April 5, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 17 - Tournament Final

There will be no computer controversy this season; Kentucky is your MRI Tournament champion.

Prior to the tip of the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina had snuck into the lead of a race between the Tar Heels, Kentucky and Ohio State.

But an injury to Kendall Marshall derailed the boys is Carolina blue, leaving Ohio State and Kentucky to battle it out.

Ohio State faltered down the stretch against the Jayhawks which kept the country from seeing a 1-2 matchup for the title game. It would have been close to a toss-up for the title had that occurred.

As it was, Kentucky entered that final game as a prohibitive favorite, with a chance to win over 70 percent of the time.

Unlike the Buckeyes, the Wildcats worked within the percentages and took home the title, thanks to probably the most impactful player this season, Anthony Davis.

Davis didn't score much, but it was his all-around play that helped Kentucky. Those things are better captured in HOOPWAR, so it will have to wait for another post.

As for Kentucky, they finished atop the computer also, with a score of 240.82, a full nine points ahead of Ohio State. The Wildcats would be favored in every matchup against every team in the country with that mark. That is domination.

The computer showed some domination too. Despite an injury derailing its title pick and a run to another pool title, the MRI predicted 42 of 63 games prior to the start of the Round of 64. The best mark in one pool it entered was 45, and that person had Kentucky winning it all.

The winner in its most competitive pool on ESPN only picked 40 games correctly, showing that scoring in a pool can matter a great deal to the finish. (If you ask me, getting more games correct, even though your final pick is wrong should be worth more points. Probably a scoring algorithm that makes that happen somewhere).

Going round to round, the computer was correct in 48 of the tournament's 67 game, for a 71.64 percent mark. If you leave out the PIGs, the computer did a tad better -- it really did not do well on that Tuesday and Wednesday -- hitting 47 of the 63 games, for a 74.60 percent mark.

For the season, once predictions began after Thanksgiving, the computer got 72.60 percent of all games correct. It is now correct on 71.64 percent of games all-time, a mark based on predictions of 28,529 games.

Check out all the rankings in the Tournament Final of the 2011-12 Basketball MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 17 - Tournament Final"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:58 PM

March 12, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 16 - Pre-Tournament Final

If the MRI were the sole arbiter of the NCAA Tournament, there would be six teams with wholly different reactions to their status today.

But the MRI is not, and I would think probably shouldn't be. You can't just use one formula to rule them all.. although the committee does seem to do that with the RPI.

There is a ting of bitterness this morning, but not much. Drexel did not make the field, despite a ranking of No. 39 in the final MRI, which I believe is the highest it has achieved since I started publishing this about 12 years ago.

The key feature that half of the "snubs" have is that they come from smaller conferences. They didn't win their conference tournament, and therefore lost their "chance" to get into the dance.

I can't begrudge teams that did make it like Colorado, when they won their playoff. That is one way in. The Buffs would have been NITing it or worse if they hadn't have beaten Arizona. Both teams were fighting for their tournament lives. But you can take exception with some of the committees choices.

Here are the snubs and the list of replacements with the MRI rankings in parentheses. The cutoff in the MRI was No. 56, which was Purdue.

Snubs: Drexel (39), Middle Tennessee State (40), Oral Roberts (45), Seton Hall (46), Wagner (54), Stanford (55).

Questionable choices: San Diego State (59), Michigan (60), Notre Dame (64), Xavier (65), Colorado State (81), South Florida (105).

Of course, the MRI has two questionable choices that probably aren't that way in most people's minds. And I will admit that Michigan and Notre Dame probably have good cases for being in. Both teams are within 9 points of the final spot, which if the game was a home game, would mean they would be favored over Purdue. I would imagine the same can hold true for San Diego State, since they were just a few spots off.

On the "snub" side, You can maybe discount Wagner and Stanford, but anyone higher maybe deserved a longer look. As it was, if Iona hadn't gotten into the field, it would have been even a bigger snub, as they were higher ranked than any of these teams. The committee maybe got that one correct.

The big issue should be with the Colorado State and South Florida inclusions. Just based on MRI numbers, they don't belong. In the Ken Pomeroy rankings, South Florida is No. 66 and Colorado State is No. 76. Drexel (41) and Middle Tennessee (61) are higher than both. Seton Hall is higher than both. Stanford is higher than both.

I won't complain any more. It is a difficult job to make the choices for the last spots. It is made even harder now that the field has expanded and the choice to include three more teams of questionable character has to be made.

Either way, we will have a great tournament. That much never changes.

Enjoy the rankings in this week's MRI, along with the rankings of every tournament team after the normal update. All of the Top 25 made the tournament.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 16 - Pre-Tournament Final"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:09 PM

March 8, 2012

Calculating Player Value: An Introduction to HOOPWAR

Over at Hustle Belt, I published some data on player valuation.

It is an overly complicated formula, designed to try and come up with a measure similar to Wins Above Replacement for baseball.

I promised a breakdown of the formula so here goes.

The basic formula is: (Points Saved + Points Earned) * Average Pace/Team Pace - Replacement level / 30.

We will take each piece separately to try and explain the methodology

Continue reading "Calculating Player Value: An Introduction to HOOPWAR"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 10:09 PM

March 5, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 15

This week's rankings always look a little strange.

Over the past seven days, many of the mid-major and low-major conferences have stacked the deck with their conference tournaments. Teams have played -- and in some cases won -- several more games than the high-major teams.

The result is a surge by those teams in the rankings.

The side effect is that many of them will experience a backslide this week as the top tournaments start.

For example, Wichita State, which bowed out in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament, is still ranked No. 6 in the MRI. But Kansas has yet to start its conference tournament, where most likely, it will play two more games this week.

Win those and the Shockers are dropping.

Other teams whose seasons are over will see the same thing happen to them. Teams like Belmont, Iona and Middle Tennessee State will likely be passed by "bubble" teams making a last push for tournament inclusion this week.

As for the Gaels and Blue Raiders, they have a tough week ahead of them. Both teams availed themselves well in the regular season, each winning 25 games overall and their regular season conference crowns.

Both teams took difficult losses in their conference tournaments though and now are looking at NIT bids.

This is despite high rankings in the MRI that have both teams in the 26-35 range. Getting to that level in the rankings is nothing to sneeze at. You have to have a good season to get that far.

The thing is that usually those teams win their conference tournaments, or have made such a regular season case for themselves, they are considered locks for the NCAA tournament.

Neither is the case with these two. As much as the numbers are king at the MRI, the committee will not believe that wins by Middle Tennessee State over Belmont, Akron, UCLA and Mississippi will be enough. The same with Iona's scalps of Western Michigan, St. Joe's, Maryland, Nevada, Denver and Vermont.

It is a tough sell. It is why tonight's game between Virginia Commonwealth and Drexel will means so much. The loser will likely be in the NIT, although current projections have VCU hanging on to a glimmer of hope should they lose.

It is too bad that 25 wins, no matter who those 25 wins come against, means so little. That Murray State's 27 Division 1 wins mean more to the committee just because they were the final team to lose this season is sad. Both the Atlantic Sun and MAAC were better conferences than the OVC.

The Racers didn't beat Goliaths. They handled St. Mary's, Memphis, Dayton and Southern Mississippi. Two of those four teams are very good. But the depth and breadth of the resume is no better than what Drexel, VCU, Middle Tennessee and Iona bring to the table.

Murray State did the important thing. They removed doubt. They won the Ohio Valley tournament, even though Tennessee State provides them a tough matchup and almost pulled it out.

This is the year for the committee to make a statement though. It can state that WINNING is important over all things. Leave Northwestern, or a few of the gagging 10 Big East teams that Joe Lunardi has dancing in his latest projection at home.

Give a small school with a decent overall resume and a gaudy 25 wins a shot.

You might be surprised how good a team like that actually is, and how well they perform on the big stage.

And on to the rankings.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 15"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:21 PM

February 27, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 14

The MRI has had its ups and downs in terms of predicting which teams will make the NCAA basketball tournament. There is a reason for this: it was never designed to do such a thing.

That said, it was designed to determine what teams are the best at playing basketball. That doesn't always mean they get selected to play in the big dance.

There has been some criticism that the MRI relies too much on the team's record, with the understanding that wins equate to a better team (if you don't lose, you are doing something correct).

What is lost by that argument is that the MRI does take into account who you played in order to rack up those wins. It isn't enough just to run through the SWAC. You might get a bulky win number that way, but you might not be ranked highly in the MRI.

Instead, you have to do it convincingly because year after year, the SWAC is among the bottom three conferences ranked by this computer (and this year, clearly the worst).

That is why Murray State of the one-loss and long unblemished record makes its first appearance at No. 25 in this week's rankings. It took an entire season for the computer to even give credit to the Racers, who play in what the MRI considers the 23rd best conference in the country.

The team was always near the rankings, just not in them. They should have gotten an at-large bid to the tournament even if they somehow tripped in the conference tournament.

They are good, just not among the top 10 best teams in the country as many would have you believe, namely the AP rankings.

That the MRI considers who you play also leads to teams like Florida State, with a 19-9 record getting into the rankings, or a 21-8 Wisconsin team cracking the top 20.

You have to play the best to be ranked highly. You have to win some of those games, and you have to be consistent and win convincingly to get high marks.

This site has always been of the opinion that the tournament should be more open to the mid-major conferences. For many of these leagues, there are few chances to play up against the teams in the top 50 in the RPI, and therefore, the tournament should allow more bias towards teams in smaller conferences that performed exceptionally well, versus those in bigger conferences that were somewhere in the middle.

In some ways, the RPI is an odd measure. There was talk back when the Missouri Valley landed so many teams in the tournament that they had gamed the system.

The league did this by doing well in scheduling during the nonconference season (by playing teams that ENDED UP being good, not necessarily ones that were good at the time). They won some of those games, enough that when the league schedule started, every game was bump up in the RPI, as opposed to being dragged down by teams that were shutout early in the season.

What people forget is that the big conferences manage to game the system every year. Very few of the teams in the best conferences are going to perform poorly in the nonconference season. There might be a couple of losses here and there, but for the most part, they win.

When the league starts, they are constantly getting a boost in the RPI, because no team has such a dreadful record as to be a drag on the overall mark.

Yes, those are usually the best teams anyway, but it doesn't mean that a team like Drexel, whose RPI is 67 isn't just as good.

I bring up Drexel, not because I went there, and there might be a small amount of bias in how I feel about them. After all, they were the reason the MRI was created: to show that teams in smaller conferences were just as good as the big boys, if you evaluated teams based on actual game performance, not just schedule.

Drexel has lost just a single game since the calendar changed to 2012. They have excelled in playing the game of basketball. They are now 25-5 against Division 1 teams, and they will be a tough sell come selection Sunday if they do not keep up the winning streak through the CAA tournament.

They have no top 50 wins, and played just one team in that group, Virginia, early in the season, without one of the team's best scorers.

