WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 1/23/06

Mike Adam takes a look at the power conferences in the world of NCAA Hoops.

I thought about changing the name here, but "Bubble Report" is still relevant to what I'm doing, so it sticks. Unless, of course, I get a sponsor, in which case it will become the [Your Product Here] Bubble Report.

There's no denying it's not an easy time to be a DePaul fan. We all want to support a winner, and DePaul hasn't been a winner for over two weeks. When losses start to pile up, so does frustration. Immediately, we have to blame someone. "Whose fault is it that I'm not happy with the product I'm watching on the court?" Don't worry – I'm working on a way to figure out how this is all Isiah Thomas' fault, because I'm sure it is.

Anyway, my default reaction to everything (especially negative circumstances) is to go bury myself in numbers for some context. So today's numbers were to see how the other coaches in the league fared in their first year at the helms of their respective programs to see if what Coach Wainwright is experiencing is typical or atypical.

I've sorted the coaches by alphabetical order. I didn't feel putting them in some sort of ranking order would be fair, because they all walked into different situations. And yes, I know Andy Kennedy is the coach at Cincinnati, but I don't feel he is a fair data point because he wasn't really selected, per se. He more had the job thrust upon him.

John Beilein ('02-'03): 14-15 (.483)

Jim Boeheim ('76-'77): 26-4 (.867)

Mike Brey ('00-'01): 20-10 (.667)

Jim Calhoun ('86-'87): 9-19 (.321)

Tom Crean ('99-'00): 15-14 (.517)

Jamie Dixon ('03-'04): 31-5 (.861)

Bob Huggins ('89-'90): 20-14 (.588 )

Robert McCullum ('03-'04): 7-20 (.259)

Louis Orr ('01-'02): 12-18 (.400)

Rick Pitino ('01-'02): 19-13 (.594)

Norm Roberts ('04-'05): 9-18 (.333)

John Thompson III ('04-'05): 19-13 (.593)

Gary Waters ('01-'02): 18-13 (.581)

Tim Welsh ('98-'99): 16-14 (.533)

Jay Wright ('01-'02): 19-13 (.594)

A few jump out at me:

- John Beilein wasn't even West Virginia's first choice. They courted Huggy Bear, and then Dan Dakich took the job for about a week and went back to Bowling Green. Beilein actually had two and a half mediocre seasons before the Pittsnogles broke out. Remember last year? As late as February 1, West Virginia was 12-7 overall and 2-6 in the BIG EAST. Then, for whatever reason, the light switch flipped on, and it didn't turn off until the Elite Eight last year. Now look at them. I honestly consider them a serious national championship contender after wins at Oklahoma, Villanova and UCLA.

- We can't help but compare DePaul to the Golden Gold, and as you can see, Mr. Crean didn't exactly set the world on fire on his first year at the helm (in a much easier conference, I might add). 2000-2001 yielded the exact same record, 15-14. It wasn't until year three that Marquette jumped up to 26-5.

- St. John's was a national laughingstock last year after a strip club scandal left them with about one scholarship player last year. Less than twelve months later, they're the toast of the town after consecutive wins over nationally-ranked teams.

Granted, not everyone is a success story. Mike Brey, Louis Orr and Gary Waters seem to have been running in place for years, having more mediocre than good seasons.

Everyone can draw their own conclusions from the numbers. I made my observations, and I'll leave it at that. I just think it's a prudent approach to let a plan play itself out over a reasonable time frame, rather than making instant judgments after every new data point. And no, I don't consider one half of one season a reasonable time frame. Otherwise, after Jim Calhoun's first season, where would he be right now…?

All right, let's see how this new format works. I reserve the right to go back to the "old" format if DePaul can climb back to three games over .500 at any point the rest of the way. Here's what we're going to do: we'll start with each of the BCS conferences and give status updates. Then we'll move to other bubble contenders outside the BCS conferences. Unless a former DePaul opponent is independently in the bubble hunt, they won't show up here, so about half the teams whom you're accustomed to seeing will vanish. Given the overall broader look as past results, I'm going to scrap the "Games to Watch" section.

Even if I didn't want to write this because DePaul's been struggling, all hell broke loose on Saturday, and I felt compelled to write about the broader picture.

One football-related note: the officials got beat up pretty badly after the divisional games for botching more than one call. Did you notice who was doing the NFC Championship game? That's right, Ed Hochuli. I know exactly what happened. Paul Tagliabue sat down, watched the tapes of the officiating last week, and then pounded his fist on his desk and said, "Someone get me Hochuli!" Did you notice that after the controversial pick up of the flag on the Steve Smith punt return, Mike Holmgren exploded, but he didn't call Hochuli over to yell at him? Hochuli would have dropped him with one punch and beaten him to a bloody pulp for questioning a call.

