14 January 2010

Midseason consensus and post season implications

Current State of Affairs

Pomeroy, Sagarin, RPI, and Basketball State all provide unbiased views of college basketball for fans to digest. Each of these statistical measures uses its own set of techniques to analyze actual results and to estimate team rankings. Throughout the year these rankings fluctuate and oftentimes provide varied results even at season's end.

Carmody Court was interested to note that for the first time this season these four statistical measures have reached a consensus on Northwestern basketball. NU is ranked anywhere from #71-77 in the nation and is consistently ranked as the seventh best team in the Big Ten. It's not very difficult to read these tea leaves. If the season were to end today then NU would land in the NIT.


NU needs to make hay if that elusive first ever NCAAs bid were to happen this year. The next five games provide a real opportunity to make up some ground.

Jan 16 Purdue
Jan 19 at Ohio State
Jan 23 Illinois
Jan 26 at Minnesota
Jan 30 at Michigan State

Win two of these games and NU would be at (14-7, 3-6). This doesn't sound so great on the surface, but it would give NU at least one and possibly two conference wins to crow about. Plus it would set the stage for a late season run at the NCAAs since the schedule then lightens up considerably.

The remaining 10 games are as follows:

Feb 2 Michigan
Feb 7 Indiana
Feb 10 at Iowa
Feb 14 Minnesota
Feb 17 Penn State
Feb 21 at Wisconsin
Feb 25 Iowa
Feb 28 at Penn State
Mar 3 Chicago State
Mar 6 at Indiana

The only game during this stretch that we'd mark in ink as a loss is the game at the Kohl. Hold serve otherwise and NU would stand at (23-8, 11-7) and would be a lock for the NCAAs. Plus there would still be a requisite margin for error as a couple of additional losses would land NU (21-10, 9-9) on the bubble.

Then there is the Big Ten Tournament which is whole other ball of wax. But it's way too early to think about the conference tourney or even the closing ten game stretch.

Near term keys to making the NCAAs

As a practical matter the Big Ten stands to get 5 or 6 teams into the tournament this year given the conference's overall strength. Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin are locks. Ohio State is a probable tournament team. That leaves NU, Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan to slug it out for those 1 or 2 remaining spots.

It is important that NU wins games against these direct competitors for post-season berths. This is why of the next five games only the Illini game is a "must win" in our view. A win against Purdue sure would be nice to have as a feather in our cap, but it is interchangeable with the three road games during this stretch (preferably a victory at The Barn).