But because schedules are set a couple of seasons in advance for the most part, Drexel had games against teams that could have been good, but weren't. They may have been better off, because at less than full strength, they may not have won those game anyway. Still the schedule could look better, if say a St. Joseph's weren't struggling, or one of the MAAC teams they played had turned it on.

The Colonial did a bad job up and down the chart of scheduling this season. That is why many believe that between Virginia Commonwealth and Drexel, only the winner of the conference tournament will get in. And if it isn't one of those two teams, the league will not get a second bid. (Drexel at least gets an automatic entry into the NIT, for what that is worth. Barely missing the NCAA tournament has not been a recipe for success in the minor league bracket lately. Call it some sort of hangover effect).

It is also why Drexel's margin for error to get to even the brink of consideration has been so small. The Dragons lost just two games in the conference season, but they couldn't have slipped up much more without it becoming a problem. Every game they played was a fight against a big drop in the RPI. A loss could have tanked whatever small chance they currently have.

According to the MRI, Drexel is currently No. 44. That is by no means a lock for the tournament, even though this is an odd year. Currently, the cutoff point for an at-large berth would fall all the way down at No. 62, currently held by Wyoming. But a number of current small conference leaders fall within those 62 spots. If they lose and are near the bottom of the list (say Lehigh, or Texas Arlington), the bubble jumps up one more spot, leaving the Cowboys, who at one point were in the MRI top 25, in the dust.

The year everyone assumes that Drexel was snubbed for the tournament (with an RPI of 43, again, not putting much stock in the stat), the Dragons were a lowly 71 in the MRI on Selection Sunday.

Would I have been happy to see them in after beating Villanova and Syracuse that year? Yes. Did I think they were as badly snubbed as Dick Vitale did? No, not really, because they played well, just not well enough.

This season they are playing very well, and yet even though major conference contenders for the last few spots are playing soft, and some scheduling quirks, the Dragons will likely be playing in the NIT should they lose in the next week.

These mid-major teams live on the point of a needle, and some of them (not all) need to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to whether they are among the top teams in the country, and deserve to be in the bracket.

Another school that seems to be on the verge of getting left out, despite its own RPI of 48 is BYU. The Cougars haven't excelled against the top part of their conference (1-3 against St. Mary's and Gonzaga, two likely locks), but they have performed well enough to be in the top 25 of the MRI for most of the year. The Cougars lost to Baylor and Wisconsin, and no one can fault them there. And the Cougars lost to Loyola Marymount, who also tripped up St. Mary's in case you were wondering.

They haven't done anything wrong necessarily. And yet, despite what experts claim is a "great" RPI number, BYU is also sweating it out.

That very few teams ranked at the end of the season in the MRI have missed the tournament probably doesn't help fans at this point (Missouri State and Akron are the two that come to mind off the top of my head).

In the end, my point is that if you are an Oral Roberts, with a 26-5 record, or South Dakota State, with a 24-7 mark, you deserve some consideration, even though only one of those two teams will play in the dance. Both had excellent seasons.

Can I argue that they are better than South Florida's season? You bet. The Bulls are 11-5 in the Big East so far, but the only significant win among those 11 is against Seton Hall, who is also fighting for its tournament life. Against the top four teams in the conference standings, South Florida has been shut out. Due to the fabulously bloated league, they don't have another chance against those teams.

Should they be rewarded for playing the bottom of the Big East which is not that good this season? Should they be rewarded over Drexel, despite losing to Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth in nonconference games, teams that the Dragons swept? (Heck, should they be rewarded over VCU for that matter?). Should they be rewarded just because the RPI puts them at No. 46, even though they couldn't beat Penn State, Auburn or Southern Mississippi?

Decide for yourself. Just know that the MRI has the Bulls at No. 103.

Here are all the rankings in week 14 of the basketball MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 14"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:30 PM

February 26, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 13

Rankings through the games of February 19.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 13"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 9:00 PM

February 22, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 12

Rankings through Feb. 12.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 12"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 4:56 PM

February 17, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 11

Rankings through the games of Feb. 5.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 11"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:22 PM

February 1, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 10

No rants on Murray State this week, although it is likely the streak will end when the Racers meet St. Mary's in Bracket Busters.

One quick note on the made-for-television event. If ESPN could pressure one of the big leagues into participating (and this is not the Mountain West, or Atlantic 10, this is one of the big boys), it would fulfill a much greater purpose.

When the mid-majors face the big boys, it is always at the beginning of the season, before the smaller schools have had a chance for their teams to really come together.

But if the schools played now, there is a greater chance we could see the "upsets", and see the teams earn that extra win that gets them into the tournament.

All anyone is asking for is a shot, and this is the one shot that many of these high-performing teams are asking for. Beating another Missouri Valley team, or a Colonial team isn't as meaningful as beating one of the middle of the pack Big Ten or Big 12 teams, ones that might be the last one in the tournament.

Instead, the teams who truly deserve that extra spot could get it, even if it is just for a single round.

Enjoy the rankings this week. More in the weeks to come, including the return of the tournament projections.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 10"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:43 PM

January 24, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 9

This is a great year for the smaller conferences, the ones that don't get all the facetime on ESPN.

Only the media and the coaches have it wrong all because of a zero in the loss column.

You see, Murray State isn't the best non-major team in the country. They aren't even in the top five as far as the MRI is concerned. They may have a great record (20-0 is nothing to sneeze at), but the quality of the team isn't like the Butlers of the last couple of years.

Nor is it like the Gonzaga teams that were great before anyone knew where Gonzaga was. It isn't even as good as the George Mason team that shocked everyone but readers of the MRI.

They are a solid basketball team, just not the best.

Take away three of the wins right away; they came against non-Division 1 teams.

Then look for the best wins. Hey look, a win over a ranked team. It was No. 20 Memphis, back in early December. Only Memphis doesn't look as good as it did then. The Tigers aren't even getting votes in the polls any longer. The MRI has them at No. 48 and the verge of becoming irrelevant.

Southern Mississippi was another win of some importance. After all, Conference USA is still somewhat of a major conference. Only the Golden Eagles are barely better than Memphis at this point. At least they get a little love from the coaches.

And then Dayton. The Flyers have been up, then way down, and back up again. They are currently No. 33 in the MRI, within shouting distance of the top 25 (and Murray State).

But when the season ends, does anyone really want their best win to be over Dayton? It doesn't make any sense.

So, no, Murray State is not the No. 10 team in the country. Murray State is not the No.12 team in the country. Murray State shouldn't even be in the top 25 based on who they have played.

It is nice to be undefeated (and the MRI loves undefeated teams, and treats them differently when they beat you), but it doesn't automatically make you great, just as losing every game doesn't automatically make you the worst team in the country.

Instead, the media and the coaches should be praising teams like St. Mary's, who at 17-2 is making a strong case for not just being on the top five lines in March, but should be considered for a "protected" spot and a virtual home game. While the Gaels are missing the major conference win, they have proven themselves in the top-heavy WCC (BYU and Gonzaga) and against the best in the Missouri Valley (They will get a bracket buster game too).

The same could be said for UNLV and Wichita State. Or how about those Bulldogs from Spokane, or Creighton. People need to start recognizing that a big zero doesn't define a team.

Yet in Murray State's case, the "0" has become what that team is all about.

The MRI even believes that Middle Tennessee State from the Sun Belt conference is better than the Racers. At least the Blue Raiders have played teams from real major conferences (and won both, against Mississippi and UCLA).

At least in the Bracket Project , the Racers are on the six line. It is close to where the MRI would slot them (the rest of the Project does not agree so nicely). The inputs, such as a three-seed from several outlets, are a little nuts though. There is also one site that doesn't even mention Murray State (totally not right).

Then again, this is the site that accused me of being nuts for rating George Mason and some other mid-majors high.

Murray State is still a good team, and the Racers will likely be in the tournament should they not make it through the OVC tournament. They just aren't among the top 12 teams in the country.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 9"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 2:41 PM

January 16, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 8

It is late, so no soapbox standing today.

But let's just say this:

Big Ten (Yes!)

Georgetown (No!)

Connecticut (No!)

Pac-12 (Do they actually still play basketball?)

Cue the rankings

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 8"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 2:03 PM

January 9, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 7

The MRI usually gets a little flack for not dropping teams that lose, especially when they lose to much lower ranked teams.

But context is everything. Unlike some systems which do not care about the margin of victory, the MRI does.

That is why Wisconsin was able to hold in the top 10 despite being edged by Indiana and Michigan State. But this weekend's loss to Michigan sent that Badgers sliding down to No. 11. That means I won't have to write one of these.

Wisconsin is very much still a contender. Remember that North Carolina took a few weeks to even appear in the MRI rankings. And any team that reaches the magical 100 point mark in the rankings is almost guaranteed a tournament spot.

Many teams go through these funks. Most recover. Wisconsin is one of those teams.

There are other teams that people should be questioning right now.

Both Connecticut and Georgetown took hard losses this weekend. Both were ranked highly in the AP poll. Neither had been higher than No. 20 in the MRI. The schedules were not overwhelming. They didn't dominate any games. They squeaked their way to their position in the computer, and it was a shaky one at that.

So why did they get any love, other than for the name on their jersey, in the human polls?

The same question can be asked about Harvard. If not for a win over Florida State, the record would be built on the backs of a number of questionable teams. Add in the loss to Connecticut and they look even shakier.

Before that loss they were not even sniffing the top 25 in the computer despite an undefeated record (the same could be said for Murray State right now, who at least makes the ranking bubble list).

If there is no Tommy Amaker in Boston, there is no Harvard with a number next to it.

It is important to keep in mind as we move deep into the season that the human polls are very flawed. (Note: The computers are flawed too. The MRI is historically only 75 percent correct.)

But just because a team is highly ranked, or has a big gaudy record, that doesn't mean that they are excellent/unstoppable/elite eight material.

Remember that Connecticut came out of seemingly nowhere last season to win the title. Remember that teams consistently "surprise" come March, because expectations are so skewed by the human polls. You have to use all the data available to make judgements.

Wisconsin could still make a big splash come the tournament. Whether that is a second weekend appearance, or a Final Four run remains to be seen and a lot depends on what happens over the next 6 weeks.

Don't overreact to numbers you see on January 9. Teams will change. Teams will evolve.

And only then will we see who the real contenders for the title are.

And maybe it will be Connecticut, Georgetown, Harvard and the Badgers after all.

Check out all the rankings in week 7 of the basketball MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 7"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 8:31 PM

January 4, 2012

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 6

No blabbering this week. Just the rankings.

All rankings are based on Division I game results through January 1, 2012.

Happy New Year. Happy rankings.

Unless you went to Grambling.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 6"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 5:16 PM

December 27, 2011

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 5

For some schools, it just takes time.

Everyone knew that North Carolina was good. The Tar Heels showed that in flashes during the early season.

But it took until Christmas before they truly found themselves.

North Carolina destroyed Nicholls State (which is to be expected) and then dismantled Texas to the tune of 20 points.

That is why the Tar Heels have vaulted to No. 4 in the MRI rankings.

The things that had been holding North Carolina back -- rebounding and turnovers -- are suddenly a thing of the past. The two losses to UNLV and Kentucky almost feel like a different team was playing.

