Sunday, March 11, 2012

Resume Complete

Happy Selection Sunday, a virtual holiday on the sports calendar. It's also judgment day for college basketball teams, with nothing more they can do to improve their presentations to the NCAA tournament selection committee.

The #2 Orange (31-2) are hardly nervous job seekers at this point. For the first time in school history, they've been in the top 5 throughout the year and ESPN's Joe Lunardi has placed them as a number one seed from his very first bracket projections in November. Barring a major shock from the panel, Syracuse will be placed as a number one seed in the East region. The Orange were previously top seeds in 2010 and 1980.

Here are some of the tools used to make sense of seeding the field of 68.

RPI - The Ratings Percentage Index is a function of a team's record (25%), its opponents' record (50%) and its opponents' opponents' record (25%) with some adjustment to add value to road and neutral court wins. As you'd expect, there's almost no variation among the sources for this:

Computer Rankings - Although MIT was ranked highly in Division III this year, its primary impact on college basketball is inspiring various number crunchers. These computer rankings are widely thought to be better predictors of game outcomes than anything else in black and white.
On-Court Performance - Again, the Orange will be on footing as solid as anyone in the game at this point:

  • 31-2, already the most wins in a whole season in program history

  • 17-1 and regular season champions of the Big East by three games

  • 9-1 in in road games, including wins at tourney-bound Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati and North Carolina St.

  • 3-1 on neutral courts (although all of those were at friendly Madison Square Garden)

  • 4-0 vs. RPI top 25, 7-2 vs. RPI 26-50, 6-0 vs. RPI 51-100, 14-0 vs. RPI >100. A typical 16-seed, could have an RPI over 200. SU was 5-0 against those teams.

  • To win the title, you need to be able to win six straight games against good-to-great competition. The Orange have winning streaks of 20 and 11 this season.

  • Against Lunardi's guess at the field, SU is 13-2 with the losses coming to qualifiers Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

  • Last 10 games: 9-1

  • Among the nation's top five in scoring margin, turnover margin, assist-to-turnover ratio, blocks per game and steals per game.

Eye Test - The Orange will get checkmarks here too in a couple of the indicators that are most important for basketball people. NCAA champions almost always have future NBA players, which Syracuse does. Size and athleticism may be the biggest separation between power schools and the so-called mid-majors. Again, Syracuse will hold its ground in this category.

For more during the NCAAs, you can follow me on Twitter @MattPark1.

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