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Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Profiles looking up for Ducks, 'Horns

By Charlie Creme
Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Charlie Creme will project the 2005 NCAA Tournament bracket each month throughout the season. Click here for a glance at this month's field of 64.

Last month, Vanderbilt supporters voiced their opinions when the Commodores weren't included in January's bracket prediction.

Kristy Curry
Kristy Curry and Purdue might miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993.
Vandy did make it in February's projections, but now the hot-button issues are Oregon's omission and the controversial seedings of Stanford and Texas. And when it comes down to it, everybody just seems to want a little respect.

A sampling of this month's mailbag:


I don't see how you can't be talking about Oregon being in, or at least even being a bubble team right now. At the time of your article, the Ducks were tied for third in the Pac-10 with Arizona (which has a worse nonconference record than Oregon) and Arizona State. They were ahead of UCLA in the standings, with both a better nonconference record AND a better RPI, and you put UCLA in the tournament.

Since then, they've beaten Arizona State and Arizona. If Oregon manages to beat Arizona on Saturday, that likely puts them in second place all alone, with a very good chance of finishing there, or at least tied for second. If that happens, I don't see how it's possible to leave Oregon out of the tournament.

Alan
Oregon

If a bracket was being put together today, the Ducks would be in. However, when our bracket was posted on Feb. 17, Oregon was a mere 60 in the RPI (now 49) and had an SOS of 82. The Ducks also had a losing road record and were just 3-4 against the top 50. Two of the Ducks five top-50 wins have come in the last week, when they swept the Arizona schools.

So rest assured, Duck nation: Oregon would be in the tournament today and probably will end up there come Selection Sunday. That is one of the difficulties of bracketology this time of year. It's ever changing, especially when one week's worth of success can make a profile look much more appealing.


You didn't have Purdue in your NCAA bracket. The Boilers are in the top 50 RPI and should finish above .500 in conference play with a better SOS than Iowa, which was included as a No. 9 seed. What is your thought process on Purdue?

Candice Wiggins
Candice Wiggins and the Cardinal make a good case for a No. 1 seed, but don't expect Stanford to unseat Duke.
Bernie
Lafayette, Ind.

Purdue helped itself by winning two games this past week, but beating Michigan and Indiana does little else but make the Boilers' overall record (15-10) more respectable. The Boilermakers have played a tough schedule, but frankly, don't have many quality wins (just three against the top 50) -- and five of those 15 wins have come against teams outside the RPI top 100. Beating Ohio State later this week or a good run in the Big Ten tournament could get Purdue over the hump, but if neither of those occurs, I think the streak of 11 consecutive trips to the NCAAs will end.

Bernie also mentions Iowa, and the Hawkeyes are also on shaky footing thanks to an extremely rough February. Still, wins over Illinois and Indiana at home this week and one win in the conference tournament would give Iowa a 20-win season. It would be hard to fathom a Big Ten team with 20 wins not making the NCAA Tournament.


Why would the Selection Committee send LSU to Knoxville instead of Dallas for the opening-round games? I know that under the new format, teams can play at a site that also has teams from several regions. But Dallas would be a closer drive for LSU fans, and LSU would give Dallas a bigger draw with a No. 1 seed there (the highest under your draw would be fourth-seeded Texas Tech). Having two No. 1 seeds at Knoxville (even though they wouldn't play against each other in those rounds) seems strange to me.

Dan Juneau

Dan's question is a good one because it opens the floor for discussion about geography and how it will affect this year's tournament. The women's tournament has never been operated this way, so we really don't know how the committee is going to handle the pod system along with the rule that host schools must play at that location.

Under the pod system, groups of four teams play at one location along with another group of four teams. In the old system, the winners of each group would all move together to the same region. But now, these four-team groups, or pods, float. One winner in Seattle could be headed to the Kansas City regional, while the other could be moving on to Tempe.

The men's tournament has been doing this for a few years now, and it can provide a little more flexibility in rewarding the top teams a location closer to home. However, unlike the men, where no one is allowed to play on its home court, the women require it. That's why, given this season's circumstances, almost no chance exists for LSU to be in Dallas -- despite its proximity to Baton Rouge, and the Lady Tigers' status, as of now, as the tournament's top overall seed.

