Don't count on most Feb. 19 conference leaders to be in NCAA tournament  

There are still plenty of games to be played, and upsets in conference tournaments will be key

Selection Sunday is less than three weeks away, and teams that are at the top of their conference standings may be feeling pretty good about their situation right now. Who wouldn't want to be leading their conference at this point in the season? There are a couple of problems, however, for many (if not most) of those conference leaders right now. The first problem is there are still regular-season games to be played, which will come to an end for some conferences on Sunday, Feb. 25. The larger problem is that most conferences will have only one team in the NCAA tournament, and that will be the winner of their conference tournament.

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, there have been an a average of 19.4 one-bid leagues in the NCAA tournament per year. For the last 10 years, that number is 21.2, which means that about two-thirds of the 32 conferences will likely have only one representative in the 2018 tournament. We all know that the Power 5 conferences along with the Big East, American, and Atlantic 10 will have the bulk of the at-large teams in the tournament. A few other leagues (Conference USA, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, West Coast) may sneak in an at-large team if there are upsets in their conference tournaments. So, most of the teams on the list below cannot feel at all comfortable about their tournament chances. Most of them have one thing going for them. They will be well-positioned for a very favorable seed in their conference tournaments.

One thing we will not have this season is an undefeated conference regular-season champion. Since the first NCAA tournament in 1939, there have been only six other seasons without an undefeated conference regular-season champion. Those were in 1939, 1950, 1985, 1989, 2001, and 2011. 

 Conference Leaders Through Games of Feb. 19, 2018

                                  Conference  All Games Scor Home Road Neut      L
Conference      Team               W  L  Pct  W  L  Pct Marg  W-L  W-L  W-L Str 12
America East    Vermont           12  1 .923 22  6 .786  9.4  9-1 10-4  3-1  L1 11
American        Cincinnati        12  2 .857 23  4 .852 18.7 13-1  7-2  3-1  L2 10
Atlantic 10     Rhode Island      13  1 .929 21  4 .840 10.4 14-0  6-3  1-1  L1 11
Atlantic Coast  Virginia          13  1 .929 24  2 .923 15.0 14-1  8-1  2-0  W1 11
Atlantic Sun    Fla. Gulf Coast   11  2 .846 20 10 .667  9.9 12-5  8-5  0-0  L2 10
Big 12          Kansas            11  4 .733 22  6 .786 11.6 13-4  6-2  3-0  W3  9
Big East        Xavier            12  3 .800 24  4 .857  9.8 16-1  7-2  1-1  L1  9
Big Sky         Montana           13  2 .867 20  7 .741  8.4 11-0  8-6  1-1  L2 10
Big South       Winthrop          12  4 .750 18  9 .667  9.9 11-2  7-7  0-0  W5 11
Big South       UNC Asheville     12  4 .750 19 10 .655  2.1 12-2  7-8  0-0  W1 10
Big Ten         Michigan St.      14  2 .875 26  3 .897 17.8 15-1  7-1  4-1 W10 11
Big West        UC Santa Barbara  9   3 .750 20  6 .769  7.0 11-1  8-5  1-0  L1  9
Colonial        Col. Charleston   13  3 .813 22  6 .786  6.2 13-0  8-5  1-1 W10 11
Conference USA  Middle Tennessee  14  1 .933 22  5 .815  9.2  9-1 12-1  1-3  W9 11
Horizon         Wright St.        13  3 .813 21  8 .724  6.3 14-2  7-6  0-0  W2  9
Horizon         Northern Ky.      13  3 .813 20  8 .714 13.0 12-2  6-5  2-1  W1  9
Ivy League      Pennsylvania      9   1 .900 19  7 .731  7.2  9-3  8-3  2-1  W2 10
Ivy League      Harvard           9   1 .900 14 11 .560  0.5  8-1  5-9  1-1  W5  9
Metro Atlantic  Rider             14  2 .875 21  7 .750  5.1 11-1  8-6  2-0 W10 11
Mid-American/E  Buffalo           12  2 .857 20  7 .741  7.3 12-1  7-4  1-2  W2 10
Mid-American/W  Toledo            11  3 .786 19  8 .704  4.7 11-3  8-5  0-0  L1 10
Mid-Eastern     N.C. A&T          10  3 .769 17 11 .607  1.6 12-0 4-10  1-1  W2  9
Mid-Eastern     Bethune-Cookman   10  3 .769 16 12 .571  1.6  9-2 7-10  0-0  W4  9
Mid-Eastern     Savannah St.      10  3 .769 13 15 .464 -8.2  9-2 3-12  1-1  L2  9
Missouri Valley Loyola Chicago    13  3 .813 23  5 .821 10.1 13-1  8-4  2-0  W5 11
Mountain West   Nevada            12  2 .857 23  5 .821 11.3 12-1 10-2  1-2  W3 10
Northeast       Wagner            13  3 .813 20  7 .741  7.7 14-0  6-7  0-0  W2 10
Ohio Valley     Murray St.        14  2 .875 22  5 .815 13.8 14-2  8-3  0-0  W9 10
Pacific 12      Arizona           11  3 .786 21  6 .778  9.8 13-1  7-2  1-3  W2  9
Patriot League  Bucknell          14  2 .875 20  9 .690  6.0 11-1  9-8  0-0  W3 11
Southeastern    Auburn            11  3 .786 23  4 .852 12.1 13-1  7-2  3-1  L1  9
Southern        East Tenn. St.    14  1 .933 23  5 .821 11.1 12-1 11-4  0-0  W1 11
Southland       Nicholls St.      12  2 .857 18  9 .667  8.1 11-3  6-6  1-0  W5 10
Southwestern    Grambling St.     11  3 .786 15 12 .556 -2.3  6-2 9-10  0-0 W11 11
Summit          South Dakota St.  11  1 .917 23  6 .793 11.0 14-0  7-4  2-2  W6 11
Sun Belt        UL Lafayette      13  1 .929 23  4 .852 14.2 13-0  8-3  2-1  W3 11
West Coast      Gonzaga           15  1 .938 25  4 .862 17.6 15-1  8-1  2-2  W9 11
Western Ath.    New Mexico St.    9   2 .818 22  5 .815 11.2 12-1  7-3  3-1  L2 10

