NCAA tournament 2011: Alabama, USC or VCU?
There is no question it is a challenge to select the final two at-large teams. I wouldn't say the profiles of these teams are necessarily horrible. But they mostly come in two forms. You have the Southern Californias and Alabamas, teams that compensated for bad non-league performances (or schedules, or both) with relatively strong efforts during conference season. Or you have the capable mid-major team with a handful of quality wins. I am not posting my final bracket until after 4 p.m.. But a few thoughts:
I do not understand the love affair with St. Mary's. This is a team that is 1-4 against top 50 teams, the only win being against St. John's very early in the year (before St. John's was St. John's). The Gaels have just three top 100 wins! Plus, they have the unsightly loss to San Diego.
The more I look at Georgia, the more I am comfortable that they are OUT. A 3-9 record against top 50 teams is telling. How about 5-11 vs. top 100 teams? Bad. Plus, they lost to Alabama twice. So can you really take Georgia OVER Alabama?
Boston College, well, I'm not taking the Eagles. Let's leave it at that. They are 1-5 against top 50 teams. So they beat Texas A&M, okay. They also lost to two Ivy teams. Done.
USC and Alabama. Yup, these two teams are causing me plenty of headaches. I can almost hear Gene Smith, the selection committee chair, saying later tonight, "This team struggled during non-league play but more than made up for it during conference play, which is what we want to see." USC has 5 top 50 wins. They have beaten Texas and Arizona. Good stuff. But they have three god-awful non-league loss. They are 4-3 against teams WORSE than 200 in the RPI. Ouch. Not sure what to do with them. I had Alabama in for some of the day yesterday before they went belly up against Kentucky. Alabama performed well enough in SEC play. But they have a LOSING record against top 200 teams, which is almost always a sure way to avoid playing in the NCAAs. But we have an expanded field this season. How about that non-league schedule that ranks 285th? You've got to TRY to play someone! Not sure about these two teams. Can I really take a 'Bama team that is 80th in the RPI? Never thought I'd see the day when I would consider taking the 80th-ranked RPI team.
And then there is good ole Conference USA. UAB and UTEP. First, I believe UAB has the stronger resume of the two. UTEP's resume is bland and it did not win the regular season title. The conference tourney was in El Paso and they could not win it. Not picking UTEP. UAB is a team that I am worried about. A lot. Not an overly impressive resume. But it's not awful in any category. They have an RPI of 31. But the only top 50 win was against VCU, barely a top 50 team. But can I put VCU in over UAB??
So I'm worried about UAB, Alabama and USC. I'm probably going to pick one of those three to join VCU. Unless I change my mind. I am rooting hard for Dayton to steal a berth today so VCU can be my last team in and I'll be done with it!
Now, off to the pool area to make some calls before things get crazy ....
| March 13, 2011; 12:34 PM ET
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