As John showed yesterday, the CAA Tournament is up for grabs. Thanks to a balanced league with four co-champions, as well as the CAA’s neutral-site format, nobody won more than 26% of the 10,000 simulations, and six teams had at least a 10% chance of making the finals. Here’s the case for each of the top six seeds — and the others — heading into this evening’s first round. Continue reading
The Colonial can be a difficult league to cover for a site with a limited budget like ours (feel free to donate if you can) just due to its sheer geography, getting to Elon, Charleston and NC-Wilmington (sorry, UNCW) just isn’t practical. But we do our best, we’ve had as much Northeastern and Hofstra coverage as anyone, and Saturday I had the opportunity to go to the Daskalakis Athletic Center to see suddenly streaking Drexel take care of UNCW, 85-76.
We like to get very technical here, but the rise of the Dragons (7-14, 5-5) doesn’t seem to need its own CSI series. For most of the season, Drexel just couldn’t score and more specifically, couldn’t shoot in what turned out to be an embarrassing non-conference slate that included a loss to Division II Philly rival University of the Sciences.
He’s only been on the job for 10 days, but Bashir Mason is already hard at work making sure that he has everything ready to build upon the success that Wagner experienced under Dan Hurley the past two seasons. While busy keeping the Wagner name on the minds of potential recruits thanks to the open contact period that started on Wednesday, he took some time to speak with me over the phone about how things are going thus far.
“The thought process completely changes,” Mason said about moving from assistant to head coach. “It goes from bringing things to the table to now I have to make ideas and be the deciding factors in terms of what we do every day. … It’s a lot on your plate.”
Some things though aren’t going to change. It’s no surprise that Mason, who was a four-time member of the CAA’s All-Defensive Team while playing under Bruiser Flint at Drexel, is going to continue playing the tough, defensive style that Seahawks’ fans have seen recently. A style of play that led to Wagner having the best defense in the Northeast Conference last season.
“I’m going to run a very similar system,” Mason said. “I love a lot of the things we did offensively [last season], but more importantly than that the way we defended was the key.”
That commitment to defense extends throughout the entire staff, which Mason recently finalized. Marquis Webb was named to the 2006 Defensive All-America Team while playing at Rutgers and Mike Babul was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team multiple times during his playing career at UMass.
Also important for Mason when building his staff was the camaraderie amongst the group. It’s not a coincidence that Webb, who Mason has known since seventh grade, and Babul, who played for Flint at UMass, are now working with him. Mason’s third hire, Scott Smith, will help keep the continuity between last season’s staff.
“I’m extremely excited about the group that I put together,” Mason said. “I think one of the reasons why we’ve had success here is because of the coaching staff and the tight knit group that we had here. I tried to mimic that with my staff.”
Of course, that’s not what everyone wants to talk about. Instead, it’s the age. Will a 28-year-old, just five years removed from his playing days at Drexel, be able to run a Division I basketball program? Mason thinks that his experience as point guard will help. He’s also had the opportunity to learn under Flint as a player and Hurley as an assistant the past two seasons.
“It’s sort of a double-edged sword,” Mason said about his age. “If I do well it’s going to be my youth, my energy and that I’m smart for my age. If I don’t do well people will say it’s my inexperience.”
Across the NEC there’s a pretty good example about how youth can be an asset. Robert Morris’ Andy Toole took over the Colonials two years ago after Mike Rice left for Rutgers and has led RMU to back-to-back NEC Championship Games and a 43-24 record overall. All of that happened after taking over the reigns of the program at the young age of 29.
“A guy like Andy Toole, he gives me confidence,” Mason said. “You think about a guy like him, he got the job when he was really young and he’s having a lot of success. That’s an example if you work hard you can do really well.”
Mason’s going to have to use his youth to out-work fellow coaches. He’s learned from some of the best, but the real lessons are just beginning.
Five years ago Bashir Mason was playing with Drexel in the NIT. Now the 28-year-old is going to become the youngest current head coach in Division I, as he’ll take over for Dan Hurley on Grymes Hill. The new Wagner head coach has spent time playing and coaching under players like Bruiser Flint and Hurley and was recommended by his former coach and boss to succeed him with the Seahawks.
Overall, I think the NIT selection committee did a great job this season. Sure, they had a penchant for over seeding teams from a fake BCS conference (the Pac-12) and they put La Salle into the bracket, but charged with picking 21 at-larges after 11 bids got ripped away they did a pretty good job. Here are the four biggest issues I have with the bracket and then just two be nice two things I appreciated.
What does best mean?
This season more than any other we seem to be stuck in a crossfire from the age old NCAA selection debate about the “good mid-majors” versus “middling majors” and at-large bids. The CAA title game is tonight and the team that loses, either Drexel or VCU, is about to join Iona and Middle Tennessee squarely on the bubble.
