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Tuesday, February 11, 2014
BPI Talk: MSU still deserves No. 1 seed

By Ryan Feldman

When at full strength, the Michigan State Spartans have shown what they're capable of. But lately, they've been without injured key players Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.

The Spartans have the fifth-best BPI in games at full strength, without missing any key players (key players are defined as a team's top five players in minutes per game among players who have played at least 50 percent of the team's games).

They're 10-1 in those games, with their loss coming to North Carolina. Michigan State's full-strength wins include No. 5 Kentucky, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 26 Oklahoma and No. 38 Texas.

The Spartans have lost three of their last five games, but those losses were without Dawson. Two of the losses were without Payne. Alex Gauna and Kenny Kaminski have had to step into the starting lineup.

Even with their injuries, the Spartans' last three losses were each by five points or fewer against Michigan (BPI No. 22), Georgetown and Wisconsin (BPI No. 16).

Once Dawson comes back and the Spartans are at full strength, their BPI with all of their key players shows that they should be considered for a No. 1 seed.

Kentucky could be a No. 1 seed
The Kentucky Wildcats could be an under-the-radar contender for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats have five losses this season, all by five points or fewer, all away from home and all against teams ranked in the BPI top 65.

Kentucky is among four teams in the country to not lose a game by more than five points this season, along with Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State.

The Wildcats' best wins are against Louisville -- No. 12 in BPI -- and Missouri -- No. 32 in BPI.

They have six more games against BPI top-100 teams before the SEC Tournament, five of which they are projected to win, according to BPI.

That includes a home game Saturday (9 PM, ESPN) against the Florida Gators -- No. 4 in BPI -- which the Wildcats have a 60.9 percent chance of winning, according to BPI. They have an 8.2 percent chance of winning their remaining eight games.

Pursuit of perfection
Wichita State is in prime position to enter the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament undefeated.

The Shockers have a 79.7 percent chance of winning out, according to BPI.

Compare that with Syracuse, the other undefeated Division I team, which has a 6.3 percent chance of going undefeated.

In each of their remaining six games, the Shockers have a better than 92 percent chance of winning.

Is St. John's an NCAA Tournament team?
After getting a signature win against Creighton on Sunday, the St. John's Red Storm are a legitimate contender for an at-large bid.

The Red Storm played six straight games against BPI top-100 teams and won five of them, with the loss in that stretch coming by three points at Creighton. Three of their last five wins have been by double digits.

During that six-game stretch -- since Jan. 23 -- St. John's has the eighth-best BPI of any team.

The Red Storm are No. 49 in BPI, their best rank since Dec. 31, when they began a five-game losing streak.

St. John's has seven games remaining before the Big East Tournament, and the Red Storm have a better than 50 percent chance of winning five of those games, according to BPI. That includes games against Georgetown, Seton Hall, Butler, Villanova, Xavier and Marquette -- all in the BPI top 100.

According to BPI, St. John's has the easiest schedule remaining in the Big East. A strong finish could put the Red Storm in position for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Is Utah underrated?
The Utah Utes are No. 37 in BPI but No. 99 in RPI. How could they be considered an at-large team by BPI but nowhere near the bubble according to RPI?

The Utes have seven losses this season, six by four points or fewer (two of them in overtime). They're among 12 teams with one or zero losses by more than five points this season.

According to RPI, the Utes played the second-easiest non-conference schedule in the country. Even an 11-1 non-conference record (only loss by two points at Boise State) doesn't overcome the weak schedule.

But BPI recognizes that in Utah's nine games against teams ranked outside the BPI top 200, it won by an average of 33.7 points. When Utah should have rolled opponents, it did.

The Utes are 3-5 against the BPI top 100, but they've performed fairly well in those games. Their three wins are by a combined 33 points, and their five losses are by a combined 21 points. They have the No. 18 BPI against top-100 teams.