North Carolina is now averaging almost 10 more rebounds a game than its opponents. And it is now just about average in the takeaway department.

North Carolina has arrived, and is poised to challenge Syracuse, Ohio State and Wisconsin for the top of the heap.

There are still six teams that have not lost a game this season, to go with 11 teams that have not beaten another Division 1 team.

Keep an eye on Murray State to see if they can survive as the lowest ranked of the undefeated. And watch Alabama A&M for when they might break through. Although being ranked 309 isn't exactly encouraging.

Check out all the rankings in Week 5 of the MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 5"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:56 PM

December 19, 2011

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 4

It is no secret that the Pac-12 is down this season. Utah certainly isn't fooling anyone, neither are USC, Arizona State or Washington.

That Washington lost to South Dakota State on Sunday probably cemented how poor the conference is this year. After all, the Huskies were some experts' picks to win the league.

More surprising is how quickly the ACC drops off after the top few teams.

There is North Carolina, and Florida State. There is Virginia and Duke. And then what?

Virginia Tech is currently 8-3, except that is only good enough for No. 58 in the MRI. It isn't that Virginia Tech isn't "good". They just aren't measuring up to the top talent in the conference.

After that, the teams are just a mess of average.

With the new expanded tournament entering its second season, there is probably still a shot for 5 or 6 ACC teams to make it in, but some of the middling teams are going to have to really show what they can do during the conference season.

It won't be easy. It will likely require at least one win over a team at the top. More likely, it will take two wins of that magnitude, especially with the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 all making strong showings this season.

The country could be in for a repeat of 2006, when the Missouri Valley entered 4 teams into the tournament. It was a shock then, but Creighton, Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Wichita State are all making cases to play deep into March.

Even Illinois State and Indiana State could be considered "good wins" for someone this season.

The story is the same in the Atlantic 10.

In the end, the ACC, the conference that formerly set the standard for basketball, might end up with just as many bids in the tournament as two conferences thought of as inferior.

Just something to keep in mind when this super-conferences talk of seceding from the NCAA. They might not take all of the super with them.

Check out all the rankings in week 4 of the MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 4"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:12 AM

December 12, 2011

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 3

Every few years the world of college sports finds itself here, reeling in the aftermath of a brawl on the field or court.

The biggest one that sticks in memory came between Miami and Florida International on the football field. In that circumstance, the administrators at the school failed to do what would have made history.

They failed to impose proper punishment for denigrating the university by behaving in a manner that has no place in sports, pro or college.

A few suspensions were handed out, but a couple of games is nothing to players anymore.

Look at the list of players who begin each season sitting on the bench in college basketball for rules violations or eligibility issues. Several big name freshman sat on the pine while their teams played through five or six games.

No big deal. That is just the way things roll in college basketball. Everyone knows it is dirty. The kids take the slap on the wrist that comes along with that, and move on.

So when Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin talked a tough game following his team's loss to Xavier, it was a breath of fresh air.

It sounded like Cronin was going to do something unprecedented. He was going to make sure that players understood that playing college sports is not something that should be guaranteed to them, no matter how good they are. He was going to show that talent should never trump character on the court.

He was willing to risk his own season -- and possibly his job -- to make a point.

And then he and Cincinnati fell right on their faces.

Not only did Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj get off with a smaller punishment than television analysts thought (6 games vs. 10 games), they seem to get off with a slap on the wrist.

Sure Cronin says that he will have to make sure they are serious about being sorry before they will actually be allowed back. But he also said he had to decide who was going to be on the team.

Gates has had trouble with Cronin before. Last season, he moped his way into a suspension.

But moping and sucker punching an opponent are two different things. And for Mbodj to kick at a player when he is down on the ground? That is unforgivable.

This was a street brawl pure and simple.

If you want to set an example, to show that this sort of thing isn't tolerated in your program, or your sport, you kick those players off the team.

Let recruits see that you value character along with skill on your team, not just collecting a bunch of "thugs" as the kids called themselves. That is what they are after all, kids.

They don't get it. They don't understand exactly what Cronin was saying. Not everyone gets to go to a good college, let alone go to college at all. These kids were given a gift to play a sport at a high level. Gates might have been good enough to have a career as a reserve in the NBA.

But that isn't a license to behave like a common criminal by throwing your fist into someone who looked as if they were just trying to get some separation between the two teams.

Both of these players should be packing their bags today. Their parents should be coming to take them home.

Only when some coach has the guts to make such a move will this type of behavior begin to leave the game. Only then will all coaches start to make the right choice.

And then we can get back to basketball.

Check out all the rankings in Week 3 of the MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 3"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:56 PM

December 5, 2011

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 2

Ohio State made a few statements this week, dismantling Duke and then releasing any more pent-up scoring on Texas Pan-American.

It was the destruction of a very good Duke team though that catapulted the Buckeyes into the top spot in the rankings this week.

Syracuse and Kentucky are right there with Ohio State at the top of the list.

But it was the movement lower down that made a big difference this week.

MRI readers from the opening rankings had a leg up on the rest of the country this week for sure. When UCSB challenged UNLV and had everyone surprised, the MRI readers were not shocked. They knew the Gauchos were ranked last week and should have been pretty good against the Rebels.

Near the end of the week, Wichita State was moving up the list and already challenging to be part of the top 25 (they moved up to No. 14). Therefore, it wasn't surprising when they finally managed to knock off UNLV, and did it in impressive fashion.

Perhaps we should be paying attention to what Boise State and Southern Mississippi accomplish this week.

What did the MRI get wrong last week?

It certainly appears that the Dayton ranking from Week 1 was a blip on the radar. The Flyers went from winning a tournament in Florida to being blown out by the MAC's Buffalo.

The spiral down continued with a loss to Murray State, dropping Dayton into the 60s in the rankings.

On the underrated side, it was Iona and Wyoming who stole the show. The Gaels haven't lost since a one-point loss to Purdue in the opener. That includes a 26-point thrashing of Maryland.

The Cowboys have just a single loss this year (albeit against weaker competition), and trounced all the competition this week to move up. Of all the ranked teams, their hold might be the most tenuous.

Check out all the rankings in Week 2 of the basketball MRI.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 2"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:39 AM

November 30, 2011

College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 1

So, where were we?

The last time there were college basketball rankings, North Carolina had just won the NCAA tournament. That was way back in April of 2009.

A lot has happened since then.

Winston Salem, New Orleans and Centenary all stopped playing Division I hoops.

SIU-Edwardsville, Seattle, North Dakota and South Dakota all claim to play.

And Nebraska Omaha wants to believe it does, but only plays half a schedule (so it is not included in the rankings until next year when it joins the Summit League). And I can exclude it based on its AD. After all, he is the nemesis of the MRI.

Where does that leave the MRI?

There are still 344 teams to rank. There are still ridiculous numbers of games.

And the weekend after Thanksgiving has passed, meaning the rankings mean something.

Even better, everyone played a game, which is something that can't always be counted on in college basketball.

As with football, there will be no "Teams people care about," only a list of the next 10 teams outside of the top 25. If the list for football was long, the list for basketball was even longer.

There is still a Wofford Watch, because we can't give up on the mascot of the MRI.

And if there is ever any question about where a team you care about sits, just shoot an email to bmiraski at mrisports.com and I will answer it.

So with that, on to the first installment of the MRI for 2011-2012.

Continue reading "College Basketball Rankings - MRI 2011-12, Week 1"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:48 PM

September 19, 2011

Big East to Big Least: Departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh was only a matter of time

The Big East became a little more the Big Least on Sunday morning. The impending departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh cut the heart of of the league that had two personalities.

The Big East dominated the college basketball landscape, the behemoth gorilla that gladly took the title of best conference after the ACC was willing to cede the throne to pursue football glory. And the Big East played nicely on the sideline in football, guaranteed the big payday each year in the BCS despite calls for other conferences to have their ticket.

But it was the grab for basketball glory that might have killed the conference in the end. After losing three football teams to the ACC, the Big East decided to go big. Instead of just taking Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati, the league gutted Conference USA of its other basketball powers -- DePaul (yes, back then) and Marquette.

It was a bold move designed to keep football relevance, while creating something special in basketball.

Only no one ever thought about the logistics of a 16-team league. The Big East, while dominant on the court, always seemed to big for itself.

It had scheduling problems, brought on partially by its television contract with ESPN. The World Wide Leader wanted the best matchups on television. So the teams that were considered the best were pitted against each other more often, setting up wide differences in the strength of schedule, and leaving some Big East teams feeling left out of the mix.

And the league's footprint became ridiculously large, a common complaint about Conference USA when it was formed. By the Big East grabbing the best of that league, it transferred the problem to itself.

The whole thing left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Why should the 10th best team from the league get a spot in the NCAA tournament? They were clearly a good team, but rewarding mediocrity just doesn't seem right, even if the talent is a step above.

But the biggest issue might have been the impeding addition of TCU. The Big East was set to go to 17 teams overall, with 9 in football. Scheduling was going to get worse, and the links between the members became more tenuous. Now not even being the best basketball league in the country could hold things together.

That is why you can't blame Syracuse and Pittsburgh for leaving. It is easy to imagine a back room conversation between Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski happening once the TCU addition was announced. You can see the two basketball coaches talking about how to save basketball in this massive grab for football supremacy.

It certainly isn't hard to imagine Coach K telling Jim to come on down to the ACC and bringing back the spirit of the league that was once sold out for football purposes.

And just like that, it was done.

With the loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, there is a death rattle in the Big East. The basketball core is still there, but the conference will be back down to seven in football. And that means either pushing Villanova to get its act together, or grabbing yet another team from a smaller conference.

Can anyone truly see the Big East going back to Temple and asking forgiveness? Or will it dip down again and grab another Conference USA team? Is it time for Memphis or Central Florida to get their call?

Because of the basketball side of the house, it is hard to see the league just surrendering. Most of the top remaining basketball programs are the ones that play football. Losing Connecticut, West Virginia and Cincinnati would leave the league with very little to hang its hat on, although DePaul might finally be able to win a game.

Yet the remaining league is so fragile precisely because of the duality of its membership.

That was the elephant in the room during this expansion. Some websites can cry all they want about the ACC being vulnerable to the vultures, but the Big East was always the league whose foundation was the shakiest. Perhaps it was their SEC-biased look at things to make them think that their football little brother could just be picked on.

But this should be a lesson for the rest of the leagues. Expanding to 16 teams doesn't solve problems. It creates them.

Even at 12 teams, leagues were learning it wasn't easy. Scheduling is still a nightmare. The differences between the haves and have nots become greater. Who knows how 14 teams will work? At 16, those issues are magnified, especially because every school has its own agenda for joining the league.

Look at Colorado, which went West to the Pac-12 to gain access to California. If its former conference mates also move to the Pacific, a realignment in the league is almost certain, with Colorado becoming part of the Eastern half. They get shut out of the one thing they wanted from the conference move.

