Teams that have hurt themselves: Kansas State, Gonzaga, Maryland
Teams that have helped themselves: Providence, SMU, Arkansas
With just less than two weeks to Selection Sunday, every men’s college basketball team is trying to either earn its way into the tournament or prove that it deserves a top seed. Games over the past week provided teams with the opportunities to do just that. Some teams took advantage of those opportunities, and some did not. The Basketball Power Index (BPI), which measures how good a team is looking forward, and strength of record (SOR), which measures how impressive a team’s win-loss record is, can be used to not only provide those pieces of information but also to simulate the rest of the season, tournament seeding and the tournament itself. The results of this week’s games, along with the window into the past and future provided by the metrics, allow us to see some of the biggest winners and losers of the week.
Winner: Southern Methodist University (BPI – 19, SOR – 18)
After upsetting the University of Houston on the road last week, SMU took its 20th BPI ranking into its only game of the week: a road game against 84th-ranked University of Connecticut. BPI gave SMU a 72 percent chance to win that game on the road and projected it would win by five to six points. SMU won, boosted its SOR to 18th and increased its odds of winning the American Conference tournament to 37 percent.
Winner: Providence (BPI – 53, SOR – 44)
Providence followed an impressive week in which it beat higher-ranked teams Butler and Xavier with two more good wins against Creighton on the road and Marquette at home. These wins have boosted Providence’s tournament prospects significantly. Its current SOR of 44 suggests that it has 62 percent chance to make the tournament -- up from just 50 percent before its win over Marquette.
Winner: Arkansas (BPI – 46, SOR – 31)
Much like Providence, Arkansas has had a good two-week stretch. It was ranked 55th in BPI two weeks ago, and since then it has beaten South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Auburn. With that stretch of wins, it has moved up to 46th in BPI and, as two of those wins were on the road, now has the 31st most impressive schedule in the country. The win on Saturday at Auburn in fact boosted its odds to make the tournament to 95 percent from 85 percent. Arkansas had only a 6 percent chance of winning its past four games, and those wins have been key to solidifying a spot in the tournament.
Loser: Kansas State (BPI – 42, SOR – 51)
A rough week for Kansas State began with a loss at home to Oklahoma State in which BPI favored Kansas State to win by three. The team followed that with a loss on the road to 77th-ranked Oklahoma in which it was favored to win by 2. Kansas State was 33rd in BPI going into the week and has now slid to 42; worse, its odds to make the tournament have fallen to 14 percent from 39 percent before the Oklahoma game.
Loser: Gonzaga (BPI – 3, SOR – 3)
Gonzaga spoiled its perfect season by dropping a home game to 73rd-ranked BYU at home -- when the Zags were favored to win by nearly 26 points. While the loss certainly does not affect their odds of making the tournament, and while a perfect season is a great story, dropping one game -- even an eminently winnable one to BYU -- is understandable. But it will cost them in their chance to grab a top seed in the tournament. Going into the game against BYU, BPI had Gonzaga in the top spot with a 91 percent chance at landing a No. 1 seed. The loss dropped it to third in BPI and third in SOR, and Gonzaga now has only a 46 percent chance to grab a top seed.
Loser: Maryland (BPI – 49, SOR – 29)
Maryland’s record has exceeded the expectations of its BPI ranking all season, but that seems to be slipping recently. Maryland was 40th in BPI going into a week in which it had two home games. BPI gave it a 70 percent chance to beat Minnesota and an 84 percent chance to beat Iowa. Maryland lost both games, however, by a combined 28 points, pushing it down to 49th overall in BPI and behind such teams as Minnesota and Miami in SOR. Maryland was 40th in BPI and 17th in SOR going into the week and now sits at 49th and 29th, meaning that it might have cost itself significantly in seeding for the tournament. For example, if the tournament were seeded by SOR alone, Maryland would have gone from a 4- or 5-seed a week ago to a 7- or 8-seed this week.