The problem is that on that same bubble are teams like Northwestern and Seton Hall. The Wildcats are 18-12 and 8-10 in the Big Ten heading into the conference tournament. The Pirates are in the same boat at 19-11 and 8-10 in the Big East. Iona has 25 wins as do the two teams that will take the court in Richmond tonight. MTSU has 24. Should these teams be rewarded for dominance in a mid-major setting?
It’s tough to decide. The NCAA selection committee is charged with selecting the 37 “best” remaining teams for at-large bids. The criteria of that, as we’ve seen in mock selections, comes from a variety of sources — but too often the RPI. Let’s start there.
RPI for the six teams:
- Iona – 41
- Northwestern – 48
- VCU – 49
- MTSU – 59
- Seton Hall – 60
- Drexel – 63
The best and the worst here are separated by exactly 22 spots. Go further down the chain and the difference of 22 spots in the RPI is the difference between TCU (100) and Oklahoma (122). I dare you to tell me which is better. Obviously it has failed to solve the problem. What about two other metrics stat heads love, LRMC and Ken Pomeroy?
LRMC for the six teams:
- Iona – 32
- MTSU – 41
- VCU – 44
- Drexel – 47
- Seton Hall – 56
- Northwestern – 63
Pomeroy for the six teams:
- Drexel – 41
- VCU – 46
- Northwestern – 49
- Iona – 56
- Seton Hall – 62
- MTSU – 63
Average ranking combining all three:
- Iona – 43
- VCU – 46
- Drexel – 50
- Northwestern – 53
- MTSU – 54
- Seton Hall – 59
It is fascinating to me that the team often called the “best” amongst these six teams, and the safest in bubble predictions, Seton Hall, consistently falls in the fifth place position in these metrics and is sixth in average overall ranking. Why they are they the “safest”? Opportunity.
Best in the college basketball world doesn’t mean, “Expected to go furthest in the tournament,” or “Strongest tempo-free resume.” Instead it means, best “resume,” which is a funny word all in itself. Seton Hall’s resume says that on some nights it can beat really good teams like Georgetown, Connecticut, West Virginia and, coincidentally enough, VCU. Then again, SHU’s resume also includes losses to Villanova, Rutgers, DePaul and fellow bubbler Northwestern.
Similarly, Northwestern has beaten Michigan State. Actually, that’s not similar at all. The Wildcats have one Top 50 RPI win and four painfully close RPI Top 50 losses. That’s why, even with the head-to-head result, Northwestern is behind Seton Hall right now.
But those two teams each had 11 chances to get those Top 50 wins. You know how many chances VCU, Drexel, MTSU and Iona had combined? Seven. They won three of them. (Note: Drexel has a chance to get another Top 50 win tonight if it beats VCU.) Unfortunately, all of those teams also had the opportunity, thanks to leagues they play in, to accumulate some bad losses. The four non-BCS teams have four 201+ RPI losses (two each for Iona and MTSU). Their leagues offered the chance for Iona and MTSU to screw up and unfortunately the Gaels and Blue Raiders fell for it. That thin line meant one screw up in their respective conference tournaments left them in an almost helpless situation.
And they’ll be penalized for it too. Because even though the numbers think that Iona might be the “best,” they didn’t have the opportunity to prove it on the court.
Drew Cannon wrote about his Easiest Bubble Solver earlier this season. It’s a relatively easy formula. Add a team’s RPI and Ken Pomeroy rank together and voila. You get where a team might end up on the S-curve. If it is to be believed we could certainly see a two-bid CAA. VCU and Drexel are both hanging out right on the fringes of my latest update of EBS. But I’m not concerned about the NCAA tournament. Nope. I want to use EBS to figure out the NIT field. I did and here is what the formula came up with.
The CAA tourney is a showcase for the league. Fans from throughout the eastern seaboard are going to be heading to Richmond, VA with the hopes that their team can make a run through the tourney, which starts with a first round on Friday and claim the league’s automatic berth. At least two teams, VCU and Drexel, are hoping that a run to even the finals of the tournament could mean an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
Back on Friday afternoon I tried to project the BracketBusters as best I could. Well, now that we’re just a few hours away from the actual announcement and have some better data to work with according to RPI – and rumors – it’s time to make some final guesses about who will be on TV and who will be playing where.
When looking through the team similarities one thing I wasn’t sure about was “How ‘unique’ was a team?” Is it interesting that the similarity scores are that spread out? Now the term “unique” has a lot of different definitions, but for my first pass I looked at the difference between a team and it’s top similarity score to figure out which teams were the most unique in college basketball in 2011.