The first month of conference play seems to have flown by with a number of surprises, both good and bad. UVa’s comeback from down nine with a minute and half to play (ending with a banked in three-pointer at the buzzer) captures both the good and bad depending on which fan base you talk to.
Bill Parcells used to be quoted as saying “You are what your record says you are”. State fans seem to spend a lot of time arguing just the opposite, but I think that Parcells is correct with one important stipulation. In college basketball you can have a gaudy record, but still not be very good on a national level. Good teams prove that they deserve the title by beating other good teams. So let’s see what we can find beneath the standings in the ACC.
Not a lot of changes from last week. I was hoping that the SYR-ND game last night might provide some useful information on those two teams. But with ND’s best player (Demetrius Jackson) out with a pulled hamstring, I’m not sure that there was any useful information gathered from that shellacking. Both team’s best win was against Duke (suffering from Jefferson’s injury), so we’ll have to keep looking to see just how good these two teams are.
RPI Trend Graphs
If ND loses Jackson for an extended period of time, I don’t think that the Irish are going to hold their spot in the conference or RPI standings. But he may be back for the weekend game against WF in South Bend. Hamstring injuries can be tricky things with re-injury a constant concern (at least to me). After WF, ND has a tough four game stretch coming up over the next two weeks (@Miami, UNC, @Clemson, and L’ville). Obviously, we’ll know a lot more about what ND’s record says about them pretty soon.
Pitt is also heading into a stretch that will help define them…UVA at home followed by road contests against Miami and UNC.
UVa will bounce back and forth between “easy” and “hard” games for several more weeks. But considering that they’ve already lost to VT and just barely beat WF, they would be foolish to use my classification for any of their games. UVa will get a chance to write their own story over the last two weeks of the season… @Miami, UNC, @Clemson, L’ville. In other words, their position in the conference won’t be clear for a while.
At this point of the season, there are only two teams that can truly be called Bubble teams…FSU and SYR.
As I mentioned last week, I’m not exactly sure what to say about FSU. From an RPI ranking, they’re in a good position to make a push for an at-large NCAAT bid. I’m just not sure that they are good enough to pull it off. But they have two really good wins (UVA, Florida) and their worst loss is on the road at Clemson. So it’s clearly up to the coaching/team to define themselves for those of us watching (and especially to those of us that are not big Hamilton fans).
Syracuse continues their climb out of the 0-4 start to the ACC regular season. But their two best wins (Duke, ND), came with those teams not at full strength. But it is what it is and Syracuse is clearly within range of earning an at-large bid. One of the announcers last night proclaimed that 9-9 in conference would be good enough for SYR. I would add a few requirements to that….RPI in the 40’s and keeping their three Top-50 wins to go along with a 9-9 ACC record.
CLEMSON TAKE TWO
As I reviewed my write-up from last week, I don’t feel that I did a good enough job describing exactly why Clemson is in third place in the ACC with six Top-50 wins and is rated by RPI rankings as “NO CHANCE” at the NCAAT. To be more specific, I spent too much time hammering them for a weak OOC schedule and not enough time hammering them for the poor results against that weak OOC schedule.
Let’s back up and look at a comparison between GT and Clemson as they stand today:
Similar overall records, conference SOS, and RPI Ranking
Huge difference in OOC SOS and Top-50 wins. Significant difference in overall SOS and OOC losses.
Looking at Clemson’s OOC schedule and performance, they suffered five losses against one of the weakest OOC schedules IN THE COUNTRY. That’s poor work in setting up the schedule and extremely poor performance on the court. Add the two together and you get an RPI Ranking of #236 on our January 1 entry. That’s a damn big hole to try and dig yourself out of. But with a 6-2 conference record and every ACC win coming against a Top-50 team, they certainly look to be good enough to complete the climb.
If both teams continue on their current trajectory, GT’s W/L record will slowly drag them down the same path that WF is on. On the other hand, Clemson’s winning percentage will climb and their SOS will improve with almost every ACC game….with both effects improving their RPI. Time will tell whether or not they can complete the task.
State gets the quick turnaround with a game on Saturday and then flying to Florida St for a Monday night game. Then they are off until Saturday’s (Feb 6) rematch in Durham.
Clemson’s only road win came at Syracuse during Boeheim’s suspension. Saturday starts a three-game road trip against FSU, WF, and VT. It also starts a noticeable let-off in their conference SOS since their first eight games all came against RPI Top-50 teams. Seven of their last 10 conference games come against teams that currently have a losing ACC record. Luckily for Tigger fans, Clemson has enough “big” wins to get into the NCAAT. Right now, they just need more wins of any kind.