Working On Our Résumé

When it comes to teams' credentials for an NCAA at-large bid, you hear the word "résumé" a lot. This is an apt metaphor, because the NCAA selection process begins with a team sheet for each team. Much like a hiring manager reviewing a job résumé, the selection committee will spend 90 seconds looking at the team sheet, and decide if the applicant is worth investigating further.

USF's NCAA Tournament résumé could use a little padding.

Actually, it's one of the weirdest résumés the Selection Committee has ever had to consider. Originally, I was going to use the historical data at collegerpi.com to see how many teams in our position make the NCAA Tournament... but there really weren't any. Here's the closest I could find, compared to an estimated USF résumé based on the Bulls going 3-2 down the stretch:

TEAM RPI SOS W-L
(D-I only)
vs.
#1-50
vs.
#51-100
vs.
#101-200
vs.
#201+
USF '12
45
40
19-13 1-9 7-1 9-3 2-0
Clemson '11
57
62
21-11 0-5 9-3 6-3 6-0
Mississippi St. '08
40
58
22-10 2-7 3-3 13-0 4-0
Minnesota '05
40
47
21-10 2-7 5-1 7-2 6-0
UAB '05
49
92
21-10 0-5 6-1 9-3 6-1
Michigan St. '04
39
21
18-11 1-9 4-0 10-2 3-0

Source: collegerpi.com

Don't be too encouraged by this. For every team I found that made the NCAAs with this set of results, there were six or seven who didn't. The NIT is littered with teams who don't have enough overall wins, or enough good wins, or enough road wins, or too many questionable losses -- all of which is the case with USF right now. Collegerpi.com has data back to 1994, but it requires a subscription to view. Take my word for it.

So what's the good news for USF? That the biggest problems with its resume can still be overcome.

USF's biggest problems are its lack of Top 50 wins, and a so-so overall record of 16-11 (the Selection Committee doesn't count non-Division I games). But those can be improved, because USF's remaining opponents are:

  • Cincinnati (currently #81 in the RPI)
  • at Louisville (#21)
  • West Virginia (#45)

A sweep -- which USF might need to stay in the bubble conversation -- would accomplish several things:

  • Fulfill #TheQuestFor20. USF would be 20-11, including the Florida Southern game. The Selection Committee doesn't count that one. But we do.
  • Move the overall record, as the selection committee sees it, to a more palatable 19-11 going into the Big East tournament.
  • Give USF a real quality win, and a road win at that. USF didn't play well in trips to Georgetown and Marquette, but a win at Louisville combined with the good showing at Syracuse could convince the committee the Bulls are peaking at the right time.
  • Possibly add another Top 50 win in West Virginia. They're sliding, and close to falling out of the Top 50, especially if we hand them an L. At the minimum, WVU and Cincy add two more Top 100 wins.
  • Give USF a double-bye in the Big East tournament. Yes, this could actually happen. If USF wins out, all they need is for Georgetown to lose one game, and USF will be the #4 seed in the conference tournament. And the Hoyas still have to face Notre Dame and Marquette.

Now, some might argue that getting only the single bye would give USF a chance to add a win against someone in the St. John's/Villanova/Pitt/Rutgers range. I disagree. I think that game helps USF's at-large credentials little. And there's a fair risk of losing it, which would be fatal. Also, USF is not a deep team; the fewer games we have to play to go deep in the Big East Tournament, the better. So let's focus on winning three games, and rooting against Georgetown.

In any scenario where USF wins at least two games against Cincy/UofL/WVU, they'll be seeded into the 4-5 game in the Big East tournament, where the opponent will most likely Georgetown. If the Bulls can pull that off, #1 seed Syracuse looms.

Would that be enough? Let's look at USF's resume with a sweep of Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia (whom we then hope will stay in the RPI Top 50), and Georgetown, and a loss to Syracuse:

TEAM RPI SOS W-L
(D-I only)
vs.
#1-50
vs.
#51-100
vs.
#101-200
vs.
#201+
USF '12
38 35 20-12 4-8 6-1 8-3 2-0

Now that is an nice-looking résumé! Let's see how many NCAA tournament teams had marks similar to that... just from last season:

TEAM RPI SOS W-L
(D-I only)
vs.
#1-50
vs.
#51-100
vs.
#101-200
vs.
#201+
USF '12
38 35 20-12 4-8 6-1 8-3 2-0
Missouri '11
37 47 22-10 4-7 3-3 9-0 6-0
UCLA '11
44 50 22-10 3-6 4-2 7-2 8-0
Michigan St. '11
45 12 18-14 5-11 5-2 5-1 3-0
Georgia '11
47 40 21-11 3-9 2-2 7-0 9-0
Illinois '11
48 19 19-13 4-9 7-2 5-1 3-1
Florida St. '11
55 87 21-10 1-5 5-4 6-0 9-1

The only difference between this and the earlier projected finish is that USF beat Louisville instead of losing to them, got a better position in the conference tournament, and used that position to (a) spring an upset on a Top 50 team that had to play an extra game the day before, and (b) pad the SOS a little with an extra game against a national #1 seed. That's it.

It's still there for the taking, but the margin of error is so slim now. But USF still has enough chances against quality opponents to move their résumé from very marginal to solid.

That's why -- and we're going to type this until our fingers fall off, and then we're going to buy Dragon Naturally Speaking and voice-write it -- this team needs your support for the last two home games. And they deserve your support, because they're the hardest-working and most fun USF basketball team I can remember. If you care about the Bulls enough to read this blog, and you live in the Tampa area, get down to the Tampa Bay Times Forum this Sunday for Cincinnati, and next Saturday for West Virginia. No excuses.

And we've already mentioned the bonus schadenfreude of March 3 being West Virginia's last Big East basketball game. For a lousy $10, you can help make sure West Virginia's last memory of the Big East is "N-I-T! N-I-T! N-I-T!" ringing in their coonskin-lined ears, in a hockey arena full of people who unsarcastically celebrate NIT seasons.

Someday you'll want to tell your grandchildren you were there. So you might as well actually go.

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