Commentary

Respect, top-25 rankings have no bearing on Bracketology

Updated: February 29, 2008, 2:35 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.

BRACKET RACKET
To check out Charlie Creme's latest bracket projection, visit ESPN.com's Bracketology index.

How can you put in Michigan State and at the same time leave out Indiana? The Hoosiers have a better conference record and split the head-to-head. I think the Hoosiers' wins over West Virginia and Ohio State leave them with a few more marquee wins. That West Virginia win will hold a ton of weight come Selection Monday when the 4-6 teams in the Big Ten are compared.

Marc
Atlanta

Right off the bat you should know that this bracket was done with games played through Sunday. So at the time, Indiana's win over Ohio State didn't count.

And after further review, it probably shouldn't have counted at all on any day of the week. For the record, the scoring error in that game was a far more egregious mistake than what happened at the end of the Tennessee-Rutgers game. A correctable error that isn't corrected with more than two minutes of game time left is absolutely inexcusable.

Nonetheless, since it happened on Monday, it was not considered when the bracket was done on Sunday night. That leaves the Hoosiers without the quality win over the Buckeyes and makes the Big Ten records of Indiana and Michigan State essentially the same. Beyond that, Michigan State has a win over Kansas State that stands up with Indiana's upset of West Virginia. The Spartans also have a better overall record against a higher-rated schedule. Most importantly, Michigan State has been playing much better as of late. Prior to the matchup with Ohio State, the Hoosiers had lost three of four games. Michigan State entered the field this week with wins in four of its past five games.

Frankly, the better argument would have been Purdue instead of Michigan State. Those two are really more comparable considering the Boilermakers' recent win over Michigan State and higher SOS. The difference is that Purdue does not really have a quality win outside of the Big Ten (don't give me Gonzaga) -- and the quality of a Big Ten win remains difficult to measure this season. Prior to the win over the Spartans, Purdue was playing very poorly, losing three of four, including a loss in East Lansing.


I don't understand the lack of respect that you and others give to Stanford. The Cardinal have beaten Tennessee, Rutgers, Baylor and Cal (twice), all in the top 10. Yes, they lost at UConn, but no other women's team has beaten more top-10 teams, yet they are seventh in the AP and only a 2-seed in your projection. And to add insult to injury, you have them behind two teams that they have beaten. It doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

Dana
ABQ

Let's get one thing straight -- "respect" is the most overused and, at the same time, misused word in the lexicon of fans everywhere. How exactly does making Stanford a No. 2 seed and stating that a blanket could be thrown over any of the teams ranked 2-7 on the S-curve illustrate a lack of respect? If I had written that the Tree was a bad mascot or that the Cardinal's uniforms were ugly, then maybe "lack of respect" would be an accurate depiction.

I implore fans in all corners of the country to show a little more restraint before busting out the "lack of respect" card.

Now to the exact matter at hand. Dana, it's extremely close among the very top teams. That has been written previously and will be written again. Some teams in that group have to be No. 2 seeds. Yes, the Cardinal have some great wins, but they are also the only team in the group with a loss to a sub-100 opponent (UCLA), and the schedule isn't quite as strong largely due to a down year for much of the Pac-10. That's the rationale. Choose to "respect" it or not.


My main problem with this bracket is that you have teams such as Xavier, James Madison and USC in, while more deserving teams such as NC State, Purdue and Michigan are left out. The former teams each have only one or two wins versus top-50 teams, while the latter have played much tougher schedules.

Todd Kort

Todd, you might want to take another look at your dictionary definition of "deserving." The three teams you list as more deserving have exactly two nonleague top-50 wins. Xavier, James Madison and USC actually combine for four, and each has at least one top-25 win overall (Xavier beat Georgia, James Madison beat GW, and USC beat Utah and Stanford).

NC State lacks a single top-50 win in or outside the ACC and has a loss outside the top-100. The Wolfpack also lost to Xavier head-to-head. The best wins for Purdue and Michigan have come within the Big Ten, a league that's mediocre at best and has been cannibalizing itself all season.

Xavier and James Madison also have notably better overall records than the teams on your list. Your best case might be Purdue in over USC, but in no way, shape or form is NC State or Michigan more deserving than any of my three choices.


I can't believe you would still consider ODU a No. 4 seed! They are ranked at least a No. 10, which should put them at least a 3-seed!!!! Somehow, I think you are hoping they don't get any further than the Sweet 16!!! By keeping them a 4-seed, they would have to play a No. 1 seed!!! Why would you give any consideration to a CAA team!! Let me tell you, you know nothing about this team. They have great talent and are worthy of a higher seed!! By the way, how many women's games have you watched this year?!

Portsmouth

I think this e-mail might have come straight out of that episode of "Seinfeld" where much of the story line was based on exclamation points. They sure are an emotional bunch in Portsmouth. And while I've actually watched almost as many games this season as the number of punctuation marks in the above question, the jab doesn't bother me. However, you have made my TiVo very mad. He has been working overtime and doesn't appreciate the second-guessing.

Based on the logic here, polls are the foundation by which all team evaluation should be based. If that were the case, why have an NCAA Tournament committee? Why not just use the polls? That's essentially what you are saying. What you are suggesting is college football before the BCS. And as flawed as the BCS might be, for those who can remember, the previous system was horribly inequitable.

