So another week has gone by and we're getting closer and closer to Tournament time. First, lets look at what last week's teams did:
Siena: The Saints did a good job of rebounding from their tough loss at Rider to win two easy home games against #218 Loyola MD (unlike another hot mid-major, they managed to top a Loyola this week) and #190 Manhattan (a nice win over the Jaspers). That puts them at 20-6 overall and 14-1 in the MAAC. They come in at #73 in the Pomeroy Ratings, up four spots from last week, and #31 in the RPI, down four spots from last week. Take that as you will, I still see them in the tourney, as does Lunardi. The difference is that he sees them as an autobid, which might not be the case.
George Mason: The Patriots really are an enigma this year. This week they lost to perennial CAA doormats Delaware, but then stepped up to beat then #1 (in the CAA) Northeastern. They dropped to #74 in the Pomeroy Ratings, from #70. They stayed steady at #57 in the RPI. Unfortunately, the CAA's two-bid status from 05-06 and 06-07 is slipping, and only one team will make the tourney this year. My pick is VCU, but keep an eye on Northeastern; they play the slow-tempo, stingy defensive type of ball that made UNCW a staple in the NCAAs. That leaves Mason the odd team out.
Creighton: The Jays had the best week of any of the three teams mentioned last week, knocking off #130 Bradley and winning at #146 SIU. That puts Creighton at #57 in the Pomeroy Ratings, up from #66 last week, and #56 in the RPI, up from #60 last week. However, Lunardi gives the conference to UNI. Creighton finishes out the year at home against #143 Evansville, #74 George Mason in a very important Bracketbuster game, at #185 Missouri State, and then another important game at home against #79 Illinois St., who right now stands at 21-5 and 10-5 in the MVC. If Creighton wins those games and makes it to the MVC final in St. Louis, but loses, there's a good chance that the two-bid MVC is back this year.
Also, last week I took Cleveland State off of the watch. I'm going to add them back on after winning home games against the Wisconsin schools (#150 Milwaukee and #83 Green Bay). IF, and only if, they can win out (including a win at Butler), which would put them at 23-8 (13-5), and make it to the conference championship, they are in the tourney. Believe it or not, the Horizon is the 11th best conference in the country this year, so two teams in seems right.
Now onto this week's teams...
Miami (OH): Now, I know what you're saying...and I agree. The MAC is just a bad
basketball conference. However, Miami (OH) is a good basketball team in a bad basketball conference. They come in at #67 in the Pomeroy Ratings and at #69 in the RPI. Those numbers aren't great. However, their non-conference SOS was 17th in the nation, and their losses have come at #7 UCLA, #4 Pitt, #24 Xavier, #6 West Virginia, #77 Dayton, at #251 W. Michigan, and at home against #95 Buffalo and #134 Ohio.
A record of 3-6 against the top 100 isn't terrible, and there will be some Big East teams that get in with similar resumes. They also still have two away games against #87 Akron and #95 Buffalo that could help them out. Those wins, coupled with their wins at #83 Wright State, at #44 Temple, and at home against #87 Akron could boost their stock. This team plays great defense, and has a tournament worthy talent in Michael Bramos at 17 points and four rebounds a game. Right now it would take a MAC tourney win to get them in, but that could change.
Niagara: According to Ken Pomeroy, Niagara is the MAAC team to beat. They come in at #72 in the Pomeroy Ratings, one spot ahead of Siena. They also arrive at # 62 in the RPI. However, they are somewhat the opposite of Miami (OH) in that they have only played 4 top 100 games, and are 1-3 in those games, with losses at #16 Villanova, at home to #87 Akron, and at #73 Siena. They beat #95 Buffalo in Buffalo.
However, in terms of RPI (as you know, I usually quote Pomeroy Ratings when looking at their wins and losses) they are 0-2 against the top 50, but 3-0 against #s 51-100 (two wins against Fairfield, a win against La Salle, and the Buffalo win). At 21-6 (12-3) they are a weird team to look at as it is obvious that they have talent, but they haven't beaten anyone of note. Wins at home against #79 Illinois St. and #73 Siena would do wonders for this team. Again, if they run the table and make it to the MAAC championship they could be a tourney team, but I think it will take a MAAC tourney win to get in for them.
Illinois State: So for a second week in a row we have a repeat performer on the roundup. Like Creighton last week, Illinois State has put together a pretty good profile out of the MVC. They are 79th in the Pomeroy Ratings and 58th in the RPI. They didn't lose any non-conference games, but their non-conference SOS was only 272...so not much to speak of. They've lost one game at home, to # 232 Indiana State, which is a tough loss, and their other losses have come at #130 Bradley, at #232 Indiana State, at #154 Wichita State, and at #91 Northern Iowa. Their 5 losses are by a combined 21 points...not that it means anything, but it is interesting to note.
On the plus-side, they have topped #57 Creighton at home and beat #83 Wright State in Dayton. They have a huge opportunity to assert themselves in their last three games. First, they have to beat #157 Wichita State at home, but they also have games at #72 Niagara, at home to conference leader and #91 Northern Iowa, and at #57 Creighton. Win those, finish at 25-5 (13-5), and have a good run in St. Louis, and they have a decent shot to return the MVC to two-bid prominence.