There are two things that I am hoping for in the next couple weeks. The first is Villanova getting a number 1 seed. A friend and I made a bet about Nova’s seed, hence my interest. The second thing I want to see happen is for Stephen F. Austin to lose in their conference tournament but still get an at-large bid. The problem is, they likely won’t get in.
The Lumberjacks (awesome nickname, imo) are 25-2. They haven’t lost since November 23, which was an 8 point loss at East Tennessee St. Their only other loss was at Texas on November 15. They lost by 10. They have four game left in their regular season, which would put them at 29-2 heading into the conference tournament. They are going to have a bye to the semi-finals. Let’s assume they win their semi-final game and then lose to Sam Houston St. in the final. They would sit at 30-3 and likely be heading to the NIT. I believe this is a travesty.
The first thing to discuss is their schedule. It’s shitty. Of the teams ranked in the top 100 in EPW, SFA’s schedule is dead last. In fact, out of all 351 teams I have rated, their schedule is the 5th easiest. Only Alabama St., Incarnate Word, Radford and Hampton have had an easier slate. So I get it. Besides Texas, they haven’t played anyone of value. All of their wins are in Tier 4. But should that matter?
When I run my baseline teams through SFA’s schedule, the Lumberjacks have a positive result. They have won MORE games than either Clemson, Nebraska, Baylor, Providence, Colorado or Harvard would have been expected to win against that schedule. They have done everything expected of them and then some. Is the NCAA tournament really better off taking a team like St. John’s, who now sit at 18-11. I say no.
I wonder where the line gets drawn. If they had only two losses (Texas and the conference tournament final), I believe they’d get an at-large. For some reason, that one extra loss has removed them from the conversation entirely. I see so many people on Twitter talking about “X” team’s SOS. Usually “X” is Wichita St. They mentally bring them down a peg because of it. The problem with those people is that they have no baseline. They immediately think weak schedule = bad, without ever trying to determine how much that schedule affects them. You can play a weak schedule and still exceed expectations against that schedule. Would SFA (or Wichita St.) really look better because they scheduled a game at Syracuse in December and lost? Absolutely not. Winning is what matters. Stephen F. Austin has done a tremendous job of it so far. I’d hate to see them not be rewarded for it because of bad reasoning.
Here’s the embedded spreadsheet with ratings through yesterday, along with the direct link to the document. The two columns to the far right are the ranking from February 19th and the difference between that ranking and today’s ranking, for those looking to see the movement in the last week.