Bigger isn't always better. Sometimes it is just bigger -- bigger headaches, bigger problems and bigger battles of egos in the boardroom.

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:23 PM

November 23, 2010

MRI Basketball Preview - The Pac-10

As a basketball conference, the Pac-10 has been a powerhouse for the better part of the last decade. While they haven’t sent the most players to the NBA (that honor belongs to the ACC with 56), if you account for the difference in size between the conferences, the 48 NBA players who played for Pac-10 schools turns out to be the highest “graduation” rate of any conference in college basketball.

This is important because this phenomenon had a great deal to do with the huge struggles of the conference that began with the 2009-2010 season.

The Pac-10 suffered through last year, ultimately sending just two teams to the NCAA tournament. The highest seed (a No. 8) went to California, with Washington being the other representative.

Arizona saw their impressive streak of 25-straight NCAA appearances come to an end, and even storied UCLA spent the season struggling to look competitive against teams like Cal State Fullerton and Portland.

The primary question for the new season is whether the incredibly young teams that struggled last season have matured into winners, or at the very least, into somewhat competitive also-rans.


Favorite: Washington. While it isn’t a bold prediction, this is the clear preseason choice. The Huskies lost Quincy Pondexter to the NBA, but they return a stellar backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas (no, not the Hoosier, HoF Piston and destroyer of the Knicks franchise) that should have them running an exciting, uptempo offense. While they lose a key mid-range and interior power in Pondexter, they recruited some frontcourt players who should at least provide defensive solidity on a team that has plenty of scoring. If this team gels, they should cruise to the conference title.

Darkhorse: Arizona. While it’s tempting to put UCLA here, their incredibly poor play at the point and a possible reliance on a Juco transfer to solidify their backcourt makes them less likely to really contend for a title. Arizona also has a question mark at the point, as MoMo Jones looks to bring more control to his game as he steps in for the departed Nic Wise. What Arizona does have is four returning starters, led by the conference’s best big man, Derrick Williams. While outside shooting could still prove to be a big weakness, if they can get any production from the outside, they’ll be very dangerous.


Isaiah Thomas, Washington - Much like his namesake, this diminutive guard should not be underestimated. Given a lot of leeway in the offense by coach Lorenzo Romar, Thomas plays an instinctive, aggressive game that really suits this roster of players. Perhaps surprisingly given his style of play, Thomas is also very protective of the ball, turning the ball over only seven times in three tournament games while dishing out 19 assists and averaging nearly 16 points. This season the Huskies have less of an inside game following the departure of Pondexter, and Thomas will have both the opportunity and the burden of carrying the offense. If he can continue on this pace and stay healthy, Thomas looks likely to be the conference player of the season.

Derrick Williams, Arizona - Williams was one of only a couple bright spots for last year’s Arizona team, and without Nic Wise, Williams’ role will be greatly increased. His smooth, powerful game and excellent size make him a difficult matchup for opponents who often lack his size, agility, or more often, both. Not only does Williams have a nice post game, his shooting touch is excellent, which allows him to pad his scoring numbers from the line. If Arizona is going to make it back to the tournament, it will largely be on the back of the talented Williams.

Josh Smith, UCLA - Providing much needed reinforcements to a team that has been badly depleted by defections to the NBA, Ben Howland was able to sign the second-ranked big man in the nation. Smith possesses a huge frame, coming in at 6-8 and 290 pounds, but he’s shockingly agile for such a big man. He’ll physically overwhelm opponents, much in the same way we saw DeMarcus Cousins push around opposing centers last year. Smith needs a lot more polish on his game to make him effective outside of about six feet, but I have little doubt that he’ll improve under the tutelage of the UCLA staff.

Klay Thompson, Washington State - The leading scorer in the Pac-10 last season, Thompson is a natural scorer and has excellent range as a shooter. Under first year coach Ken Bone, Thompson actually saw his offensive load increase, even as the Cougars focused more on slowing the tempo and playing more solid defense. Thompson should again be the focal point of this offense, but he may also have some help from center DeAngelo Casto, which could create even more space and open shooting opportunities for both Thompson and fellow guard Reggie Moore.


In expected order of finish: Washington, Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State

Just out: Washington State, California

Way out: USC, Oregon State, Stanford, Oregon

Posted by Jeff Popelka at 3:00 PM

November 16, 2010

MRI Basketball Preview - The ACC

The ACC is going to start right where it left off last season. Duke will take the lead and never look back.

It is simply a return to form for the Blue Devils who had two players skip the NCAA draft rather than leave early. That is why Coach K teams do — give up individual glory for the name on the front of the jersey.

After surviving one of the more thrilling title games in recent memory, Duke should once again be favored to win it all. Not only will they be more mature, but they will have a new, faster offense that should keep them from the type of play that allowed Butler to hang with them throughout the championship.

The ACC has a number of challengers this season, most notably Florida State. The Seminoles might not be the trendy pick to upset Duke (cough Virginia Tech cough) but they have the best balance and depth of any of the contenders in the ACC.

Credit that to having to rotate almost everyone through the lineup at some point last season. Plus they lose only two starters from last season, but one of them is Solomon Alabi, which will reduce the size of the interior defense.

And then there is Virginia Tech, who could be looking at a 30 win season. The question here will be bench depth. The starters will have the Hokies in games, but can their reserves keep the score close when Dorenzo Hudson and crew need a breather?

The conference is deep enough to get six teams into the NCAA tournament this year, and possibly a seventh if some of the younger squads progress faster than expected.

But there will be one constant.

Everyone will be shooting for Duke.


Favorite: Who else? Duke. The Blue Devils have the nucleus of their championship team back and should be even more dangerous in a new up-tempo offense this season. Kyle Singler (more on him in a second) and Mason Plumlee both passed up the draft and the last time two key guys for a team did that was for a certain Florida team that just wiped the floor throughout the NCAA tournament. Duke might not be that much of a favorite this year, and the team’s only obstacle may be staying focused until March.

Darkhorse: Virginia Tech. The Hokies return all five starters from a team that won 25 games last season and was still left out of the NCAA tournament. A tie for third in the ACC apparently doesn’t mean much these days. They have improved the schedule (so they should be tested prior to conference season) and they are feeling a bit snubbed a few times over which should set them up nicely to have that fire they need to get to the top. It will only take a few stumbles for Virginia Tech to take this league. Who thought that we would ever be saying that when they came into the ACC as just a football school?


Joe Trapani, Boston College - Leading scorer for the Eagles last season. Can shoot inside and out. At 6-foot, 8-inches tall, you wouldn’t expect him to be knocking down the three, but he shot 35 percent from beyond the arc. Boston College might not be a contender this season, but Trapani should be among the top 10 players in the league.

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina - The nation’s No. 1 recruit will be expected to step right in and lead on a North Carolina team that is looking for a leader. Over the summer, Barnes proved that the skills he displayed in high school will translate big time on the next level. The question will be how Barnes holds up during the rough ACC season. It takes an uncommon athlete to put up the same numbers during the conference season as a freshman did in the non-conference schedule. Barnes should be that athlete and should lead the Tar Heels back to the NCAA tournament.

Pe’Shon Howard / Terrell Stoglin, Maryland - The combo of freshman guards could rank among some of the best recruits that Gary Williams has ever attracted to Maryland, and that is saying a lot. Howard has already hit the game winner for the Terps this season in a game against College of Charleston and had 14 off the bench in 24 minutes during that game. Stoglin will be fighting for minutes against a veteran lineup but had 15 and five assists in 18 miunutes against Seattle, including a stellar 9-for-9 at the free throw line. That could make him a interesting substitute in late-game situations for Maryland.

Kyle Singler, Duke - Begins the season as the likely player of the year in the ACC if he can continue the improvement he has shown his first three seasons and dominate like he did in the NCAA tournament. The scary thought is that he might have peaked during last year’s title run and everything from here on out will be downhill. Even if he takes a small step back, the Blue Devils have a monster wing player, who can do everything for the team. With Duke’s new uptempo offense this year, Singler could be seeing more shots and be even more of a force.

Durand Scott, Miami - In case you missed it, Scott went from being on no one’s radar to being the star player of the ACC tournament last season. His coach attributes the uptick in performance to Scott’s becoming more comfortable in his role as a leader on the team, which was on display Monday night during the Hurricanes’ game against Memphis. Scott scored 20 points and along with great inside play from Reggie Johnson almost tripped up the Tigers. Without any of the upperclassmen from last season, Scott will need to continue that type leadership for a still young Miami team. He will keep them from the cellar this season, and should be among the most explosive guards in a conference packed with star backcourts.


In expected order of finish:
Duke, Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina State

Just out:
Georgia Tech


Clemson coach Brad Brownell has replaced two head coaches who have at some point gone on to coach at DePaul (Jerry Wainwright at UNC-Wilmington and now Oliver Purnell). My guess is that if Purnell doesn’t work out, there is little chance that Brownell will be receiving a call from the Blue Demons. Then again, it is DePaul. The next coach of your Blue Demons…

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:00 PM

April 7, 2009

MRI 2008 - Tournament Final

North Carolina, basketball
One bad week tripped UNC from the regular
season title. Not so for the tourney one.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

North Carolina dominated the NCAA tournament, something that the MRI thought might happen...except for that conference tournament week.

You see, the Tar Heels stumbled during the ACC tournament, allowing Memphis to squeak by them during the final week of the season. That led the MRI to pick the Tigers as the tournament champions.

But things changed quickly. As soon as North Carolina starting stomping opponents, the Tar Heels were slipping back into the lead.

By the time the Sweet Sixteen rolled around, North Carolina was sniffing the No. 1 spot, and Missouri assisted the matter by taking out Memphis in dramatic fashion.

The Tar Heels rolled through the rest of the tournament, extending the lead and trouncing the rest of the field, something that the MRI had thought might happen... well, last year. But this year, they did it right.

Included in the rankings this time around are the winners of the other three tournaments: Penn State, Old Dominion and Oregon State.

Yes, Oregon State, who ended with a losing record against Division I teams took home a tournament title. If I thought that the Penn State NIT title was unlikely, I can't even begin to explain how the Beavers pulled this one off.

Oregon State finished as the No. 192 team in the country, and that is after the tournament win.

Talk about unlikely. But then again, it was the CBI, a tournament that it seemed had trouble filling its field because of the monetary requirement it attached to a home game (Apparently Oregon State didn't have a problem paying.)

But that is a matter for another day. Until then, check out the tournament final rankings of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Tournament Final"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:26 AM

April 6, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Finals Edition

For as poorly as the MRI did at predicting the NIT, it did amazingly well at predicting the NCAA tournament so far.

With one game to go (that the computer cannot win), the MRI was at the 73rd percentile at ESPN, having been helped by a number of upsets along the way. The computer needed the help because it landed just one of its Final Four teams predicted prior to the tournament beginning.

Its solid standing is better than a number of the personalities who get paid the big bucks to spout on about sports on a daily basis at ESPN. The computer is ahead of everyone at PTI, a solid three-quarters of Around the Horn, and is hanging in there against the Editorial staff.

Not bad.