RPI ranks today are from kenpom.com. For those interested, DePaul's is at 57 as of this morning.

BIG EAST Scores

Georgetown 87, Duke 84. Rarely does someone make me have strong negative feelings towards him. Rarer still is when I feel the need to verbalize those feelings. But Billy Packer makes me sick. This game had just ended, and Georgetown (12-4, 3-0, RPI: 36) has just scored its biggest win in what, a decade? What's the first thing out of Billy Packer's mouth as the arena turns into chaos? He mentions that Coach K went over to comfort Greg Paulus after Paulus turned the ball over on the last foray up the court in an attempt to tie. Give me a break. I know some of you don't like Dick Vitale for his constant "rah rah" of the ACC, but at least he's not smug and arrogant like Packer, who was probably more stunned than anyone that almighty Duke lost. Good for you, Georgetown.

Marquette 67, Notre Dame 65. All arrows are definitely pointing in the "up" direction for the Golden Gold (13-5, 4-2, RPI: 29). Meanwhile, all arrows are pointing to the "unemployment" line for Mike Brey if Notre Dame (10-6, 1-4, RPI: 88 ) keeps on track for another NIT bid. Notre Dame's been close in every loss, but doesn't that basically sum up the Brey era?

West Virginia 60, UCLA 56. Boy, are the Pittsnogles (13-3, 5-0, RPI: 28 ) rolling, or what? And how good is Mike Gansey? He was a castoff from the St. Bonaventure squad a couple years back that allowed welding certificates to be used to meet entrance requirements. All he did on Saturday was score 24 points on 7-for-8 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. Between Georgetown and West Virginia, it was quite the out-of-conference day for the BIG EAST.

St. John's 55, Pitt 50. And the Wannstedts (15-1, 4-1, RPI: 10) wave goodbye to the ranks of the undefeated against one of the more unlikely opponents to do it to them. St. John's (10-6, 3-2, RPI: 107) is trying to climb back into bubble relevance with wins this week over Louisville and Pitt, but they may look back at a home loss to Marist and blowing a 20-point lead at Seton Hall as killers come Selection Sunday.

Villanova 80, Syracuse 65. Hmm. This makes two straight games where the Orange (15-4, 3-2, RPI: 21) got demolished in the first half, down by 20 or more in each. Something to worry about? We'll see when they take on the Wanndstedts tonight.

Connecticut 81, Louisville 68. So where do the Cardinals (13-5, 1-4, RPI: 82) go from here? Their remaining schedule includes two games with Cincinnati and away games at Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia and Connecticut. How in the world are they going to finish .500 in conference? And if they finish, say, 7-9, would a 20-11 overall record be good enough for NCAA inclusion? Not if the RPI rank stays where it is.

Cincinnati 71, Rutgers 66. A sigh of relief is heard all over Cincinnati, as the Bearcats (13-5, 3-2, RPI: 15) snap their three-game losing streak. Rutgers (11-6, 2-3, RPI: 68 ) hung in all the way to the end but couldn't get over the hump.

Seton Hall 94, South Florida 89 (OT). Well, it was high-scoring and went into overtime, so it must have been a relatively entertaining game. Seton Hall (10-6, 2-3, RPI: 86) stays in a position to qualify for the BIG EAST Tournament. South Florida gets to tick another day off the calendar until football season starts.

ACC Scores of Bubble Relevance

North Carolina State 92, Wake Forest 82. Wake (12-6, 1-4, RPI: 62) seems symbolic of the ACC this year. Sure, the conference has the same glitzy names it always does, but how much substance is there behind the names on the front of the jerseys? The Demon Deacons have six winnable games in a row coming up. How many of them they win will go a long way in determining their postseason fate.

North Carolina 81, Florida State 80. North Carolina (11-4, 3-2, RPI: 33) isn't out of the woods yet, but this was a nice road win for them to pick up. On the other side, it appears FSU (11-4, 2-3, RPI: 99) is on track to be a day late and a dollar short for the…well, for the entire Leonard Hamilton era.

Clemson 73, Georgia Tech 63. Even though it's a down year for the Ramblin' Wreck (9-7, 2-3, RPI: 115), any ACC road win is big for bubble contenders. Clemson (13-5, 3-3, RPI: 52) still hasn't gone away, and after Duke, who else in the conference really intimidates? The Tigers in the NCAAs isn't really a far-fetched thought at this point.

