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Least Deserving: The Case Against Arizona

3/12/2006

Sunday morning of Selection Sunday, and it appears that if you take a very liberal view, there are still 22 teams 'on the bubble' competing for 14 spots. Using the same 'most deserving' analysis that I did two days ago, a true 'body-of-work' analysis would rank the bubble teams as follows:

IN
1. Cincinnati (18-12)
2. Wichita St (23-8)
3. Kentucky (21-12)
4. Michigan (18-10)
5. Northern Iowa (21-9)
6. Washington (24-6)
7. Florida St (19-9)
8. Texas A&M (21-8)
9. Missouri St (20-8)
10. Maryland (18-12)
11. UAB (23-6)
12. Hofstra (24-6)
13. George Mason (23-7)
14. Louisville (18-12)
OUT
15. Seton Hall (18-11)
16. Creighton (19-9)
17. Bradley (20-10)
18. Alabama (17-12)
19. Arizona (19-12)
20. Colorado (20-9)
21. Vanderbilt (17-12)
22. California (20-10)

Recall, I define Cincinnati as more deserving than Wichita State if it's estimate as more difficult for a team to go 18-12 under Cincinnati's schedule than it would be to go 23-8 under Wichita State's schedule.

Amazing what an overinflated RPI and SOS can do for a team. If Arizona had an RPI of 51 and SOS of 52, they would have a hard time making the tournament. But armed with a RPI of 22 and SOS of 7, they look a lot safer. Kudos to the Arizona schedule-makers for understanding the nuances of the RPI formula and taking advantage of it in order to make their team look a lot better than it actually is. If Arizona gets in, it will be primarily because they're RPI numbers are artificially high (and because they're Arizona and have made the tourney 22 years in a row. I think they'll get the benefit of the doubt), not necessarily because they deserve it. The fact they are behind a team like Louisville, who isn't really even in the discussion for an at-large bid, shows you just how poorly Arizona's resume is this year.

Here's a closer look at Arizona, relative to the other bubble teams. A -41.6% next to Cincinnati means it's 41.6% less likely for a hypothetical xth-ranked team (take the midpoint of the two teams in question) to go 19-12 under Arizona's schedule than it would be to go 18-12 under Cincinnati's schedule.

Cincinnati -41.6%
Wichita St -38.9%
Kentucky -38.8%
Michigan -38.1%
Northern Iowa -33.2%
Washington -33.2%
Florida St -30.7%
Texas A&M -29.3%
Missouri St -24.9%
Maryland -23.8%
UAB -23.8%
Hofstra -23.4%
George Mason -12.6%
Louisville -10.0%
Seton Hall -9.4%
Creighton -8.2%
Bradley -5.1%
Alabama -3.2%
ARIZONA 0.0%
Colorado +0.8%
Vanderbilt +6.0%
California +8.7%

All teams Hofstra and above are '>1 game favorable' to Arizona, meaning that even if Hofstra was 23-7 instead of 24-6, their body-of-work would still be considered favorable to Arizona's. Although I didn't do the analysis, given the percentages it's safe to assume that Cincinnati, Wichita State, Kentucky and Michigan could be considered +2 games favorable to Arizona.

It's pretty remarkable that Michigan is probably considered less likely to get in than Arizona at this point. I know the Committee likes to focus on last 10 games, but leaving Michigan out simply because they lost 7 of their last 9 would be over-weighting that aspect too heavily. The fact is Michigan played a pretty tough scehdule during that stretch: @ Iowa, Ohio St, @ Purdue, Minnesota, @ Mich St, Illinois, @ Ohio State, Indiana, vs Minnesota. 2-7 during that stretch is far from great, but a typical bubble team would have a hard time doing significantly better than that. Plus, Michigan had won 5 in a row previous to that, including wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and at Minnesota. Suddenly 7-7 out of the last 14 doesn't look so bad given that schedule.

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