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Finals Edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:49 PM

April 3, 2009

Penn State: The Improbable NIT winner

Penn State, NIT, champions, college basketball, tournament, basketball, AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Penn State finished off Baylor last night 69-65 to take the NIT title. While some may mock the winner of this secondary tournament -- calling then No. 66 even though this title brings with it more prestige than dropping a first round NCAA game in an upset -- the NIT has been a stepping stone for many teams moving into the next season.

I wrote about this at Examiner, but here is a list of the teams that have turned recent NIT success into NCAA tournament glory the next season:

Ohio State turned last year’s championship into a No. 8 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.

West Virginia, the 2007 champion, reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2008. The runner-up, Clemson, was No. 5 seed but ran into a hot Villanova team.

Two-time defending champ South Carolina started the 2007 season 10-3 before getting rolled by a hot SEC conference that ultimately produced NCAA champ Florida.

Ok, so Ohio State's tournament run didn't end with fireworks and parades, but they made the field. That should give Penn State a lot of hope going into next year, even with the loss of Jamelle Cornley.

Continue reading "Penn State: The Improbable NIT winner"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:11 PM

March 25, 2009

Northwestern Wildcats Examiner: Could Curry become a Wildcat?

Liberty’s season ended Monday, an 88-65 loss to the James Madison Dukes in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

The future of the basketball program ended Tuesday.

Seth Curry, the high-scoring, little brother of Davidson’s Stephen Curry announced his decision to transfer in order to face tougher competition during his college career.

Frankly, the fact that Liberty had this kid for a year is a shock in itself.

Everyone watched the elder Curry light up the league in his freshman season, averaging almost 22 points per game. Then he turned it on for his sophomore campaign, almost leading the Wildcats to the Final Four.

At that point, coaches across the country should have been scrambling to recruit Seth. Even if he were a bust, given the play of his brother, it would have been worth the risk.

It is almost like watching Archie Manning play in the NFL and Peyton tear up the SEC, and then not recruiting Eli.

The family has the genes.

So Liberty got its season of glory, even if that glory ended in the fourth best tournament in the country.
Now where does Seth go?

Read the rest of this story here.

The MRI Rankings are copyright 2009 by MRISports.com. Ben Miraski is a freelance reporter, edits and writes for MRISports.com and is a featured blogger on FanIQ. He also is the Northwestern Wildcats Examiner for Examiner.com. Readers can contact Ben at bmiraski@mrisports.com

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 10:15 AM

March 24, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: NIT Edition

Everyone has been down on the SEC this season, and for good reason. A bunch of mediocre teams, who failed to win even small games during the non-conference season, doesn't make for exciting basketball.

When you add in that the "normal" names failed to impress, no one was watching.

And no one is watching the SEC anymore, at least in the NCAA tournament. As the second weekend gets set to begin, all three teams from the South have already packed their gear away for the off-season.

But those fans might want to flip the channel from CBS to ESPN. The league that everyone though was way down has actually impressed in that other tournament, the NIT.

Of the eight teams remaining, three are from the SEC, and all three should be favored in their games to get to Madison Square Garden.

Imagine that. We aren't talking about three teams from the supposedly very deep Big East -- it could have happened. We aren't talking about Big XII. And we aren't talking about the little guys breaking through, although at least one of the Final Four spots will be taken by a team with a little chip on its shoulder.

Nope, this is the SEC that is running through what has actually been the more competitive tournament when you look at how fairly matched the teams have been.

As always, let's see what the computer says about who should be headed to MSG on March 31.

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: NIT Edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 8:03 AM

March 23, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Second chances

Inevitably, the question around the office this morning is “How’s your bracket?”

Most people at this point are probably feeling good. That’s because once again, chalk has dominated the competition.

And there is no surprise in that. The computer was confident that there were four teams better than all the rest. All four of those are still alive and the only team that is starting to look like they could challenge them is Connecticut.

But then again, most of that is thanks to their record-setting victory over what was the worst MRI-rated team in the tournament, Chattanooga.

If you are keeping track of your bracket at ESPN, a ten-point difference at this point is worth over 400,000 spots in the standings, which makes the computer situation a little tenuous at this point.

You see, the computer has 500 points over at ESPN. After 24 correct first-round picks, the computer swept through the second round, getting all but one game correct that it could. That leaves the computer with 13 of its original Sweet Sixteen picks.

The MRI can still win seven of eight games on Thursday and Friday and three of its Final Four are still alive.

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Second chances"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:09 AM

March 21, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: 2nd Round

Sure your bracket is busted. I know the MRI's bracket is. The MRI had West Virginia running to the Final Four.

That didn't work out so well.

If it had happened, along the way, the Mountaineers would have needed to win two 50-50 games against Kansas and Louisville. That is tough no matter who you are.

But it couldn't even win its first game, and that is going to make it very interesting as the tournament goes forward. That's because the MRI is usually right in it until the end. The breaking point of the pre-tournament picks doesn't usually come until later in the rounds.

Then again, maybe it was to be expected. The MRI got 24 of 32 games correct in the first round. It was only expecting to correctly pick 25 of the 32 (add up the percentage and you get the expected win numbers for those statistically challenged).

Not too shabby.

That has the computer in the 77.7 percentile on ESPN's Bracket Challenge. So even with the upsets, the computer is beating two-thirds of the country.

We'll see how that goes the rest of the way missing a key piece of the puzzle. I can't imagine it will go well.

So on to the second round, for those of you who are maybe placing friendly wagers. I know that many people also have second-chance Sweet Sixteen brackets, so don't fear, we will give you a sneak peek at who you should be expecting to be in that.

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: 2nd Round"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 9:10 AM

March 17, 2009

Projecting The Tournament: Official Bracket Edition

Louisville might be dancing, but the computer thinks they are ripe for an upset... from their own conference (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)Enough messing around with half-cocked predictions based on Joe Lunardi. Come on, the guy only got 64 of the 65 teams correct this year. How can you actually trust someone who isn't right 100 percent of the time?

Of course, I kid.

But the MRI does not kid. It gives it to you straight, albeit with some nice percentages attached to cover its silicon behind.

So what are the chances of your precious school making it all the way through to compete in Detroit (by the way, maybe the NCAA should look more closely at its scheduling. Is Detroit really a "destination location" for anything these days? Even the auto show might be in danger.)?

Well, the MRI can't exactly give you that... at least not yet. That is an off-season Excel programming exercise. But for right now, we can tell you what the computer picks for every game in the NCAA tournament. (NIT picks for the first round are here.)

How is that for a compromise?

Let's go to the brackets. Each team will be listed in the round it goes out (up to the Final Four) with the chance of them LOSING the game. It is simple math to get the chance of them winning.

After each round, we will post updated editions with the chances for the rest of the tournament.

Continue reading "Projecting The Tournament: Official Bracket Edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 4:26 PM

March 16, 2009

MRI 2008 - Regular Season Final

North Carolina, basketball
Has Memphis earned themselves the
No. 1 ranking and a NCAA championship?
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Woah, look out America.

Memphis has returned to the top of the MRI rankings just in time for the NCAA tournament. Talk about timing!

If you wanted to look for consistency, you wouldn't have to look much further than the Tigers. Although they were not among the best teams in the country for most of the year, they made the charge and benefited from the tumbles of others.

25 wins in a row? Yeah, that's the ticket.

North Carolina's ACC tournament loss cost them the regular season title in the MRI. One more game in the win column, one more game, one more potential big victory all went away with the loss to Florida State.

Pittsburgh tripped up its own chances in the same way, with even greater consequences as there were many more games left in the Big East battle when they bowed out.

And Duke did everything they could but had too much ground to make up.

So congrats to Memphis on winning the regular season crown. Now, can they do it in the post-season where they stumbled over the past few years despite great MRI numbers?

That remains to be seen.

Coming tomorrow, a full tournament projection from the computer. The MRI was shocked at the number of teams ranked 26-45 that did not make the NCAA field. We are talking 10 teams!

That means there is a lot of questionable quality competing come Thursday and Friday. We will let you know who is ripe for an upset tomorrow.

Until then, check out the final regular season rankings of the MRI:

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Regular Season Final"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:58 PM

March 2, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: March 2 Edition

Ok, so earlier today, I said that Oklahoma wouldn't make the Final Four. But a lot depends on the seeding...

And it appears that Joe Lunardi decided to prove me wrong and seed Oklahoma as the best team in the South. No team that the computer has better than Oklahoma is in that region, which is a shock since so many teams from the Big East are up there.

So Oklahoma proves me wrong and wins the South to get to the Final Four.

Thanks Joe.

I think the most interesting part of today's outcomes is the fate of all those bubble teams.

Choose any of them that you think is close to making the tournament.

Then look for that team in the "One and Done" category; I almost guarantee it is there.

It just goes to show you that no matter how much arguing and complaining you do, most of those teams on the bubble don't belong in the tournament in the first place.

Of course because I wrote that we will have a "George Mason"-like run this season now.

Enjoy the brackets

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: March 2 Edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 4:54 PM

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 13

North Carolina, basketball
Tyler Hansbrough is concentrating
on keeping his team flying high in
the MRI (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

With just two weeks to go before the tournament, it appears thing have gotten quite interesting in the MRI.

Pittsburgh stumbled against Providence to knock it back down from challenging North Carolina, who became the first team this season to break the 200-point mark. Pittsburgh is now back within striking distance of other challengers Memphis, Duke and Connecticut, making the run to the Final Four very dependent on how the final bracket pairings turn out.

After those five and potentially Kansas, the rest of the league drops off quickly. So at this point, do we have a six-team race for the title?

I think so. While we can see teams like Oklahoma, Michigan State and dark horse West Virginia going to the Elite Eight, I think the Final Four will only come from the top six teams in the MRI.

Of course, in two weeks, things could be a lot different, but right now, I can't see it any other way.

You might say that Oklahoma with Blake Griffin back is a real challenge. But without Griffin, Oklahoma has looked pedestrian and against the better teams, easily beatable. Shut down Griffin, win the game -- it seems a simple formula.

And past them, I can't see another team that can really challenge. Maybe Marquette before the loss of Dominic James. Maybe Louisville if they didn't have the tendency to implode. Maybe someone from the Pac-10 if I didn't doubt that the strength of the league beyond the first three.

Basically, there is no one.

And even the contenders have their issues so the race is anywhere but finished. But this is a big change from just a few weeks ago when any of the top ten could have made a run for the title.

If you go straight by the MRI, the cut-off for an at-large bid (at least a more likely chance at one) would have been at No. 50.

The computer predicted 69.00 percent of the games this week putting it at 70.56 percent of the games on the season. All-time the computer is 71.51 percent correct.

Check out all the rankings in week 13 of the MRI:

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 13"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 2:09 PM

February 23, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 12

North Carolina, basketball
Roy Williams knows his team caught
a break to stay at No. 1 this week,
its third in a row at the top.
(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

North Carolina is getting a reprieve this week. The team may have lost a tough one against Maryland, but they also benefitted from the fact that all of their main competitors lost except one.