Texas and Texas Tech are serving as co-hosts in Dallas. That means both have to play in Dallas. Both are also from the same conference, which means they can't play each other in the first or second rounds. That means they have to be placed in separate pods. Neither Texas nor Texas Tech is likely to be as low as an eight seed, so LSU couldn't be placed with either. That's why no Big "D" for the Lady Tigers.

While I don't know what the committee's feeling would be on placing two No. 1 seeds in the same city for the opening rounds, I would think since LSU can't be given the shorter trip to Dallas, it might be considered a reward to put the Lady Tigers on a floor on which they regularly play (although not this season).

These new rules do create some intrigue, and we really won't know until Selection Sunday whether the committee and I interpret some of these ideas the same way. I do believe that the pod system, coupled with the host schools locked into a city, will create some interesting, and maybe not so appetizing, travel situations for some schools.


I don't know where you are located, but I doubt it's on the West Coast. There is no way that Stanford should be anything but a No. 1 seed this year. In years past, I'd agree with you, but not this year. If it were me, I'd be putting Stanford as the No. 1 in the West. If you don't watch the games (or at least listen to them online as I do since I moved to Pittsburgh from Sunnyvale, Calif., three years ago), then you won't know how dominant the Stanford team has been all year long. Why do you think the COACHES' poll (the one that in my humble opinion carries the most weight) has the Cardinal as the No. 2-ranked team in the country?

I think that at the end of next weekend, unless Stanford has a huge brain cramp and loses to someone else in the Pac-10, the Cardinal truly deserve that No. 1 seed -- and either Tennessee or Duke (my thoughts say Duke) should be dropped to a No. 2 seed or lower.

Stanford made the Elite Eight last year with a team that was significantly weaker in all areas of play. And although the Cardinal felt a No. 6 seed was an insult last year, I felt it was deserved because of the glaring weaknesses in their team game. But that's not the case this year. You might want to rethink those No. 1 picks!

Lisa Bohm
Pittsburgh, Pa.

First off, who doesn't love the technology that allows a Stanford fan to follow all the games from Pittsburgh?

I am fully aware of what Stanford has accomplished this year and how dominant the Cardinal have been all season. And while I respect Lisa's opinion about the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, the committee doesn't consider it. I say it every year, but the polls are not considered during the selection process. The only rankings used are RPI and SOS. Stanford was second in the coaches' poll but eighth in the RPI at the time of the latest projections.

While I agree Stanford could be a No. 1 seed, at this point the Cardinal definitely would not unseat Duke. The Blue Devils have a better RPI, a stronger schedule and more quality wins. They each have the same number of overall losses, nonconference losses, conference losses, road losses and wins in their last 10 games. But the Blue Devils are the first-place team in the top-ranked conference in the country, while Stanford is the top team in the sixth-rated conference in the country.

This isn't the wildly overplayed East vs. West paranoia issue, either. (Incidentally, I live very left of the Mississippi River.) These are simply the important facts used in process. By no means is this any knock on Stanford; Duke just has a better profile.

Now, the argument for Stanford over Tennessee is a stronger one, mainly because the Lady Vols have two more losses than the Cardinal. I could certainly see that happening, and it is something I once again will be considering strongly when I do the next projection (Monday).

While I agree that Stanford was seeded too low last year (I had it as a fourth seed), there are no make-goods. What Stanford did last season or where the Cardinal were seeded has no bearing on what happens this March 13. How Stanford does against Oregon this week and in the Pac-10 tournament will.


If Southwest Missouri State wins the Missouri Valley conference regular-season championship but loses in the finals of the tournament, do you think the Lady Bears are still in, based on the regular season? I know they have no big wins at the beginning of the year, but I know they sent a letter to the NCAA letting them know that last year's conference player of the year, Kari Koch, was hurt at the beginning and couldn't play. Do you think that will affect the selection committee's decision?

John R.
Springfield, Mo.

If SMS wins its final three regular-season games, then wins two in the MVC tournament, the Bears would have 23 total victories. That would probably be enough for an at-large bid. The RPI probably would remain around where it is now (40). As John points out, the lack of big wins does hurt and could be potentially very damaging, which is why, even at 23 wins, not getting the MVC's automatic bid could be risky.

