Monday, December 6, 2010

RPI Watch, December 6th: Blue Moon

Blue moon,
You saw me standing alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.
-"Blue Moon", Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart 

Who loves the Big Ten/ACC Challenge? I love the Big Ten/ACC Challenge! The annual inter-conference event gave many teams an early chance to look good in the eyes of NCAA voters. Some of our teams made the absolute most of it (Wisconsin) while others fell flat on their faces (Minnesota). Even though the Big Ten won the challenge, the conference's overall RPI took a hit due to former opposition losing a host of bad games.

Thanks to everyone who voted in the BT/ACC Challenge poll! The majority were correct this year, as 60% of you said that the Big Ten would win by the slimmest of margins. 40% of you expected the ACC to win, 6 to 5.

One team that benefitted from its win was our beloved 'Cats, who delivered a 91-71 shellacking to Georgia Tech at home. As Georgia Tech is considered to be a bubble NCAA team early on in the season, this win may bode well for us. It's definitely turned some heads, as NU has garnered more poll votes: They now sit at 31st in the Coaches' Poll with 9 points, good enough to be tied with Arizona, just behind Wisconsin and North Carolina and ahead of former heavyweight Gonzaga, which lost to Illinois over the weekend. They've also obtained votes in the AP, tied at 34th with Cincinnati, garnering 6 points. Now here I go rambling again! Let's cut to the chase and look at the RPI, shall we?

Ohio State (6-0, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 3rd, Rating = .7209, SoS = .6279
The Buckeyes take a big leap in the standings this week, thanks in large part to a double-digit road win against Florida State in the Challenge. The other big factor is the road win against Florida. The Gators' RPI has jumped to 12th thanks in large part to having one of the highest SoS's at present. Last Week: 19th

Illinois (8-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 29th, Rating = .6293, SoS = .5484
So much for my musings about being a roller-coaster team this year. Illinois has posted consecutive back-to-back big wins, at home against North Carolina and on the road against Gonzaga. I suddenly really don't like the prospect of playing this team. Last Week: 44th

Minnesota (7-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 36th, Rating = .6233, SoS = .5663
Minny took a significant hit by losing to Virginia (59th) at home. They got back into the swing of things by winning another homer, 71-66. Oh wait, they played 2-6 Cornell? (161st) Last Week: 10th

Wisconsin (6-2, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 44th, Rating = .6075, SoS = .5656
Annual reminder to self: Don't expect to win in Madison. Bo Ryan's squad sent that exact message, putting NC State (18th) through the wringer in a 39-point victory. As an encore, they topped South Dakota (263rd) by 15 in a game where they didn't really play that hard. Last Week: 83rd

Michigan State (6-2, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 53rd, Rating = .5976, SoS = .5702
I see nothing wrong with losing to Duke, especially when you keep it close in Durham. That helps their otherwise puny strength of schedule. The Spartans have another chance to help their cause this week -- they play at Syracuse tomorrow. Last Week: 58th 

Penn State (6-2, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 65th, Rating = .5816, SoS = .5612
This looks a lot more like the Penn State team I've grown to love. The Talor Battle show was on display against Maryland (84th), but only if that means he scored at least half the team's points. He did -- except the team only totaled 39 points for the game. You can't win if you shoot 21% from the field. Last Week: 15th 

Purdue (7-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 68th, Rating = .5806, SoS = .4929
Recovering a little ground was very important for the Boilermakers, and they did so by gutting out a road win against Virginia Tech (87th). One question still remains: Aside from E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, who's going to score points? Last Week: 96th

Michigan (5-2, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 81st, Rating = .5675, SoS = .5383
All of a sudden, Michigan goes from looking like a terrible team to looking like a mediocre team. They took a win against Clemson (130th) on the road and came back home to win a close one against Harvard. This team may not be an easy win, after all. Last Week: 214th 

Northwestern (5-0, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 92nd, Rating = .5602, SoS = .4137
So, how did we drop 22 ranks and fall to 9th in the conference in RPI? Everyone kept losing. Creighton (now 163rd) has dropped two consecutive games. UT Pan-Am lost yet another road game, this time to Colorado. Georgia Tech's ranking (134th) has dropped due to their opponents tanking, which in turn lowers our SoS. We're now about 0.04 points lower on SoS than we were last week. Yuck!  Last Week: 70th

Indiana (7-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 103rd, Rating = .5535, SoS = .4463
Finally, the weak schedule has caught up to the Hoosiers. Losing to Air Force caused Evansville (55th) to take a small nose dive in the rankings, hurting Indiana's SoS. Couple that with a loss to Boston College and a win against another no-name team, and their low ranking is justified. Aside from Evansville, their best win is a home game against a team ranked 192nd. Last Week: 53rd

Iowa (4-4, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 280th, Rating = .4132, SoS = .4137
Another week, another loss for the Hawkeyes under new coach Fran McCaffery. They took one of the worst losses in the Challenge, hitting a 2nd-half drought en route to a 3-point loss on the road against 244th-ranked Wake Forest. Their best win (in terms of RPI) came on Saturday, against winless Idaho State (278th). Last Week: 241st

As expected, the strength of schedule is starting to catch up to the Wildcats, which means every win is that much more important. The potential game against St. John's late in December may be the make-or-break point of the season, as the game against the Red Storm will essentially be a road game against a Big East team. Cheer hard, stay proud! Go 'Cats!

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