Pittsburgh narrowed the gap to less than a single MRI point this week. That means any more bobbles and the Panthers will return to the top spot.

Pitt has been under the radar as everyone has talked about Connecticut and the Tar Heels, but maybe the time for that is over. The Panthers have what it takes to make the long run this year and a lot of that credit has to go to Jamie Dixon who has continued with Ben Howland started (and has kept doing at UCLA) and made it even better.

I am previously on record for saying that the new, bigger Big East is too tough to actually generate a Final Four candidate that has enough gas to win it.

I might be eating my shoe this season. I can honestly see Pittsburgh making the deep run and winning the whole thing. As we saw this weekend, North Carolina has trouble with defense. Duke has trouble with defense. And Connecticut, despite one of the most confounding foul calls contributing, still couldn't stop Pitt.

This is the team we have been waiting for out of the Western half of Pennsylvania for quite a while.

They just didn't quite make it over the hump in the MRI this week.

One more note. In my radio show on Sunday I talked about how I could not believe that the Big Ten had eight teams in the bracket in Joe Lunardi's latest tournament projection. Things are getting back to normal. They are down to seven today, which is still more than I can fathom, but as I have been reminded, the bubble is quite soft this season.

Maybe the MRI is crazy, but it can't see more than five even with the soft bubble, but I think there is a lot of fluidity near the cut-off and this could come down to the Saturday before Selection Sunday before we see all the disputes settled.

A tough week for the MRI. The computer predicted 65.64 percent of the games correctly this week. For the season, the computer has predicted 70.70 percent of the games correctly.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 12"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:27 PM

February 17, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 17 edition

If Duke's recent failures haven't harmed them in the MRI (yet), they certainly are starting to feel sting in Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology (Through games of Sunday, Feb. 15).

The Blue Devils have fallen to a No. 3 seed. And if that wasn't bad enough, they are in the East region with two other top 5 MRI teams: Connecticut and Memphis.

As a result, Duke goes from being a team playing in the finals last Friday, to a team that is eliminated in their Sweet Sixteen game. That is quite a ways to fall, and it doesn't help that they continue to slip in the MRI rankings.

There is only one 12-5 upset this projection, an Arizona win over Ohio State.

The Buckeye loss doesn't bode well for the Big Ten. Even with six teams in the tournament, only one, Michigan State, manages to make it to the second weekend of the tournament.

But you can check it all out in the latest bracket prognostication.

On to the brackets:

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 17 edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 10:00 AM

February 16, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 11

North Carolina, basketball
North Carolina has shot its way
into the top spot for the second
straight week
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With Duke reeling, how could they possibly still be in the top four spots in the MRI? That would mean a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament as seeded by the computer rankings.

The Blue Devils have lost three of four and needed a monumental comeback and overtime to defeat Miami.

But while it seems that Duke should be shooting the way of North Carolina Central, they have had some help to stay near the top.

First there is Connecticut who seems to have the uncanny ability not to lose. But the loss of Jerome Dyson has held back the Huskies. Instead of having crushing wins to add to their resume, they end up squeaking by a team like Seton Hall.

Eight points doesn't really scream danger, but Seton Hall isn't really the type of team that should be able to hang even that close with the Big East leader.

(On a side note, what is going on with the massive blowout victories in the Big East lately? How can one conference have so many close teams separated by more than 20 points when they actually play?)

And then there is Oklahoma. The Sooners may be making waves in the Big XII, but it is the Big XII.

After Kansas and Missouri, who do you really count as a great team?

Texas? Hardly. The Longhorns have found too many ways to lose games they should win (But they still moved back into the MRI top 25, which just shows how close all the bubble teams are.)

And then who do you even nominate?

But the Blue Devils' luck might be running out. Connecticut gets Pittsburgh (a very important game for both teams as if Pitt wins, they continue to challenge UNC for the top MRI spot), and South Florida this week. That is prime fodder for a huge bump in the numbers.

But until those games are played, Duke can still say they belong in the top spots, at least according to the computer.

And that computer had a good week, predicting 72.54 percent of the games this week. For the year, the computer has gotten 71.23 percent of the games correct and 71.63 percent of the games all time.

Check out all the ratings in week 11 of the MRI:

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 11"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:52 PM

February 13, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 13 edition

Joe Lunardi's latest projection is up which means another MRI projection.

As with Lunardi's bracket, the MRI numbers used for the projections includes all games through 2/12/2009.

To the Bracket:

One and Done:
Midwest: Morgan State, South Carolina, Washington, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, Vermont, Arizona State, Jacksonville
West: Alabama State, Princeton, Virginia Tech, Purdue, North Dakota State, UNLV, Weber State, Florida State, Cal State Northridge
South: Morehead State, Miami, Boston College, Western Kentucky, Butler, Robert Morris, Kentucky, VMI
East: Holy Cross, Dayton, Ohio State, Buffalo, Arizona, Northeastern, Minnesota, Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 13 edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 4:38 PM

February 10, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 10 edition

Joe Lunardi has gone to twice-weekly predictions so we are going to step up our predictions of the tournament winners also. It is a little scary how close the MRI is to predicting the same teams into the tournament as Lunardi this season.

Either the MRI is improving in its ratings of teams, the league is just that balanced that almost anything can be correct, or Lunardi has gone off his rocker.

Whatever reason you choose, it is always a fun prediction.

Let's go to the brackets (Using Lunardi's Monday, Feb. 9 bracket and the MRI through games of Feb. 8):

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 10 edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 6:37 PM

February 9, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 10

North Carolina, basketball
North Carolina has reason to celebrate as
they return to the top of the MRI.
(AP Photo/Phil Coale)

Say good bye Duke. Your run at the top has ended.

Almost appropriately, the team that was able to knock them down was Clemson. There is no team that has taken its lumps more in the MRI rankings than the Tigers, so I guess there is some "payback" factor involved here.

The Blue Devils didn't drop far. They only slipped to No. 2 thanks to their performance before everything fell apart against Clemson. Heck, they almost lost twice this week, and I don't believe that people would have been as forgiving to the Devils had they lost to Miami (Great comeback there. Coach K apparently has some way to inspire his team).

Taking over the top spot is North Carolina which sets up a great game on Wednesday between the top two teams.

The question really remains as to whether anyone can catch the set of teams at the top. It may take until the conference tournaments before it happens, or a really bad fall. I just am not sure that anyone can take over from these three.

That evens includes Connecticut, who seems to be playing better than anyone (although a close game with Michigan of all teams doesn't inspire anyone to greatness).

The MRI was correct 66.46 percent of the time this week, making it 71.07 percent correct on the season. All-time the computer has correctly predicted 71.62 percent of the games.

Check out all the rankings in week 10 of the MRI:

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 10"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:20 PM

February 5, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 5 edition

Well, this feels a little strange, considering how badly the projected championship team lost last night.

Duke picked such a great night to have only the second-worst lost ever under Coach K. The only loss that was worse was one to a talent-heavy UNLV team in the finals of the NCAA tournament.

That loss could be forgiven, but a loss to a fellow ACC team like this? No, that one can't be forgiven which is why Coach K said that the team better not forget this loss.

So it is with a sense of irony that I post this week's tournament projections, which still have the Blue Devils capturing the title in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket.

On to the projections.

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Feb. 5 edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:02 PM

February 2, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 9

Duke, Coach K, basketball
Coach K knows that Duke's lead over the
rest of the field is quickly shrinking
(AP Photo/Sara D. Davis)

Apparently no one wants to be No. 1 this season. Duke climbs to the top of the polls, only to fall to Wake Forest, the team they replaced.

Pittsburgh has a chance to take back the top spot, but they trip up against Villanova.

This isn't necessarily something for these teams to worry about. They are still among the best 10 teams in the country. But they are coming back to the pack.

Just look at the latest MRI numbers.

Duke, North Carolina and Pittsburgh were the top three teams last week, with room to spare should any slip-ups occur.

But a 27-point gap has now almost half of what it once was. Connecticut, Memphis and the rest of the country are moving in on the three leaders.

But despite the closing field, there is still room for major upsets.

Until this week, the largest upset ever featured Clemson, at the time the No. 1 team in the MRI a few years ago. The Tigers lost a home game to Elon, effectively starting the destruction of Clemson's season that year.

The downward spiral that the Tigers experienced after that has been come to be known as the Clemson effect here at MRI Sports.

Yet that isn't the upset that occurred this year. This 1-in-100 shot victory came from teams far down the MRI's rankings.

Alcorn State, currently No. 342 -- next to last -- in the MRI, scored a major upset by beating No. 211 Alabama State 79-74 on the road. The chance of the victory according to the data compiled by MRI was only 1 percent given the futility of Alcorn State this season.

So now Clemson can share the biggest upset title with Alabama State, two teams that couldn't be more different in terms of make up and skill.

But they have one thing in common -- the ability to trip up in a game that should be absolutely no problem.

The MRI correctly predicted 73.40 percent of the games this week, despite the major upset. For the season, the MRI has predicted 71.65 percent of the games.

All-time, the computer has been 71.69 percent correct.

Check out all the rankings in week 9 of the MRI (through games of 2/1/09):

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 9"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:54 PM

January 28, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: Jan. 28 edition

It is time to look at the NCAA tournament again, as projected by Joe Lunardi.

For those that might think I am making fun of the Bracket-master by doing this, that is not true, even when I have a 5- or 6-seed going to the Final Four. It is not like it has never happened.

More true is that I am looking at where the teams are seeded versus where they measure up in the computer rankings. It is a way at looking at how disparate two views of the same data can be.

For example, did I really think that West Virginia was a Final Four team last week? Well, why not? They are a great team. So what if they were seeded low. Bob Huggins has gotten more out of less more than any other coach that I know of. Maybe this was going to be the breakthrough year for Huggy-bear.

I believe this could give a lot of fans some insight into what will happen come March given what has already transpired.

And now to the Brackets:

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: Jan. 28 edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:07 AM

Northwestern Examiner: Men look to exorcise demons against Indiana

The men's basketball team takes on Indiana tonight in Evanston, ... assuming that Tom Crean and company are able to get through the snow and to the stadium.

Northwestern is looking to exact some revenge on Indiana after the Hoosiers have beaten them in five straight games. It isn't the same players on Indiana now as then, but a win like this could go a long way to having Northwestern pointed in the right direction again.

Read the preview and then look for a game review later as MRISports and your Northwestern Examiner will be on the sidelines from press row for this one.

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 10:41 AM

January 27, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 8

Nolan Smith, Duke basketball,
Nolan Smith and Duke are flying
high with a No. 1 MRI ranking
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

I have been a fan of Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange(men) for a while. He wins the right way. He slaves away in Syracuse, N.Y., which has to affect how he can recruit.

Because honestly, if you were a high school basketball player, wouldn't you rather be playing in the ACC, where most of the time, the weather stays above freezing during your season?

Which is why it makes it that much more difficult to say what I am going to say.

Perhaps it is time that Boeheim retires.

