Closing out the comprehensive pre-tournament analysis, insight into the selection process, and the man, they call Bill Carmody…
Southeastern Conference Locks: Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Carolina
Texas A&M hoops sort of snuck up on us, huh? After a couple of early season wins of note (Texas & Gonzaga in the Bahamas), they dropped a game by 13 in Tempe, and we thought the up and down Aggies were back. But this is a good mix of size/speed and experience and youth, and it played out that way in SEC play. They started conference play 7-1 and had a nice B12/SEC win over Iowa State. Then, perhaps, a little proud of themselves dropped their next four. They woke up with a 15 pt win over Ole Miss, that led to 6 straight to finish the season, including wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. As it stands, this is a team that averages 19 across the computers, 5-0 against the RPI top 50, .500 in road games, with only one loss out of the top 100 (Arkansas, though ASU is toeing the line at 99). Right now we see them as a 4 seed, with 3 seed upside (there’s just not a ton of sterling wins to mine in the SEC tourney). They’ll start with the winner of Florida/Arkansas, if it’s Florida that plays as a Buffet elimination for the Gators who badly need a win of that caliber. Then comes LSU, and their 99 computer rating. The final would be Kentucky..and a win there just doesn’t rise this team above the 3-line, in the Buffet’s estimation.
Kentucky. It felt like Kentucky was disappointing for a bit. Didn’t it? But that comes down to a couple of things. 1. After a huge early season win over Duke, they didn’t play anyone until December 19th (and lost to Waiting Liner Ohio State). 2. It’s important to remember just how stacked Kentucky has been, and while they have lots of talent (as usual) – 4 players will not be lottery picks in June. And, one week later – in a win over Louisville we were reminded that dislike them, be super quick to dismiss them – but Cal can coach, recruit (through whatever means necessary, perhaps), etc. Kentucky definitely had some questionable moments – losing to Auburn and Tennessee, for instance, and as it turned out the #comingoutparty for Ben Simmons, was just a weak loss for Kentucky. Their loss on Feb 20 to Texas A&M cost them the outright SEC title and the top seed in the tournament. But, otherwise – it was a fine season and the number 12 factors. 12th in computer average and 12 top 100 wins. There is some ugliness – just 4-7 on the road, 3 losses to teams over 101, but those top 2 non-conference wins and 10-3 against 50-100 (which is largely where the bulk of the SEC sits), has the Buffet sitting the Wildcats on the 4-line, but edging closer to a 5 than 3. Winning the SEC does mean beating South Carolina and Texas A&M, so a 3 isn’t out of the question, but this is likely a 4-seed.
South Carolina – South Carolina’s non-conference isn’t flashy (downright ugly at 268th ranked), but it was undefeated and featured a win over Waiting Liner Tulsa, and Colonial champ Hofstra. There’s a lot of ugliness to be found here (Missouri, Tennessee and Miss State) and a 50 computer average. But there’s an 8-4 record versus top 100, and a road win at Texas A&M to go with wins over Waiting Liners Florida, Vanderbilt and Tulsa (on a neutral court). Right now they are placed on the 8-line, sitting in the 8/9 range. Could they get to a 7? Kentucky and A&M sit in front of them in the conference tournament, so don’t count it out if that happens.
Vanderbilt – SEC’s best Waiting Line hopes rest with the Commodores. Wins over Kentucky and A&M help with that, they also swept fellow Waiting Liner Florida. But, it’s dicey. 22nd ranked across Pomeroy, BPI and even Sagarin overshadows a higher RPI of 51. But 3-9 away from home, best non-conference is Stony Brook – and losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State. For the Buffet, Vanderbilt is barely – our last team in the field, actually. What happens from here? Tennessee is obviously a MUST. Then LSU is too. They get to the semifinals, and lose - it’ll still be a long wait to Sunday. Beat A&M, and it’ll be hard to see them not get in.
Florida. The team talking heads seem to have written off. Largely because down the stretch the did nothing to dissuade them. 4 straight losses when selection committee eyes were on them most. Wins in conference only including one team still in consideration, to any degree (LSU). There is a nice B12/SEC win over West Virginia, and a Waiting Line win over Saint Joe’s. But what else? Florida needs a run – CANNOT lose to Arkansas (playing as this is written), then A&M. Feeling like, given what’s going down elsewhere, Florida ought to reach the final, at a minimum, because the semis likely would bring them Vandy, and that could be a true elimination game (don’t think Pitt/Syracuse was, bc Pitt probably wasn’t out with a loss).
LSU: Ben Simmons. Ben Simmons. Ben Simmons. He really is LSU’s best argument for a selection. They did beat Texas A&M and Kentucky, the best work you can do in the SEC. They also took Oklahoma to the limit. But sub .500 against the top 200, even sub .500 against teams 101-200, this isn’t a compelling resume (the computers don’t even provide some help). To get in: Beating Vandy and A&M is a full stop, and then we’ll still see.
Alabama: Alabama finished 10th in the SEC and and 12-13 versus top 200. But they beat Notre Dame and Wichita State on a neutral court, won at home versus A&M and took out waiting liners LSU, South Carolina & Florida, though in fairness – they did give the SoCar and LSU wins back. Don’t see them getting in, but a run to the final is the only way we’re still discussing them on Sunday.
BUFFET PLAYS SELECTION COMMITTEE MEMBER
For several years now, the Buffet has participated in a mock selection committee, diving deeper into the field to get my Buffetology game.
Last evening was the first piece of that puzzle – submitting initial ballots. Two lists are submitted. List number are the teams we feel as of last evening were NCAA tournament locks. List 2 are the remaining teams under consideration. Here is a look at what I submitted:
And here’s what the committee as a whole voted on:
BILL F’N CARMODY
Bill Carmody was the coach of Northwestern for 12 seasons. The Wildcats have famously not ever qualified for the NCAA tournament. From 2008-2011, NW found their way to the Bubble, but ultimately the NIT – a mixture of coaching, ill-timed injuries and just bad luck was the cause. He was let go, after the 2013 season, and perhaps it was time. Well, he disagreed, and was hired before the season by Holy Cross – and they were not good during the regular season – 9-19, with 1 road win. However, as we stand on March 10th, they are now 14-19 with SIX road wins – because they just won themselves the Patriot League tournament. Bill Carmody is going to the tournament, and as of 2 minutes ago, Northwestern isn’t! That’s something the Buffet loves in March.