So you want to see Murray State as a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament? I'll explain why that might be tougher than you think.
Usually on Mondays, I use this space to show where Murray State is ranked in the Associated Press poll. After a 30-1 season and a 15th Ohio Valley Conference tournament title, it's time to move on to bigger things.
Like seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
This will be the question that will be debated all week long by talking heads across America: Where do you seed Murray State? There really is no historical comparison for the Racers which will only add fuel to the debate fire.
CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has been sticking with Murray State as a four-seed for more than a month. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Racers as a six-seed, and has had them there for a while. Ultimately, I'll be stunned if the Racers aren't a four, five or six-seed come Selection Sunday. Obviously, though, there is a world of difference between a four-seed and a six-seed -- but both have pros and cons.
A four-seed means you're likely playing the winner of a one-bid league in the opening round, much like a Murray State in years past. On the flip-side, you also have to most likely play a one-seed if/when you make the Sweet 16.
A six-seed means you play an 11-seed in the opening round. An 11-seed is often an underachieving school from a major conference -- like a UConn or Mississippi State this year. While they haven't played great this season, those types of teams can pose all kinds of match-up problems for a team like the Racers. On the other hand, if the seeds hold, you wouldn't have to play the one-seed until the Elite Eight. As a six-seed, you can hold off on playing the super-heavyweights for as long as possible.
Using Joe Lunardi's bracket from today, I've listed the 16 teams he has listed as three, four, five and six-seeds, and in the order he has them seeded.
Next to the team names are a bunch of numbers. We'll use Murray State to show you what those numbers mean.
Murray State: RPI 22; Record vs. D1 Teams 27-1; Schedule Strength 178; Record vs RPI 1-25 2-0; Record vs. RPI 26-50 1-0; Record vs. RPI 51-100 1-0; Bad Losses (vs. Teams with RPI 101+) 1 BL.
It's a lot of numbers, yes. But these are just part of the formula when the NCAA Tournament Committee decides how to seed teams. It's easy to say Murray State deserves a four-seed, but who do you move them above put them on that seed-line.
Here are, roughly, the 16-teams they're competing with for a four-seed.
Baylor: 9, 24-6, 17, 1-4, 6-2, 4-0
Marquette: 7, 25-6, 24, 2-2, 4-2, 5-2
Michigan: 12, 22-8, 23, 5-4, 4-2, 3-1
Georgetown: 10, 21-7, 9, 3-3, 5-1, 0-3, 1 BL
Florida State: 23, 21-9, 11, 2-2, 3-4, 3-1, 1 BL
Indiana: 11, 24-7, 26, 4-4, 4-0, 3-1, 2 BL
Wichita State: 16, 26-5, 64, 2-2, 0-1, 4-0, 2 BL
Wisconsin: 20, 23-8, 28, 3-6, 3-0, 4-0, 2 BL
UNLV: 14, 23-7, 47, 3-4, 3-1, 3-2
Florida: 26, 22-9, 39, 1-4, 2-1, 5-2, 2 BL
Temple: 13 24-6, 61, 2-0, 1-1, 8-3, 2 BL
Louisville: 28, 22-9, 16, 1-5, 4-2, 4-1, 1 BL
Notre Dame: 38, 21-10, 54, 2-4, 5-1, 2-1, 4 BL
Murray State: 22, 27-1, 178, 2-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1 BL
Vanderbilt: 27, 21-10, 6, 1-2, 3-2, 7-5, 1 BL
Gonzaga: 19, 25-5, 102, 0-1, 5-2, 2-1, 1 BL
Let's start with Notre Dame with an RPI of 38. The Irish are 2-4 vs. the RPI Top-25 and 9-6 vs. the RPI Top-100. They also have four bad (RPI 100+) losses. Toss in their ten losses overall, and I'd move Murray State above them.
Now we go to Louisville with their RPI of 28. The Cards are 2-4 against the RPI Top-25 and just 9-8 vs. the Top-100. While they're schedule strength is really good, they are limping down the stretch. Louisville has lost four of their last six with wins over a very average Pitt team and they needed overtime to beat a bad DePaul team. I'd move the Racers ahead of them.
Finally, Florida with their 26 RPI. The Gators are just 1-4 vs. the RPI Top-25, 8-7 vs. the Top-100 and have two bad losses. They are also struggling lately losing their last three and five of their last eight. I'd slide them below Murray State as well.
So by moving Murray State up three spots on this list, they'd go from the #2 six-seed to the #3 five-seed. Once you get there, I think it gets infinitely more difficult for the Racers to leap teams. Not impossible by any stretch, but more difficult. At this point, a lot of the decisions are less 'black and white' and it just comes down to what the committee wants to rewards most for. So much can happen here in the next few days with conference tournaments, so this whole list is very fluid. With the major-conference teams playing in their tournaments, the Racers really need the teams ahead of them to lose early and take another 'bad loss.' Whether it's Wisconsin or Florida State -- Wichita State did their part losing in the Missouri Valley semifinals. If Wichita had gotten to the finals, they very well might have been a lock to be a four-seed.
Another thing the Racer Nation should do this week is become very big fans of UAB. As of this morning, UAB's RPI was 108. If the Blazers can somehow win a few games in the Conference USA tournament, that might somehow get their RPI into the Top-100. I can't imagine having a fifth Top-100 win on the resume would hurt Steve Prohm's feelings a bit.
The joy, and agony, of this entire selection process is just how subjective it is. I know the Racer Nation, and the Racers, would love to see Murray State on that 4-seed line. The question, again, is if you put them there -- who do you move down? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I'll revisit this later in the week to see how much the numbers have changed and if that has helped or hurt Murray State's case.
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