Teams Flying Under the Radar, and more...

Teams Flying Under the Radar, and more...
Jan 12, 2007, 01:02 am
Since there are very few big time college basketball games on most Friday’s, it’s a chance for me to talk about whatever.


-Ivy league play gets underway today, which is significant because there is no conference tournament. The regular season champion will win the automatic bid. Generally it’s a neck and neck battle between Penn and Princeton with everyone else playing the role of also-rans. This year isn’t likely to be all that much different, although Columbia has played some good basketball by Ivy League standards. Columbia will host Princeton tonight in what could turn out to have a big impact on the standings.

-The other big game today is CREIGHTON AT NORTHERN IOWA. Northern Iowa appears to be in good shape, but needs to keep racking up the quality wins in order to maintain a solid profile. Creighton has played well at times, but they have not been consistent and have struggled on the road. A win on the road in conference against a team like Northern Iowa is what the Bluejays need to make a strong case for themselves. Up until now they haven’t managed many impressive wins.


Here is a look at a few teams that are having some pretty big years and playing pretty good basketball, but aren’t being talked about all that much by mainstream media. Some appear to be good enough to play their way into at-large bids. Others may look good enough, but may not get the opportunities to get the big wins they need and will have to rely on the conference tournaments to get them in. Nevertheless, they are worth keeping an eye on.

-HOFSTRA. Expectations were pretty high for them coming into this season, but they began the year 0-3 and most wrote them off as being overrated. They have lost just one game since then, and that came on the road against Syracuse. Last night they got their biggest win of the season, which came on the road against a very good Drexel team. Drexel might not have all that good of a brand name, but they are definitely an NCAA Tournament caliber team. They’ve won at Villanova and at Syracuse, and Hofstra’s win against them on the road will be noticed by the committee. The Pride have now gone 12-1 since beginning the season 0-3 and are making a very good case for themselves in the event that they don’t win the Colonial Conference Tournament.

-DREXEL. I don’t know why Drexel hasn’t gotten more attention. They get an occasional shout out every now and then, but not the kind of attention that a tournament caliber team should be getting. As mentioned above, they’ve won at Villanova and at Syracuse. More impressively, seven of their eleven div1 wins have come on the road, and with road play being such a high priority for the selection committee, that means a lot. They will also be playing on the road for the Bracket Buster, which is actually a good thing because a win helps them out more and a loss hurts them less. Since most of the better teams participating in the Bracket Buster are scheduled to play at home, it also makes it more likely that they’ll actually get to face a quality opponent.

-VCU. The Rams have won eleven of their last twelve, and although most of the wins weren’t against high caliber team, they definitely pass the style points test. They look like a team that could be dangerous. They also have the luxury of playing the Colonial Athletic Conference Tournament on their home floor, which gives them an advantage. Games against Drexel, Old Dominion, Hofstra and a Bracket Buster game are on the horizon, so they’ll have some chances to improve their resume between now and the end.

-APPALACHIAN STATE. It’s too early in the season to read too much into this, but Mountaineers are an incredible #9 in the RPI. One of the reasons for that is because they’ve played so many road games. They are 9-3 on the season, but have only had two true home games against div1 teams, and those were against Campbell and Georgia Southern, both of which they won. They also won the San Juan Shootout this season, and beat teams such as Virginia and Vanderbilt. Virginia, depending on what day you get them, is a very strong team, and Appalachian State beat them rather handily. Their RPI will likely drop as they go through conference play, but it’s very possible that they’ll get a good look from the committee if they fail to win the conference tournament so long as they can dominate conference play. They will also be playing on the road in the Bracket Buster, which means the potential of them facing a quality opponent is much better.

-DAVIDSON. Davidson is also in the Southern Conference along with Appalachian State. They are 12-3 on the season against div1 teams and have won ten consecutive games. In that stretch, they beat Ohio, who is one of the better teams from the MAC. They also have a blowout win against Charlotte and another nice win against a College of Charleston team that had won five in a row coming into that game. Their losses are hardly bad. Duke blew them out, but they nearly beat Missouri at Missouri, and gave Michigan a good game on the road as well. What’s really noteworthy about this team is how young they are. None of their regular starting five are seniors, so if they can stay healthy they could be a very dangerous team next season as well. If there are any major programs out there that are looking for a good RPI game for next season, they should give Davidson a call.

-WINTHROP. Winthrop is always good. They’ve dominated the Big South conference for the past several seasons and really given a scare into some highly seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament, but they are still under the radar for the most part. They just can’t seem to get the big statement wins that would propel them over the top. They are 8-4 on the year this season, and their four losses came against North Carolina (who they led in the second half), Wisconsin (who beat them in overtime in a game Winthrop really should have won), Maryland (who they competed with), and Texas A&M. All four are ranked teams, three are in the top ten, and two are serious #1 seed candidates. All of those games were road games as well. If they had played someone ranked in the teens or twenties, they’d probably have some statement wins by now, but they are still very dangerous. Their league is pathetic, though. Currently, there is one other team in their conference that has an RPI better than 245. The good news is that they should absolutely dominate. The conference tournament is played at campus sites, and they should get to play all the games at home. The bad news is that any loss will be very damaging and none of the wins will be all that good. Other than the Bracket Buster, which they are fortunately playing on the road, they have no shots at any decent wins. They competed against some top ten teams, but coming close isn’t good enough as far as the committee is concerned. They will likely need the automatic bid to get them in. However, once they are in, look out!!