Boston College 65, Miami (FL) 61. And it's games like these that prevent the "Miami to the NCAAs" bandwagon from filling up. The ‘Canes (11-7, 3-2, RPI: 87) had a fairly good chance of knocking off a quality opponent at home and staying in second place in the league in the process. Instead, they lose and become just another team in the jumble that is the middle of the ACC. Boston College (13-4, 2-3, RPI: 25) just needs to do a little work on that conference record, and they'll be fine.

Big Ten Scores of Bubble Relevance

North Dakota State 62, Wisconsin 55. What in the world? Obviously, this doesn't push Wisconsin (14-4, 4-1, RPI: 8 ) into the bubble category, but North Dakota State? Then again, NDSU did defeat Northern Illinois, and Northern did defeat…I'm not sure I want to complete that sentence. I was, however, able to pinpoint Wisconsin's problem. Here's a post from the Wisconsin Scout site titled "Pathetic Student":

"I know it was 11am on Saturday morning against a bad team that no one cares about with no live TV coverage, but the tardiness of the student section was pathetic/embarrassing (sic).

If you really dont care that much, sell your tickets to someone who cares and got screwed out of the lottery."

Sound familiar? (Well, except for the lottery thing.)

Michigan 71, Minnesota 55. The Wolverines (13-3, 3-2, RPI: 32) did what they had to do in knocking off the Gophers, who seem directionless right now with their fifth straight conference loss. And to think Minnesota hasn't played Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana or Ohio State yet.

SEC Scores of Bubble Relevance

Kentucky 80, South Carolina 78. The end result turned out okay for the Wildcats (12-6, 2-2, RPI: 43), but they can't feel that good about how they got there. To summarize Kentucky's last three home games, they lost their last two to Vanderbilt and Alabama, and now they needed a Rajon Rondo three-pointer in the waning seconds to win over possibly the worst team in the SEC. The RPI rank is gradually climbing, but I'm not sure the confidence of the fans is climbing with it.

Arkansas 68, Auburn 52. The Razorbacks (13-5, 2-3, RPI: 60) appear to have a bit more staying power than they did last year, as they faded horribly down the stretch. I do they're going to have to jump over Mississippi for sure, and probably Alabama, in the SEC West to give themselves a good opportunity, though.

LSU 68, Alabama 57. LSU (11-5, 4-0, RPI: 31) is starting to hit stride. Alabama (10-7, 3-2, RPI: 58 ) lets a chance to make some noise go by the boards.

Vanderbilt 80, Mississippi State 52. After a mini-slump, the Commodores (12-4, 3-2, RPI: 45) have reestablished a good position in the bubble chase. Now comes the tough part – maintaining it over the next three weeks.

Big XII Scores of Bubble Relevance

I'm going to show the Big XII Standings as of this morning. You tell me how many teams can make legitimate cases for NCAA Tournament inclusion:

Texas: 16-2, 4-0, RPI: 16

Kansas St: 12-4, 3-2, RPI: 42

Colorado: 13-3, 3-2, RPI: 67

Missouri: 10-6, 3-2, RPI: 78

Oklahoma: 11-4, 2-2, RPI: 30

Oklahoma St.: 12-6, 2-2, RPI: 83

Kansas: 10-6, 2-2, RPI: 112

Nebraska: 12-5, 2-2, RPI:113

Iowa State: 11-6, 2-3, RPI: 47

Texas A&M: 12-4, 2-3, RPI: 77

Texas Tech: 10-9, 2-3, RPI: 139

And we'll leave Baylor off. Texas is golden. Everyone else? Oklahoma and Kansas State appear to be the next two best choices. Then what? Every time I think Iowa State gets itself straightened out, they goof. Colorado could be the most non-descript BCS team in America. They don't have a win or a loss that jumps out and grabs you. Missouri? They're still coached by Quin Snyder, right? Next. Everyone keeps waiting for Kansas to awaken, but that RPI rank is miserable. I have no read on what's going to happen here.

Texas A&M 86, Iowa State 81 (OT). See what I mean? All Iowa State had to do to feel good about their NCAA chances is to beat the Aggies in Ames. And they blew an eight-point halftime lead on top of it. This game was A&M's best win to date by far. I think they're going to get relegated to the role of conference spoiler because they just don't have the out-of-conference resume to overcome a mediocre conference season.

