Will the Hoos Go Dancing in March?

With four games left in the regular season, the battle-tested Hoos remain in hot pursuit of a trip to March Madness / The Big Dance.  The University last attended in the days of Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds.[1]  This year’s team has everyone hoping for a deeper Tournament run, but they’ll have to get there first.  This post will assess the Hoos chances of making the final 68[2] by comparing their current RPI and record to past Tournament cut-offs.

The Hoos likelihood of Dancing will be evaluated based on the following extremely scientific scale:

Probable to Lock: The Safety Dance (Men Without Hats)

This classification indicates that the Hoos will confidently stride into the Tournament.[3] Aside from the obvious title, the lyric “we can dance if we want to” accurately reflects a team on a path to the tourney.  Also, I just wanted an excuse to post the really bizarre music video.[4]

 

On the Bubble: Thriller (MJ)

If at all possible, the Hoos want to avoid the stress and nail-biting and zombies that accompany a Selection Sunday spent on the bubble.  Just ask our agriculturally-minded friends brethren fellow Virginians down in Blacksburg.  While this sort of thrill is generally not desirable, much like watching a lot of well-choreographed dancing zombies,[5] it’s a lot better than knowing you’ll miss the Tournament.

Likely NIT or Worse: The Electric Slide

After achieving so much this season, the Hoos would certainly hope to avoid (electrically?) sliding down to one of the lesser tournaments.  A trip to the NIT would stick with Hoos fans much like the haunting memories of the number of times you’ve danced to this song against your will.[6]

 

[RPI Comparisons]

First, RPI is a useless, terrible metric.[7] Nonetheless, it is also an important factor in the Selection Committee’s choices.  The Hoos RPI currently stands at 43.  In 2011, the top four seeds in the NIT, and thereby the first four out of the real tournament, were Virginia Tech, Alabama, Colorado, and Boston College.  Their final RPIs were, respectively, 65, 59, 67, and 61. In 2010; Illinois 66, Virginia Tech 52[8], Arizona State 69, and Miss. State 59.  Consequently, at least according to RPI, the Hoos are currently in good shape to make the tournament.[9]

——> RPI Dance – The Safety Dance

[Comparison of ACC Records]

In 2011, Boston College (19-12, 9-7 #5) and Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7 #6) were the two teams with the highest ACC standings to miss the Tournament.  Clemson (20-10, 9-7 #4) was the last to make it in.  In 2010, Virginia Tech (23-7, 10-6 #4)[10] missed the Tournament, while Wake Forest (19-11, 9-7 #5) and Clemson (21-9, 9-7 #6) both made it in.  The last two seasons would thus suggest that #1-#3 are a lock, while #4-#6 are in the danger zone.  The Hoos currently stand in #4 at 20-6, 7-5.

—–> ACC Record Dance - Thriller

[Outlook Over the Last Four Games]

As the Hoos are currently in position to make the Tournament, the vast universe of NCAA Bracketologists has projected everything between a 5 and 11 seed for the team.[11]  Despite their current position, the last four games, against Tech, UNC, Florida State, and Maryland, will prove vital to the Hoos Tournament resume.

Finishing 3-1 would have Mike Scott and Co. breaking into the Safety Dance.  A 10-6 ACC record coupled with a certainly improved RPI could even fetch a seed of 6 or better.

Conversely, going 1-3 would force the Hoos into an Electric Slide.[12]  No team with an 8-8 ACC record has made the tournament over the last few years.  But, at 8-8, the Hoos could potentially still have an outside shot at a spot with a strong ACC tournament performance.  This would certainly be a tough pill to swallow after spending much of the season ranked.

Perhaps the most likely scenario is a 2-2 record over their final four games; wins against Tech and Maryland with losses against UNC and Florida State.  A 9-7 ACC record would put them squarely in the Thriller zone.  Consequently, their chances of being selected would depend largely on who they defeated.  RPI is a fickle beast; it doesn’t mind losses against good teams, but despises losses to teams with RPIs outside of the top 100.  So the best scenario for the Hoos would be to defeat Tech (103) and Maryland (94).  A loss to either of those teams would probably more than offset a win against UNC (5) or Florida State (19).  Either way though, given the Michigan win and other strong out of conference performances, the Hoos should be in with a 9-7 ACC record.  But a Tech-type snub would certainly be possible.

—–> Likely Change over Last 4 Games – trending toward Thriller

Final Verdict – The Hoos hopefully will be able to “dance if they want to,” but a late slip into a Thriller of a Selection Sunday is certainly possible.  The game against Tech on Tuesday is a huge opportunity to notch an important win.

  1. [1] Soundly defeating Albany before narrowly losing to Tennessee
  2. [2] reminder of the different format with four play-in games this year
  3. [3] hopefully not while dressed in medieval garb … you’ll see what I mean in a second
  4. [4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjPau5QYtYs
  5. [5] just in case you wanted to watch this video too, the long version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA
  6. [6] Although this is quite a useful diagram
  7. [7] See explanations here http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post?id=48853 and here http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2011/03/ratings_madness.html
  8. [8] ahahahaha
  9. [9] and even better, we won’t have to listen to any Seth Greenberg whining this year
  10. [10] in all fairness, this snub was much worse than in 2011
  11. [11] This website is a fantastic compilation of many bracket projections: http://bracketproject.50webs.com/matrix.htm
  12. [12] now it’s stuck in your head, isn’t it