Koch's absence early in the season raises the issue of injuries and how they impact seeding. Games missed by key players during a season are factored in by the committee. Ultimately, what the committee examines is the look of a team that will compete in the tournament and how a school has been playing with those players.

Koch missed the first six games of the season, but it likely won't have that much of an impact. In that span, the Lady Bears had only one opportunity for a truly quality win (Richmond).

UCLA and Noelle Quinn are probably the most notable example of how injuries, suspensions or academic issues are factored this season. If Quinn had been able to return before the end of the regular season and the Bruins had won a couple of games, the committee would have given more weight to UCLA with Quinn before and after the injury than to the Quinn-less Bruins.

Now it appears unlikely she'll be back. Even if Quinn returns, UCLA probably doesn't have enough time to demonstrate what kind of team it might be in the postseason.

Boston College is clearly a different team without Jess Deveny. The season the Eagles had with her won't be discounted completely, but the committee will have to take a longer look at the current club, since it's the one that would play in the tournament. That's why BC's fortunes for a berth are now questionable.


Texas is 10 or 11 in the RPI, No. 2 in SOS, beat Texas Tech by 21 and Baylor by 14, is 9-1 in its last 10 games and second in the Big 12. A sixth seed? Wake up and smell the coffee.

Paul
Austin, Texas

For starters, I'm more of hot chocolate guy. The smell of coffee makes me a little nauseous.

Admittedly, if I had to do it again (and fortunately I do), I might have made Texas a slightly higher seed. However, remember a couple of things. The Kansas State win came after these projections were calculated. Most of the responses from angry Austinites came after that thrilling game was played.

More important, though, Texas does have seven losses, and overall record still matters plenty. Those wins over Tech and Baylor were impressive, but let's not forget, Texas also has lost to both.

I'm also curious as to why all the e-mails mentioned the wins over Tennessee and Penn State but did not mention the double-digit defeats at Georgia and Connecticut.

Still, I would make Texas higher today, possibly as high as a fourth seed. The Longhorns also have a real chance to finish the regular season with seven straight wins, which might be their biggest credential come selection time.


How can you still not have St. John's or Villanova in your NCAA bracket? They both are .500 or better in the best conference in the country -- the Big East. Yes, we are UConn fans who are tired of the Big East getting no respect. Also, the Villanova women have beaten the SEC and the Big 12, and George Washington the last few years in the tourney. The Villanova women beat your No. 6 seed, Penn State, and Notre Dame this year, while St. John's is near 20 wins and won big time at Boston College.

The Big East has won the last five women's titles and last two men's titles -- what else does the conference need to do? The only time the ACC won the women's title was 1991, when it took a last-second 3 for North Carolina to win it. The Big East women have beaten LSU, Tennessee, Texas, Penn State, Ohio State, Duke and Purdue all this year, for pete's sakes!

Walter Lines

So neither the Big East nor the Pac-10 nor the ACC gets respect? Apparently, respect is a hard thing to come by in the women's game.

OK, sarcasm aside, let's look at Walter's points and, right off the bat, clear the air. The number of national championships won, or not won, in years past has no bearing whatsoever on what seed a team should get or who should get an invite in 2005. Certainly, two men's titles have nothing to do with whether Villanova's women make the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

And while we are on the subject, let's stop giving the Big East credit for winning the last five women's national championships. Except for Notre Dame's title four seasons ago, UConn won those titles, not the Big East. I find it very amusing that Providence and Syracuse are somehow given credit for the Huskies' dominance. It's simply not a good argument and really needs to stop.

The same goes for the success Villanova had in past tournament appearances. It isn't relevant to this year. The Wildcats' wins over Notre Dame and Penn State are relevant (their only top-50 wins, however), but so is the loss to sub-100 Syracuse. With an RPI and SOS at or around 50, Villanova is exactly where it should be -- squarely on the bubble.

Not so for St. John's. A losing record in the Big East, a high-70s RPI, an SOS in the 120s, a 3-6 record against the top 100, and 10 of 17 wins against teams outside the top 150 just aren't good enough. Right now, the Red Storm aren't worthy of an at-large bid -- and it isn't even close.

Charlie Creme can be reached at cwcreme@hotmail.com.