Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Way to Early Look at NU’s NCAA Tournament Chances

One recent projection of the NCAA Tournament field had Northwestern in the Big Dance as #9-seed. That’s very exciting, but the truth is NU has a massively long way to go if they want to make the school’s first trip to March Madness. The good news is thanks a very strong Big Ten schedule Northwestern will get the opportunity to do that work. The bad news is it could take a lot of work and most of it will have to wait till the new year.

Right now Northwestern is sitting at #94 in the latest RPI rankings. NU has been steadily dropping over the past few days. Some of that is from the ‘Cats not playing, but some is from simply playing teams who aren’t going to be listed as quality wins come March. One of the ways the committee ranks teams is their record against the top-50 and the top-100 RPI rated teams. Currently, Northwestern is 0-0 against that group. They’re 1-0 and against the top-150 with a win over #137 Georgia Tech. This isn’t meant to be negative, but it is meant to make sure we as fans understand where we are right now. The majority of Northwestern opponents so far this season have been rated below #150 nationally. Their next opponent, Long Island, currently sits at #196. The next, American University, is #172. Essentially, unless some of NU’s past opponents pull some upsets then the ‘Cats might win and still slip in the RPI.

In terms of the pre-Big Ten season the game NU needs to target is the expected matchup versus St. Johns on December 21st. The Red Storm currently sit at RPI spot #24 and that will be NU’s third legit road game on the year. Were it not for NU having recorded 40% of their wins on the road thus far this season they might not be in the top-100 of the RPI themselves. Thankfully, the wins over #281 NIU and #319 UTPA aren’t as meaningless as the might have been because they did come on the road.

Bottom line, though, when it comes to Selection Sunday unless NU wins the Big Ten Tournament they probably need at least six (and maybe more) wins over top-100 in order to just be considered for the NCAA Tournament. A win over St. Johns would give the ‘Cats one. That means would need to record at least five major upsets in Big Ten and probably get to an overall Big Ten record of 10-8 or at worst 9-9. That’s possible, but it’ll be tough. The good news is that the league’s difficulty increases NU’s chance of gaining respect even if they finish just .500 overall in league play. The bad news getting to .500 may be tough. The Big Ten is the #3 rated conference right now, but that’ll go up once league play starts. Especially if a team like Indiana becomes a surprise success as I think they might become. Essentially to see NU’s name in the NCAA Tournament bracket I think we need to hope that not only do the ‘Cats do their job with a number of upsets starting in late December and running till early March, but that teams like Creighton (currently #162) and Georgia Tech pull themselves together and pull some upsets themselves to make NU’s wins over them look good.

1 comment:

Sasser said...

Even the St. John's game may not be as good as intended -- they just lost to St. Bonaventure at home last night (#162 Kenpom, #62 RPI).