I know, it seems a little premature. After all, Syracuse is 16-4 this season against Division I opponents. Many teams would love to have a record that great at this point in the year. They are 5-3 in the Big East and in the thick of a very close race. And they are likely headed to another NCAA tournament berth.

But the new larger Big East seems to be taking its toll on the Orange coach.

Since the league expanded, his teams have struggled to stay in the upper echelons of the standings. The league has gotten tougher, becoming the powerhouse that it was supposed to be with expansion.

But that has come with a cost: The decline of two of its most storied programs, Syracuse and Georgetown.

I still think Boeheim can do the job. He still recruits well. He still coaches with all the energy he always has.

But unlike some of his good friends (read: Coach K), he seems to have lost the magic to get that tag team of recruits to win consistently, which leads me to wonder if the Big East has passed Boeheim by.

It would be a shame to see him go. He is after all one of the greatest.

But I look at his team this season and I wonder. I never felt they were one of the top ten teams in the nation. Yet, there they were, ranked No. 8 prior to losing two straight games.

Now they are falling back to more of a norm for the team.

The MRI believes that Syracuse is good, but a borderline top 25 team at best. Jeff Sagarin's ratings agree.

So why do the eyes of the writers seem to be deceiving them?

Perhaps it is the man at the end of the bench, that none of us can seem to turn our backs on. Perhaps he is personally buoying the team to the top.

I hope for his sake that he can turn things around. He is too good of a coach to start looking like a choke artist every Big East season.

But for now, I can watch and wonder if maybe it would be better if he left before things turn ugly.

The MRI correctly predicted 66.46 percent of the games this week. For the season, the computer has predicted 71.40 percent of the games correctly, and all-time it has been correct 71.67 percent of the time.

Check out all the rankings in week eight of the MRI (games through 1/25/09):

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 8"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:12 PM

January 23, 2009

Projecting the Tournament: New methodology, new ways to rip the MRI

In an attempt to please the insightful commenters who just love my tournament projections (read: repeatedly flame me left and right), I will be changing the format this year.

Since last year led to a slight ... let's say hiatus, for the projections, look at this as a way to make a fresh start for the MRI.

How will it work this year? Welcome to the Bracketology edition of the MRI tournament projections.

Each week, we will use Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology and project out the tournament based on the current MRI ratings.

Right now, we will likely see many of the games be straight-up chalk, but as the season wears on, I expect us to see more and more upsets come into play.

From the MRI's perspective, this is the best possible circumstance: It can't be wrong!

So each week, get ready to read who is one and done, and who are the favorite for the Final Four.

And if I get enough response, perhaps I will bring back the full scale tournament projections. It definitely drove traffic.

So now, to the brackets, using Lunardi's 1/19/09 bracket:

Continue reading "Projecting the Tournament: New methodology, new ways to rip the MRI"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 4:49 PM

Northwestern Examiner: Will Michigan mean three in a row?

The Northwestern men's basketball team is currently riding high on a two-game winning streak. They now travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on a Michigan team that is reeling from three straight losses. How can Northwestern extend both streaks? Here are three winning strategies for the Wildcats at Examiner.com

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 2:52 PM

January 21, 2009

Northwestern Examiner: Men score upset against Michigan State

The Northwestern men's basketball team scored a major upset against Michigan State.

I recap the game at Examiner.com.

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 8:28 PM

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 7

Has North Carolina turned it around?

It certainly appears that way, and it is a main reason why the Tar Heels are back leading the MRI rankings this week.

It also helps that Pittsburgh was eliminated from the undefeated list by a loss to Louisville. That knocked the Panthers down to No. 3 in the rankings.

So while Pittsburgh went temporarily cold, North Carolina turned bright hot. They shook off two conference-opening losses and soundly beat up on Virginia and Miami.

Give a lot of credit to Tyler Hansbrough who contributed 28 and 24 in the two wins.

Despite the wins, North Carolina is two games back in the ACC. They are trailing the MRI's No. 2 team, Duke, who continues to defy the odds and win despite no legitimate big man.

We will see if facing off against Maryland will change that this coming weekend.

Rounding out the top five are Connecticut and Memphis, but they are closer to the the rest of the pack than they are to the computer's leaders.

The MRI had a tough week, falling victim to a number of upsets. It finished 68.01 percent correct. All-time, the computer has correctly predicted 71.75 percent of the games.

Check out all the rankings in week seven of the MRI (ratings through 1/18/09):

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 7"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 6:30 PM

Northwestern Examiner: Men hope 13 unlucky for Spartans

In my new role as Northwestern Examiner for Examiner.com, the Chicago Edition, I preview tonight's game for the Northwestern men against the Michigan State Spartans.

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 10:43 AM

January 12, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 6

Pitt continues to find a way to shoot over everyone else into first place in the MRI.Just when it looked like we might be turning a corner and having the North Carolina Tar Heels return to the top spot in the rankings, along comes Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons took out the team that was leading the rankings this week, dropping Carolina back to the No. 2 spot.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh continues to lead the pack after remaining unscathed in Big East play.

After that, the pack remains jumbled with most of the top 40 teams closely matched.

How else can you explain some of the losses taking place this week?

How does Arkansas knock off both Oklahoma and Texas and yet lose to Mississippi State? There is no reason. These things do happen once conference season begins.

And that is just what Pittsburgh might face over the next seven days. Skipping past a game against South Florida, the Panthers face MRI-ranked Louisville and Syracuse. Not exactly cream-puff city any longer.

All of which means we could be looking at a new leader come next week. Could it be Duke who has continued to survive at the top despite no true central presence?

Or can North Carolina rebound from an 0-2 start in the ACC?

Or is it once of the other teams who are lurking a bit in back of the three leaders?

The MRI correctly predicted 72.95 percent of the games this week. All-time the computer has correctly determined 71.81 percent of all games.

Check out all the ratings in week six of the MRI:

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 6"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 1:55 PM

January 8, 2009

About Last Night: Disappointment Edition

Can you ever forgive Maryland for a loss like the one against Morgan State?  Not when they look like they are 2 feet taller than the opponents.Last night turned into a mega-disappointment for teams that needed a big statement game.

First, there was Indiana, who has just floundered (for good reason, but that is another topic) for most of the season so far. They pushed a nearly ranked Michigan team to overtime in Bloomington.

It was a chance to have a statement win, something to build on for the rest of the season. But talent has a way of winning out, and Michigan was able to overcome what was the best effort of the season by Indiana.

Don't be surprised though if Indiana is able to steal one or two Big Ten games at home this season, if they are going to give that effort.

Indiana is a team you can forgive. They are lacking their usual allotment of great basketball talent.

But there were other teams last night that aren't lacking the talent, but maybe the heart and drive to demonstrate their greater ability.

Case in point, Boston College.

Continue reading "About Last Night: Disappointment Edition"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 5:01 PM

January 7, 2009

Of Boards and Men

In the process of applying for a real job yesterday afternoon, I had to write a short article on a subject with a local angle.

That shouldn't be a problem when the subject is Northwestern sports.

So I wrote it.

Three hundred glorious words on why Northwestern men's basketball is struggling now that conference season has started because of rebounds.

Heck, I should just let you read it yourself:

Continue reading "Of Boards and Men"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 10:13 AM

January 5, 2009

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 5

DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields celebrate hanging on to the No. 1 ranking in the MRI. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)Two weeks pass and you would think nothing ever changes around the MRI. Pittsburgh still leads the pack. The ACC still maintains its jumble at the top. And Indiana still continues to struggle.

Yes, the more time passes, the more we see the field of contenders really take shape. Just look at how UCLA has vaulted itself into the tops of the rankings with its 8-game winning streak.

Not that it has been that easy for all of them.

Take Georgetown, who beat Connecticut on the road, only to return home and lose to Pittsburgh, the continuing No. 1 team in the MRI.

It seems you just can't catch any breaks if you are the Hoyas.

Or how about Syracuse who is on a 5-game win streak since dropping its game against Cleveland State at the buzzer, but they still can't crack back into the top 25.

And if you look at the MRI scores, we have quite a bunching from No. 7 through No. 28. This could be a very interesting tournament if things continue to go the way they have been. Teams will be so similar in stature and quality, we may see quite a number of upsets in March, just because seeding all of these doppelgangers will be so difficult.

Now that the new year has started, it is time for the teams to prove themselves in conference. I will have my eyes on the ACC, which has come out of the gate hard (and already seen one upset with UNC losing to Boston College last night), and on the Big East where the teams will continue to just beat each other up.

Yes, it should be an interesting two months.

The MRI correctly predicted 73.64 percent of the games over the past two weeks, making it 73.21 percent correct on the season. All time the MRI has correctly predicted 71.79 percent of the games.

Check out all the ratings in week 5 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 5"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:50 AM

December 30, 2008

Rankings, what rankings?

No rankings this week. The two days off for Christmas Eve and Christmas coupled with a solo game on the 26th left this week severely lacking in games to judge the week on.

So we will wait until after this week until the next basketball rankings appear again.

But know this, UCLA is quickly climbing to the top and Stanford has breached the top 25 so things may be settling for the long conference run at the tournament.

Stay tuned for more bowl picks and analysis in the days to come.

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 11:01 AM

December 22, 2008

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 4

Sam Young dodges defenders like Pittsburgh has dodged all challengers to No. 1.Pittsburgh survived another week at the top of the heap, and it came with a real test.

Florida State was a victim of the current top achievers in the MRI and it could stand as a good indication that Pittsburgh could be standing tall in the rankings through a good portion of the Big East season.

FSU brings the height and the strength of a true major conference foe, something that had been lacking in Pittsburgh's schedule up to this point. Winning this tough extra-conference game at this point in the season should flow nicely for Pitt as they enter conference season next week.

Conference season comes with a price though. Pitt may wear down as the season rolls on. There is a reason that no team from the Big East has made the final game in the NCAA tournament since the league became the monster 16-team division.

The league is too tough. Playing 18 league games in that kind of atmosphere is too hard on the players by the end of the season.

The Big East may have lost Miami, BC and Virginia Tech, but it added some of the toughest basketball programs in the nation. Marquette and Louisville were certainly no pushovers when they came into the fold. DePaul might not be the rare vintage that the school once was, but they still bring in some tough ball players that don't exist at the other three schools. And Cincinnati has a tradition of hard-nosed ball that had them at the top of Conference USA for years (built on the backs of JC transfers brought in by Bob Huggins).

The Big East is its own worst enemy, especially in its bloated format.

So despite a big win from Connecticut over Gonzaga, and the performances of Pitt and West Virginia to date, along with the other 8 or so Big East heavies, don't expect to see me pick a Big East team as a winner in the tournament.

They just won't have the chops left when crunch time comes.

The MRI correctly predicted 76.86 percent of the games this week. The computer has correctly predicted 71.74 percent of the games since its inception.

Check out all the rankings in week four of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 4"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:23 PM

December 19, 2008

Big Props to Psycho T

T looking gracefulStop and take a look at the picture that accompanies this article.

Look how graceful Tyler Hansbrough seems as he lays the ball in.

