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Archive for October, 2010

Same drill as last week. The league below earn multiple bids in this projection. The current leader (or a flip of the coin in the case of the SEC) is listed in parentheses.

ACC: (Florida State), UNC, Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami
Big 12: (Texas A&M), Oklahoma State, Texas
Big East: (Marquette), Notre Dame, Georgetown, West Virginia
Big Ten: (Ohio State), Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota
Conference USA: (Central Florida) Memphis
Mountain West: (New Mexico), BYU
Pac-10: (Stanford), Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Arizona State, Cal, Washington
SEC: (Florida), South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia
West Coast: (Portland), Santa Clara, San Diego

Given the results of the weekend, it’s still difficult to see the ACC’s ninth team getting left at home. Duke all but locked up a spot with its wins. In this projection, Virginia Tech is the ninth-place team (although it’s entirely possible they pass Miami this coming weekend). And based on current data only, even at 8-8-1, an RPI of 37 with wins against Maryland and Boston College is enough to escape the bubble.

That leaves five at-large spots below. For what it’s worth, among teams listed above, I have Minnesota, Auburn, California, Georgia and Virginia Tech as the closest to the bubble, listed from most secure to least secure.

Last five in (RPI listed to left)
39 Nebraska (4-5-1 vs. top 100, 2-4-1 vs. top 50, 0-3-0 vs. top 25)
At this point, I wouldn’t say Nebraska is in much trouble — a case could be made that California and Georgia, among others, are in dicier positions. But the Cornhuskers’ overall profile is starting to look a little hollow without any kind of positive result in a top-25 game — Texas being the biggest prize on their resume. That may sound hypocritical, given the next team on this list, but everything is relative.

50 Oklahoma (5-5-2 vs. top 100, 1-4-1 vs. top 50, 0-3-0 vs. top 25)
Losing with barely five minutes to play at Texas A&M surely has the Sooners wondering what might have been, but a win at Texas is a big enough prize in its own right. Oklahoma feasted on RPI teams between 51-100 this season, which is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to the bubble, but beating the Longhorns on the road is a much needed top-50 win.

43 Michigan (3-3-3 vs. top 100, 1-2-1 vs. top 50, 0-2-0 vs. top 25)
Six points would have been perfect, four points would have been nice, but three points do the trick for now when it comes to the Wolverines. Lacking any top 50 wins on the season, they edged Minnesota on the road in the second overtime period (also losing to Wisconsin on the road in a second overtime). That gave Michigan a nice boost in the RPI ratings at a time when other bubble teams were taking a step in the wrong direction. Home against Illinois and on the road against Penn State to close the season will tell the tale, but for now, Wolverines are in.

42 Texas Tech (4-6-1 vs. top 100, 1-4-1 vs. top 50, 0-3-0 vs. top 25)
The Red Raiders are confounding. This week’s RPI drop makes them a more natural fit for the bubble, but it’s still a number that works to their advantage given the company here. The win at Oklahoma earlier in the season looks better after the Sooners went to Texas and won (it’s even technically a top-50 win at this point), but Sunday’s 5-2 loss at home against Missouri is a blow and giving up seven goals on the weekend doesn’t do much for the eye test. A lot of opportunity remains — beat Baylor this weekend and they might avoid a Big 12 quarterfinal date with either Texas A&M or Oklahoma State. For now, given events elsewhere, I’ll put them back in the field.

55 Long Beach (3-3-0 vs. top 100, 2-3-0 vs. top 50, 1-1-0 vs. top 25)
The bad news for Long Beach State is there’s little left for them to do to help themselves further, closing the season against two teams, UC Davis and Pacific, outside the RPI top 100. Losing 2-1 against UC Irvine over the weekend wasn’t a bad loss by any stretch of the imagination, but the reality is it was a missed opportunity that may come back to haunt the 49ers. Turning around for a top-100 win against Northridge on Sunday helps, but there is a lot riding on those wins against Virginia Tech at the end of August and Arizona State at the end of September.

First five out
53 Louisville (5-7-0 vs. top 100, 2-6-0 vs. top 50, 1-4-0 vs. top 25)
The first two teams on this list meet in a Big East first-round game in Storrs, Conn. on Thursday afternoon, so one gets a boost and one drops out of the mix (by rule, if it’s UConn, which would drop under .500 with a loss). For Louisville, losing at Rutgers to close the regular season was just one more part of a second-half slide that may prove too much for early success to trump.

