Yesterday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi released his first BRACKETOLOGY of the season. In past years I’ve steered clear of talking about the NCAA Tournament before mid-February, but what the heck, it is the dog days of the college bball season as finals wind down, Winter Break starts, and conference play is still three weeks away. And it is a new era under James Johnson so let’s re-open old wounds all over again.
Where is Virginia Tech, you ask? I think you already know — Tech is the first team listed amongst the First Four OUT. Do you think Lunardi forgets to update his list each year and the Hokies just get stuck there? Or do you think he has VT permanently coded into that spot to save himself time?
Either way, there are some head scratchers. Namely the fact that florida state (5-4 with a RPI around 150) and uva (8-2 but with a RPI at 125) are in. Well, they are the Last Four In according to Lunardi. The simple fact is he’s basing that on history and potential – fsu has been a regular in the top third of the ACC for several years now and won the ACC Tournament last year, while uva has shown improvement since getting guards back from injury. And the hoos went to the dance last year. But if the Selection Committee was picking today, those two teams wouldn’t even be on the bubble.
Now, back to the Hokies. What is killing the Hokies now, and likely will all season, is their strength of schedule (SOS). It should probably be called their Schedule of Weakness (SOW). Tech’s SOS is rated anywhere from 307th to 315th in various RPI sites out there. That’s out of 347 Division I teams. That’s not good. As a result, the Hokies’ RPI is right at 100. Tech has played four teams at 290 or higher in the RPI, while playing just three top 100 teams, going 2-1 in those games (although wvu will likely drop out of the top 100 soon with their loss to duquesne on Tuesday). georgia southern is in the mid-200s, bradley is around 130, and byu is a top 100 team. So the SOS should go up slightly as Tech wraps up out of conference (OOC) play, but not much.
As for conference play, once again the ACC isn’t the gray mare she used to be. 8 of Tech’s 18 ACC games are against teams currently at 125 or higher in the RPI.
The Hokies do play 6 games against teams currently in the top 50: two against #1 duke, two against #42 miami, and one against #50 unc and #11 nc state. But that’s it, the ACC has just four teams in the top 50 with just two in the top 25.
I guess this all just proves why I never looked at this stuff so early. 1) We tend to play a weak schedule, and 2) things will change so much over the next three months. Look at last year – Tech looked great OOC and had an easy ACC schedule to open league play, but lost to wake forest, fsu, and bc to start. And as for all these current RPIs, they will be very fluid. If Tech keeps winning, their RPI will go up and up as their schedule gets tougher. Meanwhile, teams like mvsu (#116 in the RPI despite being 0-6) and florida gulf coast (#53 in the RPI) and pacific (#44 at 4-4) and the strangest of all, stephen f. “smith” austin, who is #13 in the RPI despite having only played four games and just one team higher than #175 (#6 a&m who beat them), will drop like a rock. So let’s see what happens.
Meanwhile, we can keep enjoying the Hokies’ product on the court and know that at least we are in the conversation… again. I think we’ll take another painful late February and early March on the bubble over last year.
FYI: The ACC has 7 teams IN in Lunardi’s list, tied with the Big(14)10 and Big East for the most:
- duke – #1 seed
- unc – #5 seed
- nc state – #6 seed
- miami – #8 seed
- maryland – #11 seed
- fsu – #11 seed
- uva – #12 seed
Also, four future ACC teams are IN:
- syracuse – #2 seed
- louisville – #2 seed
- notre dame – #6 seed
- pitt – #8 seed