Playing rating game, some can kiss NCAAs goodbye

If rules were hard, fast, picture would be clearer

National notebook

March 07, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Let's say that the NCAA tournament selection committee suddenly invoked a new rule: Any team with a Rating Percentage Index ranking higher than 31 from a major conference must win at least one game in its conference tournament to earn an at-large bid. Any team with an RPI over 40 must win at least two.

One more caveat: Any team with an RPI above 50 should look into the National Invitation Tournament.

That might put a few coaches on edge and take a few teams off the so-called bubble come Selection Sunday. It also might ease the job of the committee, particularly when it comes to deciding between at-large teams from big conferences and those from the mid-majors.

Given that rule, here's a breakdown of how things might sort out over the next 10 days.


Purdue (32): One win might not be enough for the Boilermakers. A late-season slide (five losses in the past seven games) and a poor road record (3-8) have put Gene Keady's team on as precarious a slope as his infamous hairpiece.

Seton Hall (33): The Pirates' nine-game winning streak ended with a 32-point loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. While the Hall clawed back from an 0-6 start on the road, it still would need to get to the second round of the Big East tournament to get its first bid since 2000.

Indiana (34): Last year's runner-up to Maryland looked like a lock early in the season, beating the Terrapins in a December rematch and winning at Gonzaga. That was before the Hoosiers went into a tailspin, and going 3-9 on the road won't help.

Arizona State (35): The Sun Devils could have helped themselves the past two weeks, but three straight defeats to the league's top teams - No. 1 Arizona, No. 19 Stanford and No. 21 Cal - could prove costly.

Michigan State (36): Same story as other Big Ten bubble teams: few quality wins (at Kentucky in December) and a poor record away from home. Late-season results are not as glaring as Purdue or Indiana, so winning a game or two in the Big Ten tournament could push the Spartans over the hump.

Auburn (37): Auburn's weak nonconference schedule - including Wofford, Georgia State and Denver - could spell doom. It has one win against a ranked team (then-No. 10 Alabama).

Texas Tech (39): A 6-9 record in the Big 12 going into tomorrow's game at Baylor is only one of several factors weighing against the Red Raiders. Tech has had eight games against ranked teams within its league, but won only one of them.


Connecticut (41): Losing at home to Providence could be damaging to the Huskies, who might need the committee's heart to decide rather than its computer: Coach Jim Calhoun came back from midseason cancer surgery.

LSU (44): After starting 1-6 in the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers have clawed back to where a strong showing in the conference tournament could help. The one game that could help the most came in December, when LSU gave a Luke Walton-less Arizona team its first loss of the season.

Boston College (46): If UConn gets in, the Eagles might ride on its Big East brethren's coattails right into the tournament. A victory in Storrs was BC's biggest win, and a 7-8 road record is downright respectable compared with the competition.

Colorado (47): With Wednesday's win over No. 20 Oklahoma State, the Buffaloes have four wins over ranked Big 12 teams. That all were played in Boulder could have a negative impact, as well as having a 2-8 road record.

Oregon (48): Things have not gone well for last year's Pac-10 champions who made the Elite Eight. The record (20-8, 10-7 league) is still solid, but an early win over Kansas is the only big win. Tomorrow's game at No. 1 Arizona is huge.

Saint Louis (49): The Billikens have gotten hot at the right time: A six-game winning streak includes wins over then-No. 2 Louisville and at Cincinnati. A 22-point loss at Butler could be a swing game.

50- and 60-somethings

Minnesota (51): With three straight losses going into a weekend home-and-home against Illinois, the Gophers are all but gone.

Wyoming (52): With only one game against a ranked team - a 28-point loss at No. 12 Kansas - even a win at Utah tomorrow might not be enough.

Tennessee (53): A recent win over Florida won't help overcome a bad road record (3-6).

DePaul (54): Had plenty of chances in the surprisingly tough Conference USA, but went 3-10 on the road overall.

Villanova (59): The Wildcats all but sealed their fate with a 25-point defeat last week at Virginia Tech.

North Carolina State (68): The Wolfpack let its last chance slip away when Maryland came back from 11 down to win Sunday in Raleigh.

Planting seeds

The Sun's final projections of the year for the top four seeds in each of the four regionals of the NCAA tournament, based on teams' records through Wednesday and their Rating Percentage Index, or RPI, the power rating given Division I teams each week:


1. Kentucky 1. Texas

2. Syracuse 2. Marquette

3. Wake Forest 3. Duke

4. Okla. State 4. Stanford

Midwest West

1. Oklahoma 1. Arizona

2. Florida 2. Kansas

3. Notre Dame 3. Utah

4. Xavier 4. Maryland

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