58 Connecticut (4-6-3 vs. top 100, 2-4-1 vs. top 50, 0-3-1 vs. top 25)

45 SMU (3-6-1 vs. top 100, 1-4-0 vs. top 50, 0-3-0 vs. top 25)
The effort was there with a solid nonconference schedule, but the body of work just isn’t there with only a win against New Mexico to show for five games against likely NCAA tournament teams, topped by a pair of 3-0 losses against Central Florida and Memphis in recent weeks.

46 South Florida (2-4-3 vs. top 100, 0-3-1 vs. top 50, 0-3-1 vs. top 25)
The RPI puts them ahead of teams like Oklahoma and Long Beach, but the nonconference schedule is too weak to justify a bid for a team with only wins against Louisville and Cincinnati to show for their top-100 games.

52 Michigan State (2-4-3 vs. top 100, 0-2-2 vs. top 50, 0-2-0 vs. top 25)
The Spartans needed more than a draw against Minnesota out of a big weekend (which also included a loss at Wisconsin). But there is still room to make a move with games remaining against Illinois and Ohio State, as well as Iowa.

Closing kick: Neither Missouri nor Penn State are currently in line for the NCAA tournament because of losing records, but both remain in the hunt. Penn State, in particular, should be able to get above .500. And if the Nittany Lions had one more win right now, any win, they would be in the field with a 3-4-1 top-50 record, including a win against West Virginia and tie against Virginia. Missouri has much more work to do, but a run to the Big 12 final might make things interesting.

Next five out
Rutgers
Houston
Baylor
Loyola Marymount
Siena

Bubble bursters: Hofstra, UC Irvine and UNC-Greensboro. Outside possibilities for Dayton and Toledo. Boston University and Denver at least in the bubble discussion without other upsets.

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1. The ACC picture now looks even more muddled. Miami’s 2-0 win against Virginia Tech and Duke’s 3-0 win against Boston College are both giant wins for teams on or near-ish the bubble. It’s Miami’s fourth ACC win, just the second time they’ve reached that mark. And considering they close with Virginia, Boston College and Maryland, this was the best chance for the Hurricanes to get that fourth win. The Hokies are now the odd team out when it comes to the ACC tournament (although they have should-win games remaining against Clemson and NC State to help change that), but they have arguably the best NCAA at-large profile out of the trio in this conversation. Virginia Tech beat Boston College and Maryland and tied Wake Forest, in addition to top-100 wins against LSU and Vanderbilt.

2. I have Long Beach State in possession of the last at-large bid, but the 49ers missed a chance that may come back to haunt them in losing 1-0 against UC Irvine. Even at home, it wasn’t a game Long Beach necessarily should have won, but even a point against a top-20 RPI team would have helped the cause a great deal. Sunday’s home game against Northridge, a top-100 team, is a must-win.

3. Wins at Tennessee on Sunday and at Auburn next week, plus an upset or two in the SEC tournament, and maybe we revisit it, but Alabama’s 3-0 loss at home to Georgia probably closes the books on any at-large hopes.

4. Auburn is digging itself a hole. Losing to Tennessee after back-to-back ties last weekend against Vanderbilt and Kentucky puts the Tigers squarely on the bubble. The Florida and Florida State wins are nice, and there is some depth as well, but 2-4-2 in your last eight isn’t going to cut it. If Sunday’s game against Georgia isn’t a must-win, and perhaps that’s still a bit strong, it’s at least a must-draw.

5. On seeding matters, it wasn’t a great night for ACC teams hoping to claim a second No. 1 seed (assuming UNC is in line for one of them already). Boston College is out of that mix, and increasingly in danger of being out of the mix for any of the top 16 seeds, after the loss at Duke. Maryland is in trouble after losing at Wake Forest, with a visit to North Carolina on Sunday. And Virginia and Florida State didn’t settle much with a 0-0 draw. All that said, with games remaining against Miami, Clemson and NC State, I still think Virginia has the best chance to sneak in and challenge Notre Dame (or possibly Oklahoma State) for a No. 1 seed.

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NCAA soccer bracketology

To get this out of the way, these projections are not based on which teams I think should earn bids to the NCAA tournament. These are only projections of which teams I think would earn bids if the selection committee went about its business today, Oct. 20.

It’s my opinion, to be sure, but it’s not my opinion of any team’s subjective worth or my opinion of what will happen in the remaining weeks of the regular season and conference tournaments.

With that out of the way, here are the conferences which currently project with multiple bids. The current leader (or a flip of the coin in the case of the ACC and SEC) is listed in parentheses and doesn’t count toward the at-large pool.