-FRESNO STATE. The Bulldogs are at Hawaii tonight, and that tips off at midnight in the east, so I hope I don’t jinx them by putting them on this list. They are 13-2, and although they have played some very weak teams, they’ve played a few decent ones as well and won pretty convincingly. They beat Creighton 69-54 and nearly beat Stanford, but ended up losing by two. Their RPI is in the 90s, but that is due to the fact that three of their opponents were Winston Salem State, Arkansas Pine Bluff and Montana State. Those three teams have a combined total of three wins among them, and that is really dragging down their RPI. Had they played three teams who were just below .500, they would most likely won easily, and it would have made a world of difference as far as their RPI and SOS go. Arkansas Pine Bluff and Montana State should rack up a few wins once they get into conference play, so that should help out some. Fresno is hosting a bracket buster game, and will face Nevada in conference play, so there are some opportunities to make a statement to the committee that they belong. However, there aren’t many, so they need to take care of business against the non-tournament caliber teams if they want a shot. With Nevada in their conference, winning the WAC Tournament may be a tall order.

-NEW MEXICO STATE. The Aggies got off to a sluggish 1-3 start. One of the losses was at Arizona, so that’s not so bad, and another was against LMU, a team they absolutely dominated for the first part of the game, but then just fell apart. Their third loss came on the road against New Mexico 79-76, so even in their defeats they played pretty well. Since then, they’ve won 11 straight. They struggled last night against a rather weak Idaho team and had to come from behind in the second half to get the win, but they finally got it done 61-56. They did blow out New Mexico and avenge their previous loss, but the rest of the winning streak has come against sub-par competition. For the most part, though, they’ve been winning impressively. They are very talented, but like a lot of teams on this list they have very limited chances to make any statements. They will face Nevada and Fresno State in conference play, and will host a bracket buster game. Other than that, they aren’t facing anyone who is a tournament caliber team, so they pretty much need to win them all.

-LONG BEACH. This team has won nine straight. None came against top caliber teams, but they’ve been winning by impressive margins. One of their wins was a 101-65 blowout against UC Santa Barbara, who is 10-4 on the year themselves with a win at UNLV and another blowout win against Fresno State. Three of their four losses came against USC, UCLA and Air Force, all top 25 caliber teams. They nearly beat Air Force in the season opener, which would have matched them against Stanford in the CBE Classic, but fell by just one point. They are 2-0 in the Big West, but they blew out what appears to be one of the better conference teams in UCSB. If they win out they might get some consideration, but none of their opponents have good RPIs. However, a regular season championship means they bye into the semifinals of the conference tournament. If they make the NCAAs they could put a scare into someone.

Will the committee look at these teams if they fail to win their conference tournaments?? I can’t say for sure, but I’m inclined to believe that they will. That doesn’t mean they’ll take them, but the fact that they took Air Force and Utah State last year shows that they’re looking at virtually everyone. Neither of those teams had all that much when it came to their at-large credentials, yet they were both selected. Many teams on this list will likely end up with a resume as good as or slightly better than last year’s Air Force and Utah State teams. Hell, a few on this list like Drexel, Hofstra and Appalachian State have done that already. If these teams give the committee a reason to think they are good, we may see one or two of their names called on Selection Sunday. Undoubtedly this will both surprise and enrage Billy Packer, but if Billy Packer wasn’t both surprised and enraged, I guess it just wouldn’t be Selection Sunday.


-Iona was 23-7 last year and won the Metro Atlantic Tournament to advance to the NCAAs. This year they are 0-14. It’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, but there doesn’t appear to be all that much building going on here.

-VMI is averaging 101 points per game and has scored more than 100 points eight times this year. Their opponents are only averaging 97 points per game. Somehow this adds up to a 3-11 record against div1 teams. Obviously, they love to push the pace. I can’t wait to see what happens when they face either Drexel or Hofstra in conference play. Both teams have very good guards and given how VMI’s defense is virtually non-existent, the final score might be 166-102 or something along those lines.

-Washington just fell to Stanford 78-77. They are now 1-4 in league play and haven’t done much that would impress the committee.

-Last night during the Xavier vs Fordham game, the announcers referred to one of the referees as an “up-and-coming official.” I have never heard that one before. I don’t even know what it means. Is he on the verge of creating some sort of officiating dynasty?? The guy they were referring to looked like he was at least fifty years old. He looked more like he’d be retiring soon rather than beginning a long, successful career as an Atlantic Ten referee.

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