Bracket Bits from The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report

Tidbits from recent issues of The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report

From The RPI Report:  Predictive metrics, as used on the NCAA's team sheets, include ESPN’s BPI, Ken Pomeroy’s KenPom.com ratings, and Jeff Sagarin’s ratings. According to ESPN’s website, “The College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance going forward. BPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.” The BPI value is derived by adding the BPI offense plus the BPI defense, using an expected point margin per 70 possessions against an average opponent on a neutral court. Game predictions are based on BPI differentials between opponents along with several other factors. Ken Pomeroy’s (POM) teams are rated by adjusted efficiency margin. Also listed for each team are adjusted offense, adjusted defense, adjusted tempo, luck, and several strength of schedule markers. Game predictions are found behind a pay window. Jeff Sagarin’s (SAG) ratings have been around longer than any of the others and his are probably the best known. They first appeared nationally in USA Today in 1985, and predictions on his web site are very clear: Take the home team’s rating, add the home advantage to that rating, and then subtract the opponent’s rating to yield the predicted number of points the given team will win or lose by. His web site gives four different rating methods, but the Rating is the one found on the Team Sheets.

From The Women's RPI Report:   They say that a win is a win is a win. This is true, because after the fact few care if you win by 1, 5, or 20 points. But does the same hold true for losses? Long-time subscribers to The Women’s RPI Report know that we have included our “Close Losses” column, showing the number of games teams have lost by 1, 2, and 3 points, since the 2002-2003 season. It gives an easy visual on how many losses a team has had by those number of points. An example is St. John’s, a Big East team that will likely be “on the board” in March. The Red Storm have a 1-2-1 record in close losses, meaning that they lost one game by 1 point, two games by 2 points, and one game by 3 points. Their 3-point loss was in double overtime, both two-point losses were at conference opponents (one in OT), and a NC home 1-point loss.

Teams with No. 1 schedule strength rankings can usually look forward to NCAA tournament invitation

Vanderbilt had No. 1 end of regular season schedule strength rank but came up short in NCAA tournament, losing in first round

The Vanderbilt Commodores won top honors for the best overall schedule strength at the end of the 2017 regular season through games of Selection Sunday. In addition, Vandy had the No. 3 rank of opponents' RPI played, along with the No. 1 opponents' won-lost record of 676-401 (.6277) in the regular season, which are both alternate ways of determining schedule strength. Louisville had the No. 1 rank of opponents' RPI played. The Commodores received an at-large bid to the 2017 NCAA tournament with a No. 9 seed but lost to No. 8 seed Northwestern 68-66 in the first round. Since 1991, 22 of the 27 teams holding the No. 1 schedule strength rank at the end of the regular season were in the NCAA tournament, and 23 of those 27 teams were in post-season play. (Georgia, in 2003, was ineligible.) However, having the No. 1 schedule strength does not guarantee success in the NCAA tournament. In 7 of the last 17 seasons, the team holding top schedule strength honors has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In the 10 years prior to that, not a single team with the No. 1 schedule strength that made the NCAA tournament lost in the first round, although 3 of those teams did not make the NCAA tournament. The best NCAA tournament performance for a team with the best regular-season schedule strength since 1991 was North Carolina in 1997, which lost in the national semifinals to eventual national champion Arizona. Notre Dame had the best regular-season schedule strength in 1992 with a 14-14 record and finished second in the NIT. List

Several conferences use CBN's RPI data to break tournament seeding ties

Administrators have complete confidence in CBN's RPI

Nearly all conference offices subscribe to both The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report because they know they can count on the most accurate weighted RPI for the men and the women anywhere this side of the NCAA tournament selection committees. CBN first made the Adjusted RPI ratings (which are no longer used for either the men nor the women) available to The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report subscribers during the 1998-99 season. The NCAA used the Adjusted RPI ratings from the 1993-94 through the 2003-04 season for the men and have used the weighted RPI since the 2004-05 season, while the women used the Adjusted RPI through the 2010-11 season and began using the weighted RPI during the 2011-12 season. The weighted RPI gives more credit to teams that schedule tough opponents and that beat good teams at home and on the road. Story

AP carried CBN's Men's RPI Ratings for 16th consecutive year during the 2009-10 season

2009-10 was the 13th season that AP distributed CBN's Women's RPI Ratings

During the 2009-10 season, the Associated Press (AP) carried CBN's RPI ratings for both men's and women's college basketball, for the 16th consecutive year, for at least part of the season. In addition, 2009-10 was the 13th consecutive season that the AP distributed the women's RPI for at least part of the season. Story