. How can you do a bracket without looking at February? The point is to predict, not recap.

Chi00

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This was the main issue in all the comments and e-mails, but the answer is really easy. Regardless of which side of the Maryland/Rutgers debate you sat on this week, everyone should acknowledge that it's close. Head-to-head is not always the end all, be all, but when it is this close it certainly comes into play. Rutgers beat Maryland straight up. That's the difference. Frankly, that shouldn't be hard to figure out. It is also curious that you manage to leave that important element out of your argument.

Rutgers' loss to West Virginia will probably change next week's bracket. This is a fluid, ever-evolving process. To your last sentence, actually you have it wrong. The point is not to predict. If I was merely predicting right now what I thought the field would look like in March based on what results I think might happen in games that have yet to be played, then I would only need to release one bracket. I could do it in October and call it a day. Where's the fun in that? In fact, I do issue a preseason bracket, which is more of a prognostication of the entire season to come. For the record, Maryland was a 1-seed in that projection.

Also, just to clarify, the arrows next to each team in each bracket indicate the club's movement from projection to projection. The down arrow for Maryland is an indication that the Terps were a No. 1 seed two weeks ago but a 2-seed this week. The down arrow symbolizes that downward movement.


I'm a diehard Irish fan and my sister is from Virginia Beach and a 100 percent ODU fan. Both teams played UConn. We lost by 16, ODU by 43. Both played Tennessee. We lost by 22, ODU by 32. We lost by 16 to No. 4 Maryland and they lost by eight to No. 7 Stanford. Both beat Purdue by 13. Does Notre Dame get penalized for playing more top-25 teams and losing by just a few points? Someone has to lose those evenly matched games and unfortunately Notre Dame lost both of those. My point is that Notre Dame seems to be the more competitive of the two, but will the Irish be judged by the loss column instead of how they performed in a competitive Big East. (I guess that is being taken into consideration since Notre Dame moved from a 6- to a 5-seed in this projection, with two extra losses, and ODU remained a No. 4 seed without an additional loss.) The only thing I would do different with this bracket is Notre Dame a No. 4 and ODU a No. 5.

Jim B.
Birdsboro, Pa.

You bring up a reasonable point, Jim. Essentially, your question seems to be how will Notre Dame be judged with its tough schedule the rest of the way even if the Irish don't win but are merely competitive with the elite teams. With Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers and DePaul still on the schedule, Notre Dame's strength of schedule (SOS) will undoubtedly get a bump. At the same time, ODU's should drop with just CAA teams left on its schedule. But the bottom line for you to get some family bragging rights is that Notre Dame is going to have to win a few of those games in order to really move up. Don't get too caught up in those margins. The counter to that argument is that ODU played UConn on a neutral court and Notre Dame got the Huskies at home. The Huskies were also missing two very good players against Notre Dame that they had against the Lady Monarchs. ODU also played in Knoxville without its best players, while the Irish played Tennessee at home. Finally, keep this in mind: The difference with being a No. 4 vs. a No. 5 seed when the teams are in the same region is virtually nothing. If things hold to form, they would meet in the second round anyway, and which team gets to wear the white jersey is all that is up for grabs.


LSU as a No. 2 seed? Really? With only one win against a top-50 RPI team, none over top-25s, and a bad loss to Middle Tennessee? LSU has the résumé of a 8- or 9-seed.

Kevin
Macon, Ga.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. Do you really think that a 16-3 club that is tied for first in the SEC would be a 8- or 9-seed? You are correct about the top-50 wins, but the overall schedule is strong enough to put the overall RPI in the top 15. The Lady Tigers were eighth overall on my S-curve this week. In order for them to be an 8-seed, Kevin, you would have to acknowledge that 19 teams have better profiles than LSU. I would challenge anyone to find me 19 teams with résumés that surpass that of LSU. Finally, Middle Tennessee is not even be considered a bad loss. The Blue Raiders are still in the top 100 in the RPI and LSU's Sylvia Fowles did not play that night. She's back. So that defeat simply isn't measured the same by the committee.


Can the Wyoming Cowgirls rise above their current 4-seed? All they've done is beat Big 12-leading K-State, No. 11-seeded Iowa on the road and, at the time, nationally ranked UW-Madison. They also beat a No. 13-seeded Montana and scored wins at the Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., and over TCU and UNLV (which whipped George Washington early in the year) in Laramie, Wyo. Their only loss is to a recently-ranked CU squad in Boulder, Colo.

Kyle

The Wyoming résumé is solid, but I really don't see the Cowgirls getting any higher. They are hurt by a down year in the Mountain West. Other than two games against Utah, not much exists for Wyoming to build upon. I would also caution you on some of those wins. UNLV, despite beating George Washington, is still a sub-200 RPI opponent. Wisconsin clearly was overrated. It's really immaterial that the Badgers were ranked at the time. TCU is a .500 club, nothing more. Wyoming is a good club, but a 4-seed is probably the max.


I'm pretty sure Indiana has already beaten Minnesota and is now tied for first in the Big Ten. Penn State has a sub-.500 record and got drilled by Ohio State. IU has a win over West Virginia and wins at Cincy, Purdue and Michigan State. I know the Big Ten is a little down this year, but there is only one bad team. IU should be in consideration.

Steve Goodard

Even after Thursday's results, Indiana isn't quite in first, trailing Ohio State by a half-game. But you raise an interesting point about Indiana, Steve. The Hoosiers have played a decent schedule and don't have a terrible loss. The win over West Virginia looks better and better. However, here's where the red flag rises. The Hoosiers are still just 13-8. Cincinnati and Purdue are essentially .500 clubs, so let's not get too excited about them. And, as you said, the biggest key is that this is a down year in the Big Ten. In fact, it falls further down the ladder with each passing week in my eyes. One of the committee's biggest challenges is going to be how to measure one conference team beating another. Do Indiana's victories over Michigan State and Illinois, for instance, really mean much? That's a tough one, but my instinct says, not much. I do agree at this point that Indiana should be in "contention." However, I would not get your hopes up.


I'd love it if you could flesh out a bit more how you think the committee will view Stanford when thinking about No. 1 seeds. The Cardinal have a very strange profile in that they have won possibly more elite games than anyone (Tennessee, Rutgers, Baylor -- who they thumped -- and Cal are all top-10 wins), but they had a hiccup weekend against mediocre USC and UCLA. If not for that, they'd be a clear No. 1 seed and No. 2 in the rankings behind UConn! Any insight would be great.

Bart
Brussels, Belgium

I have to answer an e-mail that comes from all the way across the pond. I agree with everything you wrote. In fact, just prior to Stanford's terrible weekend in L.A., I expressed that very sentiment -- that the Cardinal were primed to be a No. 1 seed -- in a column. However, those losses aren't going way. So now Stanford is going to need some help to get back to a No. 1. UConn and Tennessee aren't going anywhere. And because of the USC and UCLA losses, the Cardinal sit behind North Carolina and now Maryland. I'm not saying a 1-seed is impossible, but Stanford doesn't have the control it once did. Oh, and Bart? Don't forget to bring me back some chocolate.

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Women's College Basketball
Charlie Creme projects the women's NCAA Tournament bracket for ESPN.com.