Kansas 96, Nebraska 54. Every once in a while, Nebraska tries to seduce you into believing that they're serious bubble candidates. This year, it was a 2-0 conference start. Then they go off and do something like this and remind you why they aren't. Kansas, meanwhile, is going to have to go on a serious run to entertain thoughts of dancing. The quality wins they traditionally have aren't there this year.

Kansas State 79, Missouri 64. Could it really, truly be Kansas State's year? A lot may hinge on their last four games: vs. Texas, @ Oklahoma, @ Nebraska, vs. Kansas. On the other side, Missouri's season might be made or broken depending on how they do in their home-and-home series remaining with Iowa State, the only team left on the Tigers' schedule they play twice.

Colorado 80, Oklahoma State 78 (OT). Here's another team in the Cowboys that I thought would get themselves straightened out, but apparently not. Strange, strange conference this year.

Oklahoma 60, Texas Tech 48. The Sooners have reeled off two wins in a row to get back to .500 in conference. As for Bobby Knight and the Red Raiders, at least they still have that reality show where 16 kids attempt to be a walk-on to the team. What happened to that show, anyway?

Pac-10 Scores of Bubble Relevance

I'm going with "none of the above" here. Arizona, UCLA and Washington seem safely in the field. No one else has the record or the RPI rank to be seriously considered, and yes, that includes Cal. With the Pac-10 possibly only getting three teams, and the Big XII maybe no more than four, don't be surprised if conferences like the Missouri Valley become the beneficiaries. Five would be a real stretch from the MVC, but four sure looks possible. Or, the plan in which I'm in favor – just let all 16 BIG EAST teams in.

Other Scores of Bubble Relevance

Southern Illinois 56, Illinois State 44. The Redbirds were just the tonic the Salukis (14-4, 7-2, RPI: 26) needed to fix their recent two-game slide in the conference.

Wichita State 68, Missouri State 62. No understating how big this win is for the Shockers (15-4, 7-2, RPI: 23), who now own a season sweep over the Bears (12-5, 5-4, RPI: 34). Missouri State at this point is now clearly the fifth-best team in the conference, and the cutoff line for NCAA Tournament inclusion might slice just above them without some big wins down the stretch.

Creighton 77, Evansville 58. The Blue Jays (13-4, 7-2, RPI: 27) are hot, winning six in a row after thrashing the Purple Aces. That Dana Altman – he can coach a little bit, can't he?

UAB 82, Houston 79. The Blazers (13-3, 4-0, RPI: 39) are doing everything they can to overcome this awful conference to make a charge towards the NCAA Tournament. Thursday comes a real test, at Memphis.

Bucknell 62, Colgate 43. The Bison (13-3, 5-0, RPI: 38 ) are trying to stay in the bubble chase, but there are just too many bad teams in the Patriot for their RPI rank to stay buoyant. If they don't win the conference, we could be looking at Utah State from 2004 all over again.

Old Dominion 65, William & Mary 56. Just substitute "Colonial Athletic Association" for "Patriot" in the blurb above, and you'll have the summary here for ODU (14-5, 7-2, RPI: 37).

George Washington 83, Charlotte 69. Charlotte (11-7, 4-2, RPI: 95) is way off the radar when it comes to NCAA bubble teams – who would have thought that? This blurb is more about George Washington (14-1, 4-0, RPI: 44), who has finally pulled up its RPI rank to a place where it can be taken seriously.

Saint Louis 59, Xavier 54. Just as DePaul is getting its first taste of BIG EAST basketball, the Atlantic 10 is getting its first taste of how difficult it is to beat Saint Louis. The Billikens knock off a sky-high Xavier (12-3, 3-1, RPI: 40) team in Cincinnati. And I know this has been pointed out in a few national publications, but St. Louis has now played its first 17 games and has not had a two-game winning streak or losing streak all year. They've gone W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W. In other words, bet the house on St. Joseph's when they invade Missouri on Wednesday.

New Mexico 62, Air Force 59. I just don't like the Falcons' (14-3, 4-2, RPI: 48 ) resume right now. Thirteen of the 14 wins have come outside the RPI Top 100, and playing night in, night out in the Mountain West Conference isn't going to help their RPI any. They'd best win that conference tournament.

Savannah State 70, Longwood 69. I would be remiss in not saluting the Savannah State Tigers for achieving their first win over a Division I opponent on Saturday since February 18, 2004. The hero here was Javon Randolph, who scored 21 of Savannah State's final 23 points, including a jumper with five seconds remaining. This score is evidence enough that Saturday was truly a mind-boggling day.

Let's go, Demons.

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