Tuesday, February 21, 2012
While we watch this season circle the drain, it's early promise gone the way of an ESPN.com headline writer with a thing for bad Asian jokes, we're left with hoping for #2bids4CAA and reviewing the bidding for at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. I'm sure we'll get into this in more detail later (read: we'll almost certainly beat this dead horse like a rented mule in the next few weeks), but here's a spoiler: I think the CAA gets at least one at-large bid. I know the numbers don't really favor that proposition, and I'm well aware of the conference's inept work in November and December. I realize that the CAA's only real quality out of conference wins are Iona and Cleveland State (twice), and that 11th-place Hofstra pulled off two of those. But I've never before seen the luminaries of the collegiate hoops universe sing the CAA's praises to the degree Jay Bilas, Andy Katz, Dick Vitale, and Seth Davis have over the past week. I can't quantify it, for sure, but I really believe it means something.
In related news, noted major conference mainstay Jim Larranaga caused much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments yesterday when he snubbed his former mid-major colleagues in arms. Said the Miami head coach, "If you look at [George Mason's] non-conference strength of schedule, it's in the 300s. That's not the resume that the committee has looked for over the years. You look for people that have really challenged themselves in the non-conference, and not just in the non-conference, but done pretty well. If your strength of schedule is 200 or below, in the non-conference, as a committee you look at that and say, 'Well, what have they proven?"
To be fair, Larranaga was responding to a question directly referring to his former employer and didn't just choose the moment to jump ugly on the Patriots. But it's all just a little unseemly, no? FoG:TB Jerry Beach is a longtime rabid anti-Larranagite, and his opinion on the subject is a must-read. For our money, Larranaga's analysis requires a bit more context. Sure, his Miami squad has played a tougher schedule this season, but how have they performed? The U is a dismal 1-6 against RPI Top 50 squads, 3-9 against Top 100 opponents. In comparison, CAA co-leader Drexel (23-5, 14-2 CAA, 15-game winning streak) is 0-2 against the Top 50, but 4-2 against the Top 100. VCU (23-6, 13-3) is 1-2 against the Top 50 and 2-3 against the Top 100. The maligned Mason (23-6, 14-2) is 1-2 versus the Top 50, 3-4 against the Top 100.
The difference is opportunity. Miami of the ACC gets a ton of chances to play other big guys, but they sure as heck haven't made much of it. The CAA's littles get a limited number of runs at the power programs, and while Drexel and Mason sure would like another bite at the UVA apple, especially the way both are playing right now, the three CAA teams listed above still have better winning percentages against top 100 RPI programs than does Miami. Hell, even the aforementioned Hofstra Pride, 11th in the CAA, are 3-8 against RPI top 100 programs.
Bet man of the people Larranaga didn't get into that in his presser.