ACC: (North Carolina), Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Duke
Big 12: (Oklahoma State), Texas A&M, Texas, Nebraska,
Big East: (Marquette), Notre Dame, Georgetown, West Virginia
Big Ten: (Ohio State), Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota
Conference USA: (Houston), Central Florida, Memphis
Mountain West: (New Mexico), BYU
Pac-10: (Stanford), Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Arizona State, Cal
SEC: (Florida), South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia
West Coast: (Portland), Santa Clara, San Diego

That leaves five at-large spots available. (Not all of the above are “safe” at-large teams — they just aren’t Nos. 60-64 in these projections).

Last five in (RPI listed to left)
39 Washington (1-3-1 vs. RPI top 50, 3-5-1 vs. top 100, 6-4-0 last 10)
Washington no doubt benefits from the strength of its conference, not unlike the ACC team that follows, but the Huskies have their own case. The schedule was stellar, although down years for Rutgers (loss) and Penn State (win) weaken the profile a bit. The RPI is good and there are some quality top-30 results (win against Arizona State, tie against Wisconsin on a neutral field). In short, it’s a workmanlike profile. That’s enough.

49 Miami (2-4-0 vs. RPI top 50, 3-4-1 vs. top 100, 7-3-0 in last 10)
Miami seems to be here every year, and it’s tough not to look at their final four games and wonder if they will fall out of the mix. But looking only at what we have so far, they are in position to make it. A top-30 win out of conference against West Virginia helps, and beating Duke arguably makes the Blue Devils the team that should be in this spot. A loss is a loss is a loss, but a double-overtime loss at Florida can’t hurt them, either.

42 Baylor (1-4-1 vs. RPI top 50, 4-4-2 vs. top 100, 5-4-1 last 10)
A heck of a rebuilding job by former WNT member Marci Jobson, but no bonus points for that. All of Baylor’s dropped points come against top-100 teams and only Seattle (tie) and Oklahoma (loss) were outside the top 50. The lone top-50 win at home against Nebraska isn’t much of a signature win, but the overall work against the top 100 carries the day.

44 UConn (1-2-1 vs. RPI top 50, 4-6-3 top 100, 4-4-2 last 10)
All those lost points early look a little better with the success teams like Siena and Providence have had and the Huskies are 8-4-2 since the first two weekends. No bubble team has more top-100 games to this point.

58 Long Beach St. (2-2-0 vs. RPI 50, 3-2-0 vs. top 100, 6-2-2 in last 10)
I’m not comfortable going this far against the grain when it comes to RPI — there just isn’t much evidence the committee is willing to do it. But the wins against Arizona State and Virginia Tech stand out (especially the neutral-field win against the Hokies). Saint Mary’s is the only loss outside the RPI top 100.

First five out
47 Louisville (2-5-0 vs. RPI top 50, 5-6-0 top 100, 3-7-0 last 10)
Gave up two leads against Marquette last weekend or they might even be better than No. 60, instead of down here. The recent form is going to hurt them — momentum counts. No bubble team has more than their five top-100 wins and not many, if any, have a better result than an RPI top-20 win at South Carolina. But most of it came early and last week’s sweep at the hands of Marquette and South Florida might be the backbreaker.

30 Texas Tech (0-4-1 vs. RPI top 50, 3-5-1 vs. top 100, 5-4-1 in last 10)
It would be a stunner to see a No. 30 left out, but I just don’t get how the RPI matches the profile for the Red Raiders. No top-50 wins and none of their top-100 wins — Oklahoma, Rice and Colorado — are likely to make the NCAA tournament. Even the non top-100 results include a bunch down around 200. The remaining schedule could be helpful (two attainable top-100 games against Baylor and Missouri), but for now, I don’t see it.

50 Michigan St. (0-1-0 vs. RPI top 50, 3-3-2 vs. RPI top 100)
35 SMU (1-3-0 vs. RPI top 50, 3-5-0 vs. RPI top 100)
59 Oklahoma (1-3-1 vs. RPI top 50, 4-4-2 vs. RPI top 100)

Next five out
52 Michigan
61 Rice
67 Alabama
57 South Florida
64 Providence

Of note, Michigan and Michigan State have backloaded Big Ten schedules. Both the Wolverines and Spartans will have a chance to play their way in or out in the remaining weeks — they control their own destinies as much as any teams on the bubble can. For that matter, the same could be said for Oklahoma, which closes with a brutal stretch — at Texas and Texas A&M before the home finale against Oklahoma State.

Bubble Busters: And the caveat to all of this comes with the teams that are likely to burst bubbles. Hofstra (Colonial), UC Irvine (Big West), UNC-Greensboro (Southern) and most likely Dayton (Atlantic 10) would all be at-large locks if they weren’t in position for automatic bids. Columbia (Ivy), Toledo (MAC) and Denver (Sun Belt) wouldn’t be at-large locks if they failed to win automatic bids, but they would at least add some more competition on the bubble.

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