Ok, now forget that image.

That is not the real "Psycho T".

No, the real Hansbrough worked his way into the low post and practically shoved the basketball toward the basket last night to score the points that made him the all-time leading scorer at North Carolina, breaking Phil Ford's 30-year-old record.

Think about that achievement. This isn't the top scorer at some no name school; this is North Carolina.

And this is not some shot-heavy guard that took away the mark, it is a tough center.

Hansbrough did it the way he made most of his now-career 2302 points -- hard-driving, muscle-ripping, and pounding.

That is the Hansbrough that has brought North Carolina back to the top of the basketball world.

It is also the Hansbrough that will probably drop in all the draft lists because he is not polished enough, he doesn't shoot from outside, and he hasn't got the finesse to play in the NBA.

That is all ridiculous scout nonsense.

This is a basketball player at his best. And if grit and determination aren't valued anymore, then so be it.

But, you would be hard pressed to count the number of basketball players who would have accepted the accolades that come with Hansbrough's achievement with as much humility as the senior did. In an era of 'Me, Me, Me', Hansbrough is all about team.

He looked as if he would rather forget the whole thing happened during the brief stoppage of play after the record basket. He wanted to get back to playing.

And some team in the NBA should reward that because they will get a player on their team that they never have to worry about giving 100 percent and not getting into trouble on off nights or after the game.

Congrats to Hansbrough for his achievement...

And for being a real class act in a sport that is severely lacking in that category.

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:18 PM

December 15, 2008

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 3

Gilbert Brown has helped Pittsburgh overtake the Tar Heels for No. 1Just when you thought no one could overtake North Carolina, well, here comes Pittsburgh.

The Panthers are off to another undefeated start, and while it won't last come Big East play, is has been very impressive.

Take their dominance on the boards. Pitt is out-rebounding their opponents by an average of 10.2 per game. If you can guarantee second shots like that, and keep your opponents from the same, you can see why no one has yet beat them.

Now, Pittsburgh could be on the edge of a big fall. None of their wins have been true road games. Their best two wins have been neutral site wins against Texas Tech and Washington State.

And the Big East is a huge challenge this season. Just count the teams in the top 25 of the MRI. Outside of Pitt, you have UConn, Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse.

Eight teams. Almost one-third of the posted rankings. (The ACC is still at the top. It doesn't have the poor bottom that the Big East does, and it takes three of the top four spots.)

So, while UNC might not be the top team this week, it could change after the holidays are over and the real fun starts in January.

Until then, at least Pitt can claim one week where they were better than the Tar Heels.

The MRI correctly predicted 73.40 percent of the games this week. All-time, the MRI has predicted 71.68 percent of the games.

Check out all the rankings in week three of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 3"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 5:09 PM

December 8, 2008

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 2

Deon Thompson of UNC is giving just one example of why the Tar Heels are going to be blocking everyone's access to No. 1 during this season. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Just in case you couldn't guess, North Carolina is again No. 1 this week.

It wasn't at all surprising with the way they took it to Michigan State in the ACC - Big Ten Challenge.

So, let's talk about the more shocking news.

Northwestern is No. 8 in the MRI.



The team that has never, ever, made the NCAA tournament.

They are not only No. 8, but they are the topped ranked Big Ten team in the MRI going into the conference season.

Who would have called that as even a possibility prior to this season?

I didn't.

Bob McClellan at Rivals.com didn't think so either earlier this year, although he though they were getting closer.

I am not saying that Northwestern will win the Big Ten, but this is an encouraging sign going into the conference season. Granted the schedule has not been the toughest so far, but a win against Florida State is very encouraging.

Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois,...

If Northwestern can eek out a 5th place finish in the Big Ten, who is to say that won't be enough for the Wildcats to break the drought? Ohio State and Michigan might have something to say about that 5th place finish, but so far, I think Northwestern has shown they are going to be more than a doormat this season.

It is still a long way to go to Selection Sunday, but the first month is certainly very encouraging.

The MRI correctly predicted 68.46 percent of the games in its first week. All-time, the system is has predicted 71.66 percent of the games.

Check out all the rankings in week 2 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 2"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:12 PM

December 1, 2008

MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 1

North Carolina-haters should be scared.  Hansbrough has only played in half the games.Welcome back college basketball.

You have been missed.

It is the annual release of the first college basketball rankings from the MRI. It is usually a mess, and about half of the teams in the top 25 now will be missing come February.

It is also great fuel for the fiery discussions that will inevitably occur: How Louisville could be so far down this early, if Dayton is really a top 10 team, when will Clemson blow it all this season, and will this finally be the year for Northwestern?

Yes, the MRI -- nothing better than a fresh set of rankings.

This year's opening set has a little issue: Last year's rankings were never complete.

I know, shame on your resident statistician.

But the keeper of the MRI was away reporting from the snowy streets of Humboldt Park in Chicago last winter and that did not make for happy times in MRI land.

So, while last season was a little truncated, don't expect this one to be.

Although we might just want to give up now.

North Carolina has shown in a few short weeks that they will not be going away easy this season.

Think about it. Tyler Hansbrough has only played in half of the games. That means Mr. All-everything has only been able to contribute to 50 percent of the beatings which have occurred so far, and the Tar Heels are already leading the pack.

At this point, teams rated lower than about 20 should just think about packing up and going home if this keeps up. We could be on our way to an undefeated season and a new MRI record.

And if not, I can't wait to see the upset that shakes the world of basketball at its very foundations.

Until then, enjoy week one of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2008 - Rankings Week 1"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 2:43 PM

February 18, 2008

MRI 2007 - Week 12: Same names, different numbers

If you want changes, well, I am sorry to disappoint you. The top five teams are the same five teams as last week.

Only this week, they decided they didn't like where they were the week before and shake things up a bit.

North Carolina returns to the top spot thanks to a Kansas loss and a big win over Virginia Tech. The Tarheels cross the 200 point MRI threshold, which should have them gunning for a #1 seed in March.

Kansas falls to #2 thanks to its loss.

Staying in the #3 spot is Memphis. The Tigers briefly moved into the top spot earlier in the week amidst the shuffling, but a couple of close wins have them back in their old familiar location.

Moving back into the #4 hole is UCLA, thanks to a Duke loss, only its second of the season. The Dukies are #5 after quietly being the last team other than Memphis to lose its second game.

Check out all the rankings in Week 12 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2007 - Week 12: Same names, different numbers"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:29 PM

February 11, 2008

MRI 2007 - Week 11: #1 continues to shuffle

For anyone that thinks being undefeated should get you to the #1 spot in any poll, I contend you are mistaken.

Kansas and North Carolina, with three losses between them, currently have a stranglehold on that top spot. This week, Kansas returns to the top after another loss by North Carolina, this one to rival Duke.

All this shuffling has allowed undefeated Memphis to close the gap between itself and the leaders, but not overtake them.

Behind them, still trails Duke and UCLA, but a fairly large gap remains between the top three and the rest of the pack.

Check out all the rankings in Week 11 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2007 - Week 11: #1 continues to shuffle"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 5:15 PM

February 4, 2008

MRI 2007 - Week 10: A Kansas loss, a new #1

Perhaps I was wrong. Kansas State pulls a historic shocking upset of the Kansas Jayhawks to knock the high-flying birds from the top spot in the MRI.

In their place, it is North Carolina, who rolled with another two strong wins.

However, the story of the week might be UCLA which pounced back into the #4 spot in the MRI, just behind the lone undefeated in Division 1, Memphis.

Rounding out the top five, is not Xavier. It is Duke, who is quietly hanging in there without a big man and with only a single loss on the year. The biggest test becomes a game with the #1 North Carolina Tarheels in the coming week.

Check out all the rankings in week 10 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2007 - Week 10: A Kansas loss, a new #1"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:55 PM

January 28, 2008

MRI 2007 - Week 9: The lead grows, can anyone stop the Jayhawks?

If you thought that Xavier was out of it, you might have been mistaken. The Musketeers have come through to pass UCLA for the #4 spot once again.

But don't think the same thing happened for the #1 spot. Kansas extended its lead on the top spot. With much of the season gone, it will become harder for anyone to catch them, especially when the disadvantage to Kansas for losing a game will not be as harsh as the season rolls on. And Kansas almost had the biggest gain for the second week in a row.

North Carolina stays in second place with Memphis still filling in the #3 hole. UCLA slips but stays in the #5 slot.

Check out all the rankings in week 9 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2007 - Week 9: The lead grows, can anyone stop the Jayhawks?"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 9:50 PM

January 20, 2008

MRI 2007 - Week 8: Kansas jumps to the front


Kansas takes the #1 spot in the MRI because of North Carolina's first loss of the season to Maryland. It shouldn't come as any surprise then that the Jayhawks also had the largest gain of the week to pull into that lead.

North Carolina only drops to #2, followed by consistent #3 Memphis.

However, look out for UCLA who has now moved into the #4 spot, although a clear fourth behind the leaders as they sit right now.

The loser in all this? Xavier.

That was to be expected after a shocking loss to Temple. And this wasn't a slim margin, but 19 points to the Owls, who are 118th in the latest MRI.

Check out all the rankings in Week 8 of the MRI.

Continue reading "MRI 2007 - Week 8: Kansas jumps to the front"

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 3:19 PM

December 19, 2006

Time to Catch You Up

Apologies for my absence over the last week or so. I was out of town with little access to my computer or the MRI spreadsheets.

The good news? There is a lot to tell you about.

The bad news? There is a lot to tell you about.

I will start with the last two weeks of the MRI rankings, move into college football bowl games (yes, there are still those), perhaps the MRI will take on the World again this year if I can find some predictions, and finally, the coaching changes. Can someone tell me how to pronounce the name of the new BC coach?

Stay tuned to this channel

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 9:11 AM

April 1, 2005

Not an April Fool's Day Joke

Those of you who tuned into the site late yesterday probably noticed that things are looking a little bit different around here. I finally was able to deliver on the site redesign that I had been promising for the last two months. The new site will allow you to read On The Field, Sitting Courtside, and view the rankings for football and basketball all in one convenient spot.

The archives are still being updated to the new format. Until then, you can access them through a link on the right that goes to the old site design and provides all the back information you need.

In addition, the new site design will allow you to subscribe to MRISports.com with your trusty newsreader or any RSS feed reader. You can find the link to subscribe through Bloglines or the RSS feed at the bottom of the right side of the page.

The Comments feature on the new site are also enhanced. You now will not need to be a member of Blogger to leave me comments about my posts with your actual name and, in addition, you will be able to leave comments directly on the rankings postings. Of course, you are still free to email me all your rants and raves and who knows, you may be featured in a future installment of Defending the MRI.

Need to know where a team was consistently ranked throughout the years? Now you can use the trusty web search on the right column to look for that team's name. It will pull any post where that team or any other search words have been mentioned.

Enjoy the new site design everyone, and I will continue to update the archives until they are all accounted for. If you have any comments or questions, send them on to bmiraski at mrisports.com

Posted by Benjamin Miraski at 12:30 PM