An attempt to find some rationale amidst the steaming heap of dung that is this year’s Field of 65 (and how Syracuse ended up in the NIT). All computer numbers from WarrenNolan.com.
- Conference RPI. This was probably the single biggest nail in SU’s proverbial coffin. The Big East was generally ranked as the 5th or 6th best conference this year, with no real juggernaut teams. I can see the committee (even though they claim to not put limits on the number of teams from one conference) deciding not to take a 7th Big East team, when “better” conferences only had 5 (SEC) or 6 (the Big and Pac 10’s). Of course, this kind of reasoning ignores the fact that the Big East’s top 10 teams stack up favorably (as a group) with the top 10 from any other conference. But it’s the sort of thing we all feared when the expansion took shape.
- Daylight Saving Time. With one less hour of sleep last night, the selection committee was probably extra cranky this morning and looking for someone to pick on. Considering that Boeheim lobbied publicly last year for the tournament field to be significantly expanded, they clearly decided to teach him a lesson about opening his mouth. Now if he brings this issue up again, he’s lost some credibility and they can dismiss it as sour grapes.
- No Nonconference Help. Losses to Wichita St and Oklahoma St were deemed “acceptable” when those teams were in the top 10. They turned out to both miss the tournament by a wide margin, and those losses became large blotches on SU’s resume rather than forgivable blemishes. Especially Wichita State, which was a loss at the Dome; WSU fell to 98 in the RPI by the end of the season. Similarly, Hofstra did not contend as well as they were expected to. (Holy Cross stepped up though.) Who would have thought that Drexel would be the “best” of the three December losses when all was said and done?
- The Curse of Daryl Gross. The back-to-back first-round NCAA losses to lower-seeded teams, that’s one thing. The lacrosse team’s streak of Final Fours getting snapped, that’s another. And in football… well, you know. Not to mention longtime Dome PA announcer Carl Eilenberg retiring and being replaced the guy whose previous job was introducing the fan who was trying to make the shot from the recliner. And now this. SU being left out of the tournament altogether is just the latest chapter in what is now officially a disturbing trend. We’re all waiting for some results here, DG.
- No Conference Help. Not only did the lack of a consensus top-five team hurt the Big East’s image conferencewise, it also hurt the computer rankings of the individual teams. Compare SU’s resume to that of Purdue (a 9 seed). Purdue’s only wins vs. the RPI top 50 were all at home: vs. Indiana, Mich St, and Illinois. MSU is the highest-ranked team in that list, with an RPI of 24; the others are in the 30s. SU also had 3 wins vs. the top 50, and one was on the road: Nova, Gtown, at Marquette. Marquette is the lowest-ranked team on that list (22); the others are 19 and 9. When you look at the other side of the coin, Purdue lost two games to teams with triple-digit RPIs: at Indiana State (139) and at Minnesota (189). SU had two such losses also: at St Johns (131) and at UConn (102). Finally, both teams were 3 games over .500 against the “middle of the pack” RPI teams (PU 6-3, SU 5-2). Looking at those numbers, you would expect SU to have a higher RPI than Purdue, having beaten better teams and lost to less-worse teams. Yet Purdue’s RPI was 7 spots better than SU’s because they lost to Ohio St 3 times and once to Wisconsin. Hey, we could have lost to Ohio State 3 times too! Would that have got us in the tournament?
- Don’t even get me started on Stanford. (18-12; RPI: 65; 11 seed)
- It’s Our Fault Too. We all made the mortal sports-fan’s sin of assuming something good was going to happen with our team, and crowing about it. This kind of behavior regularly leads to crushing retribution by the Sports Gods. I myself was quite guilty of this in several recent posts. (In my defense, I was led astray by approximately 100% of the media pundits.) So I guess we were asking for it. And furthermore, the fact remains that since this blog was started, SU has not been to the NCAA Tournament.
Now, let fly the slimmest of potential silver linings: the last time SU was in the NIT (2001-02), they lost several experienced players at the end of that season; the following season they returned a few solid players (including an improving young power forward) and added a top-10 recruit, a 6′8″ freshman forward from Baltimore, plus an undersized-yet-scrappy point guard…
…it’s about all I have to hold on to at this point.