In fact, the polls are probably the most flawed of all the measuring sticks we have. The voters are either media members who, for the most part, see only their teams and the opponents those teams play, or coaches who see even fewer other teams. Sometimes the coaches even turn their votes over to someone else within the program.

Is that how you would really want your tournament chosen, or would you prefer having people who actually do their homework picking the field? The polls are a fun way to group teams during the season -- but nothing more. We need to quickly move away from that sort of thinking. At its best, it is flawed.

Here's some further proof:

Last season, Wisconsin-Green Bay was ranked 21st in the final poll. The Phoenix were a No. 9 seed in the tournament. According to the above logic, they should have been a 5-seed.

In 2006, Louisiana Tech finished the season 17th in the polls. The Lady Techsters were a No. 11 seed. In 2005, Penn State came in at 22nd in the final rankings yet was given a No. 4 seed.

This isn't to say that the polls are always way off. They aren't. Far from it. But situations aplenty exist where the rankings and the seeding don't match up. We are in the seeding business, not the poll business, and are trying to assess what the committee might do.

Based on the history, Old Dominion as a No. 4 seed is hardly outrageous.


I'll give you credit where it is due. The Wyoming fans are wrong, you are right. The Cowgirls are a 9-seed. But Arizona State lost to Auburn, Texas and Texas Tech. The Sun Devils' best win all year is over USC, which you list as one of the last four teams included in the bracket. But somehow, you give the Sun Devils a 7-seed. I'm thinking a 9 at best, maybe even a 10-seed. Face the facts -- the Pac-10 is down, and they have yet to defeat either Stanford or Cal. I realize that their nonconference schedule was solid, but THEY COULDN'T BEAT ANYONE THAT WAS ANY GOOD!

Jay

I'll agree that the Pac-10 is down, but have to argue with Arizona State being a No. 9 or No. 10 seed. If Arizona State were to be placed that low, there wouldn't be enough teams to fill the tournament field. If ASU were made a No. 10 seed and the field did actually have the full 64 teams in it, then the following clubs, in addition to Wyoming, would be seeded ahead of the Sun Devils: Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, Xavier, DePaul, Nebraska and possibly TCU, Texas and Michigan State (or Purdue, if you don't buy my argument from above).

Even giving you the benefit of the doubt on Wyoming, not one of those teams has the overall credentials of Arizona State. By making ASU a 9 or 10, you'd be saying at least a good portion of those teams do have better résumés, and they just don't.


How do you justify putting Texas in your bracket at all? The Longhorns are 4-9 in conference and will finish nowhere near the .500 mark. If you look at their last 12, they have a definite losing record and don't belong in the NCAA Tournament.

James Brake

I'm not in love with the Longhorns, either, and I struggled mightily with whether they belonged. Yet each time I left them out, the same question kept popping up. How does this field get to 64 teams then?

While Texas hasn't been playing well down the stretch, neither has anyone else at the bottom of the at-large pool. The fact also remains that the Longhorns have more quality wins than any other team against which they are competing for a spot. That was the difference maker. Kentucky? Purdue? Florida? Temple? Dayton? Not one has a win as good as Texas' victory over Baylor. Texas even beat Kentucky straight up.

The Longhorns still need some wins and could be a victim if, say, UTEP or Western Kentucky, doesn't win its league tournament. Texas might not look tournament-worthy, but right now, the choices instead are worse.


I have to ask you about your recent article concerning the strength of the Big 12. If you are Baylor, which is preparing to win the Big 12 conference, what everyone is calling the most difficult conference in the country, then why wouldn't the Lady Bears deserve a No. 1 seed? I understand that they have three losses, but they are playing in the toughest conference week in and week out -- there are no easy games in the Big 12. For some reason, I feel that regardless of the competition or the teams, the Big 12 tends to get screwed by the committee and this year looks to be no different.

Stephen
Austin

The answer is simple, Stephen. Teams, not leagues, are evaluated by the committee. An honest assessment of Baylor as compared to the other top teams would have to be made, and I would challenge you to do so. What you will find is that the season for the Lady Bears does not quite match up to that of Connecticut, North Carolina, Tennessee or Rutgers. In fact, Maryland, Stanford and LSU have also clearly had better seasons.

Baylor is probably closer to a No. 3 seed than a No. 1 seed. The résumés of the teams involved illustrate that. The Lady Bears have only one nonconference top-50 win. That is the fewest of any of the clubs involved. Only LSU has as few as two. The Lady Tigers also have a lower SOS than Baylor. However, LSU hadn't lost in the new year until falling to UConn on Monday, and Baylor doesn't have any win as good as LSU's bouncing of Tennessee.

You can also file away the conspiracy theories against the Big 12. If the league's teams were outperforming their seeds in the tournament, your point might have some legs. But the argument could actually be made that Big 12 teams have been over-seeded.

Not one Big 12 team beat a higher seed in tournament play since No. 2 Baylor beat No. 1 North Carolina in 2005. When a conference's teams can't pull even the most modest of upsets in two full tournaments, it's hard to prove the "not-being-treated-fairly" claim.

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