Lightning in a Bottle

In an interview today, Lee Fowler gave the following quote:

Anything can happen after you get in [the NCAA tournament]. If you get lightning in a bottle you can go a long way in this tournament and have a chance to win it so we are very excited to have the opportunity

While this is probably just more mindless chatter from someone who likes to hear himself talk, there are State fans that feel the exact same way. In the real world, this type of logic drives millions to buy lottery tickets every day….and millions more flock to Las Vegas every year. However, most of these people will at least admit that the chances of winning it big are a “long shot”. Evidently many State fans….along with State’s athletic director…refuse to acknowledge the odds of just any team catching “lightning in a bottle”.

Here is a breakdown of the RPI rankings of the teams that have reached various performance levels in the NCAA tournament from 1994 through 2005:

Just to clarifiy, this table says that over the 12 year period from 1994 thru 2005:

– 72% of the Sweet 16 teams entered the tournament ranked in the RPI Top-25,
– 94% of the Final Four teams entered the tournament ranked in the RPI Top-25,
– 67% of the teams in the Championship game entered the tournament ranked in the RPI Top-10, etc.

Just in case anyone misses the importance of this table, this is the third time in the last five years that State will enter the NCAA tournament ranked in the 51+ category.

For various reasons, many people tend to roll their eyes and lose consciousness whenever the letters “R”,”P”, and “I” are used in series. Just for those people, here is the same sort of tabulation done with final AP poll over the last eight years, from 1998 thru 2005.

As far as I can tell, State has only entered the NCAA tournament ranked in the AP Top-25 once in the last five years…and it’s certainly not this year.

I’ve went through this exercise in less detail once before…but the conclusion is still the same. Good teams, and more frequently great teams, are the ones that catch fire and accomplish something significant in the NCAA tournament…not teams that slide in from the bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love for State to catch fire and do some real damage in the tournament…it’s just not very likely. I think that it is very telling that in five years of “continuing improvement”, State is still just doing the minimum necessary to get into the tournament…and is not expected to stay very long.

Supporting Data

The following tables served as the basis for the percentages listed above. While there is always some chance that I have made a mistake in compiling this data, the main point is indisputable…Cinderalla doesn’t stay at the ball very long after she makes her grand entrance.

RPI and the Final Four
RPI and the Elite Eight
RPI and the Sweet 16

AP and the Final Four
AP and the Elite Eight
AP and the Sweet 16

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

General NCS Basketball Stat of the Day

9 Responses to Lightning in a Bottle

  1. VaWolf82 03/13/2006 at 6:55 PM #

    For those filling out brackets over the next several days, here is something that I noticed from the summary tables presented above:

    The AP Top-10 is better than the RPI Top-10 for predicting tournament success….while the RPI Top-25 is better than the AP Top-25.

    I’m not sure exactly why, but my thinking goes along these lines: Polls will drop a team out of the Top-10 quicker than a ranking system that averages the entire year. On the other hand, the polls will keep a team in the top-25 a little longer than they deserve….witness NC State still being ranked in both polls after losing three games in a row and 4 of the last 6.

  2. BJD95 03/13/2006 at 7:22 PM #

    ^ Boo. I’m still filling my bracket chock-full of teams from “The Valley.” I seriously have no feel for predicting this tourney at all. Except that I like Michigan State to beat UNC. What a horrible draw for the Tarheels. Breaks my f’ing heart.

  3. Jeff 03/13/2006 at 7:27 PM #

    This is just awesome stuff!!!

    Uneducated basketball observers often refer to 1983 as “Lightening in a Bottle” for NC State. They fail to account for the amazing uniqueness of our regular season schedule that season (and of Whittenburg’s injury).

    It isn’t lightening in a bottle when you have 3 seniors who went on to play pro ball and who were easily a Top 20 team who had prepared for the tournament by playing the toughest schedule perhaps in the history of college basketball.

    More on this here.

  4. NCSU'79 03/13/2006 at 7:49 PM #

    I think Fowler has been struck by lightning and had his brain fried

  5. Cardiac95 03/13/2006 at 8:24 PM #

    I used to track this stuff more regularly, so unless its happened since 2003…

    No 7, 9, or 10 seed has ever made the Final 4.

    From 1985 to 2003…

    8’s made the Final 4 three times (76 teams).

    One 11 seed made the Final 4.

    One 12 seed advanced to the Elite 8.

    13’s & 14’s have never advanced past the Sweet 16.

  6. PACDADDY 03/13/2006 at 10:12 PM #

    VA…so you’re saying we got a chance for SWEET 16? 😉 That is great info…thanks!

  7. VaWolf82 03/13/2006 at 11:03 PM #

    You know something PD? I really hate that movie.

    Did you buy a lottery ticket? If State doesn’t hit on their long shot, maybe you could still get lucky. 😉

  8. class of '74 03/14/2006 at 7:48 AM #

    Yeah we’ve got a chance at the S16 just like Herb has a chance at being the new coach at Indiana or Kentucky next season.

  9. jwrenn 03/14/2006 at 9:53 AM #

    Wow. Statistically it’s almost impossible to make it anywhere in the tourney UNLESS we’re in the top 25 RPI. YIPES. This REALLY makes me nervous about ever getting anywhere since our RPI consistently stays around 40-60 it seems (end of season).

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