Bracketology: Reader Mailbag

March 11th, 2008

Bubble time is not only a fun time, but its a testy time.. after all, everybody wants their favorite team to make the Big Dance.  Thus the amount of emails I gets grew substantially since this year's Daily Bracketology started. In honor of some of the better, and more repeated emails, here are some reader questions and responses (edited slightly to fit into an article)..


-- Question From Grant (Oregon fan):


Hey Shawn, I appreciate your brackets, but as a pac-ten fan I noticed something inconsistent Sunday.

1. First off, Arizona has no business being in over Oregon or ASU. Both teams finished ahead of Arizona, playing the EXACT same conference schedule, and both teams swept Arizona.  While Arizona has a great SOS and RPI, neither Oregon nor Arizona State have atrocious SOS. The ONLY way you can justify putting Arizona in is RPI.
2. So, if you like to only look at RPI, that's fine. However, Oregon and ASU finished the same in conference, split their h2h, and Oregon has a better RPI.

You see now how this doesn't work. Either you go with RPI or you don't.

My response:

First off, the purpose of bracketology is to project what the committee would/will do.. and not to repeat what I think is right. Personally, I think all three of the teams mentioned are overrated and shouldn't be in the field (each is boosted by being in a name conference.. while none did anything terribly impressive in non-conference play). Second of all, though your comments make perfect logical sense.. I wouldn't give the committee too much credit for being rational. You may have noticed.. they tend to make poor decisions. Missouri State had a 21 RPI a couple years back and didn't make it.. yet Zona with a 29 RPI is almost a lock to make it simply because they're in the Pac-10 and not the MVC. Part of doing a bracketology column is taking into account the committee's biases and faulty reasoning.

In terms of ASU vs Oregon, I think the committee will basically focus on the RPI's of each team's good wins. Both have two wins over Arizona and one over Stanford. But they'll like Xavier (9 RPI) better than KSU (45), and then ASU has an extra Top 50 win against a team the committee will probably like a lot (USC).  That is the slightest of differences.. and ultimately these team's resume are highly similar. If one gets in an

-- Question From Thomas (Dayton fan):

Shawn, can you tell me why you and so many other pundits have the likes of Virginian Tech, Maryland and Florida in over Dayton.


(Thomas then went into a lengthy and well reasoned statistical analysis of why Dayton is better.)

My response:


(First off, note that VT, Maryland, and Florida are no longer in the field ahead of Dayton.. as this question was from a few days ago. But Flyer fans have been the most consistent emailers, so I wanted to generally respond to the woes of the Dayton fan.)


The issue with Dayton is this.. they're in the A10 and not the Pac-10. That's really what it comes down to. As I noted in the above response.. part of doing bracketology is taking the committee's bias into account.. and historically they've favored the BCS conference. I think the upsets of this week of Gonzaga in the WCC and South Alabama in the Sun Belt will be damning to Dayton.  The committee is willing to give mid-major leagues a 2nd bid here and there.. but with the WCC possibly getting three bids, the Sun Belt possibly getting two, and the A10 getting two.. you can imagine committee members who will simply be blown away, flabbergasted if you will, by the possibility that these spots are being taken away from BCS leagues.


Even worse.. Dayton's big wins can be explained away.  The committee can reason that Louisville wasn't at full strength then.. and thus that win isn't so great. For the Pitt game, they'll say that Mike Cook had just gotten hurt, Fields missed half the game, and how it was a trap game for the Panthers..


Ultimately though, I agree with Flyer fans that Dayton should in fact make the field.



-- Question From Scott (Butler fan):

I enjoy and follow your daily Bracketology and am a big fan of the site. My question is your dropping Butler from a four seed to a six.

My response:

(Since this email, I've moved Butler up to a low 5 seed, but the point is the same.) Three little words: RPI.  There are no doubt arguments Butler should get as high as a 3 seed. For example, Butler is currently the 12th ranked team in country.. going by the AP voters then, Butler should really get the last 3 seed. Going by wins.. Butler has 28, which is 3rd overall in the country, behind only UNC and Memphis. Thus Butler should get a 1 seed.  Further, this is not Drake or Saint Mary's, ie programs with losing histories, but a storied program that has consistently been good and consistently beaten top opponents.


The RPI of 18 and SOS of 130-something will simply be too much for the positive arguments to overcome. The unfortunate thing for Butler is that they didn't actually schedule lightly.. but a lot of the big teams they scheduled won't make the tournament. Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Southern Illinois, Texas Tech, Florida State, Bradley.. those are either BCS teams or teams that many thought had a great shot to make the NCAA Tournament. Butler beat them all.. and though one of them might get in.. but it would have helped if 2 or 3 of those teams ended up being tourney-worthy. Then of course, there was the dud against Drake.. the only legitimate Top 25 team Butler faced this season. The loss at home looks bad.. and since it was so late, there wasn't enough time to make up for it.


Ultimately, I think Butler will get a low 5 seed or the top 6 seed.. and I think it will be a rare occasion where the committee is right. Despite the great record and respect from voters, I don't think the overall resume warrants a Top 16 seed.


(And if Butler happens to lose tonight, then look out..)