Written By Billy Attridge
With March Madness weeks away there is no better method to acknowledge it’s arrival than analyzing “Bracketology”; specifically looking at ESPN’s projected bracket as March 15th nears. Up until the official Selection Sunday reveal, we will point out teams currently seeded incorrectly. Each Wednesday we will unveil one team projected to be in, that we believe is undeserving, as well as one team that’s on the outside looking in that should have its ticket stamped to the dance. We also focus on a few of the more meaningful games ahead that could greatly impact these projections. So let’s jump right in.
Seeded too Low: (7) Texas Tech Red Raiders
We know, the Red Raiders threw up all over themselves less than 24-hours ago against Oklahoma, but you can’t overreact to one 40 minute sample. In College basketball we talk about the 20-5-5 rule; throughout the course of a season teams will play roughly 20 games to their correct power rating, 5 above, and 5 below. ESPN had Texas Tech as a 7th seed in the South Region prior to the Oklahoma loss, we on the other hand have Texas Tech power rated as the 14th best team in the country after the loss. It appears Chris Beard and the boys will just have to prove everyone wrong again this year before they earn the proper respect. TTU’s losses earlier in the year were to Iowa and Creighton on a neutral court, and a then undefeated DePaul team on the road (two of those games went to overtime). Four of the Red Raiders other six losses are to Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky. With an extremely young team this year, Beard has shown an ability to get his guys playing increasingly better defense as the season progresses. Tech is currently 6th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and they love to get in your face and and force mistakes (15th in turnover percentage). The lone difference defensively this season that could ultimately be Texas Tech’s undoing, is the lack of size down low and a true shot eraser at the rim to clean up penetration. Everyone remembers Jarrett Culver from last seasons Final Four run, but 6’10 Tariq Owens might have been the teams MVP. He was 11th in blocked shot percentage, and if you look year-over-year, opposing teams are seeing their percentage of shots blocked at the rim decrease 5.7% in Owens absence. That said, Texas Tech will have ample opportunity to raise its profile and seeding with battles against Baylor and Kansas to end the season. Every “big” game for the trio of highly-touted freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey, Kevin McCullar, and Terrance Shannon could pay dividends come tourney time.
Seeded too High: (4) Oregon Ducks
You will be hard pressed to find bigger Dana Altman and Payton Pritchard fans than us at Bet the Board, but the sad reality is there isn’t much after that, which is really baffling. On paper, Oregon has the talent to compete with anyone in the country, but something just seems to be missing. Perhaps it’s the loss of N’Faly Dante, the 6’11 5-Star freshman who should return this week against Oregon State. When you look at Oregon’s largest deficiencies, you would expect Dante to help immediately. The Ducks are 307th in the country in defensive rebound percentage. They’re merely average defending the 3-point line; maybe with reinforcements on the back-line and a formidable rim-protector, guards feel more comfortable running shooters off the line now. But most importantly, you would hope another healthy body encourages Altman and the Ducks to play a touch faster. If you’re going to recruit 5-star athletes, more possessions is a positive. Oregon is 311th in the country in adjusted tempo, something John McClendon would be proud of. The facts are this though, Oregon has played 6 overtime games and are 5-1 in those contests, mostly due to Pritchard’s heroics. Altman is known for confusing opponents with a variety of defenses, and I think they’ll need all the confusion they can get come tourney time. Oregon is a team loaded with talent that could make a run if they get their act together, but our power rating wouldn’t have them higher than a 6-seed. Let’s see if N’Faly Dante is what the Ducks have been missing.
Currently in, but really?: USC Trojans
There has been a ton of rhetoric over the last couple weeks about the Pac-12 being up this year from last, as if that validates USC currently being in the field. First off, the Pac-12 better be up from last year, as it graded out the 7th best conference in college basketball barely edging out the WCC. Sure, the Trojans have a nice 19-9 record, but they’re still in search of that signature win. Their best victories are at home against Stanford in overtime, and a 2-point win versus LSU in a semi-home venue. They still don’t have a Top 30 win this season. Meanwhile, the bad losses are really bad. Losing at home to Temple by 9, getting blown off the court by 32 to Washington, 22 at Marquette, and 21 at home to Colorado. With USC dropping back-to-back road tilts in rematches at Colorado and Utah, Thursday night against Arizona becomes vital as they try to pick up their first Top 25 win of the season. Currently, USC is 64th in our power ratings, and I’ve yet to find a professional bettor that has the Trojans rated higher than other bubble teams like Wichita State, Indiana, Alabama, Providence, Richmond, or Mississippi State.
Outside looking in, but Deserving: Stanford Cardinal
It’s tough envisioning two teams from the same conference, in which one is power rated 30 spots higher than another, and is somehow the team not being invited to the dance. That’s the case with Stanford and USC. The Cardinal boast the 7th most efficient defense in college basketball, and they shoot the piss out of it from deep. Stanford is the definition of “3 and D”. It must also be stated, that Stanford’s 4-game losing streak from February 6th through the 15th was without their best player Oscar Da Silva for the second half against Colorado (they were up 11 at the break), the Arizona State game, and he was extremely limited against Arizona. Stanford is #1 in the Pac-12 in Efficient FG %, #2 in 3-point FG%, and #1 defending the 3-Ball. The Cardinal have their signature Top 25 win already, and have 4 total wins against our Top 50. More importantly, the only double-digit loss this season is against #1 Kansas. The 8 other loses are by an average of 5.1 points, with two of them coming in overtime. This shouldn’t even be a debate, Stanford deserves to be in over USC, and right now FoxBet.com would make the Cardinal 3-point favorites over USC on a neutral court.
Pivotal games to watch this week:
Tonight: Maryland @ Minnesota – If the Gophers want any chance of inclusion tonight is a “must win”.
Thursday: Arizona @ USC – Hey Trojans, you want a signature win? Make it happen!
Saturday: Oklahoma @ West Virginia – The Sooners notched a big win against Texas Tech, but upsetting the Mountaineers on the road would surely keep them on the right side of the bubble. This won’t be easy with West Virginia attempting to stop the bleeding.